Title: Context Is For Kings
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Writers: based on Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry, created by Bryan Fuller, and Alex Kurtzman story by Bryan Fuller, Gretchen J. Berg, and Aaron Harberts
Starring: Sonequa Martin-Green, Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Jason Isaacs, Mary Wiseman, James Frain, Chris Obi, Kenneth Mitchell
Duration: 1 hr
Network: CBS and CBS all access
Okay, like it or not, Star Trek is officially back so you may as well get used to the idea. As I started watching this week’s episode, I realized the shock still hadn’t worn off, and it hadn’t sunk in until that moment when the beautiful realization that Star Trek, my beloved Star Trek is back, began to sink in. I am so thrilled at the prospect of watching a new Trek series, I feel like a starving man that didn’t realize he was starving the smells of his favorite foods cooking again after a very long time remind him how hungry he is for something good to eat.
Last week I mentioned in my comments that the credits signaled this show would be a blend of the old and new, not certain what that meant. This week made it more apparent it means a lot is new with only a few remaining reminders of Trek series from days past. It says the show’s creator’s decided to throw out a lot of ideas from the art direction of the original series and opt for a newer more modern take on what a Star Trek series should look like going forward. For example, the crews wear the more naval blue coveralls similar to those on Star Trek Enterprise. On the other hand, the shuttles got a makeover in design resulting in them looking sleeker and more stylish than the boxy little Shuttles of Star Trek TOS, and likewise, the bridge of the ship Discovery got the same treatment. In fact, the interior of Discovery reminded me more of a ship you might see on The Next generation more than you what you would see on the original series. The show changes a lot about what we previously knew based on the original series.
I have no issues with that, although I am certain some people will find fault with it, to those folks out there who will undoubtedly spend the next few weeks, months, or maybe even years fussing about the minutiae of design and art direction that have changed, I say give it a rest. Isn’t it enough that our beloved Trek is back? What I am curious about is the appearance of certain crew members aboard the Shenzhou and Discovery; some of them appear as if they might be cyborgs and in one case a crew member aboard the Shenzhou appeared as if it might be a robot.
(*warning spoilers follow*)
Asthis week’s episode begins, we find Michael Burnham onboard a prison transport shuttle six months after the events that labeled her the fleet’s first mutineer and made her into a public pariah. It occurs to me she is cut from the same cloth as James Kirk; as someone who was thinking outside the box. What’s unfair is blame for the death of Captain Georgiou being her fault, and she seems to think the same way and feels a lot of remorse and guilt about it, but the Captain decided to go on that fatal away mission herself.
Her fellow prisoners find out who she is and the make no attempt to disguise their animosity towards her. Their shuttle runs into trouble when some alien creature that feeds on electricity attacks it for a food source and their unlucky pilot is seen floating by in outer space after going to deal with it unsuccessfully. The shuttle is rescued by a ship’s tractor beams shortly after. Afterwards onboard Discovery, the ship that saved them, the same prisoners are in a cafeteria. We learn that Burnham knows Vulcan martial arts when two of her previous fellow passengers decide to attack her and she is forced to kick their asses. Burham maintains a detached and unemotional veneer throughout from beginning to end.
Burnham meets the mysterious and enigmatic Captain Lorca who seems both bemused and indifferent towards her and her presence on his ship. The ship itself remains a mystery to her too and one of her fellow prisoners points out the some of Discovery’s crew is wearing black badges which apparently is something new. Discovery, her crew, and what they are doing is shrouded in mystery
Burnham encounters a few familiar faces onboard Discovery from her time on the Shenzhou, including Saru who is now the first officer on the new ship. Burnham also meets some new faces including an antagonistic scientist, Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) in charge of engineering, where she ends up assigned, who resents having his research interrupted by the inconvenience of war. Hints of a top secret project gradually get revealed as the episode develops and eventually the same scientist explains a breakthrough in how science sees the universe differently since the discovery that botany and physics are the same on a quantum level and how this development is changing everything. Sounds a little like future science has finally found the holy grail of a unified field theory or at least parts of it enough to change everything.
Discovery gets a distress call, and an away team is required to go to another ship to pick up some top secret equipment related to the same secret project Discovery is involved in also. Once aboard the other ship, the show segues instantly into a classic gothic monster movie. Poorly lit corridors and rooms add to the suspense along with glimpses of something terrifically fast flitting by at random intervals. Along with this is the gruesome discovery of twisted tortured corpses that show sign of being acted upon by a powerful force that left them deformed and grotesquely contorted into spiral shapes broken and bloody.
Just as they discover a Klingon onboard and as he tries to warn them to be quiet, he is grabbed by something huge and powerful, and he vanishes. The creature responsible turns out to be a huge insect-like creature resembling a gigantic beetle that roars like a dinosaur from Jurassic Park and gives chase when they run upon its arrival. They find themselves trapped in a chamber with the monster about to break through the barrier that separates them when Burnham distracts it so the others can escape. She leads the creature on a merry chase through the Jeffries tubes while quoting Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and manages to escape herself. Another example of Burnham’s heroic nature.
We learned afterward that Sarek’s wife (Spock’s mother) used to read the Lewis Carrol classic to her when she was a child on Vulcan. Lorca invites her to stay on board and join his crew suggesting he has the leeway to override her life sentence, but Burnham seems to think that the only path to redemption and the possibility of her salvation is by spending the rest of her life in jail.
So Lorca reveals more about the secret research and project they are working which Burnham is convinced is a biological weapon which she considers immoral and is illegal. He puts her in a chamber and demonstrates that by using some spores, she can travel instantly to distant locations in an instant which is enough to get her to stay. He is shown afterward in a chamber filled with specimens of alien lifeforms which also has a particular room that holds the monstrous beetle too, suggesting his research has more than one goal, and he has not told Burnham everything.
By way of related news, Reports say that actress Mia Kirshner is joining the cast as Sarek’s human wife (and Spock’s mom) Amanda Grayson.
I don’t know about you, but I found this episode very intriguing indeed and very well executed too. Episode 3 teases a lot about the future possibilities of the series. It was an excellent blend of mystery, action, and adventure along with just enough exposition about Burnham to let us get to know her a little better, and the implications of what’s going on with Discovery and its mission that lies ahead has me drooling with anticipation. In case you couldn’t tell, I liked it, a lot.