7 questions I have after watching Star Trek Discovery episode 3

It only took three episodes, but Burnham is finally aboard the USS Discovery in Context is for Kings and I have a few questions after the action-packed episode. If you haven’t seen episode 3 yet I’d recommend watching it now - either on CBS All Access in the US or Netflix in the UK - and coming back to this feature because there’s plenty of spoilers to follow. If you have seen it and you’ve read our 5 star review and you still want more… well, you’re in the right place because I’m about to do a deep dive into the big questions of the episode.

1. What’s up with Captain Lorca’s eyes?

At the beginning of Burnham’s first meeting with Discovery’s Captain Gabriel Lorca he apologises for the lack of lighting in his Ready Room telling her he has “to suffer light change slowly” due to a “recent battle injury”. While he goes on to talk about how he likes to think it makes him mysterious and be generally quite creepy, I was left wondering what kind of injury makes your eyes sensitive to light changes? He doesn’t give us much else to go on simply saying that “there’s nothing they can do if I want to keep my own eyes, and I do,” but I guess anything which has damaged the corneas would make you sensitive to light. Perhaps an explosion did just this to Lorca’s eyes? On the other hand, maybe he’s just looking for any excuse to be all cloak-and-dagger in the shadows. 

2. What is the weird “organic propulsion system” and is it doomed to fail?

Admit it, you have no idea what the “organic propulsion system” is, except that it’s got something to do with plants. I don’t blame you, there’s loads of science in episode 3 and it feels like you needed your own training in high-level quantum physics to understand it. I rewatched the episode and did a bit of research and basically the idea is that there’s an interconnected mycelial (the vegetative part of a fungus) web covering the entire universe and you can use the spores which are produced by the web’s fungi to travel from one point in the web to another. I know, it sounds kind of crazy, but this is sci-fi after all. The idea is actually inspired by real life mycologist Paul Stamets (who the character Lieutenant Paul Stamets is named after) who believes that fungi can be used for a variety of things in our society… although maybe not space travel.

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The other question is… is this technology doomed to fail because it doesn’t appear in any of the other Star Trek TV shows? Discovery sits before almost all of the other Trek series (except for Enterprise) in the timeline which means whatever happens in this series will become the past or history of the other shows. Seen as there’s no mention of the “organic propulsion system” in the Original Series, The Next Generation, or any of the others, it’s safe to assume that the crew of the Discovery will never be successful in making the tech work. The other option is that they get it to work so well that they get lost in space… or perhaps Discovery will end up creating an alternative timeline where all of Starfleet use the spores to travel. It wouldn’t be the first time.

3. How did THAT creature get on the USS Glenn?

You know the one I’m talking about; looks a bit like a cross between and giant slug and a Dire wolf... eviscerated an entire Klingon raiding party… chased Burnham through the bowels of the ship while she quoted Alice in Wonderland… yep, that’s the one! Where the hell did it come from and how did it get on the USS Glenn? Well, considering it appears to be closely linked to the “device” and the experimental transport system Discovery is working on, I think it’s likely the creature boarded the Glenn during a transport test. 

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Remember when Lorca is explaining the organic propulsion system to Burnham? She’s quickly transported between Ilari, the moons of Andoria, and Romulus and if something similar was happening on the USS Glenn then it's feasible that the creature was close to the transport position at the time and lunged for whatever/whoever it saw and was transported back to the Glenn. The other possibility is that the transporter was simply left open after the whole crew died in the test and it just stumbled upon the Glenn.

4. Why did Lorca beam it aboard and did he already know about it?

Given the destruction the creature wreaked on the Glenn, you have to wonder why Lorca choose to secretly beam it aboard the Discovery. Did he already know about it? Is that why he sent the boarding party over to the Glenn? It seems unlikely but, if so, why? Does he think it’ll somehow help the Federation win the war, or does he just want to add it his collection? Loads of questions about this one, but one thing I do know is that he’ll come to regret that decision. No doubt that beast is getting out at some point during the season.

5. How much does Starfleet know about Lorca's secret experiments?

With Lorca clearly determined to make the new transport technology work at all costs, Stamets’ assertion that he always gets what he wants, and his generally secretive behaviour, you have to wonder how much Starfleet knows about what’s going on aboard the Discovery. No doubt they know about the technology and the experiments to try and make it work, but I get the impression Lorca has vagued up some of the details of just how he’s been doing that (i.e. taking dangerous risks and potentially putting his crew in jeopardy). During the episode he even says Starfleet gave “me discretion to fight this war however I saw fit,” which is code for, ‘do whatever you have to, just don’t tell us’. He knows that if he succeeds Starfleet won’t care how he manages it… I’m just wondering what happens if he doesn’t and someone gets hurt in the process. 

6. And why does he have a special interest in Burnham?

Because he’s clearly obsessed with her! No way was the Discovery just passing when a prison shuttle carrying Starfleet’s first mutineer needed help. Like Burnham said herself, she got no warning of the transfer and the shuttle changed direction midway through the journey. There’s plenty of other clues throughout the episode that Lorca orchestrated Burnham’s arrival on the Discovery, but it’s not until the end when she calls him out on it. “Why do you want me to stay?” She asks him. “I’m not here by accident. I think you brought me here. I think you’ve been testing me.” 

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Burnham imagines it’s because Lorca is developing some sort of forbidden technology and he needs help from someone who’s willing to do anything to get out of a life sentence. Although she quickly finds out she’s wrong about the ‘forbidden’ part, Lorca admits he knows who she is and that he wants her to join his crew, but other than offering some vague praise about her actions during the Battle of the Binary Stars, he doesn’t really say why… there’s clearly more to the story. 

7. Are books super rare in the future?

Because Cadet Sylvia Tilly’s reaction to seeing Burnham pull out a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland at the end of the episode was just a bit too shocking. “Wow, is that a book?” She exclaims. Err… yeah Tilly, don’t you read? It was less of a ‘Oh hey, no one really uses paper anymore’ and more of ‘Omg, are you rich? You have a book. A book. A BOOK.’ You know what I mean… it was weird.