Episode 16: Live from Rura Penthe!

Listen below or click here for full show notes



Joe provided today’s topic, which looks at how some people define what “Star Trek” is:

Is it right to criticize a new iteration of “Star Trek,” the Kelvin timeline movies, for instance, simply because it may not take modern problems and discussing them wrapped in sci-fi metaphors?

After all, while it’s true that Star Trek has done things like that fairly often, it’s not as if that is all the show did. For years the most popular episode of TOS was “The Trouble with Tribbles,” which is just an out-and-out comedy. Or take “The Wrath of Khan,” which is basically a revenge thriller without some deeper metaphorical meaning.

Is it right that some people look at Trek and pigeonhole it in this way? Saying “This is what Star Trek is”?

Warp Speed Roundtable

Which one of these three “Star Trek: The Animated Series” characters would you most like to see brought to life? And why?

  • Lt. Arex, the Edosian navigator
  • Lt. M’Ress, the Caitian communications officer
  • The Glommer, the genetically-engineered Tribble eater

End of Show

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Until next time, on behalf of Chuck, Kreg, Joe and myself, I’m Clinton, thanking you for listening. And, as we always say here on “The Topic Is Trek”

Don’t put on the red shirt!


“This regret you have for what you did, it weakens you.” — Star Trek: Discovery Review — The War Without, The War Within

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 14
The War Without, The War Within
Posted by Clinton
Emperor Georgiou as Captain.
source: spockvarietyhour.tumblr.com

In the “Star Trek” universe, the galaxy is teeming with life. In fact, on one planet, Gideon, overcrowding is such a problem, the inhabitants attempt to become deathly ill to reduce their own numbers. Despite this, in “The War Within, The War Without,” we find a universe filled with little more than isolation and loneliness.

The war has not gone well for our side during Discovery’s nine month absence. Without the information that would have rendered the Klingon cloaking device useless, the Federation finds itself in retreat and on the verge of collapse. Vice Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) orders the Discovery to Starbase One, calling that outpost Starfleet’s last remaining sanctuary. Unfortunately, upon arrival, we learn that the station has fallen to the Klingons. The Discovery must flee, isolated in its own universe.

In a  way, the same can be said for the Klingons. The 24 houses that T’Kuvma hoped to unite have once again fractured. Each house is now acting in its own best interests, not for the benefit of the Klingon empire. In this context, the Federation has become little more than collateral damage in the fight for faction dominance. T’Kuvma’s dream of unification, a vision shared by Voq and L’Rell, is now a distant memory.

Of course Voq the Torchbearer is also now little more than a shadow. The Klingon’s essence has been disconnected from the body that also houses the personality known as Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). Stripped of this dual identity, Tyler finds himself a stranger in his own body. He is left to wonder who he is and how he can move forward, knowing the horrific things he has done. He tries to apologize to Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) for the death of Dr. Hugh Culber, but Stamets offers no hint of absolution. Worse still, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who had become his tether to humanity, no longer feels comfortable in Tyler’s presence. “I know in my head that you couldn’t be responsible for Voq’s actions,” Burnham explains, “but I felt your hands around my neck, and I looked into your eyes, and I saw how much you wanted to kill me.” She tells Tyler that he must work his way through his pain on his own, facing the demons of his actions as she once did.

Tyler speaks to Burnham
source: talk-nerdy-to-me-thyla.tumblr.com

The one person who feels compelled to connect with Tyler without judgement is Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). She sees that Tyler is being shunned by the crew the same way Michael Burnham was shunned when she first came aboard Discovery. Tilly, however, has grown in the months since Burnham arrived. While the Cadet first tried to distance herself from Burnham, she now makes the effort to sit with Tyler. This act draws out the compassion in others, who come to sit with Tyler.

Meanwhile, alone in her cell, L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) must reflect on the fact that she has lost Voq, her lover and inspiration, and that her dream of a unified Klingon empire appears to be crumbling around her.

