Star Trek: Discovery Context Is For Kings Review
Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1, Episode 3: Context Is For Kings shines the spotlight on a darker side of the Federation that we’ve only seen hints of before.
One of the few things the Star Trek franchise as a whole had going against it was Gene Roddenberry’s insistence that Star Fleet and the Federation it’s a part of consistently be a force for good. While this made sense given the Great Bird of the Galaxy’s desire to depict a utopian civilization largely free of strife and conflict, it left little room for characters’ to question the foundations of the society they served. Producers on the property’s various spin-off series’ bent these parameters on occasion by establishing the existence of covert groups like Section 31 in Deep Space Nine and serial killers like Brad Dourif’s Ensign Suder in Voyager, but these groups and individuals were always framed as operating outside the boundaries of Federation law.
This couldn’t be further from the truth in Discovery, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the introduction of Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs). Although he possesses the presence that the best Trek captains have, Isaacs brings something new to the position: menace. When Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) explains her disinterest in working on his ship’s top-secret project, Lorca asks “Excuse me,” but his delivery drips with an irritation that’s somehow more threatening than anything Kirk ever said in The Original Series. To paraphrase Sisko after he sucker punches Q in DS9, he’s not Picard. He’s not even Sisko. He’s Lorca, a dangerous new breed of captain tailor-made for the cynically revisionist world of Discovery.
Whereas such cynicism would previously have been confined to Lorca or others like him, the episode indicates that this dark streak runs a bit deeper in the Federation than one might think. Burnham’s first mission is to board a damaged Star Fleet vessel that Lorca claims is carrying sensitive research, but the boarding party is attacked by a monstrous creature. What the creature exactly is isn’t answered. Was it an experiment gone wrong? Was it an experiment gone right and meant to serve as a secret weapon like the one Lorca and the Discovery are working on?
Either way, the beast is animated fairly well for Trek and serves as a reminder how far we’ve come from the cute-dogs-with-horns-attached-to-them of TOS. If anything, the suspense and fast editing of the scene remind me more of the reboot movies than any of the shows. Some might be put off by such a comparison, but Star Trek: Discovery is well on its way to finding its own niche within the franchise.
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