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This starts with Lt. Cmdr. Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) and her boss, Capt. Philippa Georgiou Michelle Yeoh , on an away mission together. The dialogue is terribly fake, full of unnecessary exposition, and the two most senior officers should not be on a mission together. At least when Kirk and Spock beamed down on Star Trek: TOS they had some redshirts to act as bullet-catchers.
Back aboard their ship, they are sent on another mission. This time they must locate and repair a damaged signal buoy. It appears that alien interference may be a factor. Luckily, Lt. Saru (Doug Jones - Shape Of Water ) is around to act as a straw-man. Burnham automatically disagrees with everything he says, and she is always proven right. Whenever her original argument is about to be disproven, she and Saru (an alien who looks like a caucasian-skinned male) swap arguments so she can still be on the winning side.
Burnham's backstory is quite simple. As a child she was the survivor of a remote outpost that was attacked by hostile aliens, and after her rescue she was raised by friendly aliens. If this sounds familiar, that is because it is the same backstory as Worf in Star Trek: TNG . The difference is startling. Worf has a story arc that lasts over a decade, and we see him develop from a junior officer under Picard into a battle-hardened warrior under Sisco. In contrast, Burnham is a know-it-all from day one.
Finally, Burnham is shown to have a weakness. Her fear and loathing towards Klingons makes her panic. This leads up to her doing something stupid, that the audience is not supposed to hold her responsible for.
The Klingons have a new leader, who seeks to unite the twenty-four aristocratic families. Together they will create an interstellar empire. Some reviewers feel he is meant to be Space Trump, but since the Klingons are African-Americans (except for one albino) perhaps a better comparison would be with Black Panther . He wants to create a hi-tech ethnostate, a form of Space Wakanda.
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) is placed in the brig for mutiny. Luckily her foster-father, Sarek (James Frain - The Cape ), can do an inter-stellar mind-meld with her. Not unlike the Rey/Kylo telepathy in Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi .
While Burnham is safely out of sight, everyone else actually becomes good at their job. Yes, they are only made to look stupid so that she can be the smartest person in the room. And when she is in solitary confinement, she is made to appear smarter than the ship's computer. Yes, the artificial intelligence that runs a Federation starship is dumbed down so that Burnham can be made to look smarter.
Burnham and the Captain board the Klingon ship. Will two human females be able to take on full-grown Klingon warriors in hand-to-hand combat? Well, one of the humans is Michelle Yeoh ...
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) has been sentenced to life in prison. Now that the Federation is at war with the Klingons, she and the other convicts are used as slave labour. They get stuck on a shuttle together, which means the show might be good like Farscape (1999) - which was itself heavily inspired by the Trek pastiche Blake's 7 (1978) . In fact, this is reminiscent of the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager before the show itself became bland and formulaic. At least the convicts get to act as audience proxies, asking the questions that the so-called protagonist should be doing.
The prison shuttle gets rescued by a mysterious Starfleet ship, the USS Discovery. Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) needs Burnham to help him with something. By incredible coincidence, a couple of Burnham's old cow-orkers are among his crew. She also has the chance to make new friends - well, acquaintances.
The Discovery's sister-ship has something bad happen to it. Burnham gets sent along with the Away Team. They discover some gruesomely damaged bodies, something far worse than you would normally see on a TV show.
In the final act, Lorca reveals the show's great McGuffin. This plot device, which will mean the balance of the war between the Federation and Klingons, is a technology far more advanced than in any of the future Trek shows.
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) settles in as a member of the crew. Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) gives her a job - to make the monster useful. All she can deduce is that it is somehow genetically linked to the spores. Meanwhile, the engineer has to make the new propulsion system work. Apparently an important part of the navigation system is missing. How long will it take for them to realise that the monster might be the navigator?
Meanwhile, the Klingons have problems of their own. The albino has inherited the big ship, which is apparently the only one with a cloaking device. His crew are running short of food. The good news is, an apparent ally offers to help. The bad news is, everyone has an agenda.
Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) goes to a face-to-face strategy conference with other Starfleet officers under Adm. Katrina "Kat" Cornwell ( Jayne Brook ). On the way home his shuttle is attacked by Klingons, and he is thrown in a cell with Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson - ) and a young Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif - ).
