“You may still choose to walk away from this future.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Through the Valley of Shadows” s2e12

Pike and time crystal
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 12
“Through the Valley of Shadows”
Teleplay by Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt
Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski
Review by Clinton

Upfront, I will state  tha I try to stay as spoiler-free about yet-to-be-aired episodes as possible. As such, by the time you read this, some of my speculations may be proven to be completely false.

On the verge of the final two episodes of season two, I want to focus on two aspects of this episode that struck me in unusual ways.

The first area I want to discuss involves an inanimate object — a simple piece of crystal. That is to say, a time crystal. There are so many questions I have about these structures. Why would the Klingons abandon research on them? How are they actually guarded on Boreth? And how reliable is that protection method? After all, Harry Mudd somehow “got his hands on” a crystal. And so did Gabriella Burnham.

However, the biggest question I have about the crystals is, how early were they conceived as part of the “Star Trek: Discovery” universe? You see, since “The Vulcan Hello,” I have wondered about the crystals that flowed around U.S.S. Discovery in the opening credits. They fly about the screen like snowflakes as the starship takes form. Why?

I never thought the objects were dilithium crystals. Even though Discovery has a warp engine, its primary method of propulsion is the spore drive. Besides, we have seen pieces of dilithium a few times on “Star Trek.” It is usually depicted as a milky white or amber color, not emerald green.

Were the hovering crystals simply random graphic elements added to give the title sequence some kinetic energy? Possibly. But most everything else shown in the credits is either a literal or symbolic representation of an event or concept on the show.  So, that explanation seemed unlikely.

These crystals gave me pause every time I saw them drift by on the screen. What were they?

Crystals.

In “Through the Valley of Shadows,” I may have received an answer. Which only leads to more questions. During his mission to Boreth, Pike, along with the time keeper Tenavik, enter a chamber filled with time crystals, or, as the Klingons call them, poH qut. When we see them in closeup, they looked exactly like the floating crystals in the opening credit sequence. Discovery is literally surrounded by time crystals.

Coincidence? Possibly. But I suspect they indicate something more. The question is, if they are time crystals, how long has that “something more” been lurking in the background? Is this a long game, where a clue has been right in front of our faces the entire time? It gives me pause to wonder about the possibilities. Has time travel always lurked around the corner on this show? Has the production team been telegraphing a message that we can only now decrypt?

Here’s hoping the final two episodes of this season provide clarity to the crystal mystery.

The other thing that struck me about “Through the Valley of Shadows” was the turn Pike’s character takes — by not taking a turn — in that very same chamber.

In a recent interview, actor Anson Mount, speaking about the script for this episode, said “It turns Pike’s third act, which we already know about and have established, it makes it more of a triumph than a tragedy.” I agree. But it’s not just this episode that does that. This is just the culmination of that newly-illuminated second act.

Going into his appearance in “Discovery,” we knew little about Pike. We saw him as an exhausted, frustrated, even angry Captain in “The Cage,” the very first pilot for the original “Star Trek” series. Then, in “The Menagerie,” we saw him as a figure locked inside his own mind, trapped in a body that no longer functioned. We, of course, did have sympathy for the man. After all, he dove into danger, charging into a chamber flooded with radiation to rescue cadets trapped inside. But, as Mount points out, that’s Pike’s third act. For the past 50 or so years, it lived in a bit of a vacuum.

Over the course of this season, we have gotten to know more about Christopher Pike. We have seen him as a man of principle, ideals, flaws, and compassion. He has human doubts, but always tries his best to find his way back to his moral compass and his belief in his duties. Admiral Cornwell sums it up when she has to confess why the Enterprise was not recalled from its five-year mission during the Klingon war.

“You sat out the war because if we’d lost to the Klingons, we wanted the best of Starfleet to survive. And as this conversation makes clear, that was you and all you represent.”

Now, with Pike’s inevitable departure from Discovery at hand, it has been a bit harder to accept the fate that awaits him. That is what is brilliant about this episode. It snatches victory from the hands of defeat — a defeat that has not yet happened, but has been written in stone.

Pike

In the vision of the future, Pike sees the accident that leaves him disfigured and helpless, but he does not get to focus on the lives he will save by pulling survivors out of danger. Then, he is told he can alter this fate by simply leaving the crystal behind. As horrified as Pike is by what he has seen, he knows that to walk away without the crystal would mean he had failed his mission and turned his back on everything he believes in, everything we have seen him demonstrate time and again. That is something he simply can not do.

Intellectually, we always knew that a Starfleet captain would risk their life to save their crew. But now we fully understand why Pike will make the choice to expose himself to delta-rays in order to rescue those cadets. It is in the core of his very being. It is who he is. It is the embodiment of “The needs of the many.”

The fact that the time crystals and Pike interact in this episode, in this way, is amazing..

Next episode: Such Sweet Sorrow

“It was unexpected.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “The Red Angel” s2e10

Burnham and Spock
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 10
“The Red Angel”
Episode teleplay by Chris Silvestri and Anthony Maranville
Episode directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper
Review by Clinton

This episode contains a number of revelations. But do they make sense? Do the “shocking twists” grow out of things we’ve been told, or do they come out of left field and leave us feeling cheated. I’m going to try to figure this out. Let’s begin.

To start, let’s admit that we really don’t know anything more about the red signals than we did in episode one. This episode speculates that the Red Angel is creating them and then using them to get Starfleet’s attention. That seems to be a stretch. The Red Angel does not appear to be present every time the signals appear. The signals are still a mystery.

Okay, what about the Red Angel? After all, it pretty quickly began to supercede the Red Signals in the story.

