Star Trek: Discovery brought the curtain down on the first half of its inaugural season leaving fans by and large satisfied with what they’d seen. In nine episodes, showrunner Aaron Harberts introduced plenty. So much, in fact, that looking back, it seems incredible they squeezed so much in.
Yet it felt far from overstuffed. It was a well-balanced, entertaining and thoughtful start to a show that fans had been trepidatious about ahead of its premiere. It certainly brought us much to set it apart from other Star Trek shows without straying too far away from that classic Star Trek feel. This is actually pretty crucial for the creators to get right, since Discovery is set 10 years before the events of The Original Series, and plans are for the show to lead into the beginning of the Gene Roddenberry’s classic series.
Without further ado, here are five things we loved about Star Trek: Discovery:
Everything Michael Burnham
Firstly, casting Sasha from The Walking Dead in the lead role is a win. Sonequa Martin-Green kills it in the role. Plus, she’s a woman. And a woman of colour, at that. Star Trek has always been progressive, and Michael Burnham’s name is a nod towards equality.
At a recent fan event in London, Martin-Green said, “In story terms, [I came up with the idea that] I was named after my biological father who was obviously also Michael Burnham. And what I love about that is that it’s … a political statement.”
She added, “[It’s about] gender roles in the future being a lot more fluid. And so a girl can be named after her dad and perhaps a son after his mother.”
Raised by a Vulcan father and human mother – Spock’s parents, no less, making Spock her adoptive brother – Burnham has an intriguing blend of Vulcan and human qualities despite being biologically fully human herself. She also has a special mental link to her adoptive father Sarek following a mind meld he performed on her to bring her back to life. She’d been targeted by Vulcan logic extremists and was caught up in an explosion. This connection allowed her to save his life in the show.
Saru’s Admission of Jealousy
There was always tension between Saru and Michael. He would have you believe that he was mostly annoyed about her disregard for authority when she became a mutineer to seize control of the USS Shenzhou in order to attack the Klingons. Her actions ultimately led to Captain Georgiou’s death.
But it was more about jealousy than anything. We love how Saru is able to confess his true feelings. He tells Michael in Episode 5 that he is jealous that Captain Georgiou favoured Burnham. And that because of what Michael did, he never got the chance to be First Officer to Georgiou. The heart-to-heart helps Saru to move on, and he finds a place where he’s able to stand up for Michael, and speak out in support of her.
Of course, there’s more to his jealousy than just that. A Kelpien, he’s the first of his kind to join Starfleet. And so when he sees Michael who, in his eyes, squanders her opportunities at the same time as exhibiting a greater potential for success than him, it empowers that green-eyed monster. She gets his heckles up, his threat ganglia twitching whenever she’s around.
Burnham is also bold and fearless, while he is ruled by fear. On his planet, you were either predator or prey – and his race was the hunted. It’s in his nature to be on high alert and forever fearful, and it’s something he struggles with.
Ripper the Tardigrade
What a glorious creature. Nicknamed Ripper by the Starfleet Commander who is eventually dispatched by it, the Tardigrade is regarded as a threat on first impressions. Found by a team from the Discovery on board the USS Glenn, whose crew had been using the creature to operate their spore drive, it became aggressive and tore through the ship, decimating Klingons.
Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca wants to weaponise the creature. However, when they eventually discover that the beast is actually the key to controlling their own spore drive, its purpose changes. Michael learns that the animal suffers greatly during the process, and she’s increasingly unhappy about what they put it through. She also discovers that it’s not hostile by nature, acts only in self-defence and is indeed sentient. This all leads to her ultimately releasing Ripper, who responds favourably to being free. Yay!
Harcourt Fenton Mudd
Harcourt Fenton Mudd is a character well known to Star Trek fans. A swindler and con artist, Mudd was a recurring character in The Original Series and had several run-ins with Captain Kirk. In Discovery, a little more light is shed on Harry Mudd’s backstory.
Lorca first encounters Mudd, played by Rainn Wilson, on the Klingon prison ship, where he spins them a yarn about getting into debt with creditors after trying to buy the respect of the father of his beloved, Stella. He says he’d borrowed money to purchase a moon for her. He says it was these loan sharks who came after him and chased him into Klingon territory, which is how come he wound up on board the prison ship.
In reality, Mudd had disappeared with his intended’s dowry and was actually being pursued by her father, who had put a price on his head.
Wilson’s Mudd is a delicious panto villain who is less threat, more irritant – although he did cause no end of trouble for Lorca and his crew in one of the series’ best episodes. After warning Lorca that he hasn’t seen the last of him when he’s left by the Starfleet captain on board the prison ship, Mudd reappears in Episode 7 time-looping over and over until he figures out a way to steal the Discovery so he can sell it and pay off the Klingons.
But he doesn’t bank on Burnham and co. playing him at his own game and upsetting his plans. They even bring Stella and her father to the Discovery, and he’s forced to run back to his former intended with his tail between his legs.
The Klingon Sex Scene
Lorca met Ash Tyler on board that Klingon prison ship, at the same time he met Harry Mudd. Infinitely more trustworthy (seemingly), the two escape together and Lorca awards him a position on the Discovery.
While Ash was on board the prison ship, he claims he endured torture at the hands of Klingon L’Rell – ally to Voq who was left to rot on the wreckage of the USS Shenzhou by Klingon leader Kol. Ash survived, it seems, by submitting to L’Rell’s demands to have sex with her.
In the midseason finale, we get a taste of how things went down. And they weren’t pretty. Suffering from PTSD, Ash endures flashbacks to an encounter with L’Rell. It’s nightmarish, all quick cuts and strobing effects, with the naked female Klingon writhing about on top of him, and even screaming.
It’s definitely like nothing we’ve ever seen in Star Trek before. Is it rape? Quite possibly. Although there’s a theory that Ash is actually a surgically altered Voq, and his memories are confused flashbacks to the painful surgical procedure, mixed with recollections of consensual sex with L’Rell, the Klingon who clearly feels strongly for him. There are definitely moments when his hands seem to be touching her tenderly in the vision…
When L’Rell and Ash come face to face after the tables turn and she’s taken prisoner on board the Discovery, she tells him she’ll never let anyone hurt him before enigmatically saying: “Soon.”
Could there be some truth in the theory? We’ll find out next year when Star Trek: Discovery returns to screens in January.