The third and final issue of Star Trek: Discovery – Aftermath is yet another welcome return to the world of Discovery, which manages to capture the voices of the characters and enrich the story, though there are some pieces that could have been developed further. Let’s read into Aftermath Issue #3.
On the first page, we learn everything we need to know. Well, almost everything. The terrorist hurls epithets at L’Rell, each one enriching our knowledge of the Klingons, particularly how their society is reacting to the upheavals that took place at the end of Star Trek: Discovery season one, as well as the events of season two.
“Bastard child of two houses.”
This tells us that despite T’Kuvma uniting the houses, there’s still plenty of prejudice between houses – the Klingons still don’t see themselves as one people.
So when someone like L’Rell takes control of the newly unified Empire, without directing its anger outward, at the Federation, those divisions can tear open. We knew that last part from the events of the second season, but now we’re hearing it from the perspective of one of the disenfranchised Klingons.
“Concubine to a human. Mother to an abomination.”
This part is explored extensively in season two, with L’Rell having to lose Tyler/Voq and her child to remain in control of the Empire. The Klingons are extremely xenophobic towards humans and Federation peoples generally, a fear T’Kuvma exploited. So, of course, a lot of them are going to have trouble getting behind an emperor who’s with one of them. (Even if he is technically biologically Klingon).
But this shows that even with her sacrifice made, not everyone has forgotten that she brought a human home. Nor would they.
The only part of this that’s a little confusing is that it seems to conflict with this line:
“Worshipper of the false prophet T’Kuvma.”
T’Kuvma’s whole thing is the glorification of Klingons, and the rejection of everything humanity represents. T’Kuvma sees everyone, even Voq, the albino, as equals as long as they are Klingon. These traitors seem to be agreeing with that by condemning L’Rell for her embrace of a “human”, Tyler, and mothering a child with him. So why would they see T’Kuvma as a false prophet?
There are many possible explanations to this. The prejudices that T’Kuvma took advantage of existed before he came on the scene, so maybe these terrorists see him as disingenuous – as a phony politician pandering to the masses. If so, it would be interesting to know why.
Overall, these lines give us insight into a Klingon society during a dramatic turning point, which is satisfying. That’s one of the good things about tie-in stories – it can flesh out plot points in greater depth than the show has time to.
But, as in this case, the story does raise new questions of its own. The ideology of this terrorist group, in particular, is intriguing because of the glimpse it gives us into the Klingon society and mindset during this time. For that reason, it would benefit from being further fleshed out.
But, to paraphrase L’Rell, let’s cease this prattle and get on with it.
The other story in this issue is Spock’s identity crisis. Following the loss of his sister, Spock doesn’t know if his place is still on the Enterprise. He won’t wear a Starfleet uniform, and he hasn’t shaved the beard. Towards the beginning of this issue, he comes to the realization that this is where he belongs after all.
What changes his mind seems to be simply the dire circumstance they find themselves in, reminding him of his duty.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first hazardous mission Spock’s been on; far from it. He’s been on the Enterprise for a while and would have had many adventures by now. He nearly lost Captain Pike in the TOS episode “The Cage”; was captured and drafted into an alien war in the Discovery novel “The Enterprise War”. He briefly went to a mental institution and then was forced to nearly sacrifice his sister’s life. Not to mention the incidents seen in the comic series Star Trek: Early Voyages, nor any of the classic novels featuring Captain Pike’s time on the Enterprise.
The point being, (besides being an excuse to nerdishly list the stories with Spock taking place before this one), that there’s nothing about this incident that Spock’s not used to handling, nothing that should make it special or life-changing to him.
It may just be that getting him back into action is what he needed. Spock’s at his best when he’s working towards something, and giving him a mission – any mission – could be enough to remind him how important, and how fascinating, his work in Starfleet really is. That’s valid, but if that’s the intention, it could have been made clearer.
The dialogue for Spock’s inner monologue is good and it all feels like thoughts Spock would have. It’s very logical. Focusing on him as he rescues L’Rell and saves the day was a good choice, and it’s rewarding to see him becoming the Spock we know once again, putting on the uniform.
That said, his subplot ultimately doesn’t add as much to his evolution in Discovery as the Klingon story adds to theirs. We already know that he’s unsure about his place following the loss of Michael Burnham, and we know that he’s doing his duty anyway. Adding a period in the middle where he leaves and considers never coming back doesn’t really change that, especially since it only took a single mission to bring him back.
One more point that felt out of place was Spock shooting the Klingons guarding L’Rell. Especially with the art-making extremely clear that his shots went through their heads in a gruesome fashion. That moment didn’t feel like Spock – he’s always tried to preserve life where possible.
He will kill if he has to, of course, and has many times. One could make the argument that this is one of those times due to the high stakes. But especially since, he was in a disguise, it would have made more sense to use the Vulcan nerve pinch. Or even to just shoot the weapons out of their hands. Not a deal-breaker, but it was a moment that felt off.
Let’s face it, folks, the Cleave Ship is pretty darn cool. Some 24th-century Klingon ships are probably more powerful in terms of weapons and shield technology. Certainly, the Cleave Ship feels like the most powerful Klingon ship we’ve ever seen in all of Star Trek.
Using it for its intimidating presence, as seen in previous issues, made sense for the Klingons and was a clever new use of it. In this issue, we see L’Rell sacrifice the ship to nip the rebellion in the bud and cement her leadership of the Empire.
It’s sad to see it go, but the very fact that she would sacrifice such a powerful, important symbol of the Empire underscores how far she’ll go. Her doing so in such a dramatic way makes it believable she can continue to be in charge. This is a fitting end for a noble warrior-ship. Her victory over the rebels is satisfying.
Back aboard the Enterprise, Number One comments about Pike having eaten all that Gagh at the peace conference. This is a funny subversion of a classic Trek trope – we’ve seen Riker eat Gagh to prove he can fit in with the Klingons and isn’t one bit weaker than them. Pike went further, guzzling a huge bowl of Gagh. But maybe that’s not actually such a good idea; maybe there’s a good reason humans don’t usually eat gagh. A nice touch.
As we noted in our reviews for the previous two issues, the art is solid throughout and makes us feel like we’re watching Discovery. The only exception being the scenes with Kor, which felt like watching TOS. (His role in the story was minimal but interesting, and I like L’Rell’s handling of him throughout the series. It would be interesting to see more of his thought process about her). Tony Shasteen’s art is a fitting depiction of the final act of the Cleave Ship: cleaving right into the side of a mountain.
Overall, this issue was an engaging story and a solid addition to Trek lore, even if there were parts that should have been fleshed out more or weren’t clear enough.