I’m a little late with the review this week, thanks to contracting a beautiful Aussie summer flu. Gotta love those unexpected little life hiccups!
It’s almost not worth doing a review for Episode 13, because Episode 14 drops in about an hour here in Australia, but I’m a completionist so here goes.
Episode Number: 113
Episode Title: “What’s Past Is Prologue” or “Lorca Chews The Scenery” or “Michelle Yeoh Kicks Ass.”
Written By: Ted Sullivan
Directed By: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Mirror Stamets to Lorca: “Gabriel. I really hoped you were dead.”
Lorca, in response: “Well, you can’t always get what you want.”
Burnham to Saru: “It’s good to see you, Saru.”
Saru: “You as well, my friend. It appears your situation has become dire. Is the captain with you?”
Burnham: “He’s one of them. He’s Terran. He used us, and the Discovery, to jump here to his own universe. It was his plan all along.”
Saru to the crew of the Discovery: “It is well know that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death. I do not sense it today. I may not have all the answers, however I do know that I am surrounded by a team I trust. The finest a Captain could ever hope to command. Lorca abused our idealism. And make no mistake, Discovery is no longer Lorca’s. She is ours. And today will be her maiden voyage. We have a duty to perform and we will not accept a no-win scenario. You have your orders. On your way.”
Moments of Interest
Lorca arrived in the prime universe via an ion storm and a transporter accident that was very similar to the one that sent Kirk, Uhura, McCoy and Scotty to the Mirror Universe.
There are a few obvious parallels with real world issues woven through this episode, including a clever play on a recent US election promise, and a little dig at big industry and their sometimes… careless lack of concern for our environment.
The appearance of Lorca’s minions, as Georgiou goes to confront him, is very similar to the Borg reveal in Star Trek: First Contact.
I’ve dropped the recap, because if you’ve watched the episode you don’t need me or anyone else giving you a blow by blow description of what’s just happened. It’s a bit redundant, and probably a little frustrating for the reader.
Instead, I’ll focus on some of the stand out moments of the episode.
The first thing I want to comment on is the direction. Olatunde Osunsanmi is a very talented individual. His ability with the camera is uncanny. There are moments in this episode where it could have become unnecessarily melodramatic, but Osunsanmi never lets it get there. He manipulates the performances of the actors and the motion and angles of the camera expertly, never allowing anything to go too far, and somehow shapes all of these almost over the top plot points into meaningful, character defining drama.
Ted Sullivan’s script is big. Motion picture big. The stakes are shockingly high, perhaps the highest they’ve ever been in any Star Trek episode or movie, and the little character moments are intimate but equally as big and oh so Star Trek. This man loves Gene Roddenberry’s creation, and he tips his hat to past series’ wherever he can in really beautiful and meaningful ways.
As much as this episode is one big dramatic action piece that barely lets up, it’s also a little fun and self-deprecating and even a little batshit crazy, thanks, in large part, to Jason Isaacs’ scene stealing performance.
Jason Isaacs chews the scenery like a pro. You can tell when an actor enjoys the role he or she is playing, and Jason must have loved playing this wolf in sheep’s clothing. He goes for it, but instead of hamming it up and turning Lorca into a Bond-villain, he gloriously and lovingly portrays a man who is descending into madness and delusion. Lorca doesn’t just want to be Emporer, he believes he is destined to rule – that the Universe wants him on the throne, and wants him to crush the aliens of the galaxy beneath his boot heel while keeping humanity in a choke-hold under him.
As well as Jason, we see exceptional performances from Michelle Yeoh, Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp who is pulling double duty up until the moment Lorca dispatches Mirror Stamets with a quip and a point blank phaser blast.
This episode puts everything on the line, including the very fate of all universes, everywhere. Somehow, through all of that, it also tells a couple of intensely personal stories. We see Saru rise beyond his species’ limitations to abandon fear and embrace hope and courage, and we see Burnham try to redeem herself by saving the woman she loved like a mother, despite the fact that woman is a dark and ruthless reflection of the hero she knew.
There are layers upon layers in this episode, and this is not an episode you should just watch once.
