Warning: This recap includes spoilers for Episode 12 of "Star Trek: Discovery," along with discussion of sensitive and potentially triggering topics.
The strange behavior of Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) finally has a physical explanation rather than just plain old PTSD from seeing his last crew killed. As "Star Trek: Discovery" fans found out in the final few seconds of Episode 12, "Vaulting Ambition," Lorca is from the alternate universe.
There was a lot of evidence piling up this season about Lorca already; some fans figured out the plot twist weeks ago. The detail that had me wondering was his eyesight; he was overly sensitive to light, which he dismissed as the effect of watching his old ship explode. But in this episode, Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) told Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) that sensitive eyes are a problem that all alternate-universe folk have. [6 'Star Trek' Captains, Ranked from Worst to Best]
Because "Star Trek" fans are smart people, some correctly guessed Lorca's origins many weeks ago. In an interview with GamesRadar in November, Isaacs said that while some theories are right, nobody's got the whole puzzle yet.
"More power to them," he added. "People should continue to come up with these theories. Some people will feel really smug at the end of it. Some people will feel really stupid at the end of it."
Anyway, Lorca is finally free from the torture he's been stuck in for the last three episodes, and he's just killed one of Georgiou's crewmembers. Apparently, they had some beef about a woman called Ava; more to come in Episode 13, which will be released next Sunday (Jan. 28) on CBS All Access around 8:30 p.m. EST.
Strangely, not much else happened
Though this episode was packed with so much information, I realized, looking back, that most of its 45-ish minutes just involved picking up balls from Episode 11. (To be honest, I didn't find this episode as compelling as the past two, but I do understand that the screenwriters needed to do a bunch of plot cleanup.)
There's not much else to say about the other subplots, but here's where we stand.
- Burnham and Lorca transport over to the imperial flagship, ISS Charon, where Georgiou is waiting. Lorca spends most of the episode being tortured, but eventually breaks free. Meanwhile, Burnham reveals her true identity and brokers a deal with Georgiou. Georgiou will give over the information about the USS Defiant to help the USS Discovery escape, while Burnham will send over information about the USS Discovery's spore drive. Will this agreement hold? I guess we'll find out in the next episode.
- "Normal universe" Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) wanders around the alternate-alternate universe in his brain (and inside the spore network) along with alternate-universe Stamets (also Rapp). Turns out, the two men have a lot in common — they're both trapped in comas and they're both experts on the weird "Discovery" brand of hyperpowerful spores. Normal Stamets also meets up with his partner, Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz); Culber confirms he was actually killed back in Episode 10. .
- The Stamets-Stamets-Culber discussion reveals that the spore network is going haywire and will have terrible consequences unless the two Stamets do something about it. They both wake up from their comas near the episode's end (I have a comment about that below) and get to work. Unfortunately, by then, the spore network has already taken over part of the USS Discovery.
- Ash Tyler/Voq (Shazad Latif) is suffering some agonizing side effects from his human-Klingon fusion. He spends most of the episode screaming; Saru (Doug Jones) repeatedly puts on his best dismayed face as he runs around trying to solve the problem. Finally, the Klingon prisoner L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) does some sort of medical procedure to relieve Tyler/Voq's pain. We don't know yet what she did or if Tyler/Voq survived the procedure; last we saw, L'Rell was wailing in grief
Random observations on Episode 12
So many questions about Lorca. Is there a Gabriel Lorca from the "normal universe" who's trapped in the alternate universe somewhere, or still back in the normal world? Did alternate-Lorca kill normal-Lorca? Is there only one Lorca? Or what about other fan theories out there about who Lorca is? (I won't say more, but you can easily find the theories out there yourself.)
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace