Welcome back to another week where we recap, react to, and ruminate about Star Trek: Discovery Episode 13: “What’s Past Is Prologue.” This post will contain some mild spoilers and some major spoilers about death, so don’t read head until you have watched episode 13.
As with the other posts in this Star Trek: Discovery series, there won’t be a lengthy recap. Instead of we will focus on the basic of what we learn. As before, I’ll be pulling reactions and ruminations from my Star Trek community.
All previous discussions and posts in this series are linked at the end of this article.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 13: “What’s Past Is Prologue” Recap
Star Trek: Discovery episode 13 was filled with a lot of fight scenes, all too quickly tying up of loose ends, death, but also had some poignant moments.
After nearly two years, Lorca is reunited with his followers as he frees them from the agonizers. Turns out, Prime Landry was simply not a nice person as we meet Mirror Landry. After freeing his followers, Lorca, Landry, and his team of Mirror Redshirts head off to find Mirror Stamets.
A conversation happens between Lorca and Mirror Stamets that serves to give a quick history lesson of their relationship and some past events. All too quickly, there is talk about a biological weapon, it gets used, Georgiou makes a quippy comment about “is that all he’s got,” and we move on, leaving some viewers to miss the connection between the conversation and the dying redshirts. When Lorca gets what he wants from Mirror Stamets, he disposes of him.
There are a lot of fight scenes in this episode. During one, Emperor Georgiou uses a transporter to save herself. During another, Burnham escapes. Lorca tasks Mirror Landry with finding Burnham and instructs everyone that Burnham must not be harmed. You can tell this Mirror Landry doesn’t want Burnham to stay alive, but she obeys Lorca anyway.
Burnham does some science specialist magic to contact the Discovery and help them come up with a plan to destroy the emperor’s ship, which will also help the Discovery and her crew return to the Prime Universe, while simultaneously saving the multiverse. She does some more science specialist magic to throw Mirror Landry off her trail.
Burnham has managed to figure out Emperor Georgiou’s psychology in no time, being the only person able to figure out where she transported herself to. Burnham manages to convince Emperor Georgiou that, together, they can stop Lorca.
Back on the Discovery, Saru gives a great speech about how the Discovery is not Lorca’s ship and this is the moment that she begins her journey. While he felt betrayed and couldn’t understand why he didn’t read Lorca as a threat, he didn’t let that get in the way of inspiring his crew to band together to save the multiverse and not accept a no-win scenario.
Back on the ISS Charon, Burnham gives her own speech to Lorca about the Federation and its ideals; how all he had to do was ask and the Federation would have helped him to return home. Burnham has the opportunity to kill Lorca, but she doesn’t. Emperor Georgiou does instead.
In the final moments, the Discovery sweeps in to beam out Burnham. Burnham grabs a hold of Emperor Georgiou and both arrive safely on the Discovery. They jump from the Mirror Universe into the Primer Universe but overshoot the time and what they meet is not good. A spore embeds itself into Tilly.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 13: ” What’s Past Is Prologue” Reactions
The recap for Star Trek: Discovery episode 13 is a bit longer than usual. Despite this, I still missed a lot of “what we learned” moments. An observation I made during this week’s discussion thread was that episodes 12 and 13 felt very rushed because there are so many loose ends to tie up and now it’s a race to the finish line.
This is leaving viewers a little confused or missing what could have been big moments. As a couple of examples, last week, Tyler/Voq was fixed in an instant. This week was the biological weapon moment. This rushed dash to the finish also led to people commenting about how odd it was that there wasn’t even a glimpse of Tyler this week.
The writers have delivered some very good storytelling this season. But, I’m afraid that the double-edged sword of story arcs we discussed way back at the beginning is hurting them a little bit. Maybe they could have gone to the Mirror Universe a couple of episodes earlier to avoid the rush to tie everything up. But, that would have led to other parts of the story and overall themes to suffer.
I think it’s fair to say that season one of Star Trek: Discovery could have used a few more episodes at the end to avoid some of the rushed aspects of the last two episodes.
