As world events increasingly resemble the plot of Dr. Strangelove (only funnier) the world might seem like a harsh place right now. But there is always kindness and hope and there is always Star Trek. This is my recap of episode eleven of Star Trek Discovery, Vaulting Ambition.
This is the first TV Trek since 2005 and with season 2 already confirmed we have a lot to look forward to, so dust off your restraining order, preventing you from getting within five miles of Patrick Stewart, and get ready to Boldly go once more.
Episode Twelve – Vaulting Ambition
This blog contains spoilers so if you haven’t watched episode twelve yet – What are you? A green-blooded hobgoblin? This review will definitely contain spoilers for episode twelve, so look away now, this is your last chance! Ready, the review is below the photo, so let’s go.
Damn it man! I’m a writer not a Kelpian Side Order
Following immediately on from the last episode Saru has decoded the data relating to the Defiant and it involves something called Interphasic space. Burnham and Lorca are on a shuttle on their way to the Imperial Palace (making sense of Stamets mutterings last week, “It’s in the Palace.”) They now need to find the original non-redacted records relating to the Defiant.
Burnham is anxious about coming face to face with evil Gheorghiu. Her greatest regret will literally face her once again.
“Haven’t you ever been afraid of ghosts?”
Stamets Sporeothearpy is going well, and according to Tilly his skin looks better, Saru is more pessimistic as he says he is in a coma. They need the intel from Burnham or for Stamets to come back. Otherwise all is lost.
We get an exciting glimpse into the forest where Stamets meets mirror Stamets, sporting a cool Terran uniform. The good news is mirror Stamets is just as snarky as his alternate version. Oh how I’ve missed his pre-spore sarcasm. Mirror Paul is also trapped in the mycenial network due to his own spore experiments. But there is something creepy in the woods and Stamets declares the enemy is here.
Meanwhile on board the Cruise Ship Terran, AKA the emperor’s palace ship, Burnham has to choose a Kelpian for sacrifice!? The emperor sends Lorca to the SOPS (Silo of Perpetual Shocks) and he seems oddly pleased about it. We get a surprise twist as Gheorghiu reveals that Burnham is her adopted daughter in the mirror universe.
Ty-Voq is thrashing about in sickbay and speaking Klingon and the medical team are struggling to contain him, Tyler briefly surfaces and asks about Burnham’s welfare and asks Saru to help him. It is a Trek version of the Exorcist and a very compelling narrative is beginning to surface around Tyler’s battle to survive.
Burnham is having a candlelit dinner with Mummy Gheorghiu and it turns out the Kelpian she was forced to select is on the menu, and those damned ganglia are mentioned again in a culinary scene right out of Hannibal Lector’s playbook.
Burnham plays it cool but the emperor suspects that she is lying and accuses her of collaborating with Lorca and sentences her to execution.
Stamets sees Dr Culber in the network and mirror Stamets has a nasty case of spore dermatitis.
Burnham reveals that she is from another universe and she uses this fact as a bargaining chip to save her life.
“What a quaint concept, parallel universes.”
Gheorghiu kills her entire council, apart from the roguishly handsome Lord Ealing, to keep this information secret but she already knows about the United Federation of Planets. She uses a glowing frisbee, described by Jonathan Frakes as “a minimalist odd-job,” to kill her courtiers.
Saru talks to L’Rell and she tells Saru the truth about Tyler but he tells her that they have now lost the war as they are in a mirror universe. Voq has given his soul for the cause and L’Rell won’t help him.We do find out that Tyler is a real person though, captured at the battle of the binary stars and combined with Voq.
Stamets chases around dark corridors looking for Hugh, he finds him and he explains that he is dead.
Burnham pleads for help from the emperor but evil Mom doesn’t want to help her promote the federations malignant ideas. The emperor is interested in the spore technology though so they agree an exchange, the information regarding the spore drive for their freedom.
Saru beams Tyler into L’Rell’s cell, in a brilliant display of tactical brinkmanship, and this breaks her resolve and she agrees to help him, saying that what has happened to him can be undone.
