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Star Trek: Discovery – Lethe Review

"Another half-baked episode that doesn't quite get it done"

I’ll admit that after six episodes, I’m starting to get frustrated with Star Trek: Discovery. Each episode has solid moments, with great character development and crackling plot, making me think the show has turned a corner. Then the bottom drops out late in the episode, almost always when dealing with Captain Lorca’s arc. And that’s a major red flag in a series that could be something special.

Week after week of the show taking a step forward and then running back half a mile is incredibly disappointing. I want to come into one of these reviews gushing about how the series has finally hit that watershed moment where I can recommend everyone snag a subscription to CBS All Access to join in the fun. But we aren’t there yet. And I’m starting to worry the show isn’t ever going to get there. With the series renewed for a full second season, I suppose there’s more time to work on the kinks. I just wish it could get there sooner. Now, onto the spoilers.

“Lethe” — Episode 106 — Pictured (l-r): Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca; Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Remember how I mentioned last week that I was really worried about Lorca? Well, kudos to the show for addressing his rather obvious PTSD and refusal to get any help for it (something that I suspect will be mirrored with Ash Tyler down the line- although I suspect he will be willing to get some help). While I understand the show doesn’t want Lorca relieved of duty, man, are they missing a chance to give us reasons to care about Lorca as a character. As it stands, I’m pretty heavily on Team Admiral Cornwell. The fact that Lorca’s decision not to go after her was more due to her (smart and correct) decision to relieve him of duty just makes me distrust and hate the character. What a selfish, dangerous jerk. No amount of protecting Burnham and Tyler can change how far Lorca has fallen in my estimations.

And, while we’re talking about Cornwell, boy does Discovery have a problem with how it’s treating its ranking female officers. I get killing off Security Chief Landry to make room for Tyler (although I still don’t like it, and it’s more blood on Lorca’s hands). And yeah, killing Georgiou gives Burnham her hero arc starting point (although, I would much rather have Michelle Yeoh around than Lorca). But if the show had opted to have Sarek captured, think of the really fun arc that could have inspired. Vulcans and Starfleet being forced to work together, whilst the logic fanatics worked to undermine the alliance (major bonus: less Klingons, more Vulcans). Sure, we know Sarek would survive, but exploring the Vulcan-Starfleet relationship would have been way more interesting than sticking an Admiral in the clutches of the Klingons, likely to be tortured, all to protect Lorca.

The only way this arc plays out in a satisfying manner is if Lorca sacrifices himself in some manner to save Cornwell. Because I don’t want Discovery to swoop in and save the day, leading to Starfleet keeping him in his post as a result (which would be disappointing on a number of levels, most crucially that it cheapens the PTSD subplot the series seems to be diving into head first). Now, if Cornwell’s captivity leads to her death, I could see it finally breaking Lorca and forcing him to get help, which would be some sort of positive outcome, albeit at the expense of another interesting character. But I can’t help but think the show is setting up Lorca to make a major sacrifice to “make up” for his refusal to treat his PTSD. I understand that many people with PTSD don’t seek out help, but how is there not a counselor on this ship? Even a science vessel should have one- especially a science vessel that is pushing its crew to develop complex new technology at a breakneck pace. People have to be burning out from that.

Oh well. On the plus side, I really enjoyed the Sarek-Burnham story arc. While I’ve liked the Burnham character, getting a chance to see her human side was just the piece of the puzzle that was missing. Sonequa Martin-Green has done well shielding Burnham’s emotions, but without them, she has seemed unduly stiff. This was a great character building episode for a character we need to learn more about and really root for. I’m glad we were given the chance to see what makes her tick, and how one failure on the part of Sarek sent her down the path that has led her to where she is. Perhaps if she wasn’t so focused on proving herself to make up for her belief that she disappointed Sarek Georgiou would still be alive. All-in-all, a great arc.

Final Thoughts:

— I’m really enjoying the addition of Shazad Latif’s Ash Tyler. I’m sure a breakdown is coming at some point, but he’s injected a nice bit go levity and humanity to the show. Latif is charming without being overbearing and smarmy- a difficult line to walk.

— Tilly continues to be a delight. And her Odd Couple friendship with Burnham is just great.

— That early-model Holodeck was pretty sweet.

— Going back to Lorca’s PTSD/gaming the system and getting put back on active duty. If this plot point was the writers touching on the systemic issue of military personnel being put back in the field despite evidence that all is not well, then I can really get on board with this (particularly if this becomes a much bigger element). But Cornwell’s own disgust at Lorca putting Tyler back on duty despite his seven months of torture leads me to think they might not be going in that direction (also, can’t an Admiral pull rank and get Tyler off the ship for some help dealing with what he just went through, or is the war situation so dire that it doesn’t matter and every body counts?). I do have to say, however, if this isn’t a look at the systemic issue of PTSD/failure to get troops the help they need, Starfleet Medical really needs to amp up its protocols for figuring out who’s faking their answers. I spoke to a real-life mental health counselor who told me she would have immediately been suspicious of someone who gave all the right answers after dealing with what Lorca dealt with- but depending on the organization, it is possible he would have been pressed back into duty despite warning signs.

— Ok, so the Klingons. There’s Voq, who is stuck on the dead Shenzhou vessel. And there’s Kol, who took over Voq’s ship and alliances. And he’s slowly getting the other Houses on board with his plan. I think that’s what’s happening. I’m still not 100% sure exactly why they are continuing the war beyond a general desire to kill off Starfleet and unite the Klingons. Let me know if you know what’s really happening here.

Rating
7.5
Pros
  • Ash Tyler is a great addition
  • Tilly-Burnham friendship is great
Cons
  • Lorca is just a garbage person
  • The capture of the Admiral was a lazy plot point

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About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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