[REVIEW] STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Episode 3 “Context is for Kings”

After a strong start last week, the third episode of Star Trek: Discovery is something unique among other third episodes in franchise, or possible television, history: it’s the pilot. While the first two episodes serve as a prologue, “Context is for Kings” was really is the show’s pilot, introducing the ship and characters, as well as much of what will likely be the show’s conflict and season arc. And it does all this quite well.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Star Trek: Discovery – Episode 3 “Context is for Kings” Review

Episode three opens six months after Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) court-martial and life imprisonment. She and three other convicts are being transferred to another prison facility when their shuttle runs afoul of a cloud containing creatures that drain a ship’s energy (but totally not mocks). They are conveniently saved by the Discovery and we later find out that this whole thing was a ruse by Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) to get the now infamous mutineer on board.

Lorca seems to have a thing for Shenzhou survivors. Burnham encounters Ops officer Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) in the mess hall and Saru (Doug Jones) is now Discovery‘s first officer. Why Lorca wants these officers, beyond their experience with the Klingons, is uncertain at this point, but there’s a deeper reason why Lorca wants Burnham under his command.

Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham and Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets
Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham and Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets (CBS)

The Discovery is a brand new ship, one that’s set up for both black-ops science research and war. As Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) explains, when the war broke out, Starfleet co-opted his team’s fungus research, with him leading efforts on Discovery and his partner in charge of her sister ship, the Glenn. Stamets is none too happy this his research is being used for war, calling Lorca a warmonger, which leads Burnham, who has been kept in the dark, to suspect that all this is leading to the development of a biological weapon. Fortunately, she’s wrong.

In the episode’s climactic moment, Lorca reveals that the fungus can be used as a new form of travel, transporting someone instantly light-years across the galaxy. With the ability to do that, they gain a strategic advantage against the Klingons. Burnham agrees to stay, but she may not be reinstated into Starfleet just yet, as she is seen in a science-silver uniform but no insignia the coming attractions for next week’s episode.

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca and Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham
Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca and Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham (CBS)

But, of course, there’s a twist. While the researching is going well on the Discovery, an accident occurs on the Glenn, killing the entire crew. Lorca orders Stamets to lead a recovery mission, where the team encounters a huge creature on board, which is likely something that mutated as a result of the accident. While the team escapes with the information they need, minus one red, I mean copper shirt, The creature is seemingly left on board the Glenn, which the Discovery promptly scuttles, but not before Discovery‘s chief of security, Commander Landry (Rekha Sharma) is able to capture the beast for Lorca to study in what appears to be a private lab.

Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber (CBS)

Martin-Green and Jones continue their pitch-perfect performances from last week and are joined by a slew of similarly great new characters. Isaacs, best known for playing villains, is doing outstanding work playing both sides of the good/evil line. Sharma, Rapp and Mary Wiseman as Cadet Tilly all impress, with the latter adding some much-needed levity to the proceedings.

Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham opposite Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca
Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham opposite Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca (CBS)

Once again, those looking to nitpick canon and continuity will have a field day (site-to-site transport wasn’t used commonly until the Star Trek: The Next Generation era), but, overall, this is a solid episode and a great way to set the stage for the season to come.


What did you think of the third episode of Star Trek: Discovery? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Andrew Cardinale is from a Boston suburb where he works in IT. When he’s not doing something Star Trek related, he writes, follows local sports and listens to far too many podcasts.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter @acardi.

18 Comments Join the Conversation →


  • Troy Brown

    Absolutely love the new series. It is much different than what your used to in Star Trek but I love the change and the new feel.

  • Amos Greig

    It still feels like a prequel to the Kelvinverse (Abrams movies) rather than Prime verse TOS that might not be a bad thing for bringing in a younger modern audience however it will probably continue to alienate TOS and TNG era fans.

    • Ian Fleming

      I grew up on TOS reruns before TNG aired. DSC does not alienate me. It intrigues me. What is really going on? I can’t wait to find out.

  • Francis J Sampier

    Awful writing, period. The character punishment makes no sense, overkill. None of the technology is based on science or science fiction for that matter. Little pixie-dust spores that allow instant travel? And somehow this is never used again? How cheap. Fast-food writing..
    And canon? Nothing is Canon. Terrible dialogue. Typical new-age crap. Gene would never have approved. Fan made material and the Orville are far superior now.

    • Aaron Walker

      Yeah, I do have to agree with you on some parts. Axanar would have been some very cool TOS continuity. Paramount/CBS/whomever. Should have just thrown the producers of Axanar on the payroll, gave them a piece of the pie, and let them take care of the rest with studio resources…I bet Axanar would have put TOS Trek back on the map….

    • Aaron Walker

      But, as they say….Any Trek is better than no Trek at all…And I’m just a hungry scifi fan…Looking for good action, and Sci-Fi adventure…With good stories, acting, and VFX….

