Star Trek: Discovery Lethe Review
Star Trek: Discovery: Season 1, Episode 6: Lethe is rich with drama and pulls no punches in its revisionist take on another classic element of the Trek universe.
As I noted in reviews of previous episodes, I’ve never been too hot on Trek‘s insistence that the Federation is heaven on Earth (or the Alpha Quadrant, as it were), so Discovery‘s deconstruction of it has been a real treat for me. Sunday’s night episode decided to take it even further, however, and deconstruct another sacred cow of Trek lore: the Vulcans and their philosophy of logic.
Granted, it’s not the first time that the franchise has suggested there may be cracks in the way the Vulcans think. Voyager once juxtaposed their commitment to reason and rationality with their “Victorian”, as The Doctor put it, attitudes towards sex, and Spock himself even admitted “logic isn’t enough” in The Motion Picture. But these examples didn’t necessarily imply that logic could be used in malevolent ways, something that Lethe does.
Just as the Klingons have their extremists determined to preserve their culture at all costs, we learn that the Vulcans have their extremists too. But whereas the Klingons’ belligerence comes from a place of profound fear at the effect amicable relations with the Federation might have, the Vulcans belligerence manifests itself as a contempt for the “illogical” ways of the humans they are forced to work alongside.
In times past, such a take would never have made it onto the air, probably dismissed as too cynical for the perfect world Gene Roddenberry envisioned. But in the gritty world of Discovery, things are far from perfect and there are no quick fixes to the problems Roddenberry hoped would be solved by the time of Trek. After all, if the Federation’s efforts to do so failed, why should the Vulcans be any more successful?
The episode’s deconstruction of Vulcan thinking isn’t the only thing it’s got going for it however. Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs) has a shockingly vulnerable moment when Admiral Cornwell, who has just had a phaser pulled on her by him in a brief moment of PTSD, announces her intention to recommend he be reassigned. Distraught, he begs her not to take the Discovery away from him, his voice nearly cracking as he says “she’s the only thing I’ve got.” For a character who’s been portrayed as ruthless as Lorca has been, it’s incredible to see him so panicked not at being held prisoner by Klingons but at having his ship taken away, and it’s another reason why Isaacs is one of the best things about Star Trek: Discovery.
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