Discovery Recap: What’s Past is Prologue (Season 1, Episode 13)

Previously on Star Trek Discovery: In a reveal that either blindsided you or you saw coming a mile away, we learn that Georgiou is the elusive Emperor – yeah, the Emperor that Mirror Lorca tried to kill.  “Prime” Lorca continues to be weird towards Burnham and try to gain her loyalty away from Georgiou as they go to infiltrate the Palace Ship. Prime Stamets and Mirror Stamets frolic in the mycelial forest, until the impression/ghost/afterimage of Culber informs Prime Paul that the damage being done to the network could end all life, in every universe (at least they didn’t make me watch him die AGAIN). Burnham finally notices that everyone in the Mirror Universe dims the lights and figures it out: “Prime” Lorca has been Mirror Lorca all along! And he’s now escaped the agonizer booth and is somewhere on the ship.

Andi is still under the weather, which I’m sad to report, but that means that I’m here to recap Episode 13! And remember that recaps, by definition, include spoilers. So, settle in…

As the episode begins, Lorca is releasing his former crew from the agonizer booths, and they look pretty put together for having spent the last 212 days being tortured. And there’s a familiar face, still as loyal to Lorca in the Mirror Universe as she was in the Prime – Landry (Rekha Sharma)! But she’s a little nervous about their tactical situation. Lorca assures her that he’s been to another universe so taking down the Terran Empire will be a piece of cake.

Lorca and Landry go looking for Mirror Stamets, but it seems he ran away. Nope! Turns out that he’s pulling a “Unification II” and was hiding behind a glitchy fake wall. Good thing holographic projection technology improved before the TNG era or Spock and Data would have been done for.

Anyway, Lorca and Landry persuade (with guns) Mirror Stamets to help them out.  But not before some good old exposition: Turns out that Mirror Stamets is the one who tattled on Lorca back in the day. He had been on a recruiting mission, and Georgiou showed up to crash the party. The combination of Lorca’s transporter beam, Georgiou’s torpedoes, and an ion storm sent Lorca from the I.S.S. Buran to the U.S.S. Buran. Mirror Stamets confirms the made up science, and we can move on with the current story…

Commodore saying "God Damned Nonsense"

…and Lorca casually drops that this Stamets has been working on a bioweapon instead of a spore drive. Cut to a bunch of Disco-equivalent redshirts melting from the inside out. On the bridge, we learn this is happening on decks 1-17. Shit.

The Emperor is not bothered by this loss of life.  In fact, if he keeps killing, he’ll give away his location. Well, I guess that’s one way to look at it. And then Burnham prime-splains Lorca’s intentions and tactics to Georgiou. You really think she doesn’t know? Georgiou knocks Michael down a few pegs, for her impudence and her familiarity, and sends her to the brig in this universe, too. But not so fast! Burnham’s a fighter and takes out some guards, steals a gun, and escapes through an air duct she shoots open. But Georgiou’s not so concerned about her – she wants Lorca.

On Discovery, Acting Captain Saru (FTW!) gives his own mini recap, Captain’s Log Style, of where they are and where they’re going, confirming that Prime Stamers is A-Okay, but that their spore store is not.

Ariam (Sara Mitich) has determined that there’s mycelial energy emanating from the Charon, and Tilly makes the distinction that the Emperor’s ship extracts energy from the spore network, and that’s what’s causing the damage. According to Stamets, it’s also preventing the network from healing itself. And we get some of the classic “Bonk! Bonk! on the head” as Saru, Stamets, et al discuss how using this method for energy is destroying their home, but the inhabitants of the Mirror Universe are too shortsighted and arrogant to be concerned about it (Don’t worry – Galactic Climate Change is just a myth). Stamets breaks the news that this isn’t just a Mirror problem or a Prime problem, but a multiverse problem.

Lorca makes a shipwide speech that shows his true xenophobic colors in an attempt to gain sympathizers or even followers among Georgiou’s crew. She takes this opportunity to locate him, and Burnham is still roaming the ship.

On their way to find Lorca, Georgiou and her posse stumble across Mirror Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), whom Lorca “spared.” Until he shoots her in the back (with a a phaser that will DISINTEGRATE YOU – Damn!), calls the Emperor “Pippa”, and shoots right at her. Luckily, Georgiou has a containment field, but Stamets is monitoring it, and Lorca’s mutineers are ready as soon as it goes down. There’s a firefight in the hallway, and Georgiou calls for an emergency transport out of danger at the last second. Lorca blames Stamets. Because reasons, I suppose.