Absent from this action-packed 43 minutes are L’Rell and Tyler, and we barely get to see Tilly, but that’s not a bad thing. The story needed to narrow down on these characters for a bit and it felt right that this climax be very much about Stamets, Burnham, Saru, Georgiou and Lorca.
While Ash and L’Rell are missed, we do get to see a little bit more of the crew of the Discovery, working together and becoming a team. Finally. With Lorca gone, it seems they can at last be at their best and they more than rise to the occasion. We also get to see the return of Commander Ellen Landry, which was welcome.
Amusingly, Mirror Landry is very similar to Prime Landry, just a little more trigger happy (believe it or not) and blood thirsty. She’s also completely committed to Gabriel Lorca in this universe too.
Every character featured prominently gets a moment to shine, but none more so than our favourite Kelpien. Saru goes nova in this episode and steals the entire season.
In “Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum” we were shown a Saru who was not ready for command, but once in the Mirror Universe was forced into it. We’ve seen him grow in the position of acting captain, but he hasn’t really been a leader. In this episode he is, and delivers one of the best speeches we’ve seen in Star Trek in a long time. It’s above, in Quotable, if you want to check it out.
I really love how Ted just gets these characters and organically advances their personal stories while giving us an hour of entertainment that is just awesome.
It’s no secret I love this show, despite my odd, minor issue. Two of my biggest issues have been the death of Philippa Georgiou and something I haven’t mentioned to date. We hardly ever get a really good look at the Discovery.
With Georgiou back, albiet as the Mirror version of herself, we get to feast on Michelle Yeoh’s performance and it’s excellent. In this episode she gets to rock some of those incredible martial arts moves that she’s known for, and she grabs and holds our attention in every scene she is in.
This series has some of the finest actors on television in it, and for anyone to stand out in such talented company should be hard, but Ted Sullivan, Olatunde Osunsanmi, and the generosity of each actor in the series lets it happen – whether it’s Sonequa, Jason, Anthony, Doug or Michelle.
On top of the wonderful performances and having Michelle back in such a substantial way, we finally do get to see the Discovery in action and it is excellent. It’s a special effects tour de force, and just plain satisfying as our gorgeous new vessel shoots the crap out of the Emporers city-ship.
in Star Trek this series namesake vessel (or outpost) is a character, and Discovery is a character we haven’t seen enough of.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
I could keep raving about this great episode, but I won’t, because I want to go and watch the next one.
To wrap up, what I will rave about is the climax. It is everything you want it to be. Excellent effects, emotional and intense music, beautiful editing, fast paced and sensitive direction, outstanding acting, phasers, photon torpedoes and explosions galore, and a completely unexpected double twist!
In the climax, as Michael presents Georgiou to Lorca in a faux attempt to save the Discovery, we get to see Georgiou enact her revenge and skewer Lorca with that big ass broadsword of hers, we get to see everyone kick the living crap out of each other (none with as much style and grace as Georgiou), we get to see the mycelial destroying globe of energy at the heart of the Charon blow up, we get to watch Landry die, again, and we get to see Michael save Georgiou, and Paul interacting with Hugh one more beautiful time.
It’s those last two moments that deliver the double twist.
Georgiou returns to the prime universe aboard the Discovery (and isn’t too happy about it), and the Discovery makes it home, but doesn’t make it back in time to save the Federation. She makes it back nine-months later and the Klingons have won the war.
It all works.
The trip through the mycelial network is beautiful and wonderfully realised by the Visual Effects team, and gives us a moment with Hugh that is meaningful and sweet. The saving of Georgiou is satisfying, and the unexpected time-jump is surprising in a way that some of the twists on this show haven’t been.
It wraps everything up beautifully and leaves us hungry for more.
In the After Trek preview, we see Admiral Katrina Cormwell and Sarek boarding the Discovery, but not too much else is given away. I can’t begin to imagine what they will do with Georgiou, but whatever it is, I doubt the Emperor will be survive the season. I see her sacrificing herself for Michael.
A tiny spore lands on Tilly at the end of the episode. Is it, somehow, Hugh? Will it allow Paul to stay in touch with his beloved?
Is this the end of the Mirror Universe in Star Trek: Discovery? It feels like it should be, but I doubt it.
This was a great episode, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the last two episodes this season.
See you in a day or two with a more prompt review.
Live long and prosper.