Shuttle Pod At The Disco 5: “Lethe”

The beginning of a romance?

This week, Kayla and Jared assembled at the mic to discuss the sixth episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Lethe”. Listen to the podcast below to hear our thoughts on the latest installment, which is full of character development, growth, and additions (and tweaks) to Star Trek canon.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episode 6 – Debuted Sunday October 22nd

Written by Ted Sullivan and Joe Menosky
Directed by Doug Aarniokoski

At The Disco 5: “Lethe”

Both Kayla and Jared agree that so far much of what we have seen on Discovery has been stellar. Episode 6 really resonated with Kayla; she notes that Burnham’s story arc in this episode reminds her of some of the personal journeys she has taken in her life and how real the story felt. Jared liked “Lethe” but admits that he still finds Discovery‘s Vulcans (including the not-so-Vulcan Burnham) a bit stiff. A lot of canon-shaking events occurred in this week’s episode, including a new insight into the backstory of Spock, a character who only barely made it into the episode, by name only.

Vulcan graduations are not fun

In a world of serialized television, the Shuttle Pod crew agree that “Lethe” felt like the most stand-alone episode we’ve had so far, with the story arcs of all of our characters nicely book-ended with scenes between Tilly and Burnham on the jogging track.

Who’s mentoring who?

The sixth episode of Discovery delivered a ton of character development and growth. We were shown Burnham’s old wounds and the process she went through to start on the path to healing them. At first, Burnham is trying to be her old self, Sarek’s ward, while carrying her burdens with her. At the end of the episode, she has shed some of those burdens and is starting to become her own person — and gets a permanent placement on the USS Discovery, as granted by her new father figure, Captain Lorca.

Lorca earns a new place in the heart of Burnham (and the audience, perhaps)

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The way the Alice in Wonderland book showed up again in the Vulcan scene is amazing.

Amanda tells Michael she must focus on her human side and gives her this book to help her doing so. What does Michael do? The most Vulcan thing: learn it line by line.

I didn’t like Michael quoting an entire passage of the novel in an earlier episode, but now it not only makes sense. It shows Michael’s well-meant, but wrong-headed attempts to make a gift of her mother her own.

I took her reciting passages from the book as she was being pursued by the tardigrade as a form of meditation; it allowed her to push aside her human fears and focus on her escape.

^^^^ This I took it the exact same way.

I thought this scene was kind of tacky. It made more sense when Jessica Jones did it.

Opinions are like @$$holes…

The quote on quote “holodeck” from Discovery is a primitive version of what we see in TAS used as a shooting range.

What we see in TAS is called the Rec Room:

One thing you have to realize about Discovery is they are properly treating TAS information as expanded canon and they are using what they like from it.

Jared mentioned that he didn’t like the almost racist vulcan theme running throughout this episode, which is carrying on from Enterprise. I’d like to point out that it’s a theme that spans into the end of the 24th century as well when you look at DS9’s “Take me out to the holosuite.”
Solok taunts and insults Sisko about the poor expectations he has of “humans” etc in addition to writing numerous papers about the incident with Sisko. Sisko also emphasises to his crew that the USS T’kumbra’s crew is an “all Vulcan crew BTW.”

I remember at the time in 1999 fans expressed concerns to Rick Berman that they found it uncomfortable that these Vulcans were racist. Berman countered that they weren’t, but I cannot recall now what exactly his justification was – Not sure whether it was the fact that Vulcan physiology allows them to be stronger and more intelligent than a human.

So Vulcan racism or superiority is not something that’s confined to just Enterprise. As canon shows it’s a theme that’s been prevalent throughout Starfleet and Federation history. But my take has always been that humans in Starfleet have that creative and mercurial edge, which the Vulcans have recognised. Nothing demonstrates it better than the simple case of Kirk beating Spock in 3D chess in WNMHGB.

Thx! I was trying to remember the name of that ep this morning. Hadn’t had a chance to look it up.

I’m also reminded of how Spock admits to his own racial prejudice near the end of TUC.


I’ve noted elsewhere that Vulcans are really hard to get right, and there are too many examples of the writing, actor, or both falling short post-TOS. The thing that really offended me about “Take Me Out to the Holosuite” beyond the arrogance of the Vulcans in general was Solok’s taunting of Sisko and the others for not being on the front lines in the war, as if that position would be something a race of pacifists would covet. And of course that same series gave us a Vulcan serial killer (!) just a few episodes later. Even as I admired Ron Moore and DS9 in general, at the time all I could do was shake my head and mourn that sometimes even the greats don’t get it right.

