‘Lethe’ Leaves Us Wondering When Star Trek: Discovery Will Actually Discover Something

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Star Trek Discovery Lethe Sarek

I want so much to love you, Discovery, really, I do, but you’re not making it easy.

Last week’s episode was all kinds of epic. The week before that it was so bad I was banging my head on my desk.

This week… it was ‘meh’.

Lethe wasn’t a terrible outing for the franchise’s latest show baby, but it was nowhere near the quality we’ve seen this new series is capable of delivering. And really, given everything going on, it should have been.

Sarek returns.

Lorca finally gets called on his bullshit (by a woman he’s sleeping with no less).

Spock gets name-dropped and we discover the thing that caused the rift between him and his father is tangentially the same as that which caused issues between Sarek and Michael.

Michael gets to pull off a daring rescue and deal with her Daddy issues.

All the main characters got at least one scene and none of them annoyed me (Stamets was utterly delightful), and we got to see more of the not-suspicious-at-all Ash Tyler.

Who is just as pretty as he was last week.

There was some really good dialogue, and a lot of nice little scenes, building on existing relationships between the crew, and establishing some new dynamics, particularly between Ash and Michael.

If it wasn’t obvious last week that the two prettiest straight people on the show were bound to get together, it’s abundantly clear now they’ve met.

Even the Klingons managed to turn up without doing something embarrassing like eating the captain’s face.

No, I’m never letting that go.

Not that I enjoyed their presence, but at least it didn’t make me want to throw shoes at the TV.

So what was the problem with Lethe?

Like I said, it was ‘meh’.

Lethe: A Nice Nod To Mythology

For those of you who are unaware the title is taken from a river in Hades of the same name, which causes anyone who drinks from it to forget their past. As such, the term has passed into modern parlance as a word for forgetfulness, or oblivion.

But in this instance I think it’s being used in its Classical meaning, which was also ‘concealment’.

It’s a very apt title considering Sarek gets lost in the oblivion of a nebula that Discovery is unable to navigate without exploding. He’s close to death and skirting a whole different kind of oblivion, which dredges up a particularly difficult memory for both him and Michael, and reveals a truth his has been hiding from her for a very long time.

Meanwhile, Lorca has been concealing his unstable condition, the true extent of which is revealed this week by Admiral Cornwell, and Tyler is…well, Tyler.

He’s clearly concealing something. Exactly what that is remains to be seen, but if it transpires he’s actually a Klingon, I’m going to be very annoyed.

That’s just waaaaaay to obvious.

You’re smarter than that, Discovery, please don’t prove me wrong.

(Sidebar: Lethe was also a character in an episode of TOS who was incarcerated and then rehabilitated, only to become a therapist. Given the presence of Admiral ‘I’m also a therapist’ Cornwell, and the fact Tyler and Lorca just escaped a prison, I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t another purposeful nod.)

The Lack Of Discovery

The problem with this week’s episode, for me at least, was that it was severely lacking in anything distinct. Aside from two minutes at the end it was an episode of backstory and relationships.

It simultaneously lacked the hallmark of great Trek (discovering new stuff), while dwelling entirely too much on existing canon characters (Sarek), rehashing very old ground (the relationship between Michael and Sarek mirrors that between Sarek and Spock), and blatantly throwing a lot of Trek canon out the window.

I mean, seriously…make your damn mind up.

For a show supposedly set ten years before TOS there’s an awful lot of technology that didn’t get invented until Next Gen. era and in some cases (I’m thinking of the holo communicator here) even later.

This week we basically had a holodeck.

Granted it was a brief scene and we avoided the stupidity of it malfunctioning, but still, it was a holodeck.

WHY?

Why make a new incarnation of a beloved series if you’re not going to be true to said series?

And I’m not even talking about the idiocy of the reinvented Klingons, who despite barely being on screen this week still managed to really piss me off.

Why set it in the past if you want to use shiny tech?

There’s no reason for its place in the timeline unless they’re actually going to do something with the era.

At the moment, they’re not doing anything aside from taking advantage of the fact it’s at the beginning of the conflict with the Klingons, and we’ve never seen that before.

But they’ve made the Klingons so fundamentally different that they might as well be another race.

Seriously.

Why is this show not set post-Dominion war, when we’re having the beginnings of another conflict we desperately want to avoid with a new race, while still recovering from a bloody and very costly war.

Had they done that nobody would be complaining about the Klingons and I wouldn’t be throwing shoes at my TV on account of the whole face eating incident.

Plus, the technology would all make sense then.

They could have all the existing tech (which they seem determined to use even if it makes no sense), and the fancy weird engine on Discovery would actually be intriguing.

At the moment it’s an experiment we know fails, because it’s not been used since.

Despite the name, Discovery seems determined to be a series about the war, and little else.

Is it nice to have a show that’s avoided the ‘planet of the week’ trap endured by other series?

Sure.

But you need something else of interest going on besides ‘look, we have characters, and they’re talking to each other about stuff’.

Overall I was left with much the same feeling I had when I finished reading The Half Blood Prince

“Well, that was a whole installment of a series I love that only served to set up whatever’s happening next.”

I just hope Discovery isn’t as predictable as The Deathly Hallows was, and all the hints and clues are we’ve had of what’s to come are nothing but red herrings.

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Hazel Butler
Hazel is a Dark Fantasy/Urban Fantasy Author and freelance Writer from Cheshire, England. She runs The Write Copy Girl (www.thewritecopygirl.com) offering professional copywriting services to business owners. She is also a regular blogger on The Huffington Post and several other sites. Her books include Dark Urban Fantasy Novel Chasing Azrael (myBook.to/chasingazrael) and Dark Fantasy Novella Bleizgeist (myBook.to/bleizgeist).