Star Trek: Discovery Goes Psychic & Psychedelic in 'Lethe': Season 1, Episode 6 Review (Synopsis)

"To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves." -Federico García Lorca

In an episode filled with Vulcan mindmelds, Klingon treachery, a spectacular nebula, themes of racial purity, and PTSD, you’d think all the ingredients were there for a spectacular episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Instead, describing it as a hot mess would be overly generous; this episode is just a disappointment as far as just about every avenue is concerned. Except for the Captain Lorca / Admiral Cornwell scenes, there’s really nothing to like about where this goes.

While running her fingers over his scars on his back while Lorca sleeps, Cornwell suddenly finds herself with a phaser pointed in her face. She understandably doubts whether Lorca is fit to command a vessel as high-priority as Discovery. Image credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive.


From a psilocybin-ed out Stamets to an increasingly annoying Lilly, to a jackass version of Sarek to a blame-assigning Burnham who can’t believe that the galaxy isn’t fair, this episode is full of weak points. For a show that’s attempting to be an action/drama, this episode is very short on both the action and the drama. The Cornwell/Lorca scenes can’t save the episode, and the science part of the science fiction never even appears.

Some rare galaxies exhibit a green glow thanks to the presence of doubly ionized oxygen. This requires UV light from stellar temperatures of 50,000 K and above. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and W. Keel (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa), of NGC 5972.


After a promising fifth episode, Star Trek: Discovery returns to its worst impulses in Episode 6, ‘Lethe’. 


More like this

"You are... six years old. You are weak and helpless! You cannot... hurt me!" -Captain Picard, a badass, while being tortured Star Trek has always been a way for us to look at the best and worst aspects of humanity, often through our confrontations with alien races. Different aspects of our fears,…
"If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures." -Gene Roddenberry The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are now behind us, and while I expected it to be darker and more of a continuous story than a series of self…
"They will see us waving from such great heights 'Come down now,' they'll say. But everything looks perfect from far away 'Come down now.' But we'll stay." -The Postal Service Welcome back to another Ask Ethan! You keep sending in your questions and suggestions, and each week, I'll pick one of my…
“We do not realize what we have on Earth until we leave it.” -Jim Lovell Well, the Scienceblogs comments are still on the fritz, requiring me to manually un-spam them one-at-a-time, but Starts With A Bang! is still going strong with some fabulous stories based on the best knowledge we have! This…

Hmm. I actually quite liked this one, better than the last. The segway into 'Sareks Sophies Choice" worked pretty well and didn't trample cannon. And the Captains issues were interesting though I thought they would have reigned him in long ago. It seems the Discovery is Starfleets most important asset/weapon. They don't have any others?

Not sure why they need to take real weapons on the holodeck for the simulations. And why did they need armor? And maybe its me, but the sound the Klingons made when they died (all the same) and the way they disappeared looked and sounded almost exactly like the alien deaths in a classic arcade shoot-em-up game called Area 51 which I got hooked on for a while!!

In the end of the last episode and the beginning of this we see the see -through Klingon shuttle pods that look more like something out of Flash Gordon (the Queen movie version). And the Discovery shuttle had a long ramp up to enter it that disappears a couple of seconds later. AND the shuttle flew out through the containment field. The old Enterprise required depressurization right? Oh well.

Just heard season 2 has been renewed. I will stick with it for now. The trailer at the end of this episode for the next one is the first that got me excited to see the next one - a 30 minute time loop. Yeah.

Got my copy of Treknology. More on that in your new blog. It is quite beautifully produced with lots of nice illustrations etc so hopefully this will end up being a popular stocking stuffer and make you rich beyond your dreams of avarice :-) Only got to the third section so far but I like how the first two are present tense and then after the first paragraph of the third you switched to past tense describing the first warp drive - got a kick out of that!!

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 23 Oct 2017 #permalink

As a critic said, the only thing funny about Star Trek Discovery, is its acronym: STD...they really should have thought that one through a bit more, it's almost as bad as 'Research Into Psychically Oriented Flying Fowl'.
Orville is the real biological successor to Star Trek, as the co-producer is actually from the original Trek series, and who apparently wasn't too happy with J.J Abrams did to his baby and the abandonment of Start Trek Canon as set up by Roddenberry.
I think Orville is building a strong fan base pretty quickly.

IMO, the Orville should just keep doing what it's doing, and just polish and perfect it. Let the actors relax and mold into the characters. And build on the universe they are creating.

