DIS: S1 – E3: Context Is for Kings

This, for me, was the episode that really got things going on Discovery. Context Is for Kings gave us a new captain and a new mission, which had a bit of a secret up his sleeve. But poor Michael. Her story is one of sadness and loss. Even as we see a little light at the end of the tunnel, it will be an immense effort for her to ever see freedom again. 


We join Michael Burnham as she’s on a prison transport shuttle with three others to Tellun after a “dilithium pocket went piezoelectric.” The audience is treated to the story of how fifty cons (felons) were killed in the accident, and the mine needs new bodies. 

NOTE: It’s a shame that they’re using human beings to do this work. They ought to just contract a Horta family to work in the mines. But it will be a few years (Stardate 3196.1) until Kirk and Spock learn about the Horta.

Burnham sat by herself as the others reveled in her celebrity.

“That’s Michael Burnham,” said one.

“The mutineer?” said a second with a chuckle. Another prisoner told Burnham that she blamed Michael for her cousin’s death on the U.S.S. Europa and the 8,000 others.

“8,186,” said Michael.

Unfortunately, the shuttle became covered in small green organisms. The pilot left her seat to clean them off the exterior of the ship. She lost hold of the ship and was left behind. Three of the prisoners panicked, while Burnham watched in silence. 

Suddenly, a blue glow surrounded the shuttle. It was the U.S.S. Discovery pulling the small craft into its cargo bay with a tractor beam. 

The four left the shuttle and were greeted by Commander Ellen Landry (Rekha Sharma), who served as Discovery’s security chief. This is how she greeted them:

“I see we’re unloading all kinds of garbage here, even Starfleet’s first mutineer.”

Landry collecting the garbage. Courtesy of CBS
Landry collecting the “garbage.” Courtesy of CBS

NOTE: While this might be true, didn’t Malcolm Reed do a bunch of stuff that should have gotten him kicked out of Starfleet? This was especially when he was working for Section 31. But Archer always let Reed talk his way back. 

The prisoners noted the “silver” uniforms on Discovery, which denote many of its crew members’ scientific mission. They also noticed the crew with the black Starfleet badge, which they were not familiar with.

Landry took them to the cafeteria to eat. Burnham saw Lieutenant Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts), who now wore some sort of augmenting on the left side of her head, probably the result of an injury at the Battle of the Binary Stars. Detmer looked away from Burnham and did not acknowledge her. All other Starfleet stopped talking and eating to watch her.

Burnham sat down, and the other prisoners attacked her. She used her Vulcan martial arts (Suus Mahna) to easily defeat them (a great action scene). The fighting stopped when Landry aimed a phaser at Burnham.

“Captain wants to see you,” said Landry. “Come on.”

Captain Gabriel Lorca, portrayed by Jason Isaacs. Courtesy of CBS
Captain Gabriel Lorca, portrayed by Jason Isaacs. Courtesy of CBS

Landry led Burnham to the bridge, where Saru was sitting in the captain’s chair. He looked at her and turned away. Burnham walked into the darkened ready room and heard the trill of a Tribble.

“No matter how deep in space you are, always feel like you can see home,” said Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs). “Don’t you think?”

He apologized for the low light in his office, saying that he suffered a battle injury that caused this sensitivity. Lorca welcomed Burnham to the ship and offered her a Chinese fortune cookie. 

“It was a family business a century ago,” he said. “That was before the future came, and hunger and need and want disappeared. Course, they’re making a comeback now… thanks to you.”

Lorca said that he researched her file when he saw that she was among those on the rescued shuttle. She asked what she was doing on the Discovery, but he turned the question around and told her that she would help him out. He assigned her to work for him until her shuttle was repaired. 

When she declined, he said that he didn’t care what her opinion was. He said that he’d do anything it takes to achieve the mission — to win the war.

“No matter how deep in space you are, always feel like you can see home,” said Captain Lorca. “Don’t you think?”

