STAR TREK: DISCOVERY – Episode 6 Review – “Lethe”

Sarek's starship

Episode summary

While en-route to peace negotiations with the Klingons, Sarek is injured by another Vulcan – a Logic Extremist – who performs a suicide bombing aboard Sarek’s ship.  Having placed part of his katra within Burnham years earlier, Sarek creates a telepathic link with Burnham seeking her help.  The crew of the USS Discovery, against Starfleet’s explicit orders, decide to make a dangerous rescue mission to save Sarek, stranded in Klingon space.

To find him, Burnham must enter Sarek’s mind and face difficult memories from her past, including a secret that Sarek, her adopted father, has kept from her for years.  A secret which changes the way Burnham feels about him.

Lieutenant Tyler begins to settle in with the Discovery crew and quickly finds favour with Captain Lorca after proving his combat skills.

Upon learning of Lorca’s decision to contradict Starfleet’s orders and rescue Sarek, Admiral Cornwell visits the Discovery and questions Lorca’s tactics.  The two spend an intimate evening after which Cornwell discovers Lorca has lied on his psych evaluations and is not the man she used to know.  The Admiral decides this will be Lorca’s last mission until he is psychologically fit for duty.

With Sarek rescued but unable to attend the peace talks due to injuries, Cornwell goes to Cancri IV, a neutral territory, in his place.  But the negotiations were a trap set by the Klingons, who take the Admiral as a prisoner.  Rather than attempt a rescue mission, Lorca chooses he will not take the risk – undoubtedly because he can now maintain control of his ship with Admiral Cornwell out of the way.

Quick take on ‘Lethe’

Sarek's memory of Vulcan
Sarek’s memory of Vulcan

This episode dove in to a number of large issues including Vulcan supremacy, post-trauma psyche, terrorism, and more.  It further establishes the series setting and the climate of its era, further develops Michael Burnham and Lt. Tyler’s characters, and moves the season’s story arc a little farther forward.

Lethe has some great dialogue, such as the scenes between Burnham, Tilly, and Tyler, and also those between Admiral Cornwell and Captain Lorca.  But it also has a few scenes that could have been done differently or left out completely, such as the hologram fight scene with Lorca and Tyler.

On the plus side there are some stunning visuals in Lethe that really helped make the Star Trek universe feel more accurate to its scale in a way unlike any previous Star Trek series.  Vulcan felt like a real world with millions of inhabitants for the first time.

I give Lethe 3.5 stars out of 5.

Writers amplify Sarek’s “fatherly” traits

When one objectively looks at the facts surrounding Sarek, not only in Star Trek: Discovery but in any other Star Trek show or movie, you begin to realize something.  Sarek is a failed father and terrible father figure.  Lethe chose not to ignore this but instead embrace and further that perspective.  I admit that initially this was uncomfortable to me.  Sarek has been a staple in Star Trek that is often viewed with great reverence – but should he be?  Sarek is by no means a good father or father figure to either of his children, and we get to see he’s done some likely irreparable damage to Burnham as well.

Burnham speaks with Sarek in Sickbay
Burnham speaks with Sarek in Sickbay

In Lethe we learn Sarek was forced to choose between Burnham and Spock for who would get to go to the Vulcan Expeditionary Group.  While Burnham was top of her class, Spock was Sarek’s son.  He chose Spock and as we’re reminded in the episode, Spock opts not to join the expedition and instead join Starfleet.  However Sarek never tells Burnham that his own choice was the reason she was rejected.  Instead, she finds out the hard way while in Sarek’s mind.  The choice of Spock doesn’t bother Burnham as much as the fact Sarek withheld this from her.  Burnham has felt for years that she failed Sarek; instead she learns  she had been manipulated by Sarek.

I got the impression that Discovery‘s writers may also have been trying to touch on the subject of poor fathering.  There’s a lot of it out there and women and men can be impacted differently by it.  What better way to tell that story than through Sarek?  I liked this approach.

Burnham got much needed character development

We finally learn a bit more about Michael Burnham’s formative years.

The Michael Burnham we see when Vulcans are present seems completely different than the one we’re starting to get to know.  Perhaps the seven years spent with humans and other species has made a big impact.  Or perhaps she feels a need to live up to Vulcan expectations and logic.  Either way I’m finding her character to have more split personality with each passing episode.

In addition to her past, we get some hints of where Burnham’s future may be.

Burnham discusses Sarek with Lt. Tyler
Burnham discusses Sarek with Lt. Tyler

Her interactions with Lieutenant Tyler certainly elude to a possible romance between them in the future.  If Tyler does indeed end up being Voq, the Klingon, like many of the rumours going around suggest, it could lead to devastation for Burnham.  Remember, her parents were killed by Klingons.  It would either destroy her from within, or she may recognize Klingon potential beyond violence.

