Spoilers are coming toward you at warp speed, so you’d better have deflectors on full
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Episode 1: “The Vulcan Hello”; Episode 2: “Battle at the Binary Stars”; Episode 3: “Context is For Kings”; Episode 4: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry”; Episode 5: “Choose Your Pain”
Cast: Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), Doug Jones (Saru), Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler), Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), Jason Isaacs (Captain Gabriel Lorca), Emily Coutts (Keyla Detmer), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), Kenneth Mitchell (Kol); Guest Cast: James Frain (Sarek), Jayne Brook (Admiral Cornwell); Written by Joe Menosky & Ted Sullivan; Directed by by Douglas Aarniokoski
Sarek is on a diplomatic mission to meet with two Klingon houses that have separated from the rest, believing that he can broker peace. Enroute, though, a Vulcan traditionalist proclaims that his attempts to bring humans into Vulcan society cannot be tolerated and that the two races must be kept separate. He blows himself up, severely damaging the ship and putting Sarek close to death. On Discovery, Burnham’s connection with Sarek’s mind causes her great pain, sending her to the ground and abruptly immersing her in Sarek’s subconscious, going back to the day when she was rejected by the Vulcans, which resulted in her being brought into Starfleet.
Then Sarek notices “our” Burnham and proclaims this is his memory and strikes out at her in a very un-Vulcan way. From there she’s knocked back into reality, waking up in sickbay and proclaiming that Sarek is in danger. Lorca wants to know how she has this knowledge, and she explains that she shares Sarek’s Katra (his soul). We learn that the extremists tried to kill her when she was a child and that’s when he saved her through a mind-meld (which we saw at the beginning of the series in a flashback). She senses he could be dying and asks Lorca to find him. Lorca agrees, but they have to send a shuttle into a nebula to use modified tech to create an “artificial mind-meld.” Accompanying Burnham is Tilly and Tyler. Intriguingly, the captain warns Tyler to bring “her” back in one piece or don’t come back, and when Tyler indicates the shuttle, Lorca makes it clear he’s talking about Burnham. What is it that has him so fascinated with her? We don’t find out in this episode.
As the rest of the Sarek story plays out, Burnham gets back into his mind, forcing him to confront whatever it is that is preventing her from helping him. What is revealed is that on the day she was rejected on Vulcan, it was because Sarek was forced to choose only Burnham or Spock, only one of his “experiments” (we admit, we were pretty outraged at Spock being dismissed in that way… them’s fightin’ words, Vulcan guy!). Burnham points out to Sarek how damaging his lie as to why she was rejected (that she just wasn’t good enough) has been on her life, the gravity of which he has just realized (accompanied by his admission that Spock ultimately joined Starfleet on his own, making Sarek’s choice a moot point in the end). Finally he lets her into his mind fully, and she performs the same sort of mind-meld we saw him perform on her at the start of the series. He revives on his shuttle enough to activate the transponder signal, allowing the Discovery shuttle to find him.
Sarek is transported back to the starship, where there is a final scene between he and Burnham in which she wants him to be honest with her about his feelings, but he does not. She walks out commenting, “We will have this conversation one day…father.”
Meanwhile, Lorca’s got his hands full with Admiral Cornwell, who has come aboard to confront him about his recent behavior. She blasts him for mounting an unauthorized rescue mission, using a mutineer and a just released prisoner of war, plus there’s word that Stamets has engaged in eugenics manipulation and that he himself was recently tortured on a Klingon vessel. She offers a great line: “You can’t treat Discovery like it’s your own fiefdom.” As things start to get more confrontational between them, Lorca suggests they talk like friends rather than Starfleet officers.
This leads to drinks, with her commenting that he hasn’t been the same since his last command (which, it turned out last episode, he lost when the Klingons attacked, with him escaping and killing his crew to spare them from torture). The two nonetheless end up in bed, but when she touches scars on his back, he freaks the hell out and pulls a phaser (which he apparently sleeps with). She realizes he’s not the man he used to be, that his behavior is pathological and that she can’t leave Starfleet’s most powerful weapon in the hands of a broken man.
