6 questions we have after watching Star Trek Discovery episode 4

Have you watched Star Trek Discovery episode 4? It’s the one with the long name - The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not tor the Lamb’s Cry - and all the science stuff in it? No? Then go away and watch it, or you’ll spoil things for yourself by reading this article. Why? Because we’ve looked at the biggest plot points, raised the big questions everyone is asking about them, and tried to provide some answers. 

Why the hell is T’Kuvma’s ship the only Klingon vessel with cloaking tech? How do the crew of Discovery suddenly know so much about the destruction of the Glenn? And isn’t it awfully rude to ask about someone’s threat ganglia? Read on for the answers. Obviously, spoilers lie ahead. 

1. Why is T’Kuvma’s ship the only Klingon vessel with cloaking tech? 

At the time of Star Trek Discovery, cloaking devices haven’t even been invented yet, which makes it very odd to see a Klingon vessel rigged up with one, especially a vessel belonging to someone like T’Kuvma. Kol clearly recognizes the value of this technology, too, as he’s willing to betray Voq in order to take charge of T’Kuvma’s ship himself, so what’s going on?

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It’s hard to imagine your average Klingon engineer being capable or even willing to develop a cloaking device for T’Kuvma, so is it possible that he himself is the inventor of a Star Trek tradition? Either way, Discovery has gone right ahead and revealed that Klingon ships, or at least one of them, were capable of invisibility about a decade before previously thought. That’s a massive twist to the previously established Star Trek timeline that could do with some more explaining in the show’s upcoming episodes. 

2. How did the crew of Discovery work out that the Glenn was destroyed falling into a radiation pocket? 

We learn via Lieutenant Paul Stamets that the USS Glenn “crashed into an undetectable hawking radiation firewall when it exited from a mycelial plain”, which is an awful lot of information given for a single sentence. It’s also a suspicious amount of known details about a ship that the Discovery crew fled from without so much as a parting wave, and suggests that perhaps Lorca and certain members of his team know more than they’re letting on.

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At that point in the episode, the crew are still attempting to figure out how the Glenn managed to make long distance jumps with such precision, so maybe this is just the case of Stamets having done some off-camera research. That, or there’s something going on the behind-the-scenes that we don’t yet know about. 

3. Isn't socially rude to comment on someone's threat ganglia? 

In a brilliant moment of Star Trek lore enrichment, we found out that Lieutenant Saru’s curious looking tentacles are in fact called “threat ganglia.” Think of them as Spider-Man’s spidey senses, except Saru’s tendrils actually begin to extend whenever they sense danger. The real question is regarding the biological nature of the ganglia…. Are they glands? Reproductive organs? Do they extend when a Kelpian watches a scary movie? 

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It might seem trivial to postulate over something like this, but how are common humans like Burnham supposed to know whether to mention them in conversation or not? Doing so could be considered a huge breach of privacy in Kelpian culture! Certainly, Saru appears to be visibly embarrassed whenever Burnham makes reference to his ganglia as a way of interpreting his mood, which supports that idea that she’s knowingly insulting his cowardice by doing so. 

4. Is Burnham genuinely manipulative, or just inconsistently written? 

“You have not changed an iota”, Saru tells Burnham after she deliberately provokes a reaction from his threat ganglia in response to Ripper, “your contrite words are insincere.” Actually, Saru, Burnham seems have to changed quite a bit.

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One moment, she’s the brave, underdog hero of the story, and the next, she’s a Machiavellian manipulator who gets what she wants without considering how it might affect others around her. Burnham’s character arc is starting to feel somewhat inconsistent in this way, and Star Trek Discovery needs to come to a decision on what kind of hero it wants its new protagonist to be, before it turns into one of the show’s biggest problems. 

5. Why did Lorca ‘send a message’ to the Klingons instead of just destroying them? 

We haven’t known Lorca for very long, but it’s already clear that he’s someone with a lot more skeletons in his closet than just the Gorn skull we spotted at the end of episode 3. This makes his decision about how to deal with the Klingons highly suspicious. As captain of the USS Discovery, Lorca was very much capable of stopping them for good, but he instead decided to ‘send a message’ by merely eliminating the immediate threat before getting the hell out of there. 

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The optimist might suggest that Lorca is extending an olive branch to the Klingons, only depleting their forces out of self-defense and nothing more. Alternatively, is there something deeper going on here? A history between Lorca and the Klingons that we don’t know about, perhaps. Only time will tell... 

6. How do the crew of the Discovery make Ripper a navigator for the DASH drive? 

Other than being just as creepy and off-putting as the last time we saw it, we learn a lot of new things about the otherworldly creature known more fondly as Ripper. For a start, it’s apparently what a micro-organism would look like if zapped by an enlargement ray, but Burnham and her team also figure out that it has an unexplainable connection to those special spores which the USS Discovery just so happens to be in possession of. 

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After some tinkering, Ripper eventually becomes useful as a navigator for the DASH drive, and although the episode makes it look as easy as simply hooking the creature up to the system without a hitch, you have to wonder how it’s all operating behind-the-scenes. How exactly are Ripper and the spores working together? And why is Ripper so pained by the experience? The episodes asks for a suspension of disbelief from the audience, true (this is a sci-fi show after all), but here’s hoping Star Trek Discovery provides a better explanation to all this newly introduced technology as time goes on.