The only visitor L’Rell receives is Vice Admiral Cornwell, a commander who has also lost practically everything. On a personal level, Cornwell is trying to come to terms with the loss of Gabriel Lorca. As a commander, she is facing the collapse of Starfleet and the Federation. Her inability to respond when she sees Starbase One laid waste signals how alone and desperate she feels.

Fortune Cookies
source: pixiedane.tumblr.com

In the end, only one individual seems to be functioning normally: Emperor Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius (Michelle Yeoh). Plucked unceremoniously from her own reality, the Emperor is well aware of her isolation in this universe, but she never resigns herself to her fate. She acknowledges that she is now on her own, then begins looking for a way out of her situation. Georgiou pokes, looking for weaknesses in those around her. She maneuvers like a figure totally accustomed to the idea of operating solo. It is how one survives in the Terran Empire. By the end of the episode, she has managed to manipulate those around her into giving her what she needs to feel whole again: Power. She is still alone, but she doesn’t care.

It would seem that Discovery may have escaped the unbearable isolation of the mirror universe, only to bring it with them.

Next episode: Will You Take My Hand?


Random Notes and Observations:

  • Dr.Pollard! At last, another doctor on the Discovery. All it took was the death of Culber. Oh, and is Pollard the CMO?
  • Once again we have a ship approach the Discovery (the one carrying Cornwell and Sarek) and we never get a glimpse of it.
  • Starbase One is said to be 100 AUs from Earth. That places it outside our solar system, but not by much. It would take the Klingon fleet almost no time at all to arrive at Earth from that location, yet our home world has apparently not yet been approached.
  • Also, why were fighter ships not immediately deployed to intercept Discovery when it appeared at Starbase One?
  • Nice touch to have Cornwell vaporize the bowl of Lorca’s fortune cookies.
  • How does the rest of the crew feel about the appearance of “Captain Georgiou”? They have all just returned from the mirror universe, so you would imagine their first thought is, “That’s Emperor Georgiou!”
  • While it was subtle, we did see the “I” on “I.S.S. Discovery” being restored to a “U.”
  • Was there any practical reason story-wise for the Discovery to be in such a poor state of repair when it arrived back in the prime universe? That did not seem to play out as a plot point.

“Frankly, I’m still stuck on the ‘not dead’ part.” — Star Trek: Discovery Review — What’s Past Is Prologue

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 13
What’s Past Is Prologue
Posted by Clinton

“Perhaps we could cover a little philosophical ground. Life, death — life. Things of that nature.”
Dr. Leonard McCoy speaking to Captain Spock, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”

Lorca falling into the orb
source: burnhamandtilly.tumblr.com

Death is no stranger to “Star Trek.” Neither is rebirth. In this episode of “Discovery,” written by co-executive producer Ted Sullivan, we get more than our share of both.

Certainly mirror Lorca’s (Jason Isaacs) demise is the most spectacular death in this episode. However, long before the battle in the Emperor’s throne room, the mutineer had already sealed his fate. At no point did he show any sign of redemption. There was no moment of remorse. Gabriel Lorca had been given a chance to start his life anew when he crossed over into the prime universe. He squandered that opportunity by using the time to plan his revenge. As he disintegrated, ripped apart by his fall into the mycelium orb, he was already long dead.

Mirror Stamets
source: burnhamandtilly.tumblr.com

Elsewhere in the story, life and death play out in no less significant ways. For instance, when Lorca rescues his band of loyal followers from their imprisonment, the act signals the rebirth of the mutiny against the Emperor. Yet something tells us that most of the Terran soldiers will not survive to fight another day. Lorca had proven time and again that he had little regard for others, including those most loyal to him. They may not have been wearing red shirts, but the troops who followed Captain Lorca and his blind ambition were destined to join the ranks of those nameless minions killed in battle.

