Star Trek Discovery “Vaulting Ambition” Review

How to sum up this week’s episode?

“Here, have my ganglia.”

Oh boy. The Mirror Universe arc is shaping up to be one of the most intense storylines in Star Trek history. And that’s not saying much considering that this basically means the ‘Dominion War’ arc on DS9, the ‘Delphic Expanse’, and the ‘Rise of the Federation’ arcs on Enterprise. Star Trek is generally bad at these things and I have some mixed feelings on this brand-new arc right now. Mostly positive, but it would be intellectually dishonest not to at least mention a few problems.

First of, I’m pretty disappointed at the way this episode handled both Lorca and AshVoq. Tackling the latter first, the entire storyline felt rushed and underdeveloped. As much as I am interested in seeing it develop further from this point out, with essentially Fake!Ash stuck in Voq’s changed body, the connections to both L’Rell and Burnham, it’s all interesting but the way here could have used some fleshing out and some more misdirection. I mentioned it a bit in the last few weeks, but having Voq disappear from the show the moment Ash Tyler shows up should give any one ringing alarm bells. Just because the point of the storyline is to deal with the fallout of the events doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a suspenseful lead-up as well.

Coming to Lorca, I’m so not into the fact that he’s from the Mirror Universe. Lorca worked much better as a ‘get shit done’ Starfleet captain, very much in line with what we’ve seen in the ENT, TOS, and DS9 days. Up until now Lorca didn’t appear all that different from Jellico, Sisko, and latter day Archer. And while a huge amount of Trekkies rioted at the idea of Lorca compromising his morals to save the Federation, I loved the idea of returning to a more pragmatic captain. Though the fact that he fit in so well in the Prime Universe is arguably a statement in itself, it feels like a betrayal of this season’s theme: What is Starfleet? Apparently it still means backpaddling on important issues that have plagued Star Trek’s storytelling in all the wrong ways for the last 30 years.

Over the last year or two I’ve become a big proponent of returning to the weekly serial model of the previous decade of television yet now I’m also starting to wonder if I’m about to regret all that I said. The storylines with both AshVoq and Mirror!Lorca are prime examples for the problems with a fanbase with way too much free time on their hand and way too much time between the episodes originally foreshadowing what would happen later on. I brought this up last week but it cannot be stated too often that Discovery is a show that suffers from engaging with the fanbase and fan theories. It is written in a way that allows for it to flow wonderfully when you binge it, as I did over the break with the first 9 episodes, but it falls apart with the surprises when you take a break each week and think about the hints planted over the previous weeks. It speaks to the tight writing of the team more so than the experience of the viewer.

In the end though, I can’t deny that I’ve been happy as a pig in shit watching the episodes each week and immediately jumping on Facebook to talk with Jessica, Peter, or other friends about it. So despite my problems, I cannot deny how amazing it has been to watch the episodes weekly and watching the show take shape in real time for the first time since I was aware of Trek.

Now for a closer look at the episode itself I hand it all over to Jessica Angriest Fangirl There Is:

This was another really intense episode. Michelle Yeoh is clearly having a lot of fun as the Empress – and the best part of the Mirror Universe has always been watching the actors have a ton of fun. (God knows there was little else great about the Mirror Universe on DS9 …)

Saru is … just amazing. He’s currently the acting captain of the Discovery with Michael and Lorca elsewhere, and he seems to be holding down the fort and then some. In a moment very reminiscent of Picard, he convinces L’Rell to help a suffering AshVoq. Doug Jones is such an amazing actor, and Saru is quickly becoming one of my favorite Trek characters ever.

Speaking of L’Rell and AshVoq … so I was really confused about what happened there. After Trek seems to indicate that she purposely killed his Voq personality to give Voq an honorable death (while also freeing Ash), but 1. It is a terrible sign when the showrunners have to explain what the fuck just happened after the show 2. That seems more than a little anticlimactic after all that build-up to the reveal. Then again, it means that Ash x Michael might sail after all, and clearly that’s what’s more important. All aboard the U.S.S. Mikash!

I am also not sure how to feel about the Lorca reveal. I probably would have been surprised if I hadn’t been immersed in fan theories, and indeed one of my friends who’s purposely stayed away from fandom had his mind blown by that reveal, but as it is I was like, “Oh … that’s nice I guess.” I was kind of disappointed for the same reasons as Alex, but I also think this has potential. I was really disappointed during the reveal, because it seemed as though Lorca is just a power player trying to find his way to the top, but the preview for next week’s episode that aired as part of After Trek indicates that he may be a freedom fighter of some sort given how loyal his people are and how their discussion of their fight is framed. This would be a more interesting read of his character and would give him quite a bit in common with Kira, which is always a good thing. If that is the case we know he’s boned because ten years later Kirk and co go over and find out it’s still a shithole but … you know what no. Maybe Lorca wins and institutes reforms, it just still sucks because it’s the MU. Maybe thanks to benevolent Emperor Lorca, we still have agony booths and killing people to advance in rank, but we stopped eating the damn Kelpians and the Andorians and Vulcans and such are allies instead of subjugated peoples. Small bits of progress.

Speaking of eating Kelpians …. Blargh. That was actually sickening. Kudos to Michael’s composure … I definitely would have lost my cool and puked as soon as I realized what I was eating. It’s not technically cannibalism but it’s really close. It’s so cartoonishly evil I rolled my eyes once I got over my initial disgust, and lots of people apparently find it hilarious. Like, we get it, they’re evil in the Mirror Universe. Cannibalism is becoming weirdly common on television (thanks for that, Game of Thrones, Gotham, and others) and it needs to stahp.

Also … that reunion between Culber and Stametz was so tearjerking. And we finally got a good solid kiss! It figures you have to kill one of them to get over the But Not Too Gays. I’m hoping that Mirror Culber is not an asshole and he ends up crossing over. That could be really interesting … could such a relationship even work out, with one person having these expectations based on the version of their partner that they knew and it being a new relationship for the other? I don’t know, but it’d be fun to explore. Speaking of Mirror Discovery crew counterparts … hmm, that shot of Mirror Stametz on the ISS Discovery was ominous. Were they in our universe this whole time? Oh boy. I can’t wait to find out.

By the way: I forgot to say last time, but I am so pissed that AshVoq wasn’t revealed by Lorca’s tribble. But I guess that that would mean Kirk wouldn’t have had the chance to put that together himself. Maybe the reason tribbles hate Klingons in the first place is because of Lorca … my personal headcanon is that he had them genetically altered to be an ecological weapon against the Klingons, then made them make shrill noises of fright around them for good measure. That seems like the kind of petty yet diabolical shit he would do in his spare time.   

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Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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