“You judge the creature by its appearance, and by one single incident from its past. Nothing in its biology suggests it would attack, except in self defense. Commander, the creature is an unknown alien. It can only be what it is, and not what you want it to be.” -Burnham
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) basked creepily in both literal and metaphorical darkness, Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) weighed the pros and cons of life in jail or life on Discovery and Discovery barely won, Landry (Rekha Sharma) strode about like a bad ass giving everybody steely-eyed glares, Tilly (Mary Wiseman) cemented her role as the only person on the ship who remembers the sound of laughter, and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) was saltier than Saru’s (Doug Jones) tea because Lorca just wouldn’t stop perverting his beautiful space mushrooms with his filthy militant hands.
Burnham moodily goes shopping at the replicator store for her brand new non-prison-orange uniform, which is made for her by Discovery in the same way Discovery does everything: dramatically and with CGI flair. The computer reminds her that even though her uniform is shiny and new, her rank is still “The Mutineer”. Tilly arrives to give her a package packed full of dangerous emotions and regret, aka Georgiou’s (Michelle Yeoh) last will and testament, and she shoves it under her bed where she’ll surely be able to ignore its telltale beeping.
Saru and Burnham have the awkwardest conversation in an elevator since the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy because Saru’s threat ganglia are NOT pleased that Burnham is wandering around Discovery instead of safely in prison where she belongs. Burnham reminds him that she’s terrifyingly capable, but he clearly regrets letting Burnham eat from his bowl of blueberries. Those blueberries are now tainted by betrayal.
They walk purposefully onto the bridge, where Lorca is running a battle simulation that is seemingly designed to make him angry and destroy his team’s morale. He let’s everyone know that he’s disappointed in their suckage and to keep practicing until they all suck less. Landry looks a little like someone shot her puppy because letting Lorca down is the thing that she has nightmares about.
The episode continues the motif of people walking from scene to scene looking like they should be in slow motion as late-90s rap plays and Lorca reminds Burnham that THEY ARE AT WAR, MMMK and everyone ELSE on this ship might be all into sciencing and exploring and doing all that silly shit but HE is here to do whatever it takes to decorate space with the bodies of Starfleet’s enemies.
Lorca shows her his “definitely not a serial killer” room. Picard may have had a clownfish, but Lorca has a space monster that managed to cut through Klingons like cheesecake and he wants Burnham to do all that silly science shit and give him something useful for war. This is the point where I dub Lorca the head of “Team War”, which also includes Landry, and makes Stamets the natural leader of “Team Science”. It’s not clear yet where exactly Burnham will fall, but Lorca is definitely recruiting for his side.
Meanwhile, over on the Klingon side of things Voq (Javid Iqbal) is mourning T’Kuvma (Chris Obi) and trying to figure out how the hell he can fulfill T’Kuvma’s vision when he can’t even get his ship to go. L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) comes by to tell Voq to get his shit together and go get the dilithium processor from the Shenzhou. There’s no room for sentimental bullshit about “but the Shenzhou is where T’Kuvma’s murderers came from”! This is war!
We also find out that the Klingons ATE GEORGIOU. And what in the actual fuck? I did NOT need the visual of poor Michelle Yeoh’s head being passed around like hors d’oeuvres! Look, I can handle a Klingon redesign. I can even handle all of the Klingon scenes being nothing but them talking ponderously. I cannot handle the race that gave us Worf acting like the very worst version of “the British are coming to eat your babies” type propoganda. I was genuinely horrified by this piece of information.
Burnham is still deep into her sciencing when Landry shows up as the official representative of Team War to remind Burnham that the only thing that matters about space monster is carving it up and finding something they can use to fight Klingons. Burnham is unimpressed. It’s not just about Landry’s bloodthirstiness, it’s also the fact that she has started with an assumption and is trying to make her facts fit her hypothesis, which is the number one no-no when it comes to good science. Landry is having none of Burnham’s Vulcan speechifying. She’s a soldier, she has a mission, and she is sure as shit not going to disappoint Lorca again.
Speaking of Lorca, he is eating creepily, much like he does everything else. He gets a transmission from a non-shady Admiral and we have the jarring realization that this Admiral probably isn’t evil, but for once our Captain kind of is? It is disorienting. Lorca promises that the Discovery is absolutely ready to make a spore jump and kick some Klingon ass. No doubt about it, yes sir.
Stamets’ reaction to Lorca’s promise to the Admiral goes something like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” The Discovery is decidedly NOT ready for this. Stamets tries for the one trillionth time to explain that the laws of the universe don’t simply bend to Lorca’s will just because he looks intense and wants to kill shit. Oh yeah, and no, he didn’t miss a brand new supercomputer while he was running for his life on the Glenn, thank you very much. Lorca really doesn’t give a shit. Lorca don’t care. He screeches “MAKE IT WORK” at Stamets like a murderous Tim Gunn and leaves. Dramatically.
Back with Team Klingon, Kol (Kenneth Mitchell) is making an out-of-character plea on his knees to beg forgiveness for his terrible disrespect. He sees now, he was so wrong about the torches, and making Qo’noS great again, and damn T’Kuvma really was unforgettable, wasn’t he? Voq proves that he sucks spectacularly at the game of thrones and immediately reveals all of his weaknesses to a known enemy.
Lorca wants to know if they are ready for spore warp. Stamets says… “Maybe?” That’s good enough for Lorca, because he’s Lorca and the laws of the universe DO bend to his whim- oh shit! Is that the sun? Are we falling into the sun? Ripper the space monster is extremely upset, Lorca is angry but calm as they hit reverse, and Stamets breaks his face with his scowling.