We also learn that Burnham is heavily into fitness – for purely logical reasons I’m sure.

Body image

Speaking of fitness, I was uncomfortable with the scenes of Burnham and Tilly jogging around the corridors of the ship.  I’ve hailed Cadet Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman, as being a better representation of women of average size.  Rather than a show where all the women are overly thin, Discovery opted to be more representative.  But here we have Burnham pushing Tilly to work out, as though that has something with one day becoming a starship captain.  I found these segments to be a little bit tone-deaf.  However I was glad to see Burnham relent in the end, recognizing that she had given Tilly bad advice.


Vulcan has logic extremist terrorists?

In Star Trek: Enterprise, we learned Vulcans can be quite xenophobic when it comes to species with emotions.  And particularly Humans.  They’re back at it in Discovery too, as the Vulcan Expeditionary Group shows.  But did you know that Vulcans also have terrorists?

Logic Extremist - Adjunct V'Latak
Logic Extremist – Adjunct V’Latak

The thought of a Vulcan terrorist, as so far described in Discovery, seems rather… questionable.  Think about it for a second.  We know that Vulcans embraced logic millennia ago after becoming so violent they nearly destroyed themselves.  Logic became their saviour in a way, and a defining factor of the species.  Now we’re expected to believe there are Vulcan Logic Extremists that are willing to perform acts of violence and terrorism as a logical way to achieving their goals.  One of those goals, by the way, is basically Vulcan-for-Vulcans.  Burnham was killed by them as a child before being revived.  So the logic extremists have been around for at least a few decades.

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About Cassius Adams

Cassius Adams is the creator of and is a content contributor. He has been a Star Trek fan for nearly three decades. Cassius discovered his passion for the franchise early into TNG's run, and nourished that passion throughout DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies. Cassius can be reached by emailing or you can follow him on Twitter at @supercass

  • Jon CK

    I loved this episode and think it’s the best episode yet, which means until the next. I’ve been reading every After Trek article I could find and everyone ignores the ending scene or turns it into a romantic notion. Sarek’s “assistant” the Logic Extremist projected his betrayal at the very beginning of the trip by asking the nature of Sarek’s trip A very non-logical inquiry from a subordinate. Ignoring that. Admiral Cornwell’s discovery was made in a very inappropriate apres sexual encounter which is especially timely in this era of sexual misconduct by superiors to their subordinates. Cornwell’s criticism of Lorca is and was that he isn’t as healthy as he tested to be, the fault of Star Fleet’s inadequate procedures. Lorca acted appropriately by awaiting Star Fleet’s wait and see but never act policies that are doom to cause them continuing deaths and ship losses. Captain Lorca is in the midst of war and as he constantly maintains knows what it takes to win a war.
    Sarek’s Burnham problem also seems to be a matter of Vulcan’s not supremacy but sexism and racism. The idea that a supreme nation could have an inferior race even qualify for a place in any institution of higher learning like Star Fleet’s inadequate procedures to detect PTSD. Also what was most noticeable was the absence of women in any positions of power within the Vulcan society including Sarek’s human wife.
    Sarek allowed Burnham to feel inferior as only a man dominated societal chauvinist would. That was what broke the Vulcan like cold indifference Michael Burnham barrier erected before offering her hand as she did not when her roommate kicked her foot under the table when she was introduced to Tyler. A romance better Burnham and Tyler would be a betrayal of her relationship with Tilly who has already expressed an interest in Tyler. Though Burnham has continued to betray her friends and co-workers it’s usually to save their lives or for a higher good. The fact that you would project that this obvious attempt by Burnham to reintroduce herself to Tyler as she corrects him as a sexual overture is another example of men believing that women and men can’t be friends. They can if the men aren’t their sexually obsessed superiors.
    Burnham is heavily into fitness because the Federation is at war and war isn’t for the weak or unprepared. Tilly if she does not gain strength and stamina can not and will not survive. It’s not about body image it’s about fitness and survival. The bad advice Burnham offered wasn’t the 6.5 seconds that makes a difference. It’s that there is only one way to become a Captain. The other ways are to survive the death of your Captain as what happened when the arrogant Captain or rather Commander of the now destroyed Star Ships are and will be killed. A battlefield promotion is still a promotion. Be the last man or rather woman or person standing.
    Why is no one mentioned what Lorca was wearing at the end of the episode? It’s a weapon right? He isn’t sleeping is it that he’ll never be taken unaware ever again? Is it some kind of control or communication device? What is that thing?
    This Trek is so Harvey Weinstein / Bill O’Reilly esque appropriate and timely. If you’re female in the future you’re still screwed. That sucks but the program is unless you’re a f-ing moron – f-ing awesome!

  • Michael Kurland

    Apparently some Vulcans still have strayed from the path of Surak. Why else would Sarek have been attacked?