In “Lethe”, Sarek is nearly killed when his acquaintance V’Latak destroys his shuttle while he is on the way to Klingon peace negotiations. Michael Burnham, who shares part of Sarek’s Katra, suddenly collapses while having lunch. She is pulled into the mind of Sarek, who is fixated on Burnham’s failure to make it into the Vulcan Expeditionary group. Sarek doesn’t welcome Burnham into his mind, so he pushes her out. As Sarek is near death, Burnham pleads with Captain Lorca to arrange a rescue mission. Meanwhile, Admiral Cornwall’s shuttle makes a surprise appearance. Cornwall wants to know if Captain Lorca is mentally fit for his responsibilities as captain of Discovery. She wants to know why he has been ignoring orders, allowing Burnham (a mutineer) to be an important part of Discovery’s mission, and why he has allowed Stamets to undergo eugenic manipulation.
Meanwhile, Ash Tyler performs a practice combat mission with Lorca. During lunch, he shares introductions with Michael Burnham and Tilly. Michael Burnham accompanies Tilly while she runs laps around the ship’s corridors. Burnham tells Tilly that she has to work on her times if she ever hopes to become a captain.
If that’s a lot to digest, that’s because Lethe’s plot is fragmented and incoherent. There is some good character development for Burnham and Sarek, but there are also a lot of scenes that come across as unimportant. Did we really need to see Lorca and Ash Tyler practicing shooting Klingons? Did we really need to see Tilly running laps? And did we need to see so many scenes after Sarek returns safely and Lorca sends Cornwall on her way to the peace conference?
Past episodes of “Discovery” have had too much self-exposition, and “Lethe” is no different. The biggest offending scene is when Burnham tells Ash Tyler, “All my life, the conflict inside me has been between logic and emotion.” Why not create situations where Michael is conflicted between logic and emotion, and let the audience draw their own conclusions?
The way that Burnham and Sarek act when they’re together hold “Lethe” up from being an outright boring episode. When Sarek tries to push Burnham out of his mind, even with the knowledge that he’s dying, we see him like an unmoveable boulder. It’s a big relief to Michael when Sarek decides to reveal his secret. Burnham didn’t fail to make it into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. Rather, the Vulcan Examiner told Sarek that only one of his non-Vulcan children could make it into the Expeditionary Group, and he had to choose between Burnham and his son, Spock. Burnham is relieved that she wasn’t a failure, but she berates Sarek for making her feel, all her life, that she was a failure when the failure was truly Sarek’s. (On another note, am I the only one who finds it hypocritical that the examiner suggests that is based on emotion, when his reluctance to allow both Burnham and Spock into the Vulcan Expeditionary Group is unexplained?)
Meanwhile on the Discovery, we see Captain Lorca for the paranoid person that he is. Cornwall calls his behavior “pathological”, which is nothing short of saying that Lorca is mentally ill. Lorca blatantly ignores orders and wakes up in the middle of the night with a phaser in hand. At the end of “Lethe”, when Admiral Cormwall is captured, Lorca decides not to go around doing whatever he wants with the ship, and instead waits for orders from Starfleet before engaging in a rescue mission. It’s difficult to tell whether Lorca has genuinely taken Cornwalls advice to heart, or whether his change is merely a temporary one.
Speaking of the ending, it’s too hard to believe that, in a Star Trek series, that an acting captain would be forced to step down. It wasn’t too hard to predict that Admiral Cornwall would either be killed or captured by the Klingons. That way, Cornwall can’t tell Starfleet about Lorca’s mental state. That being said, it will be interesting to see whether Lorca actually steps down in the coming episodes.
Final rating: Fair
• Some good character development between Lorca, Michael Burnham, and Sarek, even though Lorca is a little crazy.
• “Lethe” tries to accomplish too much.
• Too many lengthy scenes that try to resolve too many plot threads when the primary focus should be Burnham’s conflict with Sarek and Lorca’s scenes with Admiral Cornwall.
• The ending was too predictable.