Mirror universe Commander Landy (Rekha Sharma) is a bit more of a mystery. Earlier, her prime universe counterpart had been killed on board the Discovery, mutilated by the tardigrade, Ripper. It was a senseless death, the result of Landry’s desire to follow her Captain’s orders without question. Would the scales of justice attempt to even themselves by allowing this version of the Commander to live? When Lorca helps her out of her agonizer booth,  one might say she is reborn. Perhaps so, but her resurrection is short lived. She dies in the fiery explosion that destroys the I.S.S. Charon. It seems her devotion to Lorca sealed her fate in both universes.

The elimination of the Emperor’s palace ship undoubtedly also sent political shockwaves throughout the Terran Empire. The news that the throne is empty will most likely result in a bloody battle for power by countless factions. The Emperor is dead. Long live the Emperor.

Terran Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is another character whose future is at first unclear. Points in his favor are that he previously betrayed Lorca and he worked to help prime Stamets escape entrapment in the mycelial network. Escaping the network himself at the end of the previous episode, it’s conceivable that his rebirth has made him a survivor. Unfortunately, we soon discover that he is developing a bioweapon for the Emperor, and that it is his reckless abuse of the mycelial network that is threatening the multiverse. He is also far too quick to cave to Lorca’s demands, placidly aiding the Captain in his fight against Georgiou. It is simply an attempt to prolong his own life. Eventually, Landry’s request, “Can we kill him now?,” is granted and she vaporized the hapless Terran.


Mirror Georgiou
source: first-officer-michael-burnham.tumblr.com

But there is also rebirth that offered a glimmer of hope. To us, the death of Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) at the battle at the binary stars feels like a lifetime ago, but not to Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Burnham’s mind tells her that Emperor Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius is not her Captain. However, Michael’s heart sees Philippa reborn in the Terran Emperor. Likewise, Philippa can not help but see some of her beloved Michael in the prime universe Burnham. This is made crystal clear when the two women sit across from one another and speak of their lost companions, all the while holding treasured mementos of the their departed friends.

In the end, Georgiou is willing to buy Michael time to escape, paying with her own life. It is an act of love. Burnham, however, also leads with her heart and rescues the fallen Emperor. For now, mirror Georgiou is in limbo, no longer the ruler of a savage empire, yet also not comfortable with the tenents of the Federation and Starfleet. Will she take better advantage of her second chance? Or will she scheme to return to her side of the mirror?

It is not only Philippa who experiences a successful rebirth in “What’s Past Is Prologue.” As mentioned, we learn that the mycelial network is dying. The Terran Empire has been exploiting it for their own selfish needs, not only depleting the mirror universe’s network, but also threatening all life in multiple universes. Working together, the crew of the Discovery and Emperor Georgiou are able to destroy the Charon’s mycelium orb. This allows the network to live anew; replenish itself at amazing speed. At the same time the network sweeps the Discovery towards home.

Mycelial network
source: greenjimkirk.tumblr.com

In fact, the Discovery itself is also reborn. Once the crew is made aware of Lorca’s true nature, they shake free of his influence and begin to function as an effective team. We see an open, honest discussion of the mission to destroy the mycelium orb. When the crew comes to realize that the plan could mean the destruction of the Discovery, Commander Saru (Doug Jones) forcefully states his belief in the competence of the team, “The Discovery is no longer Lorca’s,” he explains, “She is ours. And today will be her maiden voyage. We have a duty to perform, and we will not accept a no-win scenario.”

Of course, the no-win scenario is a riddle that Spock once solved by sacrificing himself to save the many. Only to find himself reborn.

Next episode: The War Without, The War Within


Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • It was a cheat to have the floor in the throne room open early in the episode. Yes, it established that the “trap door” gave direct access to the mycelium orb, but it was also obvious that we were seeing it to foreshadow its use later in the episode.
  • Why is Lorca able to fall through the containment field of the Charon’s mycelium hub? That would seem to imply that anything can penetrate the containment field, including photon torpedoes.
  • A leap of nine months places “Star Trek: Discovery” that much closer to the time of Kirk and Spock. I estimate we are now within 8 and a half years of the 10-year gap separating “Discovery” and TOS.
  • It was nice to see the use of screens rather than holograms not once, but twice, in this episode.
  • Where is prime Lorca? In the mirror universe? Did he die on the Buran?

