From the moment she set foot on the shuttle bay of the brand-new U.S.S. Discovery, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) knew this was no mere science vessel. Nor is her Captain, Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), a run-of-the-mill starship commander. Lorca is a far cry from the explorer/philosopher style of Star Trek Captain we've come to know with James T. Kirk (William Shatner) or Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Deep Space Nine's Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), during his darkest moments when he tricked the Romulans into fighting for the Federation's cause during the Dominion War, might be the closest thing that gives us insight into Star Trek: Discovery's commander. However, Captain Lorca seems like a new and dangerous kind of starship captain altogether.
Here's what we know so far about what the mysterious Captain Lorca is up to, what he's hiding from the crew of the Discovery, and what his plans are for Michael Burnham:
Who Is Captain Lorca?
What we know of Gabriel Lorca thus far, beyond his penchant for eating fortune cookies, which is a remnant of his family's business, is that he was given command of the Discovery with a mandate from Starfleet to do whatever needs to be done to win the war with the Klingons. When the audience and Michael Burnham meet Lorca, the war has raged on for six months and claimed over 8,000 lives lost throughout the Federation. Lorca himself already bears scars from the war in the form of an eye injury that limits his ability to process bright light and nearly cost him his eyes outright.
To his chagrin, Lorca finds himself in command of a starship filled with scientists and Starfleet Officers who are trained to be explorers and not soldiers, yet he is tasked to do whatever he needs to do with this crew to win the war. As such, he maintains a distance from his crew, unlike the warm familial bonds other Star Trek Captains have formed with their crews - although the relationship Lorca has with his Chief of Security Commander Landry (Rekha Sharma) seems more than professional. Overall, Lorca prefers his crew fear him more than they do the Klingons and he's impatient with their reticence to become the kind of warriors Starfleet needs. Discovery's First Officer Saru (Doug Jones) describes his captain as a man "who doesn't fear what other men fear," but Lorca is actually facing his greatest fear every day: the destruction of the Federation and all life within it at the hands of the Klingons.
As such, Lorca has free reign by his mandate to explore any means necessary to find a way to win the war. The Discovery was designed as a science vessel but due to the needs of the war, it has been re-purposed into a warship, yet one with up to 300 scientific experiments on board, according to Saru. The scientific experiments - many seeming to border on illegal - are being conducted while the Discovery is on the outskirts of Federation space, near the Klingon borders. The Discovery also had a sister ship, the U.S.S. Glenn, which was conducting similar scientific missions, until an accident not yet fully revealed that cost the lives of the Glenn's entire crew occurred in the third episode of Discovery, "Context Is For Kings."
Perhaps the most dangerous experimental technology being developed on board the Discovery is an organic propulsion system, which is a revolutionary new method of interstellar travel that is infinitely faster than warp speed. Both the Glenn and Discovery were conducting simultaneous research into Mycelium spores, harvested from the fungal species Prototaxites stellaviatori, grown in the ships' Cultivation Bays. The Mycelial network is a microscopic web that spans the entire cosmos - "infinite roads leading in all directions; the veins and muscles that hold our galaxy together". By traveling along the Mycelial network of spores, a starship or even a person can leap across the galaxy and back in moments. The more advanced U.S.S. Glenn, which was much farther long in their research than Discovery, was able to travel 90 light years to the Beta Quadrant and back in 1.3 seconds. Unfortunately, the Glenn crashed and all hands were lost.
When Discovery leaps into the Mycelial network, the ship goes on "Black Alert," which is noticeable by a build up of moisture in the air. Lorca demonstrated Mycelial network travel to Burnham, where she was able to jump to other worlds and other points in time that will actually be seen and explored a decade from now in the voyages of Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek: The Original Series. However, Mycelial propulsion technology has not been shown as technology the Federation is supposed to have in Star Trek canon, so what becomes of this technology is something Discovery is going to answer during the season. Judging by what happened to the Glenn, tragedy seems to be just a leap away for the crew of the Discovery.