“Tilly, what the hell is going on on this ship?” – Star Trek Discovery Review – Context Is For Kings

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episode 3
“Context is for Kings”
Posted by Clinton
Source: Giphy.com

In a series where flawed heroes will either rise or fall, the U.S.S. Discovery may be the most flawed of all.

The U.S.S. Discovery is a doomed ship. At least its mission appears to be. After all, the biotechnology research that Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is conducting bears no resemblance to anything we have seen before, or since, in the “Star Trek” universe. That would indicate one of two things: the experiment is a catastrophic failure, or the experiment is a resounding success which places the ship out of this universe, if not time itself. Either way, Discovery, or at least members of its crew, are most likely doomed.

Discovery’s sister ship, the U.S.S. Glenn, has born witness to the volatile nature of the so-called “spore drive.” That ship’s attempt at a “Speirein 900” displacement apparently propelled it to the edge of Klingon space, but also killed every crew member on board. Stamets’ friend and colleague, Straal (Saad Siddiqui) spoke of the advantages of “not growing your own,” possibly hinting at the involvement of the creature that rampaged through the corridors of the Glenn. That creature is now aboard Discovery.

And what do we know of Discovery? We know that she is “right off the assembly line” new. We see that her Captain, Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) not only wants to win the Federation-Klingon war, he is willing to do anything at all to make that happen. We see indications that Discovery’s security officer, Comdr. Ellen Landry (Rekha Sharma) has no use for Vulcans. And there are indications that the science being conducted aboard Discovery is probably not something the United Federation of Planets would approve.


As we learned in episodes one and two, each character on “Star Trek: Discovery” is presented to us with a potentially fatal flaw and will be defined by how they act over time. That could very well include the Discovery herself.

Last week I spoke of the journey of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). How far she had fallen, and what heights she must scale to reach redemption. In “Context is for Kings,” she had to run the gauntlet of scorn, ridicule and rejection to finally begin the long climb up, both figuratively and literally.

It has been six months since Burnham was sentenced to life in prison for her crimes. Crimes she confesses to Saru (Doug Jones) that she thinks about every single day. She has withdrawn into herself, defaulting to her swallowed-emotions Vulcan upbringing. She is so far removed she does not even struggle against the impending destruction of her prison transport shuttle. In fact, she seem calm in the face of near-certain death.

It seems nothing in this universe can break through that wall. Nothing, save one thing: the relentless, unbridled, enthusiasm of Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Not at first, of course. This relationship starts off as icy cold as space itself. Then tension turns to an uneasy truce. By the end of the episode, Burnham shares not only a book with Tilly, but something more precious — a memory. It seems that Tilly will play a key role in Burnham’s journey.

Source: ezrisdax.tumblr.com

TIlly, in return, offers Michael Burnham something the others can not, an actual connection with her humanity. Saru can offer an alien’s cautious respect and Captain Lorca can give Burnham purpose while still hiding secret agendas. But Tilly cares. Yes, she wants to be mentored, but she is honest and up-front about it. She is not afraid to admit she is wrong. Her wide-eyed optimism is an exaggeration of what many have come to associate with “Star Trek.”

So now we must also carefully watch Cadet Sylvia Tilly. She may be our canary in the coal mine. If her enthusiasm sours, or something untoward happens to her, Michael will surely stumble.

And on board the U.S.S. Discovery, a stumble can be a very, very dangerous thing.

Next week: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry

Random thoughts and observations:

  • Is Lorca so badass he can actually stop a tribble from reproducing?
  • We have our first two “red shirt” deaths, as “unnamed prison shuttle pilot” tumbles away in space and non-speaking role security office Kowsky is killed by the creature on the Glenn
  • The [threat ganglia] on the back of Saru’s neck have flipped open again, this time as the prison shuttle departs. The first time we saw this, the Klingon ship decloaked in front of the Shenzhou.
  • Captain Lorca is very into standing desks and stand-up meetings
  • We continue to see eye close-up shots
  • Is a black badge special ops or something else? I don’t believe it’s Section 31, as they are more discreet about their operations
  • Nice re-imagining of the TOS square data tape
  • The engineering test bay has a vibe that actually feels like a step towards the TOS aesthetic, with hints of “Enterprise”
  • Nice collection of twisted memorabilia in Lorca’s science lab

“To think I knew you so little.” – Star Trek: Discovery Review – The Vulcan Hello | Battle At The Binary Stars

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
“The Vulcan Hello” & “Battle at the Binary Stars”
Posted by Clinton
Michael Burnham received a mind meld.
source: burnham-michael

I have a confession to make. Back in 1993 I made a mistake. I watched the first few episodes of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” then gave up.

