Star Trek: Discovery 1.09 – “Into the Forest I Go”

Originally posted at

I can’t believe it’s been eight weeks since this adventure started. Or that we have to wait another eight weeks for the final six episodes of season 1, because apparently “fall season finales” are a thing the world needed.

This week: Michael Burnham is extraordinary; Lorca gonna Lorca; white women are immortal; Ash Tyler’s still probably a Klingon; and more.

Michael Burnham: prophet slayer

Michael Burnham didn’t start the war with her mutiny. She started it when, in a fit of rage and grief after Georgiou’s death, she killed T’Kuvma instead of taking him prisoner as planned. It was an irrational, emotional decision, and she has coped by retreating back into logic and reason.

We’ve seen her going from atonement-through-passivity to redemption-through-action, and slowly — starting in “Magic to Make the Sanest Man…” — claim her status as T’Kuvma’s killer with a perverse sort of pride.

And here she comes full circle: she returns to the ship of the dead, but this time everyone makes it home. Even, symbolically, Captain Georgiou herself, in the form of her rank insignia.

(Let us pray that Michael never finds out what (allegedly) happened to Philippa’s body. There’s not enough therapy in the world. Though Admiral Cornwell might enjoy the challenge.)

Star Trek characters have taken on legendary roles before, but few embrace them. The exception is Ben Sisko, and he only slowly comes to terms with his role as the Emissary of the Prophets. Michael is not literally a religious icon, but she understands the power of an iconic story.

I love her.

I will almost be sad when she finally takes her place as series captain, because I enjoy her competence and dedication as a junior-ish not-even-an-officer. And I am intrigued by her status as a former senior officer, who was necessarily aloof from the lower decks, now sort of learning the ropes from the bottom up.

I’ll also be devastated when Ash is revealed as Voq, and she realises that all of her extraordinary compassion and empathy has been given to a construct, albeit a construct who believes he’s a real person. More about Ash Tyler, Definitely A Klingon, later, but as long as we’re talking about Michael: I really hope that plotline isn’t executed in such a way that all of her work and time and love are wasted, because that would be a deeply shitty thing to do to a Black character who has already suffered quite a lot.

Immortality is for white women

I love Admiral Cornwell a whole lot, and I have a 14,000 word fic to prove it. She accidentally became my favourite character, because of course I’m going to attach myself to the fifty-something supporting character who isn’t even part of the main cast. I love having a flag officer who is neither completely insane nor an irritating mouthpiece for bad policy, and I appreciate that we have a female medical/mental health professional who is also a pragmatic hardass.

And I really like Jayne Brook, and her tidy eyebrows and air of polite bemusement at finding herself an object of fannish enthusiasm.

But I still have to say this: it is complete bullshit that, of the three women over thirty-five the series has given us, the only one who survived more than two episodes is also the only white woman.

Unless she turns out to be someone’s ancestor, there’s no reason for Cornwell to be white. (Even there, Star Trek Beyond gave us Shohreh Aghdashloo as an ancestor of Voyager‘s Tom Paris, although how one gets from her magnificence to an amiable loaf of Wonder Bread like Tom is a mystery.) It’s just, you know, to white people, we are the default unless we stop to think about it.

The solution here is to keep Cornwell alive, boost the roles of supporting characters like Joann Oswekun, add a bunch of other women of colour in a variety of roles, and also contrive to bring Georgiou back permanently, because I’m still pretty upset about her death, to be honest. (See also: 14,000 words of fic.)

So, Lorca


Which is just one of the joys of having me as your friend, and also, this entire episode was extremely Mass Effect-inspired even before we got to the end.

(If Michael is Miranda — not genetically engineered, but raised to be the ideal specimen of humanity by a a problematic dad — then I hope this means there’s a universe out there where Alan Dale plays Sarek.)

I expressed sadness last week that it had been ages since Lorca had done anything really shady. I may have spoken too soon, no?

Now, finding a reason to disobey orders, while offering useful life advice re: paper trails so Starfleet Command doesn’t get too cross — that’s pretty standard operating procedure, and he’s at least less blatant than Spock and Sulu in The Undiscovered Country.

But bonding with Stamets over SCIENCE AND EXPLORATION, then quietly nudging him to risk his life for “one more jump”, sabotaging that jump to avoid awkward conversations about his fitness to command?

So shady.

The bit that really got me (and this is my personal bias at work) is when Lorca tells Admiral Random Vulcan Terral to give Cornwell his best. It was incredibly cold — he takes no leave of her, he sends no compliments to her mother, she deserves no such attention, he is most seriously displeased, etc — and even has the faint ring of a threat. More than anything else he says, anyway.