As the episode begins, we find out that Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) has come across code that was implanted in Airiam’s system by a digital parasite. It is here she finds a file labeled “Project Daedalus.” The file contains a bio-neural signature from the Red Angel, which is a match for Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). That’s a shocking revelation.

Side bar: Was Tilly working in a sandbox environment? Given the nature of the future AI, it would seem that any trace of its code would be be extremely dangerous. In fact, Saru (Doug Jones) points out that Section 31 ships had all performed scans to make sure that the future AI had not infected their systems. Presumably Discovery ran the same scan. Apparently those diagnostics couldn’t detect code injected by a digital parasite. And Leland  (Alan Van Sprang) might agree. If he survives being stabbed in the eye.

But, back to the Red Angel. Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) performs tests on Commander Burnham and says that every test shows a 100% match between Burnham and the bio-neural signature found in the Project Daedalus file. He assures Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) that he could detect if the signature had been artificially created. This assures us, the audience, that this is a fact we can build on. Yet, the information we have by the end of the episode would lead us to believe it was not Michael Burnham’s signature, but that of Burnham’s mother. Was Culber incorrect? Is the signature so broad that it covers both parent and child? That would certainly make the tests next to useless. Or have we been mis-directed once again?

Analyzing information supplied by Section 31, Stamets (Anthony Rapp) explains that the time travel suit works by creating a micro wormhole that the suit can go through. He explains that, because wormholes are inherently unstable, the suit generates a protective membrane that travels with the suit. Essentially, the suit is tethered to its starting point — a point in the future. And that this is how the future AI is slipping through to the past. We also learn that Michael Burnham’s parents created the Red Angel suit. But, since the suit was created several years in the past by Burnham’s parents, just how far in the future could its origin point be?

As mentioned, Leland reveals to Burnham that her birth parents were the ones who developed the Red Angel suit. He also says that he was inadvertently responsible for their deaths at the hands of the Klingons on Doctari Alpha. For years, Burnham has lived with the belief that she was responsible for their deaths, as she had begged them to stay on the planet to see a nearby supernova explode. Burnham has, in the past, recounted the story of how she, hiding in a closet, had heard the Klingons kill her father, then her mother, then sit down to enjoy the dead family’s meal. So, we, the audience, should accept the fact that young Burnham actually heard her mother being killed. In fact, she recalls the Klingons taking their time to commit the crime. But now that may not have been true.

Finally, Spock (Ethan Peck) believes he has uncovered the secret to determining when and where the Red Angel will appear. The Vulcan surmises that Burnham is the variable. Spock and Burnham explain to Captains Pike and Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) that the Angel appears when Burnham is in danger. Therefore, putting Michael in mortal peril will cause the entity to appear. However, this conclusion does not appear to have any logical backing.

Consider the Angel’s first appearance to young Spock. Burnham was in danger and the Angel appeared to show Spock the young girl’s gruesome end, then showed him where to find young Burnham in order to save her. This would have been the least efficient and even least maternal route to take. Since the Forge creature was scared off by the light and sound of the Vulcan shuttle, there’s a very good chance it would have been scared away simply by the appearance of the Red Angel.

But, you say, perhaps Spock reasoned that the person in the Angel suit thought it would be best if Burnham did not see them. Why, then, did it appear to Burnham when she is injured and trapped on the asteroid?

The Red Angel Burnham falls from the suit.

Another thing odd about the appearance to Burnham on the asteroid is that Captain Pike instantaneously appeared in that same spot where the Commander was looking at the Angel. He would have seen the Angel, too.

But, you say, perhaps it can, for some reason, only be seen by one person at a time. This is not the case. Everyone in the church on Earth saw the Red Angel. And it was seen by both Saru and Siranna when it appeared on Kaminar to disable the Ba’ul ship. Speaking of that appearance, there was also no indication in this appearance that Michael Burnham was in any immediate danger. She was on board Discovery.

In the end, when the Red Angel is trapped on Essof IV and Michael Burnham’s mother (Sonja Sohn) emerges from the suit, it is shocking. But I don’t see how it was earned. Perhaps, in the remaining episodes, we will see the pieces turn in a different direction, so they can ultimately fit nicely into place.

Next episode: Perpetual Infinity

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • The Red Angel guided Spock to a remote planet and showed him a vision of armageddon on a galactic scale. Why the long trip?
  • During the funeral scene, we see that Discovery is capable of running on autopilot. Is this a foreshadowing of the events in the “Short Treks” episode “Calypso”? There, the unmanned ship has maintained position for a thousand years.
  • Aspects of Airiam’s funeral were very reminiscent of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” That movie continues to be a major touchstone for Trek productions.
  • Are we stuck in a time-travel loop? The AI sneaks in from the future, infects Airiam and used her to upload information from the sphere into Control, so that Control can evolve. Does that mean the future AI is an evolved Control? If so, why does it need to come back to get information into this version of the system?
  • Saru says that Control was only used by Section 31. In the previous episode Admiral Cornwell said Control was not accepting her input. She said that once the red signals started to appear, Admiral Patar lobbied Starfleet to have decision-making turned entirely over to Control. One would assume that Control was issuing threat assessment decisions to Starfleet. If it were not, wouldn’t all of Starfleet be concerned?
  • What is Georgiou up to with Stamets and Culber? Is she just amusing herself?
  • It was a nice beat to have Spock forgive Burnham and watch her take a breath, as a weight is lifted from her shoulders.
  • Burnham’s parents believed that certain technological leaps, including ones on Earth, were not the result of happenstance, but time travel. That sounds like an Erich von Daniken “Chariots of the Gods” line of reasoning.

