Star Trek: Discovery Review by John Keegan

Star Trek: Discovery 1.06: Lethe

Star Trek: Discovery 1.06: Lethe

Written By:
Joe Menosky and Ted Sullivan
Directed By:
Douglas Aarniokoski

One of the character beats that remained rather hard to fathom thus far has been Burnham’s relationship to Sarek.  While it is explained for the most part in the series premiere, there are still a number of open questions regarding the depth of the relationship between “father” and “daughter”.  Not to mention, of course, the relationship therefore to Spock, which is given a bit more indirect explanation in this episode.

 


 

I continue to feel as though this might have been better off as a post-Voyager series, free of certain connections to continuity that only seem to muddy the waters unnecessarily.  But dwelling on that at this stage is hardly worth the effort; novels and other ancillary materials will serve to smooth over the edges as best as possible.  With so much going a bit wrong in terms of Lorca and the overall mission of the Discovery, it’s not necessarily difficult to see that this might be some future era’s representation of the conspiracy theory or tall tale about a vessel upon which the ideals of Starfleet and the Federation itself were tested.

 

With Sarek and his relationship to Burnham taking center stage, one of the true weaknesses of the new series is fully exposed.  I’ve had my concerns with Sarek’s characterization previously, but the problems with casting are manifest throughout the episode.  James Frain has been quite good in so many other roles throughout genre television, but he simply cannot stop from emoting like crazy as Sarek.  And given the legacy of Mark Lenard and Vulcan logic, his rather open smiles and clear emotions written on his face are antithetical to what Sarek would do in these situations.

 


 

Had Burnham’s Vulcan “father” been a less prominent character from Trek lore, perhaps even a highly ranked aide to Sarek or something similar, perhaps it would have worked better.  But Sarek is a character with actual expectations attached to the name.  It’s a case of subtraction through addition, not unlike the unnecessary detail of having Sybok be Spock’s half-brother in The Final Frontier.  It’s just not necessary when there are more intriguing ways to forge connections between characters, even entirely new ones, without making them long-lost relatives of some kind.

 

At least the situation with Sarek provides Burnham with some perspective on her youth and career, and perhaps allows her to accept her current circumstance and fellow crew members with a bit more grace.  Certainly she stops trying to remake Tilly in her own image, and there’s even something of a spark between her and Ash that could be very interesting in the future.  Both of them are crew members that have, essentially, been drafted onto Lorca’s crew under strange and unusual circumstances.

 


 

And it’s about time that someone really took a close look at what is going on in Lorca’s head.  Instead of humanizing him, as one is somewhat programmed to expect by television dramas over the decades, sleeping with Admiral Cornwell turns into something a bit darker.  Frankly, there’s no surprise that Lorca is out of his mind, as he’s been giving off massive signals to that effect since his introduction.  A part of me wondered if Lorca himself might have set up Cornwell to be taken hostage; thankfully, the writers haven’t made him that crazy quite yet.

 

I want to like Star Trek Discovery; I think there is a lot of potential still left untapped in the story and in the characters.  But it feels like the writers are trying so hard to diverge from the traditional Trek mold that they are defining themselves more by what they are not than by what they actually are.  That’s a dangerous space to be operating within, and the writers haven’t quite found the sweet spot within that tension.


Our Grade:
B-
The Good:
  • It’s good to get more clarity on the Burnham/Sarek connection
  • Lorca’s insanity may be predictable, but it’s actually compelling to watch
The Bad:
  • I don’t remember Sarek smiling and wincing quite so blatantly before

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

Star Trek: Discovery by - 10/23/2017 1:32 PM150 views

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