“You don’t know me.” — Star Trek: Discovery Review — Vaulting Ambition

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 12
Vaulting Ambition
Posted by Clinton
Mirror Georgiou with sword.
source: greenjimkirk.tumblr.com/

“Vaulting Ambition” exemplifies the duality of this first season of “Star Trek: Discovery.” Not just in terms of its characters who continue to shed their hidden identities, but also the way in which it handles story elements. When things are handled with care, the show is magic. When pieces are slapped together, the end product suffers.

Let’s start with what is good.

The acting is this episode is excellent. It is clear that the cast is now very comfortable with their characters. Over these many episodes the idiosyncrasies of each role have been refined. Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has become a just a wee bit less chatty. Commander Saru (Doug Jones) is a bit more in control. And Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) is…well, Lorca has pretty much always been on point. More on that in a second. The supporting players in “Vaulting Ambition” were also tone-perfect. Dwain Murphy’s turn as the torturous Captain Maddox left us with mixed emotions when he was ultimately slain by Lorca.

A long-game character plot line also came together beautifully this week. Last week, we dealt with the revelation that Tyler and Voq (Shazad Latif) are two personalities that share the same modified body. This week, we learn that Captain Lorca is, as some fans suspected, actually from the mirror universe. This is the type of twist that sends you reeling. Part of what made the reveal so satisfying is that Jason Isaacs knew where this character was headed from the very beginning. His discussions with the producers meant he knew things about Lorca that perhaps even individual episode directors did not know. This allowed the acting to reinforce the character’s backstory. Isaacs’ performance differs from Shazad Latif’s portrayal of Tyler/Voq because Lorca was always well aware of who he was and what he wanted. It is the kind of twist that makes you want to go back to the beginning of the season and closely watch the character in every scene.

We are treated to a lovely moment where Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) gets to say goodbye to Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). It helps soften the blow of the doctor’s untimely death and leaves us wondering if this truly is the end. It brings to mind Spock’s words, “There are always possibilities.”

Stamets and Culber
source: twyllodrus.tumblr.com/

“Discovery” also continues to shock and surprise in other ways. We recoiled when we learn that the Kelpien that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) had selected in the Emperor’s throne room was the main course at her dinner with Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Bonus points to Martin-Green for her reaction to being offered the Kelpien’s ganglia. In addition, Georgiou’s use of a flying disc as a killing weapon was inspired.

Then there are the elements that seem to fall off the rails.

Shall we begin with the I.S.S. Charon? The Emperor’s palace is a ship ridiculous in both size and design. It dwarfs virtually everything we have previously seen in “Star Trek,” save the occasional starbase. Its dimensions only serve to reinforce the belief that the people in charge of “Star Trek: Discovery” think that bigger equals better, and that insanely bigger is best.

source: twyllodrus.tumblr.com/

Meanwhile, after last week’s brilliant revelation about Tyler’s true identity, L’Rell’s (Mary Chieffo) reaction to Tyler/Voq’s torment feels unnecessarily rushed. It plays out like something we simply need to get through in order to hit the next plot point. All the elements are there — love, regret, sorrow — but we ultimately get too little of any of them to justify her actions. Likewise the medical procedure that L’Rell uses to supposedly “kill” Voq is another low point. It feels too simple. The process to merge Tyler and Voq was long and painful. This operation took mere seconds.

Then there is the laziest piece of writing in the episode: the reveal that mirror universe humans have eyes that are sensitive to light. This characteristic immediately informs Burnham that Lorca is not who he claims to be. The only problem is, we have been in this mirror universe several times and light sensitivity has never before been an issue. It is simply not true. There were other ways in which the same failing of Lorca’s eyes could have been used to reveal the Captain’s deception, but writer Jordon Nardino chose the easy way out. Nardino simply made something up, even if it contradicted what we already know to be true.