By comparison my qualms with the handling of Vulcans in “Lethe” seem relatively minor. I’d have appreciated more information about the “logic extremists” (and a better descriptor of that group while we’re at it), including their justification for embracing Sarek’s philosophy of logic but not his pacifism or IDIC. OTOH, I really liked that the administrator’s approach to the problem presented by Sarek’s family was so classically Vulcan. Fans may see his “Sophie’s Choice” proposition to Sarek as cruel (especially Americans, who are raised from birth to believe that self-actualization trumps every other consideration), but from his perspective I could understand that he had been presented a problem in human/Vulcan integration and was taking the most rational middle course open to him. And Sarek may have logically believed that Spock would be more likely to succeed in such a rigorous environment, if he had to make such a choice between the two of them. His error was in not telling Burnham the truth, but he lacked the emotional awareness to see that in not doing so she would spend years blaming herself for that failure, and maybe even resent her Starfleet career as a poor second choice. All interesting questions, which is exactly what this kind of show should be raising.

Why can’t SOME Vulcans be racist in any century without it being a reflection on ALL Vulcans?

Oh, I agree, and didn’t intend for anything in my post to imply otherwise. I don’t have time for Trek novels anymore, but many years ago Diane Duane wrote a pretty good one called SPOCK’S WORLD, which also featured Vulcans who didn’t think all that highly of humanity and wished to dissolve ties with the Federation. (Not surprisingly, Spock’s ex T’Pring turned out to be one of the conspirators.) It was stated somewhere that they were a minority in Vulcan society, but nevertheless a pretty sizable one, and that in their polite, sedate way Vulcans were just as prone to disagreement and even factionalism amongst themselves as humans.

That’s a good book

I imagine the reference to Vulcan extremists was a tease and we shall get more later.

Could be an arc for a future season

Yeah. I don’t get why so many people have a problem with racist/xenophobic Vulcans. It makes total sense; and like you said, falls perfectly in line with established canon.

This episode seems to have been the most polarizing yet, with fans and critics either calling it the best so far or a total (if well-intentioned) mess. Well, I watched it again last night just to be sure, and you can definitely put me in the first camp. Character growth, new insights into the Trek mythos, scenes that allow the actors to exercise their craft and take some real risks (which mostly pay off)–“Lethe” has it all, and after the last couple of bottle shows that cut some obvious corners is beautifully produced besides. It’s not perfect, but after many years of this franchise being rightfully criticized for its feeling of mass-produced sameness (author David Gerrold once called it “the Macdonald’s of science fiction”), how refreshing it is to see a Trek willing to take some real chances, even if it occasionally stumbles in the process or alienates some hardcore fans. Love it or hate it, the one thing Discovery rarely is, is dull.

Michael Hall,

Re: The Golden Arches

I believe you had direct contact with him around the time of the NY Times reporting:

that Gerrold seemed to have changed his position on that. So, I’m inclined to go with your assessment. It does seem odd that he’d soften his position on corporate Trek based on working on a fan production, which is what I get from Vinciguerra’s reporting.


Thanks for the link; interesting story. I actually got to meet Mr. Gerrold in the summer of 2009, when we worked together on the still-unreleased “Orgins” episode of New Voyages that he both wrote and directed. As opposed to his memories of “Blood and Fire” I can tell you that it was not a very happy shoot, for reasons I won’t get into here. I think his remarks about the Trek spinoffs are mostly on the mark, though I would apply them more to VGR and ENT when it was obvious that the writing staff was suffering from creative burnout and gross studio interference. As for J.J.’s Trek 2009, it was of course a big topic of conversation up in Fort Ticonderoga that year, with the majority of people on the shoot really disliking it, David Gerrold most definitely included.

The episode has great contrasts. Not surprisingly, like the props, everything TOS works – the drama around Sarek choosing Spock over Michael (was he logical? Is he ashamed? Spock a disappointment? Isn’t it neat how committed he was to bringing Earth and Vulcan together)? This episode makes Journey to Babel in TOS that much more powerful!! Michael running down a corridor telling Tilly “serve on a Constitution class like the Enterprise”. They look like they are on a ship on the final frontier. You want to see a Constitution class ship. The Admiral fighting with Lorca. The near cliffhanger at the end – OMG – did Lorca actually sacrifice his LOVER/COMMANDER to keep his ship? is he that desperate? Or is he doing this to save the Federation? Is this a Kirk Star Trek III moment or is he going to be a bad guy?!?! Or BOTH AT THE SAME TIME?!?!? Mess hall, crew eating basic food in a military style cafeteria (what?!? How can this crew function without a bar serving EVERYTHING??) Everything TNG that some writers feel you absolutely must have, they just keep jamming it in there time and time again as “love letters” that fall flat and bore the episode unnecessarily. A holodeck – why?!?! Now you writers can have fun writing a million reasons why that holodeck is just a primitive holodeck where a damn hologram target range would have worked. Technobabble, more fake science on Katra communication where you could have just left it all vague. Have fun defending your fake science BS. A way too big bridge with no SFX – have fun walking the Captain around just to talk to his own officers. At least they are throwing in some TOS intraship communication to try to cover up how dead that bridge feels. The mess hall seems to work. Thankfully the TOS >>>>>>> Snooze Trek scenes that the show is mostly awesome!!!!!

