This episode — and much of the first season of “Discovery” — reminds me of another “Star Trek” product: “Star Trek: Nemesis,” the last of “The Next Generation” movies. It was not well-received by fans or critics — even though the special effects and action scenes were top notch. “Nemesis” was a good action movie. “Discovery” has great action. But in both, the characters make such astoundingly odd decisions that it makes it difficult to get invested in the action. The plots exist simply as transportation vehicles.
And the ending of the episode — that the Discovery crew has time traveled within their normal universe — is another big twist, though it was hard to care much about it, at least for now. Too many plot twists come and go in this show without satisfying resolutions; the characters don’t even seem that interested in shocking news anymore. (When Saru finds out that Lorca isn’t, you know, Lorca, he reacts as if he’s told that the mess hall is out of pudding.)
“Discovery” is a bottom-line show: It’s more concerned with plot ends than with the narrative means. This leaves viewers with the sort of basic questions that shows answer organically, when they don’t opt for cheap plot twists over careful story development.
1. The fight scenes
This week, let’s raise our glasses to Glen Keenan, the show’s cinematographer. Georgiou’s containment field was eye-popping and the choreography in the superb fight scenes were unlike anything we’ve seen in Trek. Whatever the other flaws, Mr. Keenan’s work is a bright spot.
2. Rekha Sharma
It was wonderful to see Ms. Sharma back in action. Like many characters this season, Landry was killed off far too early, wasting an interesting character in the process. (Along with Georgiou, Culber, T’Kuvma, and others.)
What Didn’t Work
Where to begin?
The “Star Wars” rip-off
This one is slight — but it was enough to get me to shake my fist at the television. When Mirror Lorca says to Mirror Stamets, “Your lack of vision continues to disappoint me,” it was way too close to Darth Vader’s “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” in “Star Wars: A New Hope.” It is one of the most famous lines in cinematic history. You can’t pull off a line like that unless it’s a direct homage. And Lorca is no Darth Vader.
Video by Edge Adamworth
So many “Wait, what?” moments
More important, there were way too moments during the episode where I was baffled — either by character actions or exposition in the plot. An incomplete and not-so-short list:
• Early on, Lorca frees his followers from a room of Agonizers. Why were they alive to begin with? In previous episodes, even allies are killed with impunity in the Terran Empire. Enemies are shown being beamed into space. There is no real incentive for Evil Georgiou to not execute a group trying to pull of a coup.
• An ion storm pushed Mirror Lorca out of his own universe? This is a classic Trek plot device. “We need a way to get from Point A to Point B. Get me an ion storm.” [Update: Multiple readers have pointed out that an ion storm is how the original Enterprise crew, led by Kirk, ended up in the mirror universe. They are correct, so I’ll offer a mea culpa on this one. I forgot. I will, however, stand by an ion storm being a classic Trek plot device!]
• If you understood how Stamets recovered fully and is able to operate the spore drive with no issues, you are a more attentive viewer than me. Same if you can understand why the spore drive is no longer instantaneous, which is the entire point of the thing, or why the Terran’s bad faith use of the mycelium network would effect other universes.
• Why does Georgiou want Lorca to be brought to her alive? She thought he was dead this whole time until Burnham brought him back. Why is it important to her that she gets to kill him?
• Boy, Burnham is sure able to walk around empty areas of Georgiou’s ship for long periods of time exactly when she needs to, even though many people are trying to find her.
• So Burnham’s plan, when she and Georgiou get to the throne room, was to kick the guards? And why didn’t Lorca just immediately shoot a defenseless Georgiou?
• Uh, does anyone know what happened to Franken-TylerVoq-enstein?
• Why does Georgiou assume she’s a fallen emperor? She put down Lorca’s coup (again). Why can’t she eliminate his supporters, since they have no one to follow?
While I’m not very invested in the time travel plot that’s coming up, I am slightly intrigued. Saru is captain now? More Doug Jones? Yes, please. I’m curious about how the writers will approach a world where the Federation has hit a worst-case scenario — having lost a war. (This has happened before, if rarely: Things looked bleak in “Deep Space Nine” during the Dominion War. In “First Contact,” the Borg actually did assimilate all of Earth.)
An earlier version of this article misstated how many episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” have aired. Sunday’s episode was the thirteenth of the season, not the twelfth.