Don’t you just love the episode title? Very “For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky”. Sadly nobody actually says the episode title but it’d be tricky to drop it into casual everyday conversation unless, I guess, the conversation started with ‘What would be an overly-florid way of summarising Lorca’s command philosophy?’
When the USS Discovery is assigned by Starfleet command to go to the assistance of a mining colony under attack by the Klingons, Lorca (Jason Isaacs) demands that Stamets (Anthony Rapp) gets the spore drive operational while at the same time assigning Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) to find a way to weaponise the creature recovered from the USS Glen. Meanwhile, back in the wreckage of the battle of the binary stars, Voq (Javed Iqbal) struggles to rally T’Kuvma’s followers as their supplies dwindle.
There’s a lovely, dramatic opening sequence once the recap has finished as we get an internal molecular view of the replication process. As the various particles come together, fusing into a complete uniform, it’s an ironic metaphor for the various storylines this episode tries in vain to weave into a cohesive fabric.
We dive into the Spore Drive this episode and, contrary to my previous theory, they get it to work quite quickly, albeit in a way which would be unacceptable a century or so later to Captain Janeway in “Equinox”. It’s also interesting that Lorca’s view of the Spore Drive is as a first strike weapon, which is a distinctly un-Starfleet way of thinking. On the plus side, we get an early answer to Discovery’s distinctive saucer design. I guess ‘Black Alert’ is Starfleet’s version of ‘scream if you wanna go faster!’ It’s reassuring, though, that for a series so keen on mysteries, its apparently not going to string them out for too long. Last week’s mysterious menagerie comes straight back and is explained immediately.
There’s a lot of sass and shade throwing going on in this episode, mostly from Saru and Lorca. Saru’s low key passive aggressive bitchiness in his dealings with Burnham continues to delight, especially when he might be saying one thing but his threat ganglia are giving her side-eye. Underneath it all, though, you can tell there’s still a strong friendship there, slowly recovering from the shock of Burnham’s mutiny; a very contemporary spin on the Spock/ McCoy dynamic of the Original Series. Meanwhile, Lorca’s busy throwing shade at the rest of Star Trek, deriding the attitude of ‘wide eyed explorers’ and scientific exploration for its own sake, although it’s a neat touch to hear him name drop Elon Musk in the same breath as The Wright Brothers and Zefram Cochrane.
Elsewhere in the episode, we’re keeping up with the Klingons and it’s here the episode drops the ball. Somehow we’re meant to believe that both the Klingons and Starfleet left the detritus of the battle untouched for six months? Having assassinated T’Kuvma, Starfleet didn’t take possession of the vessel and take its crew prisoner? They must have returned to pick up the USS Shenzhou’s crew, so, leaving the USS Shenzhou adrift seems careless if not downright wasteful. Mind you, the Klingons apparently just forgot that T’Kuvma’s vessel had pioneering cloaking technology for six months before returning.
At least Voq hasn’t been idle during the time. In between snacking on the remains of Captain Georgiou (eugh, gross), he’s amped up T’Kuvma’s messianic street cred, something the returning Klingons are aware of despite not having any contact with Voq and the rest of T’Kuvma’s people for six months. Meh, the whole Klingon side of the episode feels awkward, clumsy and, again, is lumbered with subtitles which are doing increasingly heavy lifting as the conversations become more complex. It really feels like the writers suddenly realised they hadn’t moved the Klingon story on at all since the pilot so they needed to do an awful lot of catch up. And catch up they did, and it was awful.
So, an episode of two halves: the Starfleet one good, the Klingon one bad. I’m enjoying the Tardigrade navigator – hope he gets a proper Starfleet commission and becomes a member of the crew, but looming over it all is the fact the Spore Drive never gets widely adopted. It was nice to have the old Trek trope of ‘you’re the only ship in range’ pop up again, one of the amusingly consistent inconsistencies in all flavours of “Star Trek” is, despite the vastness of the United Federation of Planets’ fleet, only ships with their own TV shows are ever in range of emergencies.
The performances are still great, although again the Klingons feel very stiff and staged, thanks to the ungainliness of their spoken language and their scenes having to be read rather than watched. There’s a sacrifice which ranks up alongside Pa Kent’s “Man Of Steel” exit for its sheer stupidity and unnecessariness which also suggests Trek has a real problem with female Security Chiefs but generally the fun comes from the character interactions; Lorca/ Stamets, Burnham/ Saru. On a side note, the cameo from Nebula (“Guardians Of The Galaxy”) was unexpected, but I guess opens up a potential crossover opportunity for future series. 😉
For all its eponymous portentousness, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry” is a bit of a box-ticking exercise, tidying up some elements and bringing others up to date. Four episodes in and we’re still setting up this corner of the Trek universe. I mean, we haven’t even met all of our main characters yet (there is a new vacancy in Security, though). I’m enjoying it, but it still feels like we’re moving on full impulse and I’m starting to get impatient for the jump to Warp.