“My memories aren’t going anywhere.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Project Daedalus” s2e9

Airiam and her husband on their honeymoon
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 9
“Project Daedalus”
Review by Clinton

If you’re like me, you’ve long wondered who, or what, is Lt. Commander Airiam (Hannah Cheesman). This episode gave us answers. Just enough answers to serve the needs of the story. That may seem frustrating, but it’s actually a very good thing.

Chekhov (the Russian playwright, not the Russian Enterprise officer) wrote “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” Essentially, if you show or say something in your story, it should be there for a reason. If not, remove it. In “Project Daedalus,” author Michelle Paradise and director Jonathan Frakes don’t waste a single beat on information that does not fit into the story they need to tell.

By seeing Airiam in her quarters, perform her weekly review of recordings to delete or save, it immediately tells us two things. First, that she has limited storage capacity. And second, she values certain things above others. We also see what appears to be her most precious memory, that of her with her late husband on a beach, just before he was killed and she was severely injured. When Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) arrives at the commander’s quarters, the two friends discuss a small bottle of sand that sits on a table. The sand does not specifically come into play in the story, but, as “Chekhov’s Gun” suggests, it serves a purpose. It indicates that Airiam is changing. Perhaps it is because she is becoming more comfortable in her new “skin.” Or maybe whatever is wrong with the commander is affecting her in other ways. We don’t get all the answers here. We have learned just enough to serve the story. Anything more would be nice, but not essential.

To the bigger question of what Airiam is, we get limited information here, too. She tells Tilly that she is “cybernetically augmented.” Do we need to know by how much? No. (Although the actress says she was told that Airiam is sixty-seven percent human). By knowing that she is human, we can assume certain things, including the fact that she is still subject to all the failings and emotions of our species and that she is not invincible.

Perhaps the height of this need-to-know aspect of the story is Airiam’s conversation with Commander Nhan (Rachael Ancheril). Airiam observes that the Barzan security chief requires apparatus to breathe in a human atmosphere. The inquiry pays off during the battle on the space station.

Meanwhile, in the parallel, but seemingly unrelated story, Spock (Ethan Peck) continues to seethe like an animal trapped in a maze. He has become obsessed with attempting to understand why the so-called Red Angel chose him for a mind meld. He wonders why he was selected to receive a horrific vision of the end of all sentient life in the galaxy, and what he can possibly do to prevent the apocalypse.

Spock and Burnham play chess.

Disengaged from logic, Spock lashes out at Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who is only trying to help Spock think clearly. Spock reminds Burnham that she is responsible for the Federation/Klingon war and makes her relive the death of her parents while she, a young child, was trapped behind a door.

Spock:
You were unable to save them. It is illogical for you to think otherwise, yet you do. As you believed you could save my family from logic extremists. When, in truth, they despised us because of me — the half-human abomination. Your presence was beside the point.

Spock also makes an observation about Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) relationship with Dr. Culber that is a thinly-veiled reference to the Vulcan’s own attitude towards his adoptive sister.

Spock:
I submit that your assessment of the situation may be inverted. Perhaps he needs distance from you not because he no longer has feelings for you, but because he no longer knows how to feel about himself.

Spock is currently a sort of mirror version of his half-brother Sybok. Whereas Sybok found his leap beyond logic to be freeing, Spock appears to see it as being untethered from reality. This is also quite true of much of Nimoy’s time as Spock. Only later in the Vulcan’s life did he come to appreciate all that being both Vulcan and human had to offer.

All these elements come together in the climax of the story. Airiam, attempting to upload data that must not reach its source, has to have her emotional defenses broken by Tilly with memories of all that it means to be human. Then, faced with opening the airlock to jettison Airiam, Burnham rages against the prospect and tries to find some way to save the commander. Spock realizes his sister must face that which she dreads most of all. For the sake of everyone, he pleads with Burnham to surrender to Airiam’s wishes and open the airlock.

As the commander drifts off in the vacuum of space, all the chaotic sounds from a few moments before quickly fade away. The last thing we see is Airiam looking at the most important memory Tilly sent to her friend — Airiam’s last day with her new husband. Her last day in the sun.

You knew all you needed to know to have it all pack an emotional punch.

Next episode: The Red Angel

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  • Once again, Nhan dons the security red shirt and lives to fight another day.
  • Is this the first time the words “Vulcan nerve pinch” have been used on “Star Trek”? I don’t have an answer to that one. It just seemed to stand out.
  • If Control can alter the information on a video to make it appear one hundred percent accurate, there is an issue.
  • It seems odd to have a logic extremist, like Admiral Patar (Tara Nicodemo), in such a high position at Control.
  • Tilly seemed oddly self-centered in her awkward comments to Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) about not being a fugitive.
  • Speaking of Tilly, while she is refraining from swearing on the bridge, Pike (Anson Mount) is all “shitstorm.”
  • We finally get Admiral Cornwell’s explanation of why Enterprise was sidelined during the war. Do we buy it?
  • I enjoyed Spock’s line “Let’s play chess.” played up like he and Burnham were about to have a duel to the death.
  • Peck’s Spock may seem inconsistent with that of Nimoy’s original Spock. However, at its core, it is very much in line with Sarek, as portrayed by James Frain. This mirrors the attitudes displayed by Nimoy and TOS’s Sarek, Mark Lenard.

“That’s the easiest way to explain it.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “If Memory Serves” s2e8

Pike and Vina across time
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 8
“If Memory Serves”
Review by Clinton

I’ve come to accept that “Star Trek: Discovery” doesn’t like the traditional approach of having an A (primary) and B (secondary) plot in each episode of the show. The show usually features two primary story lines and gives them equal time on a show that averages a run time of around 45 minutes. From my perspective, although things can feel very rushed, each plot tends to hold up its half of the episode rather well. Such was not the case this week.