Landry escorted Burnham to a cabin and dropped her off. Soon, Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) walked in. Tilly said that she wasn’t supposed to have a cabin mate due to her excessive snoring. 

NOTE: Some people took to Tilly right away, while others dislike her. I think that Tilly is great in small doses. Her character talks a bunch when she is nervous, which happens a lot on the show. She is smart and gets to be involved in interesting scientific projects as the show evolves.

Tilly nervously told Burnham that she is allergic to polyester and that Burnham is in her bed. Burnham revealed her identity to Tilly. Just as things got awkward, the ship sounded a “Black Alert” and the lights dimmed.

Burnham asked what the Black Alert meant, but Tilly said that if Michael hadn’t briefed already, she wasn’t allowed to say. Michael noticed some water droplets materialize in the cabin, then drop onto a surface with a splash. 

“Tilly, what the hell is going on on this ship?” said Burnham. Tilly did not respond.

The next morning, Burnham put on her new Discovery uniform (which did not have a Starfleet insignia or shoulder patches or stripes) and met with Saru, who escorted her to her work assignment. 

“Saru!” said Burnham. 

“First Officer Saru,” he responded.

He said that she was famous as all the crew stared in her direction. She congratulated him on his promotion, and he offered her some blueberries. As they walked, he told her that the Discovery could accommodate 300 discrete scientific missions, which, he said, was a Starfleet record. 

Burnham and Saru. Courtesy of CBS
Burnham and Saru. Courtesy of CBS

She asked if Discovery was a science vessel. He did not respond, saying instead that she had been assigned to engineering. Before he left, she apologized for her prior actions.

“I believe you feel regret,” said Saru. “But, in my mind, you are dangerous. Captain Lorca is a man who does not fear the things that normal people fear. But I do. And you are someone to fear Michael Burnham.”

“But, if you try, know that I intend to do a better job of protecting my captain than you did yours,” said Saru. 

NOTE: While this was super-harsh, but I would consider the source. Saru’s species was bred for fear detection. Asking him to judge the level of danger in someone would be like asking a mouse to tell you their favorite breed of cat. 

She said that she just wanted to get back on the prison shuttle and that she would not make any trouble for him on the Discovery. He said that was certain.

“But, if you try, know that I intend to do a better job of protecting my captain than you did yours,” said Saru. 

Burnham entered the engineering area, and everyone was secretive and rude to her. Even Tilly would not share a computer station with Burnham because of ‘assigned seating.’

NOTE: I didn’t like this attitude from these Starfleet personnel. Compare that to the mega-patience they showed the obnoxious Wesley Crusher on TNG. I guess, in the show’s defense, there have been no mutinous characters on Trek that were quite like this. 

Lt. Commander Stamets walked out of a secured room with a glowing canister into the main engineering area.

“Who are you?” he asked Burnham. She responded who she was and that she had been assigned to work in engineering. He said that he was the only one who gave assignments and then brushed some sparkly dust from his shoulder.

He spoke mockingly to Burnham then gave her some code to work on.

NOTE: The card he gave her looked like Kirk and Spock used to work with on TOS. Nice!

“Go! Somewhere else, please!” scoffed Stamets. “It’s not like we have assigned seats.”

Burnham worked into the night on the code, and Stamets took a call from his counterpart on the U.S.S. Glenn, named Straal, who was also working on a shared project.

They traded progress and numbers for their work. Straal told Stamets that the Glenn was going to try something new, which could mean a significant breakthrough in their research.

Burnham interrupted their conversation and told Stamets that she found that the code she was working on was not just ‘quantum astrophysics,’ but biochemistry and other stuff. She asked him for more details on the project to better understand what she was looking for. 

“Why would I tell a prisoner of the Federation, who is essentially a temp, the details of my research?” said Stamets, with disdain. 

She pointed out a mistake in the code and left. Before she did, she watched how Stamets was able to get into the off-limits area of engineering (with a breath scan). That evening as Tilly snored, Burnham got some of Tilly’s slobber on a paper and used it to access the lab. She walked into a massive garden.

