Star Trek Discovery Season 1 Episode 3

The Shuttle that Michael Burnham is on is flying through a dangerous cloud that has energy-eating organisms inside it. When the discovery rescues the ship you see it just outside the cloud above the shuttle clearly is not in danger. So the question is: Why did the shuttle fly through the cloud when it clearly could have flown above the cloud?

  • Did they know the cloud had greeblies in it? – Tim Oct 3 '17 at 0:56
  • We don't know that they were that close to the edge of the cloud throughout their passage through it. – Politank-Z Oct 3 '17 at 3:00

Burnham suspected right from the start that the rescue was a setup. She points out, when she first meets Lorca, that suddenly being transferred to another facility without advance warning, as she had been, wasn't normal procedure, and that the shuttle had altered course midflight. Lorca doesn't outright confirm it at the time but makes a comment about perhaps the universe hating wasted material. And then, as pointed out, he does confirm it later.

Then there are the other fishy aspects: why is there only a single pilot and no guards, so there's no one else inside capable to taking the controls when the autopilot suddenly fails, and why was the pilot already wearing an EVA suit before receiving instructions she's have to go outside? And the autopilot failing just as the tether "breaks"? And 20 seconds later, there's Discovery coming to the rescue. You'd expect someone miraculously rescued from certain death to be very grateful, wouldn't you? Rescued by a science ship that is shown to handle biological experimentation and samples...like perhaps energy-absorbing space bugs.

So the shuttle diverts course to meet with Discovery at the location of the energy storm. When Discovery is in position, it beams some of the space bugs on to the shuttle exterior. The pilot, as pre-planned, goes outside, cuts her tether and launches herself on a trajectory that can be seen from the inside by the prisoners, and then the autopilot, as scheduled, fails. There's a period to make the prisoners feel they're going to die, and then Discovery, already in position, tractors the shuttle. They then pick up the pilot, either transporting her aboard or picking her up in a waiting shuttle, or whatever.

The impression is that everything, including "losing the pilot" so the prisoners would feel they were in mortal danger was intentionally set up to make Burnham feel some gratitude about being rescued. It failed because she smelled a rat, which, given Lorca's comment later on recognizing her ability to do so when she sensed the Klingon ambush at the binary stars, was likely also part of his test of her to see just how mentally fit she was and if she could see through the setup.


It was a setup to bring Burnham aboard Discovery

As the prison shuttle prepares to resume its trip, Burnham confronts Lorca in the captain's ready room, accusing him of engineering the prisoner transfer and the rescue in order to bring Burnham aboard Discovery. A short time later, in the spore laboratory, Lorca confirms Burnham's accusation.

Lorca wanted Burnham for the project because of her scientific talents and her aggressive practicality, as well as for the extra control he would have over her due to her restricted freedom. Presumably, going through proper channels to request her transfer to Discovery would have attracted more unwanted attention than "rescuing" her and then finding her talents to be serendipitously well-suited to the project.

  • Basically, that means Lorca caused the death of that guard, right? – Adamant Oct 3 '17 at 2:47
  • @Adamant - The spacewalk accident must've been part of it. Was it lethal, though? I thought the shuttle pilot was in on the plot. – Gaultheria Oct 3 '17 at 3:46
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    I don’t think the pilot flying off (dead or not) would have been at all necessary to Lorca’s plan, which means it was probably incidental, which means they probably died. I think Lorca’s a bit of a sinister character.... – Adamant Oct 3 '17 at 3:48
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    @Adamant - The bugs got the pilot out of the shuttle, but the moment the tether broke was the moment the pilot lost control of the situation and outside help became necessary. That would've been a perfect excuse for the pilot to set off an emergency transponder, requiring the nearest ship to divert from its mission (no matter how top-secret). – Gaultheria Oct 3 '17 at 4:40
  • Like most things on TV or in cinemas these days. this is an overly convoluted plot point. – Praxis Oct 4 '17 at 1:59

The physics of the incident appear to be off as well.

When the tether breaks the pilot is seen floating from the back to the front of the shuttle. Meaning, either the shuttle was traveling backwards or the she was thrown in the direction the shuttle was traveling at a rate faster than the shuttle. (If the tether merely broke, and the shuttle is moving forward, than she would never appear in the window; because her velocity and that of the shuttle would be the same. She would have to be moving faster than the shuttle or in the opposite direction.)

  • good point, somehow i missed that! – TheIcePhoenix Oct 19 '17 at 14:20

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