STAR TREK: DISCOVERY – Part II – Connecting the Dots

Courtesy CBS
This post contains language that some people may find offensive

By M. Pilon

I can imagine the opening scene of Star Trek: Discovery to be something like a representation of the dark primeval chaos of empty space, then a sound and the darkness parts and the light pierces through and a heavenly chariot crosses into view. Aboard is a woman called Michael with fire in her eyes, ready to do battle for Justice and the protection of her charges. But there is also kindness there. She is capable of mercy…

OK, I’m getting ahead of myself here.  Let’s play a game of connect the dots.  So much has been said about the first season and the characters and what this show will be about but it’s all over the place and in tiny morsels.  I won’t be revealing anything other than bringing together some of the elements that I’ve come across and I like puzzles so I couldn’t help myself.  I’m sure there’s more information out there but, you know, I have a life

Identifying the Dots

Bryan Fuller said that the story arc of the first season of Discovery is based on an early episode from the first season of TOS.  First dot identified.

Courtesy CBS
Courtesy CBS

Jason Isaacs put up a screen cap from a TOS episode on his Instagram feed.  It’s an odd one. So why did he isolate that picture from all the hundreds of other silly ones that are available from TOS.  If you look past the obvious, umm, morphology of the hand-held object, it was an oddly-framed picture. Is it possible that this episode was needed as research for this iteration? Second dot.

Harry Mudd is to be a character in the first season of Discovery.  He’s basically a space junk dealer, always looking for his next big strike and it’s it has always backfired causing great trouble for the Enterprise.  So in this iteration, he finds something and tries to sell/pawn it.  And again, it will backfire. What, or who, did he find?  Third dot.

The Klingons, who’ve been in disarray for generations, according to Sarek, are all of a sudden, able to mount an offensive against the Federation.  What might have changed?  Did they acquire something or meet someone who galvanized their imperialistic aspirations? What if Sarek is actually talking about the Klingons, or one in particular, when he says, “Great unifiers are few and far between, but they do come. Often such leaders will need a profound cause for their followers to rally around.”  Watch out Federation.  Fourth dot.

In the second trailer, Michael is shown going into a room with what looks like vegetation but kinda like the shrubbery from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Yeah, fifth dot.

Courtesy CBS
Courtesy CBS

Jason Isaacs uploads a short video where he is seen falling prey to “green-head syndrome.”  You got it, sixth dot.

A series of rather nice posters were unveiled revealing an odd character called Voq who has a Klingon name but does not look like a Klingon.  But I’ve seen that face before.  And what if T’Kuvma is actually saying, “We have been waiting for someone worthy of our attention” to or about Voq?  Seventh dot.

Courtesy CBS
Courtesy CBS

So if you connect those dots, you get the gist of what might be the story arc for the first season of Star Trek: Discovery.  Again, total speculation of course, and in a random order.

Further Speculation

Here’s a bit more speculation to complete the picture. Bear in mind that, even if I’m right in certain things, I may have gotten the order of events totally wrong.

In the second trailer, Lorca accuses Burnham of helping to start a war.  But from the info in the first trailer, she fired first to protect her ship after Saru sensed that death was coming.  She might have been relieved of command and ended up escaping in her spacesuit as a result of that ship being destroyed in the ensuing escalation and is “found” floating in space by Mudd, who captures her and throws her in his brig and. Mudd then proceeds to explains the harebrained scheme he’s involved in. So she’s on the lookout for infiltration after she finds her way to the USS Discovery where she is arrested again, then admits something to Lorca to which he responds, “You chose to say the right thing…even at great cost to yourself.” She’s freed on parole to help Lorca end the war. There is a nice exchange in the third trailer. Then much mayhem and jeopardy ensues – and at some point, she seems to come face to face with an armoured Voq – but she ends up saving the day, a few important individuals in the process, and the Federation.

It would mirror the events of the one little episode of TOS on a much grander scale.  But again, just speculation on my part.  And, if Bryan Fuller was throwing the fans a red herring (kind of a sport with this franchise), I’ve had an interesting exercise in working out the first season of an alternate dimension’s Star Trek. Trying to work it out is our sport.

But here’s the story that makes me optimistic about this series, if they’re indeed going there.

Mining the Language

I’ve always been involved in writing in one form or another and I love to deconstruct language.  Bryan Fuller was set to helm Star Trek: Discovery and, from what he’s done, I think he tends to play with language as well and to use names for a specific reason.  Nothing seems random with him.

There was a story from Entertainment Weekly that had Kirsten Beyer, a writer on Discovery, say that you can’t use the word “God” in Star Trek.  I laughed as the odour of le herring rouge drifted up.

May I refer you back to the first paragraph where I spoke of a heavenly chariot?  If I’m not mistaken, Shen Zhou actually means God’s ship.  And Lo and Behold!  It carries a young Michael Burnham.

CBS Trailer 2 Screencap
CBS Trailer 2 Screencap

When I first came across the name Michael, I thought it was an odd choice and very 20th century.  I would have given her a name like, maybe, Kai T’Sar Burnham (T’Sar or T’Sarek because a human child would need a readily-recognizable attachment to a powerful Vulcan just to stay alive on Vulcan).

When the captain’s name was revealed, as Gabriel Lorca, I was equally perplexed.  If he was this brilliant military tactician, why not give him a name like Saladin Lorca.  It would allow the show to address the recent and on-going divisive rhetoric in certain places while expressing the diversity that would inevitably emerge by the 23rd Century.