Meanwhile, Burnham has located an access panel, hacked into it, and contacts Discovery. She blows Saru’s mind by telling him the truth about Lorca, and Saru doesn’t understand why his threat ganglia were malfunctioning. But Stamets says it makes perfect sense, and rehashes the points from all the recent fan theory posts.

Burnham tries to convince Saru to turn tail and run, to save themselves, and to prevent Lorca from returning to the Prime Universe. But it’s Stamets’s turn to blow Bunrham’s mind – it won’t matter because all the universes are going to end anyway. But he has a plan! A plan to blow up the ship and break the connection between the Charon and the mycelial network, but they need Burnham to take down the containment field around the energy orb. She’s on it, and ready to give her life for it.

Lorca, now in the throne room on the Charon and fondling Georgiou’s sword, thinks that Mirror Stamets has outstayed his usefulness. After yet another speech on destiny, he gives a nod to the poetic nature of a mycologist dying in the energy orb powered by the mycelial network. But instead he just has Landry shoot Stamets in the back. Classy.  Right away, Landry picks up an unauthorized transmission, and Lorca ups the creepiness factor with the statement, “That’ll be my Burnham.” Blech.

So, he reaches out to her on the shipwide comms, and she engages, but not before pulling some wiring from the wall. He’s still fixated on her, and goes a little Darth Vader (“Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy…”), but Burnham is having none of it. Landry doesn’t know that Burnham’s done her rewiring, and tracks her to the wrong location. Womp womp.

Meanwhile, Burnham goes to talk with Georgiou, and we see how truly hurt she is by Mirror Burnham’s betrayal, and how Prime Burnham’s still hurting from the consequences of her own betrayal. These characters are so different from what they each expect of the other, and yet we have a really lovely scene of them realizing that they still have a bond across the multiverse.  And they begin to devise a plan.

Back on Discovery, Stamets is telling the crew that he didn’t science the science quite right, and regular torpedos won’t cut it. They have to load up the warheads with the remainder of their spores. But Tilly runs some quick science of her own, and it seems that they wouldn’t be able to outrun the resulting explosion, and the mood drops. That’s when Acting Captain Saru steps in, becomes the captain he’s always wanted to be, and gives us the most Star Trek speech we’ve heard all season:

Art by @GeekFilter

Landry tells Lorca that everyone left on board is on his side, and Lorca’s getting a bit big for his britches.  Burnham shows up, Georgiou in tow as a peace offering of sorts, so that he can kill her and have a legitimate claim to the throne. Burnham plays Lorca’s narcissism and weird obsession with her, striking a bargain that she will stay with him as long as the Discovery can go free. He buys it and welcomes her home.

Just like that, the Discovery crew tosses off the Terran Empire uniforms and armor (and lacefronts). Since Saru doesn’t sense oncoming death, Tilly must have scienced something wrong, so she and Stamets are back at it. It finally dawns on the both of them that an explosion of a mycelium-powered energy orb catalyzed by a spore-filled torpedo would be pure mycelial energy. They can rig the warp drive to work in conjunction with the spore drive (why hasn’t this been done before??), and then ride the shockwave all the way home.

Discovery catches up with the Charon, and Lorca hails them with Burnham’s security clearance, like a telemarketer who spoofs a local number.  Lorca taunts the Prime crew for their “cult-like” devotion to the ideals of the Federation. Burnham sends the not-so-subtle message that she’s where she needs to be, a.k.a. about to take down the orb’s containment field. Burnham and Georgiou share a look, and then go on the offensive, breaking free of their captors and kicking some ass, as Discovery fires.

What follows is the best fight choreography I have ever seen on television.  Phasers, knives, hand to hand – it’s so well done, true to character, and beautifully filmed. We even see Lorca slash Landry across the back to get to Burnham: dude has no issues sacrificing his most devoted follower to get what he wants. Lorca knocks out Georgiou, and then it’s one-on-one with Burnham. She gets the upper hand, and points a phaser at him, but refuses to pull the trigger. Starfleet is above that, and would have helped him get home if he just asked.

