Monday, November 13, 2017

Subspace Reviews: Star Trek: Discovery - Ep 6 - "Lethe"

Back into Discovery again, and this time we get to know a little more about a popular Vulcan among Trekkies. Sarek.

In fact, after seeing this episode I started to build an interesting timeline for the Sarek family between Spock's birth and his entrance to Starfleet Academy based on this episode. But that will have to wait until the midseason break next week. And the rest of these midseason reviews.

So let's see who lives and who prospers.

The episode finds Burnham and Tilly running through the ship's corridors. They are working out together, mostly to help Tilly sharpen her endurance and time. Burnham has started to try and help train Tilly to get on track to becoming a captain.

Burnham feels she needs to shave off over 6 seconds from her time. If she can do that, she gets a commendation. And with that, along with her other skills and achievements, she can get into command school. Along the way, she can get posted to one of the uber cool Constitution Class starships, like Enterprise. It will be straight sailing from there to her own first command.

Burnham is focused on getting and keeping Tilly on task. Objective to objective to result.

In the weapon's training facility, Lorca and Tyler are working out in a simulator against swarms of Klingons. They move from area to area, clearing out Klingon attackers.

As they go, Lorca quizzes Tyler on his history, his family, and his knowledge of geography.

They banter back and forth, while sweeping out holographic Klingons.

When they've cleared the sim, it returns the room to normal.

Now some might think this is too advanced for the time, but it does seem limited. No holograms seemed to be able to touch them, so the room didn't seem to use the more advanced force field projections or massive perspective tricks later holodecks will use. It's a shooting gallery. You pick your hall, or clearing, or cliff edge, and then you shoot and dodge attacks.

And as it was, they had wanted to place holodeck on Classic Trek, but it couldn't be budgeted in to work. Though they do appear in the animated series. But that is usually not looked to for too many facts.

On the weekends they reset this to play Hogan's Alley
The simulator looks like a good tool. It is far ahead of the portable light target in Enterprise. Or the holodeck floating targets in The Next Generation. But the Starfleet in those shows was in a very different place from the Starfleet in this series. They were young and naive, and older and established, fleets. This Starfleet is knowledgeable enough to worry and not strong enough yet to be overconfident.

Lorca keeps checking over Tyler, and wants to be sure he has a good sense of him. Tyler isn't sure what it all means. Then Lorca offers him the position of chief of security aboard the ship. Lorca wants someone he can trust.

Tyler accepts.

In the Mess, Burnham pushes Tilly to get a properly nutritious meal. Tilly decides to scope out the new guy, Tyler. She finds him interesting. Rumor is that he took out 6 Klingons. But Burnham says that isn't likely.

But Tilly wants to go meet him.

Tilly sits and starts talking to him, which is her special skill. She then pushes Burnham to be friendly.

She seems to notice something between the 2 of them. Tilly likes to play matchmaker.

Tyler tells Burnham that he doesn't judge her for what happen at the Binary Stars, as he hasn't gotten to know her yet. But he respects that she wants to serve.

But the conversation doesn't go far as Burnham's head starts to spin. She feels a sharp pain in her side, and she stumbles away.

She is shocked to see Sarek there, lying in a pool of his own blood.

She then finds herself in her mind and then on some higher plane. It pushes her out...somewhere.

It is a bit trippy and all. But Vulcans and there special connections and abilities are well known. We've seen them employ different tricks, like reaching someone's mind through a wall (Spock). And in Classic Trek, when a Starfleet vessel crewed only by Vulcans was lost with all hands, Spock felt it across space. Vulcans do some odd and cool stuff.

Also, Star Trek 3 established that Vulcans and humans could be tied together so that the human can share in the experience.

She soon finds herself on Vulcan, among graduates of the Vulcan Science Academy.

The day is quite familiar.

It is her graduation day. She sees Sarek and Amanda (Sarek's wife) with her younger self.

They are arguing. It seems that Burnham had been rejected from joining the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. It had been Sarek's wish that she would join it as the first human member. But that plan has fallen through.

Amanda is pissed. Burnham had the best scores of the graduating students. She had jumped all the Vulcan hurdles. But now they are rejecting her?

Young Burnham is just quietly humiliated. She wants to leave, and is just ashamed of what Sarek must think of her. And she hates that she's feeling so emotional.