They could have done a better job making it clearer, but it really was just a holographic target range combined with laser tag. At the same time, I get that they wanted to see more use out of that no doubt very expensive corridor set, and of course there was a WRATH OF KHAN fake-out element involved as well. In the context of a good episode it’s really a very small thing, certainly not worth the freak-out it’s provoked in some quarters.

Either way feels like another example where the TNG types try to cram in their “love letters” to fans thinking they just can’t handle a TOS universe – phasers and transporters in Enterprise just to see it result in horrid stories and general fan discontent. Any chance we have to reinforce that unnecessary tech upgrades, peace and perfection, free energy and aliens that just want to be perfect humans blows up in their face and results in fan DISCONTENT AND LACKLUSTER stories (keep your ‘love letters’ to yourself please). It’s honestly part of what makes Orville so damn funny. Thankfully there are enough new blood writers on Discovery that the laser tag holographic target range sort of covers this one. Everytime someone brings up a dumb TNG idea (unnecessary fake-technobabble, holodecks, android in Starfleet) they should have to go to a corner and write WAGON TRAIN TO THE STARS, 100 times followed by reading “The Making of Star Trek” (Real Star Trek, not TNG) before being allowed to come back.

*Sigh* Joe Menosky was the primary writer on this show, and he got his start writing on the very same TNG you hate. Nevertheless, he’s a talented guy. Maybe you would do better to just take the qualities you like or dislike in these shows at face value and comment on them specifically (as you do very perceptively in your post re Michael Burnham below), instead of trying to shoehorn everything into a very narrow, ideological box. Just a suggestion.

I gave them the benefit of the doubt on Enterprise (which should have been the best Trek ever – post WW3 Earth must unite, prove herself ot allies and learn to explore the cosmos in a universe with no phasers on stun, no transporters and primitive Starships). Then the disaster that was Into Darkness (again should have been awesome). We are at the point where fans need to send a simple message, hit them with a hammer every chance you can, maybe some of it will get through. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Discovery so far, but you can see cracks from those who want to go off the rails and wreck it (may they be ignored at least for one good season!)

I think the attitude you describe (“hit them with a hammer”) is more likely to get you dismissed as a kook. Be less caustic and less polarizing and act less like a TV show is worth a holy crusade and people will be more receptive to your feedback,

I really enjoyed this episode. I honestly choked up a bit when Sarek admitted his regrets to Michael. It was very moving. We’ve only ever heard about Sarek’s love for his family second-hand. He’s never shown us before. This was a beautiful way to show us that his choices as a father are made from his heart. He does get it wrong, just as any human father. I always felt that getting pissed off at Spock for not attending the Vulcan Science Academy was just pride, but this lets us see a deeper motivation. He’s not upset with Spock; he’s upset with himself. He was given a fatherhood Kobayashi-Maru. I don’t know about other Vulcan families, but I assume the father makes choices regarding employment and family. The children obey. The human element means both his children will make their own choices. This has to be agonizing for him. His kids clearly love him, so he must have been a very present, active parent. Again, I assumed his parenting style was more aristocratic and distant, but this episode shows us the depth of his heart. It’s beautiful.

Michael’s reaction in sick bay is probably no different than I’d have done, but I still felt for Sarek. I feel he wanted to connect emotionally with Michael, but was simply unable. Even though she spat the “father” honorific at him, we can still feel the family grow together. We know he will not be able to repair the damage with Spock. They are too alike, but maybe we will get to see him get a bit mushy with Michael.

Finally, Mia Kirshner was a great casting choice for Amanda. She’s very much like Jane Wyatt. I hope we get to see more of she and Michael. That role has been either a pretty face or Sarek’s translator. I think she’s much more important than that. We know Sarek married her because he loved her, but what precisely attracts a Vulcan male to a human female? (Also, it’s nice to see a Toronto production have a Canadian actor in a main role.)

I wanted to say how much I enjoy this podcast each week. I can’t wait to tune in on Wednesday to hear your thoughts on the newest episode. I frequently listen to the podcast during my commute to work, and even though you can’t hear it, I am frequently talking, processing, and arguing with you.

