Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3 Review: Context is for Kings

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After killing a captain and starting a war, Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3 takes a six-month leap in time after the events of the Star Trek: Discovery Premiere.

At that time, destiny throws the court-martialed Star Fleet officer Michael Burnham immediately into new and mysterious circumstances.

Prisoner Burnham - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

But first, we get a peek into the life of Prisoner Burnham, crammed into a transport shuttle with three other convicts.

She has reverted to full-fledged Vulcan Burnham, uncommunicative and unresponsive until one convict identified her as "the Mutineer" and another stated that her cousin died in the Battle at the Binary Stars with eight thousand others. 

In flat, matter-of-fact tones, Burnham corrects her, "Eight thousand one hundred and eighty-six." It is clear that she knows every statistic and possibly every name, associated with the battle that started the war with the Klingons.

I owe a debt for my crime and it would be best... I prefer to serve my time without getting involved.


Her fellow convicts are a great help in pointing out the details that the taciturn Burnham isn't going to comment on despite noticing everything. Until two of them try to kill her, there's almost a sense that they might be her little posse.

It's always exciting when we lay eyes on a new Star Trek starship. The U.S.S. Discovery is gorgeous, shiny new, and overwhelmingly, a war-time vessel. The fact that it looks scientific but carries black-ops Star Fleet only makes it sexier. 

They even manage to mood-light the first encounter of Burnham and Captain Gabriel Lorca, having the lights off when she enters his ready room because his eyes had injured recently.

An Unexpected New Captain - Star Trek: Discovery

Burnham is determined to spend her life imprisoned and wear her shame. She initially rejects the idea of working for Lorca until he makes it clear that it is not a request.

The premiere was successful in introducing and endearing the crew of the U.S.S. Shenzhou to viewers, so it almost feels like a betrayal to have a whole new crew plopped in our lap so soon after having to abandon the Shenzhou. Part of me just wasn't ready for the new puppy yet.

Not that they're all new. While getting food in the commissary, Burnham spotted Keyla Detmer, who served on the Shenzhou's bridge during its final voyage and even called her name.

That Detmer snubbed her didn't seem to surprise Burnham although she got a little more "Vulcan" in her posture.

She also beat up two of her tablemates right after that incident. Of course, they were trying to kill her. But her reaction is pretty extreme, could be a bit human catharsis too.

Landry: Vulcan martial arts, huh?
Burnham: Suus Mahna
Landry: Vulcans should stick to logic.

First Officer Saru - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

Burnham's scenes with Saru stood out as the strongest moments in this episode. As the two of them were the most senior officers serving under the command of the late Captain Georgiou aboard the Shenzhou, they had a complicated relationship, being almost always at odds with each other.

Ensign Connor. Agreement between my senior officers. Note the date and time.


Now, with Saru serving as first officer on the Discovery and Burnham with no rank whatsoever, the situation is very much reversed. What's refreshing is that Burnham's disgrace is one that she accepts and which everyone else points out repeatedly.

When she is unable to articulate her apology to Saru, I wondered if there was going to be a moment of weakness on the part of the writers where Saru would suddenly forgive her for her actions that had plunged them into war and cost Captain Georgiou her life.

Instead, Doug Jones worked that incredible magic of his, conveying through that completely alien prosthetic visage a truly honest (dare we say human) response of cautious understanding.

I believe you feel regret but in my mind you are dangerous.


I'm looking forward to the development of their working relationship as he will always serve as a reminder to her of her life aboard the Shenzhou and with Captain Georgiou. 

Meeting Again - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

As for the new puppies, Tilly could prove annoying with her chatty awkwardness. Pairing her with Burnham as roommates smells strongly of the Odd Couple trope. I'm not sure if sitcom shenanigans have a place on this show. That's why we have The Orville.

The fact that they have to work together and that Tilly seems to make huge assumptions about their relationship (and life in general) will need to play out a bit more. At this point, I prefer Landry's snide humor to Tilly's goofiness.

Cadet Tilly - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

Tilly: This is so neat. They told me because of my special needs that I couldn't have a roommate which is kind of a let down because a roommate is like an automatic, built-in friend but then they told that I was going to have a roommate and so now I guess that's you and ... um, hi, I'm Cadet Sylvia Tilly. I talk when I'm nervous. My instructors advise me to work on that.
Burnham: Why are you nervous?
Tilly: I'm trying to decide if I should tell you that you took my bed.
Burnham: Seriously?