In “If Memory Serves”, written by Jay Beatti and Dan Dworkin and directed by TJ Scott, one plot revolves around the complicated dynamics encircling Dr. Hugh Culber, Lt. Paul Stamets and Section 31 liaison Ash Tyler (Wilson Cruz, Anthony Rapp, Shazad Latif). While the other finds Mr. Spock and Lt. Michael Burnham (Ethan Peck, Sonequa Martin-Green) on the forbidden world of Talos IV.

First, l will speak about the more interesting of the two storylines, that of the events happening aboard Discovery. Returned from the dead, via a journey through the mycelial network, Dr. Hugh Culber has been having difficulties that neither he nor anyone else can fully explain. He feels detached from everything. His senses are virtually non-existent. That is not to say they are not present, but seem to exist only as points of data. He has a memory of enjoying certain foods, he recognizes his personal belongings, but the connection between knowing and feeling is simply not there. Nowhere is this more apparent than his relationship with his partner, Paul Stamets.

Although Stamets makes every effort to make Culber comfortable and be supportive, it only makes things more frustrating for the doctor. Culber ultimately lashes out, not so much at Stamets, but out of his own inability to understand what his own existence means.

Culber and Tyler

Readers of these reviews know that I have been wondering what might happen when Hugh Culber finally faces his murderer, Ash Tyler/Voq. It does not go anything like I had envisioned. The primal aggression Culber uses against Tyler is painful to watch. Culber is desperate to confront Voq, but no volume of punches can break through Tyler’s personality. Which is ironic, since Captain Pike (Anson Mount) still distrusts Tyler, partially because of the liaison’s Klingon personality.

When Culber fails in his attempts to force Voq to appear, he looks Tyler in the eyes and angrily proclaims his own torment.

Hugh Culber:
I don’t even know who I am anymore.

Ash Tyler:
Who do you think you’re talking to?

These two men are now both strangers in a strange land. With no one else capable of understanding their personal nightmares.

Wilson Cruz should be commended for pulling off a part that has been as much, if not more, a study in facial expressions and body language, lending much-needed gravitas to Culber’s torment.

But, as I said, “If Memory Serves” has a second main story, and it is a hot mess.

Where to start? There’s no better place than the opening of the episode. Here, we see clips from the original “Star Trek” pilot, “The Cage.” The montage gives us a well-edited, fast-paced summary of some key points of Enterprise’s first visit to Talos IV. Something that, in the timeline of “Discovery,” took place just three years prior. It is slick, well done, and presents a major problem. It sets up a direct comparison between the 1965 pilot and this 2019 follow-up.

To me, this is the first major blunder “Discovery” has made. It showed the original series (TOS) incarnations of Spock, Pike, Vina and the Talosians (Leonard Nimoy, Jeffrey Hunter, Susan Oliver, Georgia Schmidt, Barker, Serena Sande). We are taken out of the story “Discovery” has been telling, because we now see different actors in the same roles, with no reason to connect them with the 2019 cast.

The second tactical error was the portrayal of Vina (Melissa George). Much like Susan Oliver, the actress who originally portrayed her, the 1965 Vina was not a shrinking violet. She had overcome the most horrific conditions on Talos IV, but still retained a spark of life. Yes, there was sadness, but she was a three-dimensional character. This new portrayal of Vina is lifeless. She hardly moves, speaks in whispered tones and, for goodness sake, even sports a different hair color and style. I might have let some of this pass, had we not seen actual footage of Vina at the top of the episode. If the production wants me to go there, they need to commit to going there, too. They did not.

They failed on the look of the Talosians as well. While the garb had some nods to the original outfits, the similarity ended there. Why show what a Talosian looked like in 2254, only to have them appear completely different in 2257? If anything, they appeared healthier here, even though we were told in “The Cage” that they were dying.

Then there is the pacing. The slow, slow pacing. Everyone and every thing moves as if it were stuck in molasses. And, keep in mind, this is the plotline that reveals a lot about the red signal, the Red Angel, and even shows the destruction of all sentient life in our galaxy. It all falls flat.

Young Spock

But the most egregious error of all is the big reveal of the origin of the rift between Spock and Burnham. What was it that Burnham did that so scared Spock that he withdrew from his emotions and has not spoken to his adoptive sister in years? It amounts to little more than a few seconds of taunts the average teen girl hurls at her little brother on any given day of the week. That’s it. Period.

I’m not saying that young Burnham’s words did not sting, but if you spend half a season building up to a revelation like this, it really needs to be big, like Burnham giving Spock a seemingly angry shove. Or the breaking of a shared gift. Maybe the telling of a secret, made up on the spot, that crushes the child. The alternative to that would have been to see much more of the relationship between young Spock and young Burnham, so that we could understand that connection and feel it deepen, only to have it ripped away. But this scene, as it stands, does not pay off its setup.

I rarely fault “Discovery” for the choices it makes. But this plot was wrong on virtually every level. Had it not been for the accompanying Culber story, the episode would have collapsed like a shuttle entering a black hole.

Next episode: Project Daedalus

Random Thoughts and Observations

It was a nice touch to use the classic “quiet howling” sound effect on the surface of Talos IV. The effect was used on virtually every eerie planet Enterprise visited in the original series.

Saru’s (Doug Jones) desire to see the Culber/Tyler confrontation play out shines a small light on where things stand with the evolved Kelpien. His subsequent conversation with Captain Pike confirms that Saru is possibly having difficulty adjusting to his new feelings of confidence.

“Captain, I’m not the enemy here.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Light and Shadows” s2e7

Tyler and Pike in shuttlecraft.
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 7
“Light and Shadows”
Review by Clinton

I’ve spoken before about relationships on “Star Trek: Discovery.” In fact, it was the basis of my review of the “Saints of Imperfection” episode. In “LIght and Shadows” the emphasis seems to be on testing the limits of these connections, pushing for answers and reconciliation.

