Star Trek: Discovery- Vaulting Ambition

By Steve Harper

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Hazel’s taking another break from Star Trek reviews for a couple of weeks, so before I tackle this week’s episode, let me give you a quick rundown on my feelings over the last two episodes and the Mirror Universe arc so far.

It’s been OK.

I’ve enjoyed the episodes. Seeing the characters find out about and react to their new location has been fun and their search for a way back to their own universe is a nice way to give some shape to the rest of the series.

I’d been expecting a ‘Quantum Leap’ style show when it came back, with Stamets facing mirror images that were not his own, and each week having the crew fix another world’s problems before jumping out at the end of the episode… and hoping each time that the next leap would be the leap home.

Instead, we’re getting one long set of episodes, getting to see another universe in more detail that we’ve had glimpses of before. And it’s giving the show a more epic feel as a result. Their imprisonment in a different reality is a serious problem that they haven’t managed to fix in three whole episodes.

We’ve also gone this far without a ridiculously pretentious episode title, or one forcing some kind of mirror reference, so they’ve scored a few points there.

But it hasn’t been without its problems.

Time for this week’s episode.

Vaulting Ambition

Michael and Lorca are summoned to the Imperial palace ship. Lorca is imprisoned in an agony booth again, while Georgiou greets Michael as a daughter but then reveals that she knew that the mirror-Burnham had betrayed her with Lorca. Michael reveals her true identity, and they strike some kind of deal.

Meanwhile, Stamets meets mirror-Stamets inside the mycelial network, then finds ghost-Culber and just decides to wake up from his coma.

Tyler/Voq is going mad and killing himself until L’Rell gives in and helps.

And finally we get the revelation that Lorca is actually mirror-Lorca and has been since the start of the series.

Time and Pace

‘Vaulting Ambition’ was a very short episode – barely 33 minutes of new material. This was actually a benefit, because as the very brief recap above indicates, not much happened. If the show had been any longer, the pacing would have suffered. As it was, things kept going at a decent speed. My attention never wandered, as it often did in the first half of the series.

This has been the case throughout the new episodes. The show has been able to vary its length to fit the requirements of each week (a big advantage of the move away from traditional network production, in my opinion). So the pace has been good enough that you don’t get bored, even if the plot resolutions haven’t been particularly impressive.

Revelation Fatigue

So far, the Mirror Universe episodes have almost entirely been a series of build-ups to big revelations. The problem has been that most of these haven’t been particularly good twists, and there have been so many that even when you haven’t already guessed it, you aren’t surprised when the plot is revealed.

This week, we’ve had mirror-Michael is the Emperor’s daughter! She was a traitor! She was having an affair with Lorca!

Too many twists in a short time frame, and they all suffer from just being announced in dialogue by people who already know, rather than being shown to the audience in the course of events

Only Lorca’s origin worked beyond that level, and even then there was very little tension to the reveal.

The Mirror Universe

I’ve never been a big fan of the Mirror Universe episodes, beyond the original ‘Mirror, Mirror’. The concept was great for a one-off, but it falls apart if you start thinking about it too much. The DS9 follow-ups started off much lower and suffered from a bad case of diminishing returns. I haven’t seen the Enterprise two parter, but from what I’ve head that was better (and you can’t often say that about Enterprise).

Here, the idea is actually being used well, and we’re exploring it in more depth. For once we’re being shown that the universe could work, rather than being left wondering how the whole system hasn’t fallen apart already.

It suffers from the problem that the whole crew are all apparently hugely important in this world, but at least it saves on casting decisions.

There’s also the fairly stupid idea that mirror humans can’t stand as much light as the normal universe, which I’m fairly sure goes against anything that we’ve seen before, and is just there to establish Lorca’s true identity.

Identity

All the plots in the MU arc have, appropriately, been concerned with identity and who you see when you look in the mirror. Michael is forced to do terrible things to maintain her cover, and finds that she is capable of acts that she never imagined. Stamets faces his other self in the mycelial network.  Tilly in this universe is everything that she ever dreamed of being, but at a terrible price. Lorca actually is his mirror self.

All of these stories work to greater or lesser degrees

And Tyler is Voq.

I don’t care.

The Klingon Plot

This has been the worst thing about these episodes to date. I didn’t care much about Tyler in the first place. His relationship with Michael has been uninspiring and handled quite unevenly.

The sudden, and yet not terribly surprising, revelation that he’s actually Voq fails: firstly because it makes no sense and secondly because I was much more interested in Voq anyway.

Voq as a character had so much potential. A Klingon, outcast from his own people, but with a clear belief in their ways. A man chosen by a fallen leader and given a destiny to unite his race, being forced to do acts in conflict with his philosophy to rise up and justify his hero’s belief.

Apparently he decided to mutilate himself physically and mentally to spy on Starfleet. The only reason that the plan worked at all is because a Starfleet medical examination on an escaped prisoner failed to notice major reconstructive surgery, and the captain decided to make him chief of security rather than send him for counselling. And then they just happened to capture L’Rell, who could trigger Voq’s revival.

This makes every character involved in the plot seem stupider as a result.

And the whole thing has been so dull that I completely forgot about this part of the episode when I started writing this review.

Overall

As I said, I’m enjoying these episodes, almost despite myself, and I think that it is very much due to the pacing.

Watching the episodes, I’ve been swept along, and not had time to consider how silly some of it has been. Thinking about it afterwards has made me see some of the problems, and I suspect that I’ll spot more as time goes on. But they’ve made a good first impression, and that does count for something.

At the very least, they’ve got me looking forward to each new episode more than I was halfway through the first part of the series.


Steve Harper

Steve works full-time for the NHS and tries not to spend too much of his day plotting out his series of vampire novels. Away from the office, he divides his time between playing games where he is a vampire, playing games where he hunts vampires, and playing with Lego (he has numerous Lego vampires).

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