A few nights ago we were finally introduced to the USS Discovery and her crew, we also learnt of a sister ship the USS Glenn which does make a short appearance. The episode picks up six months after the ‘Battle at the Binary Stars’, and unfortunately it seems that everybody in the universe now knows that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is both the first Starfleet mutineer and responsible for starting the Klingon Federation war, so as you can imagine she doesn’t receive very warm welcomes.
Burnham is in the middle of a prison transport when circumstance requires the Discovery intercept and temporarily house the prisoners, as a result we meet back up with familiar faces from the USS Shenzhou including Discovery’s First Officer Saru (Doug Jones), who is weary of Burnhams presence. Enter the military minded Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) who declares nobody gets a free ride and insists, despite her reluctance that Burnham’s skills be put to use during her stay. The Discovery is a science vessel with over 300 active teams however Michael is assigned to a top secret project alongside her new roommate Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) under the lead of Science Officer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp). With some difficulty we learn that the classified project is a joint venture between teams aboard the Discovery and Glenn, in which they are attempting to use high energy spores to power a new type of long distance instant travel, the likes of which Star Trek has never seen before.
After an accident during an experiment aboard the Glenn causes the entire crew to be wiped out, Captain Lorca dispatches a team to recover any materials related to the top secret assignment as the Glenn is now adrift on the edge of Klingon space. Once aboard the team lead by Stamets find the dead crew horrifyingly malformed, and accompanied by a boarding party of dead Klingons that had been massacred by a large creature of unknown origins. Thanks to Burnham most of the team make it back to Discovery with the recovered data and instruments where Lorca then asks Burnham to remain on Discovery and work for him to help win the war she had a hand in starting. Our suspicions are confirmed that Lorca might have ulterior motives and not be as nice a guy as hes letting on when we see hes transported the monstrous creature from the Glenn to a holding cell aboard Discovery.
A tone this dark isn’t something I really expected from a Star Trek show, in my mind they are usually a lot lighter, brighter, and more hopefully than the shocking scenes aboard the Glenn. There were some really graphic shots of disfigured bodies Human and Klingon, which coupled with the rampaging monster popping in and out of frame, dragging people off, and chasing Burnham through access tunnels seemed more like something I’d expect in an Alien movie.
The new form of instant travel has raised some concerns for Trek cannon fiends as there has been no previous mention of this technology and Discovery is a prequel to the all other series, there have been statements from the writers acknowledging this and asking fans to wait as all will be explained.
Overall the episode did a good job of reestablishing where characters are that we already met, establishing what to expect from new ones, what the rough outline of the story will be going forward, and setup some questions to be answered in regards to characters honesty and true motivations, the strange things happening on the ship, and whats the deal with the angry monster? There were once again several fun easter eggs like the tribble and reference to Amanda Greyson, Spock’s mother.
Oddly enough ‘Context is for Kings’ felt as though it were a first episode of a second season or series picking up off a movie, and realistically it is, the first two episodes played out a rather contained cinematic portion of story and now the rest of the series will deal with the consequences in a cause and effect way. I do think that the story from the first two episodes is detached, referenced, and straight forward enough that the series could have picked up here leaving the exact happenings a bit ambiguous, but I’m grateful that the showrunners decided to take this approach for the character insights and relationships. I’m enjoying the show so far, so lets see where it goes.
Stream the next episode on CBS All Access Sunday October 8th in the US, and on Netflix Monday October 9th in Australia. Check the trailer for next weeks episode here: