In the eleventh episode of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, everything is somehow worse than it was before! MY HEART. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, consent, medical experimentation.
Wow, this show truly doesn’t care about me, my emotional well-being, my heart… NOTHING.
Okay, so… maybe there’s a chance for Dr. Culber??? Look, I don’t know how this myceliar network stuff works beyond what the show has told me, and I’m also not going to sit here and say I understand like… half of that, either. But I think that perhaps there is a grain of potential in the final image of Stamets here in “The Wolf Inside.” It doesn’t make the sting of Dr. Culber’s death hurt any less, particularly because of the tragedy that’s still awaiting Stamets. Because y’all… I assume he’ll be fine at some point, and he’s going to wake up, and he’s going to have to be told that his partner was murdered while he was dead.
I am not looking forward to that moment.
Stamets’s story is also about Tilly, though, and it is also just as heartbreaking! Wonderful!!! I loved getting to see Tilly take charge and use her expertise to try to save Stamets. To me, that was a sign that the show is ready to have her grow beyond the role of being a cadet. Of course, that growth—if it happens—comes with a heavy cost, and LORD, this was gut-wrenching to watch. Because Tilly had figured out a way to help Stamets!!! She just needed more time. (Don’t we all?) UGH THIS WAS SUCH A PUNCH TO MY HEART.
But he’s… alive? Sort of? I know we got confirmation that he was seeing into the other universe, but what does it mean that he met himself? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN.
I just have to praise the monologue that Burnham gives early in the episode. It’s brilliantly written, and I love that it seems like a mere voiceover, but then leads to the reveal that it’s what Burnham has saying everything to Ash Tyler. It sets up the theme of what’s to come for both Burnham and Tyler: How can they live in a world that is so evil? What will this place make them do? What tethers them to who they actually?
Burnham has three primary ways in which she maintains her humanity. The obvious (and ultimately the most painful) method is through Tyler. It’s such a delight to see that a deeply emotional connection is what works best for Burnham. I’m always fascinated by the way the writers choose to engage with her Vulcan upbringing, especially in a case like this. Because I feel like Burnham is subconsciously taking Amanda’s advice here by not forgetting what it is like to be human. She’s newly in love, y’all! (Which does lead me to wonder what sort of consent issues are brought up by Tyler’s condition. To be frank: I don’t fucking know!!! I really don’t! I’ll discuss Tyler later in detail, but what I mean is that I’m trying to consider how informed consent works in this scenario, and I feel like the obvious answer is that Tyler should have told Burnham what was going on with him, but I also like… don’t get who Burnham is. Are they a Klingon grafted into a human or vice versa, or something more complicated? How does that inform consent? JUST SOME LIL’ QUESTIONS FOR US TO PONDER.)
She also has Lorca to some extent, though she’s limited in her contact with him. That scene in the brig? WHEW. It’s so, so good, and I love that it demonstrated that Lorca is willing to concede, that he’s willing to look at his own bias and make the decision that’s best for the situation. His scenes with Burnham are also a means for the show to build on their relationship. I got the sense that by now, these two understand one another better than they ever have, which is why Burnham felt comfortable enough to speak freely about her suspicion that Lorca’s torture had made him biased. And Lorca’s trust in Burnham? I think that’s a big reason why he didn’t fight her on that.
THEN THERE’S SARU. Oh my god, watching Burnham refuse to degrade the Mirror version of Saru? There’s both a tenderness in those scenes and a visceral horror. Burnham grants Saru a name in a world where non-human prisoners are slaves to the Terran Empire. SHE GAVE HIM A NAME. okay I’m FINISHED.
God, I just feel… bad. Voq is an antagonist on the show, for sure, and through Tyler, Voq has done some truly horrific things. And he may continue to! He’s meant to be a sleeper agent (like I had guessed, but LMAO, I was still so wrong), and his goals are opposed to Starfleet and the Federation.
But he’s also Ash Tyler! That person or personality is absolutely still part of this… I don’t know. Amalgamation? Which is why the consent issue trips me up. Who is in control of Ash Tyler? Is there a dominant personality? Or was there one, and recent events triggered Tyler in such a way that now Voq has taken over? I feel like that explains the events in the rebel camp. And that recent event? Tyler seeing HIMSELF as the leader of the alliance of rebel species and cultures. OF COURSE THAT UNDID HIM. Everything this version of Voq was doing ran counter to the whole Klingon purity thing!!! (Which has fascinating implications for the expansion of the Federation, but I’ll save talk for that if it happens in the future.)
Ash is one of the most complicated Trek characters I’ve come across, even though there are plenty of them—Burnham included, and I’m also thinking of Seven of Nine—who struggle with humanity and the Other. I don’t know what the future holds for him, because I don’t know that he can ever be seen as fully human, even if he biologically is? I don’t know how anyone forgives him for what he’s done, either, especially Stamets. What’s the path forward for Tyler at this point? I LITERALLY DON’T KNOW. But I also thought that Burnham sent him to SPACE, so I assume Discovery has more tricks up their sleeve.
This episode was STRESSFUL, y’all.
The video for “The Wolf Inside” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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