The next day, Lorca informed Stamets, Tilly, and Burnham that the Glenn had an accident due to the Black Alert experiments. All aboard were killed. He ordered Stamets to go to the Glenn and retrieve anything of value. 

Lorca said that they needed to get in and out as quickly as possible since the Glenn was near Klingon space. Stamets sarcastically asked why the Glenn was conducting experiments near Klingon space.

“We are at war, Lieutenant!” Lorca yelled. “I’d appreciate a day going by without me having to remind you of that.” He then told Stamets to take Burnham at his party.

Tilly and Burnham on the shuttle. Courtesy of CBS
Tilly and Burnham on the shuttle. Courtesy of CBS

He objected, but Saru said that Burnham was the smartest Starfleet officer he had ever served with.

“Huh. And he knows you,” said Lorca to Stamets.

On the way to the Glenn, Tilly said that this was her first boarding party and prattled on to Burnham nervously. She also apologized to Burnham for lying about the station. 

When they arrived at the Glenn, Stamets said the markings on the hull represented a “basidiosac” rupture. Burnham said that that term must be related to “spores” and the numbers she was working on. She asked if the project was related to biology or physics.

 “Are you really so naïve as to see them as different?” Stamets asked.

NOTE: Paul Stamets, with his sarcasm, unlikable, know-it-all attitude, was why I did not care for Discovery the first time I watched it. I do not like being around people who act like this in real life and don’t want to watch a brilliant person belittle others on TV or the movies. Anthony Rapp toned it down a bit after this episode, but I’ll admit that Stamets made it hard to like this show.

He explained that on the subatomic level, biology is physics. He told her how he met Straal, and together they’d get to the “veins and muscles that hold our galaxies together.” But Starfleet co-opted their research and forced them to work apart on the Discovery and Glenn. He said that he was not happy that the “warmonger” Lorca was using his research.

Burnham said that she had no idea what the research was about, and never intended to be on this mission.

“Well if Lorca wants you to be here, I’m afraid that your intentions are less than moot,” said Stamets.

When they arrived on the Glenn, they found the crews’ bodies were deformed and twisted from the accident. As they walked through the corridors, they heard a large creature (not unlike in Aliens — and the scene even included the Aliens-like beeping). 

“Well if Lorca wants you to be here, I’m afraid that your intentions are less than moot,” said Stamets.

They found evidence that Klingons boarded the ship as well — dead Klingons, who Stamets theorized that they were on the Glenn to steal technology. Tilly heard something and found a Klingon warrior hiding in the shadows. It “shushed” her and then was attacked by the creature.

They ran as the creature chased them into engineering. They fired phasers set to kill with no effect.

“What was that thing?” Burnham asked. No one answered.

They got to work, pulling the apart the spore equipment and downloading the data. The creature started smashing through the blast doors, as Landry tried to user her phase rifle to burn through a different door. 

Landry tried to cut through a door with her phase rifle. Courtesy of CBS
Landry tried to cut through a door with her phase rifle. Courtesy of CBS

Burnham got a phaser and lured the creature after her as she climbed through the Jefferies Tubes. The creature followed her as the rest of the party escaped. As she crawled, Burnham recited lines from Alice in Wonderland. She dropped through a hatch from the tubes into the shuttlecraft, and they were able to escape.

After the escape, Burnham reported to the bridge of Discovery, and Saru said that it would soon be time for her to go with the other prisoners. He said that she did well on the Glenn also.

“You were always a good officer,” said Saru. “Until you weren’t. If only you hadn’t… You were a valuable asset. It is a loss for Starfleet.”

Burnham reported to Lorca in his ready room. He offered her a position on Discovery. He said that he had leeway with Starfleet to make decisions. She declined and said that she thought he brought her there on purpose.

“We’re not creating a new way to kill,” said Lorca. “We’re creating a new way to fly.”

