Star Trek: Discovery 1.06 – “Lethe”

Originally posted at

In which Jason Isaacs gets his shirt off, Vulcans are the worst, Ash Tyler is definitely not a Klingon (just ask him!) and I have a lot of emotions.

Father’s Day on Vulcan must be … awkward

Sarek is not a great dad. We’ve known this since “Journey to Babel”, where he just straight up blanks Spock when they meet after eighteen(ish) years of estrangement. And it turns out he didn’t do any better with his human kid.

Apparently, Michael is older than Spock, which I was going to argue is complete nonsense, but I just looked at the timeline on MemoryAlpha, and it actually seems like I’m wrong. (She admitted, reluctantly, through gritted teeth.)

I have to confess that I found aspects of this plot predictable. Of course Sarek’s not going to die, of course Michael will make contact, of course she’ll eventually realise she needs to hear Sarek’s conversation with the Vulcan Expeditionary guy.

What I didn’t expect was that Sarek would have to choose which of his children goes into the Expeditionary Force. I had assumed that Michael had passed all the tests, but was refused entry because she was human, and Sarek lied to her out of shame for his people. That the choice was his is so much messier and sadder and more interesting, and also explains why he’s so furious that Spock didn’t even want to join the Expeditionary Force.

(I think the alternate movie timeline has him being rejected also? But the main canon has always had Spock choosing Starfleet over the Vulcan option.)

(Obviously Sarek will deny being furious. Obviously he will be lying.)

Michael just has so many feelings

I liked that Michael’s relationship with Sarek isn’t easily fixed, but I loved that this has set her free. She’s full of conflicting emotions, but she’s not repressing them anymore. Sonequa Martin-Green’s delivery of her final speech is just amazing, and I’m so glad we have this heroine and this actress.

(Here is that scene in gifset form.)

Of course, Michael has always been very emotional, as we see when she asks to be taken home following her rejection. She sounded like she was on the verge of tears, which is probably the equivalent of a full-blown tantrum on Vulcan. I would like to see more of her interactions with Amanda, who works so hard to get her repressed Vulcan-human children to acknowledge their emotional sides.

Ash Tyler is definitely a Klingon

“You fight like a Klingon,” Lorca tells him, and then he humansplains emotion to Michael, and this is all excellent, unsubtle foreshadowing and I love it.

(I would like an AU where everything’s the same, but Ash lies like Kara Danvers in Supergirl, ie, very badly.

“You fight like a Klingon.”

“Well, THAT’S WEIRD, because I am definitely a human! Yessiree, got all the normal organs, and hair, and … stuff.”

Well, I’d find it funny.)

Team Discovery

It’s kind of a shame that Ash is going to betray them all, because he, Michael and Tilly make a great team. I especially enjoyed the way Tilly went from “Tyler is very, very hot” to “I am going to step back and let Michael have him” as soon as she saw they had a connection. That felt much more realistic than any nonsense about jealousy or competition.

(I also liked that what Tilly said behind Ash’s back was word for word what she said to his face. Having moved past her initial rejection of Michael, she’s compensating with delightful honesty. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Tilly?)

Sarek probably can’t help being the worst, because all Vulcans are the worst

Not to be space racist, but Vulcans are very frequently assholes, and “logic extremism” is just the latest iteration. Vulcan isolationism first turned up in “Gambit”, a lightweight two-parter from TNG’s seventh season, and the little I saw of Enterprise expanded the concept.

Honestly I think there’s a certain level of human chauvinism and even anti-intellectualism in writing Vulcans this way. The most egregious example I’ve seen (remember, I skipped most of ENT) was DS9’s “Take Me Out to the Holosuite”, where the Vulcans are not only arrogant, but barely even competent enough to justify their attitude. (And worse — they’re bad sports.)

But, at the same time, I enjoy stories where the integration of Vulcan and humanity doesn’t always go smoothly. And Michael’s rejection from the Expeditionary Force seems to be as much about Sarek, and internal Vulcan politics, as anything else. Sarek is basically a weeaboo, but for humans, and the Vulcans are kiiinda space racist themselves.

Those pointy-eared assholes.

Just how messed up is Captain Lorca? ALL THE MESSED UP.

Lorca should not be an interesting character. We’ve seen his type before: ruthless, manipulative, given to brooding alone in dark rooms, absolutely drowning in unaddressed trauma.

And yet, he’s somehow become my favourite male character of Discovery.

That’s partially down to the magic of Jason Isaacs, who can make any character seem charismatic. He’s a talented, magnetic actor who is particularly skilled at drilling down into unlikeable, even reprehensible characters and empathising with them.

The other reason I find Lorca fascinating is that, although he’s full of cliches, he’s actually a character type we haven’t seen much in Star Trek — and definitely not as the captain of the title ship.

Lorca owes a lot to Captain Rudy Ransom of the USS Equinox, who appeared in Voyager‘s two-parter of that name. Like Voyager, the Equinox was stranded in the Delta Quadrant, but whereas Voyager had a pretty cruisy trip (thanks to the network’s insistence on episodic storytelling and no permanent ship damage), the Equinox has suffered considerable losses, and is exploiting intelligent life forms to power the ship.

