Airing in the US on CBS All Access Sundays at 8:30 pm ET and at 12pm on Mondays in the UK on Netflix
Written by: Jordan Nardino
Director: Hanellum Culpepper
Locking spoilers on target…
The first season is without a doubt a tale of two halves, with the dividing line between episodes nine and ten and the new tempo of Star Trek: Discovery post finding-its-feet continues with another awesome, action-packed, pumping powerhouse of an episode in “Vaulting Ambition”.
The title incidentally is a reference to the line “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on the other” from Act I, Scene VII of William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”.
Straight away we continue with the events from last week’s episode, “The Wolf Inside”. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is on her way to meet Emperor Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) with the prisoner Lorca (Jason Isaacs) in tow. Knowing full well he’s going to be tortured without mercy, Burnham gives him a hyposhot of a concoction that will numb his nerves.
Lt Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is still in a coma and still floating around the sporeverse and has met his Mirror Universe self. They chat about this and that and the MU Stamets explains that they need to find a way out ’cause the mycelial network is dying, which is not good.
Also, on the USS Discovery, Tylervoq’s (Shazad Latif) condition is deteriorating. Neither Saru (Doug Jones) or Tilly (Mary Wiseman) seem to be able to help either Stamets or Tylervoq.
The inevitable bluff begins as Burnham tries to lie her way through the first meeting with the Emperor at the Royal Court in front of thousands of subjects loyal to the Terran Empire. It’s actually reminiscent of the epic Flash Gordon from 1980. However, we learn that Burnham is actually Georgiou’s daughter.
In a slightly sick but utterly brilliant moment, the Emperor makes Burnham chose a Kelpian from a line up of three. Every single person watching thinks it is simply to chose a servant, so Burnham makes her choice, possibly even thinking that she is saving one of them from continued imprisonment as she will naturally be kind to it, just as she was to MU Saru last week.
Meanwhile, Tylervoq is going absolutely bananas in the medical bay. Saru has him strapped to the table and he’s thrashing about, ranting and raving in Klingon. So, Saru tries a different approach and goes to talk to L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) to see if she will help, but she refuses.
Cut to Emperor Georgiou’s private chamber as she and Burnham are eating dinner and a more intimate interrogation is surely about to begin.
“The food is delicious as always,” Burnham says, trying to maintain her charade.
“No one prepares Kelpian like the Imperial Chef,” Emperor Georgiou replies.
Suddenly, simultaneously, Burnham’s face exactly mirrors our own and both she and the viewer arrive at the same horrific conclusion as she fights hard not to throw up.
“Here, have my ganglia. You deserve a treat,” Georgiou offers, holding some fleshy meat in her chopsticks for Burnham to eat. Reluctantly, she does…almost crying as she chews.
You’d be forgiven for speculating at this point that maybe Georgiou and Burnham were an item in the MU, which was probably a deliberate move by the writers, but it turns out that Georgiou adopted Burnham in the Mirror Universe. However, mum is not happy with her daughter and doesn’t believe Burnham isn’t involved in a conspiracy together with Lorca and consequently sentences her to immediate execution.
Stamets² are now wandering around the corridors of a mental projection of the Discovery trying to determine the best way out of this mess. They can’t seem to pinpoint the last jump that took Discovery to the Mirror Universe…and sadly much of this element of the story is lost in technobabble, as the whole, stupid spore drive plot line always was.
Back in the thrown room, Burnham tries one last ditch attempt to talk Georgiou out of executing her – she tells her the truth and to prove it, she produces Captain Georgiou’s Starfleet badge out of her pocket. In a surprise move, the Emperor produces some Krull-meets-Predator flying-blade-thingy and kills all but one of her lieutenants present in the throne room. “Tell no one of this,” she commands.
It turns out – and in a nice move by the writers – that she’s already familiar with the whole Mirror Universe/USS Defiant story, so thankfully, hours of exposition aren’t required and we can maintain the nice, speedy pace at which the plot is now moving along at. Georgiou accurately references events from The Original Series episode “The Tholian Web” (S3, Ep9), which is how the USS Defiant arrived in the MU.
