Star Trek Discovery: We’re All Mad Here

Title: Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3: “Context is for Kings”
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction
Platform: Streaming – CBS All Access
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Writers: Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Haberts, and Craig Sweeny
Rating: TV-14
Release: October 1, 2017
Cast: Sonequa Martin-Green, Doug Jones, Jason Issacs, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif
Feature image: Source


“I like to think it makes me mysterious.”  Captain Gabriel Lorca – Star Trek: Discovery

It is six months after “Battle at the Binary Stars”. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is on a shuttle with some other prisoners. They are transferring them to a new prison facility where they will be mining for the war effort. One of the prisoners makes fun of the Star Fleet prisoner; until someone points out that, she is the infamous Michael Burnham, the mutineer who started the war. A woman prisoner (Grace Lynn Kung) tells Burnham that her cousin died on the Europa, and that over 8,000 died in the battle. Burnham gives the exact number. A cloud of organisms causes the shuttle to break down. When they lose the pilot trying to fix the shuttle, the USS Discovery appears and picks them up.

One of the prisoners asks why a brand new star ship isn’t on the front lines. Commander Landry (Rekha Sharma) comes to escort the prisoners. She isn’t happy to have to deal with the ‘garbage’, but sends them under guard to the mess hall. Everyone stares at Burnham when she walks in. When she sits with her fellow prisoners, they decide to kill her. Even though they are attacking her, no one from Star Fleet comes to her aid. Fortunately, for her, she knows suus mahna; she swiftly dispatches her attackers. Commander Landry tells her the captain wants to see her. Landry: “Vulcan martial arts, huh?”  Burnham: “Suus Mahna.”  Landry: “Vulcans should stick to logic.”

Burnham runs into Saru (Doug Jones) on the bridge, he is the First Officer on the Discovery. He directs her to the Captain’s office. The lights are low in Captain Gabriel Lorca’s (Jason Issacs) office. He has a Tribble on his desk and in the corner, the skeleton of a Gorn. He tells her he has the lights low because of an eye injury and, “I like to think it makes me mysterious.” She tells him she thinks something is up, she was transferred to another prison, her shuttle changed course. He tells her he plans to use her knowledge of high-level quantum physics to help with their project while she waits for the repairs on her shuttle. When she declines, he tells her he isn’t her chauffeur and no one rides on his ship for free.

Instead of going to the brig, they assign her a room with Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Tilly is a little chatterbox, she is excited to have a roommate until she finds out her roommate is Michael Burnham, the mutineer. A black alert sounds when water crystals form. Burnham asks Tilly what is going on, she tells her that if they haven’t told her anything, she can’t either.

“I intend to do a better job protecting my captain than you did yours.” First Officer Saru – Star Trek: Discovery

Back on the bridge Burnham tells Saru she saw a recording of Captain Georgiou’s funeral and the beautiful things he said about her. She didn’t think she would get a chance to tell him. She tries to apologize for what happened. Saru responds kindly and honestly, “I believe you feel regret but in my mind you are dangerous.” He continues, “I intend to do a better job protecting my captain than you did yours.” Saru informs Burnham that she is assigned to engineering and she is to report to Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp).

“My Uncle Everett plays in a Beatles cover band. It hardly makes him John Lennon.”  Lt. Paul Stamets – Star Trek: Discovery

Burnham looks lost when she walks in, when she wanders over to a work station next to her roommate, Tilly lies and tells her they have assigned work stations. We find out later that she didn’t want to work near her because she didn’t want to be tarnished by associating with her. She wanders around a little more until Lt. Stamets walks in. He isn’t pleased seeing her. Stamets thought she was Vulcan. She tries to explain the mix-up. Burnham: “I was raised on Vulcan and I attended the Vulcan Science Academy.”  Stamets: “My Uncle Everett plays in a Beatles cover band. It hardly makes him John Lennon.”  He gives her some code to decipher. She does, one of the lines is wrong. She goes over to tell him. Stamets is talking to his old lab partner Straal (Saad Siddiqui) via partial hologram. (Only Straal’s face appears.) Straal’s group has made a major breakthrough. Stamets is worried that it’s too big. When he notices her, he call her a lurker. She tells him she could do a better job if she knew what she was working on. He calls her a temp and he won’t tell her what she is working on. He breathes into a breathalyzer that opens a door to a secret room. Burnham is curious, so that night she puts a towel under a snoring Tilly’s mouth to get her breath (and drool) on a towel and uses her breath to enter the secret room. Inside she finds a forest with spores.