The USS Discovery is tasked with locating and rescuing Captain Lorca. After all, they are the only ones who can get behind enemy lines quickly. Unfortunately the over-use is killing the tardigrade. The acting Captain does not care that he is torturing the co-pilot to death, and has Burnham punished for pointing out it is a bad idea. Especially when they will need the tardigrade to escape from Klingon territory.
The show continues to prove that it was made for grown-up viewers. Previously there was gore and an on-screen gay relationship. Now Cadet Silvia Tilly ( Mary Wiseman ) uses the word F*CK out loud, without being beeped out.
Sarek (James Frain - The Cape ) is en route to do some Ambassadorial duties. Unfortunately he is targeted by xenophobic fanatics. Not the Klingons this time - it is a fringe extremist faction of Vulcans!
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) senses a disturbance in the Force. This is because Sarek once spent a Force point to resurrect her from the dead, just like certain scenes in Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker . Yes, JJ Abrams has certainly left his mark on both franchises. Burnham uses the Force to do a long-range mind-meld, and explores Sarek's memories. His wife ( Mia Kirshner ), a human, supported Burnham's ambitions. However, the Vulcan establishment is not so much logical as it is racially prejudiced against humans. So much for them being a key member of the Federation.
Meanwhile, Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) adds young Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif - ) to his crew. Not as a junior officer, but as head of security! Adm. Katrina "Kat" Cornwell ( Jayne Brook ) drops by to check up on Lorca's mental health, and treats herself to a booty call as well. Remember, Starfleet Admirals tend to be untrustworthy and unreliable, so the idea of her doing some #MeToo-style fraternization with a junior officer is not a stretch. After all, it is against Starfleet rules for the doctor to inject a human with tardigrade DNA, but it is apparently OK to enslave the tardigrade itself by forcing it to become the navigator.
The Disco crew have a party. Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) has been dating Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif - ), but she does not have the courage to hang out with him at the party. This episode fast-forwards their relationship, in an effort to make the new character more likeable to the crew.
Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson - ) is back, and he wants revenge. He blames Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) for his enforced seperation from his fiance, Stella Grimes ( Katherine Barrell ). And somehow, instead of being the bumbling comedy villain of Star Trek: TOS he has become a murderous cut-throat with amazing time-travel technology. The Disco and its crew get stuck in a thirty-minute time-loop. Well, the idea was used in Star Trek: TNG before it went mainstream in the movie Groundhog Day .
Like Ash Tyler, the gay engineer is now someone the audience is meant to find likeable. He has a super-power now that he has tardigrade DNA in his system, and is conscious that he is trapped in Mudd's time-loop. Instead of going for help to Lorca, the actual Captain of the ship - and target of Mudd's rage - he goes to Michael Burnham! This indicates exactly what is wrong with the show. Most previous Trek incarnations featured an ensemble cast of seven lead characters, of whom the Captain was the first among equals. This show has an unlikeable lead - well, she was raised by Vulcans - and surrounds her with supporting characters of whom the audience know little and care less. The result is an episode like this, which tries to make them seem slightly more useful and interesting.
Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) and his bridge crew fight off a horde of Klingon warbirds. This scene illustrates the main problem with this show. It is not an ensemble - the bridge crew are basically redshirts. The Chinese guy is apparently called Reese, but the others do not seem to have names never mind personalities. This show is centred around a two-dimensional character who is a cross between Tuvok and Tom Paris, basically a new version of Tuvix.
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) and her love interest, Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif - ), have beamed down for a romantic getaway on a weird planet. Well, their real mission is to defeat the Klingons' new weapon, the cloaking device, by building interstellar sonar. This is about as realistic as the smell-ometer in Futurama , but who cares? Anyway, Lt. Saru (Doug Jones - Shape Of Water ) is along to do all the work. His superhuman skills are not limited to his hearing and danger detection, but he can also sprint at eighty kilometres per hour.
Cadet Silvia Tilly ( Mary Wiseman ) confronts her boss about his personality shifts. He confesses that his love affair with his cow-orker, the ship's doctor, has led to unnecessary complications. The doctor performed illegal genetic experimentation, on his own lover - also unethical - and if Starfleet Medical finds out about this it will cause problems. Well, this is what happens when a warship becomes the Love Boat.