They shouldn't be drawn in to try to make it more ST like, or more comedy like. Trying to fill the shoes of ST legacy is not what Orville I think ever started of with, nor should it try to do as popularity rises. The tone and tempo they set in last 3-4 episodes is great. Just keep making them and avoid outside noise and hype.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 23 Oct 2017 #permalink

Have you noticed how on Rotten Tomatoes that STD is 83 with critics and 58 with viewers, yet Orville is 19 with critics and 92 with viewers?

Man, I had a boner with a capital 'O'.

Oh boy, that was a tenuous reference even for me.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 23 Oct 2017 #permalink

The thing that CBS, Abrams and critics it seems, don't understand is what ST was really about for the audience which then became fans. They are treating it like so many things before.. here's a product i.e. ST.. this is our new vision of the brand and franchise!

But we already had a vision which we loved and followed while it lasted. What we, the fans, wanted was for someone to pick it up and continue with it. We never asked or wanted "re-invention" of the brand. Someone else's "vision" of what ST "ought" to really be like. And that's the issue. That, and the completely un-realistic characters, plot developments and conclusions...

For a war and heavy sci-fi, Battlestar Galactica holds the throne, and STD looks like a toddler in that setting.

Orville, on the other hand shows, that it's not about the "brand", it is about the vision and the way of telling it, is what it was/is all about.

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 23 Oct 2017 #permalink

@Sinisa Lazarek #5,
Another series that no one seems to acknowledge as one of the most thoughtful dystopias ever made is CAPRICA. It's what went on before BattleStar Galactica, and it paints a chilling portrait of a society slipping into madness and decline as it's own decadence and vices consume it morally from below while it's run away technology is rotting it out mentally from within. Since the show aired, I have been alarmed at how our society is literally following in its footsteps, especially in regard to lusting after the wonderous promises of AI.

great.. now the word "disco" is trademarked.. rofl..

I'm gonna trademark "enter", "voya", "deepsp"

By Sinisa Lazarek (not verified) on 24 Oct 2017 #permalink

So Ethan, Einstein owed his insights in part to imagining what the consequences of traveling at the speed of light would look like. What would we 'see'.

It may not mean anything to ask this question, but what if we could go faster than c? What would we 'see'? What consequences would there be? What would it mean for E=mc2? How about time?

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 25 Oct 2017 #permalink

Imaginary mass going backwards in time....
So I would start going back to where i cam from and would get younger. Wow.

Thanks Frank. Cracking link.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 25 Oct 2017 #permalink

Here is a crazy thought experiment (which I think I had read somewhere):

Imagine you are in a spaceship in Earth orbit and watching a live TV broadcast. Later your spaceship starts moving straight in any direction you chose. You keep increasing speed towards speed of light.

What would happen?
You would see the (live) broadcast video slowing down!

And if you could reach speed of of light exactly, then the broadcast video would freeze!

And if you could go faster than speed of light, then the broadcast video would start going backwards!

And those situations with time are actually what would be happening to you from people of Earth point of view.

If I truly went backwards in time at the standard rate would I get younger or older?
What if it turns out that we can time travel, but when we get there we are as we were or would be at that time.

By Steve Blackband (not verified) on 26 Oct 2017 #permalink

Good questions. :-)

According to Relativity, when someone travels close to speed of light using a spaceship, time slows down for the spaceship and everyone inside of it. They travel to future but not because of moving faster in time. It is the opposite, they move slower in time, so they age slower. And time in rest of the Universe moves forward at normal rate. So people of the spaceship travel to future, but it happens like a side effect.

So what would happen, if the spaceship moving faster than speed of light, is not really travel to past. The people in the spaceship would get younger, but time for rest of the Universe would not flow backwards. It would still move forward during the travel of the spaceship.

So if the spaceship came back to Earth, the crew would not find themselves in the past. (But they would be younger.)

(So there would be no danger of Grandfather Paradox, meaning causality would not be broken. But if someone used a wormhole to travel to past (assuming also possible) then causality would be broken (Grandfather Paradox).)

I didn't like this episode at all, but I did love Ethan's review! Spot on!

The only thing I definitely liked about this episode was the mention of Spock, and the way they tied Sarek's choice to reserve his son's spot in the Vulcan Expeditionary Group, at the expense of Michael's spot, a choice that was wasted. It was interesting to see a depiction of Vulcan racism... it unintentionally (there's no way these chumps did something subtly good on purpose) reflects on Spock's kolinahr failure in the movies.

There was another thing that seemed crazy at first, but grew on me: Captain Lorca sleeping with a phaser. I think that makes perfect sense, and in fact all starfleet personnel should do so in wartime. After all, they've known for almost a year now that the Klingons have cloaking technology, and we also know that ships don't usually hang out with their shields on... they wait to turn them on when they've detected danger, not before. So, as far as anyone knows, Klingons could easily beam into their bedrooms whenever they feel like it. Maybe keep the safety on, though, and pair it with a shield, in case of battleth attack. Maybe a chainmail pillow? No, chainmail everything!

