Star Trek Discovery: “What’s Past is Prologue” (S1, E13 review)

For me I am Lorca, and I have a plan, and I shall be emperor and rule the galaxy and … uh, never mind (image courtesy CBS)



It has long been said – well since 1918 anyway when Senator Hiram Warren Johnson reportedly made the sage observation – that the first casualty of war is the truth.

It sadly make sense – if you want to best your enemy, you need to say and do whatever it takes to make sure that your position is the one that prevails, even if that means sacrificing anything and everything that looks even remotely like the truth.

This truism of conflict was brought home with great force in “What’s Past Is Prologue” when the true import of Lorca’s (Jason Isaacs) long-game deception came to light, leaving the Terran Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) battling to hold onto her always-precarious position, Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) to her life and that of the crew of the Discovery and the Federation still waiting for that vital shield information which, ahem, a little over due. (But hey, what could possibly happen while the Discovery is M.I.A.? Oh 20% of the Federation is occupied by the Klingons who won the war? Oh, oops).

Lorca, of course, back in his own universe with any concern he had for the truth, long gone let’s face it since he’s spent years pretending to be his good Federation doppelgänger, giving way to grabbing hold of the throne he feels is rightfully his, and his alone.

Yeah, who wants truth when you can spout all kinds of extremist fascist drivel about restoring the purity of the Empire, too many immigrants making humanity soft and accommodating and rally everyone to some fabulously corrupt and twisted vision of the future? (Remind you of anyone? Yeah, and the other guy too.)

Thing is, this great revolution of Lorca’s, necessary because apparently the Terran Empire isn’t already f**ked up enough with hatred, power drunkenness and dog-eat-dog dynamics (Let’s have some more shall we?!), all took place solely on the Emperor’s flagship, where it brightly and briefly flared before turning to literal ashes as Lorca fell into the great mycelium power source at the heart of the ship.

As revolutions go, it was a tad abortive and likely not the stuff of illustrious military examples that will be taught to upcoming generations, but my lord, was it action-packed.


“Will you be my evil Mirror Universe buddy Burnham? Will ya? Will ya, huh? We can rule everything and … uh, never mind (image courtesy CBS)


We had biological weapons deployed – turns out the spore drive makes a mighty nifty genocidal device and no, Evil Stamets (Anthony Rapp), that is not something of which you should be proud – on seventeen decks killing countless people, fierce face-to-face battles where you didn’t die so much as get vapourised and bitterly-fought hand-to-hand combat where big, Bloody Swords of Sharpness were wielded, especially by the Emperor who did away with Lorca just as he thought he’d won the day.

Haha … NO.

See the thing is, and this was a nice reiteration of the great idealism that power the Federation, and this Burnham and the crew of the Discovery, is that cooperation, concern for your fellow person and camaraderie are not signs of weakness as the Terrans seem to think but actually signs of real, enduring strength.

Lorca all but admitted that when he called into the Discovery, under the wise command of Saru (Doug Jones) who did a lovely job of rallying his crew against seemingly impossible odds – more on that in a moment – and talked up their strong bonds and fighting prowess.

Of course, Lorca didn’t say all that to create a warm-and-fuzzy moment, the kind that Hallmark would rush to put in a card; his praise, along with sweet talking of Burnham, hiding and plotting in the bowels of the ship, was simply to buy enough time to engage in yet more self-serving skullduggery and derring-do.

Inadvertently though, and the narrative prosecuted this to full glorious effect, even if Lorca’s great reveal smacked of a little too much too late at times, making it abundantly clear, and not in some aw shucks, hokey polemic way, that the Federation make look weak to fascist eyes but is in fact far stronger because of its idealistic cohesiveness. (Except when it comes to Klingons who kill, maim and still prevail … sort of.)

Given the events of our time, it’s a timely addition to Discovery’s narrative, and one they managed to mix it without it looking too obviously timely.

It’s a reminder, of we in fact needed one, that many of the great awakenings and fightbacks in humanity’s history have come from creative people who dared to stand in opposition to the prevailing creed, or wanna be prevailing creed of the day.


Hmmm why is the Discovery flying at us like that? What’s it up to? It’s almost like it’s going to … uh. never mind (image courtesy CBS)


Alas, all that strength which help the crew of the Discovery, with Burnham once again saving the way in spectacularly chutzpah-y fashion, blow up the Emperor’s flagship and ride the shockwave back to their own universe, didn’t help so much when they got back to the Federation to find out the Klingons had won the war.

Yeah, remember the war? While Discovery were off fighting Mirror Universe Nazis, and doing rather well at that too, the Federation was losing the war, surrendering many lives and great chunks of its territory in the process.

So all the “Yippee we’re home!” cries (to be fair that didn’t happen out loud but I like to think the Discovery’s crew was thinking it) soon gave way to Stamets admitting that the re-enabled spore drive – which itself, along with the entire mycelium network, facing destruction thanks to the Terrans misuse of it; hence why the Emperor’s flagship was blown it since as the mycelium goes ie. dead, so goes all life in all the universes – had got them to the right spot but yeah, not the right time.

Meaning that for all the Discovery’s great moral and military victories back in the Mirror Universe, they hadn’t been able to get the Klingons’ cloaked ship codes to the right people in the Federation in time and all seemed lost.

How lost you wonder? That remains to be seen.

With just two episodes left in the first season of this impressively substantial show that has hewed close to the spirit past Star Trek iterations while advancing where the franchise could go and the stories it could tell, it’s entirely possible they’ll rush a speedy resolution to things or may, and this seems likely, set things up for some robust storytelling in season 2.

One thing is for sure, Star Trek Discovery has shown no fear no fear when it comes to tackling big storyline and some equally big ideas, not always perfectly but far better than many other sci-fi shows in recent memory, and I can see the team behind it changing their tack now, now with so many rich narrative ideas left to explore.

  • And now Discovery is safe and sound back in the Alpha Quadrant where … uh, never mind … just watch out for those Klingons will ya?


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