Enterprise’s Judgey Vulcans rear their pointy-eared heads this week with Vulcan setting up a peace negotiation with two of the Klingon houses ousted by Kol. They send Ambassador Sarek, because he’s skilled at dealing with emotional powder kegs. But speaking of emotional powder kegs — a sect of Logic Extremist Vulcans, who want to secede from the Federation because Ew, humans, kidnap Sarek and attempt to blow him up. Sarek successfully escapes the Vulcan Death Eater’s attack and drops his ship out of warp….but he’s unconscious and lost in a dreaded space cloud.
Across the expanse of space, Michael Burnham is having breakfast with Tilly and Tyler, and falls over. She sees Sarek on the ground dying, is transported back to when she failed to get into Vulcan Finishing School, and then Sarek yells at her to get out of his memory. Michael wakes up in sickbay knowing Sarek is lost and dying and she asks Lorca to help her save him. Admiral Vulcan confirms that Sarek was lost in space on a secret mission to negotiate peace behind Starfleet’s back and that Command is considering their options. Lorca says, well I considered, and I’m taking my ship to go get him. And so he does.
They get to the space cloud but Saru says it will take months of searching to find the dying Vulcan. Instead, Michael suggests using the spore drive to amplify her Katra-powers and Stamets thinks that is insane and he loves it. Stamets is super trippy this episode. I don’t know him well enough to entirely know if he’s oddly super trippy, but the way Lorca and Michael react make me think it is a little over the top and is meant to be a response to his being one with the spore drive. It will be interesting to see that played out. But Stamets agrees to modify the drive to help Michael use her brain to find Sarek in the space cloud. Does the science for ANY of that make sense? Hell no. But we have to move past that.
Michael asks for Tilly as her assist and Lorca adds Tyler as pilot. The newly formed super trio Team Misfit thus heads out into the space cloud. Tilly tries to help Michael relax, but Michael is tied up in knots because she can read Sarek’s dying thoughts and they are about her being a disappointment. I can already tell that Michael is misinterpreting the situation, but she is not in the right place to look at it logically.
Michael hooks up to the new gadget and drops back into the meld. She’s drawn back to the memory, a little earlier this time, and we witness Amanda gifting her the Alice book. Sarek arrives to tell them Michael was not accepted, Now!Michael calls out to him and they get into some Vulcan hand to hand combat. Tyler is worried about the tremors of the cloud, and the fact that Lorca said not to come back if any harm came to Michael, and orders Tilly to break the meld.
And here’s where Ash earns his stripes. He tells Michael what we all can see. She’s focusing on the wrong things, and getting stuck in her own feelings about it. What does Sarek get out of this memory? What is Sarek trying to deal with? She goes back in and demands to be told what he’s hiding from her. He agrees and woo boy. The terrible judgey Vulcans tell Sarek they are only willing to bend the rules to accept one of his not-quite-Vulcans, Michael OR Spock, not Michael AND Spock. Sarek sputters that’s not fair, judgey Vulcan judges him into silence and walks away. As we’ve already seen, Sarek then went to tell Michael, and Amanda, she wasn’t accepted. Michael sums it up: he chose Spock over her. Sarek admits it, sort of, adding the depressing truth that Spock refused to go (A+ decision Spock) and as we know from TOS, it caused a rift in their relationship for years. Sarek is stuck in this memory because he failed Michael, not because she failed him.
And then he wakes up, hits the distress button, and they pick him up. SMAsh has a successful mission. Sarek is saved. Michael is slowly but surely dealing with her stuff.
But Sarek is too hurt to complete his peace mission so Lorca gets Admiral Cornwell to go. She’s on scene to check in on him — because he was literally tortured last week, and blew up his crew some months ago, and now he is acting like he doesn’t answer to anyone, so she has concerns. It goes a bit sideways when they end up in bed together after which he proves he is not at all over, or dealing with, his trauma and she says she’s going to remove him from command. So sending her into Klingon territory could be seen as removing an obstacle, especially as she is, in fact, taken hostage.
Live Long and Prosper:
It’s most blatant in the Sarek plot, but the throughline of this week’s story is: Expectations. They will bury you.