Incidentally, that wasn’t the idea behind that episode…that was the genius of the under-rated Star Trek: Enterprise.
Back in medical bay aboard the Discovery, Saru has managed to convince L’Rell to help after her showed her pictures of self-mutilation that Tylervoq was inflicting on himself. Only she herself can undo what’s been done…or something. And this is the only element really that lets this episode down…just as it has always threatened to act like a sea anchor, dragging the series down. Was that a Klingon death ritual scream she let out in the end, when Tyler was seemingly restored? This story arc can’t be resolved that conveniently.
The notion that the Klingons had the technology to create a hybrid might sound ridiculous, until you remember the TOS episode “The Trouble With Tribbles” (season 2, episode 15) where the Klingons had a human-looking spy. So it’s entirely possible the writers considered this an updated variation of that plot.
Stamets has managed to find Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) in this wibbly-wobbly, spore-generated world that he’s been wandering around in, which is lovely. So we’re treated to some warm, tender moments between these two.
While all this has been going on…poor Lorca has been kept in an Agonizer Booth. But, he’s been faking it don’t forget. So, when a particularly pissed off high-ranking member of Emperor Georgiou’s crew relieves the team supervising Lorca’s torture so that he personally can exact some revenge for his sister, or his goldfish…or some such thing, Lorca fakes loss of consciousness and managed to overpower and kill said high-ranking muppet.
Now, like a chain sliding off the edge of a table, gathering speed, the events of this episode suddenly pick up pace.
In a series of lovely scenes shared with Stamets and Culber, the good doctor gives his beloved partner some invaluable advice. He explains how MU Stamets is evil (duh) and he used the mycelial network for his own gains. And “everything, everywhere” is in danger of being destroyed. He also manages to convince his beloved partner to wake from his coma. Except Stamets wakes up onboard the Emperor’s ship, the ISS Charon…and MU Stamets wakes up on Discovery. Uh-oh.
This has actually set up a nice way out for the whole displacement-activated spore hub drive plot line and why it never appears in Star Trek ever again. Let’s not forget Lorca ordered the USS Glenn be destroyed in episode four, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” and if the DASH drive was so important, why didn’t he have it towed to the nearest starbase? (This is where the tardigrade came from, don’t forget.)
And now the spores are dying. So, no more DASH drive tech.
The Emperor agrees to spare Burnham’s life in exchange for engineering schematics of the DASH drive. And in the big reveal of this episode, Georgiou tells Burnham what we’ve come to suspect over the last few weeks…Lorca is indeed from the MU. And then like that scene in The Usual Suspects, the clues fall into place. A nice montage of throwaway lines from Captain Lorca from throughout the series so far follows, as Burnham listens, becoming more and more horrified as she puts the pieces together.
Burnham learns that to begin with, Lorca was her adoptive father…then as time passed, they became…er, lovers, which is a little creepy, even for the Mirror Universe. Apparently, he was grooming her to betray the Emperor.
And now Lorca is free.
And fade to black.
And have a tantrum because that’s the end of the episode.
However – and we like to point out that we called it last week – in the trailer for next week’s episode we get to see former Head of Security and Final Five Cylon, Commander Landry (Rekha Sharma), more than likely from the Original Universe, ’cause the gung-ho MU idiot was
hilariously tragically killed by the tardigrade in episode four.
Does this mean that the rest of the crew of the USS Buran is being held prisoner there too..??
Humpbacked people ✗
• Not sure how they’re going to separate Tyler from Voq and keep it believable
• Pity we didn’t get to see the USS Defiant, but here’s hoping for next week
• Maybe get a reference to Empress Sato from Enterprise at some point?
Humpbacked whales ✓
• Some great throwbacks to the TOS, like the medical bay alert
• The eating Kelpian thing was a delicious touch
• Thankfully the Emperor knew all about the United Federation of Planets
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