The ambition may be vaulting, but it’s certainly not boundless as “Star Trek: Discovery” brings us an episode that’s barely thirty-eight minutes long (including recap). Still, to rewind a bit from ‘vaulting ambition’, if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly. Unfortunately, this is “Star Trek: Discovery” and things are never done quickly if they can be spun out for an extra episode or two.
Still stuck in the Mirror Universe, Burnham and Lorca are summoned to an audience with The Emporer whilst on the Discovery, Saru must find a way to deal with Tyler/ Voq and hope that Tilly will find a way to restore Stamets’ faculties.
The episode picks up where we left off last week, with the show reminding us that they filmed a naked Klingon sex scene they’re so proud of, they just can’t stop reminding us. Burnham and Lorca set off in a shuttle to see Georgiou in the flesh. There’s a nice little exchange between Burnham and Lorca, an extra spark to the dialogue that the series has sometimes lacked. Kudos, too, to the production team; the Emperor’s flagship is 27 million kilometres away and the shuttle journey takes 90 seconds of screen time, which puts their speed at pretty much dead on the speed of light, or Warp One as the “Star Trek” technical manual has it.
We also catch up with Stamets who isn’t/wasn’t dead at the end of last week’s episode after all. Tilly is back in charge of his care, so we can assume that in the future the Hippocratic oath has been replaced by a shrug and mumbling ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I guess’. Saru dabbles in medical matters this week too, manipulating L’Rell into cleaning up her Tyler/ Voq mess.
Inside Stamets’ mind, however, it’s a different (better) story. He meets his similarly stranded Mirror universe self and discovers that something has corrupted the Mycelium, threatening its very existence. This episode, if nothing else, is a strong reminder that the whole season has focussed on the wrong thing altogether – the Klingon war, as underutilised as it has been – isn’t nearly as fascinating and fertile a premise for a Star Trek series as the Mycellium network and spore drive would have been.
But we are where we are, and that’s in the Mirror universe. There’s quite a bit of fun to be had with all the pomp and ceremony of the imperial court. The real reason Kelpians are so scarce in this universe is a sly and blackly comic reveal (wanna bet they taste like chicken?), as is the unfolding revelation of just how much the Emperor is aware. Of course, the episode’s ultimate twist is exactly the one the fans have been expecting for some time now.
In many ways, “Star Trek: Discovery” offers a safe haven and soothing balm to those fans who have been left alienated and disenfranchised by “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. Why struggle with a franchise which is deliberately deconstructing itself and cocking a snoke (ahem) at fan theories left, right and centre when you can come to “Star Trek: Discovery”, a show where every single fan theory comes true?
Despite its brief runtime, “Vaulting Ambition” does manage to leap the story forward, although there’s still no indication it’ll stick the landing. As usual, the cast continue to deliver terrific performances, especially Jason Isaacs and Sonequa Martin-Green. The slightly aimless and padded out story has now crystallised into three distinct storylines. While they all move forward, and although we get some answers, we still end up left with more questions. What is up with the Mycelium network and what has mirror Stamets been doing to it? Are we entirely sure the right Stametses ended up in the right bodies? What is Lorca’s plan now he’s returned to his own universe and gained access to Georgiou’s flagship? What does L’Rell – a surgeon of such skill she can perform brain surgery on a fidgety and unrestrained patient – do to Tyler/ Voq? Whatever it is, it seems to end on a Klingon death howl. Was she alerting Sto-vo-kor to Voq’s imminent arrival, leaving Tyler’s manufactured psyche trapped in a physiologically butchered Klingon body? If the interphasic space which allowed the USS Defiant to cross universes doesn’t offer a safe path home and the spores are compromised, how will Discovery get back? If the Emperor is aware of the United Federation of Planets, how does that reconcile with existing continuity? Where is the actual ISS Discovery? And why is sickbay suddenly fully staffed?
Confused? You won’t be, after the next episode of “Star Trek: Discovery”. Hopefully.