With that being said, I want to say thank you to all of you on the podcast for being a constant reminder to all of us of how we can, and should, be. Every time someone voices an opposing or sometimes unpopular opinion, everyone listens and it respectful of the person. I find it to be so inspiring. On many occasions when someone is passionately opposing my view of something, I have thought, “How would Matt or Kayla respond to this?”

Thank you for staying true to the spirit of the show that we all love so much, thank you for being a light to me each week!

Thanks very much for the kind words about the Shuttle Pod crew :-D

When I’m not on the podcast, I do the same thing on my commute while listening to the show, I’ll be in traffic shaking my head or arguing back at my stereo :-)

In retrospect I like that Michael has parent issues. In the age of parents necessity/relevance in question, divorce, two parents working, kids starting to live in their parents basement longer, high expectations, etc the Sarek-Micheal-Spock plot line just FEELS relevant. Is Sarek the bad guy for picking his “real” hybrid son over his adopted daughter? Is he good for doing everything he could to bring Earth and Vulcan together? Did he marry Amanda for love or logic in bringing Earth and Vulcan together (both?). Should Michael care? Should Spock have gone to the Science Academy instead of Starfleet to fulfill a master plan? in the end easy to see why Spock would “rebel” and join Starfleet. Did he join in his adopted sisters footsteps? Easy to see how some could see Sarek as simply obsessed with humans. Some real thought provoking stuff.

All very good, interesting questions.

Almost every Vulcan we have ever seen on Star Trek, from TOS to Enterprise, was a total jerk. Sorry Jared, but Vulcan behavior on Discovery fits cannon perfectly.

They’re having some fun with this, aren’t they?


That’s fantastic!

Spock appearing on Discovery is a forgone conclusion. Whether he’s played by Quinto or a new actor. Getting Quinto to guest star would be a marketing/promotions win for the show. As Kayla says, he’s Kelvin Spock, but the Kelvin actors are supposed to represent the TOS characters in their youth. Spock Prime recognizes both Kirk and Scotty as their younger counterparts in 2009.

And if Spock is played by another actor, then so be it. Why not? There’s an actor playing Superman in the DC movies and another on Supergirl.

If it happens now or later, soon the TOS characters will be played by another group of actors. That’s how it should be. That’s how it will be.


I assume you didn’t read this, but producer Akiva Goldman has stated unequivocally that Spock will never appear on Discovery. Take that for what it’s worth.

And Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t playing Khan according to the pre-press of INTO DARKNESS. In the history of film and television when hasn’t a producer said one thing and done another?

I’ve read Goldman’s statements and I call horsesh*t.

Despite what Goldman says now, the temptation to have Spock, the Enterprise and everything else appear is too great. Discovery is going to run into the Supergirl problem… you can only mention Superman so much before the audience expects for him to appear.

In the case of STID, they were hiding a plot point as part of selling a movie.
Is it possible Spock will show up one day?
But, i don’t think Goodman is hiding a specific plan to do so.

Wouldn’t Quinto be too old to play Spock on Discovery? I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around this time period.

Of course it’s probably a story convenience, but you would think the Vulcan terrorists would have had other better opportunities to attack Sarek.

Yes, and why would they pick that particular mission to sabotage? Making peace with the Klingons would be as much to Vulcan’s benefit as to Earth’s or the Federation’s. Definitely something that should have been explained (or thought-out) better than it was.

So we’re not going to discuss the Vulcan elephant in the room? Sarek and a fascination with humans so deep that we know he’ll marry two of them, have a son with one and adopt a human orphan. The Vulcan elder brings up an interesting point: is this all part of some weird Sarek/human lifelong experiment/project/fetish…?

Or not.

Actually, that’s a very interesting idea. I’m sure Sarek was the glue in Fuller’s anthology concept. I can vey well see him either having another son with Perrin or him adopting a son she had from another relationship, perhaps as a way to atone for happened (will happen?) with Burnham.

Another neat point is that it would reflect the TNG canon that Picard attended his (adoptive?) son’s wedding.

I’m surprised no one has been talking about Lorca’s decision at the end to have Saru “check with Starfleet” before mounting a rescue for the Admiral. Is this a Machiavellian move to ensure she never returns and he doesn’t get ousted from the captain’s chair? This is the guy who blew up his crew, after all. Or has he been chastened by his dressing down by the Admiral. And was his tearful confession of not being right in the head honest or manipulative? The answers to these are an essential window into seeing who Lorca is. We never question Captain Picard’s motives, or Kirk’s, or any other regular series captain. But this guy?

That’s what makes it interesting. You could always assume the motives of the others were pure, even if you questioned their judgement (I can think of at least one instance with Kirk and Picard where they did something that, had I been in charge, might have gotten them busted back to ensign.) But you really just don’t know with this guy.