The latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, called “Lethe” was a comparatively quiet episode for the series that allowed some breathing room for self-reflection and character development. It’s safe to say that, at this point, I’m a big fan of the series. I’m not arguing that it’s perfect, but it’s telling a compelling story with intriguing characters that I’m eager to know more about. I also appreciate how the Discovery crew is starting to function more like the teams we know from previous incarnations of Star Trek. They may have had a rocky start, but they’re becoming a unit that trusts and depends on one another.
While I imagine there will continue to be arguments among the Discovery crew (Captain Lorca isn’t exactly the paragon of virtue that inspires a crew to do their best), I’m starting to wonder where the real conflict will lie. The producers warned us that the show would throw out Gene Roddenberry’s decades-old rule that prohibited conflict among the main crew. I’m starting to wonder if that was a bit of misdirection, and in fact, the Discovery crew will band together against both the Klingons and Starfleet. That’s not to say I don’t think there still will be inter-crew conflict, but I wonder if Lorca’s mentality will lead to a bit of a cold war with Starfleet.
Good and Bad
James Frain returned in “Lethe” as Sarek, which was great to see. I’ll admit that when Frain was first cast, I was surprised. Sarek is one of my favorite characters throughout the franchise (read A. C. Crispin’s Sarek if you want to know why), and while I’m familiar with Frain’s work, I didn't originally envision him in the role. I’m thrilled to be wrong. He conveys just the right amount of arrogance, but there’s also enough compassion there to where he’s not detestable.
Michael had some personal demons to confront in this episode. I love this exploration of her Vulcan culture conflicting with her human heritage. She made some difficult discoveries, but it seems as though they brought her to a place of peace, soothing some of her internal conflict. Most importantly, she realized that while Sarek is a father to her, he can’t be what she needs. After all, he chose his son over her, and she can’t really blame him for that decision. We also got to see our first glimpse of Amanda Grayson, played by Mia Kirshner. She was an advocate for Michael and truly a mother to her. I hope that this relationship is explored further in the series.
The fact that Sarek has seen some blowback personally and professionally because of his closeness to humans and his endeavors to bring the two groups closer together is interesting. It’s been hinted at multiple times throughout the series and movies, especially in the first Kelvinverse film, but we’re getting to see the extent to which he suffered as a result of his advocacy. Did Sarek make perfect decisions? Certainly not, but it makes him much more sympathetic understanding just a bit of what he’s gone through.
There’s a lot to unpack about Captain Lorca in “Lethe” as well. First of all, it’s clear that he is ruthless. He will say or do anything to keep his ship. I’m not saying he was responsible for Admiral Cornwell’s capture by the Klingons, but I imagine his feelings are very mixed — especially considering he didn’t insist on going after her.
But we also got to see a side to Lorca that we’ve never seen before. As I mentioned, Lorca isn’t a captain who will inspire people to do their best through his virtue and honor. But he does have the capacity to earn loyalty, and we saw him earn Michael’s — or at least, make some significant progress down that path — in this episode. Of course there’s a selfish motive there: He needs people to be at their best. If Michael is distracted by thoughts of how she could have saved Sarek and her captain prevented her from doing so, she’s not going to be at her best. But it’s also a great way to look out for your crew and earn their loyalty.
Things to Ponder
What exactly happened to Michael Burnham’s parents? In the first episode of the series, Captain Georgiou accused Michael of acting based on personal feelings because her parents had been killed in a Klingon attack on the Vulcan Academy. In “Lethe,” Burnham revealed that a Vulcan fringe group (“logic extremists”) were responsible for the attack that left her dead for three minutes. Is it possible the Vulcans lied on official reports about the tragedy, to hide their own people’s responsibility? Is it possible that I’m just confused and we’re discussing two different attacks here? Either way, the introduction of this Vulcan logic extremist group certainly has interesting potential.
Let’s talk about Lt. Ash Tyler. There’s a lot we don’t know about this character, and this episode saw him taking his place as Discovery’s chief of security. I have quite a few theories about him. I’m pretty sure he’s some sort of spy (though I hope he’s not because honestly, I do love the character.) I’m going to do some theorizing below, and so I’m putting a spoiler warning here because if I’m right, this is a pretty explosive revelation. If you’re bowing out now, thanks for sticking around for the recap!
Latif was originally cast as a Klingon in the show — I’ve been following him specifically because I was thrilled at the prospect of a South Asian cast member of the series. Then they switched his role to Ash Tyler. Meanwhile, there is one Klingon, the albino Voq, who seems shrouded in mystery. The actor who is playing him hasn’t appeared in any promotional material. Latif’s role was also kept well under wraps — all we knew was that he’d be playing a prisoner, even as recently as the NYCC panel. My thought was, “What if Latif is actually playing Voq as well?” This seemed pretty far-fetched, but I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind
But then Gavia Baker-Whitelaw over at The Daily Dot actually hammered out a theory along these lines that made a lot of sense — that Latif is actually a surgically altered Voq — with some evidence to back it up. It’s not often that I actually start to believe my own theories (usually they’re too strange to ever occur, but I have fun coming up with them), but now I’m convinced this is the case.