Having re-watched season one of Star Trek: Discovery, I’ve concluded that episode three Context is For Kings is my favourite episode of the season.
Mutineer Michael Burnham is on board a prison ship on her way to prison to serve her life sentence. She has physically changed her hair has returned to its natural afro state and she appears to be indifferent to her surroundings even as her fellow prisoners deride her about her past.
When the ship hits some trouble, the Discovery comes to rescue them and we finally get to see the ship the show is named for and meet some of its crew. We are introduced to Captain Lorca played by Jason Issacs who doesn’t care that Burnham is a mutineer, he’s all about winning the war against the Klingons by any means necessary.
We get confirmation that Burnham is quite fixated with her purpose in life, it’s all that motivates her. In the beginning, it was about saving everyone even if that meant mutiny but now, she just wants to be punished accordingly and getting herself back in prison is her goal here.
It takes her some time to realise the opportunity that she has been presented with when Lorca puts her to work on a secret project. As she argues that she should be punished, Lorca lets her know he needs her skills and as there is a war going on he basically has broad authority to do whatever he likes. I didn’t believe him and of course, we learn through the rest of the season that Lorca is a law unto himself.
Of course, Saru (Doug Jones) who is the First Officer of Discovery is not happy that Burnham is staying on board. Saru feels the loss of their former captain and blames Michael for her death. Michael is treated like a leper by Saru, Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and her effervescent and unwilling roommate, Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) but it doesn’t take her long to prove herself.
This episode also shows Burnham’s knowledge and determination and the fact that she likes to have some control over the things that are going on around her. As Stamets seeks to compartmentalise the work that she is doing, Burnham decides that secrets aren’t going to work for her and duplicates Tilly’s ID to get access to the spore drive. She really is a whole picture kinda girl. And I don’t blame her. Even though she intends to go back to prison, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t need to know everything that’s going on so that she can do her work and make informed decisions.
This episode also successfully sets Stamets up as the person who will annoy me throughout the series. He is so boorish and full of his own self-importance. It’s amazing that someone like this can function on a Federation starship without being reprimanded every time he opens his mouth. I’m going to love hating him.
Of course, we find out in later mirror universe episodes that Lorca deliberately set out to find Michael as he had other ideas for her. And it’s his grooming of her as told by Emperor Georgiou, that is puke-inducing. The guy crossed a universe to find a carbon copy of his love and bring her back to be by his side. Death was too good for him. He was right about one thing, the Discovery crew were all the better for his devious machinations.