I was lucky enough to attend New York Comic Con this past weekend, and was even luckier to attend the Star Trek: Discovery panel. Major takeaways: speaking Klingon is NO JOKE. There is a Klingon expert on set and Mary Chieffo, the actress that plays L’Rell, spoke some Klingon for us from the stage. In addition, Jason Isaacs hopes at least one person likes Captain Lorca, spore travel technology is theoretically possible, moderator and NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison’s love of Star Trek is obvious, and she was the only one in attendance that had actually been to space. The fourth episode of Discovery is entitled “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” and I can only assume Isaacs hopes some people like his butcher, because it is easier to sympathize with the lamb.
1. Burnham and the creature from the Glenn
The link between the mutineer and the mysterious creature can’t be ignored. The episode opens with Burnham replicating herself a uniform that comes with no rank and no official position within Starfleet. She is called to the bridge and when she arrives Captain Lorca is training his bridge crew for battle, Kobayashi Maru style. They fail the test; he’s not pleased. When Lorca takes Burnham down, I assume it’s down for some reason, to his weapons room, he tells her, “I study war.” He’s an old school, battle ready soldier and captain. This becomes even more apparent when he tells Burnham he wants her to study the creature: its claws, its ability to be unharmed by phasers. He wants to weaponize another living being. He does not care about it beyond how it can help him dominate in a war with the Klingons. Burnham asks him, “Why would you keep something so dangerous on your own ship?” Hmmm. This sounds like someone else we know. The connection between her own situation and the situation the creature finds itself in is strong. She’s a mutineer that got her captain killed. She’s supposed to be in prison, not gallivanting around a Starfleet ship, but Lorca thinks she’s something he can weaponize to help him dominate in a war with the Klingons. This is confirmed by soon to be dead Commander Landry when she tells Burnham that Lorca isn’t interested in who she is, only in what she can do for him. Landry suffers a quick death at the hands (tentacles?) of the creature after attempting to cut off one of its claws. Before Landry meets her untimely death, Burnham tells her that she incorrectly judges the creature by its appearance and one single incident from its past. Burnham states that the creature can only be what it is, not what you want it to be. This sounds a lot like a former First Officer we’ve been following around throughout the story of Discovery.
2. Rescue mission
The dilithium mining colony of Corvan II comes under Klingon attack during this episode. Captain Lorca wants Stamets to make the jump to Corvan II using spore technology. Stamets is rightfully concerned about making a long jump, but agrees, and Discovery almost winds up toasted in a star. Stamets is injured during the jump and refuses to continue helping Lorca. He’s a scientist, not a warrior; he says he’s leaving with all of his research. Lorca does what it appears Lorca does best and asks Stamets if he wants to be on the right or wrong side of history. Ouch. Lorca then plays – ship wide – the last received transmission from Corvan II, which is populated by families: women, men, children, mothers, and fathers. We’ve seen Captain Lorca manipulate his crew with his words and willful demands, but here we see him willingly emotionally manipulating his crew into compliance in order to get his way, and presumably, to win the battle.
3. The creature
Burnham uses her former Shenzhou shipmate, Lieutenant Commander Saru, to gauge how dangerous the creature truly is to other living beings. Saru’s threat ganglia – alright, I’ll deal with the fact that this is a thing – is not activated when in close proximity to the creature. This supports Burnham’s theory that it only attacks in self defense. We find out the creature functions in a symbiotic relationship with the spores the Glenn and the Discovery use to make their jumps. The creature was just trying to find his spore buddies so it could communicate with them. Burnham and Stamets work together and find out that the creature can help navigate during the spore jumps and hook it up to the drive to successfully jump to Corvan II. The Discovery defeats the Klingons and saves the remaining inhabitants of the mining colony. Which takes us to….Continued below
4. What it means to be human
We know Burnham is a human raised by Vulcans. When she arrived in Starfleet she appeared to be a Vulcan steered by logic. The Burnham we see now is a human being steered by her emotions. She sees that the creature is hurting when they hook it up to the drive on Discovery; it looks as if it is crying. When Burnham visits the creature, after Lorca uses it to navigate the ship to Corvan II, she is upset by the creature’s sadness and obvious reluctance to see her, despite the fact that she brought it its spore friends to hang out with. I spend each and every school year discussing what it means to be human with my high school students. Each and every year my students, teenagers, decide morality is a major part of what makes us human. The ability to see right from wrong. It is logical to use the creature to navigate, but Burnham’s morality, or humanity, helps her to see it is wrong. At the conclusion of the episode, we see Burnham finally able to open the container she receives from Captain Georgiou. Mary Wiseman is able to convince Burnham to do so because Burnham is “not afraid of anything.” Mary is growing on me. A bit. Georgiou’s container plays a video in which she tells Burnham that she’s left her, her own most beloved possession that she used to investigate the mysteries of the universe. Georgiou goes on to tell Burnham that she is as proud of her as she would be of her own daughter; she then proceeds to advise her to keep her eyes and heart open while “taking care of those in your care.” The creature needs care. Mary needs care. Saru needs care. Is war the answer as Lorca wants it to be? It’s obvious his butcher’s knife does not care for the lamb’s cry. Or is exploration and care and compassion for other life forms encountered along the journey the answer? The most beloved possession Georgiou left Burnham was her telescope – a means to investigate and explore the universe. Discovery’s true purpose.
I love that the Klingons speak only Klingon. It adds to their characterization and sets them apart from the Federation characters. It also adds to their ardent desire to maintain racial purity. That being said, in this episode I found the Klingons speaking Klingon dragging the action to a halt. There’s a chance I was just tired when I watched this episode. I’ll keep an open mind for episode 5. The Klingon ship, led by Voq after T’Kuvma’s death, is forced to scavenge dilithium from the Shenzhou in order to survive. While Voq and L’Rell are gone from their ship, Kol convinces Voq’s crew to mutiny. Lots of mutiny in the world of Discovery. It’s not too difficult. The Klingons are starving and stranded in space. Voq is transported aboard the Shenzhou and is left to die. Earlier, while on the Shenzhou, it seemed there was some sexual tension between Voq and L’Rell. It’s difficult to tell with all that darn makeup on their faces, but I’m pretty sure it was there. L’Rell does secretly transport to the Shenzhou to tell Voq they can win the war together. It sounds like there will be sacrifice, as there always is in Klingon culture, but I am interested to see where this sacrifice will take these Klingons.