Star Trek: Discovery S1E13: What’s Past Is Prologue

No cold open this week, we just drive right into it, and there’s a lot to dive into. For a show that rarely lets off the gas pedal (or drops out of warp, if you prefer), this week’s show seems to pack in even more action than usual, as Discovery has to save no less than several universes, while Burnham’s caught in the middle of a palace intrigue that breaks out into a full-blown civil war. Stop reading here if you’re not caught up on the show and don’t want spoilers of last week’s episode.

 

Lorca, revealed last week to be Mirror Lorca all along, rescues his followers after a year and a half in the agony booths. We meet the Mirror equivalent of our dead security chief, Landry, and she and Lorca confront Mirror Stamets, who’s developing a biological weapon, which Lorca immediately unleashes on the Emperor’s crew, as he and his loyalists work their way towards the throne room.

After the overwrought Klingon melodrama from the early episodes, and the overseriousness of the war, Disco has finally struck the right balance of campy fun that powers the best Trek. As dueling villainous schemers, Isaacs and Yeoh enjoy chewing the scenery every bit as much as Ricardo Montalban did in Wrath of Khan. Mirror Lorca gives a speech about “preserving our way of life, our race,” that sounds suspiciously like Voq’s obsession with Klingon purity, (not to mention a few real-life politicians we could name) In case you didn’t get the hint, Lorca vows to “Make the Empire glorious again.”

Meanwhile, back on Disco, Regular Stamets has made a full recovery, but Discovery‘s mycelium forest is dead, and the entire network could be next. He and Tilly discover that the Terran flagship I.S.S. Charon is draining energy from the mycelial network to power the ship, (via that miniature sun in the middle of it) and it’s slowly poisoning the structure that holds the Mirror Universe, Great-Tasting Original Universe, and every other universe together.

And as if that isn’t enough for the crew to worry about, Acting Captain Saru has no idea of the mess he’s flying towards on board Charon. But after a long-running thread of the timid Kelpien leaning to move past his inborn fear and step into a leadership role, it’s satisfying to hear our first Saru captain’s log, and then later in the episode, his first stirring speech, that builds to one of Trek’s most enduring credos: “we will not accept a no-win scenario.”

The show also finally acknowledges another of the universe’s fundamental laws: you don’t cast the star of Supercop and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and not give her a fight scene, and even at 55, Yeoh still shows off some impressive moves. We also get a very Star Wars-esque plot to take down a shield to blow up a thing, and Lorca even gives Burnham a “join me and together we will rule the [alternate] galaxy” speech. But as much as the episode borrows from that other enduring sci-fi franchise, the climax is pure Starfleet, with Treknobabble saving the day and the Federation’s high-minded values restated for anyone not paying attention.

And then, of course, one last almost-worth-the-price-of-CBS-All-Access twist, that leads us into what any other show would treat as a season’s worth of plot, if not a series. But we’ve only got two episodes left. If the past 13 episodes are prologue, the next two are going to be a hell of a ride.