Star Trek: Discovery S1E12: “Vaulting Ambition”
Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones
…rewards the patience of those viewers that have stuck with the series this far…
Still trapped in a parallel universe, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is brought towards the Terran Empire’s Emperor Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). While Burnham plays a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with the galaxy’s most powerful woman, back on the Discovery Saru (Doug Jones) fights to unravel the mystery of Lieutenant Tyler (Shazad Latif) while Stamets (Anthony Rapp) searches for a way back to reality.
A surprisingly good episode of Discovery is followed up by an even better one: “Vaulting Ambition” may be the shortest episode of Star Trek since 1974, but it packs a lot of plot developments and drama into its 35 minutes. By the time it ends, characters appear in different lights, events of previous episodes make a lot more sense, and there is now a very clear over-arching storyline to the season – and not necessarily the one you might think. This is almost certainly the most plot-critical episode of Discovery so far.
That also makes it a near-impossible episode to review without ruining it, and it absolutely is an episode worth watching before reading much else about it. Suffice to say it rewards the patience of those viewers that have stuck with the series this far, and it retro-actively repairs a solid proportion of the problems that dogged a lot of the early episodes.
It is wonderful to see Michelle Yeoh back, even if it is as the rather silly Emperor of the Mirror Universe’s Terran Empire. She is such a wonderful and likeable actress that she tends to lift whatever material or role she is given. It is particularly lovely to see her interact with Sonequa Martin-Green again; their interplay back in the series’ first two episodes promised a great relationship that was snatched away from viewers much too soon. It is also a great episode for Doug Jones as Saru: whenever the series backs off from emphasising Saru’s nature as a fearful empathic danger-senser the character sings.
While the episode is great, the series remains incredibly shaky and uneven. While some surprises here explain away a few of the more confusing creative choices of the past few months, they don’t explain away all of them. As we near the end of the first season, however, it is feeling less like the colossal misfire I feared it to be and more like the wobbly and uncertain first seasons that have affected many previous iterations of the franchise. Both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine got off to deeply rocky starts, and if Discovery can hit its second season running with its already-strong cast, a redefined sense of purpose, and most of the more tiring elements stripped back or removed, this could actually be the series its initial potential suggested.