L’Rell uses “laser hand therapy” (totally a thing and not a plot device) to eradicate the Voq from Tyler and he she mourns him with a Klingon howl.
Lorca is confronted by a Terran soldier accused of killing his sister, he asks Lorca to say her name and he will let one of his mirror crewmates live. Of course Lorca cannot say the name because he claims he doesn’t know it.(Does this proove that this really is Prime Lorca, or is he playing us all still?)
In a beautiful scene exploring grief, the soul, and loss, Stamets talks to Culber and says he wants things to go back to how they were. He says OK and they proceed to have the following great dialogue. “How was your day?”, “Awful, my partner is dead and my life’s work is a joke.”
Even in this darkest moment they share a warmth that only the greatest intimacy can bring, there is humour and love. But this is what mirror Stamets warned against, the network’s version of a siren tempting brave sailors into the rocks, possibly trapping Stamets there forever. This concept reminded me of the Nexus, seen in Star Trek Generations, where Kirk and Picard are trapped in never ending loops of their happiest moments, neither dead nor truly alive.
Mirror Paul has corrupted the network and the whole network is in danger, which is bad for the whole universe. Culber tells Stamets to follow the music Paul, look for the clearing in the forest. He also tells him that he’s never really gone and it reminded me of McCoy telling Kirk that Spock isn’t really dead. Encouraged by his partner’s words both Stamets’s awake and return to their respective universes. Their spore supply though is already damaged.
Mirror Lorca was the emperor’s right hand man and she tells Burnham that Lorca was also Michael’s lover in the mirror universe. Well in fact she says she first viewed him as a father and then he groomed her, another theme bubbling under the surface during this first season, abuse both sexual and the abuse of power. A very topical conversation.
I wondered whether this made the soldier guy Burnham’s brother. But in fact Lorca has been playing us all along because as Burnham talks to the emperor we see in flashback Burnham piece together the evidence, that in fact Lorca is from the mirror universe. All this time he has been using Burnham to get back to his universe so he can kill the emperor.
The final piece of the puzzle is the emperor revealing that people from her universe are sensitive to light, like dear old Gabe Lorca, the L man really is an evil shit.
The episode ends with Lorca revealing he did know the soldier’s sister. “Her name’s Ava and I liked her, but you know how it is, something better came along.” He then stamps on the soldier killing him.
This is a monumental twist that I speculated on in my “Despite Yourself” review, “maybe Lorca is mirror Lorca turned good?” .
Well he certainly ain’t good but I really didn’t think it would happen like this. I genuinely hoped he was a complicated character who had a good side. I suppose time will tell whether the original Lorca is still about somewhere and I wonder when they were switched. Clearly evil Lorca has been with us all season as the light sensitivity was revealed in the first episode we meet him. I would certainly be sad if we don’t get more Jason Isaacs throughout this season and beyond.
Into the Nexus
The writers have assembled a twisting plot full of dark corridors and misdirection where no one is what they seem or even who they think they are. Every concern I have had about them not knowing where things are going has been met by answers and not always the answers I expected. This to me is the mark of great writing, I now fully trust the writers on this show.
The shows title is a reference to Macbeth and this episode is certainly full of ghosts. For all of us that have felt that Discovery is very un-federationy the Lorca reveal is vindication. I guess I can finally say goodbye to my SECTION 31 obsession.
The show continues to explore deeply themes of identity and loss of self and loss of comrades. I lost a friend this week – he was too young, and way too talented to not be here anymore. This episode and the idea of loss brought to mind a TWOK quote which seemed oddly poignant. So I will leave you with Captain Kirk as a tribute to all those who have lost someone close.
“It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before. A far better resting place that I go to than I have ever known.”
Rest in peace Ian, you once offered to help me write a Doctor Who blog, thanks mate.
So friends what did you think? Is Tyler back? Will we ever see the original Lorca? Join me in the Trek Talk forum if you want to duke it out.
John is a writer and clinically diagnosed Trekker. You can get the latest news about his published work at his website The World Outside the Window.