Originally Published on There Are Four Mics – A Star Trek Podcast
(We’re moving our Star Trek Discovery related content over here where it belongs)
The Vulcan Hello. Battle at the Binary Stars. And now? Context is for Kings.
How is this show so spectacular at naming episodes?! These are all pure gold. If you think otherwise you are respectfully wrong and should never be trusted.
And, as is becoming pattern with Star Trek Discovery, the title isn’t the only thing that’s gold in this episode.
Introducing Discovery’s Leadership
We meet Commander Landry! Tory from Ronald Moore’s Battlestar Galactica! Rekha Sharma is outstanding. And she is also a total badass. There is not a more perfect fit for the role of Lorca’s first officer. I both fear her and love her.
We also meet Captain Gabriel Lorca himself. He honestly comes across as a straight-up villain in the first half of this episode. I am totally with Burnham in her belief that Lorca is exploiting her because he expects she’ll be eager to dabble in immorality if it means she gets to not be in jail anymore. So when he explains what they’re actually doing? I’m pretty floored. I was right there alongside Burnham suddenly feeling shame for my assumptions, and giving him the benefit of the doubt. Hell, I gave him more than the benefit of the doubt, probably as a result of my guilty feelings about misjudging him. Lorca played me something fierce. Jason Isaacs is a terrific addition to this show, and brings a certain enigmatic gravitas to the captain’s chair.
The USS Discovery
Finally we get to lay our eyes on the USS Discovery. We are THREE EPISODES IN and we’re just now getting a look at the ship. These writers have confidence. I love it. I also love the design of the ship. It’s distinct without feeling out of place in the Star Trek canon. I’m a big proponent of saucer sections, so I’m grateful it wasn’t an Intrepid-class style ship like the USS Voyager. This baby is a beaut. And revealing it by dropping into the storm? There’s no more iconic entrance. Except maybe Shenzhou’s in The Vulcan Hello dropping through the desert planet’s clouds like an angel of legend. But none before that.
The Rest of the Gang
“Context is for Kings” is the first appearance of Mary Wiseman as Cadet Tilly. On paper, this is character that I wouldn’t like. She seems like it would be a Wesley Crusher style character where he’s all hot to trot, eager to learn everything, but just kind of turns out to be annoying. But instead, this character is nothing but awesome. She has a nervous confidence that is irresistibly charming. She’s avoided becoming the “weird one,” in every episode except for perhaps the Short Trek where she blames the disaster in the mess on a hormonal rabbit. But in every instance except that one, Tilly repeatedly demonstrates an inner strength only lightly obscured by periodic social anxiety.
I was really digging the sweet, sweet Doug Jones action as Saru in the first couple episodes, but here I got a bit nervous. Of course Dog Jones is great, but it seemed like they were setting a dynamic here where Saru was going to be an obstacle to the show’s hero, Burnham. It gets a lot of criticism, but I enjoy Gene Roddenberry’s idea that conflict doesn’t exist between the crew in the future, it only exists between the crew and an outside force. I was getting antsy here that there was going to be a long-running feud where Saru is always thwarting Burnham’s goals. Luckily, because the Star Trek Discovery writers are always throwing me curveballs, they tackle this tension head-on and mostly resolve it. Why? Because they’re goddamned great at their job.
I had forgotten entirely about the appearance of the black Starfleet insignias. There aren’t any further references made to them this season. At the time I assumed it was some Section 31 mumbo-jumbo, but upon reflection it seems weird for a covert agency most people don’t even know exists to have their own themed branding. The registry number NCC-1031 of the Discovery also made me think Section 31 might be involved, so I was probably just looking for signs of their presence. It wasn’t until later that I learned Bryan Fuller selected the number because he’s a big Halloween enthusiast.
This episode struck me on my initial viewing as a “monster of the week” episode. I’m not a fan of horror in general. And Star Trek’s forays into the genre have never impressed me. The Star Trek Enterprise episode “Impulse” where they encounter a ship filled with Vulcan zombies comes to mind. And Lorca brought the beast over to Discovery to keep in his little secret room of weapons? Not cool, my dude. This kind of secret den of iniquity stuff is the stuff that most shows would extend over the course of the season. Discovery isn’t most shows, thankfully, as the next episode starts with him telling Burnham.
This show exists solely to break my expectations. I am heartily grateful for it.
Pick up all of Star Trek Discovery season one on Blu-ray from Amazon here.
Or if you’re in the mood for a Star Trek Discovery podcast? Joe and Jason talk about “Context is for Kings” over on Disco Night. It’s our sister podcast, so check it out and subscribe!