It’s the penultimate episode of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery and now that everyone is back from the Mirrorverse — including one person who shouldn’t be — nine month ahead of where they should be, it’s time for the Discovery crew to take stock of the dire situation (the Klingons have decimated the Federation) and figure out what the next move is. Because there has to be some way to make all of this make sense within the Star Trek canon (and there is a good article out there explaining exactly how this all works without screwing up Trek as it already exists).
This week also was one of those “let’s take a breath” episodes that ended up being more talking and character development than action, something classic Trek has done so well in the past. As the Discovery finds itself back in the Prime Universe, the ship is suddenly boarded by unknown assailants who turn out to be Admiral Cornwell, Sarek and other Federation officers. Sarek mind melds with Saru to get an accurate picture of what the Discovery has been through so Cornwell, who watched the ISS Discovery be destroyed by the Klingons, can form a plan of action. But there are a few things she needs to deal with first.
Cornwell is royally pissed that the Lorca she thought she knew was from the Mirror Universe, so much so that she “killed” a bowl of fortune cookies. She’s under the impression that Prime Lorca is dead as well, but is he? And then there’s the whole issue of a Mirror Universe and one of its inhabitants now on board the Discovery under lock and key … but still a guest not a prisoner. First and foremost on her mind though is classifying all Mirrorverse information and then … destroying it. Which then allows for Kirk and company to be surprised when encountering goateed versions of themselves in the classic Season Two Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror”.
With the galaxy crawling with Klingons, Cornwell orders the Discovery to jump to their lone starbase but they don’t have any spores left to make the jump, so they have to risk traveling at warp … something that seemed to go rather more smoothly than Cornwell predicted. But when they reached their destination, the base had already been attacked and taken over by the Klingons, apparently killing more than 80,000 souls on board. Rattled by the devastation, Saru orders the ship to get out of there and fast.
Luckily, Stamets had a plan to grow more spores in a sort of Genesis Project way as seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on a lifeless planet, so off they go. Cornwell, meanwhile, has a face-to-face with L’Rell, admitting that the Klingons were winning the war but … the vision of L’Rell’s leader T’Kuvmah is not how the Klingons are working. Instead of becoming unified, the 24 houses are fighting amongst themselves, randomly attacking anyone who isn’t Klingon just to one up the others. Cornwell asks L’Rell how to end this and she bluntly replied that it will never end. Not unless the Federation attacks and destroys the Klingon Empire. That’s exactly what Cornwell needed to know.
That information also plays into what Mirrorverse Sarek told Burnham about how they defeated the Klingons — they took the battle to them and just fired everything they had at the Klingons. It seems now the only way the Federation can get back on its feet is by taking the fight to the Klingons and Cornwell will do just that by attacking the Klingon homeworld Qo’noS. The only problem is that no human has been to Qo’noS since Captain Jeffrey Archer of the first USS Enterprise a century earlier (another Archer shoutout!). But there is someone on board the Discovery who does have some valuable knowledge about Qo’noS — Emperor Georgiou.
Georgiou also tells Burnham that they have to take the battle to the Klingons, but she apparently withholds some more information, not ready to play all her cards just yet (claiming Burnham wouldn’t be able to handle what Gerogiou has yet to reveal). The plan is to map Qo’noS but knowing the ship can’t get close enough to to do a scan, there is a ‘better’ plan – jump the ship inside one of the massive caverns just below the surface, allowing them to map all of the planet’s defenses. But what else does Georgiou have up her sleeve?
Georgiou’s presence on the ship has been questionable at best. She didn’t make a great first impression when Burnham transported her back to the Discovery, forcing Saru to have her beamed to secure quarters with her presence kept secret from everyone else on the ship … except the poor transporter guy who now has a big secret and a bigger target on his back (was he wearing a red shirt?). After Georgiou plays the rest of her hand, gambling her freedom, Cornwell gives a rousing speech to the crew about what they are planning to do and then introduces the person who will be in charge of the mission … the presumed dead but look here she is Captain Philippa Georgiou, now at the helm of the Discovery. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, the only other people on the bridge who know her true identity are Burnham and Saru and they are both flummoxed by Cornwell’s decision to turn the ship over to the emperor. Will Burnham, who took the chance on saving the emperor to atone for her betrayal of her friend, be forced to betray this Georgiou when all is said and done?
And that’s not all Burnham has on her plate. There is the matter of Ash Tyler. Saru is convinced all remnants of the Voq personality have been removed by L’Rell, so he allows Tyler his freedom but with restricted access on the ship. Did he bother to tell anyone he was allowing this? Say Paul Stamets? Because when the two came face-to-face, it was hard to watch, wondering if Stamets would lash out at Tyler for murdering Hugh, even though it was by Voq’s hand. Burnham isn’t too happy about Tyler’s presence either, even when Saru suggests she should speak to him to perhaps help him regain his humanity. As it wasn’t a direct order, Burnham refused. Her logical mind tells her that the Voq personality was the one that tried to kill her, but her heart knows that it was Tyler’s eyes she looked into when he had his hand around her throat. It’s going to be difficult to reconcile the two.
Tyler made his way to the dining area where, like in high school, no one wanted to be seen sitting at the same table with the outcast. But Cadet Tilly knew the right thing to do was to sit with him. In a really lovely moment, Tyler told Tilly she didn’t have to do that, that he was okay and she replied, ‘How could that possibly be true?’ It was a great moment of compassion and made me love Tilly even more. And her act of kindness spurred on others to join them.
Burnham eventually did visit Tyler in his quarters, attempting to reconcile what they had been through, but she still refused to be the one to help him even when he said he needed her to get through this. She’s been through a lot herself, blaming herself for Georgiou’s death and starting the war with the Klingons. She’s had to depend on herself to move forward, and that’s what she expects Tyler to do as well. That seems a bit harsh as everyone deals with trauma differently, but she can’t move forward through her own issues if she has to deal with someone else’s especially when she feels completely betrayed by that person. And now she has even more on her plate now under the command of the Mirror Georgiou, right where she started.
There’s also one question lingering about Sarek. He knows what’s up with the plan to attack Qo’noS but Burnham felt his goodbye as he took his leave of the Discovery felt … different, final. Of course we know Sarek isn’t going to die as he plays a part in the original series and films as well as The Next Generation, but he did leave Burnham with what was probably his first bit of true fatherly advice: ‘Do not regret loving someone, Michael.’ Will she be able to take that to heart as far as Tyler is concerned?