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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S1E13 "What's Past Is Prologue"

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Lorca's plotting comes to fruition, while Saru and the Discovery have to risk everything to prevent the destruction of the multiverse.


Tropes in this episode include:

  • Air Vent Escape: When Mirror Georgiou tries to have Burnham sent to the brig, Burnham overpowers the guards and blasts her way into a nearby vent. Georgiou doesn't put much effort into finding her, as Lorca is the primary concern.
  • Apocalypse How: Stamets warns of a Class X-5 if the mycelial network continues to deteriorate.
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  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The Emperor proves the better of dozens of Lorca's men, both in gunfights and hand-to-hand combat. Lorca is no slouch himself.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: In the final showdown, Burnham and Mirror Georgiou take on Lorca and a dozen of his heavily armed loyalists by themselves, and win.
  • Bad Future: The Discovery jumps back into the prime universe, only for Stamets to report that they overshot their target and ended up nine months later than when they left. When Saru orders the tactical map updated, they discover the awful truth.
    Saru: If the map is to be believed... then it appears... the Klingons have won the war.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Burnham spares Lorca's life in accordance with Starfleet's ideals. That might have led him to cause further trouble, except that Mirror Georgiou immediately stabs him in the back.
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  • Biological Weapons Solve Everything: Lorca uses one to kill most of the Charon's crew, giving his rebels better odds.
  • Blinded by the Light: Lorca uses a flashbang against Georgiou's forces during their first battle. Against light-sensitive Terrans, this is even more effective than usual.
  • Call-Back: Mirror Landry's last words are asking if the containment field's been turned off. Her prime universe counterpart's last words were an overconfident order to turn a containment field off.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Lorca entered the prime universe by trying to transport through an ion storm, just as Kirk and company entered the mirror universe in "Mirror, Mirror".
    • Burnham grabs Mirror Georgiou as she beams out, similar to how Gillian hitched a ride with Kirk in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home but in reverse. The same could be said for how L'Rell hitched a ride with Tyler.
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    • The Discovery crew refuse to accept a no-win scenario, just like James Kirk.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Georgiou is not happy about being saved by Burnham from her Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Michael points out that Starfleet would have helped Lorca return to his universe if he had simply asked.
  • Death by Irony:
    • Played with. Lorca makes Mirror Stamets believe that he will be executed by being thrown into the Charon's mycelial core, saying it's "poetic" that Stamets is killed by his own creation. He then has Mirror Landry just vaporize him with her phaser.
      Lorca: Just kidding. I hate poetry.
    • Lorca is stabbed in the back by Mirror Georgiou and then dumped into the core itself, playing it straight.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Subverted; Mirror Georgiou decides to stay on the Charon and buy time for Burnham to escape, pointing out that even with Lorca himself dead, his supporters will still kill her the moment they get their hands on her. While she succeeds in gunning down many of Lorca's men, Burnham ends up grabbing hold of her as the Discovery starts beaming her on-board, bringing Georgiou with her.
  • Declaration of Protection: Lorca makes it clear once he takes over that Burnham is not to be harmed in any way. He even goes so far as to slash Mirror Landry across the back when she's dueling with Burnham.
  • Deflector Shields: Mirror Georgiou has a forcefield protecting her during her confrontation with Lorca. Once her turret defenses are disabled, however, Lorca and his men just fire on the forcefield until the emitters overload.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Lorca promises to put an end to the current regime's lax immigration policies and thereby make the Empire... glorious again. Now, doesn't that sound oddly familiar...?
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Mirror Georgiou plans to go out fighting against what's left of Lorca's men, as she'll never be taken seriously as Emperor now that Lorca has proved she's vulnerable. Burnham saves her instead.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: While Burnham and Lorca are fighting.