Discovery and time rift

First, a bit about the episode overall, which has a story by Ted Sullivan and Vaun Wilmott, teleplay by Ted Sullivan and was directed by Marta Cunningham: While Discovery remains at Kaminar, studying residual decay that appears to be connected to the appearance of the red signal and the so-called Red Angel, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) travels home to Vulcan. Burnham believes her adoptive mother, Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner) knows more about Spock’s (Ethan Peck) whereabouts than she is telling.

Naturally, things do not go according to plan when Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) and the crew of Discovery approach the “residual decay.” They find it has an impossibly high density of tachyon particles. Why is that important? In the “Star Trek” universe, tachyons have moved from the realm of theory to an actual faster-than-light particle that can be detected. Their presence is associated with temporal distortion (time travel). And as Discovery moves closer to the particles, a massive rift in spacetime opens before the ship.

We have already been peppered with suggestions that time travel could be involved in the mystery of the signals and the Angel. The appearance of the rift would appear to confirm all the speculation.

It is when Pike announces that he will pilot the shuttle tasked with launching a probe into the rift that conflicts begin. Section 31 liaison Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) insists on accompanying Pike on his mission. Pike has an understandable distrust of Tyler, since Tyler’s Klingon personality killed Dr. Culber. And Tyler is growing increasingly frustrated at having his authority as a Section 31 operative marginalized by the Captain.

Once in the confined space of the shuttle, Tyler is determined to confront the captain. Even when the shuttle is pulled into the temporal anomaly, where other matters should take priority, the liaison baits Pike. Tyler accuses him of taking dangerous missions to atone for the fact that Enterprise was ordered to sit out the Federation/Klingon war. This type of psychoanalysis does not sit well with the captain.

On Vulcan, Burnham is also making accusations. She believes Grayson knows exactly where Spock is and is hiding the information from everyone, including her husband, Ambassador Sarek (James Frain).

Grayson also has some unresolved relationship issues. She confronts Sarek, accusing her husband of casting a blind eye at the humanity that resides in both their son and adoptive daughter. She reveals that the Vulcan Learning Center had no desire to help Spock overcome his human learning disabilities. As a result, the former teacher took on the responsibility of guiding their children through the looking glass world of outsiders attempting to survive in Vulcan society. She also rejects the notion that she is simply using Sarek’s position to protect Spock, virtually demanding Sarek see the truth.

Amanda Grayson:
I don’t live under your authority. I’m your wife. And I’m your partner. Try again, husband.

In all three cases, the accuser is correct. After the liaison saves his life, Pike confides to Tyler that he might, indeed, be taking dangerous assignments to absolve himself from the guilt he feels over being forced to sit out the war. Amanda Grayson admits to Burnham that she, in fact, is hiding Spock in order to protect her son from what she knows in her heart to be false accusations of murder. And Sarek, feeling the weight of the unwinding of his family structure, reveals, with as much emotion as he dare show, that his family is tremendously important to him.

And still there are confrontations yet to be had. Burnham must reconcile with Spock, for whatever act she committed to drive her brother away. We learn that Captain Leland (Alan Van Sprang) apparently must deal with his involvement with the death of Michael Burnham’s birth parents. And Ash Tyler must still face the man he murdered, the now very-much-alive Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz).

Burnham and Spock

But Burnham setting course for Talos IV, as well as a glimpse of some familiar-looking aliens in the preview for the next episode of “Star Trek: Discovery,” may mean we put these issues on the back burner. For now.

Next episode: If Memory Serves

Random Thoughts and Observations

It was interesting to see it raining on Vulcan. I would imagine it needs to rain on the planet from time to time, as we have no indication that Vulcans can survive without consuming liquids. Still, it was a bit odd to see a storm outside Sarek’s home. Or was that a metaphor for the storm brewing inside the dwelling?

Apparently they have been there since the shuttle first appeared in the first season, but I was noticing the number of physical switches and knobs on the consoles in the pod. It is odd to have such a predominance of tactile controls here and seemingly nowhere else on Discovery.

It is odd that once the crew finds out the Red Angel appears to be humanoid, everyone immediately believes it is from the future. Why? Starfleet must have encountered several civilizations with advanced technology. And, as we see, virtually all of them are humanoid.

Lt. Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) says that igniting the shuttle’s plasma to alert search parties is a trick that is taught in flight school. Which makes one wonder why, in the the original series episode “Galileo Seven,” Spock, or some other crew member aboard the shuttle, didn’t outright suggest it as a way of signaling Enterprise?

Spock disappeared in the Mutara sector. Presumably this is where the Mutara nebula, seen at the end of “Star Trek II: The Search for Spock” is located.

Airiam's eye

Something appears to have taken over Lt. Commander Airiam (Hannah Cheesman). Hopefully, when we find out what has happened to her, we will also have the opportunity to learn a bit about her.

Discovery engages maximum warp while in proximity to Kaminar, to avoid the time tsunami. That’s bad enough, but we don’t know how the temporal waves affected the planet itself. I would hate to think it rolled back time to the point where the Ba’ul still had the means to control the Kelpiens.

What has been happening on Qu’Nos all this time? Have the Klingon houses accepted Chancellor L’Rell (Mary Chiefo)?

If Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is quickly gaining so much power over Leland, could this be the reason Section 31 eventually goes back “underground” and is unknown to the majority of Starfleet later in history? Does she force it into the background, where it answers to no one?

