TV ReviewsStar Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12: Vaulting Ambition Review

If you would like to read my review of last week’s episode, click here.

Synopsis: Burnham heads to the ISS Charon with a special “gift” for the Emperor. With the help of an unexpected source, Stamets gains clarity while trapped inside the mycelial network. Saru asks for L’Rell’s help. (IMDB)

Writers: Jordon Nardino

Director: Hanelle M. Culpepper

Rating: TV-MA

Running Time: 37 mins

“Vaulting Ambition” starts off with Burnham and Lorca onboard a shuttle headed to Emperor Georgiou’s ship. She explains to the Captain of Saru’s progress and that they are missing a key component of how to get out of the Mirror Universe: the location. They discuss Burnham’s hesitance towards seeing the ghost of her former captain, a person she felt she betrayed, and before she can come to terms with it their shuttle arrives.

In the throne room, Burnham and Lorca are greeted by Georgiou the Mirror Universe way: Lorca is beaten and taken away for torture and Burnham is embraced by her mentor. Burnham is gifted a Kelpien that she believes is another slave, but turns out to be her dinner choice. This is a messed up universe. At dinner, Georgiou confronts Burnham explaining she knows she is lying to her; she is in fact part of Lorca’s rebellion and planning a mutiny against the Empire. She calls in the guards and orders that Burnham is to be executed.

Before Burnham can be taken away, she quickly jumps on the truth wagon and explains that she is Michael Burnham from a different universe giving her Captain Georgiou pin as proof. As Emperor Georgiou ponders the idea of parallel universes, she swiftly executes most of her inner circle to keep this revelation confidential. Burnham tries to reason with the Emperor and asks for the Defiant data, appealing to her feelings for Mirror Burnham, but Georgiou makes a counter-offer: Defiant data for the spore drive technology.

While Burnham and Georgiou are negotiating, Lorca continues to be tortured in one of those agony booths. He’s confronted by Captain Maddox who pins his sister’s death on Lorca. He brings out one of Lorca’s loyal followers and when Lorca can’t reveal Maddux’s sister’s name, he kills the man in front of him. One of the most gruesome ways to go I might add! 

Meanwhile the b-plot is Tilly and Saru’s continued attempt to revive Stamets so that the spore drive is functional in case it is needed to return home. We then jump into the mind of a comatose Stamets whose neurological memory is within the sick mycelial network. Apparently Mirror Stamets got trapped in the network in their universe and made contact with Stamets in the hope that his connection to the mycelial network could get them both out.

While they move through the Discovery, learning that Mirror Stamets is becoming part of the network along the way, Culber appears and lures Stamets deeper into the network. He arrives at their quarters where Culber is brushing his teeth and reveals that he died back on the real Discovery. As Stamets comes to this realization, he and Culber are brought to an ideal scenario where they can talk. Turns out Mirror Stamets is evil like most things in this universe and that he is killing the network. After a gut-wrenching final goodbye, Culber helps Stamets find his way and both are able to awake. He rushes to their fungi forest and finds what he fears most: the forest is dead. Perhaps there are more onboard Mirror Stamets ship?

The c-plot is the ongoing internal conflict occurring within Tyler/Voq. Saru goes to L’Rell for help in understanding how they can save him. She continues to proudly exclaim Klingon honour, but Saru cuts her off saying that does not matter because they are in a new universe where the Klingons lost. L’Rell decides to reveal the truth behind Tyler/Voq; turns out Tyler was a real guy at the Battle of the Binary Stars who got captured and his DNA was grafted with Voq’s to create their hybrid body. She explains that Voq knows what he got himself into and that if he suffers then so be it. Klingons are harsh.

Saru continues to bud heads with L’Rell and eventually makes her cave by sending a self-harming Tyler/Voq to her cell and appealing to her feelings for him. In med bay L’Rell performs a Klingon death ritual that removes Voq’s mind from the body of Tyler as we see a montage of Voq and L’Rell’s interactions.

The episode ends with Georgiou revealing Lorca’s position in all this. Turns out he was Georgiou’s right-hand and Mirror Burnham’s lover. As Burnham takes all of this information in, she’s hit with the biggest bombshell of them all: Emperor Georgiou is sensitive to light like all other Mirror Universe versions including… Captain Lorca! KNEW IT. While Burnham learns the truth, Lorca escapes from Captain Maddox, subdues him and recites his sister’s name: Ava.


  • Will Burnham and the Discovery take part in helping Emperor Georgiou against Lorca or will they abstain from joining the Mirror Universe’s rebellion?
  • Is Voq’s mind truly gone from Tyler’s body? I feel like that’s too tidy and abrupt of a conclusion for that story.
  • How will Discovery get home without the aid of the mycelial network? Will Stamets die due to his connection to it? Is Culber a part of the network himself and can be saved somehow?
  • What was the energy source onboard Mirror Stamets ship? Looks like the ISS Charon is powered by a very bright, star-light anomaly.
  • What will be the fate of Lorca? It’s presumed that the original Lorca died on the Buran, unless he is captive somewhere in the Mirror Universe. Which is a damn shame because Jason Isaacs is the highlight of this show. Hopefully Mirror Lorca is redeemed and travels back with Discovery.
  • Will Stamets be able to retrieve spores from the ISS Charon? To be honest the idea of Stamets being stuck in the network with his evil self as a self-contained episode could’ve worked beautifully in a way to send-off Culber. With that being said I hope the minimal focus on that means there is still hope for Hugh. 

Overall, this was a great episode. Another big reveal happened, although predictable if you meticulously comb through every episode for minuet details. The main story of this episode didn’t go far, but instead was an exposition-heavy plot-driving narrative that focused on setting up the final obstacle this season for Discovery. While it appears the Mirror Universe will be the focus of the remainder of the season, the direction it is taking with Lorca’s reveal helps in keeping the idea from overstaying its welcome. The subplots of the episode also don’t push much forward, but the montages of these two relationships coming to bittersweet ends is emotionally gut-wrenching to watch. Hopefully Discovery can use this momentum because this series just flipped itself onto its own head.

Score: 9/10

What did you think of “Vaulting Ambition”? Where do you think the story will go from here? Let me know in the comments below!

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