Stamets is a puppy of a different color. I love that he's a scientist being held hostage by his love of discovery (see what I did there?). His disagreements with the captain feel like the purest sort of ideological clash. 

Anthony Rapp makes a powerful first impression as the crotchety old man of the crew. That he loses a close friend and colleague almost as soon as we meet him allows him to demonstrate how this character deals with pain.

Physics AS Biology - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

His description of the science he is driven by was a breathtaking moment, really defining him as a true believer in the work he does.

At the quantum level, there is no difference between biology and physics. No difference at all. And you talk about spores. What are they? They are the progenitors of panspermia. They are the building blocks of energy, across the universe. Physics AND biology? No, physics AS biology.


I have to confess, I was compelled to look up "panspermia" just to see how "scientific" this series is aiming to be. Star Trek's scientific claims have always been pretty general. 

This whole biological propulsion theory is way out there, relatively speaking. Knowing that Picard's crew never get to travel by spore fuel, we have to project that something goes wrong with this line of inquiry and experimentation.

And the demise of the Glenn gives us an idea of how very wrong it could go.

Aboard the Glenn - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

Although Saru states that he feels Burnham is a dangerous element to add to the crew, he is also quite honest in his assessment of his own captain, the enigmatic Gabriel Lorca. I'm not sure if he isn't a little hard on Burnham though.

Captain Lorca is a man who does not fear the things that normal people fear. But I do and you are someone to fear, Michael Burnham.


It is easy to see why ST: Discovery was shaped to tell Burnham's story rather than follow the traditional route of putting the captain at the center of the action. Lorca is a wild card, quite capable of being both ruthless and coercive. 

He is single-minded and makes no excuses for his actions. Not only is he willing to push his spore-propulsion team to dangerous experimental attempts but he brings a basically unstoppable alien beast on board.

Detonating the U.S.S. Glenn had to have been to cover up the fact they'd collected the beast first. Is it shades of the Weylan-Yutani company in the Alien movies? Of all the things to take as a souvenir, that thing is going to prove hard to explain at a future inspection.

Universal law is for lackeys. Context is for kings.


Lorca, as played by the devilish Jason Isaacs, could be every bit as dangerous to Burnham and her crewmates as the Klingons they will have to face (hopefully, soon? This episode was noticeably Klingon-lite.)

Ultimately, it was a solid start to the actual meat of the Star Trek: Discovery story. If we view the premiere as more of a prologue, this is where we start to connect with the crew, fall in love with the ship, and delve into the intricacies of the politics.

Scientists at Odds - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

Star Trek: Discovery begins showing its ambition during this long arc. This episode laid out an enormous number of questions:

What is Lorca's agenda?

Were the Klingons after the spore device or the beast?

And what happens when that beast cracks its cage?

Will Burnham ever forgive herself?

I have this character flaw. I care too much about what other people think about me. But you don't care. Everybody hates you. No, that came out wrong.


The biggest info drop was sharing the Alice's Adventures in Wonderland background with Tilly where she reveals that she grew up WITH Spock! Does that mean we could see him in future episodes? 

With her accepting Lorca's fortune cookie, she is well and truly down the rabbit hole and I, for one, am glad to be along for the ride.

...the real world doesn't always adhere to logic. Sometimes down is up. Sometimes up is down. Sometimes when you're lost, you're found.


If you, like me, revel in those gorgeous cinematic shots like when Burnham breaks into the cultivation suite, be sure to watch Star Trek: Discovery online and ooh and aah again.

Who do you feel is going to make life on the U.S.S. Discovery interesting?

Is there something going on between Landry and Lorca?

Anyone else frustrated that they haven't solved snoring in the 23rd Century?

Context is for Kings Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 3.2 / 5.0 (138 Votes)

Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 3 Quotes

It was a family business a century ago. That was before the future came and hunger and need and want disappeared. Of course, they're making a comeback now. Thanks to you.

Lorca [offering a fortune cookie]

Landry: Vulcan martial arts, huh?
Burnham: Suus Mahna
Landry: Vulcans should stick to logic.