Last night the third episode of CBS’s streaming network All Access released the third episode of Star Trek: Discovery – Context is King. In this episode Michael Burnham is rescued by Discovery after the shuttle she is on becomes disabled.
Once aboard Discovery Burnham has awkward encounters with her former shipmates, the promoted Saru (Doug Jones), and the battle-scarred Keyla (Emily Coutts). Burnham is suitably remorseful, and is sensible about her position aboard Discovery and her new found infamy.
Burnham is brought before Discovery’s captain Gabriel Lorcas (played by Jason Isaacs). Captain Lorcas is unlike any Starfleet captain we’ve seen before. Brooding, sullen, angry, and hostile. Compared to the likes of Kirk and his easy self-assurance, or Picard and his measured confidence, Lorcas is a man haunted. But by what?
The crew of Discovery is not as open as you’d normally expect on a Starfleet ship either. There is no easy work banter and the crew seems cliquish and stand-offish, not only with Burnham, but with each other. This is highlighted by the inclusion of Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman). A young and enthusiastic cadet seems like a wrong choice for a crew such as Discovery’s.
I think the title of this episode Contect is King is meant to help us understand the idea behind this entire series. Taken out of context the actions of the captain and crew of Discovery could be strange and bizarre. We have to take what we see in the context of what is happening to the Federation at the time, so rather than making snap judgements with each episode, we should perhaps wait, and then the meaning will become clear, ultimately.
Now that the Federation is at war it makes sense to put it on a more military footing, and as a science vessel, that Discovery focus her resources to more military matters. However Captain Lorcas clearly has his own agenda and like a man possessed, will use whatever resources, people and methods at his disposal to win his war. And make no mistake, Lorcas is taking this war with the Klingons very personally.
With that in mind it makes a certain amount of sense to invite Michael Burnham onto Discovery. She give Lorcas a model of unStarfleet-like behaviour to hold up to his crew and the rest of Starfleet when he needs to justify his decisions and actions later on. Burnham will become his Judas goat.
The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery started us on a path of frightening and dark times in the Federation. Context is King leads us further down that path and offers little in the way of the comfort we’ve known from previous series. I have a feeling things are going to get a whole lot darker before we begin to see any sort of brightness returns.
It’s too soon to say if Star Trek: Discovery is a brilliant success or a brilliant disgrace, but it is a journey. And it’s a journey I’m very interested in taking.