Burnham said that Lorca was building a bio-weapon that was forbidden by the Geneva Protocols of 1928 and 2155. He needed her to work on this weapon.

She lectured him on why she was in trouble and how she would not go against any tenants of Starfleet. He took her to engineering and put her in a glass chamber. He held up a glowing container. 

“Mycelium spores, harmless,” he said. “Harvested from the fungal species Prototaxites stellaviatori, which we grow in our cultivation bay. But you know that ’cause you broke in.”

He plugged the canister into the machine.

“We’re not creating a new way to kill,” said Lorca. “We’re creating a new way to fly.”

He explained that they were making an “organic propulsion system” which the Glenn was experimenting with when the accident happened.

“Black Alert,” said Burnham.

He said the Discovery had not yet achieved what the Glenn was able to do, which was travel to the Beta Quadrant (over 90 light-years) in 1.3 seconds. This is thanks to the spore network that permeates the galaxy. Lorca said this ability to appear instantly and disappear just as fast would let the Federation win the war against the Klingons. 

NOTE: All of this is impossible, and there is no mycelium network in space. I think that was invented by the Disco writers because previous generations of Trek had already beaten every speed record there was. Kirk’s Enterprise could get to Warp 9 or so, but then the writers created TransWarp, which reconfigured the speed and distances. Soon, the Enterprise-D could go to Warp 9.97 or something almost the unachievable Warp 10. On Voyager, Tom Paris used a modified shuttle to go Warp 10, which was not supposed to be possible (but then he almost died and turned into some strange creature). So what could Discovery do that hadn’t been done before? Use a fictitious spore network to jump around space. Sigh… here’s an article that explains more about the mycelium network and how it does not exist.

“Universal law is for lackeys,” said Lorca. “Context is for kings.”

Anyhow, Lorca transported Burnham with the mycelium network to a bunch of alien worlds and back over a few seconds. 

“I did choose you, but not for the reasons you think,” said Lorca. He said she was correct in her assumptions about the Klingons at the Battle of the Binary Stars. Lorca told that he needed her and that style of predictive thinking at his side if they were going to beat the Klingons.

“Universal law is for lackeys,” said Lorca. “Context is for kings.”

He held out a fortune cookie and asked again for her help. 

Later, as Saru had some tea, he watched the prison shuttlecraft warp away. His threat ganglia popped out (which usually signals death or that he’s afraid). Maybe he was thinking about Burnham.

Lorca's family made these back in the day. Courtesy of CBS
Lorca’s family made these back in the day. Courtesy of CBS

Burnham went back to her cabin with Tilly, who said that she thought Burnham would be gone. Burnham said she was still there, and Tilly noted that she would be a captain someday. Tilly said that she wanted Burnham’s help getting there. 

As she unpacked, Burnham took out the Alice in Wonderland book. Tilly was surprised to see an actual “book.” Burnham said that her foster mother on Vulcan used to read from it to her and her brother (Spock). 

“That’s how I learned that the real world does not always adhere to logic,” said Burnham. “Sometimes down is up; sometimes up is down. Sometimes when you’re lost, you’re found.”

Lorca and Landry watched as the Glenn exploded from photon torpedo fire from the Discovery. Lorca asked if the new guest had settled in, and Landry said it was.

He walked through this compartment, which was packed with weapons of all sorts, to a containment field. He touched it, and the creature that killed all the Klingons aboard the Glenn charged at him. It bounced off the field and fell back. 


I shared my feelings on the unlikable Stamets and the unbelievable mycelium network. But beyond that, I really enjoyed this episode. I like getting to root for Burnham on her road of redemption. I hope she gets a Starfleet badge soon, and I hope that Saru will stop giving her such a hard time. 

