As Star Trek: Discovery approaches its midway point, certain character motivations are becoming clear and the arcs for the remainder of the season are coming to light.
Review: Star Trek: Discovery – Season 1, Episode 6 “Lethe”
More so than even last episode, “Lethe” is all about Lorca. As we learned last week, Lorca is the sole survivor or an early Klingon War tragedy. Instead of going down with his ship like the old adage indicates, Lorca blew up his ship, killing his crew to save them from torture and death at the hands of the Klingons. Though he cleared all of his Starfleet psychological assessments to get another command, we find out in this episode that it’s all a ruse: he’s broken, Ahab-like, with a need to get back at the Klingons and a desire to surround himself with similar people.
Both Burnham and the newly promoted security chief Ash Tyler exhibit some of the same traits. Burnham is a mutineer with a chip on her shoulder and something to prove while Tyler, after spending seven months in captivity, shares with Lorca a similar dislike of the Klingons (that is, unless a certain fan theory turns out to be true). The fact that Lorca has the similarly broken people in prominent positions (Burnham gets assigned a science position on the bridge in this episode) isn’t a coincidence.
But the kicker to all that is what Lorca decides not to do at the end of the episode. After mounting an unsanctioned rescue mission to save Sarek, Lorca is visited by Admiral Cornwell. She assumes, rightly so, that Lorca is still troubled with what happened to his previous command and is acting recklessly with Starfleet’s prized possession: Discovery. After reminiscing about their past, he seduces her. Later, he is startled awake and readies a phaser at her, which was hidden conveniently under his pillow. She realizes what’s going on and tells him that he’ll be relieved of command.
Instead of going right back to Starfleet, however, she instead takes on Sarek’s mission, to negotiate a peace with two defecting Klingon houses. Predicatively, its a trap set by Kol to capture a high ranking official, but rather than running off to her rescue as he did Sarek’s, Lorca decides to pass it along to Starfleet command and wait for orders. This non-action cements his position on the show as an antagonist, which could certainly evolve into a villain.
All of this is going on while we find out more about Burnham’s past with Sarek and Amanda.
A secret member of a Vulcan group that wishes to break away from the Federation sabotages the ship that he and Sarek are on, killing him and leaving the ambassador for dead. Sarek uses his mystical katra-phone to reach Burnham for help. When Burnham reaches back, she sees that Sarek is reliving the moment where she graduated from the Vulcan Science Academy but is not accepted to the Vulcan Expeditionary Force. Burnham sees this moment in her life as a failure and wonders why Sarek is revisiting it until Tyler astutely points out that Sarek’s probably being critical of himself than Burnham. She goes back into the memory only to discover that Sarek was given an ultimatum that either Burnham or Spock could join the force, but not both, due to their human genes. Sarek picks Spock, but instead of telling her this, he lets her think that she was denied admission and sends her off to Starfleet instead. This one act has impacted Burnham’s entire life, and Sarek refuses to talk to her about his reasoning at the end.
“Lethe” is another solid effort in what’s turning out to be one of the better first seasons of any Star Trek series. Jason Isaacs continues to impress as Lorca, especially as we discover more about that character. Burnham, after realizing she never failed in getting into the Vulcan Expeditionary Force, seems to have a huge weight lifted off her shoulders, and this emotional swing for the character is played brilliantly by Sonequa Martin-Green.
With three more episodes until the mid-season break, it will be interesting to see what more gets revealed in the coming weeks.
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