“We’re here to gather information…Not start a war” — Star Trek Discovery review, “The Sound Of Thunder” s2e6

Siranna and Saru
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 6
“The Sound Of Thunder”
Review by Clinton

Before I address the element of this story that fascinated me the most, I wanted to acknowledge an intriguing secondary plot line that appears to be playing out over multiple episodes. Namely, what is up with Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz)? We know, from a past incident in “Star Trek,” that coming back from the dead can be a bit disorienting, to say the least. After all, Spock needed 1.1 movies to rebuild his memory. But memory loss does not seem to be the issue here. Culber remembers, in great detail, the incident Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is recounting to Dr. Tracy Pollard (Raven Dauda). Culber appears preoccupied by something he can’t quite identify. Pollard feels this is simply Culber coping with adjustments. But there is something about the way Culber recoils from Stamets’ touch and tries hard to not look completely distressed that tells us otherwise.

Culber

Perhaps it was the months he spent attempting to survive in the mycelial network that has pulled the good doctor’s emotions inward. Or it is the lingering memory of his death at the hands of Ash Tyler/Voq (Shazad Latif)? We have yet to see the confrontation between Culber and Section 31’s on-board liaison. Will that trigger something deep within Culber’s subconscious? More on this as things develop.

Now, on to the subject at the heart of this episode, insofar as far as I am concerned — General Order One.

It is well known that “Star Trek” has a love/hate relationship with this set of rules, also known as the Prime Directive. I would love to list that directive here, but it has actually never been quoted in its entirety in any iteration of the show or movies. Which is odd, because the Prime Directive has been a part of the franchise since early in the run of the original series. In fact, because the series “Star Trek: Enterprise” takes place before the founding of the Federation, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) muses on the necessity for such regulations:

“Someday my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that tells us what we can and can’t do out here; should and shouldn’t do. But until somebody tells me that they’ve drafted that… directive… I’m going to have to remind myself every day that we didn’t come out here to play God.”

In “The Sound of Thunder”, written by Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, Discovery needs to do intelligence gathering on the planet Kaminar. One of the mysterious red signals recently appeared above the planet. Upon Discovery’s arrival, one of the two sentient species on the planet, the Ba’ul, strongly resents the appearance of a Starfleet vessel. They demand that the starhip exit Kaminar. That leaves the other species, the Kelpiens, as the point of contact. There is one problem — the Kelpiens are a pre-warp culture. The Prime Directive has rules about such contact. Essentially, Starfleet can not divulge anything about space travel, other worlds or the existence of other sentient beings to such a culture.

Message from the Ba'ul

To get around this predicament, Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), uses the following logic: Kelpiens have seen warp technology in use by the Ba’ul. And the Kelpiens know about space flight. She and Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) reason, therefore, that they can bend General Order One a little and contact the Kelpiens.

The issue I see here is that we have no idea why the Kelpiens would know about space flight. The Ba’ul are native to Kaminar. Kelpiens would have no reason to assume the Ba’ul are taking trips to the stars, unless the Ba’ul are bragging about it. The same holds true for knowledge of warp technology. Why would the Kelpiens know about this? How would they see it? As a general rule, in “Star Trek,” you don’t engage warp near a planet..

Next, Captain Pike assigns Burnham, a human xenoanthropologist, to be the one to beam down and make first contact. Again, there is that damned Prime Directive. Pike does not wish to openly break first contact protocol, yet he is prepared to send a non-native species to the planet to initiate conversations. This appears to make no sense. We do, however, get to understand why Pike is reluctant to send Kelpien Lt. Commander Saru (Doug Jones) on the mission. The confrontation between the two officers borders on outright insubordination. Still, Pike finally agrees to allow Saru to accompany Burnham on the mission.

Once on the planet, Saru introduces Burnham to his sister, Siranna (Hannah Spear). The commander identifies herself as being a human from Earth. That sharing of information is not a surprise. Burnham looks and sounds nothing like a Kelpien, so there would be no reason not to do so. Still, this does now make our pre-warp society aware of 1) warp technology, 2) space flight and 3) other worlds with other intelligent life forms. By Starfleet’s own definition, this mission has thrown the Kelpiens into the pool of species they can now freely contact.

How much does this border on Starfleet creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

But we are not finished here. After Saru returns to Discovery, the Ba’ul demand that the Kelpien be returned to them. We know, at this point, that the Kelpiens are spirited away from their villages by the Ba’ul when they experience vaharai — a transition believed by the Kelpiens to be fatal. Saru knows that this is a lie. Discovery refuses to surrender Saru, causing the Ba’ul to activate devices that could wipe out the entire Kelpien population. This chain of events is one of the reasons the Prime Directive exists in the first place. When Starfleet inserts itself into the affairs of others, things have the potential of going very, very badly.

As it turns out, the Red Angel also intervenes, avoiding outright genocide against the Kelpiens. But we only have Saru and Siranna’s feeling that Kaminar’s two sentient species can work things out to create a new balance rather than engage in all-out war. That seems a thin thread to hang one’s hopes on. Especially since Saru returns to Discovery and will not be present to help temper the understandable rage of his fellow Kelpiens toward the Ba’ul..

This type of scenario is not unique to “Discovery.” Other iterations of “Star Trek” have wrestled with the issues General Order One creates. And the solutions have often proved muddy at best. If we return to Kaminar at a later date and see the aftermath of this intrusion, that will be a fascinating addendum to one Prime Directive dilemma.

Next episode: Light and Shadows

Random Thoughts and Observations

In the “Short Trek” episode “The Brightest Star,” we clearly see “SHN 03” on the bow of the shuttle Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) uses to land on Kaminar. That would indicate it was a shuttle from the Shenzhou (the shuttles aboard Discovery have a “DSC” prefix). “Wait,” you say. “In this episode they say that the Archimedes was the starship that first made contact.” And, indeed, in the flashback scene, the image of the shuttle now simply sports a large “03.” Not sure why they felt it was necessary to do all that extra work.