    Lorca: Don't make me have to kill you.
    Burnham: You won't.
  • Enemy Mine: The Emperor and Burnham team up against Lorca's coup.
  • Energy Absorption: Tilly hits on a way to use the detonation of the Charon's mycelial core to power their own spore drive to make the jump back to their universe.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: This trope ultimately dooms Lorca and his coup. Not only did he completely and utterly misjudge Burnham's true nature, as Burnham pointed out, he misjudged Starfleet-Prime's true nature, as they would have helped him get back to his own universe had he not played impostor. Instead, the woman he dragged out of jail ruins his coup and indirectly causes his death, and the crew he manipulated kills his surviving loyalists.
  • Exact Words: When it looks like Burnham has joined Lorca, she tells Saru, "This is where I need to be, Saru. This is my place." In other words, she's where she needs to be to foil Lorca's plans.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Lorca inverts it: he makes it clear that he views the mirror universe as the "real world" and the prime universe as expendable.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: When the Discovery escapes from the destruction of the Charon, sparks are flying all over the place.
  • Famous Last Words:
    • Lorca, after being stabbed In the Back.
      Lorca: We...we could have...
    • Georgiou gives Burnham what's supposed to be a Final Speech. Subverted, however, when Burnham chooses to rescue her.
      Georgiou: You fought well. For a moment...I thought I had her back with me. (hears commotion outside the room) Lorca's troops. I will buy you some time. I am a defeated emperor. They've seen my neck. I have no future now. But I will die on my feet as fitting my station. Go, Michael Burnham. Find a way home. Live.
  • First-Name Basis: Burnham addresses the Emperor as Philippa, and is firmly reminded that she does not have that privilege. Lorca repeatedly addresses the Emperor this way as an intentional slight. And finally, Burnham addresses Lorca as Gabriel, to indicate her lack of respect for who he revealed himself to be.
  • Foreshadowing: When the spores fill engineering, one of them settles on Tilly's shoulder and is apparently absorbed. This finally pays off the next season.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Lampshaded by Lorca, although he claims the credit for the formidableness of Discovery's crew. Assuming his claim is accurate, he ends up hoist by his own petard as his former crew opens fire, nearly killing Lorca with a phaser blast through the throne room.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: The Terran habit of keeping enemies alive to be tortured in agony booths comes to bite the Emperor in the ass since it provides Lorca with a ready source of loyal troops inside the Emperor’s own ship when he makes his move.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: Mirror Stamets tries to hide behind a holographic wall in his lab, but a glitch in the simulation exposes it and allows Lorca to grab him.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Up to Eleven, as Discovery first jumps to warp to Outrun the Fireball caused by the destruction of the mycelial core, and then they use that energy to spore-jump while at warp.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Mirror Georgiou stabs Lorca through the chest with her sword, then dumps his body in the mycelial core for good measure.
  • Invisibility Flicker: Mirror Stamets' holo-camouflage fritzes enough for Lorca to locate and grab him.
  • I Want Them Alive: Mirror Georgiou wants Lorca brought to her alive, so she can kill him herself.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Apparently, Lorca's complaint against Mirror Georgiou is that she's too soft on alien races. Given that she has been known to eat said alien races for dinner, that really says something.
  • Multitasked Conversation: Burnham's statement, "I'm right where I need to be." Lorca believes it means she is going to take his offer. But to Saru, that is the signal she told him to expect for Discovery to start her attack run.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Mirror Georgiou plans to die fighting against what's left of Lorca's men while Burnham beams to safety. Having failed to save her captain's body back in the two-part pilot, Burnham takes the chance here and saves Georgiou.
  • New Era Speech: Lorca gives two to his followers.
    Lorca: One year, 212 days of torture, of agony, my friends, my followers. But I have returned to give meaning to your suffering. Today is the day we reclaim our empire.