Sarek then notices that Burnham is there. He is distressed that she seems to be in his mind. She is not wanted there. So he drives her out.

Burnham awakens in Sickbay. Lorca wants to know what happen. She explains that when she was young, she was in a terrorist attack. It killed her for 3 minutes, but Sarek was able to revive her. He had done a rare old Vulcan mind meld that had placed a portion of his katra (Soul.) in her. It ties them together.

It seems a Vulcan extremist group had planted the bomb that destroyed the school, in an attempt to kill her. We had seen this moment before, but it seemed likely connected to the Klingon attack that took her parents. So now we know she lost her parents, and then an attempt was made by Vulcan purist to expunge her from their culture. Rough life.

The katra is a surprise to Dr. Culber. It is pretty much a myth to non-Vulcans.

Burnham knows that something has happen to Sarek. He is hurt and dying.

And this is true.

Sarek had just left Vulcan on a secret mission. He was keeping it secret from all but the highest levels of the Vulcan government and Starfleet Command.

He was travelling at warp in a Vulcan shuttle, or courier ship.

And it is a pretty ship. It has the remnants of the old Vulcan warp rings that we saw on Enterprise. It feels rather faithful to other Vulcan designs. Good look.

He was being taken by a pilot. But the pilot was not what he appeared.

He is a member of that Vulcan radical group. They are very anti. They are anti-Human, anti-Starfleet, anti-Federation. They want peace and Vulcan purity, and they are ready to kill to accomplish it. They think it is all logical. Fanatics, right?

And this man has a bomb in his body. He activates it and announces his intentions. He knows Sarek is trying to broker a peace to end the war. That can't be allowed.

If the war continues, his group believes they can convince the rest of Vulcan to secede from the Federation. So it's death.

Sarek acts to limit the damage by raising a force field in the ship. It limits the damage. But the ship is wrecked, knocked out of warp in the Iridian Nebulae. And Sarek is severely injured, bleeding and unconscious.

Lorca contacts Starfleet to confirm the status of Ambassador Sarek. A Vulcan admiral confirms the plan to send Sarek. Two Klingon houses who were being marginalized by the new Klingon High Council, which is controlled by Kol, were looking to work with the Federation to end the war.

But the admiral warns Lorca off looking for Sarek. It is an odd decision. Lorca can be in the area quickly. And other ships look to be in the area.

What I am guessing is that the Vulcan admiral was coordinating with the Vulcan government. With the attack by Vulcan purist, they see it as a mar and an embarrassment. Sarek is adrift and dying in a nebulae, with little hope of being found in time. So they want it hushed up, and want to keep it all an internal matter of Vulcan. They will deal with the terrorist. And they will count Sarek as a regrettable loss. Logic, right?

But Lorca isn't going to accept that order. And the Discovery jumps to the edge of the nebulae.

Though I wonder how they are doing this. It seems to still be via Stamets. But he is handling it better now. I wonder what they've done to make it easier on him?

Lorca and Burnham go to Stamets for help in finding Sarek. It's a nebulae, so scanning it is out of the question. They need to pinpoint the ship, or they need to activate a beacon on the ship. The only chance they have is Burnham's mental connection to Sarek. And they need Stamet to work away to enhance her ability to reach and help Sarek.

Stamets is awed at the idea of Burnham's connection and at the chance to develop the new technology. He is far more chipper than he was before. Everything seems sunny to him.

With the technology ready, they head out. Burnham wants Tilly along to look after the device, and her. Lorca adds Tyler to the roster as they need a good pilot to get them around and home safe.

But Lorca gives Tyler a quick talk. He tells him to "bring her home safe." At first Tyler thinks he's joking about the shuttle, then it's made clear that Lorca means Burnham.

He then tells him not to come back if he can't do that. It surprises Tyler a little, but he understands his orders.

It is interesting to see Lorca privately be so protective of Burnham. It could be important, or it could be another test of Tyler. Does Lorca trust him all the way yet? Or is Lorca playing some game?

When they leave, Lorca takes some time to study star maps. Perhaps he's trying to guess at where Sarek is, or his mind has moved on to the war again. He is interrupted when he's told Admiral Cornwell wants to talk to him.

He is quite surprised when he learns it's an in person visit. Her cruiser has just arrived. (Sadly, we don't get to see it.)

She is worried about Lorca, and what he is doing.