The duality of “Star Trek: Discovery” is diminishing over time, as both the characters and production crew find their way to their true selves. But episodes like this demonstate that there is still some room to improve.

Next episode: What’s Past is Prologue

“Can you continue to pretend to be one of them?” — Star Trek Discovery Review — The Wolf Inside

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 10
The Wolf Inside
Posted by Clinton
Burnham speaks to Tyler
source: startrekdiscoverysource.tumblr.com

Given sufficient time and clues, the hive mind of the internet will solve virtually any mystery. In this case, it involved two “Star Trek: Discovery” characters.

The idea that Lt. Ash Taylor (Shazad Latif) and Klingon Torchbearer Voq were one and the same entity became a widely held theory on the Web long before the episodes “Despite Yourself” or “The Wolf Inside” premiered. Some argued that Voq had been modified to look like a human. Others asserted that Tyler had been brainwashed. In either case, the online world knew something was up. They felt they had outsmarted the people behind “Star Trek: Discovery.”

But did the production team actually want to keep this plot line a secret? Or did they surreptitiously encourage us to figure it out ahead of time? After all, one of the first clues to this mystery was not even contained in an episode of “Discovery.” It was found just sitting there on imdb.com. The actor credited with playing the role of Voq was one Javid Iqbal. Except it appeared that Javid Iqbal’s only acting credit was playing Voq. Was he new to the profession? It was hard to tell, since Iqbal was conspicuously absent from the “Star Trek: Discovery” press junkets.

The internet was suspicious.

In episode four (“The Butcher Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry”), L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) tells Voq that in order to win the war he must sacrifice “everything.” At which point, the Torchbearer is spirited away to house Mo’kai, a Klingon house composed of watchers, deceivers and weavers of lies. Then, in episode five (“Choose Your Pain”), Lt. Tyler appears on board a Klingon prison ship. Tyler tells Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) that he has survived seven months of captivity by allowing himself to be the subject of L’Rell’s torture and desires. Through it all, he remained strong and never gave up hope of rescue. He even helps Lorca escape the prison ship. He is Starfleet, through and through. Just what you would expect if the spy theory was to be believed.

Lorca speaks with Burnham.
source: v-e-l-v-e-t-g-o-l-d-m-i-n-e.tumblr.com

The internet was obsessed.

It was hard to deny the evidence. How had Tyler survived so long on the Klingon ship? After all, we know that L’Rell had not been on board the vessel during his entire captivity, so that alone could not account for the lieutenant’s ability to escape death. What was the full story behind Tyler’s hazy, violent flashbacks? Had the medical staff on board Discovery run any scans on the Lieutenant? Why was Lorca cutting Tyler so much slack? Was the Captain so enamored with Tyler that he had developed a blind spot to possible sabotage? And the Tribble on the desk in Lorca’s ready room. Surely that would play a part in unmasking the Klingon spy.

Eventually, as the Tyler/Voq theory began to take hold, Javid Iqbal appeared to open his own Twitter account, filled with pictures doctored to place Voq’s head on other actors bodies. Someone was having fun with all this. Maybe we were being played. Perhaps it was all some guerrilla marketing scheme.

But, as this game of cat-and-mouse played out, there was a danger. You see, not only was Lt. Ash Tyler proving to be a lifeline for Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green), tying her to his humanity, he was also being portrayed as a survivor of torture and sexual assault. He was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trying to fight his way back from darkness. If the lieutenant was actually only experiencing the effects of some type of Klingon brainwashing, as the theory suggested, that could marginalize his medical condition. Those in the audience suffering from the horrors of PTSD would feel betrayed.

The Internet was watching.