Lorca spends much of the episode doing things that fly in the face of what Starfleet wants or expects. He adds both Tyler and Burnham to his bridge crew. He jets off to save Sarek against orders. He admits to lying about his psychological state and then manipulates Cornwell into a mission that has little chance of success. And then thwarts Saru’s expectations by choosing not to immediately go after her. But he is also struggling with his own expectations for himself — both the ones he’s clearly always had, and the ones he’s set for himself post the destruction of his ship and crew.
Michael is training Tilly to live her dream of being Captain (if we do not find out she made Captain by the end of this I will be Extremely Disappointed). She has a regimen and a plan and an answer to every one of Tilly’s objections or suggestions. It becomes clear as the episode progresses that this is how Michael was raised. And post Sarek’s revelation she tells Tilly she was wrong, that Tilly should do what’s best for her. This advice is sorta kinda what Amanda told Michael and I approve.
The series is also playing with expectations, and manipulating the audience. Last week, Stamets’s reflection stayed longer than he did and Ash Tyler was introduced in a way to make him appear highly suspect, a possible spy or secret Klingon. This week Ash gets a solid backstory and teaches Michael what being human is, seemingly debunking those theories (key word seemingly), and Stamets is acting strangely so maybe the mirror is something specific to him and his mushrooms. This week Cornwell accuses Lorca of being different since the Buran, which can easily be explained by that being hugely traumatic, but there’s also that moment where she asks if he doesn’t remember their (incredibly adorable??) meteor date. And her focus on the scars. And that she says the sex wasn’t the same. And that he sleeps with, and in the end is just straight up carrying around, a phaser. These can be read as hints he’s not her Lorca.
The show appears to want us to be as paranoid as Captain Lorca.
Beam Me Up:
The Discovery has a holodeck that looks way cooler than TNG’s but the food machine is absolutely TOS based and I love that? But most importantly, this episode includes TWO princesses and canon DISCO shirts, it is clearly my favourite in terms of the aesthetic.
We have Vulcan (human) princess, Amanda Grayson:
I love Mia Kirshner and I love her in this role!!
And then this Klingon princess who is wearing the first Disco Klingon costume I don’t dislike and in fact kinda covet. She has like a cape? It’s amaze.
ALL MY SHIPS ARE REAL.
Lorca and Tyler: Lorca teases out Tyler’s backstory while they bond over shooting holographic Klingons, revealing in the end that of course he looked it up before they began. And it all checks out, Tyler apparently only lied when he said the Captain had the high score. His reward: the now vacant security chief post. This makes Landry’s death a service to the plot, which is still empty but I guess I get it. Scuttlebut on the ship is Lorca’s adopted Ash just like he adopted Michael and I cannot tell you how much I love that. For one, I just adore that Lorca is a collector, and for two: OT3.
Michael and Lorca: It is still unclear why Lorca wants Michael so much. But he goes to great lengths to get her closer to his side and he threatens his new best buddy to make sure she comes back. They are gaining a rapport and I am very intrigued.
Lorca and Cornwell: CONFIRMED CANON. And they are everything I want them to be.
A relationship that spans decades and includes adorable backstory (drunk watching meteor showers), blurry boundaries (I legitimately love her removing her rank pin as a signal for sex), toxicity and betrayal, raw emotion and vulnerability. I also love that they are peers (the actress is actually 3 years older than Jason Isaacs) and she outranks him.
Michael and Tilly and Tyler: aka SMAsh. So far, the best part of this is how Tilly’s attraction to, and interest in, Tyler did not get in the way of her encouraging the chemistry between him and her friend. I like the idea I can choose between the menacing and unhealthy triad of Lorca/Burnham/Tyler or the adorable and healthy triad of Burnham/Tyler/Tilly (obvsly I choose both).
A Good Day to Die
I was so incredibly terrified that my girl Admiral Cornwell was gonna die. But she is just kidnapped and I can work with that. Her unnamed Starfleet escort (who I totally want to give names and personalities and write about her grief at their death) and the neutral hosts were not so fortunate.
Also the suicide bomber who attacked Sarek.