Captain Lorca informs the crew that their sister ship, the USS Glenn was damaged, their crew is dead and they have to retrieve their research info. Stamets is upset because his friend Straal was on the Glenn. He bitches at Lorca for his and Straal’s research being coopted by Star Fleet. He gets angrier when Lorca tells him they have to take Burnham with them. Burnham, Stamets, Tilly, Landry, and a redshirt are on a shuttle heading towards the Glenn. Stamets is still bitching about Star Fleet on the way there. When Burnham asks him a question about his research, he turns his bitching towards her. Stamets: “At the quantum level, there is no difference between biology and physics. No difference at all. And you talk about spores. What are they? They are the progenitors of panspermia. They are the building blocks of energy, across the universe. Physics AND biology? No, physics AS biology.”

They find a damaged ship with twisted and deformed bodies thrown around. The crew finds a Klingon boarding party who suffered the same fate. A live Klingon appears who tries to shush them. Some huge bug like creature grabs him and kills him. It chases the Discovery crew. Burnham borrows a phaser and shoots the creature to get it to chase her through the Jeffries tubes. She quietly quotes from “Alice in Wonderland” to keep her calm as the creature chases her. Using her knowledge of Star Fleet ship designs, she drops through a hatch into the shuttle and they fly away.

“You helped start a war, don’t you want to help me end it?”  Captain Gabriel Lorca – Star Trek: Discovery

Back on the Discovery Saru tells her she was a great officer, and what she did was Star Fleets loss. Lorca wants to see her. He wants her to join his crew. She thinks she knows why. Lorca is running experiments to use the spores they are creating as a weapon against the Klingons. What he is doing is illegal, he picked her for her intellectual prowess and because she is a mutineer who attempted to take an unsanctioned action against the Klingons; he thinks she would do anything to get out of her life sentence. She informs him that before she mutinied, she was a first officer, she believes in the principles of the Federation; she will live by them and die by them. Lorca tells her she is so wrong, they are developing these spores for travel. It connects with the tissue of the universe. They can get anywhere in seconds. He demonstrates this by putting her in a case and sending her throughout the galaxy. If they can get anywhere fast, they can defeat the Klingons, after the war, it can be used for exploration. He tells Burnham her decision to fire first was the right one, “You chose to do the right thing over and above what was sanctioned, even at great cost to yourself.” Lorca likes her ability to think predictively. Lorca: “This is the kind of thinking that wins wars.” His final sells pitch, “You helped start a war, don’t you want to help me end it?”

“The real world doesn’t always adhere to logic. Sometimes when you’re lost, you’re found.”  Michael Burnham – Star Trek: Discovery

Burnham decides to stay and is still roommates with Tilly. She is much warmer to Burnham again. Tilly confides that she wants to be a captain someday and she figures that someone with Burnham’s background can help her. Burnham hands Tilly an actual book, a copy of “Alice in Wonderland”. Her foster mother Amanda use to read it to her and Spock. She and Amanda were the only humans there. The book tells her, “The real world doesn’t always adhere to logic. Sometimes down is up. Sometimes up is down. Sometimes when you’re lost, you’re found.” Meanwhile Lorca is with Landry. She brought the space creature from the Glenn on board the Discovery by his request.

In “Alice in Wonderland” it says, “We’re all mad here.” That seems to apply to the crew of the USS Discovery. They don’t act like the crews of the other Star Fleet ships we’ve seen in the franchise. These people are working on secret experiments for the war effort. Lt. Stamets seems to hate Star Fleet and Captain Lorca. This crew would fit in with the crew on the Galactica. (So say we all.) This stems from Captain Lorca himself, we don’t know if he is a bad guy, good guy, or something in between. On the other shows, we knew our Captains were virtuous, who occasionally bent the rules to save their crews and the Federation. He tells Burnham that he is using the spores for travel, not as a weapon, but he has Landry bring that creature on board his ship. Can Burnham trust him; should we trust him? In his own words, “Universal law if for lackeys. Context is for Kings.”

This episode felt more coherent than the first two episodes. We are finally on the Discovery and with its crew, whom we will spend the first season with. It felt a little lighter with Cadet Tilly and Lt. Stamets. Her bubbly personality against Burnham’s darker and more reserved personality could be fun. Maybe she’ll touch on the more human parts of Burnham’s personality. I get the feeling that Burnham and Stamets will become great frenemy’s; they will develop a grudging respect for each other and enjoy sniping at each other. It will be interesting seeing Burnham regain the respect of Commander Saru. He always thought she was a great officer, but for good reasons he sees her as dangerous. He can’t help but think she could be trouble. He might be right. It was nice having a space creature chasing Burnham, it was a nice change from “dark and gritty and real”. They are in space; the adventures should be fun and fantastical.

There are theories online that the Discovery could be a Section 31 ship. If you didn’t watch Deep Space 9 or Enterprise, you might not know what Section 31 is. Here is an article that summarizes it. You can see Section 31 explained to Dr. Bashir on Deep Space 9. It would explain a lot about Lorca and the ship, and takes this series in a direction the other shows didn’t take.

Grade: A-










Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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