Burnham tries to get Landry to listen to her new theories about Ripper, and Landry rolls her eyes. Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) tries to fix his space boo’s face, and Stamets rolls his eyes. Culber and Stamets do what must be their version of space flirting and Lorca rolls his eyes. Really, there’s a tremendous amount of eye-rolling. Culber is delightful, rocking the hottest white uniform since An Officer and a Gentleman and the subtle fondness on his face at Stamets’ grouchy whining is adorable.
Stamets has had it, OFFICIALLY, and he lets Lorca know that he signed up for science, not war, and if he leaves he’s taking his mushrooms with him! Lorca reminds him that his science belongs to Team War now, and that if he wants to be as awesome as Elon Musk (oh look, now I’m rolling MY eyes) he needs to get with the program. As Stamets storms off, (dramatically) Lorca opens a ship wide communications to coldly manipulate the emotions of his entire crew with the screams of scared children. It works. He’s a monster, but it works. Stamets even has a feeling that is not disdain!
It works far too well on Landry, and she proves that her tactics are actually complete shit when she thinks some untested drugs and a giant gun are going to protect her from a monster that sheared through the walls of the Glenn. She opens the door to the containment cell intending to literally cut body parts off the unknown and possibly sentient creature the Discovery has imprisoned. She is promptly mauled to death.
It makes me extremely angry. I am really going to need Discovery to stop promoting and building their audience off the excitement of people who want see kickass women of color, and then promptly murdering those women of color. Please stop. I may not have been a huge fan of Landry, but she still had the possibility for a compelling character arc that I wanted to see. I wanted to dig past that tough as nails exterior and see what made her tick. But I can’t. Because she’s dead.
Voq and L’Rell are on the Shenzhou removing the dilithium processor so they can make their ship go. L’Rell lets Voq know that she is ready to be his Hand of the King. Like most of the Klingon scenes in this episode, I am bored, sorry.
Burnham asks Saru to the murder lab, only to use him and his threat glangia to test her hypothesis that Ripper is actually quite cuddly when you get to know him! He does not appreciate it. He does not appreciate being used, he does not appreciate Burnham apologizing to him and promising to be better if she’s back on her same old bullshit. He storms off. Dramatically.
Tilly shows up with illicit spores. Burnham’s been on this ship for a hot minute and she’s already getting her roommate to break rules and smuggle her spores. Tilly remains earnest and wide-eyed and delightful. They open the containment chamber and Ripper proves that his name is actually Fluffy. All you need is spores! They should bottle that shit and sneak it into Lorca’s coffee so he can stop being a dead-eyed sociopath.
Burnham brings Fluffy and her hard won science to Stamets. As she explains what she learned, you can actually see the moment he realizes that FINALLY someone else on this damn ship values something other than war and he mentally sorts her into Team Science. Some of the weight on his shoulders melts away and you start to see the human that has been lurking underneath all of that shade.
They transport Fluffy into the spores where he frolics. I keep waiting for him to get on his back and roll around in the mushrooms like my dog does when he sees dead fish at the beach. The wonder on both Stamets and Burnham’s face is lovely. Stamets… smiles. It’s a small smile, but it’s there. It’s also a reminder that a huge reason for his abrasive personality is that he is currently miserable.
Kol takes over the Klingon ship with chicken wings. Voq curses the sudden but inevitable betrayal, and L’Rell manipulates Kol into sparing the torchbearer by leaving him to die on the Shenzhou. My interest is minimal.
Lorca is thrilled to finally go to black alert and get to the war. They strap Fluffy into the spore drive and set a course, warping into the sky just as the shield protecting the mining colony drops. Lorca doesn’t just want to fight the Klingons, he wants to send them a message. He uses the spore drive to disappear as they destroy the Klingon ships. The miners look on with awe and there is much rejoicing from everyone but Burnham, who watches Fluffy with a worried look on her face. It is clear that it is in pain. It is hard to watch.
Voq is sad on the Shenzhou. L’Rell tells him she still believes in him. It is still boring.
Burnham tries to buy Fluffy’s forgiveness with spores, but he just moans. If you sat down and tallied up whether harming an alien creature is worth saving the lives of a mining colony, it would be hard to say that it wasn’t worth it. It also doesn’t make it right. It is hideously wrong to strap a living creature into a ship and use it like it’s a spare part. It is upsetting. I am upset. Humanity is the worst.
Tilly reminds Burnham that she’s brave and she needs to face what she’s avoiding, which is her grief over Captain Georgiou, conveniently packaged into a box under her bed. Tilly leaves Burnham to confront those pesky emotions alone. Unfortunately, Burnham isn’t going to be able to keep everything under her bed forever, so she opens up her Despair Box and a holographic Georgiou makes both Burnham and the audience bitter for all that we have lost.
Burnham was supposed to be in charge of her own ship, her mentor proud of her and her morality intact. Instead she’s stuck on a warship with an asshole for a captain and her integrity in tatters, putting all of her talents into destruction instead of discovery. Her posthumous gift from Georgiou is a battered telescope that had been passed down through Georgiou’s family until it made it to her. The melancholy is palpable.
Thus ends another episode of Star Trek: Blackwatch. The show is starting to settle into its themes, such as: when is disobeying an order a moral imperative? Is winning a war worth it if you sell out your principles? When does science become unethical? The lines are being drawn between Team Science and Team War and it seems likely that the tensions on the ship are destined to explode as the messy business of fighting a war clashes with Starfleet values.
I find that interesting, and I look forward to Discovery exploring those conflicts. I am also finding the tone of the show a bit emotionally exhausting. In a real world grappling with its obsession with violence and the societal toll it takes, I can’t help but wish I saw more optimism and hope for humanity. That’s what I turn to Star Trek for and I would be lying if I didn’t say I missed it.
Photoshopped Image of Badass Burnham and Saru: @Gristle_McNerd