He's now added a recently released POW to his crew. He's still recovering from his own capture. And he's running an unauthorized rescue mission, which is pissing off the Vulcans.

He's pushing his luck hard with the admiralty. And she's worried there is something seriously wrong with him.

But they are very old friends, very intimate friends. So they decide to drink and talk. (It reminds me a little of Captain Pike and his ship's doctor in Classic Trek's first pilot.)

Aboard the shuttle, Burnham readies to go under. She asks Tilly to not wake her if her vitals become strange, as she needs to fight Sarek to get inside his mind.

And she reenters Sarek's mind.

Again, he's reliving that day. And Burnham tries to talk to him about why he's doing this. And why he won't let her help him now.

But he just fights her. And Burnham starts to react badly. They fight for several minutes. Worried, Tyler orders Tilly to wake Burnham.

Burnham is troubled. Sarek keeps fighting her. And he keeps thinking about one of the worst days of her life.

Tyler comes to give her some support and advice. She needs to think about why he's doing this. He's dying and when you are dying you sometimes think about your own personal regrets. Things you wish you could do differently.

With this in mind, she goes back in and cowes him. He finally relents. He will show her what he's hiding.

On that day, he was ready to see her embraced by Vulcan and achieve greatness as a Vulcan explorer. But society disagree.

The Exploratory Group made it clear. They will accept the changes coming. But only so much change. Sarek has 2 human-ish kids. Burnham and Spock. One of them can go into the Exploratory Group. But not both of them. And Sarek had to choose there and then.

He was troubled by this. It seemed unfair. Burnham was qualified. But it would mean his biological son would be denied the dream he had for all his kids. On the other hand, denying Burnham would crush the dream he had personally fostered in her. He pushed her all the way on this path.

Send Burnham and she would always be treated as an outsider. And then Spock would be locked out of the opportunity.

Send Spock, and he would face some of he same issues, but not as many as Burnham. But Burnham would be denied. Yet, as a human, she had other options. Places like Starfleet would readily accept and embrace her as an equal.

So he made the logical choice, of Spock. It pained him, but he had to make a choice.

But Spock ended up forgoing the Exploratory Group, and joined Starfleet, like his sister before him.

So the choice was made, and it came to nothing. He denied Michael Burnham the dream for nothing. He hurt her for nothing. And it's haunted him ever since.

And she is pissed. She blamed herself. She thought he had been utterly disappointed in her. She thought she was a failure. But it was a lie.

Finally understanding each other a little better. Sarek helps Burnham to meld with him again, and give him the strength to activate a beacon that Discovery can use to find him.

On the ship Lorca and Cornwell sleep together, like old times. She notices odd scars on his back, and Lorca reflexively jumps up and points a phaser at her head, set to kill.

He realizes what he's doing and backs off, trying to laugh it off.

But she is pissed. Sleeping with a phaser. Nearly killing her. He is not well. He may pass the tests, but he is clearly a sick man that needs help, away from a critical ship for the war effort.

He breaks down and begs her not to take the ship away. He needs it. He needs his mission.

But she is disgusted. She can't tell anymore where his lies and evasion start, and where the real him ends. He is a mess. She can't recognize him anymore.

With Sarek aboard the doctors work to save him. But he won't be going to sue for peace in the time promised. So Lorca has a cunning plan.

They can send the admiral. She can be there quickly, and have authority to negotiate.

Burnham thanks Lorca for helping her, appreciating how far he's bent to give her a chance, and to reach Sarek in time. She tells him how much she respects him. She sees his integrity.

He then gives her a new assignment. Bridge duty. Science specialist.

It seems that Lorca is plotting. He wants to buy some time to think and maybe do something.

Sure it could be he wants to save the peace plan. But he mostly wants to push off losing his command as long as possible.

Burnham and Sarek talk a little about there relationship. He is tight lipped, but Burnham says they will have to talk about it some day.

And Lorca and Cornwell talk about his future. When she returns, they will plan something. He will quietly step down, and then he can be treated. Then, maybe, he can take another command.

With that, Cornwell sets off to save the Federation.

Burnham also takes time to talk with Tilly, and let her know that she doesn't have to follow the track that Burnham had shown her to reach her goals. Tilly understands and says that she is on her own path, and gets Burnham's concerns.

Burnham then opens up a little to Tyler. She thanks him, for the help and he gives her an opening to share and vent. She realized that she and Sarek can't be what the other wanted. And now she's struggling through a range of emotions that feel so contradictory. He tells her it's all normal for a human being.

