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

Adam Mathew 30 January 2018

Star Trek Discovery

Game of Space Throne

Episode 13 of Star Trek Discovery is so jam-packed full of redshirt right-sizing and major character murder, I can scarcely believe it's not the season ender. Some serious budget was spent here, folks. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the two remaining episodes turns out to be a clip-show and the other gets set in a box factory.

Past is Prologue is every bit the climactic showdown. Captain Gabriel Lorca has pulled off the greatest Trojan horse move since ancient times. Over the course of 12 episodes (or one year and 212 days), he's manage to evade the wrath of Emperor Georgiou, recruit a crew in a different dimension and then get himself brought back onto her flagship as a supposed prisoner. One Houdini act later and he's overpowered his captors and broken his old conspirators out of their cells. Well played, sir.

With the long con out of the way, Evil Lorca sets about taking control of the ship and evening the score with those responsible for his last failed coup. The bumbling Evil Stamets is at the top of this list, and when he's (easily) captured, he queries Lorca about his cross-dimensional escape. Getting monologuey – which I feel is his evil prerogative – Lorca reveals that his attempt to teleport off the Buran met with some interference from an ion storm. Yadda, yadda – science – parallel universe holiday to a dimension where everybody is an easily manipulated do-gooder, and now he's back in black.

Star Trek Discovery %22What's Past is Prologue%22

Lorca's first Game of Thrones move is to tactically release the bio-weapon Evil Stamets has been building. In her throne room, Emperor Georgiou watches decks 1 through 17 of the I.S.S. Charon go dark. She knows Lorca is playing a game, baiting her into making the wrong move. Furthermore, she recognises that he manipulated her sentiment for Burnham. She attempts to remove this weakness by having said daughter-figure slapped in the brig, but the wily young specialist breaks free and goes on the run.

Elsewhere, the U.S.S. Discovery is warping towards the unfolding mess on the Charon. Stamets is back to normal and the spore drive is working, but the mycelium crop that powers it is...well, cactus. The good news: Acting-captain Saru has detected that Evil Stamets has developed a means to power the Charon by ripping energy directly from the mycelial network. The bad news: that power comes at a cost. If the Terrans are not stopped from using this super-mycelial reactor, it'll tear all of reality a new one.

Taking the initiative, Georgiou engages with her foe and his merry band of “Make The Galaxy Glorious Again” fans. Before a shootout begins in the main labs, harsh words are exchanged and Lorca basically confirms that he's an irredeemable space racist who hates aliens and wants to preserve the “human” way of life. The room erupts in phaser fire and many an extra gets atomised. The Emperor puts up a good show, but her fancy force-field tech and lethal defensive turrets aren't enough. She tactically retreats with an emergency teleport system.

The cat and mouse game continues, but not before Lorca threatens to throw Evil Stamets down into the mycelial core. He relents, saying it'd be way too elaborate and poetic a death, having a scientist killed by his own creation. Instead, he just casually asks his 2IC to vaporise him on the spot. Ice. Cold.

Meanwhile, Burnham's newfound freedom has allowed her to hack into the comms and warn the approaching Discovery crew. With all the puzzle pieces laid out, Saru, Stamets and Tilly brainstorm up a way to both destroy the mycelial reactor and escape this dimension. Problem: this two-birds-with-one-photon-torpedo solution comes with incredible risk. Once Burnham lowers the Charon's containment field, the ensuing explosion will vaporise them if they don't warp with precision.

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In the throne room of said ship, a reunited Burnham and Georgiou accept the inevitable and surrender to Lorca. (Interestingly, one of his goons is Landry the evil version of the Discovery security officer who died early on like a punk.) A still-infatuated Lorca tries to put the moves on Burnham, asking her to put aside the childish idealism of the Federation and its social experiment that's doomed to failure. Burnham agrees to surrender herself to him (mind only) if she can contact the Discovery and tell them they're spared from further Terran attacks.

Lorca agrees and Burnham springs the trap by accessing the containment field controls. The Discovery pops out of warp just as Georgiou and Burnham break free and start to kick some mutinous Terran arse. It's an intense battle that ultimately ends with Lorca wounded and at the end of Burnham's phaser. She shows him mercy – it's the Starfleet way. Georgiou rams three feet of steel through his guts – it's how Terrans get down. For good measure, Lorca cops some Moon Door treatment by being kicked out of the throne room and down into the mycelial core. The jury's still out on whether he gets disintegrated or whisked off along the network to destinations unknown. Yeah. Probably should have just lopped his head off.

Evil Lorca's off the board, but there's no time for a mother-daughter high-five. More rebels attempt to storm the throne room and Georgiou tells Burnham that they'll never stop resisting her now that she's shown she can be toppled. The emperor tries to go down in a blaze of phaser fire, but Burnham grabs a hold of her as the Discovery locks on with the teleport.

Once they're aboard, Saru drive-bys the core and Stamets expertly rides the epic spore-splosion off into the network. Thanks to some sage advice from the ghost of Dr Culber, a correct course through infinity is plotted and the U.S.S. Discovery finally spins homeward.

It's not all smooth sailing, however. Stamets has cocked up the landing by nine months. Apparently that's all the time the Klingons needed to win the war and give birth to a new empire. It looks like we'll be busy in these last two episodes after all...

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.

VERDICT

One of the best episodes yet. Impressive production values and excellent fight choreography. Here's hoping the momentum can be maintained for the two remaining eps.

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