Star Trek Discovery: Episode 3 Review
I was terrifically excited to watch the third installment of Star Trek Discovery, Context is for Kings, not least because the trailer had promised that we’d finally meet Captain Gabriel Lorca and the USS Discovery. It wasn’t the greatest episode of Star Trek that I’ve ever seen, but it did promise much for future episodes because of some great characters that were skillfully introduced.
The script was tight, the acting purposeful and the plot was believable, or as believable as a Star Trek plot could be. My only complaints center around the darkness of the episode and the amount of gore involved, but perhaps as the DC has proven, film and television is taking a darker turn in general. And I still don’t really like Michael Burnham.
Spoiler Alert: Plot Revealed
First of all, massive spoiler alert, here is the synopsis of what we were shown in the third episode:
The treacherous mutineer, Michael Burnham, has been stripped of her rank and sentenced to life imprisonment, but is mysteriously transferred to another prison colony after just 6 months. Whilst on the transport vessel, along with 3 other prisoners, something malfunctions and the ship gets into trouble. Burnham remains calm throughout the ordeal, seemingly resigned to her fate but the ship is saved, minus the pilot, at the last minute by the USS Discovery.
Burnham is instantly recognized by the crew of the Discovery, including some of her former Shenzhou colleagues, and is practically universally hated. Captain Gabriel Lorca asks her to help out in engineering, where she find some interesting experiments are taking place aboard the Discovery, without fully understanding what is going on. A catastrophic incident takes place aboard the USS Glenn, the sister ship of the Discovery, and Lorca orders a boarding party to investigate. Upon the recommendation of Burnham’s former comrade, Lt Saru, who is now the No.2 on board the Discovery, Burnham is added to the boarding party and heads over to investigate.
They find the crew mutilated, Klingon bodies piled up and an aggressive creature on the loose. With Burnham’s help, they manage to escape the Glenn and head back to the Discovery. A new prison shuttle arrives to ferry the prisoners away, but Lorca offers Burnham a position aboard the ship. Whilst initially reluctant, Burnham is shown a quick demonstration of the experiments that are happening on board and how they could change the fate of the war against the Klingons, a war that she helped start. The episode ends with Lorca acting mysteriously, looking at one of the beastly creatures that had chased the away team on the Glenn, albeit from behind a forcefield.
So I was wrong in my earlier estimation that the Shenzhou would become the USS Discovery, but many of the crew managed to transfer over.
It was too dark. As the away team investigated the USS Glenn, we saw mutilated bodies across the ship and corpses that had been twisted and torn beyond recognition. Whilst Star Trek has never shied away from death in the past, this episode had a fairly high body count and the feel of a low budget horror movie instead of science fiction.
The sets were pretty good, the USS Discovery is sublime, if perhaps a bit too grey inside, but you can feel the middle ground between Enterprise and TOS in terms of design and feel. We especially liked the Discovery embroided bedsheets.
The episode was seriously saved by the introduction of some great characters, namely Cadet Tilly and Captain Lorca. Lt Stamets was also something different, if a little petulant towards the captain.
The new characters we were introduced to were fantastic. We met Gabriel Lorca for the first time, who promises to be a very interesting character, and I have to say that Jason Isaacs puts on a terrific Southern drawl for a British guy. Lorca came across as a pragmatic man who wants to win the war by any means necessary, which is one of the reasons for him bringing Burnham on board the ship. I also found it interesting that he kept Tribbles in his office; I swore I could hear them when we first met him.
We met Cadet Tilly, who I first imagined would play a Harry Kim sort of character, and still might as she reveals later on in the episode that she has ambitions of being a captain one day. She forms a bond with Michael Burnham, after initially being extremely wary and skeptical of her.
We also saw a return of some of the characters from the USS Shenzhou, who’d obviously transferred over, namely Saru who’d made it to No.2 and Conn Officer Keyla Detmer. Saru was his usual cynical self when dealing with Burnham, but came through when called upon, labelling Burnham the smartest officer he’d served with, mutiny aside.
I almost thought that they were going to introduce Spock the equation, as Ensign Tilly asked about a book Burnham had, and Burnham told her that her foster mother, Amanda, had read it to her and her own child when they were young. She was talking about Amanda Grayson, who is the mother of Spock and is due to make an appearance later on in the series. Burnham then said they were the only 2 human kids on Vulcan, but Spock was half Vulcan, so maybe..
To summarize I would certainly say that it wasn’t the best ever Star Trek. Not by a long shot. But it was good to watch and it does promise much for the show, especially if they keep along the path of character development over flashy explosions.