Star Trek Discovery: 1.04 The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry
Star Trek: Discovery really got into the swing of things this week with Michael finally being given a uniform, though noticeably no rank, and put to work by Captain Lorca. What work would that be? Finding out a way to weaponise the creature Lorca brought aboard last episode from the ill-fated USS Glenn. After seeming to set up Lorca's private collection as a dark secret at the heart of The Discovery, this week's episode built upon the reveal by having Lorca introduce Michael to it, holding nothing back as to its purpose. She was to study any and all threats or weapons they come across and determine how they can be used to help The Federation win the war with the Klingons. Michael seemed eager to get to work, for reasons of both scientific curiosity and as a way to avoid accepting delivery of Last Will and Testament of Captain Georgiou.
Michael quickly identified the creature as a macro version of the typically microscopic Tardigrade and set about trying to figure out its nature and how it even got on board the Glenn in the first place. Lorca had Chief Security Officer Commander Landry (Rekha Sharma) keep an eye on Michael and the two quickly butted heads over the nature of the creature. Michael believed the creature was simply an undiscovered form of life, an animal following its own nature and killing only in self defence whilst Landry saw only a threat, that she rather awkwardly nick-named Ripper, that needed to broken down for its useful parts, namely the claws that cut through bulkheads and armour that stood up to phaser fire. With the pure science versus military application debate playing out in microcosm we didn't have to wait long to see how the writers felt on that particular issue. Landry attempted to gas the creature, without fully knowing if the process would indeed work on Ripper, and the thing leapt from its containment cell. Michael managed to get the creature back in, but not before it literally mauled Landry to death.
I was a little taken aback by the grisly end and frankly, the stupidity of a character that was meant to be a Starfleet Officer, in charge of Security no less, but Landry wasn't really around long enough for me to grow to like her. Lorca, thankfully more interested in getting the goods from poor “Ripper” didn't immediately flush the poor thing into space, which was a bonus I suppose, instead ordering Michael back to work to find something so that Landry's death wouldn't have been in vain.
Following her instincts that Ripper – I seriously hope they don't expect us to keep calling it that – was just a big dumb animal, Michael tricked Saru into joining her in the lab to see if his threat sensing ganglia reacted to its presence. They didn't, proving her theory, though lying to Saru about her motives only caused him to dislike her even more than he did. Michael also tested feeding Ripper some of the spores that both the Discovery and the Glenn used for their prototype spore drives and sure enough, it ate them. Big dumb creature it is.
After the Discovery received word that a Federation outpost that mined dilithium crystals, crucial for keeping The Federation's warp engines running, was under attack from the Klingons, Lorca forced Stamets to try out the spore drive as it was the only way to get there in time and stave off the attack. The Discovery, with its strange disc section spinning animation which I'm not a fan of, was nearly thrown into a star as a result. It seemed a vital component was missing as they couldn't seem to figure out how the Glenn made the countless calculations needed to navigate when jumping through this “spore-space”.
A little note here, during all the jostling and buffeting which is as much a part of Star Trek as transporters, Stamets was thrown forward into his console and broke his nose. It was patched together easily enough by the ship's Doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz) – making his first appearance – but I just thought it was worth a mention. I'm not sure if I've ever seen that before on a Star Trek.
Michael made the connection that the Glenn was using Ripper as its navigator in a fashion due to its connection with the spores and by hooking it up to the salvaged modified spore drive, Stamets was able to successfully jump the Discovery to the outpost in time take out the Klingon ships. A brilliant victory for Starfleet, albeit one that seemed to need to remain classified for now as the Discovery didn't stick around to help the survivors of the attack. But during the jump, Michael witnessed something that I feel she may have been expecting; The process hurt Ripper. During its next feeding, Michael couldn't help but apologise for what they did to it, leaving the show's ain character with the following moral quandary – Is Starfleet right to essentially torture a creature to improve its technology, even if said technology could be used to bring a war to a quicker end?
In a parallel plot that I found very intriguing we saw Voq, the emissary of the martyred T'Kuvma onboard his damaged ship, still floating six months after the Battle of the Binary Stars in episode 2. Seemingly left stranded by the Klingon Empire, he was forced to compromise his ideals of Klingon purity, which seems to even extend to his ship, by salvaging a dilithium processor from the now derelict Shenzou to repair his own vessel. During the mission he seemed to bond with L'Rell, a female Klingon who seemed keen on Voq, even if she was, by her own admission, just in it to see him ascend to power so she can be standing right behind him when he did. Upon returning to their ship however, Voq's crew had turned on him when another Klingon Commander turned up with food for the starving crew. L'Rell herself even turned on Voq for a bite of a juicy drumstick.
Another note here – Voq and his crew ate Captain Gergiou's body. At first I thought this was as some sort of ritual, this version of Klingons seeming be into that sort of thing much more than any previous version we've seen, but it seems they did it to simply not starve. Either way, a grim detail that won't be soon forgotten by this viewer.
Abandoned on the Shenzou and left to die in the remains of the ship that killed his beloved T'Kuvma, Voq, seemingly on the verge of losing his faith despite his protestations to the contrary is saved by none other than L'Rell. Seems she's even more duplicitous than she ever let on.
As Voq's faith in his cause and belief in himself were rewarded, so were Michael's as she finally accepted Captain's Georgiou's Last Will and Testament. Feeling guilt as the holographic message was obviously recorded before her mutiny, with reference to her probably having her own command by now, we saw that Georgiou left her a telescope that had been passed down in her family for centuries as she saw Michael as a daughter she never had. Somewhat saccharine for sure but at least it was in the spirit of exploration and adventure that is the core of Star Trek.
The twin narratives of Michael Burnham's reintegration into Starfleet – watch out Saru, she's coming for that First Officer position – and Voq's presumed rise to power as a new messianic figure within the Klingon Empire (as well the aforementioned grimness in relation to the cost of life) promise to make Star Trek: Discovery a very different Star Trek to any we've seen previously. It will ensure I will be back each week, to see both sides of this war and the toll it takes.