RATING: 3 out of 5


Directed by Akiva Goldsman
Story by Bryan Fuller, Gretchen J. Berg, and Aaron Harberts
Teleplay by Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, and Craig Sweeny
Created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman

Producers: April Nocifora, Aaron Baiers, Thom J. Pretak
Consulting Producers: Nicholas Meyer, Craig Sweeny
Co-Executive Producers: Jesse Alexander, Aron Eli Coleite, Joe Menosky, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Frank Siracusa, John Weber, Ted Sullivan
Executive Producers: Bryan Fuller, Eugene Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, Akiva Goldsman, Heather Kadin, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Alex Kurtzman

Based upon “Star Trek,” created by Gene Roddenberry

Casting by … Margery Simkin, CSA, Orly Sitowitz, CSA
Music and theme by … Jeff Russo
Costume Designer … Gersha Phillips
Visual Effects Supervisor … Jason Zimmerman
Edited by … Jon Dudkoski, ACE
Production Designer … Todd Cherniawsky
Director of Photography … Darren Ternan, ISC


Sonequa Martin-Green
Doug Jones
Shazad Latif
Anthony Rapp
Mary Wiseman


Jason Isaacs

Associate Producer … Dana N. Wilson

Guest Starring

Rekha Sharma


Keyla Detmer … Emily Coutts
Discovery Computer … Julianne Grossman
Psycho … Grace Lynn Kung
Engineering Officer … Devon MacDonald
Airiam … Sara Mitich
Joann Owosekun … Oyin Oladejo
Stone … Conrad Pla
Shuttle Pilot … Ronnie Rowe, Jr.
Milton Richter … Christopher Russell
Straal … Saad Siddiqui
Cold … Elias Toufexis
Shenzou Computer … Tasia Valenza

Executive Story Editors … Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt
Staff Writers … Kirsten Beyer, Sean Cochran, Kemp Powers
Production Manager … David Till
First Assistant Director … Libby Hodgson
Second Assistant Director … Rita Colucci

Canada Casting by … Lisa Parasyn, CSA and Jon Comerford, CSA

Original Star Trek theme by Alexander Courage

Set Decorator … Peter P. Nicolakakos
Property Masters … Mario Moreira
Supervising Art Director … Mark Steel
Motion Graphics … Timothy Peel
Art Directors … Matt Middleton, Greg Chown
First Assistant Graphics … Andy Tsang

First Assistant Art Director … Natasha Peschlow

First Assistant Art Directors … Chris Bretecher, Shirin Rashid, Hayley Isaacs, Guinevere Cheung, John Kim, Matt Morgan, Dan Norton, Elile Poulin, Jane Stoiacico, Itsuko Kurono, Michael Stanek, Joshu de Cartier, Jeremy Gillespie

Assistant Production Manager … Michael Stoyanov
Third Assistant Directors … Ross Vivian, Brooke Fifield
Script Supervisor … Lisa Burling
A Camera Operator … Tony Guerin
B Camera Operator … Sean Sealy
Sound Mixer … Ao Loo
Boom Operator … Sean Armstrong

Casting Associate … Emily Cook
Canadian Casting Assistants … Sara Dang, Lisa Demeo, Emily Johnson
Studio Manager … Robert Jones
Location Production Assistants … Chris Vargas, Fermin Balado

Costume Supervisor … Karen Lee
Assistant Costume Designers … Bernadette Croft, Damion Saliani
Lead Character Designer … Neville Page
Department Head Hair … Ryan Reed
Department Head Make-Up … Colin Penman
Make-Up Effects Department Heads … Glenn Hetrick, James MacKinnon
Additional Prosthetic Make-Up … Paul Jones

Prosthetic Makeup Special Effects and Specialty Armor designed and created by:
Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page’s Alchemy Studios

Production Accountant … Debbie Van Dusen,
First Assistant Accountants … Dawn Howat, Vess Stoeva
First Assistant Construction Accountant … Suan Al’Thor
Second Assistant Accountants … Rebecca Pearson, Shane Pollard, Vanna Roopchand, Mark Bilas
Payroll Accountants … Melanie Foley

