This week’s Star Trek: Discovery episode, “Vaulting Ambition”, was like a well-designed roller coaster: even though you can see what’s coming, it is still a wild ride that manages to surprise you and leaves you alternately laughing, gasping, and screaming.
There were quite a few revelations and resolutions in the episode, but let’s just hit the highlights.
Phil’s Moving Castle
Philippa Georgiou lives… MU Georgiou, that is. She is the Empress of the Terran Empire and she seems to live on her vessel, a gigantic flying palace/warship which is every bit as splendid and badass as you would imagine it to be. Michelle Yeoh is great as a ruthless ruler who slays. That is, she slays her enemies and anyone else who gets in her way.
As in our ‘verse, Georgiou and Michael are close. Georgiou is Michael’s adopted mother. So, our Michael’s idea to pretend she captured Lorca to bring him to Georgiou seems like a good idea. Georgiou appears to be pleased, until, while eating dinner, the Empress reveals to Michael that she knows Michael and Lorca became lovers and plotted together to take the throne. As punishment, she’s going to kill Michael herself.
Michael saves herself from a beheading by confessing her true origins and identity and offering her Georgiou’s Federation com badge as proof. Confirming its authenticity with a scan, Georgiou makes sure that secret never leaves the room by killing all but one of the guards, who are unfortunate to have pulled throne room duty that night via The Flying Fidget Spinner of Death (I’m not kidding. The episode’s writer said on the show “After Trek” that the weapon was inspired by the cursed things.). Despite her deadly ways, Georgiou is the key to the Discovery’s return to our universe. She’s willing to trade Michael and the Discovery’s freedom for spore drive technology and Michael agrees.
Paul is NOT Dead!
Though deep within his coma, Paul is actually alive and well in the mycelial network. And so, apparently, is MU Paul, who has been hoping our Paul would make it in to help free him from the mycelial network where they are both trapped. MU Paul has been there longer and knows about the existence of our universe. He has been trying to send Paul messages every time Paul connected to the spore drive. That’s why Paul saw flashes of other the other universe whenever Discovery used the spore drive. But just as they start to team up to find the answer, Paul’s true partner, Hugh, appears.
He Only Has Eyes for Hugh
Hugh is dead…sort of. He seems to be a part of the mycelial network, but so is everyone and everything, he explains to Paul. Kind of like Obi-Wan and Yoda…wherever they are. Anyway, Hugh tells Paul that the mycelial network is dying and that MU Paul is the one who corrupted it. He warns Paul that everything will die unless he wakes up and finds a cure. Then our Prince Charming awakens his Sleeping Beauty, how else? With a kiss. And it works, but it also works for the MU Paul, and that can’t be good.
The Captain and L’Rell
After seeing Tyler/Voq writhing in anguish in sickbay, acting Captain Saru visits L’Rell in her cell, tells her that they are no longer in the universe she knows and that here, the war is over, concluding, “You lost”. I sometimes forget how cold-blooded Saru can be.
Still, he does want to help Tyler/Voq and tries to convince L’Rell to help ease “their” suffering by appealing to her apparent affection for “them”. She coolly refuses, saying that Voq knew what he was getting into. “That is what it means to be a soldier. That is war”, she sneers. But Saru isn’t fooled and on his next visit he has Tyler/Voq beamed into her cell where she sees up-close the self-inflicted wounds and undeniable torment. Saru lets her have it, declaring, “You have sealed the creature’s hellish fate. Human and Klingon in one body. That is war.”
It’s a calculated risk that pays off big. L’Rell breaks and agrees to release Voq from his Klingon/human hybrid shell by extracting Voq’s personality/mind graft from the body that was constructed from Tyler’s DNA. After donning gloves that appear to have belonged to Edward Scissorhands, she performs some kind of mind link, and when Voq is no more, she does a hell of a Klingon death ritual wail. It actually left me with goosebumps. We assume the Tyler half is left intact, but I guess we won’t know that for sure until next week.
Saru and L’Rell are the most intriguing characters of the series, so far. Saru as acting captain of the Discovery is really working for me. The writers are playing up his command-related character traits and he’s less nervous now than in earlier episodes. As for L’Rell, there’s something noble about her. Of the Klingons in this show, she appears to be the most honorable and her motives seem pure, but of course, it could be a façade. I hope we don’t see her end anytime soon because she remains a mystery in many ways. Who IS she in the Klingon empire? Who is she in love with, Voq or Tyler? Or both? Or neither? Is there a L’Rell in the MU? We need answers, ST: D writers!!