    Lorca: Hello, Philippa. I've watched for years. You let alien races spill over the borders and flourish in our backyard, then have the gall to incite rebellion. The Terrans need a leader who will preserve our way of life, our race. Try as you might, it's clearly not you. Even Michael knew that. It was her great shame. Well, it's indecorous of me to share pillow talk. To the rest, many of you know me. Some of you served with me. To all, I make this offer. Renounce Georgiou. The Empire is dying in her hands, But you don't have to. Not today. Michael Burnham is not to be touched. She is integral to our future plans. A future where we together will make the Empire glorious again.
  • No One Gets Left Behind:
    • Saru won't give the order to destroy the core until he knows for certain that Burnham is back aboard Discovery.
    • When she is being beamed out by Discovery, Burnham grabs the Emperor to take her along rather than let her go out in a blaze of glory.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: With the destruction of the ISS Charon and the death of Mirror Stamets, it's implied that there will never be another palace ship like her, as the power requirements are beyond anything but a mycelial core (which only Mirror Stamets could build).
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Lorca has a subtle one when Saru treats Burnham's seeming defection as if he expected it, just before Discovery shoots a hole through the Charon's throne room.
    • Mirror Landry has one when she sees Discovery approaching the Charon's core and asks if the containment field is functional.
  • Phlebotinum Overdose: Discovery loads their torpedoes with their remaining mycelial spores, realizing that they can overload the core by giving it a sudden surge of mycelial energy.
  • Planar Shockwave: The destruction of the mycelial core produces a massive shockwave which the Discovery rides to hop back into their universe.
  • The Purge: In order to seize complete control of the Charon and gain the loyalty of its crew, Lorca has every single Lord and senior officer on board executed.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Lorca wants Burnham to be this for her mirror self. For that matter, Burnham's desire to rescue the Emperor in the end has similar implications.
  • The Reveal:
    • The Charon's star core is actually a giant mycelial reactor which powers the ship. This is the source of the corruption which threatens the network.
    • Lorca entered the prime universe through a transporter malfunction caused by an ion storm, which means his prime self was presumably swapped into the mirror universe at the same time.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Having already been betrayed once by Mirror Stamets, Lorca has him executed as soon as he's no longer useful.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Lorca's account about ending up on the prime universe's Buran suggests the truth about why he destroyed her and killed her crew — was it to spare them from a Fate Worse than Death at the hands of the Klingons, or was it to keep them from figuring out his true identity and spilling the beans?
  • Rousing Speech: Saru gives one when the Discovery crew realize their plan to blow up the mycelial core will either kill them outright or strand them in the mirror universe.
    Saru: It is well-known that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death. I do not sense it today. I may not have all the answers. However, I do know that I am surrounded by a team I trust—the finest a captain could ever hope to command. Lorca abused our idealism. Make no mistake: Discovery is no longer Lorca's. She is ours. And today will be her maiden voyage. We have a duty to perform, and we will not accept a no-win scenario.
  • Shout-Out: Part of the team has to take down the shields protecting the evil baseship, the other part of the team has to fly into the superstructure of the evil baseship to fire on its core and start a chain reaction that will destroy it completely. Sound familiar?
  • Spare a Messenger: Lorca spares Mirror Owosekun to deliver a message, then shoots her in the back when Georgiou asks what the message is.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: The viewscreen map showing the Klingons conquering the Federation.
  • Super Wrist-Gadget: Mirror Georgiou's bracelet allows her to control the Charon's internal defenses, transport herself to safety, and mask her vital signs from sensors.
  • Time Travel: Discovery jumps back to the prime universe, but the ride is bumpy thanks to Stamets having to calculate their jump on the fly and they wind up nine months in the future.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Just as Burnham carries her deceased captain's badge, Lorca has Mirror Burnham's badge.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Though she's not given much chance to remark upon it, Mirror Georgiou is obviously annoyed by Burnham's decision to save her.
  • Victory Is Boring: Discussed by Lorca, who says that people who think this are idiots.
  • Villain Respect: Lorca seems to genuinely admire the crew he commanded (and deceived) for the past several months.
    Lorca: Mr. Saru. It's good to see you. I'm glad I got a chance to say good-bye to you, and the rest of the crew. I want you to know that my admiration for you was and is sincere. When I look at you, I see the formidable unit of soldiers that I sculpted. If I thought for a second that any of you were capable of relinquishing this cult-like devotion to the Federation, I'd enlist your skills today.
  • Villainous Valor: The Emperor, realizing that she has no hope of reconsolidating her power after Lorca's coup, declares her intent to cover Burnham's escape, and single-handedly takes down a horde of Lorca's soldiers as they try to squeeze through the bottleneck of her bridge's entrance.
  • We Can Rule Together:
    • Lorca asks Burnham to rule with him, deeming her superior to her deceased mirror counterpart. Burnham doesn't go for it.
    • Subverted with the crew of Discovery. Lorca says that he would extend them an offer to join him if he thought they were willing to abandon the Federation's ideals, but knows they won't and agrees to spare them as long as Burnham joins him.
  • We Have Reserves: Lorca casually sacrifices some of his own men to get Mirror Georgiou to reveal the location of the hidden turrets, at which point he and Landry disable them.
  • Wham Shot: Saru asks for updated tactical maps. What the map shows is that the Klingons have taken over nearly all of Federation space.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The episode explains that Lorca found his way to the Prime universe through the same sort of transporter accident as in "Mirror, Mirror". This implies that Prime Lorca was stranded in the Mirror universe, like the Enterprise crew was, but the Discovery returns to the Prime universe without ever finding out about this or learning Prime Lorca’s fate. Considering that the Mirror Buran was under attack by the Charon at the time of the swap, he probably didn't last long.
  • Wild Card: Mirror Stamets betrayed Lorca to the Emperor. When Lorca usurps control, he immediately jumps back on Lorca's side, the alternative being immediate death. It doesn't end up saving his life.
  • You Didn't Ask: Implied. Lorca demands to know why Mirror Stamets didn't inform him about the Emperor's ability to trigger emergency transports. Stamets doesn't respond, but he promptly disables the ability as soon as he is confronted about it, implying that he withheld the information to prolong his usefulness.
    Lorca: You didn't tell me about the emergency transport.
    Landry: Can we shoot him now?
    Lorca: That depends on whether he can disable the emergency transport system.
    Stamets: Yeah, I can do that, yeah.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Once Lorca has seized control of the Charon, he tells Mirror Stamets this and has him disintegrated.
      Lorca: Speaking of which, we've reached the tipping point, where your usefulness to me is outweighed by the risk of keeping you alive.
    • Burnham fears that Lorca might pull this on Discovery and her crew as well.
    • The Reveal about Lorca's true identity suggests that he pulled this on The Federation itself. He may have been helping them fight the war against the Klingons, but only until he could execute his plan to take Discovery into the Mirror Universe, thus leaving Starfleet without its prime asset or the cloak-breaking algorithm; without them, the Federation is now losing the war.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: The Emperor realizes her days are numbered, and elects to hold off Lorca's men while Burnham escapes.

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