He admits he needs help as she leaves. Then Lorca is told that Sarek, severely injured, is aboard. The Vulcan can’t make the meeting with the Klingons, and Lorca suggests that Cornwell goes in his place, which she agrees to do. Before departing, she tells Lorca she doesn’t want to ruin his career, but when she gets back, they’ll talk about how he will step down and maybe, after he gets some help, they can see about getting him back in the captain’s chair. You instantly know she’s a dead woman (though not in this episode). No way Lorca is stepping down.
As Cornwell departs for her diplomatic mission, Lorca makes Burnham a member of the crew in the science division, and she goes to the mess hall where Tyler is eating. She joins him, and talks about her feelings (not something she usually does), torn between both a human and Vulcan upbringing, but now somehow feeling unburdened by it all.
Meanwhile, Cornwell and associates arrive for the meeting with the Klingons and the others are immediately murdered. It’s a trap set by Kol, and Cornwell is taken prisoner. Word reaches Discovery, but Lorca tells Saru to get instructions from Starfleet Command, noting that it could be another trap. Saru seems a bit confused by the order, given how things are usually done on this ship, but goes off to carry it out.
Despite the fact that there is a “bottle show” quality to this episode — the external sets are extremely limited, suggesting that the time has come for the heavy effects of the early episodes now having to be paid for — there is some great character development here. Sonequa Martin-Green exposes vulnerabilities in Burnham that we haven’t seen before as we see what is likely one of the most painful events of her life, the rejection by the Vulcan Council.
Admittedly her desperate attempts to reach Sarek don’t carry as much weight as they should, but the interactions between the two of them are quite strong, and it’s a bit surprising how many times Spock’s name is uttered. By episode’s end, we see a true transformation in her, reflected in the warmth of how she reintroduces herself to Tyler, a far warmer greeting than she gave him early on.
We have to say that we don’t really trust Shazad Latif’s Tyler. Despite the fact that there’s something endearing about him and you want to trust him, the popular theory that he’s actually a surgically-altered Klingon operating undercover doesn’t seem so far-fetched. When Lorca makes him head of security, you’re actually pleased about it. For now. And filled with the hope that it won’t be a lamebrain move that costs him his life as it had his predecessor (Rekha Sharma as Commander Landry). As to performance, it’s quite a contrast to Latif’s more withdrawn, angst-filled part as Dr. Jekyll in Penny Dreadful.
And then there’s Jason Isaacs as Lorca. While different from pretty much any other Starfleet captain we’ve seen before, in this episode he’s absolutely riveting. Maybe that has to do with the fact that for the first time we’re seeing through his consistent bravado and seeming unwavering confidence in everything that he does. There is some genuine tension in the scenes between he and Admiral Cornwell, and a touch of desperation when she threatens to take the ship away from him. And in the scene where he tells Saru that they won’t go after her unless they’re ordered to, there’s no doubt that his agenda is a dark one, needing her out of the way to allow him to retain the captaincy of Discovery.
In the moments where Cornwell proclaims that he hasn’t been the same since the loss of his last command, it leaves one with the feeling that the rumor regarding this Lorca being from the Mirror Universe is right on the money. In episode four, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” when he reveals what happened to his ship and his crew, it seemed very odd that a captain would abandon both and then murder them to spare them from Klingon torture. In most circumstances doesn’t a captain go down with the ship and his crew?
So this means one of two possibilities: Lorca is Starfleet’s biggest coward (not likely), or the Mirror Universe Lorca came into our universe, orchestrating the destruction of his ship and the crew (including the actual Lorca), and then “escaped” to ultimately gain command of the Discovery. If any of this is true, it begs the questions why, what is his ultimate goal and, again, what is the fascination with Michael Burnham?