When all the pieces finally came togethe, both last week and this week, we were lucky enough to have four scenes which slowly unraveled Voq from Tyler. In the first, L’Rell attempts to awaken Voq using trigger phrases. But all does not go according to plan, and Tyler exits the brig, confused and concerned. In the next incident, Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) hypothesized that Tyler’s personality was an overlay on some other consciousness. That could mean that all of Tyler’s memories of abuse were real. They simply had not all happened to this particular body. Without warning, as we were beginning  to process that information, Tyler breaks Culber’s neck. The breakdown of the wall within Tyler had begun. Next, Tyler had an episode of cognitive dissonance while hearing “Mirror Voq” explain how Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites were all working as one unit. This concept was so diametrically opposed to the belief system preached by T’Kuvma, Tyler snaps again and attacks the parallel universe Voq. The character is literally at war with himself. Later, as Tyler tries to explain his actions to Michael Burnham, the Klingon Torchbearer claws his way up from the depths of his slumber, fully reasserts himself and tries to kill Burnham.

Tyler in the transporter room
source: burnhamandtilly.tumblr.com

The four scenes helped the anticipated reveal not feel like we were watching Scooby Doo and the gang simply rip the mask off the villain of the week. We saw the duality of this situation. It was some sort of complicated ecosystem contained in one body. It left us wondering who this hybrid creature really is. Do we consider it half human, half Klingon? Is Lt. Ash Tyler still alive within that body? Is the “real” Tyler alive somewhere in the prime universe? Is this body and mind loyal to L’Rell or Burnham? Or both. And which memories are real, and to which personality do they belong?

The internet is waiting to learn more.

Next week: Vaulting Ambition


Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • That look on Lorca’s face as Burnham bows. It clearly means something. Is the internet right again about the Captain?
  • The good guys always seem able to locate a secure channel, no matter how well monitored the environment might be.
  • The doors on the I.S.S. Shenzou sound like they are opening and closing a bit more violently than ships in the prime universe.
  • Tyler survived for a few seconds in the vacuum of space, but the crew members beamed out earlier in the episode appeared to die instantly.
  • Cadet Tilly continues to impress. Will Saru actually give her a recommendation?
  • The new take on Tellarites shown in this episode is a bit jarring. The aliens now have tusks. Given the tradition of portraying the species as having pig-like features, this is an understandable addition, but it is still a bit radical.
  • It was nice to see Detmer get something to do other than simply sit at a station on the bridge. Let’s hope prime universe Detmer also gets more to do.
  • Javid Iqbal’s separate imdb.com credit no longer exists on the Star Trek: Discovery page. Independent credits for other industry professionals with the name Javid Iqbal do still exist on imdb.

“I’m going to have nightmares about myself.” — Star Trek Discovery Review — Despite Yourself

Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 10
Despite Yourself
Posted by Clinton
Tilly as Captain Killy
source: burnhamandtilly.tumblr.com

A friend of mine recently Tweeted “Going to a mirror dimension in the first season is a terrible idea because we barely know these characters.”

If the crossover had happened earlier in the season, I might have agreed. But I think we now have some basic ideas about each of our lead characters. To me, it is the familiarity with this crew that is actually the issue when it comes to the so-called “Mirror Universe.” With one exception.

Up until now, we’ve seen how stoic, seasoned characters handle being thrust into this unfamiliar universe. Whether it was Kirk and company or the crew of Deep Space Nine, our heroes have been quick to ponder, analyze and adapt. That is to be expected. It is why they hold positions of authority. We’ve also seen how “the other half” lives, particularly aboard Archer’s I.S.S. Enterprise. (RIP Archer, All hail Empress Sato!) But what about the crew of the Discovery? The ship is captained by a man with questionable morals, it is seconded by a Kelpian who lives with constant fear, watched over by a chief of security who may be some sort of spy, and has a specialist convicted of mutiny. It all sounds pretty dark even before they go to the mirror universe.

