This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 4
Star Trek: Discovery walks a fine line with viewers, particularly with those who are intimately familiar with the canon of past series. If one focuses on the drama of a mutineer on a journey of redemption, there’s plenty to love, but if the spotlight is on the mission of the Discovery, which is to exploit scientific research for advantage in war, the show has a problem. Knowing that this is a prequel, viewers will realize that a spore-activated jump drive never supplanted the warp drive in the future, and because of this knowledge, they know that Lorca’s mission is doomed to failure.
Perhaps the writers are using this as a form of dramatic irony, but the story of the spores and the tardigrade in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” smacks of midicholorians being responsible for the Force, to blasphemously use a Star Wars parallel. Michael’s understanding of the creature as a powerful defender rather than an aggressive predator is certainly interesting to watch unfold, but having accepted the storyline of a mutineer (a near impossibility in Roddenberry’s vision) was difficult enough without adding the scandalous way that Captain Lorca and Commander Landry ignore common sense safety in the name of winning the war.
Maybe there are those who would enjoy seeing a team of materials engineers study the claws of the “ripper” for ballistics research or the skin of the creature for hull cladding. However, the emergency on Corvan-2 put the already questionable mission into overdrive, and Star Trek viewers just aren’t used to seeing caution thrown to the wind so drastically, even in the most dire of circumstances experienced by the brashest of captains, James T. Kirk. Comments by Saru do seem to indicate we’re not necessarily supposed to admire Captain Lorca, but it makes for troubled viewing.
And Commander Landry pretty much deserved her fate by relying on a sedation protocol in which the unconscious state of the creature was not yet verified before she went in guns a-blazing. Her carelessness made the danger outlined by Lieutenant Stamets about the premature use of the spore drive even more pronounced. Sure, having to escape the gravity of a sun was exciting, and Corvan-2 is strategically very important as a source of dilithium crystals, but there’s heroic derring-do and then there’s reckless desperation.
As a result, Michael appears to be the only one with the correct perception of the situation… unless we count Cadet Tilly, who proves herself once again to be incredibly resourceful for someone who hasn’t even graduated from the academy yet. The relationship between the roommates continues to be a highlight of Star Trek: Discovery, and their interplay as Michael receives the telescope as part of Captain Georgiou’s last will and testament is enjoyable to witness.
Not that Michael is without her faults. Calling in Saru ostensibly to apologize for how she treated him on the Shenzhou, just to see if his threat ganglia will activate in the presence of the tardigrade did not endear her to her former crewmate or the audience. That was almost as manipulative as Captain Lorca playing recordings of the miners dying on Corvan-2 to force Stamets to make the spore drive work at any cost. It makes us question whether Lorca really wants to save lives or simply to prove his value to the admiral to whom he lied about the readiness of the technology.
There’s almost more to admire about Voq as he devotedly remains onboard T’Kuvma’s derelict ship. Who’d have thought that a budding Klingon romance between a religious fanatic and the outcast L’Rell would hold more emotional depth than the relationships between those on the titular Federation vessel? The betrayal of Kol could perhaps be seen as indicative of Voq’s naivety when it comes to uniting the Klingon Empire, but it’s odd to feel hope that he and L’Rell will achieve redemption through whatever sacrifice he must make to the matriarchs of the Mokai.
Does the sympathy for the enemy spring from the unlikability of those in charge of Discovery? Or does Michael’s transformation from pariah to pillar of moral judgment trump everything? Although last week’s episode reassured viewers that the mutiny onboard the Shenzhou was mere preamble, now Star Trek: Discovery must prove that it can hold on to the spirit of the franchise, which in some ways is in opposition both to the serialized format and the questionable actions of the characters. Where the show goes from here could be crucial for fan acceptance.