Star Trek: Discovery – Vaulting Ambition Review
"An episode to try your patience"
Ok. While the last two episodes have had enough good to justify me continuing to see if Star Trek: Discovery
can find its way and move forward into the upper echelons of Trek
lore, "Vaulting Ambition" was just not great, Bob. We've made it through a jump to a Mirror Universe. We've survived the really poorly executed betrayal of a character we hadn't had enough time to care about. But the calculated ridiculousness of this episode might just be enough for me to pack it up and walk away. Because as awesome as it was to see Michelle Yeoh tear it up as an evil badass, that twist was just too much. Onward into the realm of spoilers . . .
Since it made it much easier to organize my thoughts, I'm going to break the episode up by its story arcs, starting with . . .
Stamets and Culber's Final Conversation
First off, major kudos to Anthony Rapp (who pulled double duty) and Wilson Cruz. Considering how little the series gave us of Stamets and Culber's relationship, both actors managed to imbue the final conversation between the two characters with enough emotional heft to make it hit home. But, no matter how many interviews from writers, producers, and actors claim this wasn't Bury Your Gays/Fridging, boy, was it EXACTLY that. And this scene, meant to show us one last time how important Culber was to the development of Stamets (and to give him that last boost to get him out of the coma), is pretty much the definition of a Bury Your Gays death: killing a woefully underdeveloped gay character to allow another character to reach his/her potential. I'm so incredibly disappointed that something like this went down on this show, particularly after the producers spent so much time touting the groundbreaking relationship between the duo. I can't help but wonder exactly would have happened had Bryan Fuller still been the showrunner for the series.
Burnham and Georgiou Meet Again
I loved seeing Michelle Yeoh get a crack at playing a villain, so I didn't mind the ridiculous plotting within this particular arc as much as others in the episode. But still, none of the interactions really felt organic. Yes, it's hard for Burnham to forget about her mentor and go along with this version of Georgiou. But it's strange to me that both women would be so quick to trust each other- particularly Georgiou, who has proven throughout the episode that she doesn't suffer fools. That being said, I'd love a chance to see a series about this Mirror Universe, and what exactly went on that led to the Federation's downfall and the rise of the Empire. It would make a hell of a story. And it would certainly be more interesting than what we've gotten so far.
Yeah, this arc is so incredibly stupid and unnecessary that I'm not even going to get into the reasons why. And it only became more idiotic in light of the final twist of the episode . . .
Lorca is Really From the Mirror Universe
Nope. Just nope. The only reason I can find for this ridiculous twist (which happened with a mere three episodes remaining in the season, natch) is that the show's writers were really into the puzzle box insanity of Westworld
and decided that the world of Star Trek could do with some of that. I reviewed Westworld
for this site, and without making you read all my reviews, I wasn't a fan of the constant need to utilize twists and turns at the expense of strong character development. And that's what we have here.
Sure, it explains a lot of what bugged me about Lorca (he's a shitty captain with no regard for his crew's safety), but this is the easy way out of creating a character who didn't fit the Trek captain's mold. I would have loved it if we were just given a guy with severe PTSD, who needed to learn his limits before losing his command to get the help he needs (and man, would that have been a powerful story arc). I was warming up to this Lorca. And now we find out that everything we knew was a lie. That everything Burnham has struggled to accomplish throughout the season in building her reputation and getting a new mentor in Lorca was a waste.
But, most importantly, the audience learned that, once again, we cannot trust the characters to be who they say they are. And that's an incredibly dangerous precedent to set. If I don't trust the characters, I can't care about them. I can't empathize with them. I don't care if they live or die. Right now, I'd be thrilled to see Tyler die. I'd love to see Lorca get executed. That's weeks of good will between the writers and audience wasted. I no longer care about those two characters (really, we hadn't spent nearly enough time with Tyler to actually start caring about him, so that's just a complete misstep on the part of the writers from the get-go). If we don't trust the characters, we don't trust the writers. Now, everything they show us is suspect. You get to have one betrayal twist. You don't get to have two in the span of two weeks.
The only real way to salvage this mess is to use the series blueprint Bryan Fuller had wanted to back when he was in charge of things: each season is a new crew, a new ship, a new time period. I could see this being a disappointing 15-episode contained season. But I can't how we could possibly move forward with these same characters in season two.