Star Trek Discovery: “Lethe” (S1, E6 review)

(image courtesy CBS/Netflix)



Imagine being so intimately connected with someone that you can feel their pain and distress over vast distances of space.

Such is the bond though that exists between the tenacious protagonist of Star Trek: Discovery, Michael Burnham – newly promoted as science officer on the bridge, meaning she and Saru, played by Doug Jones, have now swapped life places – and her father, Sarek (James Frain), who found himself mortally wounded when a less than diplomatic Vulcan logic extremist detonated himself onboard the ship that were whisking them off to peace talks between the Federation and the Klingon.

Realising almost too late that his fellow diplomat, that we shall Pudding Bowl Haircut (real name V’Latak) because lordy there have been more fashionable dos on 14th century monks, was not feeling all that diplomatic and more than a little angry – given Vulcans don’t give into emotions, was he feeling really hardcore logical? Hard to say – Sarek threw up a shield that kept the spaceship intact but left him injured. (Personally I’d be taking the shield back for a refund.)

“May I inquire as to the nature of our diplomatic mission?”

“Allow me to be diplomatic and ask that you do not. In times of crisis, ignorance can be beneficial.” (V’Latak and Sarek)

All appeared lost for a man who is, for all his reserve, a renegade Vulcan, one of those rare individuals in any society who dares to gaze upon the status quo, and mutter “We can, and must, do better.”; lofty idealistic sentiments that anyone who abhors fossilising in place would applaud but one that brought him into conflict with the logic extremists, and which led him and Burnham to feel as if they had each failed the other.

Not that Sarek, a man who would sooner drive a bat’leth through his solar plexus that share openly and honestly with a therapist – so no forthcoming sessions with Admiral Cornell (Jayne Brook) then? – was going to volunteer that.

No, it took him nearly dying with his Katra (soul) subconsciously wandering willy-nilly across the galaxy until it found Burnham’s soul (thus spoiling her breakfast with the dashing Lt. Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif) for him to admit that he feels like failed Burnham, by choosing his son Spock over his adopted daughter for the one space offered him in the prestigious Vulcan Expeditionary Force.


(image courtesy CBS/Netflix)


For all his willingness to push boundaries, and go dashing out the other side of Vulcan envelopes, Sarek was only tolerated by many others, despite their nominal assent to his ideas, and the sole place in the Expeditionary Force was their “f**k you” reply. (After “Choose Your Pain”, the f-word is surely now Star Trek canon right?)

So Sarek made a decision; the wrong one, as it turns out, since Spock went to Starfleet and Burnham, who really, REALLY, wanted to join the Expeditionary Force couldn’t, ending up in Starfleet too.

Epic parenting fail there Sarek, not that he was ever going to say that aloud … unless he was dying in the middle of a nebula, subconsciously calling Burnham to his mind where they relived the events of his parenting faux pas, with human wife Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner) looking on, gasp, all emotional, much against Sarek’s conscious will and Burnham’s plans for breakfast with the hunky Lt Tyler, now the Chief of Security (enemy sleeper cell much?).

“All my life, the conflict inside me has been between logic and emotion. But now, it’s my emotions that are hiding. I think about him and I want to cry but I have to smile. And I feel angry but I want to love. And I’m hurt but there’s hope. What is this?” (Burnham)

It proved to be a cathartic moment for both Sarek and Burnham, who woke up Sarek long enough for him to push the transponder button on his ship and get rescued by the ever-disobedient crew of the Discovery (Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs, especially got in big trouble but more on that in a moment.)

Not that Sarek, all cosied up and newly re-logical, though not it must be said, extremely logical thank you, admitted to any such relational breakthrough; he remembered, of course, and Burnham damn well knew he did, and the event, which worked as a catalyst for bringing Lorca’s troubled self to the fore with consequences writ large, is something that will unite their souls, joined as they are in perpetuity, for life; but actually admit it all happened and have a mushy moment? Uh-uh, nope.

As character studies, it was an instructive double bunger, examining why Burnham is the way she is, the role of Sarek as a societal agent provocateur and the way familial shape us in ways we don’t even know exist until a major crisis of some kind hits.


(image courtesy CBS/Netflix)


Speaking of crises, Lorca has a Great Big One on his hands this episode.

It’s obvious from watching him in action over the last six episodes that he is a dilithium drive short of a functioning starship, but his emotional wounds were exposed in suitably dark fashion when Cornell, who is as much f**k buddy (canon, people, canon! I can swear now thanks!) as commanding officer threatened to take away command of the Enterprise from the Handsomest Captain Ever (sorry Archer but he ism he just is).

Perhaps her decision had something to do with him constantly telling Starfleet brass to take a great big hike of an orbitaL shipbuildingf platform? Or perhaps going on a rescue mission for Sarek just because he wanted to make his crew love him, owe him, whatever the hell twisted motivation is at work? Or maybe because he hasn’t quite recovered from blowing the crew of his ship the Buran to Klingon-free kingdom come or being held as a POW?

Or maybe, just MAYBE, and I’m spitballing here (yeah, no, I’m not) it’s because he keeps a loaded, switched-on phaser in bed that he almost shot Cornell with when she affectionately gave his back an affectionate, post-coital rub.

“I can’t leave Starfleet’s most powerful weapon in the hands of a broken man.”
“Don’t take my ship away from me. She’s all I got. Please, I’m begging you.” (Katrina Cornwell and Gabriel Lorca)

Whatever it was, and there’s a long list to choose from, Lorca is a troubled man, making dubious decision after dubious decision, even if some of them have happily ever after endings, and Cornell threatening to take away command was the last straw for his less than even keel mind.

So what’s he do? Why he ships Cornell off to fill in for Sarek at the peace talks which, let’s just say, do not quite go according to plan, something Lorca must have known would happen.

It was a douchebag move of the highest order, removing Cornell from the picture yes, and helping him keep his captaincy of the Discovery, but removing his last friend at Starfleet which could prove pivotal later on.

It was a Deep Space Nine dark move and you can expect there to be major repercussions as the narrative goes bombastically barrelling on in a galaxy where the ideals may be admirable but their execution is most certainly not.

  • Coming up in next week’s episode “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” … a good old time loop! It’s a hoary old trope but I have a feeling that Star Trek: Discovery is about to show us what happens when it’s dark as the inside of Lorca’s tortured soul, over and over and over again …


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