Adm. Katrina "Kat" Cornwell ( Jayne Brook ) is still a prisoner of the Klingons. Her new interrogator is the female who sided with the albino, and now wants to prove herself to the new Klingon Emperor. Of course, the Klingons seem to be constantly double-crossing each other.
Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) is directly ordered by Starfleet HQ to abandon the planet. He pretends to go along with his orders, but secretly has the Discovery stay put in order to fight the Klingon flagship The navigator has side-effects from the biological link with the spore drive, but Lorca is only willing to use that as an excuse when it suits him.
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) and her love interest, Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif - ), beam over to the Klingon flagship. Their target is the cloaking device, and they stay undiscovered by using man-portable devices that cloak their bio-signs. The good news is that they discover Adm. Katrina "Kat" Cornwell ( Jayne Brook ). The bad news is that Tyler goes into PTSD shock, so Burnham has to save the day single-handed.
As always, this show fails to use the Star Trek formula. Everything revolves around the main character, and none of the others is allowed anything except a B-story subplot.
The spore drive has landed Discovery in the mirror Universe. They recover enough data from the ruins of a ship that they can pretend to be their alternate selves. Cadet Silvia Tilly ( Mary Wiseman ) is a Captain, while Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) is a rebel who is on the run from the Terran Empire.
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) and her captive beam over to a Terran Empire ship. Yes, this is basically the Wookie Prisoner trick. Unfortunately Burnham gets distracted, and leaves Lorca to be tortured indefinitely.
Burnham's love interest, Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif - ), has a subplot of his own. He visits the Klingon prisoner, who tortured him when their positions were reversed. When she cannot reveal the answers he needs, he goes to sick bay. The Doctor is busy looking after his gay lover, the man with the spore drive in his bloodstream, a conflict of interest so massive that even Lorca complains about it.
Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) gets tortured by someone from the Mirror Universe. It turns out that Lorca has a secret of his own, which explains why this is not an ensemble show. If Picard and Worf had the same secrets, Star Trek: TNG would have been a very different show.
Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs - Event Horizon ) discovers that the crew of the Discovery had no personal loyalty to him. He expected this all along, so he has his own crew to back him up.
Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) teams up with Philippa Georgiou ( Michelle Yeoh ). Yes, Georgiou may be the most horrendous war criminal in history but Burnham prefers her over Captain Lorca.
Discovery is back in the main storyline, after the needless side-plot explored in the previous few episodes. Sarek (James Frain - The Cape ) and Adm. Katrina "Kat" Cornwell ( Jayne Brook ) board the ship, and much exposition is exchanged about what happened in the previous nine months. There are three prisoners aboard the ship, and they are all treated differently.
Burnham's love interest, Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif - ), is let out of sick-bay. His original personality has been apparently destroyed, but his rank has been removed without Court Martial and he is now basically a civilian passenger on a warship. Cadet Silvia Tilly ( Mary Wiseman ) still considers him a friend, although Stamets will not forgive him.
The Klingon woman is the only one in the brig. Her dreams of a united Klingon Empire, a form of Space Wakanda, are in tatters. While the Federation has been badly beaten, the Klingons have reverted to their libertarian stance of every klingon for himself.
Philippa Georgiou ( Michelle Yeoh ) is now Captain of the Discovery. Despite Lorca being villainised, Adm. Katrina "Kat" Cornwell ( Jayne Brook ) has given the most powerful Federation weapon to an Evil Overlord. Worse, Georgiou knows that Michael Burnham ( Sonequa Martin-Green ) is filled with guilt over her mutiny against the other Georgiou, so the element of surprise is out of the question.
Georgiou leads an Away Team to the Klingon Homeworld, Kronos, where they blend in at a multi-species settlement run by the Orion Syndicate. Cadet Silvia Tilly ( Mary Wiseman ) makes friends with Clint Howard, who once appeared in Star Trek: The Original Series .
First the Federation put Space Hitler in charge of exterminating the Klingons. Now the only alternative is to follow the doctrine of Space Trump, who wanted to unify them under a single government and segregate them from inferior species in their own Space Wakanda. Let us hope that the Feds picked the lesser evil.