Star Trek Discovery “What’s Past is Prologue” Review

So to do things a little differently this time, I (Jessica) will write the main review.

So I find myself in a very familiar position this week of being in the minority position. The reaction to this episode is overwhelmingly positive, and I have very mixed feelings.

Was this episode thrilling and action packed? Absolutely. Was it a satisfying conclusion to the mirror universe arc? Maybe?

I couldn’t help but feel that, despite all of the explosions and slow mo asskicking, that this episode was a bit anti-climactic. After all the build-up to Mirror Stamets, he’s killed almost immediately. I had horrible flashbacks to the Mirror Universe on DS9 (which I’ve already mentioned were among the weakest parts of DS9) where everybody died for the shock value of it and it never mattered. After an entire season of building up Lorca he’s … a fairly run-of-the-mill evil Terran. Well. That’s okay I guess. He goes out really dramatically, yet it somehow didn’t feel earned. Probably because we saw him being an interesting morally ambiguous character for most of the season, then as a baddie bad baddie who deserved to die in such a way for a mere episode. There are comparisons to be made to the death of Gul Dukat on DS9. While many people were also disappointed in that ending, at least it felt earned. We’d watched Dukat being a monster, albeit a complex one, for seven seasons, with one of the best performances in Trek history given by the magnificent Marc Alaimo. While Jason Isaacs is also a wonderful actor and gave it his all as Lorca, he kind of got kneecapped in this episode by the hard left turn into stereotypical baddie the script took his character. A similar thing happened to Dukat as well, but even that was not THAT hard of a turn and felt more slowly built to. And considering I am one of the people who thought Dukat should have died in Waltz and was a way less interesting character afterwards, the fact I’m making this comparison is a bad, bad sign. Discovery so far has been really rich and intricate and it feels like that got tossed aside for some good ole ‘splosions and martial arts.

With all that said, Jason Isaacs did a wonderful job as Lorca, and I’m very sorry to see him go (assuming of course we won’t see Lorca return in some way). He took what could have been a thankless asshole captain part and made an interesting character, a very welcome addition to the franchise. I’m very sorry to see him go.

star-trek-discovery-stamets-lorca

But love to watch him leave.

I also was really sad to not see AshVoq this week. I am assuming they’re going to wrap up his storyline (or at least move us into the place for season 2) in the next episode, but after his storyline was given so much prominence throughout the season I at least wanted to touch in. Besides, I’ve grown to care about this Manchurian Klingon and I’m hoping he’s going to be all right.

And damn it why did Michael pull the Empress off that ship? I know, I know, she feels like she failed prime Phillippa and this was her chance to “atone” but … this is a woman who thinks a sapient species is a tasty meal and makes them line up to be picked out like lobsters and shows up to blow up a planet herself because it was taking too damn long. Michael, why? I’m assuming it’s going to be important later and all work out for the better in the end, but it’s going to irritate me that the season only worked out because of Michael’s Main Character Powers rather than an actual good decision.

On the good end of things – Saru is the best captain. He inspires the crew to a dangerous but crucial plan with a speech that would fit in well with Sisko’s speeches during the Dominion War arc on DS9. His crew trusts him, and so does the audience. He’s come a long way from the frightened science officer that my friends and I joked about his threat ganglia flying off his head at the sight of a Borg cube. First alien captain confirmed. There some speculation Prime Lorca may somehow still be alive and we may meet him and he would take the post back but I would definitely not be a fan, as much as I love Jason Isaacs. Saru earned that spot, damn it.  

So I wonder why so much prominence was given to that one spore falling on Tilly. After going broke betting on Lorca being a more complex character even in the Terran universe last week, I’m not going to offer any firm guesses here, but obviously it was important for them to spend so much time on it. Whatever happens, if they hurt my girl I’m going to go to Canada and personally fight the showrunners.

With us being down to two episodes left in the season, I’m wondering how the spore drive storyline is going to conclude. I had joked early in the season that maybe the technology is still around, and we could retcon all those times that the Enterprise or Defiant showed up just in the nick of time despite logically not being able to as them booting up the spore drive, obviously only used in case of emergencies to minimize cruelty to the Tardigrade or risk to a human host. (And definitely not writers being bad at math. And Voyager’s was broken.) More seriously, I had speculated that the mycelial network and spore drive might have been buried deep in classified knowledge, but it seems improbable to imagine that Section 31 would have been unaware of such information or unwilling to use it against the Dominion. I suspect that access to the network will become impossible in some way by the end of the season (or some time next season). I’m really curious to see what, if anything, happens with that … and not least of all because I may have a fledgling idea for a story about the Dominion almost discovering it after they’re cut off from the wormhole.

Overall, I was disappointed in this episode but I’m still excited for the finale. Come on Discovery, don’t fumble at the fifty yard line. (I know nothing about football and have no idea if this is an accurate metaphor.) So with all that said, I’ll turn it over to the acclaimed author of Historian’s Crusade, fresh off passing his oral exams.   

I agree with Jessica in the point that it seemed like they tried to have it both ways with Lorca: have a morally ambiguous “good guy” in charge, then give him his comeuppance. Maybe it’s the amount of episodes left. Another episode with him in charge, having some heart-to-heart with Saru and the bridge crew as their captain, rather than as a Terran, would have given us some emotional resolution in a way that they just couldn’t here. What saved this storyline resolution for me was Doug Jones as Saru. His evolution, his relationship with Michael, those have been the strongest elements. When he called her ‘my friend’ in this episode, when the crew called him ‘captain’ it felt truly earned.  Ted Sullivan said it’s one of his proudest moments in all of his writing and I heartily agree. They’ve both come a long way since the Battle at the Binary Stars and that emotional build-up did feel earned and helped me get over the end of Lorca. Now I just hope they can stick the landing with the final two episodes.

Side note: there will be no detailed review next week. For the week after, the season finale, there will be an extra-long review featuring full opinions from me and Jessica, as well as a post (hopefully, I still have to ask) several people’s opinions on the entire series so far.

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Author: Alex

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

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