By Geannie Bastian
Starships Have Feelings, Too, on this week’s Star Trek: Discovery
This week’s adventure centered mostly on getting the monster from last week to be useful to the Discovery’s crew. Captain Lorca believes that its attack and defensive capabilities can be somehow weaponized in order to help them in the war. And he puts Michael on it, to ensure that they find some way of controlling it. Commander Landry, whose job it is to keep Michael on task (due to a perception from the captain that she might be too soft in her approach) names the creature “Ripper.”
It turns out that commander Landry’s aggression doesn’t exactly work out well for her – the creature responds to aggression as Michael warns her it will, and attacks, killing Landry. But, Michael has figured out what it wants and needs – specifically some of the spores grown in discovery’s unique engine room. It turns out that Ripper can communicate with and direct the scores, this being the missing navigational tool that Discovery needs. Unfortunately, that comes at a cost: each time they use the bio engines to jump, it hurts Ripper.
This doesn’t sit well with Micheal. But as she has been reminded repeadtedly, this is war, and your usefulness is based on how you can serve the cause. What that means, for her, is still unknown.
Who Can Micheal Burnham Become Now?
That is the central question of this episode, and in some ways perhaps the entire series. But especially this week. Last week, Michael made an emphatic and impassioned speech about who she was and her values as a Starfleet officer. Those were the rules, she claimed, by which she would live and probably die. The trouble is of course, Starfleet mission is, well, discovery. It is exploration and the seeking out of new life. But with all she’s asked to do this week, these are not exactly rules Michael finds herself able to live by. They have discovered new life, and they have come to understand it, but now they must make use of it, however cruel that use may be, because this is war — a war she started. Or at least the war she feels she started. Which means that the loss of life and the loss of innocence or liberty experienced by any creature falls on her shoulders. She feels guilty, but also helpless to stop it. She too is being used, just like he is.
Book ending the episode is the arrival of the will of Captian Georgiou. Clearly composed before the events that led up to her death, they speak of nothing but praise for Michael, who she imagines has her own ship by now. She serves the mother figure role that we know she always has had for Michel, saying she will always be like a daughter to her.
Georgiou’s words are grounding in Micheal’s conflicted state. Reminding her to embrace her curiosity, and to care for those in her charge. It is a message that is reinforced by the Captain’s final bequest: a telescope that has been handed down through her family for centuries. It serves as a reminder for the audience as well, who has already heard Lorca insist that the ship is no longer a science ship but a warship. A decidedly discordant idea for a ship called Discovery.
And Then There Were the Klingons
Lest we should allow ourselves to think that the only conflict this episode happened on board the discovery, the Klingons – along with their extremely distracting fast-paced subtitles that make one long for a universal translator – are back. And it turns out in the week we left them, the war is not going so well for them.
Voq has been left in charge of T’kouvma’s ship and crew following his death, left to be the torchbearer, and the keeper of the faith of his ideas.
But the problem is that the ship is left broken and drifting through space, powerless, and people are beginning to starve. Voq is able to get them to the abandoned USS Shenzhou, where he is able to scrounge up a power source. But, in his absence a rival has taken over his ship and crew, bribing them all the food so that they will turn on Voq. They want the rare cloaking technology for their own purposes in this war. And so Voq is left in the wreck of the Shenzhou to die. At least until his second, T’rell arrives. It had seemed that she had turned against him, but it was a calculated trick. She says she has a way to restore him to his proper place. But it will cost him everything.