STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Episode 6 Review and Series Commentary

Captain Lorca and Admiral Cornwell in bed

By M. Pilon

Ship Full of Crazy People

We started the series with Klingon supremacy, now we have Vulcan supremacy. That’s unfortunate and a bit of a stretch to paint the entire universe with the current prevailing Western mindset. This spurred an attempt on Burnham’s life back at the Vulcan Learning Centre after she became Sarek’s ward and she was dead for 3 minutes which is why Sarek put a horcrux in her – to save her life. There’s no explanation as to why Sarek is so intent on showing the Vulcan mainstream that humans have their uses. It wouldn’t be out of place in a serialized story to go into the motivation a bit.

Graduation Day on Vulcan
Graduation Day on Vulcan

Burnham learns that Sarek had to choose one of his children for a plum post and he chose Spock. Well, that kind of explains why Sarek was always upset with Spock’s choice so that’s a nice touch and fits into the history (I don’t want to say canon – there’s enough lip service being paid to that). And Burnham shifts from guilt at feeling she had failed Sarek by not being Vulcan enough to anger at Sarek for letting her feel that way.

Admiral Cornwell visits in person to discuss Lorca’s disregard of due process to rescue Sarek at Burnham’s request.

Lorca is not happy with Cornwell's questions
Lorca is not happy with Cornwell’s questions

She asks questions and Lorca, feeling he might not have all the correct answers, deflects with an offer of single malt – with that mumbled Southern accent, I was expecting bourbon – and, when that doesn’t work, Lorca suggests a better use for their next 50 minutes. Kat and Gabe were friends with benefits back at the Academy, then she was his therapist, then his superior, but just to check to make sure he’s still himself, she sleeps with him again? Is there anyone on this ship who’s not compromised? Anyone humming Trooper’s “Santa Maria” yet?

Lorca has a fresh-looking triangular scar/branding on his back and, when Cornwell barely touches it, Lorca goes full-on PTSD. Looks like strangling her and/or shooting her were options he considered for a few seconds, then, “Sorry. I’m not used to having anyone in my bed.” Umm…really? Cornwell’s right to go ballistic on Lorca – he’s not himself.

Lorca and Cornwell - Rude awakening
Lorca and Cornwell – Rude awakening

She’s basically accusing him of having psychopathic tendencies. He then obliges by proving it with begging. She’s finally making sense so, I don’t hold out much hope for her future. You would think that, as a psychiatrist, she would know about triggers and have been smart enough not to blurt out her plan to strip him of his command right there as she was getting dressed. There was an honest portrayal of PTSD in this scene. But I have a nagging suspicion that the reaction will be shown to have been born out of something else. Sad if it’s true – there’s so little that’s come across as genuine motivations so far with these characters.

The Tribble’s Gone…THE TRIBBLE’S GONE!

Lorca’s lost more than his memories of romantic nights with Kat. He doesn’t seem to remember how to eat a fortune cookie and looks like he’s tasting one for the first time. Yep. And he’s sitting in the captain’s chair, looking comfortable, not blinking at the blue flashes.

Lorca in the Captain's Chair
Lorca in the Captain’s Chair

And he’s not too keen on recovering his supposed friend/lover/commanding officer who had just told him she was going to have him removed from his post. And, like a spy who’s been found out, was quick to jump on the perfect way to dispose of his whistleblower.

Lorca after seeing Cornwell off - not a friendly look
Lorca after seeing Cornwell off – not a friendly look

“May fortune favour the bold, Admiral” sounded more like a wish for himself at his idea of feeding her to the Klingons than a wish for her to succeed in her mission (not that any viewer couldn’t tell what was going to happen). And this is from the man who had blown up his entire crew to save them from falling into the hands of the Klingons.

How many people are on the Discovery? We had a scene between Saru and Burnham in the last episode where he admitted to feeling angry at having been overlooked for promotion to first officer. But here we have Lorca promoting two newcomers (one of them completely reviled when she came on board not that long ago) to positions of command. Are there no other crew members on this ship who would have a problem with these field promotions?

Lorca promoting Tyler to Security Officer
Lorca promoting Tyler to Security Officer

And whatever happened to the poor Klingon-detecting Tribble? I guess it went to hang out with all the black-badged people.

No Tribble on the desk
No Tribble on the desk

Can I add What Are Little Girls Made Of to the growing list of TOS episodes that are being rehashed and/or alluded to in this iteration?

At least Stamets is having fun frying his brain. He’s obviously making full use of the mushrooms and is tripping groovily while no one around him, including his physician boyfriend, seems at all concerned, above the occasional raised eyebrow. Life is cheap on the Discovery if you’re not one of Lorca’s adopted strays.

Will Tilly ever swear again or did we tick that box?

Squeaky Clean From Now On?
Squeaky Clean From Now On?

The Ship On The Edge Of A Story

Even though these last two episodes have been easier to watch than what went before, I still don’t care for most of the characters, they’re all over the place, running hot and cold. I don’t understand their motivation or shifting allegiances. I’m not buying that, after 7 years on the Shenzhou with humans, assorted aliens and a resentful scaredy-cat, Burnham is only now starting to deal with human emotions. It all feels disjointed. It’s not anchored in either a basic storyline or the main characters and, though there are minor attempts at relationships and hook-ups, there is no ensemble yet. And we’ve reached the bottom of page 69 or a 159-page novella. There’s very little that’s relatable. We’ve been meandering through a series of taxiways looking for the runway so this ship can take off.