The parallels between Lorca and Ransom aren’t subtle, but Discovery has teased out the “is he a good guy/bad guy/how does he even have command of a starship?” question over a few episodes.  But now we know: he was once a good captain; now he’s deeply traumatised and making very, very bad decisions (and will eventually be removed from duty by Saru and Michael).

The trauma factor is interesting because, again, it’s not something Star Trek has explored much. Starfleet officers routinely go through terrible experiences and come out the other end mostly fine, if somewhat more prone to staring out into space and looking melancholy.

It was genuinely radical when TNG devoted a whole episode to Picard’s post-assimilation trauma, and his Borg-related PTSD tended to rear its head only when the plot required. Other incidents — an episode of extremely realistic torture at the hands of David Warner, for example — weren’t spoken of again.

Which is not to say that Trek’s very special trauma episodes have been bad — “It’s Only A Paper Moon”, DS9’s episode about Nog recovering from the loss of his leg, is sometimes recommended to veterans who suffered similar injuries. But they tend to wrap matters up in a nice bow and call them mostly-resolved.

But we know more about trauma, and the way it changes the brain, in 2017 than we did in the 1990s, and we also know that the longer PTSD goes untreated, the more it affects the physical brain. So when Admiral Cornwell says that Lorca is not the man she knew, she probably isn’t hinting that he’s totally from the Mirror Universe, which is an actual theory on the internet.

(I mean … it’s a long shot.)

I saw a Tumblr post to the effect that we thought Lorca was a problematic white man, but now we know he’s a precious cinnamon roll who needs to be protected at all costs, and Cornwell is gross and ableist for demanding he get treatment.


I heroically refrained from saying anything, because there are arguments you just don’t want to get into. Life is short and I have feelings to feel.

Gif from Discovery: Tilly (white, slim, cis woman, ginger) is saying, "I love feeling feelings."

Suffice to say that, in keeping with Discovery‘s emphasis on responsibility and consequences, I think that Lorca is actively making bad choices. This is a consequence of his condition, but it also means he shouldn’t be entrusted with a starship and a whole lot of lives.

Important plot-related shirtlessness

There’s a bit early in season 2 of The Expanse where someone suggests that Martian marine Bobbie Draper’s commanding officer is attracted to her, and she could take advantage of that. She replies, “I don’t use sex as a weapon, little ones; I use weapons as weapons,” which is simultaneously iconic and cheesy.

As it turns out, Lorca is not above using sex as a weapon, or at least as a tool to manipulate his ally and close friend. A few of us on the old Tumblrs have been wondering for a couple of weeks if Lorca and Admiral Cornwell had been romantically involved at some point, and the answer is: yes. Or, at the very least, they were/are casual lovers (“fuckbuddy” is not at all in keeping with the dignity of Starfleet), and Lorca will take advantage of that to redirect Admiral Kat’s attention.

This is deeply unhealthy and I love it. Because it’s not just Lorca — Cornwell is a psychiatrist, and for her to be unofficially assessing Lorca, without his consent, under the guise of friendship, is quite inappropriate. And don’t get me wrong, I think she’s more in the right than him — but it’s extremely not good.

Did I mention how much I love it?

So. Lorca recommending that Admiral Kat take Sarek’s place at the peace talks is a reasonable move. But when she’s taken captive, and he chooses not to rush in and save her, is that because he has taken her words to heart? Or because if she doesn’t make it back, he gets to keep his command?

Even he doesn’t seem to know. But he’s walking around his quarters with a phaser tucked into his pyjama pants, which is for sure a bad sign.

This week’s jerk rankings!

  1. Lorca remains the biggest jerk around. Like, dude, Kat Cornwell is Starfleet’s only sane admiral, now or in the future. WE NEED HER.
  2. Vulcan Expeditionary Force dude.
  3. Sarek. Enough said.
  4. Smarmy logic extremist guy. What kind of jackass says “Live long and prosper” to a man he’s about to murder?

Misc from Stephanie, who now watches only because her housemates do at dinner time and in the hopes Space Captain Auntie Michelle will return:

  • I hope we get Winter Soldier!Space Captain Auntie Michelle saving Admiral Kat.
  • Have I mentioned how much I loved Admiral Kat when she was my favourite doctor on Chicago Hope? I was just really invested in her and her love of Joni Mitchell, okay.
  • I know you’re surprised to learn how on the nose I found the space racism suicide bomber.
  • Lorca eats fortune cookies in a sinister fashion; I’m not convinced fortune cookies are going to make it into our future TBH.
  • Ash Tyler is DEFINITELY NOT a Klingon and I DEFINITELY didn’t spend a lot of time texting Liz about him not being a Klingon.
  • There was a lot of shrieking in my house when we realised who was playing Amanda, and why none of us liked her.

