Years ago, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens classic Trek novel “Prime Directive” opened with a paragraph talking about how badly Starfleet misjudged the men it put into the center chair of the constellation class ships during TOS era. It pointed out that a large majority of these captains came to a less than ignominious end, citing examples from TOS episodes as the basis for this.
Watching “Lethe,” I felt like this opening paragraph not only applied to the constellation class ships in Starfleet but also to other commanders from the TOS era.
And maybe that it applies to Lorca.
Seems that a majority of Starfleet Command is willing to overlook his unconventional style and his checkered past because he’s getting results in winning the Klingon war. It also feels like Lorca is assembling a crew around him that is built on loyalty to him over loyalty to Starfleet. He’s giving Burnham a second chance and a post on the bridge, despite her crimes and now he’s installed Tyler as head of security because he wants someone in place that is loyal to him first and foremost. At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Saru slowly begin to find reasons to bristle under what Lorca is doing as commander of Discovery. I can’t help but think that if Saru compared Lorca’s history and decisions to the great commanders of Starfleet that he pulled up last week, that he’d find Lorca is a bit lacking.
This could get even more interested when and if we find out what happens to Admiral Cornwell.
I can’t quite decide if it was a coincidence or Lorca taking advantage of a situation he knew might not end well for Cornwell when he sent her to negotiate with the Klingons when Sarek is injured. Given that she’s about to go back to Starfleet and remove him from command because he’s still hasn’t dealt with losing his ship and crew and the circumstances make it seem very, very convenient for Lorca. Even if it’s a huge coincidence, the fact that Lorca is now willing to wait for orders and guidance from Starfleet before he attempts to rescue Cornwell brings up a lot of questions (at least for viewers, who at this point, know more about Lorca’s motivations than Saru does).
I can’t quite decide if having Cornwell survive being held prisoner by the Klingons will be a good or a bad thing for Lorca.
Either way, the situation probably won’t win him any more points in her estimation.
And that’s not the only character study taking place in “Lethe.”
After being rescued by Lorca last week, Tyler is becoming integrated as part of this crew. He’s offered and accepts the role of security chief and he’s building a relationship with Burnham. That the two of them have a connection as outsiders makes a great deal of sense. Both have been out of the good graces of Starfleet for the past several months and are being given a second chance. That common ground could make for some interesting character development and storytelling as things continue to unfold.
We also find out a bit more about Burnham’s relationship with her adopted family of Sarek and Amanda. Seems that Sarek is proud of his two kids, but gave priority to an entrance to the Vulcan Science Academy to his blood relative, Spock. Nice to see Spock named checked and seeing how Sarek was forced to choose between his two children certainly gives some different shading to the conflict between father and son we’ll see play out on TOS.
It’s also interesting to see how Sarek is perceived by his fellow Vulcans for his choice to marry Amanda and take Burnham as a ward. As we saw the zealot try to kill Sarek in the opening, I couldn’t help but feel this might be from the same group of Vulcans that were in power during Enterprise and were determined to keep humanity from exploring the final frontier too soon, if ever. It felt like this was a thread picked up from the Enterprise era and it tempted me to go back and look at the three-part story from season four with Surak’s katra and his teachings being brought back to Vulcan.
I also like the Burnham/Tilly scenes with Tilly trying to find her way into the center chair. It gives us a name check for the original Enterprise. I can’t help but wonder if Burnham brings it up because of her family connection since Spock is probably serving on the ship at this point in Trek history.
What didn’t work for “Lethe” for me was that Burnham is arrogant enough to assume that Sarek’s dying “shame” is because she’s disappointed him and not because he’s disappointed in his actions? It felt like Burnham was made a bit too selfish to not even entertain the idea that Sarek’s shame could be something else that isn’t all about her. I’m guessing this is supposed to reinforce Burnham’s stubbornness and belief that she’s always right that we saw in the two-part pilot when she tried to fire on the Klingon ships.
The other thing that I hope doesn’t come to fruition is a love triangle of Burnham, Tyler, and Tilly. Tilly clearly has a crush on Tyler and I’d hate to see the show generate some type of conflict between Tilly and Burnham over Tyler. But it seems like the show may be headed that way.