Georgiou, however, is not above that, and stabs him from behind. Lorca stumbles towards Burnham, who steps out of his path and lets him fall of the ground – HARSH. But not as harsh as Georgiou opening the trap door and kicking him through, sentencing him to death by energy orb. Now that that’s taken care of, Burnham brings down the containment field.

Lorca’s troops are at the door, and Georgiou tells Burnham to go home while she buys time. She’s defeated, anyway, and she’d rather go out fighting. Burnham calls Discovery for transport, and we see that she’s learned a trick from L’Rell – just as the transporter beam initiates, she wraps her arms around Georgiou and they both beam out.

With Burnham safely aboard, Saru executes the last part of the plan – flying the ship right at the energy orb.  Landry regains consciousness on the Charon, and is confused by Discovery‘s flight path until she asks, “Is the containment field up?”  Hahaha, NOPE.

Discovery fires their torpedoes, flights through the energy orb, and then activates the now joint warp-spore drive.  They jump just in time, but for once the jump is not instantaneous. Stamets says the network is regenerating, but he’s having a difficult time finding the right path home inside the swirling neon kaleidoscope (A+ use of the word “bifurcating,” btw).

Stamets has yet another encounter with Echo-Hugh, realizes that his way home is the clearing in the forest, and with guidance from his lost love, returns Discovery to its own universe. Stamets tells Tilly to check and make sure they’re where he thinks they are. “And when.” Which means they’re not in the right time. Why would they be?

They overshot. By nine months. (Will there be a baby?) Georgiou isn’t thrilled with what’s happened, and Saru instructs the crew to reach out to Starfleet and download updates to the Klingon War app. Just like any update, things don’t look good: the Klingons have won the war.

So, that’s how we skip most of the war, but it’s clear this won’t be the final outcome. For the first time in a while, I was surprised by a lot of this episode. And happy that it seems the dalliance into the Mirror Universe will have some additional consequences. But there are still some questions: Does bringing Georgiou back from the Mirror Universe change how upsetting her death was at the start of the season? Does Culber’s echo in the mycelial network lessen the blow of his death? Will all of this be somehow reset before the end of the season? How will we get to a place, with just 2 episodes remaining, where we won’t be dealing at all with the Klingon War during Season 2? Where were L’Rell and Tyler in this episode? When will I stop having all these questions? Probably never, and right now, I’m cool with that.

Custom Gifs by Aaron Reynolds: @sweartrekPatreonTumblr
Saru art by Aaron Harvey:  @GeekFilter

  6 comments for “Discovery Recap: What’s Past is Prologue (Season 1, Episode 13)

  1. What surprised me most was that the original Landry wasn’t also Mirror Landry. She was so violent, so un-Starfleet, that I was certain she and Lorca had arrived from the Mirror Universe together.

    So what does this actually say about Prime Landry? That she’s just an awful gun-nut in every universe? That Lorca twisted her into being more like her Mirror self? That the writers originally wrote her as a second Mirror intruder along with Lorca, then changed their minds afterwards?

  2. Brilliant episode, great way to tell fans ‘they were right’ about Lorca not being ‘their Starfleet’ – and the fight scenes were EPIC. Straight after I’d watched this and blogged about it, I had to crack open my ancient (steady!) copy of Wing Chun sheerly for more Michelle Yeoh and her feet of fury. Class.

  3. I loved this episode! The fight scene! The Saru speech! It went from liking Discovery to love for me. I don’t think bringing Mirror Georgiou over lessens the death of prime Georgiou at all because they are such different characters. Somehow they don’t even look the same to me, it reminds me of Fred and Ilyria in Angel. I feel like we aren’t done with the mirror universe yet though because we can’t keep her, there might be a Prime Lorca out there still, and I think Culber’s death is still going to reversed somehow just from what the producers have said. Can’t believe there are just two episodes left. Thank goodness it got renewed!

  4. As I watched the fight scene, I said out loud “this is the best action scene in the whole Star Trek franchise I’ve ever seen” and I don’t think I can accept less than this quality of acting, writing and mirroring our awful timeline from now one. I’ve been spoiled. And I like it. Thanks for this excellent recap.

    • This episode was literally movie quality. A big blow-out episode like this is usually saved for the season finale, I can’t imagine what they have planned for the actual finale.

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