Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1 – Episode 13 ‘What’s Past Is Prologue’ REVIEW

Star Trek Discovery

We left off last week with the reveal that Lorca had been the big bad all along – and what’s more, it appeared that he was about to take on the entire Terran flagship by himself. While this would hardly have been unsurprising coming from him, that’s not the case, and he goes about the flagship’s torture chambers freeing all his old revolutionary pals. Luckily there was apparently only the one guard on literally every torture chamber there.

This finally, finally sees the triumphant return of Landry. Ok, it’s evil Landry, but still, she’s earned another go-round after her normal universe version was killed off due to what I can most charitably describe as some profoundly stupid screenwriting. Interestingly, evil Landry acts in basically the same way as normal Landry, that is to say, really chippy to basically everyone except Lorca.

Lorca’s first move is to find evil Stamets, who is for some reason hiding rather than using the mushroom drive to junior birdman himself the hell out of there. There’s some exposition about how it was evil Stamets who betrayed Lorca’s first revolution – but now, with a gun to his head, he’s well and truly back in the fold. He releases a nerve gas through the vents, but of course, this is a highly secure Terran ship, so it only kills off, like, ninety percent of the people on board. To be fair, Terran society seems to be almost entirely coup-based, so this sort of makes sense.

Evil Georgiou observes this with displeasure from the throne room. Luckily, she has Michael there as a wildcard, the one element of the situation that Lorca couldn’t possibly have planned for – so when Michael offers to get Discovery to come and help, Georgiou immediately tries to have her sent to the brig. Michael doesn’t take this lying down and shoots her way into the vents. Georgiou sends a guy after her – we don’t see any more of him, so it’s likely his story ends incredibly badly.

Meanwhile, Discovery have problems of their own. The Terrans’ mushroom fusion engine is – because it’s evil technology, as opposed to Discovery’s method of forcing dangerous amounts of mushrooms into the living brain of a test subject – destroying the entire mushroom network, which will leave them unable to get back to the normal universe. And what’s more, because of something to do with the interconnectedness of all life in the universe, this poses a very real danger of destroying literally everything.

They run the numbers, and while they might be able to destroy the mushroom fusion engine by popping it with their photon torpedoes and causing a chain reaction (a setup which sounds eerily similar), the resulting explosion and mushroom cloud will probably take them out too. Everything seems a bit gloomy until Saru – who, it must be said, is really stepping up to the plate as captain – points out he can sense danger and finds himself not being too worried, and gives a rousing speech about not accepting no-win scenarios. Because Starfleet runs on rousing speeches, Tilly almost immediately works out how they can surf the shockwave all the way back to their universe.

Back on the Terran flagship, Lorca and Georgiou’s forces encounter each other. This is far-out science fiction with technology far in advance of our own, so obviously this involves them all lining up at opposite ends of a room and shooting each other. Ok, there’s a forcefield involved, but it’s so flimsy that it’s more of an insult than anything. When Lorca’s people get the upper hand, by use of a flash grenade of all things, Georgiou finally remembers they’re in the future and teleports herself out. Even Lorca is surprised by this.

With the way clear, Lorca occupies the throne room – reckoning he managed this because it was his fate to do so – and tries to get in touch with Michael. Between the idea of setting off a chain reaction to destroy the baddies’ flagship, and futuristic armies lining up like a Napoleonic set-piece battle, you may already have Star Wars in the back of your mind – so you won’t be surprised that Lorca promptly offers Michael the chance to join him and rule the galaxy as father and son, or something along those lines.

What he’s forgotten is that Michael already has a father-son dynamic going on with Georgiou – and even though she’s been on this ship for one day at most, she immediately tracks Georgiou down to her private chillout room. (Despite Terrans’ sensitivity to bright lights, which the twist in the last episode hinged on, the room has lovely scenic views of an incredibly bright light.) She still has Georgiou’s Starfleet badge and Georgiou still has evil Michael’s Terran badge, so there’s still some kind of bond in play – even managing to survive Michael dropping the clanger that she betrayed her universe’s Georgiou.

So, Michael walks Georgiou into the throne room, and claims she’ll join with Lorca (but no creepy sex stuff) if he’s willing to let Discovery go. Obviously it’s a trick, and Michael and Georgiou proceed to beat the hell out of everyone else in the room – helped somewhat by Discovery strafing the room from above. Michael finally brings a gun to a knife fight and has Lorca at phaser-point, but can’t bring herself to pull the trigger – but Georgiou has no such qualms and runs him through with a sword.

Having finally managed to get through a conflict without anyone betraying each other, Georgiou tells Michael to escape, and that she’ll hold off Lorca’s people to buy her some time. Michael’s having none of that, and grabs hold of Georgiou as she’s being beamed out. With all the important characters now safe, Discovery circles around for the Death Star trench run, by which I mean to blow up the mushroom fusion reactor. Poor old Landry, having just been bludgeoned senseless by Michael, watches from the throne room and awkwardly asks if the shields are still up.

So, with the Terran empire lying in ruins, Discovery sets off back through the mushroom network to their universe. Stamets is having trouble navigating, but then figures it out based on something Culber told him while he was catatonic. This would be a lot more heartwarming if it wasn’t for the fact that that wasn’t Culber, it was a hallucination of Culber – and in fact, the clues only make sense coming from a facet of Stamets’s own psyche, since Culber was a medic and never worked on the mushroom drive. Still, they successfully navigate the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey and emerge back into their universe.

Georgiou is still shocked to find herself in Discovery’s transport room – meanwhile, the rest of the crew are shocked to find themselves nine months on from when they left (almost as if there was a mid-season break in the meantime). And when they look at a map of how the war’s going – since, remember, their final act before getting stuck in the evil universe was taking out Kol’s flagship – they’re yet more shocked to find that the Klingons have won.


The Trek essentials

to explore strange new worlds‘: No new worlds, obviously. However, the most obvious failure here is that we didn’t explore any more of the Terran empire. In fact, it’s not even that clear if there is any more of it, given that there was a literal palace coup and nobody outside the flagship got involved. You’d have thought Georgiou would reach out to, if nobody else, the notorious Captain Killy, which could have given Tilly another chance to play at being evil.

to seek out new life and new civilisations‘: While they don’t explore it much, it seems that Terran society runs largely on Calvinist ideas of pre-destination, hence Lorca’s idea that taking the throne was his destiny, Georgiou’s flatfooted shock at not being allowed a glorious last stand, and, in a wider sense, how none of the other Terrans get involved. As for new life, Discovery’s bridge crew – the part-robot lady, the wholly-robot lady, and the one with glorious braids – finally get names and even some lines, rather than being confined entirely to background reaction shots.

to boldly go where no one has gone before‘: The show’s decisively got its hook for the next episode in place by having the Klingons win the war in Discovery’s absence – something which nobody mentioned in the original series, which takes place chronologically later. That said, in the first half of this season, exactly who was winning the war fluctuated wildly from moment to moment, and we’ve already had some timey-wimey shenanigans, so it’s possible they’ll use the mushrooms to make none of it have ever happened. And while they’ve lost Lorca as a war leader, they do now have an incredibly angry and bloodthirsty version of Georgiou at their disposal.

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