Star Trek Discovery “Vaulted Ambition” review
O Captain! My Captain!
Here's a bone to pick before we begin: the “previously on Star Trek Discovery” recaps are starting to freak me out. Granted, a quick memory refresh after a seven-day absence is a useful feature, but do we really have to be shown the same flashback of spy-mistress L'Rell, going the interspecies cowgirl on Lt. Tyler every single week? If your makeup department had stuck with the original Klingon design of The Next Generation, sure thing, Discovery, nude it up. But you didn't, did you? You went with crab-people. Please, stop showing us their (incredibly un-)sexy-times.
On the topic of docking procedures, “Captain” Burnham and her prisoner – Gabriel Lorca, traitor to the Terran empire – have been told to hop a transport and land aboard the I.S.S. Charon. It's the gargantuan flagship/imperial palace of a woman who, impressively, has way more honourary title game than Daenerys Stormborn. Say hello to Emperor Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius. Her Most Imperial Majesty. Mother of the Fatherland. Overlord of Vulcan. Dominus of Qo'noS, Regina Andor. And, uh... Mum.
Yep, you heard that. The parallel universe version of Michael Burnham was adopted by Georgiou – further evidence to support the theory of strong emotional ties spanning dimensions. While you couldn't say the emperor is “overjoyed” to see her daughter returned from the dead (Georgiou is an emotionless bad-arse in this reality), she expresses surprise at the return of both her favourite commander and her most hated betrayer, Lorca. The latter gets shuffled off to an agoniser cell, while Burnham is given praise and is asked to choose from one of three kelpien slaves. Not wanting to break cover, she nonchalantly picks one for God knows what reason.
Elsewhere, some 27 million kilometres away, our own favourite kelpien is trying to fix the crew of the Discovery. Acting-Captain Saru is having great difficulty in keeping Lt. Tyler from killing himself as this human/klingon hybrid is a Kahless scripture-spewing abomination that's at war with itself. L'Rell refuses to clean up her mess until Saru shows her the extent of Tyler's self-harm, at which point a procedure to suppress (or possibly destroy) the consciousness of Voq gets underway.
Saru is also perplexed by the coma state of Lt. Stamets, their means to navigate out of this hellish universe. He's responding to Tilly's spore treatment, but his mind is somewhere else – off in the mycelial network that connects all things, apparently. Unaware of his dimensional mis-jump, Stamets is in there taking a forest stroll with Evil Stamets, a Terran scientist on the Charon who managed to bugger up a spore experiment and get locked in same said network.
He's thrilled to finally have company and explains that the mycelial network around them has become corrupted (but neglects to mention that he's most likely the idiot responsible for this). Though Evil Stamets warns him that this place is akin to human-consuming quicksand, our Stamets allows himself to be led off-task by a ghost of Dr. Culber. We get a touching send-off scene when they're finally alone. It's something I'm appreciative of, as the good doctor exited stage left quite abruptly. Culber explains that there's no such thing as goodbye, and with a kiss the two Stametses (Stameti?) are released back to their natural positions in the universe. Good Stamets drops back to the Discovery, and Evil Stamets to the imperial palace.Elsewhere on the Charon, Burnham and the emperor are halfway through a welcome back meal. Georgiou is equal parts happy to have her back but is suspicious of her miraculous return. She reminds her daughter that despite the opportunities lavished upon her, she was something of a bratty malcontent who was never satisfied. Georgiou has always spared no expense on her; a prime example of this being the expensive steamed kelpien they're currently eating (incidentally if you ever get the chance you should all try the ganglia, it's particularly tasty with a nice space chianti).
Horrified, Burnham manages to swallow and keep her cool. The emperor does not. After hearing Burnham's amazing tale of survival, she smells something fishier than the delicious kelpien banquet and refuses to believe it. Enraged, she pulls a sword and calls Burnham a traitor who will be executed tomorrow, by her hand. Tsk. Mother-daughter tiffs. Adorable.
The next day, the emperor's throne room is populated with a dozen of her most trusted lords, and Burnham is asked for her last words. With nothing left to lose, she reveals her true identity, the existence of parallel universes, and offers up proof – Georgiou's old Starfleet badge, which is tainted with a telltale quantum variance. Remarkably unperturbed by this, the emperor murders all of her lords with a fancy homing ninja star. She believes the story completely. The Terran empire has mapped the volatile area of interphasic space that caused the U.S.S. Defiant to pop up in Georgiou's territory. Mind you, that phenomenon caused everybody aboard that Defiant to go batshit insane.
The emperor proposes a trade. She will hand over the super-secret files on the Defiant (suppressed because the Federation's ideals are dangerous to her reign) and in return, Burnham has to deliver specs on their spore drive technology. It's not the best of deals, but there's little alternative.
As the two frienemies fall into casual talk of dimensional and ideological differences, a bomb gets dropped. Georgiou asks if the “good universe” version of Lorca is also creepily infatuated with her because in this universe he basically groomed her to betray her mother and the empire. As the shock of that sinks in, two more puzzle pieces snap into place. Evil Lorca was Evil Burnham's lover and would cross time and space to be with her. Also, every single person in this universe has an aversion to bright light. Famously, the Lorca down in the holding cells once claimed that his eyesight was damaged in some long-forgotten space battle.
Strong relationships cross dimensions, folks. Especially weird stalky ones. For 11 episodes, the helm of the U.S.S. Discovery was never held by a good man. Attention on deck for Evil Captain Lorca!
Star Trek Discovery is currently streaming on Netflix Australia. Check out what else is streaming this month on Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video and hayu.