“What did you think would happen when you bumped into someone who didn’t want you in their front yard?”
Because Michael Burnham is the central character of Star Trek: Discovery, we are subjected to her nightmares. She sees herself as “Ripper.” Locked in a holding tank in engineering, her flesh is penetrated by probes and she is forced to activate the spore drive. She observes this from her usual station. She screams in the tank, and she screams at her station. She wakes up covered in sweat. So what? I understand this could be considered unethical, but we’re five episodes into the show and we’re supposed to pretend we know all of these characters, and this show has been on for five years? No. It doesn’t work that way. You have to establish your characters, give them boundaries and obstacles, and engage them in order for any feeling to be elicited from the viewers. To say Starfleet is interested in the capabilities of “Ripper” would be an understatement. Admiral Katrina Cornwell is practically foaming at the mouth. She wants to find more horrible creatures and adapt the technology for all of their starships. This is where we learn Discovery’s research is part of a top-secret plan. Burnham sulks and Tilly tries to draw her out. When Burnham ignores her, Tilly takes the passive-aggressive course and starts feeling sorry for herself. We’re looking for the best of the best to join Starfleet, aren’t we? Let me see your war face, Cadet!
Discovery might have once been a science vessel, but Cornwell tells Lorca he has to scale back to accommodate Starfleet’s plans for war. Would you put Tilly anywhere near this situation? She also bitches out Lorca for giving Burnham, Starfleet’s first and only mutineer, a job. Boy, will her face be red before the end of the season! Lorca is on his way back to Discovery aboard a shuttle when it is captured by Klingons. They throw him into their brig. Cornwell alerts the crew to Lorca’s capture. Saru is placed in temporary command. Saru is another character I don’t understand, and who probably doesn’t belong on this ship either. He’s a Kelpian, which he means he’s really tall and thin (but he wears platform boots?). He also has this quirk where his ganglia are external and reacts to any potentially dangerous situation. What? Do you want somebody on your crew who can signal to a prospective enemy that he might be afraid of them? I know we, as humans, can develop goosebumps, but those are very hard to spot, right? Does not compute. There is a nice moment that acknowledges Star Trek: Enterprise. Saru asks the computer to provide him with a list of Starfleet’s most decorated captains. Among them is Jonathan Archer! He’s got FAITH … of the HEART! Saru takes it upon himself to order the release of “Ripper” out into space. Michael and Tilly happily oblige. The only thing missing from the scene is that annoying, overused ukulele version of “Over the Rainbow.”
In the Klingon brig, Lorca wakes to find a man searching through his pockets. The man identifies himself as Harcourt Fenton Mudd (Rainn Wilson), which is unusual in that I thought he hated that name and preferred to call himself Harry (or Leo Walsh). Wilson is adequate as Mudd, though not as boisterous and fun as Roger C. Carmel. There is another injured Starfleet officer huddled in a corner. Klingons enter and one of them announces, “Choose your pain.” Mudd motions to the injured officer, and that officer is beaten to death. Later, another officer by the name of Ash Tyler is dumped into the brig. After a revelatory interrogation, it doesn’t take Lorca long to figure out Harry’s a plant in the brig, recording their conversations for the Klingons to disseminate. Lorca and Tyler manage an improbable escape from the Klingons. This doesn’t seem fishy? It only occurs to me now that any time in any given show when we’re not focused on Burnham, Discovery is that much stronger. There’s a definite formula at play here. Too much story – lull – too much story – lull, and the lulls are usually associated with Burnham. Lorca and Tyler make it back to the ship. Lorca orders a warp jump after they arrive. The ship does jump, but Stamets is using his own body in place of “Ripper.” Oh yes, there will be consequences.
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