I still want to throw something at the TV whenever anyone starts spouting “mutineer.” If Burnham had indeed succeeded in tricking the bridge crew into destroying the Klingon cloaking sarcophagus ship, there would have been no war and she would have probably put the world back to the way it was supposed to be and…oh right, we wouldn’t have this series. Maybe that would have been a good thing – we would’ve started the story after everything was made right again. And there’s no such thing as a one-person mutiny.

There’s been more action in these last two episodes so I guess that would make the deficiencies a bit less glaring. Speaking of glare, Lorca doesn’t seem to be affected by any of the light flashes or glare that are thrown his way in this episode – on the bridge and in the holodeck. And we’ve got laser tag in the holodeck. Honestly, if the Klingons are winning the war, you’d think they’d be programmed to be more efficient warriors. At least one clipped Lorca.

Lorca and Tyler comparing notes
Lorca and Tyler comparing notes

And the boys are still comparing scores (seriously, 60 odd Klingons between the two of them with only a tag on Lorca’s hip?). Or are the two just merely coaching each other on remaining human? The mileage discussion sure sounded more like a “watch what you say so you’re not caught” admonition than an actual inquiring conversation.

Series Commentary

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of the writer and may not reflect those of NCC-1031.COM.

Not On The Side Of The Angels With This One

Even if we end up seeing Burnham and Lorca gliding through the hallways of the Discovery in all the winged glory implied by their names, I fear they will never be able to rise above the stain of the original sin this iteration was born with.

It’s not the story I object to. I’m sure it’ll turn out to be a good story when they get to it, just like The City on the Edge of Forever was one of the best from TOS. And, when all is said and done, it’s likely that Lorca will be no more of a warmonger than Kirk was a Nazi sympathiser in that episode. It’s the way it was done that I find so distasteful and utterly unnecessary.

I need to step away from this for a while until, hopefully, the divisive and destructive discourse subsides and the malignancy it engendered runs its course. In time, I also hope that good, solid storytelling that honours the legacy of this franchise from beginning to end and  will take precedence over lip service being paid to so-called canon.

This iteration was intentionally started in a way that creates confusion, concern and even outrage with anyone who’s loved Star Trek for the values it’s always stood for. I cannot in good conscience support or in any way condone anything that intentionally divides us, especially for the purpose of entertainment and corporate profits. I understand that this is how the entertainment industry functions these days – any press is good press, it still generates views and revenues. And controversy is especially good at generating views and revenues. From a money-making corporate standpoint, it’s genius really. Well done CBS.

Star Trek “of our time, for our time”

Yes, ST:Disco may be a loosely-connected rehash of old episodes of TOS but it is definitely born of this day and age. None of the other iterations were set up as a season-long game for the gratification of a few in-the-know individuals to the gleeful cheers of sycophants happy for the brutish entertainment offered by the division created within the fandom and derision of the strong emotions elicited from genuine-hearted fans sad and even outraged at what is on offer. So yes, this iteration is certainly going where no Star Trek has gone before. And they know we will continue to go along with it. What choice do we have if we want more Trek.

I don’t think I’ll feel “reeeaaaally silly” when we finally get the Star Trek they keep talking about, I already feel exhausted, used and a bit stupid that, going into the seventh episode, I’m still waiting for what was promised. So, yes again, this iteration fits right in – it is the Trek “of our time, for our time.”

Live Long And Prosper

I feel sympathy for the talented, well-meaning, hard-working and honest people working to do the best job they can in this iteration and who have managed to engage in a positive way with all fans. I feel empathy with the viewers who are still patiently waiting for what was promised. I feel sorry for the executives at CBS who are so afraid of an original idea that they opted for a murky same-old, same-old delivered as a breech birth just to give it a new twist. Let’s hope there will be a reboot to this reboot before season 2 goes into production.

This is what we get now after decades of replacing the thinkers, the innovators, the risk-takers, the philosopher-kings as leaders with MBA’s, CPA’s and CFO’s – same old stories, repackaged, rebranded and heavily advertised as shiny new (through a lens darkly, in this case) and sold at twice the price to feed the ever-growing demands of shareholders. Didn’t think I’d live to see it with Star Trek. But these are the dark, self-absorbed times we live in.

And that’s why, instead of groundbreaking ideas for stuff we don’t have yet, but so cool that our children would grow up to make it, we have product placement: the black ISSA toothbrush, Sully Wong’s Orbitur Sole Booths, Nike Sock Dart, not to mention the Disco T-shirt and other knock-off’s, available from CBS.

There is no reveal great enough to undo the damage that this intentionally manipulative and divisive trumpery of a beginning could fix and make good. I was going to try to explain this but I came across part of a speech that can be applied to what has been done to the Star Trek fandom and does a much better job of explaining it than I ever could:

“If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you’re not going to be able to govern them. You won’t be able to unite them later if that’s how you start.” Barack Obama (October 19, 2017)

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About M Pilon

M Pilon is a retired TV Producer, Director and Writer who now spends her time developing and writing her own projects, satisfying her curiosity and trying to do her part to make this a better and more inclusive world. M Pilon credits TOS with influencing the course of her life, like thousands of other kids of her generation. She's maintained an interest in the franchise.