With great trepidation, I sat down to watch Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 15.
It’s been a wild season where the style, the motivations, and even the foundational ethos of Star Trek have been reframed and rebooted.
Our central character, Michael Burnham, begins as the model Starfleet officer — overcoming the tragedy of her parents’ death, shining as a student on Vulcan, trained in Starfleet by the exemplar of tolerance and wisdom, Philippa Georgiou — then suddenly falls from grace to become Starfleet’s First Mutineer.
And so, our perspective character on-board the Discovery is decentralized. We don’t get to see the view from the Captain’s Chair (which might’ve been our first hint that something was off about Lorca).
Instead, we join the ship as the ultimate persona non grata, rankless and shouldering the blame for the entire war.
Unlike any Star Trek series that has come before, Discovery played the long game, spinning a season-long narrative that examined the changing relationships aboard the ship in depth while bearing witness to the intricacies of a war that could not end with anything less than total annihilation.
It was a darker take on the world of Trek. A serious serial that chose the WTH-route on more than one occasion.
And they had a LOT of ground to cover in a short hour.
They had to conclude the war, resolve the Georgiou issue, reconcile Burnham’s guilt over the war, and bring closure to the Tyler situation.
Sheesh. Is that all?
Yeah, so I can probably be forgiven for worrying that this was going to be incredibly terrible.
I had visions of a time-traveling reset, or a sudden Prime Universe Lorca swinging through with a hackneyed explanation of his survival to save the day, or maybe a Kelpian uprising?
Thankfully, none of that happened, and it didn’t suck.
It wasn’t exactly satisfying either.
Let’s look at the war first. The episode opens with the Klingons reporting that the target (Earth) has been acquired. The entirety of 24 separate fleets is sitting around Earth waiting (?) to see which Klingon House will destroy more and fastest.
Out on Qo’noS, the plan is, ostensibly, for the Discovery away team to use a drone to map the surface so that they can strategically take out all the military and political bases.
Of course, Mirror-Georgiou is lying, and they’re actually going to commit genocide by hydro-bombing the planet.
There’s a brilliance to the writing here. Bookending the episode with Burnham’s final address to Starfleet is elegant, but it’s Emperor Georgiou’s assessment of Burnham’s strategic shortcomings highlighting the consistency in her character.
You instigate valiantly and then second-guess.
As introduced on Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 1, Burnham has no qualms about jumping into conflicts with unconventional, often inadvisable tactics. At the Battle of the Binary Stars, it costs her rank, her captain, and her freedom.
Here, she throws in with the Terran Emperor and then balks when the truth of the plan is revealed.
Fortunately, this time, she’s on the side of the angels and has the whole bridge staff step up behind her and do the “I am Spartacus”/”Oh Captain, my Captain”/”This is for Rudy, Coach” thing when she faces down the holographic Cornwell over the importance of principles versus survival.
A year ago, I stood alone. I believed that our survival was more important than our principles. I was wrong. Do we need a mutiny today to prove who we are?
So, with one impassioned speech, she convinces Cornwell and Command to back down on genocide and authorize her to renegotiate with Emperor Georgiou.
Not only that, but she puts L’Rell (good thing they kept her around, eh?) in control of a bomb that could blow up Qo’noS and then advises her to go and unify the Klingons. Wow, it was just that simple.
I love that just by waving the hydro-bomb detonator at the Klingon Houses leaders, L’Rell was able to convince them she had enough power to have them retreat from Earth and lay down their weapons.
Honestly, if even one of them called her bluff, was she actually going to set it off?
In any case, the war’s done. Lots of people dead, but we stuck to our morals, so … yay!
The only way to defeat fear is to tell it ‘No’. No, we will not take shortcuts on the path to righteousness. No, we will not break the rules that protect us from our basest instincts. No, we will not allow desperation to destroy moral authority.
Moving on, I’d like to state for the record that I would happily watch a series about the adventures of Emperor Georgiou in the Prime Universe.
Michelle Yeoh owns every scene she’s in and, whether it’s her delivery or the writing for the character, she gets the BEST lines.