Maybe it’s just that 2017 is The Year of Terrible Men Discovering That Actions Have Consequences, but I’ve gone from shipping Lorca and Cornwell to hoping that the season ends with Michael and Cornwell bringing him down and giving us a Disco Misandry Party.

If this character even is Lorca, or, rather, is this universe’s Lorca. I’ve never liked the theory (going around since “Lethe”) that Lorca is an infiltrator from the Mirror Universe — I think it cheapens the story Discovery seems to be telling about trauma and the danger of retreating into masculine stoicism, weapons collections and semi-darkened rooms.

But Lorca’s knowing little, “Let’s go home” as they made that last jump does make me wonder.

(My Lorca fangirling has two modes: making fun of him and writing a thousand-odd words of meta about the tropes he is being used to deconstruct.)

But you know who definitely IS a secret infiltrator, right?

And, by coincidence, who is also absolutely unfit for duty and practically the worst person you can think of to be doing his job.

Ash. Baby. Honey.

I assume that someone on Tumblr has made gifsets to prove it, but trust me — I slow-moed through his torture flashbacks as much as I could stomach, and there are brief shots of Voq having his ridges sandblasted away. There’s no longer much ambiguity about whether or not Ash is Voq; the questions now are, how much of the Ash Tyler we know really existed, and what he will do when he realises.

Oh yeah, and one other: was the sex with L’Rell — shown in entirely gratuitous detail complete with latex-covered Klingon boobs, thanks so much, show — at some point consensual? And does it matter, if it’s accompanied by torture, transformation and brainwashing?

These are complicated issues, and I don’t entirely trust the show to deal with them well, but I’m very curious to know what the outcome is.

Setting all this aside, let’s pretend for a minute that Ash is an actual human being, and marvel at the extremely poor decision to send him on a dangerous mission to infiltrate a Klingon ship. There was no way to know that L’Rell would be there, or that seeing her would trigger him so badly, but, you know, sending a guy who was a PoW for seven months back into enemy territory is just a bad move all around.

That he makes it into the mission at all, and is back on his feet and on the bridge after extraction (extraction with his torturer-rapist hitching a ride via piggyback, no less) is amazing.

“I guess I’m tougher than I thought,” he told Lorca back in “Choose Your Pain”. Mate. And how. If he wasn’t a series regular (and also a Klingon) he’d have been medivaced with Cornwell.

(Remember Medivac, fellow lolstralians? One day No Award will do a post on the amazing Aussie procedurals of the 90s.)

Extremely subtle foreshadowing of doom

I have to be honest: it never crossed my mind that Paul would die. Because he’s gay, but not a lesbian.

And that was the case right up until he promised Hugh a date at the opera (La Bohème, congratulations to all concerned for making it nine episodes before finally cracking and alluding to Rent) and retirement — from spore navigation, at least — after this one last jump.

I mean. He might as well have told us he’s buying a boat.

Let’s all spend the next eight weeks holding hands and hoping that both space husbands make it out alive. (I mean, suffering is okay, I’m always up for watching characters I like suffer.)

The final jerk ranking for 2017

  1. Lorca. I mean, obviously.
  2. L’Rell. I like Ash, and Voq is clearly much happier and proactive as a human. She should just leave him alone to get on with having hair and no ridges and a girlfriend, and not exacerbate his trauma.
  3. Kol. Kind of obvious; his whole entire purpose in this series is to be a dickhead. At least he’s good at it.

Other observations

  • The other reason I’m not into mirrorverse infiltrator!Lorca as a theory is that if it’s true, his encounter with Cornwell goes from merely being complicated, manipulative and messy to rape by deception. And we’re already at Peak Rape now, plus (again) I don’t know that the show would handle that well, if at all.
  • We really did not need Klingon nudity. It made Reddit far too happy in the grossest possible way.
  • I’m gonna miss Kol. No reason. I just liked his design and the actor playing him.
  • Shock is not a symptom of PTSD, but Admiral Kat was suffering from a head injury so I’ll give it a pass. I guess.
  • It doesn’t do to wonder too hard about how Cornwell managed to get from “head slammed into a power conduit” to “apparently paraplegic but we can fix it”. I know, because I have.
  • How over the top is this show and everyone in it? Lorca applies his space eyedrops so he can watch the ship of the dead explode, then walks away from the explosion in slow motion. This is, as the kids say, so damn extra.
  • Disco might be done for the year, but I’m not! In a couple of weeks, I’ll be starting a new series of posts suggesting episodes (and movies) to watch if you liked Disco and want more Trek — a mixture of both iconic classics, important storylines, and maybe less obvious choices which nonetheless (in my opinion) resonate with Discovery. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “Star Trek: Discovery 1.09 – “Into the Forest I Go””

  1. Are you guys watching The Orville at all? From a pretty shaky start it’s cranking out some decent old Trek pastiche.

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