Discovery: Context is for Kings
The prologue is over. The Pilot has arrived.
Context is for Kings focuses on our protagonist she is impressed into service on the Discovery. And I will say, after the moral ambiguity of the prologue episodes, it was very refreshing to see some unambiguous heroism depicted on the show. (And reciting Lewis Carroll while doing it. Goddamn.)
It seems that Nicholas Meyer was not just a hire to appease the fanboys. The show features scientists running wild experiments and are critical of the more militarized aspects of Starfleet’s mission is a key aspect of the show. Not to let the future installment of the films cloud our judgement, but in The Wrath of Khan, the Genesis device is presented as something that is mostly positive until perverted.
Something else to consider is how Discovery is also reaching back to an important source that inspired Star Trek. AE van Vogt wrote novels and stories that featured the kind of near omnipotent adversaries and super-men that were encountered frequently by the original Star Trek crew. Even Q and Nagilum from Next Gen are ripped directly from his pages. The stories set on the Beagle feature a ship, crew, and story structure that was definitely a defining example of the space opera genre. Now in Discovery we see a beast that is consuming people, and maybe a little bit more. The design seems to be inspired by Coeurl from Black Destroyer, and for the sake of our crew, I hope the screen version is not nearly as intelligent as his resemblance to his short story counterpart.
It is a stark break from tradition that the Captain not be the moral center of the show. But when looking for broad indications of what the show is going to prioritize, security chief Ellen Landry is billed as a guest star rather than a headline lead. Instead, I think the character arc of Cadet Sylvia Tilly is going to be a significant focus for what the moral center of the show is. She doesn’t let the fact that she’s a bit of an outcast dampen her ambition or her earnestness.
Could Lorca be lying about the astromycology experiments? Well, he did show Burnham some glimpse of the technology in action. The alien was probably something that the Glenn had inadvertently brought back from a distant world. The biology lab that it is ultimately stored in has a Gorn skeleton in a display case, and what appear to be Cardassian Voles on the table, so I’m going to assume that it’s not related to the top secret experiments. Also, if Lorca really is looking for a biological weapon to use against the Klingons, he’s got the perfect sitting on his desk. Duh.
Things I want from the show: I want to actually take time to breathe, and register the emotional reactions of the characters more. I will say that if the “black badges” turn out to be Section 31, I am totally getting off this ride. Starfleet Intelligence is fine. But a secret organization is not secret if everyone is talking about them. But for what it’s worth, “black research” has historically involved experimental avionics in the Air Force.
“Universal law is for lackeys. Context is for kings.” There we have it, a key theme for the show. I’ve given Kurtzman a lot of flak in the past, but a recent interview with him stands out: “For me, at the core of ‘Star Trek’ is the idea that Starfleet’s mission is to understand the other, or what is perceived as the other. To use a word that may seem ironic, our approach was to humanize the Klingons, meaning we know a lot about them. In a moment when we are living in a world where ideologies are so polarized and polarizing, what I did not want to do was just make them the bad guys. I was not interested in doing that version of the show.” The notion that we need more knowledge and to expand our understanding seems critical to what Star Trek is to me.