Off in neutral space, the admiral arrives to meet the Klingons.

And it is nice to get more looks at the Birds of Prey to continue to get a feel for the ships.

The Klingons are awaiting the admirals along with their hosts, the Elders of Cancri.

Cornwell greets the Klingons and tells them she hopes they can find a solution to the war.

And then the Klingons kill the admiral's security and the Elders of Cancri. This has all been a trap.

Kol, made the 2 Klingon houses make overtures to the Federation, hoping they could grab a high level dignitary they could use.

But a Starfleet admiral? That is even better.

Saru later informs Lorca that Admiral Cornwell has been abducted. Lorca stays stone faced. He then tells Saru to contact Starfleet Command for orders.

This surprises Saru, as he expected the captain to leap into action.

Lorca tells him if Cornwell walked into a trap, a rescue mission could also end up walking into the same trap. So, they'll wait.

And while it can be argued that is a pragmatic decision, it is obvious that Lorca is in conflict, save his friend or save his command. And he's punted that choice to Starfleet Command.

And he has to knows they'll want him to stay back.

He's made a dark choice.

And that is the crux of Lorca. He's a dedicated and focused leader.

As we see him now, barring the many unknown facts we have yet to learn, he is a man still reeling from the loss of his last ship and crew. It haunts him. Winning this war, being on the front lines, is his penance. He is trying to make their sacrifice mean something.

And in this quest, he's pushing right up to a line. Starfleet would want him to contact and coordinate with his superiors. There are rules. But Lorca's opinion of that was clearly lain out earlier in this episode.
"Rules are for admirals, and back offices."
He's made a choice he may not be able to balance out.

With Burnham, we have her continued exploration of her own humanity. She works to apply and maintain her Vulcan stoicism. But she's in situations that challenge her day to day approach to life. Tilly and Tyler engage her in ways she had been avoiding since she left Vulcan.

But her view of the past is getting muddled, just as she is struggling to come to terms with her iffy future. But she is building friendships, even if she isn't trying to. And this is giving her a support base to explore her humanity now.

But being human can be so scary, can't it?

And then there's Ash Tyler. Who is he really?

No. Really. Who is he?

Is he a spy? There is some logic to the idea he would be Voq. It fits since one exited the show as the other entered. Becoming realistically human is a trick Klingons have had. And aspects of his story are convenient, or suspicious (Like the lack of any living family who could know the real Ash. His ship being lost so those people who would know him are dead to.).

Also, the show keeps pointing things out. He can fight like a Klingon (though it could just means he meets the Klingon aggressiveness head to head). He is surprisingly good at besting Klingons (But that is mostly rumor. He was fighting on par w/ Lorca...). Some of his lines could be read two ways (Could.). And he came out of his months of interrogation a man still holding on to his sense of self, and his Starfleet ideals.

It's suspicious. Or, it's freaking impressive. You take away the paranoia about him, he's a model Starfleet officer. Brave, charming, smart, caring. He's a classic Trek character.

I could see him, Burnham, Saru, Tilly, Stamets, and Culber as the command crew of a ship in most any era. Lorca is the dark horse in the group.

But maybe it's all a brilliant cover. Maybe. Maybe he's a sleeper agent with a memory and personality overlaid, until the time is right. That seems more likely. Maybe he is even just Ash Tyler, and he's been brainwashed to turn on his crew if a certain command is given. Or, maybe he's totally cool.

The focus on Tyler makes it hard to look around at other threats. What's the deal with Lorca? Since last episode we know there are many unanswered questions about his last command. How was it lost? Why was it lost? What was he the only survivor?

Passed the human tragedy angles, what if Lorca didn't escape? What if he was captured and then released, to go back to Starfleet?

Then all the possible answers to the Ash Tyler question can be applied to Lorca as well. Was he switched out? How about the second time he was caught? Was he programmed? Did he leak his location then to be caught again to be updated on his orders/programming? If so, do his eye issues tie into this?

So many questions we can consider. Like what were those marks on Lorca's back. Were they new from his last round of torture? Are they a clue to what happen to him?

We have many questions left to consider. And both Lorca and Tyler could be leading us to ignore some other possible threat vectors.

But we aren't even to the season midpoint yet. We have an interesting ride ahead of us.


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