Michael Burnham begins her journey of discovery…
This review contains spoilers.
Starring: Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman
Series created by: Bryan Fuller & Alex Kurtzman (based on Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry)
Written by: Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts & Craig Sweeny (story by Bryan Fuller, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts) / Episode directed by: Akiva Goldsman
What’s it about?
Lost and without purpose, disgraced Starfleet Officer Michael Burnham finds herself aboard the U.S.S. Discovery – commanded by the mysterious Captain Lorca…
After its two-part prologue, the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery feels like a proper beginning as we’re introduced to the titular U.S.S. Discovery (looking more impressive than it did in that infamous first teaser) and her crew, led by the mysterious Captain Gabriel Lorca – played by Harry Potter’s Jason Isaacs.
Picking up six months after being handed a life sentence for her mutinous actions aboard the Shenzhou, which led to the break out of war with the Klingons, we see a dejected Michael Burnham living without purpose and any hope for the future. Rescued from an ill-fated prison transfer, Burnham finds herself aboard the U.S.S. Discovery, a Starfleet science vessel harbouring secrets and populated by a crew uncertain and resentful of Starfleet’s shift from a mission of peace and, well, discovery, to being the first line of defence in an interstellar war.
Sonequa Martin-Green provides another strong turn in the role of series lead as Burnham grapples with feelings of remorse and guilt, accentuated in some bittersweet exchanges with an old face: former shipmate Lt. Saru (Doug Jones), now serving as Discovery’s First Officer and who remains puzzled by Burnham’s betrayal. Luckily there’s some much needed levity facilitated by Mary Wiseman’s Cadet Tilly, whose wide-eyed enthusiasm with touches of self-doubt – and one or two neuroses – brings a breath of fresh air to proceedings and perhaps a friend for Burnham in an otherwise hostile situation.
Anthony Rapp also makes a memorable first impression as Lt. Paul Stamets, encapsulating the frustrations of a crew being conscripted for a purpose they weren’t meant for, Burnham becoming the focus of these misgivings. As for the enigmatic Captain Lorca, Jason Isaacs is excellent in the role skilfully balancing the strength and conviction of leadership with a good dose of ambiguity to help paint a character we don’t yet know whether or not to trust, his secret project concerning strange energy producing spores only adding to the intrigue.
“Context for Kings” also throws in a measure of action and a dash of horror as Burnham, Tilly and Stamets join an away mission to a stricken sister ship whose crew (and a Klingon boarding party) have fallen victim to a blood thirsty alien creature. It’s a little reminiscent of the third season Enterprise episode “Impulse” but an entertaining and tense addition to the story non-the-less, allowing Sonequa Martin-Green to further demonstrate her capabilities.
With the backdrop of war and the evident character conflict, Discovery continues to follow a darker path than the more optimistic iterations of Star Trek but that makes it no less appealing. As the episode’s title suggests it’s all about context and the unfolding drama is affording great opportunities for character building. There’s still some way to go as the writers and actors find their footing and hopefully the bleak situation the characters currently face will galvanise the crew and, as the show evolves, build the kind of relationships we’ve enjoyed in previous Star Trek series.
Lorca’s belief that Burnham has the ability to regain all she has lost points to a story of redemption and a re-discovery of those core values of the Federation that she still claims to hold dear. The moral dilemmas laced into Star Trek: Discovery, coupled with the mysteries posed by and surrounding Discovery’s Commanding Officer – as well as the gentle unfolding of the narrative – infuses this newest Trek with intrigue and that ‘must watch’ quality that any good television series provides.
The bottom line: Star Trek: Discovery continues to show promise as the introduction of the Discovery and her crew heightens the show’s appeal.
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery (as well as post-show discussion After Trek) can be seen weekly via subscription services Netflix (worldwide) and CBS All Access (U.S. only).