Star Trek: Discovery S01E12 Recap: 'Vaulting Ambition'

Star Trek: Discovery has spent a lot of time since it's come back from winter break answering the questions that plagued fans over the first nine episodes, and proving to fans that a little patience is worth having for a largely serialized new show, even if that show has fifty years of legacy and history to live up to. Everything that's happened since "Despite Yourself" has been kind of a whirlwind. We've found out so much about the Mirror Universe, we've met doppelgangers for Voq, Sarek, Georgiou and so many more, we've figured out who Lt. Tyler really is, and why Stamets once called Tilly Captain.

It's been such a barrage of information that in "Vaulting Ambition", the reveal that's arguably bigger than anything that's come before it still manages to catch us by surprise. Most of the pieces of the puzzle finally fit together when we find out that the Gabriel Lorca that we've come to know doesn't belong in the Prime Universe, that he's actually the rebel scum that killed Mirror Burnham and betrayed the Terran Empire. Looking back on it, it makes sense. Lorca never really fit in what we know of the Star Trek universe and the Federation. He was too warlike, even if you could make an argument that a captain like that would thrive at a time where the Federation is under constant threat of war. That threat of war may justify why the Federation would turn a blind eye to his tactics, but it turns out that fans were right to be wary of who he was, And that in turn proves that, these days, it's hard to judge a show week-to-week, because stuff in episode twelve will completely reframe stuff from episode three or four.

It turns out that Mirror Lorca somehow found his way into the Prime Universe, took the place of Prime Lorca and finagled his way into commanding a science vessel that he knew had technology that could travel across dimensions, using it to find the resources and people he needed in order to get back, so he could complete his mission and take down Emperor Georghiou. How exactly he found his way over, and whether or not he's responsible for the tragedy that destroyed Prime Lorca's former ship and devastated its crew remains to be seen, but it's now clear that he was using Stamets, Burnham and everyone else to advance his own goals.

We also now find ourselves in a situation where Emperor Georgiou is open to cooperating with Burnham, after Burnham throws a Hail Mary and reveals her true self to her, hoping to appeal to Georgiou's affection for her own Burnham. It's Burnham's honesty that leads her to figuring out the Lorca twist, but it also puts her in a position where she has to be open to a trade with Georgiou, to exchange her spore drive for help getting back to the Prime Universe. Throwing a wrench into all of this is Lorca himself, who ends the episode having escaped his Agonizer Booth prison, and presumably on his way to finish the job with Georgiou.

Meanwhile, Stamets interacts with his Mirror self in his dreamlike state, which has taken him deep within the spore network. In there, he interacts with a vision of his now dead partner. Culver informs him of his fate and helps him figure out a way out of his coma, where he finds out the spores are infected because of Mirror Stamets' experiments. Unfortunately, Prime Stamets waking up means that Mirror Stamets has also awoken, which can only lead to further trouble.

As mentioned, Discovery had done a good job clearing much of the deck while in the Mirror Universe. Most of the twists that we've all seen coming have all been revealing, and most if not all of them in satisfying ways. That doesn't mean there aren't questions left to answer, and fun still to be had on this side of the coin, but there's now a clear path forward as, presumably, everyone has to work on getting the crew back home. The way everything has come together, though, has been incredibly satisfying. Lorca's actions all make sense, the score drive stuff works within the context of how they've been using it and for what purpose Lorca meant for it, even the Tyler/Voq stuff continues to take interesting turns, and the MacGuffin of chasing down the USS Defiant didn't feel like a complete waste.

Now that everything's been revealed, I have no idea where it could all be going, or even what direction the inevitable second season will take, and that's truly one of Discovery's biggest accomplishments. "Vaulting Ambition" gets 9 stewed threat ganglia out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • The thing I'm most curious about now is whether or not Burnham is going to tell Saru that she ate a Kelpian.
  • Seriously though, Burnham was probably already fucked up based on everything she's been through in the Prime Universe, now she has to deal with not only eating a member of her friend's species, but also coming face to face with her mentor, only she's evil now, mind-melding with her father figure's doppelganger, finding out that her lover and the only person she's maybe ever allowed to get close is actually a deep cover Klingon, and finding out that her captain is actually a Mirror universe spy that manipulated her and their crew, even putting them (Stamets especially) in grave danger in order for him to get back to where he's from and seek out revenge. And, oh yeah, in the Mirror Universe Lorca basically Woody Allen'd her doppelganger. Not to mention the indiscriminate killing she's had to do posing as herself. No one can ever say anything bad about Michael Burnham or Sonequa Martin Green's portrayal ever again.
  • So, back on Discovery, L'Rell performs a procedure on Tyler/Voq that seems to calm him down. I'm not sure if she erased Voq from Tyler or vice-versa, so it'll be interesting to see where that goes.
  • I love the design on the Emperor's ship, and it doesn't really seem like anything we've seen before in Star Trek.