In the twelfth episode of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery, I would like this show to give me one (1) break. Just one. Please? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent, medical experimentation, death, and grief.
I can’t even pretend I knew where this was going. I WAS COMPLETELY TRICKED.
I obviously have a personal bias for why I’m reading some of this as I am. I said this on video, and I’ll repeat it here: I am taking Dr. Culber’s line about how nothing is gone in the mycelial network literally because I REFUSE TO BELIEVE HE IS GONE. But from a worldbuilding perspective, that one line—as well as this new threat to the network—presents such a fascinating opportunity to the show. What else don’t we understand about this network? What potential is there that’s unexplored? If it really is the fiber between all living things… oh god, THERE’S SO MUCH THEY COULD POSSIBLY DO. Like… what the fuck is Mirror Stamets doing to it that’s threatening it? And why? If that network provides such a huge benefit to him, why risk its very existence?
Anyway, who cares about any of that when EMOTIONS happened? Because I had previously said I was not looking forward to Stamets finding out the truth about Dr. Culber, and—like many things in “Vaulting Ambition—I did not expect what actually happened. Dr. Culber telling Stamets himself? Whomst allowed this? Y’all, that whole sequence was gut-wrenching to watch, especially once we got to the “perfect” moment. Stamets got a chance to ask a question that lots of folks who grieve often must cope with: Did the person who passed know that they were love? Were there things Stamets could have done better? We got an incredibly affirming scene between these two, and that kiss? GOD. It’s like Discovery read all my old reviews and gave me the exact thing I wanted this whole time? Which is also why I need Dr. Culber’s line to be a hint that he’s going to return, because otherwise I will be UPSET.
Holy shit, this was brutal??? I genuinely thought that after Saru approached L’Rell, L’Rell would help Tyler simply because of her affection for Voq. We’ve been told about it; we’ve seen it. So the obvious story was that she would put aside any of her complicated feelings to help treat this person she cares deeply for.
YEAH. NO. OH MY GOD. Again, I’m not always the biggest fan of how the Klingons are written, but this was so consistent with their ideology this season, so I was knocked flat by how quickly L’Rell refused to help. Why? Because this is what Voq signed up for. The logic is brutal, but it also tells us more about this process. I mean, it does logistically, yes, but Voq went into this informed. He knew he was going to suffer not just through the procedure, but in the days after it was completed. So why help him now? He knew what could happen, and so L’Rell had no compelling reason to do anything.
It wasn’t until Saru forced L’Rell to see Tyler in the flesh—and bear witness to his suffering—that she changed her mind. Did her love or affection for Voq finally override her commitment to the mission at hand? Perhaps. Perhaps she also accepted that they were in a parallel universe and that there wasn’t anything Tyler could do to fulfill his part of the mission. This is all running on the assumption that L’Rell removed Voq’s psyche/personality from Tyler. We still don’t know what the end result of the operation was; we only got L’Rell’s haunted cry when she finished. In a strange sense, it was like she was eulogizing Voq, right? So… what does that mean? Is Tyler now all Tyler? It certainly won’t get rid of his PTSD, but maybe this is the path forward I couldn’t see before? If his Klingon self is excised, is there real hope for healing?
GOD, EVERYTHING HERE WAS SO FERAL. The reveal of Georgiou as the Emperor was painful enough, but I truly, truly was not ready for the revelations that would come to life once Burnham and Lorca stepped aboard the Charon. The Terran Empire has been portrayed on Trek as the antithesis of the Federation, and we still see that here in this arc. The cruelty is on display over and over again, such as when we learn that the humans consume Kelpiens, or when Georgiou ruthlessly assassinates most of her captains to keep Burnham’s origin a secret. This really is a world in which fear dominates everything else, and it’s been a treat so far seeing how the writers manifest that in this interpretation of the Mirror Universe.
But the mirror counterparts also serve as literary mirrors, too, and that’s really where this episode excels. In some ways, Burnham led the same life in the Mirror Universe. Her parents were killed when she young, and she was taken in by someone who eventually became a parental figure to her. But it wasn’t Sarek, and she wasn’t raised on Vulcan logic. Rather, Georgiou became like a mother to her, she was raised with Terran brutality, and then, in both universes, Burnham betrayed what she was taught. Yet since this is a world based on fear, Georgiou’s reaction is to immediately threaten Burnham with death. Life is not sacred to the Terrans; it is merely something to be leveled as a means to an end.
I think Burnham understood that because at the moment she was to be executed, she made herself useful by telling Georgiou that she wasn’t from her universe. Suddenly, she possessed knowledge that Georgiou didn’t have. (Somewhat. I do not believe that it’s possible that she didn’t know that Stamets was working in a related field.)
Does that mean I trust that Georgiou won’t ultimately betray Burnham? Oh, not at all. I think she’s perfectly capable of a double cross. Plus, what she’s asking of Burnham? I don’t think Burnham is willing to hand over information that deadly to the Terrans. (Especially if it allows travel between universes; what a NIGHTMARE it would be if the Terrans invaded the main universe.)
So. I’m expecting more twists. More emotional challenges that are particularly difficult for Burnham because she’s working with Georgiou again, only it’s the wrong Georgiou. But y’all. There’s a bigger problem, and I am curious to see if perhaps Georgiou and Burnham unite against a common foe? That foe being Gabriel Lorca. WHO IS ACTUALLY THE MIRROR UNIVERSE VERSION OF HIMSELF. I… I almost can’t believe it, except the clues were there! Lorca’s sensitivity toward light; his unique interest in Burnham; all the things he did to manipulate Burnham over MONTHS to get to this very place. OH MY GOD, I WAS TRYING TO GIVE HIM THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT IN RECENT EPISODES. BUT HE WAS… OH MY GOD.
I didn’t see it coming. This RUINED ME. What the fuck, y’all???
The video for “Vaulting Ambition” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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