And while comments about this episode range from “boring,” “predictable”, “35 minutes of mustache-twirling villainous speeches”, “flawed but enjoyable,” to “one of the best episodes so far,” there was something big that happened in this week’s episode. The pretty important thing was overlooked by many and is worthy of this week’s ruminations.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 13: ” What’s Past Is Prologue” Ruminations
“What’s Past Is Prologue” is the perfect title for Star Trek: Discovery episode 13. It’s truly brilliant. I wish the studio had ordered more than 15 episodes because, while the writers have faced a lot of the criticism that is warranted, it would have allowed to writers more time to finish up the brilliant thing that was done in episode 13. Two more episodes to give viewers what I think is about to happen may not be enough.
Please be patient as I tweeze a long, heavy, and emotion journey, filled with resilient characters and viewers.
Star Trek: Discovery has been a heavy journey. Some have even called it dark. I find the term “dark” to be objectionable, but that is because of my own lived experiences. I’ve experience unimaginable trauma. The fact I’m alive today is some sort of miracle. But, my trauma therapist tells me that I have innate resilience. To call certain experiences “dark” stigmatizes the reality many face, causing people to keep them hidden for fear of rejection.
My experiences have been literal nightmare fuel. I have C-PTSD. And while they are horrible events, they are my reality and the only thing “dark” about them is that I must keep them out of the light because society wants things packaged in pretty little bows and kept hidden, in the dark. This is also true of people who come back from combat with PTSD. The suicide rate among veterans is a crisis, one we need to face head on, and not be afraid to name. The same is true of a number of political events around the globe, fuelled by fear and bigotry.
These traumatic experiences, which may or may not result in PTSD or C-PTSD, are our past; they are our prologues. They are a very important part that tells the story of where we are today; a story of resilience that should be celebrated. To understand our present and not fall into our pasts, we need to honestly and openly look at that past. It is what brought us to today. We cannot fight something unless we bring it out of the shadows, name it, and face it head-on.
For 13 episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, we’ve been taken on a journey that has left viewers emotionally and mentally exhausted; begging for the glimmer of hope we saw during 51 years of Star Trek canon.
If we were to be honest and push away our nostalgia, we would remember that Star Trek has been far from sunshine and rainbows all of the time. Deep Space Nine went far outside of the ideals we saw in The Next Generation. So far outside, that Berman blindfolded a bust of Gene Roddenberry because, “God forbid he hear what’s going on in this room.”
How did the Federation get to the place we see and love in The Next Generation? We are told it took a great war for us to strive for warp drive. We saw pre-Federation history in Enterprise but there are still many steps to take between those events and the events of TNG. We don’t reach the sunshine and rainbows (even if the Admirals were not that) out of a vacuum. Things need to happen for people to making specific choices to become better versions of themselves. Including yet another war.
During Star Trek: Discovery episode 13, Lorca said the following:
The Federation is a social experiment, doomed to failure. Childish idealism. Every species, every choice, every opinion is not equal no matter how much they want it to be. The strong and the capable will always rise.
Those words aren’t some allegory, but actual things we are hearing more and more from people in today’s political climate. And it’s not just words we hear in nations around the globe, but it’s also things I’ve seen people say in my Star Trek community. They call themselves fans of the show but call the very heart of the show “childish idealism” or “it would be doomed to failure” or “SJW gone mad”, leaving the rest of us to scratch our heads and ask, “How are you even a fan, then?”
We live in heavy times. A lot of what we are currently facing in our day-to-day lives is the Mirror Universe. Up is down. So, of course, we would want to see the Star Trek we grew up loving, one filled with hope and optimism and something for which to strive, on our screens during such times where every day, our psyches are under assault and we are being traumatized.
But, that type of future doesn’t exist out of nowhere. Choices must be made. For 13 episodes, we have bore witness to that past which is now the prologue of the Federation which we know and love. Let’s look at just a few of the journeys and the choices made.
