Star Trek #1456: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry

FORMULA: Equinox + The Devil in the Dark + that episode of Cosmos with the tardigrade

WHY WE LIKE IT: Burnham's humanism.

WHY WE DON'T: "I've always wanted to talk with my mushrooms."

REVIEW: Let's get into a little bit of continuity, given how Discovery likes to drop a lot of little references on us in each episode. Like Corvan II, here a mining colony, but in TNG's New Ground is a polluted industrial planet. Nice. (Well, not for the Corvan gilvos.) Or the Horta under glass in Lorca's lab (one hopes there's an explanation for his access to species more or less discovered by Kirk and crew, and that these aren't just meant to be "cute"). And we should also mention the eye-popping opener zooming out from inside the replicating molecules of Burnham's new uniform. Neat. But the best of these is in the Klingon subplot - and yes, I admit it, I'm getting used to these and starting to find them interesting - where the elitist Kol claims kinship with the noble House of Kor, which tracks with Martok's back story, hating on Kor himself for having been denied advancement because of his low-born origins, as happens to Voq here. The latter's ship has been stranded in space for six months, until the intriguing L'Rell convinces him to get spare parts from the Shengzhou, Klingon purity be damned. She comes from a House of liars, and it seems that she can't be trusted once Kol steals the ship from under Voq's feet by feeding his starving troops. But the lies are all to trick Kol as she joins Voq in exile and they head for the Klingon Matriarchs. Interesting! We know very little of this part of Klingon culture beyond, perhaps, the role Martok's wife plays in Worf's wedding. I'm certainly less enthusiastic about Voq having eaten Captain Georgiou, even if it justifies Burnham's focus on getting her body back.

Georgiou's ghost gets better treatment aboard the Discovery, thankfully, will a holographic last will and testament in which she calls Burnham a daughter and leaves her the old telescope that was part of a key scene in the first episode. But the question this episode asks is whether Burnham really is walking in Georgiou's footsteps (a metaphor that echoes their very first scene in the desert), or Lorca's ruthlessly pragmatic path. Burnham doesn't want to address the will, initially, so by the time she opens the box, she's already done what Georgiou would have expected of her - made friends with the macro-tardigrade rather than weaponized it. We're rescued from the old trope of the "inspiring last words" that make a character take stock and finally do the right thing. Instead of finding inspiration, Burnham's soul is further beaten down because she doesn't believe she has any right to the telescope or to those words, not after having betrayed her captain and become a pariah. Because she's also of Lorca's breed and knows it. Just as her new captain continually guilt-trips his crew into getting the job done, she also manipulates Saru to surreptitiously use his danger sense in an experiment. The fact that he calls her out on it and links it to Lorca means he, like Stamets, does not particularly respect the captain.

Totally on the captain's side is Landry, who richly deserves her death at the claws of the tardigrade she herself dubbed "Ripper". What an unsavory character. Reckless and stupid too. Not a loss, it would even seen she was an underwritten caricature of a soldier because she was fodder anyway. Might have been worth making us care about her so that her death meant something, don't you think? Still, the format does now allow what seem like main characters to be shuffled out for shock value. Out with the old, in with the new, as we get our first look at the ship's doctor, Hugh Culber, who seems to have a strained relationship with Stamets (hey, who doesn't?). More on this in the next episode.

As for the plot, it's pretty damn obvious "Ripper" is meant to pilot the spore drive, but I suppose the characters could be forgiven for not spotting it given how compartmentalized the mission is. Burnham treating the creature humanely and coming to understand it behavior is totally her specialty and what makes her shine as a character. It doesn't forgive the fact that they are now using and abusing a creature for their own ends, nor does it look like she thinks it does. What might justify it at this point is a point of urgency - a colony about to be destroyed by Klingon birds-of-prey. Lorca uses the lives that will be lost as an incentive, though it's pretty clear the real reason the ship needs to pop into the situation ASAP is that it is a major dilithium operation.  I don't think much of Lorca's strategy once they make it, since making ships crash into one another by popping out of space implies those ships would have been ramming you in the first place, but it's perhaps less silly than the miners running out to see the debris fall with their kids in their arms...

LESSON: Sometimes, you just look at For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, and you want to break a record, but then think better of it.

REWATCHABILITY - Almost Medium-High: Burnham's methods are proper Star Trek and I might even be getting into the Klingon stuff, but the writing is uneven and the battle simplified so that it becomes unrealistic.



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