Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12 Review: Vaulting Ambition

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All right, Internet. You win.

As Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12 so clearly demonstrated, it's useless to argue that any twist, any sleight-of-hand, any deus ex machina device is too contrived to build into this storyline.

Hot on the heels of the Voqler confirmation last week, finding out that Captain Lorca has been Mirror-Lorca all along almost feels like more subterfuge than was really necessary for a single season.

Agony Chamber - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12

Mind you, it lines up perfectly with the theme of identity that has underwritten every plot point so far.

There's obviously Burnham's divided Vulcan-human identity.

Stamets' interdimensional identity has made him seem unhinged ever since he took on Ripper's DNA.

Saru's struggle against his intrinsic identity as a Kelpian, fighting his natural instincts in the interests of his Starfleet aspirations.

Even Sarek's denial of his own past actions skews his acceptance of his own identity.

Not that the Mirror-Lorca reveal wasn't handled with incredible finesse. Tiny details, like the analgesic Burnham administers aboard the shuttle, all point to a master plan a long time in the offing.

From the beginning, it was always a mystery why Lorca chose to track down Burnham and add her to his crew. Now we know. He needed a Michael Burnham to get him onto the Emperor's ship. Any Burnham would do.

Whether that means Mirror-Burnham is dead or in hiding, awaiting his return, remains to be seen.

Captain and Rebel - Star Trek: Discovery

Although Stamets made the offer to navigate that fateful last spore drive jump on Star Trek Discovery Season 1 Episode 9, the keen observer would note that Lorca entered the coordinates himself that one time from his own com panel rather than have Engineering enter them.

Stamets even confirms on this episode that the coordinates were never entered into the Engineering systems when he's checking the computer logs in Engineering in the mycelial recreation of Discovery.

Now, we know why. Lorca always planned on taking the U.S.S. Discovery back to his dimension.

Lorca: Your Georgiou is dead. She's a ghost.
Burnham: Haven't you ever been afraid of a ghost?

Lorca's burned all his bridges in the Prime Universe. Upon his return, Admiral Cornwell would be relieving him of his command. He never really seemed all that concerned, even rescuing her when it was in his best interest that she die in Klingon captivity. And now we know why.

He never intended on returning to the Federation's war with the Klingons. With the Discovery's technology, he should easily be able to overthrow the Terran forces loyal to the Emperor.

So, yeah, his true identity and, with it, his true motivations make a lot of sense taken together with all the odd behaviors that we have observed so far. The only thing it doesn't explain is him making Tyler Security Chief.

A Palace of a Ship - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12

There was a lot to OOOH and AAAH over here, in terms of set design visuals. The mycelial world is bright and moody and beautiful and sinister all at once.

The I.S.S. Charon, which serves as the Imperial Palace, is appropriately impressive and the throne room similarly intimidating.

And the return of Michelle Yeoh, now as Emperor (Mirror-)Georgiou is breathtaking in her bad-assery.

Emperor Georgiou - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12

I've said it before but this iteration of the Mirror Universe really delights the macabre heart of me. Georgiou's sudden execution of all her lieutenants (save one) upon the revelation of the existence of multi-verses was stunning and perfect and horrifying.

Even the revelation that her welcome home meal for Burnham is made from the Kelpian Burnham selected, unknowing the reason, in the throne room was exactly in keeping with the ethos of this universe and Terran sensibilities.

Sharing a Meal - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12

(Also, how in the world is Burnham ever going to be able to look Saru in the eye ever again?) 

It was a little surprising how forthcoming Burnham was with the Emperor. Explaining her other-universe origin is one thing but spilling the spore drive intel with very little prompting seemed like an awful lot of trust to place in a woman who had just killed a dozen of her inner circle. 

I wonder if this is something she and Lorca had agreed upon beforehand or if Lorca might be surprised when he finds out how much sharing has been going on between the women in his life.

Logic tells me she's not the woman that I betrayed. But this feels like a reckoning.


Of course, Lorca and Burnham only comprised a third of the developments to the plotline, with the truth of the matter only revealed at the end.

Aboard the Discovery, Saru has the responsibility for resolving the other two loose ends - Stamets and Tyler - although, ultimately, it's Tilly and L'Rell respectively who do the dirty work.

L'Rell is appropriately Klingon when Saru approaches her for help easing Voqler's pain. It's a bit galling that she was never informed of their interdimensional detour but I guess she's not exactly entitled to be kept up to date.

Her commitment to the war and Voq's leadership/martyrdom is initially stoic.

Voq has given his body and soul for our ideology. If he suffers for that choice, so be it. He accepted that suffering in order to best the enemy. That is what it means to be a soldier. That is war.


But when Saru literally throws Tyler's broken body into her arms, he breaks that resolve.

You have sealed this being's hellish fate. Human versus Klingon in one body. That is war.


It's unknown what her "undoing" of the Matriarchs procedure resulted in. I assumed that she's removed Voq from Voqler since he concludes his recitation in English instead of Klingon.

In the interests of easing his suffering, it makes the most sense since they'll never be able to restore Voq's body and the Klingon within would constantly be looking to destroy his human-looking shell.

That leaves Tyler with the guilt of killing Culber and attempting to kill Burnham. Yeah, that sounds about right for L'Rell. Put Voq out of his pain and stick Tyler with huge baggage.

Stamet Under Observation - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12

Tilly's treatments for Stamets' coma are such a product of hope. Saru's imperative for her to "forge ahead, fix him," seem to motivate her to prove his trust in her is warranted.

Mirror-Stamets was just a little too friendly to start off with. I guess I'll always view the Mirror versions with some suspicion. (I scoffed a bit when Emperor Georgiou insists that she's as honorable as Prime Georgiou was.) I feel like Mirror-Stamets is going to be a problem moving forward.

The scenes between Culber and Stamets were incredibly heart-wrenching and yet so very thoughtful. Understated and tender, it was the kindest closure they could've achieved. 

Stamets: I don't want to say goodbye.
Culber: It's never goodbye. Isn't that what you been trying to teach all of us? Nothing in here is ever truly gone. I believe in you, Paul. I love you.

And Culber giving him the advice that pulls him out of his coma? It was a final gift to the man he loves, forcing him to live despite their separation. I'm still curious as to what Mirror-Culber does but, somehow, knowing Stamets can find his Culber in the network makes it work.

Doctor Culber - Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 5

So we're left with a whole new set of dilemmas now.

What's Mirror-Lorca's next move? And what did he do with Prime-Lorca? How long has he been in place?

How does Stamets save the mycelial network? Or, better question, DOES he successfully save it? If he doesn't, it would explain why spore drives don't exist in any other Trek series.

What does Tyler do now, knowing that (most) of his body isn't his own and his entire psyche is a reconstruction?

Be sure to watch Star Trek: Discovery online and then come back and voice your thoughts on what can and can't be resolve in the remaining episodes.

Like I said at the top, I'm open to everything at this point.

Vaulting Ambition Review

Editor Rating: 4.9 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (39 Votes)

Diana Keng was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on X.

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12 Quotes

Lorca: Your Georgiou is dead. She's a ghost.
Burnham: Haven't you ever been afraid of a ghost?

Logic tells me she's not the woman that I betrayed. But this feels like a reckoning.