Sisko shakes his head in disbelief

Hey! I had some pretty common complaints: The show didn’t take place on the Enterprise. Heck, it didn’t take place on a starship at all! The surroundings looked all wrong. The “action” took place on a space station someone else built and vacated. These people weren’t going off exploring new worlds every week. They just sat there, spinning, reacting to things that came to them. The show was dark, not uplifting. Starfleet was not the hero. The Cardassians were one dimensional. And the pacing was. so. damned. slow.

It wasn’t until years later that I went back and gave the show a second chance. I pushed through episodes like “Move Along Home” and kept going. I was rewarded with probably the best overall Star Trek series of them all (at least so far).

I mention this because I watched the first episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS network television and was almost tempted to stop watching. I was not overly impressed. Yes, there were aspects that were intriguing and familiar, but things were moving much too slow. Some of the actors in Klingon makeup appeared to be struggling to speak through their appliances. There were tech aspects that were bothering me — the holographic technology being the biggest head scratcher. And Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) did not seem to have the gravitas I felt a starship captain should have. I began to feel like people were right when they said “The Orville” was a better reimagining of “Star Trek” than this new CBS series — even though, in my heart, I knew that Seth’s series was really a loving look back at a specific point in Trek’s 51-year history. Trek had grown since TOS and TNG, much like The Empire Strikes Back shed the simple Buck Rogers feel of A New Hope.

T'Kumva says "You dishonor only yourself."
source: annasgif

When the episode ended, I had to switch to the CBS All Access service to watch episode 2. I did. And, thankfully, things got better.

In many ways, “Battle at the Binary Stars” is a better pilot episode than “The Vulcan Hello.” Not only do we get the prerequisite opening battle out of the way, we get backstory on our lead character Michael Burnham  (Sonequa Martin-Green). We learn that she is the victim of one (and possibly two) alien attacks. We learn about her special connections with Sarek and Captain Georgiou. And we see why she has such an internal conflict between logic and emotion. It is not the same as Spock’s dilemma. Or even, dare I say, Sybok’s. .Instead of struggling to repress one path of existence, she is trying to integrate both. In fact, this revelation helps define the essence of “Star Trek: Discovery” — how do you make utopia interesting?

It appears that “Star Trek: Discovery’s” answer to this question is to have heroic figures with major flaws. T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) and his dedicated follower Voq (Javid Iqbal) are outcasts, obsessed with the notion of Klingon identity and passionate visions of the legendary Klingon unifier, Kahless the Unforgettable. Lt. Saru’s (Doug Jones) genetic instinct to flee danger too often appears to hold him back. And Michael Burnham is the most damaged of all. She enters our story already damaged by an attack that killed her parents and by the cultural disorientation.

I would expect our characters to work through their flaws over the course of the season. What they learn, or do not learn, will alter or simply affirm how we defined them. And, once again, Michael Burnham has the farthest to go. She has now been stripped of her rank, sentenced to life in prison and bears, rightly or wrongly, the weight of beginning the Klingon-Federation War of 2256.

Michael Burnham looks around the brig.
source: talk-nerdy-to-me-thyla

Regarding the overall story, we have only seen the prologue. I don’t believe we will get a true sense of the scope of what we are dealing with until episode 3, “Context is for Kings.” Yes, we know there is a great war in progress, but how does the U.S.S. Discovery figure into this conflict? Is she some sort of prototype ship from Section 31? Episode 3 is often referred to as a second pilot for “Discovery.” I think it may be more a case that it is Chapter 1.

Does all this complexity and intrigue overcome the fact that the starships don’t look quite right for this point in the timeline? Or the fact that the delta shields are in use across Starfleet too soon? Not entirely. There will always be a part of me that wishes the look of “Discovery” meshed better with the 1966 series. But I also wish the look of the uniforms in Star Trek: The Motion Picture meshed better with the ones in The Wrath of Khan and “The Next Generation.” How important those aspects are to you will definitely affect your ability to enjoy “Star Trek: Discovery.”

I made a mistake in 1993. I gave up far too soon. I did not have faith that things can get better when everyone is more secure in their roles, both behind and in front of the camera. I am not about to repeat that mistake in 2017. I am all in on “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Next episode: “Context is for Kings”

Special thanks to the whole gang at Head Over Feels for guiding this noob through the world of episode blog posts!