Things I didn't like:

The vulcans. Being emotionally controlled does not mean being a jerk. Being diplomatic doesn't mean being a jerk. It seems odd that the one outward emotion Sarek allows himself is being snide.

The suicide bomber vulcan situation is terribly illogical. Shouldn't the guy want to conclude the mission first? There's no reason not to, as far as he knows. Why be a suicide bomber when he could just plant a bomb, or do literally anything else, then escape... he only has one target! Why does he announce himself as he's shooting up with the glowing mystery bomb goo, giving Sarek time to react? Why, given the weakness of the explosion, doesn't he latch on to Sarek, or maybe do this whole thing in another room, maybe next to the engines or some other explosive ship component like the antimatter containment pod?

Plus, the suicide bomber thing doesn't fit in well with vucan lore in the first place.

The vulcan mind meld: Why the heck would they need to do a mind meld when their minds were already linked even more than that? Plus, the whole point of a mind meld is that they have to put their hands on pressure points and things like that, but they're already just mental constructs!

Vulcan ships have no voice commands? How logical is that? Heck, why doesn't it send out an emergency beacon automatically?

What the heck was Sarek typing during the bomber's monologue? I thought he was trying to set up a force field or beam the other guy off the ship, but nothing came of it. Why didn't he just hit the big green emergency beacon?

Why do all the spaceships of the future have such terrible controls?

I can see that they might have a holodeck, since they had a prototype on Enterprise, even if they never mentioned it on TOS, but I agree that it seems weird that they would bring in real phasers.

The holodeck target practice: It's like everyone always forgets that they can make their beams wider. "I shot 22!" "Well, I shot all 22 at once, chew on that!" I can't think of many reasons not to keep your phaser on wide mode at all times. Oh, especially if you're keeping it under your pillow! If you're the only one who's supposed to be in the room, and bad guys beam in or whatever, just soak the entire room, because anyone in there not you deserves what they get. Maybe keep it on heavy stun though, just in case you're getting space pranked.

Tyler's promotion: That seems like quite a number of steps up, to go from random lieutenant to security chief, let alone the fact that he's telegraphing 'spy' just as hard as he can.

The Klingon Cloaking Device Situation: I do think Star Fleet forgot they saw this in action in episode one. The heck?

Admiral Cornwell: What a train wreck. She's worried that Lorca's in control of the Discovery, a super duper important ship, but isn't worried that he blew up the Glenn? She's worried that he has PTSD, then has sex with a subordinate officer? He admits that he lied on his psych evals, and to her, (plus aiming a phaser at her) but she doesn't relieve him of duty right then and there? She sees that Lorca's unstable and armed with a phaser, and turns her back on him?

I really thought Lorca was going to just phaser her in the back, then cover it up somehow.

Why is it possible to lie on the psych eval? They have perfect lie detectors in Star Trek!

Tilly: So, before the series began, there was talk of making the bold choice to have someone on the crew who was autistic. That's great, but what I've realized is that everyone on the ship with more than a minute of screen time (so, maybe not the doctor?) is either autistic (Tilly and the science guy just are, Saru is because he's an alien, Michael because she was raised by aliens, Sarek because he's being poorly written), or a psychopath (Lorca for sure, and Tyler if he's really a double agent).

The Vulcan Expeditionary Group: First, how is this a thing that exists as a separate entity alongside Star Fleet? If it's just a separate fleet of just Vulcan ships, you'd think their problem would be filling spots on their ships, since it would be more logical to just stay home. Don't they need grunts? Why is there a hard limit on their group's members?

Running: Michael and Tilly are treating their light jog as if they're running a timed race. As any runner knows, if you can talk when you're running, you're getting a light aerobic workout, not racing. Also, they're running through populated ship's corridors! Shouldn't they have some stationary exercise equipment somewhere, maybe with a wee holographic projector to make it more fun? Speaking of which, why are they the only two running? If that's a thing, shouldn't there be a percentage of the crew running this way at any given time?

At this point, I'm thinking that the entire episode was just a setup for getting the Michael-Sarek mind link out in the open, so they'll use it later when they don't have any other means of communication. It just won't be a surprise to anyone anymore. If so, it's a waste of one of a limited number of episodes.

@Steve Blackband

I thought the shuttle launch through the force field was weird too... The other weird thing is that the force field in sick bay worked the same way, Michael walked right through it. Not even sure why it was there, since he's not sick, he just had a gut wound. We're guessing that it's the future equivalent to a really bad privacy curtain.