Lorca speaking to the crew.
source: greenjimkirk.tumblr.com

Enter our surrogate “every person,” Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Tilly is, we must remind ourselves, still a cadet. She has been serving as a theoretical engineer on board the Discovery, working with Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp). It has certainly been quite a unique internship. For starters, she was given a mutineer as a roommate. Then she had to watch as Starfleet officers knowingly harmed a lifeform (the tardigrade) to serve their own purposes. She has been forced to accept the fact that she has died — multiple times (“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”). And she struggled to keep the knowledge of her superior officer’s illness a secret, only to have that illness eventually lead to catastrophic consequences for Stamets and the entire crew.

But, through it all, Tilly has remained wide eyed and optimistic. She confesses that she loves feeling feelings. When she, Stamets and Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green) discuss finding an alternative to using the tardigrade in the spore drive, she enthusiastically exclaims “You guys! This is so fucking cool!” She also played matchmaker between Burnham and Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif).

Tilly and Stamets.

Cadet Sylvia Tilly’s eyes are also focused on the future. In “Context is for Kings,” she tells Burnham, “I’m going to be a captain someday. The thing is that there are still some things I need to learn.” At which point. she takes on Burnham as a mentor. And when Burnham has reservations about the advice she has been giving Tilly, she tells the cadet to seek her own way to the Captain’s chair. Tilly smiles and replies “I have.”

So, when the Discovery finds itself in the Mirror Universe, and it is revealed that its Sylvia Tilly is the bloodthirsty Captain of the I.S.S. Discovery, her world is turned upside down — as is ours. Lorca’s advice is to “Defy your every instinct.” Which is all too true.

Our avatar, our surrogate, has met her darkest side. And she takes it about as well as we would. She does not enjoy any aspect of her “Captain Killy” counterpart.

As Tilly prepares to communicate with Captain Connor of the I.S.S. Shenzou, Burnham comments, “You are a captain now.” But Tilly realizes this situation is a mockery of her goals. Tilly rejects the statement. “No, I’m not. She is. I’m nothing like her, Michael. She’s terrifying. She’s like a twisted version of everything I’ve ever aspired to be. I’m going to have nightmares about myself now.”

Tilly has to put on the same show as the rest of the prime universe crew, masquerading as cutthroat servants of the Empire. Reluctantly, nervously, she sits in the Captain’s chair, but there is no satisfaction in her ascent to this position. She wants nothing to do with this universe. Which is as it should be. We need Tilly to stay true to herself.

Others on board the Discovery may be on the road to redemption (or ruin), but Tilly needs to stay on the path to greatness. Let’s hope the darkest timeline does not claim her.

Burnham talking to Tilly
source: twyllodrus.tumblr.com

Ultimately Michael Burnham does offer one insight that helps Tilly, and can help us hang on, too: “I’ve been trying to understand them better. And Terran strength is born out of pure necessity, because they live in constant fear. Always looking for the next knife aimed at their back. Their strength is painted rust. It’s a facade. But you have the strength of an entire crew that believes in you. Fortify yourself with our faith in you. That’s what a real captain does.”

Next episode:  The Wolf Inside


Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Yes! I called it on the cloak-defeating data. The Discovery did not transmit the information before it was pulled into the mirror universe.
  • Saru is supposed to trust his threat ganglia, but seems to pay it little mind when it reacts to Ash Tyler’s appearance on the bridge.
  • How loyal is Lorca to Ash Tyler? Tyler is late to the bridge for yellow alert, freaked out in the work bee, and takes his time getting to the transporter room, but Lorca lets all that slide.
  • My prediction is that Philippa Geourgiou is the mysterious Emperor
  • Stamets is clearly giving clues as to events unfolding around the crew. But are the clues always as literal as we think they are?
  • Why is there never anyone else in the brig? Or sickbay?
  • Why wasn’t Culber wearing a Terran version of a medical delta shield?
  • Spoiler: There is a theory floating out there that Lorca is actually from the mirror universe. Nothing that happens in this episode would negate that theory. In fact, putting emphasis on the fact that Lorca plucked Burnham (his would-be killer in the mirror universe) out of prison and bringing her on board the Discovery, then ultimately into this dark universe could clearly be part of a plan.