The the majority of powerful scene of Star Trek: Discovery’s third episode – and, after last week’s two-part prologue, its de facto premiere – comes in its final 10 minutes. Gabriel Lorca, the captain of the U.S.S. Discovery, tries to convince Michael Burnham to join his mission to end the war via the Klingons. He says he demands people prefer her, who was willing to launch a preemptive strike at the Battle at the Binary Stars.

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“You chose to do the appropriate thing over and over what was sanctioned, also at excellent expense to yourself, and also that is the kind of reasoning that wins war,” Lorca tells Burnham. “Universal legislation is for lackeys. Context is for monarchs.”

It’s a mesmerizing monologue, at an early stage proof of exactly how much Jason Isaacs will carry to the show as Lorca. But it’s additionally a straight obstacle to the proud optimism that undergirds Star Trek, and the episode – which takes its title, “Context Is for Kings,” from that speech – leaves the viewer unparticular whether Discovery has involved refuse that optimism or, inevitably, to champion it. On a basic level, does Discovery believe in Star Trek?

What Sunday’s episode demonstprices most efficiently is that Discovery is a present of war. Consider among the various other debuting main personalities, Anthony Rapp’s astromycologist Paul Stamets. He is a complete jerk, already a contender for the leastern likable series constant in Star Trek history. Previous shows have spotlighted scoundrels and also brats and also basic annoyances, however hardly ever has actually Star Trek presented us through someone this unpleasant, someone that so fundamentally doesn’t desire to be where he is.

But there’s a factor for that, as Stamets defines to Burnham once they method the downed U.S.S. Glenn. Before the battle, he and his research study companion hoped their research of area fungi might reveal the universe’s a lot of fundamental mysteries. Now the battle has actually come – a dispute Burnham more or much less started – and he has been drafted to turn his life’s work-related into a tool to aid the Federation prevail. His colleague has actually already passed away a gruesome fatality in business of that initiative. What optimism is to be found there?

Star Trek’s pacifism has actually always been complicated. War has long existed on the fringes, as a part of the show’s backstory or as something bacount avoided. At its a lot of extreme, in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” The Next off Generation made itself nearly unrecognizably dark simply by imagining the same, otherwise unchanged personalities in the context of battle. Deep Space Nine and Enterprise both devoted significant time to wartime arcs, however those periods of problem followed multiple years invested reaffirming Trek’s crucial cornsphere optimism.


Not that tonight’s episode is pure cynicism. Characters like Saru, late of the Shenzhou and also currently Lorca’s first officer, fit even more neatly right into traditional expectations of Star Trek personalities, as does Mary Wiseman’s Cadet Tilly. Neither is the bold traveler one might associate with any of the past Enterprise crews, yet they at least check out as committed Starfleet officers with some feeling of mission past the narrow boundaries of the war via the Klingons. Yet, also right here, tright here are nuances: Tilly, for circumstances, makes no key of her goal to become a captain, and also it’s hard to see that as an unambiguous positive as soon as Lorca is her function model for command also.

So maybe it falls to Burnham herself to remajor the show’s idealist. In initially turning dvery own the captain’s market to join Discovery, Burnham affirms the Federation’s principles she knows she betrayed through her mutiny aboard the Shenzhou. Lorca then claims his starship’s research is not to devise a weapon yet rather “a brand-new method to fly” – even if it’s modern technology born of battle. What might be an extra powerful means to keep pushing versus the last frontier?

Nor is Lorca’s grim dispute totally convincing, which is by architecture – a display doesn’t actors Jason Isaacs for him not to be slippery and also morally suspect. The monologue is some masterful manipulation, at the same time telling Burnham what she desires to hear and forcing her to view Discovery’s mission in terms of her sense of duty. Lorca is the first Star Trek captain not to be the show’s lead, and also “Context Is for Kings” leaves it completely unclear whether he will certainly prove hero, villain, or something in between.

For currently, look to the episode’s titular line: By Lorca’s own reckoning, he is a king. This has always been true of Trek’s captains, but that never felt so dangerous until the audience was asked to take the perspective of a subordinate. Lorca tells Stamets the ship is not a democracy, and his conversation via Burnham lays simple his belief that his status and also his temperament intend he is not beholden to some piffling global law.


At initially blush, such megalomania sounds favor a total rejection of Star Trek. But is Lorca simply even more baldly stating what all his precursors have always believed? James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Kathryn Janemeans, and also Jonathan Archer all treated the prime directive as something honored more in the breach than in the observance. Sure, they tfinished to articulate their defiance of the Federation’s forea lot of principle in more high-minded terms, however that’s the point around kings: Tbelow are great ones and tbelow are negative ones. Either way, it’s all dvery own to exactly how great the people making the rules are, not the toughness of the underlying mechanism.

And Burnham doesn’t have the absolute power that her protagonist precursors did. Indeed, her place as mutineer puts her in a much more precarious and much less specific position than just around any Starfleet officer in any of the 5 previous shows’ casts. By the episode’s finish, she finds herself serving aboard a mysterious ship with a suspect captain and a crew that distrusts her at finest and detests her at worst.

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The opportunity that does produce, intriguingly, is for Discovery to eventually prove its idea in Star Trek by placing it to its greatest test. If Burnham, who is breakable and also compromised in a way no Trek hero has actually been prior to and serving in dangerous times with dangerous comrades in a means none have actually before, have the right to still discover her means in the end to Star Trek’s core ideals, then the show will absolutely have earned its place alongside its even more nakedly optimistic precursors. It’s simply that. By jumping straight to the grim and cynical, Discovery leaves its viewers to guess whether it has pertained to bury Star Trek or to praise it.