Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “Context Is for Kings”

To watch Discovery streaming in Canada, you have to wait until Monday for CraveTV to put the episode online. That meant that I was already hearing some buzz about “Context Is for Kings” before watching it. The main thing I heard was that this should have been the actual beginning of the series, and that the first two episodes felt unnecessary by comparison.

The official logo for Star Trek: DiscoveryHaving now seen it, I very much agree with that perspective.

“Context Is for Kings” is where the story of Discovery really gets started. Now a prisoner, Commander Burnham finds herself suddenly transferred to the newly launched starship Discovery, where she is pressed into helping them with their research.

It’s quickly clear that Discovery is no ordinary Starfleet vessel, and when disaster strikes its sister ship, Burnham begins to understand just how far the Federation is willing to go to win the war.

As I said, this is where the show’s story really begins. We’re introduced not only to the series’ titular ship, but also most of the main cast members, Burnham and Saru being the only significant carry-overs from the first two episodes.

Those new cast members have done a lot to improve my view of the show. They add a lot of depth to what has so far been a pretty shallow story.

It’s too early to be picking favourites, but one who especially impressed me out of the gate is a scientist called Paul Stamets. He’s a bit prickly, but it’s clear he’s a true believer in Starfleet’s ideals of peaceful exploration, and his resentment at having been asked to fight a war is a great angle. He does a lot to bring the feeling of true Star Trek that Discovery has previously lacked.

Burnham’s roommate, the over-eager Cadet Tilly, is also an interesting case. Her awkward goofiness could potentially get old with time, but right now she provides a welcome dose of warmth and humour to counterbalance the show’s otherwise grim tone.

The titular ship in Star Trek: DiscoveryI was also pleased to see a familiar face: Rekha Sharma of Battlestar Galactica fame, who plays Discovery‘s chief of security. Always liked her.

I still don’t like Burnham, but her portrayal is softening. At least we can see that she regrets her mistakes, and that there is a limit to how low she’s willing to sink. Although she’s still reckless to the point of foolishness.

I’m also intrigued by the arc that is beginning to form around Discovery‘s mission. Again, it’s starting to feel a bit more like Star Trek, with some very inventive (if implausible) sci-fi concepts.

That’s not to say I’ve been fully converted as a fan. The show still seems to favour spectacle over logic more often than it should — that brawl in the mess hall was totally unnecessary — and as I’ve said, I’m still not very keen on Burnham.

But this is a big improvement over the first two episodes. If you haven’t tried Disovery yet, start with “Context Is for Kings.” This is a much better introduction to the series than the actual pilot.

Overall rating: 7.6/10 I’m actually looking forward to the next episode now.

Some random speculation before I go:

I don’t think Lorca is going to be Discovery‘s captain forever. I see him eventually being replaced. Probably with Burnham.

Also, who else thinks we got a Section 31 series without realizing it? Because at this point I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t turn out that Discovery is a Section 31 project.

1 thought on “Review: Star Trek: Discovery, “Context Is for Kings”

  1. Ooh a Section 31 series? I like that idea! I did enjoy this episode a lot more than the premiere. I was surprised at how unrelated it felt to the pilot, although I can see the value of the premiere giving extra context on Burnham’s past. Kind of.

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