DIS: S1E13: “What’s Past Is Prologue”

In which genre-savvy overlords must inevitably fall to their more conventional predecessors



So Lorca turns out to be from the Mirror Universe, which goes a long way towards explaining a lot of little things about him like his trophy-and-torture room. Stamets has also swapped bodies with his mirror. But we’re following Lorca first, to let his former crew out of their Agonizers to take their revenge and complete the coup. This coup is multiplanetary, too, speaking to a longstanding, organized resistance. Well, not necessarily a resistance, as that implies a desire to change the social order rather than just become its new masters. Either way, Lorca has a plan and it involves Stamets, who’s hiding behind a holographic field. Lorca monologues to Stamets about how mirror-Stamets betrayed him, not knowing they’re different people. Unless each Lorca made it back to their own body after all. Lorca’s initial translation to the Prime universe came during a beam-out during an ion storm, which matches most of the other ways we’ve seen people transfer universes. Stamets in this universe is also happy to  Join the Winning Team by deploying a biowepaon he’s been developing.

Georgiou is Not Impressed, nor with Burnham’s attempted advice, so Michael has to fight her way out of the throne room. Once again we see the superiority of Vulcan Martial Arts against habitual Violence Cultures. Is Burnham just absurdly dedicated to the craft. or is this an instance of dispassionate study of multiple disciplines providing greater insight into punching people in the face with their own elbows?

Saru is acting Captain of the Discovery, on route to the Charon and with a functioning spore drive thanks to Stamets, but the fungus is still all gone. Of course, the shot of him is upside-down so it’s probably Mirror Stamets after all, which leads to a horrifying question – did Prime stamets come back at all or did Mirror Stamets manage to split his consciousness and go back to both bodies? Either way, it turns out the Charon and it’s big Internal Energy Sun is all powered by the mycelium, which sucks power out of the network and poisoning the network in an unsustainable way that can power the ship and Death Star-grade weapons. And if they don’t stop this, the whole network will fall apart… which could explain why we never hear from it again. Of course, if that happens Stamets suggests that it will wipe out all life, not just break their way home.

Lorca’s gotten to a position where he can monologue at Georgiou and condemn her for her lax stance towards aliens coming into the Federation. Since eating sapient species apparently isn’t ruthless enough for him, yet he was perfectly capable of serving with Saru as his second and on a ship full of aliens, we have to wonder whether Lorca is an impeccable actor for a Terran Imperial (recalling how terrible Mirror Kirk was at adapting to his situation) or else he’s not so much a true believer in Human Exclusionism as he is in using the bigotry of his followers to his advantage. His speech is meant to recruit new people to his side, after allm not to castigate the Empress personally.

And always remember to construct extra pylons.

This is why you always want to go as far up in the tech tree as you can before engaging the enemy, no matter how small the map.

That pleasure he saves for his ambush, which Georgiou turns around on him quickly with the help of force fields and remote guns. This quickly becomes a Fair Fight, and since Lorca has a flash grenade, Georgiou’s forces are soon wiped out and she has to activate an emergency transport by voice command. Not by, say, a button she could press on her suit or gun, like with the remote turrets. If you asked me which one I’d rather have take six syllables to activate, “emergency transport” or “activate sentry guns” and which one I can do silently with a button press, I would not have made that choice (I would have made two buttons, too).

Stamets is not operating on a budget of a whole lot of goodwill among the insurgents, but continues to make himself useful by working to disable the emergency transport system. Burnham’s managed to hack the transmitter and feed Saru the vital information, at which point Prime Stamets (who I’m now willing to believe is really Prime Stamets) figures out that the last jump was intentional. With Lorca revealed and Burnham ordering everyone away, it’s a good thing we’ve escalated to an existential threat to facilitate a showdown. Otherwise Discovery should absolutely just fly off and not look back. As such, they have to destroy the energy orb, which evidently a simple photon torpedo should do it… as long as the containment field is down. That’s Michael’s job, and Discovery will stay at warp until she fixes it.

There are times when the cool futuristic sliding aesthetic is just flatly inferior to a hinge system.

Lorca is getting a bit messianic, which is honestly a bit justified given his adventures in multiple universes, but which must end troperiffically by threatening to throw Stamets down a convenient trapdoor in the throne room. Moon Doors are great and threatening, but honestly if I’m going to have a death pit in my throne room I’m at least going to build it so that if someone I don’t like is standing on it when I want it open, they don’t have time to jump off. Of course, it makes a great distraction because Lorca’s… merciful? Slightly more pragmatic and less grandiose than whoever designed a giant palace-city-ship powered by a naked stellar core? He’s pragmatic enough not to go ape over Burnham’s transmission.