Remember at the beginning when Tilly was so full of anxiety and completely unsure of herself? Along the way, she found her innate resilience. She was terrified to play Captain Killy but she did it anyway. And she had a big part in saving the ship and her crew.
It wasn’t that long ago that Saru was lashing out at Burnham because he felt she betrayed him. He even got physical with her. And here we are now, Saru facing one of the biggest betrayals of his life. Instead of lashing out like he would have not that long ago, he brings the crew together with an impassioned speech about how Discovery‘s journey begins now.
We cannot forget the journey Burnham has undergone, one filled with multiple traumas and betrayals. Just two episodes ago, she said:
Can you hide your heart? Can you bury your decency? Can you continue to pretend to be one of them? Even as, little by little, it kills the person you really are.
She was worried that the Mirror Universe was destroying who she was, and she would fall into the darkness. And here we are, not only does she make the choice not to kill Lorca when no-one in the Mirror Universe would have thought anything of it, but she also grabs the Emperor to save her from death.
Every single person on board the has gone through a very traumatizing journey. They could have very easily turned a different corner. But, they didn’t. They banded together and with some hope that can only come out of resilience; they not only saved the multiverse, but now they are going to save the Prime Universe, as fully formed team. Their past is prologue. These 13 episodes and all they had to overcome is an important foundation.
They were all weary and tired and wanting to give up and the viewers were right there with them. It really is difficult to hold on to hope when everything tells you to just give up. The crew of the Discovery are fighters. I will argue that you, the viewers, are also a fighter. The reality of life is: Sometimes you must go through a lot of shit to get to where you want to get to. The ideals you want to be reality will require a major fight because of the beliefs held that were echoed in Lorca’s speech.
None of the choices the crew of the Discovery made were easy choices. Fighting is hard. When everything is telling you to give up, pushing through seems impossible. But, they did it. And we can do it, too, during such impossible times. Hope alone isn’t enough. As Emperor Georgiou said, “Your choices have determined your fate.”
A lot of things that happen to us our outside of our control. But we do have choices after. And sometimes, we can’t stand up, so we rely on others to stand up and fight for us, doing the best we can to survive to see another day. Every single person on the Discovery has survived to this point because someone else supported them.
The past is prologue and filled with stories of surviving trauma, loyalty (misplaced or not), redemption (real or imagined), and a group of people who came together when it mattered the most.
The viewers are weary. The crew of the Discovery is weary. We have gone through an incredible and tough journey.
It’s just too bad that 13 episodes were needed to build the prologue that informs the future we know, and only has two more episodes left to tie it all up. But it does add to the understanding of exactly what had to be overcome to create the Star Trek we know and love.
And perhaps it will inspire us to do the same in our present.
Until next Wednesday, Live Long and Prosper.
Catch Up With Other Posts in the Star Trek: Discovery Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations Series
Star Trek: Discovery Episodes 1 and 2: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Burnham’s actions as it relates to her past, and how the message of “we come in peace” will not always be received as such.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 3: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Section 31, the many Starfleet officers who have broken the prime direction, and Alice in Wonderland.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 4: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about Captain Lorca and his requirement for unquestioning loyalty and the consequences; blindly following orders versus challenging them.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 5: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the times some of our favorite captains did extremely questionable and unethical things, and how it related to Lorca.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 6: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the effects of surviving trauma, C-PSTD, PTSD, and how it relates to Burnham and Lorca.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 7: Recap, Reactions, and Rumination: We ruminate about relationships in the context of Burnham and why the interpersonal relationships amongst the crew seem to be so important to fans
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 8: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about the real-world implications of war and PTSD and how this reality is reflected in Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 9: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about trauma and the difference in how the cishet couple is treated compared to the queer couple.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 10: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate about how heartbreaking it is to see the “Bury Your Gays” trope in Star Trek.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 11: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We talk about the clues dropped that Lorca is Mirror Lorca, and the desperate need for hope.
Star Trek: Discovery Episode 12: Recap, Reactions, and Ruminations: We ruminate once again about “Bury Your Gays” and “Stuffed into the Fridge.”