The tension between her and Saru was a beautiful thing to behold. As her Number One, he’s there to support her orders. As a Kelpian, he’s cognizant that she sees him as food.
Emperor Georgiou: What’s wrong? Are you scared, Number One? Where I’m from, there’s a saying,’Scared Kelpian makes for tough Kelpian.’ Have you gotten tough since we served together on the Shenzhou, Mr. Saru?
Saru: Affirmative, Captain. Very tough. So much so that many find me simply unpalatable.
I am just a little weirded out that the crew just accepted that the long-thought-dead Georgiou was in command of Discovery, especially since many of the officers (like Detmers) were at the Battle of the Binary Stars where she was killed.
The Emperor’s tactics on Qo’noS really demonstrated some of the similarities to Lorca. The fact the Orion guy was willing to waive his fee is subtly impressive on many levels.
She’s obviously a woman of talents. And even more opportunism.
Her hasty little exit leaves the door open for her return in Season 2. Perhaps after a bit of Mudd-slinging, hmm?
And what’s so bad about desperation?
In any case, on we go to Burnham’s guilt over the war. On multiple occasions, she has asserted that she started the war and, therefore, she must end it.
With her “L’Rell Solution” (see above), she successfully ends hostilities with the Klingons.
More importantly to her, she did it while upholding the principles of Starfleet.
It’s the ideal ending to her story. Her record is expunged, and she’s granted a full pardon. Amanda and Sarek witness her receiving the medal of honor, and her full rank is restored.
On the eve of battle, on a cold and windless night, an old general turned to a young soldier. ‘Tomorrow,’ said the master,’you will know Fear.’ The young soldier who had not yet experienced the agony of war looked at the general with quizzical eyes. ‘How will I know Fear if I do not know what it looks like?’ The general replied,’You will know Fear because it speaks very fast and it speaks very loud…’ ‘If that is how Fear acts, recognizing it is easy.’ But as the young soldier considered the general’s advice, she asked the question facing us now,’Once I know Fear, how do I defeat it?’
Even her address to Starfleet smacks of “happily ever after” as it visually echoes her speech to the panel that court-martialed her at the end of Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 2.
From my youth on Vulcan, I was raised to believe that service was my purpose. And I carried that conviction to Star Fleet. I dreamed of a day when I would command my own vessel and further the noble objectives of this great institution. My dream is over. The only ship I know in ruins. My crew… gone. My captain, my friend. I wanted to protect them from war, from the enemy. And we are at war and I am the enemy.
Finally, Tyler. Yeah, okay, I’m okay with him not going out in a blaze of glory.
I still would’ve preferred that they just let him die in space but serving his penance as L’Rell’s Man Friday works too.
Of course, as with Georgiou, this leaves the door open for him to show up next season. Urgh.
Ultimately, as an episode, there were moments of inarguable excellence.
I appreciated the blips of humor (mostly hung on Tilly, but that’s her thing).
Culber’s posthumous medal was endearing, and Amanda’s chat with Burnham was a powerful moment of insight for her.
However, as a finale, the closures felt rushed and ridiculously simple.
With as complex a build-up as they had created, there was little satisfaction to be found in the big-ticket items such as the Klingon War and the spore drive.
Of course, what they were rushing towards was the tantalizing final moments where the Discovery responds to a distress signal from the iconic Starship Enterprise.
This annoyed me greatly because I really wanted to see who the new captain of the Discovery would be. #LiveLongAndFrustrated
You can always watch Star Trek: Discovery online and relive some of those moments of crazy because, yeah, they actually happened.
What’s your final verdict?
Is this new Trek your cup of tea, Earl Grey, hot? Or have they lost you in their new-fangled lore? What was your highlight? Lowlight?
What does the appearance of the Enterprise mean for Burnham and Saru? What exactly does Stamets get to do now that he’s no longer the spore drive interface?
Does Tilly have to leave the crew to do her Command Training? Please?
Lastly, what’s your opinion on this as a finale? Did it leave you wanting more? I’m looking forward to some fabulous feedback!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.