Star Trek #1465: What's Past Is Prologue

FORMULA: In a Mirror, Darkly + The Wrath of Khan + most Star Wars movies

WHY WE LIKE IT: Great tension builder followed by earned relief. And bam, another crazy cliffhanger. Plus, Michelle Yeoh gets to do her famous butterfly kick!

WHY WE DON'T: Some may not be happy with the cast changes (if that's what they are).

REVIEW: Like it or not, the truth can now be told. Mirror Lorca crossed over into our universe through a transporter/ion storm accident (as per Mirror, Mirror) and surrounded himself with all the people loyal to him in his own universe (or somewhat loyal, his own Stammets betrayed him to the Emperor), including Burnham and Landry (who, as it turns out, is pretty much the same person in both parallels). It was always his crazy plan to return and stage a coup against Georgiou, who he feels has legitimately failed the Empire, as evidenced by the various rebellions and uprisings. Might he, indeed, do a better job and rule more evenly? Would alien races, under his regime, not bristle at the level of injustice Georgiou delivers? The episode doesn't really explore that, but it had me wondering. Maybe it's that we've had to see Lorca as a hero (albeit a ruthless one) for the past 13 episodes, while Emperor Georgiou is a murderous cannibal. But then, at the end, she does show a kind of honor, offering to sacrifice herself (knowing her reign is over) so Burnham can escape. These people are complicated, but villains in both cases, make no mistake.

I'm still not sure I believe Lorca's complicated plan was workable - he seems to be riding on his faith in destiny, but that only carries you so far (as the episode proves) - nor do I agree with Burnham's decision to bring MU Georgiou to the Prime Universe (it is one of my pet peeves about alternate reality stories, that heroes are blinded by emotion because these psycho-villains happen to look like they people they know - see the Arrowverse for the worst examples in recent memory). But at the same time, it takes a lot of balls to pull some of these tricks, and Discovery most reminds me of Gotham. It's got a similar "prequel" premise that makes fans uneasy, and after trying to tread a certain line, the showrunners just go "screw it" and start doing insane stuff, the consequences be damned. Crazy death traps... Lorca being killed (but do I really believe Lorca Prime is dead? no I do not, you can't get rid of a lead actor so easily)... I mean, this is an episode that sends Discovery home nine months late, and it looks like the Klingons won the war in their absence. WHAT?! Well, most episodes are now ending with me shouting out that word.

The one thing that isn't a surprise is that Discovery does go home. Not so much because it was time, but because the visuals imply it throughout. I quite enjoyed the various "tunnels" (like the one above) created by director Olatunde Osunsanmi, evoking the ship's eventual trip back through the mycelial network at episode's end. Before getting there, the crew has to pick up Burnham and pull a Death Star run (are we tired of this trope yet?), and it seems like a suicide mission until Saru refuses to see it as a no-win scenario. He gets a good speech and just like Burham refuses to let Georgiou die a second time on her watch. And you know, while the no-win scenario element has long been a part of Star Trek (Wrath of Khan being the best example), it never occurred to me until now that all of Trek is about refusing to accept the no-win scenario. That it's an integral part of its utopia. That yes, human beings are flawed and destructive, but we can't let that hold us back, we can't let the flaws define us. It takes a sacrifice but also a lot of optimism, and in dramatic terms, the faith that doing a good thing (the stakes are high, the Charron's polluted mycelial network will destroy all life in the multiverse if left running) will be rewarded. Obviously, the ship has to survive, but the tension is ramped up so well, there's actual relief when Culber leads Stammets back through the network - before we're thrown for a loop again.

LESSON: Destiny, shmestiny. You make your own luck.

REWATCHABILITY - High: An exciting action piece that manages to state some of Star Trek's best values about persistence and optimism. It's always darkest, etc.


Ryan Blake said...

I'm glad someone else thought that about landry. How did she rise through the ranks in either universe? Evil is one thing but obnoxious in all universes?


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