Lighting Design by … Franco Tata
First Company Grip … Robert Daprato
1st Assistant A Camera … Barrett Axford
1st Assistant B Camera … Brian White
2nd Assistant A Camera … Christina Louie
2nd Assistant B Camera … Craig Jewell
Digital Imaging Technician … Rob Stronghill

Production Coordinator … Janet Gayford
Script Coordinator … Melissa Goldstein
First Assistant Production Coordinators … Allison Lahav, Nicole Lane
Second Assistant Production Coordinator … Derrick O’Toole
Office Production Assistants … Tom Fitzpatrick, Laura Miles, Michaela Peker

Storyboard Artist … Rob McCallum
Concept Artists … Goran Delic, Bartol Rendulic
Digital Asset Manager … James Jarvis
Art Department Coordinator … Katie Brock

Stunt Coordinator … Rick Forsayeth
Special Effects Coordinator … Darcy Callaghan
Special Effects Key … Sophie Vertigan
Lead Dressers … Kevin Haeberlin, Greg Langham
Contact Lens Supervisor … Mandy Ketcheson
Key Scenic … Jay Kirk
Head Painters … Peter Aquilina, Soux Ellis
On Set Painter … Brad Francis
Construction Coordinator … Ross Fraser
Head Carpenter … Travis Israel Staley
Transportation Coordinator … Jazz Helie
Transportation Captain … Michael Corazza
Transportation Co-Captain … Grant Volkers

VFX Supervisor … Ante Dekovic
VFX Producer … Aleksandra Kochoska
VFX Lead Artist … Charles Collyer
Senior VFX Coordinator … David Takemura
VFX Coordinators … Ayana Reid, Julie Rothfarb
Assistant Editor … Matthew Kovach
VFX Editor … Glenn Cote
VFX Assistant Editor … Greg Minihan
Post Production Coordinator … Ruben Michael Molina
Post Production Assistant … Ryan Miles

Researcher … Anthony Maranville
Assistants to the Writers … Tyler Dinucci, Brandon Schultz, Christopher Silvestri
Dialect Coach … Rea Nolan
Additional Dialect Coach … Jeffrey Simlett
Klingon Translator … Robyn Stewart
Craft Services … Star Grazing, Inc.
Servers … Darlene Ibbitson, Monica Madden
On Set Caterers … Gourmet Catering

Assistants to A. Kurtzman … Julian Gross, Robyn Johnson
Assistant to G. Berg & A. Harberts … Chris Danby
Assistant to H. Kadin … Kathryn Alsman
Assistant to A. Goldsman … Chloe Gebacz
Assistant to C. Sweeny … Kaycee Felton-Lui
Executive Assistant Toronto … Emma Sampson

Sound Services by … Warner Bros. Post Production Creative Services
Sound Supervisor … Jon Mete
Sound Designer … Tim Farrell
Re-Recording Mixers … Alexander Gruzdev, Brad Sherman
Dialog and ADR Editor … Kim Wilson
ADR Editor … Ashley Harvey
Sound Effects Editor … Angelo Palazzo
Foley Artists … Jim Bailey, Sanaa Kelley
Foley Mixer … Trevor Sperry
Sound Assistant Editor … Deron Street

Music Editor … Matt Decker
Score Engineer and Mixer … Michael Perfitt
Scoring Assistant … Perrine Virgile
Orchestrator … Amie Doherty
Midi Tech … Tracie Turnbull
Score Wrangler … Matea Prljevic

Dailies Services by … Bling Digital
Post Production Services by … Chainsaw
Chainsaw Supervising Producer … Byron Smith
Chainsaw Online Editor … Chad Cole
Chainsaw Chief Engineer … Jeff Sengpiehl
Color Timing by … Company 3
Company 3 Final Colorist … Stefan Sonnenfeld
Editing Systems … Hula Post

Camera and Lenses by … Sim Digital
Main Title Design by … Prologue
Visual Effects by … Pixomondo; Spin VFX; Intelligent Creatures; Monsters, Aliens, Robots, Zombies



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