Comparison shots

In the last few episodes, I have noticed that Dr. Pollard has graduated from the role of a walk-on character dishing out disgruntled one liners, to a regular player. I look forward to learning more about her.

Ash Tyler is hugging his paranoia over the red signals and Red Angel extremely tightly. At first glance, it might seem this is simply because he has fully indoctrinated himself into the threats-are-everywhere mindset of Section 31. However, in the last scene with Pike, where the Captain shares Saru’s description of the Red Angel, Tyler’s motivations are made a bit clearer. He seems to live in fear of the outbreak of war. He tells Pike, “The last war, sir, took a toll on those who fought it. Some of us are still torn apart.” Given the fact that Pike had orders to keep Enterprise out of the war, this hits the Captain hard. In addition to still feeling his own scars, does Tyler feel that someone who did not participate in the conflict has no business being the one in charge of this threat assessment?

The data collected from the dying sphere proved to be of value to the crew of Discovery in this episode. However, the writers would be wise to not dip into that well too often. What Tilly (Mary Wiseman) calls “a delicious slice of galaxy pie,” could turn into a writer’s magic bullet to provide Discovery with answer to all sorts of difficult questions.

“Always.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Saints of Imperfection,” s2e5

Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 5
“Saints of Imperfection”
Review by Clinton

“Star Trek” has always been about family.

At first, family was implied. The relationships between Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu and Scotty defined an unbreakable unit that transcended shipboard comradery. It led them, at various times, to sacrifice virtually everything for their friends. Then, with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine,” the introduction of characters such as Wesley Crusher, Alexander Rozhenko, Jake Sisko, Rom, Nog and Molly O’Brien, the association of “Star Trek” and family became grew stronger.

This is one of the reasons that season one of “Star Trek: Discovery” felt “off.” Captain Lorca did little to promote family. He was only interested in fostering, or downright demanding, loyalty and devotion to his mission. We did not get a sense of how all the other characters were bound together. We barely even met many of them or knew their names. Yes, there were isolated connections, such as Stamets and Culber, Burnham and Tyler, but there was no underlying feeling that Discovery was a single, extended family.

With Discovery under the temporary command of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), season two is finally beginning to bring out that element of family. Even if the show can be heavy handed about driving the point home.

In “Saints of Imperfection,” written by Kristen Beyer and directed by David Barrett, virtually every action is predicated on feelings of connection. Burnham and Stamets (Sonequa Martin-Green and Anthony Rapp) know they must try to rescue Tilly (Mary Wiseman), even if the risk is high. Tilly’s connection to “May” (Bahia Watson) binds her to the promise to not only slay the monster that threatens the JahSepp, but to “pinky swear” she will find a way to reach May again someday. Even Section 31 operatives Leland and Philippa Georgiou (Alan Van Sprang and MIchelle Yeoh) give indications that they would sacrifice something for the greater good.

But the strongest way this sense of family is brought home is not the struggle to return Culber (Wison Cruz) to “normal space,” as powerful as that is, but the sacrifice Discovery herself appears to be willing to make in order to save Ensign Sylvia Tilly. The ship and her crew will literally be digested alive if the decision is made to enter the mycelial network. Pike ponders the risk. Then he, Stamets and Burnham encapsulate all that being a “Star Trek” family means in these three lines:

Pike:
From what I know of that young woman, she’d put her life on the line for any one of us.

Stamets:
That she would, sir.

Burnham:
In a heartbeat.

Pike goes on to address the crew, speaking of the promise of Starfleet. But it is almost a mute point. The connection between Tilly and the rest of the crew is already made. It is the key.

Of course, we are also reminded that family is complicated. While Burnham is pleased to see Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) aboard Discovery, there is major distrust by Captain Pike of the Klingon Torchbearer who now works as a Section 31 agent. And Tyler has yet to confront one of his darkest moments, facing the man he murdered — Dr. Hugh Culber.

Emperor Georgiou is also problematic to the concept of family. She is literally not from this universe and often exhibits, at the most, mild amusement over the creatures in our galaxy. But there is that spark, that underlying urge to protect Burnham, and, by extension, Discovery that makes a part of us want to believe she is family, too.

There is also a danger in showing how the crew is connected. And that is our reaction to the appearance of an outsider. In the previous episode, “An Obol for Charon,” Engineer Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) figured prominently. She was there when Tilly went through her torment. She even eventually worked with Stamets on solutions. But now, she is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps she left the ship for another assignment, but her obvious absence rings of someone who said “Wow. That’s a tough break. Good thing it’s not my problem. Later!”

The creative team behind “Star Trek: Discovery” has done a good job so far of reversing the damage Lorca inflicted on Discovery’s crew. My only request is that they begin to back off a bit on having the characters say that they are family and use the overall story to simply show it. It’s how we grew to love the TOS family, and it can work here, too.

Next episode: The Sounds of Thunder

Random Thoughts and Observations:

Pike demonstrates that he is no fool. We witness Burnham’s understandable reactions upon seeing Georgiou, and then Tyler. Some scripts would have that as more of a moment for us, the audience. However, Pike tells the Commander that he made note of both of her reactions and that he knows she is keeping something from her Captain.

We also avoided a predictable set up to prolonged confrontation between Leland and Pike when Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) tells them “Come on, fellas, cut the manlier-than-thou bullshit.” To their credit, they appear to do exactly that.

How do you portray the concept of being half-in and half-out of the mycelial network? Hats off to the effects team for giving a visual voice to the concept.

Tyler’s use of a badge-based communicator did somehow feel appropriate. Section 31 is not very open to sharing secrets. I think they might even find it amusing that Starleet needs to work though handheld communicators, and even ones worn on the wrist (“Star Trek: The Motion Picture”) before they figure out how to put the tech in a badge.