Moving on, I was talking about American Gods a while back and something about the names on Discovery clicked.  Oh, I get the names now.  God’s Ship, Michael, Gabriel, and I’m looking forward to being introduced to Dr. Raffi (or a variation thereof).  All that will take place aboard a ship called Discovery.  Discovery is an interesting word – it means exploration, finding new worlds and new civilizations, but it also means disclosure, digging for the truth, uncovering what lies beneath the surface, laying everything bare.

Aaron Harberts, an executive producer was interviewed regarding the character of Michael and her name and said, “And, of course, an archangel is named Michael…”  Yes, both Michael and Gabriel are the names of the only two archangels that are mentioned in all the Judaeo-Christian and Muslim traditions.

The Soul of a Character

Here’s the intriguing bit…

Michael is the boss archangel, the protector, usually seen in warrior’s armour with a sword of fire, smiting the enemies and protecting God’s creatures.  “I’m trying to save you! Trying to save you all!” is very Michael in warrior-archangel mode.    Michael is also traditionally said to represent the male essence of God.  I have my thoughts on what this might mean but explaining that in a comprehensive manner would probably take up about ten more pages, so, no.

CBS Trailer 3 screencap
CBS Trailer 3 screencap

And the last name is interesting – Burnham.  Say it fast and just listen to it phonetically.  Yeah, there’s the avenging fire again.  Remember, Michael had everything taken away from her as a child and was raised and educated on Vulcan.  To humans, Vulcan is the god of fire, of the underworld and a forger of mighty swords.  She may have been born to be Michael, the top archangel, the protector, but her character was forged in the fires of hell.  Yeah, she would have issues and is probably conflicted.

Gabriel, on the other hand, is the messenger of God, the go-between, the expert in communications and also deliveries…of all kinds.  Gabriel is usually portrayed with a trumpet or horn. There’s a nice connection there to Gene Roddenberry who said that he liked the Hornblower series of seafaring adventures and basically thought of Star Trek as Hornblower in space. Anyway, Gabriel is also believed to represent the female essence of God.  Yeeaahhhh…same caveat as above but complicated and fucked up wouldn’t even begin to address the issues.  BUT, if he can find a way to keep his shit together, it would give him the ability to think and strategize WAY outside the box. It would make him a very dangerous, and successful, military tactician.

CBS/Promo Trailer
CBS/Promo Trailer

And Lorca?  Frederico Garcia comes to mind.  He wrote poetry to his young lover when he had to go into hiding to escape from Franco’s fascist kill squads. It’s a sad story – look it up. The poems were eventually published as Sonnets of Dark Love.  Yeah, I want to write the script entitled, Sonnets of Dark Alien Love too, if it hasn’t been done yet.  Maybe in my dreams.

I may be stretching a bit, well maybe a lot, but let’s deconstruct the name.  L’ usually stands for “the,” so the orca.  We’re familiar with the whale bearing that name, also called killer whale.  But the original reason why they were called “orca” was because they were considered to be vicious killers, demons from the deep, sea monsters. Hence the word “orc” to describe a devouring monster and orca being the feminine form.  No, J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t invent the word.  Nothing about Gabriel Lorca’s back story has been revealed yet (at least, I haven’t come across anything), so, if we go by the meaning of the name, Gabriel Lorca is an archangel who might aspire to reach heavenly heights and do the right thing, but he lives in some dark murky depths with only his intellect as a life preserver.

How will those two work together? Think Rachel Platten’s song “Stand By You” maybe (replacing a word with “Lorca”, where appropriate, of course) as Michael’s anthem and Imagine Dragons’ song “Demons” as Gabriel’s.

CBS Trailer 3 screencap
CBS Trailer 3 screencap

The Broader Canvas

Not much is known about the other characters.  There’s an Asian female, Captain Philippa Georgiou, who mentors Michael for 7 years.  Hopefully she won’t die at the end of the first episode, but I’m not holding my breath.  Showrunners did say the first episode is almost a prequel; a false start, and at least two of her officers end up on Discovery.  There’s also a gay fungi expert Science Officer who’s in an actual relationship, and a young female cadet among others.  And I’m glad the Vulcans are alive and well in this iteration and I know that the presence of the Klingons will please many.  But the new character that intrigues me the most is called Saru (interesting gender-neutral name) who is said to be a Kelpien and a member of a prey species.  Wow, I can see a flash back of the poor Kelpien entering the Starfleet Academy, being greeted with bands of torch-bearing predators from his planet (let’s call them alba Caesarianos) chanting, “Kelpiens won’t replace us! Kelpiens won’t replace us!” This image is so alien to us. … But seriously, doesn’t that make you think of another segment of our societies who have borne the brunt of our periodical need to scapegoat and hunt them as far back as antiquity? I would go there, especially in this climate.

If all these other characters are even half as interesting, complex and promising as I hope that Michael and Gabriel will be, I’ll watch!  But then again, it’s all just speculation and/or wishful thinking on my part.  But I had fun and a few laughs, something that’s often missing from Star Trek. The darker the times we live in, the more we need to laugh to keep ourselves sane for the work that needs to be done.

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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.

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  • Ruritania

    Were you an English major by any chance?

    • a-m pilon

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Ruritania – your name makes an interesting crossover into ST 🙂 No, my degree was in Biochemistry but I never used it – went into TV instead. Everything about ST:Discovery is a guess at this point but I had fun speculating on the story arc. I do think that Bryan Fuller had an allegorical agenda when he started. However I have since read that the current production team kept the names but will move away from the allegory. I agree with you about the Klingon names; it’s the first thing I thought – much more Vulcan sounding, maybe Romulan too? About Captain Phillipa Georgiou, I’m kinda glad she has an unexpected name. In 200 years, the population of the earth will have migrated all over the place and most likely mixed in great numbers. I don’t think a person’s name will reflect that person’s outward ethnicity in the future so that one works for me.