He sends her a communication, which she responds to, and during which the screen’s camera tracks her effortlessly despite her going off to the side. Face-tracking software isn’t new to the 23rd century but it’s worth noting as this might be the first time we’ve seen screen communication for someone not at a standard terminal. It’s as if every wall panel along the corridors of the Enterprise-D had a webcam built in, only in a society where constant surveilance is less dystopian and more Tuesday. Also, Landry, Lorca’s security cheif that got gored by the Tardigrade in Prime universe, is hunting Burnham down but evidently unable to get a precise fix, due to some quick-thinking sabotage.

Burnham has instead found Georgiou, despite her masked life signs, by the familiarty she had with Prime Phillipa. And she makes a promise to save this version of Phillip Georgiou – not because Empress-Demeritus Georgiou is worth saving but because Lorca sucks and Burnham has baggage. Plus she has to get to the throne room to disable the containment field anyway – which Stamets (there’s only one left now, so I can stop modifying him) tells us a little more about. The concentration of mycelia has made the energy core resiliant against even a photon torpedo blast, but not if you put the entire supply of fungus in the warhead too. That’ll start a chain reaction, at the cost of their way home and also the hull of Discovery when the blast goes.

Saru is, however, uniquely qualified to give a pep talk, by pointing out that his danger sense isn’t tingling, which means they’re probably gonna make it. Although his reference makes me wonder just how he did on the Kobiyashi Maru test – and if there was any way to fool his danger sense into firing for a real, authentic experience.

Lorca has successfully taken the palace, with typical good humor. He’s executed all Georgiou’s loyalists just in time for Burnham to stroll into the throne room with her, which is really more of a tasting menu for the real deal – Burnham offers herself, and whatever Lorca thinks that entails, for her crew. Well, not whatever Lorca thinks that entails. Although why he doesn’t follow through with his Stamets-proven lack of grandiosity is a bit of a puzzle. Perhaps taking the Empire through Dead Woman’s Boots requires something public and grandiose and rife with the possibility probability inevitability of a triple-cross in order to be accepted by the masses?

Given that the Emperor was initially described as Faceless, do we dare to even presume that the masses know who the Emperor is at any given time? Given the political volatility here, would we expect that Emperors tend to keep their violence successions quiet to maintain an illusion that the Emperor is invulnerable to the petty backstabbing of the lower ranks, and that strength is what empowers them to lead the Terrans in conquest?

Tilly has figured out a way to survive the explosion. When they blow the mycelium core, they might be able to surf the mycelium explosion wave, if Stamets can navigate them back after modifying the spore and warp drives. And just in time – Discovery has received The, or at least A signal. Burnham’s signal was used to send the signal, but the hail came from Lorca. He wanted to say goodbye in person, and Burnham gives the signal for everyone to start fighting. It’s a fairly intense scene that culminates in Burnham talking about the virtues of Starfleet over the increasing whine of a phaser, which has me wondering what happens if she fires it before it gears all the way up? Is that why some people get vaporized and other people just have glowing holes through their skulls? Either way, it ends predictably with Georgiou stabbing him with the giant sword and kicking him down the trapdoor to be disintigrated in the mycelum core. After all that, Georgiou’s going to let Burnham proceed with destroying the core – she’s been defeated and won’t live to rule again no matter what happens, but isn’t going to take all life down with her. Or maybe she just doesn’t want her successor to have this kickass throne room.

Burnham also rescues Georgiou, because of course she does. Discovery‘s bombing run works, and it’s interesting that they can translate to warp in time to get the field up (to help protect against the mycelium blast) but not in time to escape the blast itself. It’s not the ship’s inertia, the mycelium shockwave also goes faster than light. Discovery‘s spore drive kicks in, and we even get some trippy 90’s effects for the transport network. Unfortunately, Stamets might be lost, at least until a force ghost guides him home. They reappear… somewhere and somewhen. And as all the mycelium spores recede, one lands on Tilly’s uniform. And Georgiou is not pleased to have been rescued.

Once they’ve gotten their bearings, it turns out that they’re nine months out of time. The term ‘overshot’ is not promising, and when they’ve arrived, Starfleet lost the war. Good thing they have a wartime Captain/Emperess, that single spore, and a method of time travel so that no matter how many years it takes to regrow their supply they’ll be able to travel back to when it matters. Also, L’Rell to gloat at them.




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