    • wealhtheow

      “Little pixie-dust spores that allow instant travel? And somehow this is never used again?” In fairness, right from the start there’s clearly a problem with using the spores. The Glenn is warped in all sorts of horrifying ways from using them. My bet is that the Discovery’s science team will keep investigating them, only to eventually realize that it’s too dangerous to be used. Hence why we wouldn’t see it used in subsequent series.

    • Andrew Larson

      Two things worry me the most, 1) too much character punishment like you said. BSG got away with it, but that was also due to the fact that their entire civilization was destroyed and were constantly on the run (so many shows try to copy that series). 2) I hope it becomes a team show. Right now it looks like it is mainly going to revolve around Michael, which is not how Star Trek works, let alone most scifi shows. It just leads to more brooding if it is a “solo” show.

      I also try to compare “in depth” and “series” sci fi shows to Babylon 5 which did it the best. Not even the sci fi part of it, but the writing and story development, plot twists, and anticipation.

      Trek canon or not, GOOD plot development and character development is key.

  • Aaron Walker

    It’s Okay. Its obviously, a redesign, reboot, and re-interpretation of Star Trek TOS. It draws heavily from the JJ Abramsverse Kelvin timeline/alternate history, some aspects of TOS, edginess, violence and behaviors of Battlestar Galactica 2009. Some obvious left-wing influences. Which I just try to ignore. As long as they just make some decent Hardcore Sci-Fi action/adventure stories…Then I done care…I’m a Sci Fi fan…I just came to see decent Sci-Fi ! In THE Star Trek Universes! The only things I have a problem with maybe…Minor, some of the Federation personal are complete @$$ wholes…Phasers appear to be a little weaksauce: supposed be pretty potent, and of course disintegrate anything extremely dangerous if needed..! Could improve some of the generic space sound effects…For hyper-impulse, to warp speed missiles ; the photon torpedoes seam to travel pretty slow for powerful Star Trek weaponry…

  • JB

    Literally creature of the week, but wait, it’s coming back!

    Don’t forget, this week our basically unlikeable protagonist got an obnoxious roommate.

    And black alert!

  • General Trelane’s dad

    I thought episode three had potential (despite my TOS bias). But why not just set the series further in the future, after TNG, DS9, VOY? It makes no sense to antagonise the older audience by altering the Klingons and using tech that doesn’t make sense in the TOS universe.

    • Andrew Larson

      Prequels in any sense of the word are par at best. The only decent prequel of anything I can remember in recent times was the one for the Underworld movie series.

  • Trent

    Iconian

  • David Zane Taylor

    The thing I’m curious about it the plans for the future of the show. Yes, I’m jumping the gun but I have my logic. I had originally read the series was going to be a analogy series. New stories each season with new casts and even different time periods or focal points. Then I heard not. Then of course, I read, not to get used to any characters because anyone is dispensable but then again CBS is spending big publicity money to get us invested in these characters. How I approach the show would be different if I knew how that’s going to play out. I certainly don’t want the actors changing roles each season like in AHS. Has there be anything that puts this to rest.

    To the points of others, I really like it but I’m just having trouble with the time line. It goes back to my main gripe since TNG went off the air- going back just opens up too many cans of worms. And honestly my dirty little Star Trek secret: I hate the Klingons. Not as in ‘oh it’s cool to have them as a good villain , I just never liked the Klingon stories. Just my opinion. I always found it overtly theatrical nd ham fisted acting. Granted, this is entirely new ball of wax but gosh, I’m already ready to go on record to say, Wrap this War up this season. 7 seasons of Klingon War just wears me out.

    I’m loving the show but please don’t forget that main themes of Star Trek- exploration and a higher developed maturity of our spies. Right now, the new century doesn’t seem much different than the one we have when it comes to how people act and react.

    • Karl

      Fear not. The producers have already stated the war arc will be just one season and they’ve already discussed new directions if season two gets the go ahead

  • Mark Chrisco

    This is just not Star Trek as I know it.

  • Daniel Davidson

    Great review as always Andrew, but as far as site to site transport, it was used in TOS. I believe in Day of the Dove. Now, it was said how dangerous it could be, but it has happened. I think there are a lot things on Discovery (the ship) that will remain always unknown to the rest of Starfleet. Site to site transport, tribbles, the Gorn ( skeleton in that lab) to name a few. These things lead me to believe that it could be a manifistation of Section 31. After all, they would be arrogant enough to register their own starship with that number, right? ( NCC-1031)

  • Jpnoir

    Love the show. Enjoy the new format. New territory for Star Trek universe. Let seek it out. I remember when die hard fans of TOS dissing STNG back in 1987. Star Trek Universe…I mean universes is big enough for everyone, if you don’t like it then your free to warp out to your preferred galaxy. Looking forward to next one!