Michael and Lorca
The biggest revelation was saved for the end of the episode. Any Trek fan watching the show has had issues with Lorca from the moment he was introduced. There seemed to be no way this guy should be a captain in Starfleet. The producers have tried to explain it away as PTSD and the desire to avenge his crew. But Trek fans didn’t buy it and early on we’ve said that he that he was actually the Mirror Universe Lorca, which was practically confirmed when the Discovery “accidentally” ended up in the MU (because of?) Lorca. Turns out, we were right as Lorca proves while escaping one of his captors and Michael comes to the same realization as she learns more about Lorca from Georgiou, including the fact that MU people’s eyes are sensitive to light.
I’ve also wondered in my recaps whether there was a romantic bent to Lorca’s weird obsession with Michael and the answer is yes. BUT it looks like the connection between MU Michael and Lorca was kind of icky and has a decidedly Woody Allen/Soon-Yi taint to it. As Georgiou explained it to Michael, Lorca was Georgiou’s trusted right-hand man, and she trusted him with everything, including her young daughter. But he used young Michael’s need for a father-figure to groom and eventually ??? her once she grew up. Ugh. No wonder Georgiou wants him to suffer. There goes any Mike/Gabe pairing fanfic I might have contemplated writing about those two.
We Have Questions
Now that we’ve had a lot of suspicions confirmed, we have new burning questions, including:
1) No matter how you slice it, Hugh and Voq are dead. But there is an MU version of Voq, unless he didn’t make it off the rebel base before Georgiou had it bombed all to hell. Will he and L’Rell ever meet? Is there a MU Hugh as well? Is it possible that Paul will find love with him or will they continue to play house in the place where dead people go?
2) Are the Prime Lorca and the MU Michael alive somewhere? Are they together somewhere? I can see the MU Michael bailing on any plan to betray her mother and turning on her Lorca instead. It doesn’t seem like he would kill her, or even that he could. She would be too valuable an asset, as would our Lorca, to waste. If she’s as clever as our Michael, she would have figured out a way to escape and survive. Maybe she escaped into our universe during the war and is simply hiding out? I hope so because frankly, I want to see she looks like. Looks like MU ladies are partial to flat-ironing their hair and I think she could totally rock that look.
3) There was a new doctor on board the Discovery! And she’s Black! Woot! Is she going to be the actual Chief Medical Officer? I hope so! There are more and more people of color popping up in both universes and I am totally on board with that.
4) Now that MU Paul is awake, what bad things will he be up to? Is he an ally or an enemy to Lorca? Was he actually trapped in the network or was he just trying to get our Paul out and using a projection of Hugh to make it happen?
5) If “Tyler” lives, what’s next for him? Is there a future for him and Michael? Or even he and L’Rell? And where is the actual Tyler? L’Rell didn’t actually say he was dead.
6) Is Mirror Universe Saru okay? Because the dinner Georgiou and Michael had was Kelpien. Not prepared by Kelpien, not a Kelpien native dish. Nope. It was a Kelpien, one that Michael actually picked out at the Empress’s invitation. Of course, in her innocence, she seemed to think she was choosing a servant or something, so she either picked either MU Saru or a guy that looked a lot like him.
Anyway, as gross as this was, it was pretty funny when Michael had to eat a treat offered to her by Georgiou: Kelpien threat ganglia au jus (okay I made up the au jus part), which looked as disgusting as you might imagine. Only Michael’s superhuman control of her gag reflex kept her from spewing it all on the table. And I was right there with her, believe me.
So hopefully Saru, who I think was actually on board the Shenzhou acting as Michael’s body slave, is still alive there. He did save her life and I have no idea why he’d be on board the Empress Georgiou’s ship.
And hey, Discovery writers? Can we back away from the eating of other sentient beings for the rest of the season? I mean, sure, the Klingons did it when they were stranded and starving after the Battle of the Binary Stars, but who could blame them? Just because the Terran Empire is vile doesn’t mean all humans have to be completely corrupt, right? Because, yuck.
All in all, this was the strongest episode in a while. The writing was solid and the story was compelling, with great performances all the way around. It felt more like a Trek episode and it is moving us along. It feels like we are headed for one hell of a season finale soon, one I hope leads the crew back to our universe safe and sound and leaves the Mirror Universe far behind. I’ve had my fill of that place. At least for now.
DaVette See lives in Inglewood, CA with her husband, Rob, her mother, and her seven (yikes) kitties. She has a BA in English and Theater and a Law degree. When not writing, reporting, and video editing for BGN, she operates Running Lady Studios and produces animated shorts. She was a geek before geek was chic. She loves books, plays, movies, and more than anything, she loves telling stories.