Aaaaaand we’re back! This week, Star Trek: Discovery returned with its latest episode, “Despite Yourself.” There was a lot that went down in this episode and I think CBS is really kicking the second part of season one off with a boom!
Let’s start with what isn’t that surprising. First, after the botched spore drive jump at the end of the last episode, the U.S.S. Discovery has officially found itself in an alternate universe. The spore drive is down, Lt. Stamets is down for the count (unresponsive but stable), and they have no way of returning home. With the way things were headed, it’s not too surprising this is where things have ended up and, personally, I think the new direction will finally let the show take flight.
So, what was surprising about this episode? Actually, quite a lot.
The U.S.S. Discovery’s crew realizes immediately that something isn’t right. They are amidst Klingon ship debris, but all signs point to a Klingon, Vulcan, and Andorian alliance. After retrieving a data core from the wreckage (a task that clued Captain Lorca in on some of Tyler’s PTSD struggles, as well as Burnham’s feelings for him), they realize there are some pretty stark differences in this parallel world. Namely, Star Fleet has been replaced by an organization of racists and extremists called The Terran Empire. We’re essentially looking at humans against all non-humans.
As far as the science officers can tell, the ship has switched places with the one from the parallel dimension. Without a way home, the crew has no means to deliver the data they extrapolated while confronting the Klingon Death Ship and the war is as good as lost. That means getting home, as soon as absolutely possible, is the number one priority.
To do that, Captain Lorca decides that every crewman must take on the role he or she would play in this world. In a flash, the U.S.S. Discovery is transformed into the I.S.S. Discovery and their intent is to crash the Terran Empire party. The best reveal here? Cadet Tilly is now Captain Tilly, as she apparently took control of the U.S.S. Discovery after killing the previous captain in his sleep.
While sifting through the recovered data, Burnham also discovers information on an actual Star Fleet ship called the U.S.S. Defiance. Apparently, records indicate that this ship was previously present in the alternate universe as well. Their presence leads Captain Lorca and Burnham speculate that there are ways to enter and leave the parallel world without the use of a spore drive. The problem? They need more information and getting it is going to be tricky!
In this world, Burnham is the captain of the I.S.S. Shenzhou. Captain Lorca, on the other hand, is a traitor who plotted a coup against the Empire. Burnham was sent to capture him, but she is now presumed dead after the confrontation and his whereabouts are unknown. The U.S.S. Discovery’s crew devises a plan to return Burnham to the I.S.S. Shenzhou so she can obtain additional information on the U.S.S. Defiance. The plan means pretending she faked her own death in order to capture Lorca, who she will hand over as proof.
Meanwhile things aren’t looking good for Lt. Stamets. He’s stabilized, but his true condition is extremely unclear. Between random ramblings, like “The enemy is here,” he’s also sporadically aggressive and Doctor Culber keeps him contained in a protective force field. Culber is, however, pulled from the case by Captain Lorca, who feels his emotional connection to Lt. Stamets will interfere with treatment.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure if this would have been the case. After a few more disturbing flashbacks and lost time, Tyler convinces the doctor to conduct a more thorough exam…and what they find isn’t good. L’Rell was up to far more than torture and rape when she held Tyler captive. In fact, it appears she found a way to overlay another personality over his completely.
My guess? It’s Voq, the Klingon who took T’Kuvma’s place as the religious leader. The transition isn’t going smoothly, though, as the Kahless prayer she recites with him doesn’t trigger the response she expected earlier in the episode.
Regardless, Tyler is none-too-happy when Culber expresses his concern and insists he go off duty. In a fit of rage and panic, Tyler snaps the doctor’s neck.
The final portion of the episode takes place once Burnham, Lorca, and (of course) Tyler are beamed aboard the I.S.S. Shenzhou to begin their mission. While things go relatively as planned, there are a few issues. First, Lorca is placed in a torture cell and it looks immensely painful. Second, Burnham is forced to kill the replacement captain, a feat that earns her a standing applause from her new crew in this warped dimension. Third, getting the information they need is proving to be more difficult because Burnham can’t find the time alone to do it.
On the plus side, the episode does end with a kiss! Albeit, the intimate moment Burnham and Tyler share is somewhat marred by the fact that he’s slowly losing his personality and his presence will likely result in serious problems during their mission…
But they kissed!
Overall, I really like the direction things are going. Honestly, I feel like the first part of season one was like a big prerequisite, preparing watchers for this new direction. I think we’re in for a great batch up episodes as we wind down to the season finale.