Having re-watched season one of Star Trek: Discovery, I’ve concluded that episode 3 Context is For Kings is my favourite episode of the season.
Context is for Kings is the third episode of the season and jumps ahead six months from the end of Battle at the Binary Stars where we saw Captain Philippa Georgiou killed by T’Kuvma and Michael Burnham court-martialled and sentenced to life in prison by Starfleet for her mutiny.
We get an introduction to the ship the show is named for when we see Michael Burnham played by Sonequa Martin-Green, onboard a prison ship on her way to prison to serve out 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 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 goal orientated and is 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 that the universe doesn’t like waste and tell her he needs her skills and as there is a war going on he basically has broad authority to do whatever he likes.
And whatever he likes means exploring spore drive technology that will enable the ship to travel at a ridiculous speed.
Discovery is supposed to be a scientific vessel and it seems Lorca’s intention is to use science and technology to win the war against the Klingons. This could possibly explain why he is unlike other Starfleet captains who have commanded science vessels. We learn through the rest of the season that Lorca is a law unto himself and will do anything and use anybody to achieve his aims.
Michael is treated like a leper by Saru (Doug Jones), who is now the First Officer of Discovery, 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.
We were shown Michael’s courage and bravery in the shows two-hour premiere and to many fans, her actions were seen as stupid and unbecoming of a Starfleet officer as she plunged the Federation into a war with the Klingons.
Here Michael gets to show her new crew her courage as she helps mount a rescue on the science vessel where Stamets friend is conducting similar tests on a spore drive. The away team find dead Klingons and an angry space monster on the ship and Michael helps the away team to escape the monster. For some reason, Lorca has the monster beamed onto Discovery.
Following her actions on the way mission, Lorca decides to make her a permanent part of the crew. Of course, Saru is not happy that Burnham is staying on board. Saru feels the loss of their former captain and blames Michael for her death. The fact that Saru got a promotion from Georgiou’s death wasn’t lost on me.
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. After seeing the spore farm, she is determined to find out what is going on 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.
Context is for Kings feels like the real season one opener. If you never watched the two-season premier, you could easily jump into the series from here as the episode provides enough back story through dialogue to get you up to speed.
This set-up reminds me of the Battlestar Galactica part mini-series where we see the destruction of the colonies but in the first episode of season one the writers manage to get us caught up really quickly.
Maybe if Context is for Kings had been the season opener, there wouldn’t have been such a backlash against the series. I don’t know. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.