Other Observations (from Liz)

  • I … have accidentally fallen in love with Admiral Kat. This is awkward, since she’s a pretty thin character so far, but at least — judging by my Tumblr dash — I’m not the only one. There are dozens of us! Dozens!
  • I swear, if Admiral Kat dies, though, I’m gonna be really cross. Female characters haven’t exactly had a great survival rate so far.
  • I really don’t think Lorca’s scars are a sign he’s from the Mirror Universe. I think they’re simply unfamiliar to Admiral Kat, and she’s troubled that he hasn’t had them removed. On the other hand, they seem pretty deliberate in shape, so maybe blowing up his ship isn’t Lorca’s only trauma.
  • (I’m quite into the Tumblr fanon that the Mirror Universe Lorca is a really nice, straightforward dude who wants to do the right thing by everyone.)
  • Delighted as I am to see Amanda, I’m not entirely sold on her outfit. It’s a bit … bridal. And I’m pretty certain you can buy her headband in Lovisa.
  • It’s not clear how much time has passed since Stamets put himself in the spore drive and communed with space quorn, but he’s still high as a kite. Don’t do drugs, kids!
  • (Hat tip to Nostalgia for making the connection between the magic fungus and quorn.)
  • I’m slightly sorry, but mostly relieved, that the inappropriate sexual tension between Sarek and Michael has disappeared. I’m into mentor/student relationships, but this one is too overtly parental.
  • The more we learn about the Surak-Michael soulbond, the more I am convinced that, post Wrath of Khan, McCoy has Spock permanently living in his head, giving him shit (in a logical way). And he’s quite cross about it, or so he says.
  • If you need more Discovery reviews, I’ve been enjoying Anika’s at State of Flux — links seem a bit messed up on the site, so here is their Tumblr.  I’ve been following Anika’s solo Tumblr for a while, and it is A+ amazing Star Trek content.

6 thoughts on “Star Trek: Discovery 1.06 – “Lethe””

  1. I like the idea that the two are soul bounded and thus as they get older and bits start to fail them any large amount of pain summons the other across the cosmos. Bones wakes up with a cramp in his leg and then has to deal with the spirit of Spock stood in his bedroom watching him be unable to get out of bed because he is old and human.

    1. That is exactly what happens! And sometimes Bones’s only motivation to push through and get up is the knowledge that Spock will know if he doesn’t.

      1. The only down side to this is the day one is summoned to the other and they’re expecting to laugh it up at the other banging their foot getting out of the bath or something and they find something far worse. Though I think despite how much the two “hated” each other I’m sure Bones would appreciate Spock being there for him even if he couldn’t “be there”

  2. In the alt movie timeline, Spock is offered a place in the Expeditionary Force, but after the examiners pull a “it’s amazing that you did so well in spite of your…handicap” (of having a human mother) he tells them to fuck off in the most Vulcan way imaginable.

    I have now seen all of Disco and it prompted me to start watching DS9 properly. (I would catch and episode here and there in high school, but after my mom walked in on me watching a rerun of the episode where Dax kisses a woman, DS9 got banned, and keeping up with it behind my mom’s back was too much trouble.)

    I went into my viewing of Disco primed to ship Michael and Lorca, and I’m also predictable, so I do, but they make SUCH an effort to downplay any hint of physical attraction between them that I just felt really confused. It made me go “but WHY is Lorca so concerned about keeping Michael, specifically, safe”. It was so separate from anything else that I needed an explanation. Whereas if there had been lingering/longing looks, occasionally touching, etc, I would have just been like, “oh, another mentor who can’t tell where pride and affection for his apprentice ends and Something Else begins”.

    1. In the alt movie timeline, Spock is offered a place in the Expeditionary Force, but after the examiners pull a “it’s amazing that you did so well in spite of your…handicap” (of having a human mother) he tells them to fuck off in the most Vulcan way imaginable.

      So my brother filled me in! And that’s when I realised I needed to watch the AOS movies again.

      I would catch and episode here and there in high school, but after my mom walked in on me watching a rerun of the episode where Dax kisses a woman, DS9 got banned, and keeping up with it behind my mom’s back was too much trouble.)

      I successfully kept my parents away from the VHS with that episode, and also from every single episode of Babylon 5 with the (unspeakably subtle) romance between two bisexual women. Imagine all the energy we’ve spent on this sort of exercise. And by “spent” I mean “wasted”.

      I went into my viewing of Disco primed to ship Michael and Lorca, and I’m also predictable, so I do, but they make SUCH an effort to downplay any hint of physical attraction between them that I just felt really confused. It made me go “but WHY is Lorca so concerned about keeping Michael, specifically, safe”.

      RIGHT? I assume Jules filled you in on the bit where Jason Isaacs was specifically told not to have UST with Sonequa Martin-Green. (And, I assume, vice versa?)

      Needless to say, we are outraged. (Especially since Isaacs has talked in interviews about choosing to have UST, creepy and otherwise, with most of the other women he interacts with.) And it means there are weird theories on Tumblr, like, “Lorca is secretly Michael’s dad”. (Doesn’t she have enough terrible white dads?)

      Jules, having more imagination than I do, is managing to ship them anyway. I’m … open to reading the fic, but Lorca/Cornwell is more where I’m at these days.

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