My wife, Bonnie, pointed out that Burnham’s first encounter with Tyler in this episode takes place in the mess hall, which is the same place they first met in season one.

“Now, you are my children.” — Star Trek Discovery review, “Point of Light”, s2e3


Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 3
“Point of Light”
Review by Clinton

“No language can express the power and beauty and heroism of a mother’s love.”
-Edwin H. Chapin

It is not unusual for “Star Trek” to put an emphasis on family. Most often, it is not about blood relations, but the emotional connections that bind a group together. In this episode, written by Andrew Colville and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, the more intimate connection between mother and child is front and center.

While still in pursuit of the red signals, USS Discovery receives an unexpected visitor — Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner), adoptive mother to Lt. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). We learn that Grayson failed in an attempt to see her son, Spock. The half-Vulcan had committed himself to a psychiatric unit on Starbase 5 for reasons unknown. Denied access to her son or his condition, Grayson unashamedly steals his encrypted medical file and needs Burnham to unlock it. The lieutenant’s reaction to this act of thievery reads like a child embarrassed by the behavior of a parent.

Burnham is reluctant to violate orders. But Grayson presses forward. With the lieutenant by her side, Grayson meets with Captain Pike (Anson Mount):

Pike:
I can’t open this file. If I did, I’d be in violation of the rules and my mother wouldn’t like that.

Burnham:
There is precedent; in Starfleet case law, for a captain to invoke —

Pike:
Was she this bossy as a kid?

Grayson:
On Vulcan we call it “persistent,” and yes, she was. She learned that from me.

Contacting Starbase 5, Pike is told that Spock fled the facility after killing three of his doctors.

Her son is in trouble. Grayson presses forward.

Sitting with her adoptive mother, Burnham decrypts the files. The records state that Spock has exhibited signs of “extreme empathy deficit.” It is in this moment that we learn of Grayson’s regrets over the upbringing of her half-human son.

Grayson:
I can’t deny that possibility. He didn’t have a normal childhood. Sarek wanted Spock raised in the Vulcan manner, and any display of emotion was strongly discouraged. And in order to not confuse my son, I began to hide my own. I was not a real mother. I wasn’t what he needed.

Burnham:
You gave us love — every second.

Grayson:
It was different with you, Michael. I gave you all my joy and my affection that I was not permitted to give to him. But Spock is half human. If he’d have been permitted to embrace the human feelings that I know he has inside of him, it would have saved him from all the trouble that he’s in now.

Of course, family dynamics are hard. In the files, the two women come across Spock’s drawings of the so-called “Red Angel”. Grayson reveals that when Burnham ran away from home, young Spock claimed the angel came to him and told him where Burnham was. Grayson says that Spock changed after that day. He withdrew into himself. This revelation hits Burnham hard.

Burnham:
It wasn’t because of a vision. It was because of me. My presence was a danger to the family. If the logic extremists couldn’t get to me, they would try to get to him. And he was my little shadow. So I had to wound him deep enough to keep him away from me.

Burnham tries to tell Grayson what she did, but she cannot bring herself to say the words. Amanda now realizes that her family is broken and it is up to her to pick up the pieces. Taking the data disk, she leaves to find her son.

Grayson pressing on.

This, of course, will not be the only time Grayson has to confront Spock’s upbringing. In the classic “Star Trek” episode “Journey to Babel,” a transfusion from Spock can save Sarek’s life. But Spock is in temporary command of Enterprise and refuses to relinquish his post to assist.

Grayson:
Nothing is as important as your father’s life.

Spock:
Can you imagine what my father would say if I were to agree? If I were to give up command of this vessel — jeopardize hundreds of lives, risk interplanetary war, all for the life of one person.

Grayson:
When you were five years old, and came home stiff-lipped, anguished, because the other boys tormented you, saying that you weren’t “really Vulcan,” I watched you, knowing that inside, the…the human part of you was crying. And I cried, too. There must be some part of me in you. Some part that I still can reach. If being Vulcan is more important to you, then you’ll stand there, speaking rules and regulations from the Starfleet and Vulcan philosophy and — and let your father die, and — and  I’ll hate you for the rest of my life.

Years later, it appeared the House of Sarek was still in need of some repair.

Meanwhile, on Qu’noS, things are not going well for newly-appointed Chancellor L’Rell (Mary Chieffo). She is struggling to unite the 24 Klingon houses as one family, as T’Kuvma envisioned. However, the patriarchy is resistant to her radical ideas. They are also openly hostile towards the Torchbearer, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif). The warriors do not see the Klingon, Voq, buried beneath Tyler’s human appearance. And none is more combative than Kol-Sha (Kenneth Mitchell), whose son, Kol, died at the hands of the Federation during the war. He sees the red signals as a sign that L’Rell’s changes will bring the empire to doom. But L’Rell presses on.

The chancellor defends Tyler against all that oppose him. Voq, in Klingon form, was her lover. But now, she senses that Tyler is conflicted; that his feelings for Michael Burham are stronger. This is born out in a subspace communication Tyler has with the lieutenant. Then Tyler reveals that he associates L’Rell with his gruesome transformation, making her every touch feel like a violation.

To make matters worse, we learn that while Voq was undergoing his surgery, L’Rell gave birth to a son. It is a son she has never seen and also kept secret from Tyler. To her own sorrow, she wished to give Tyler the freedom to return to the human world without him feeling racked with guilt.

But all these sacrifices amount to nothing. Eventually, to save them, L’Rell must let Tyler and their son flee Qu’noS. She is left with no lover, no child. But the Klingon presses on, and vows to serve as mother to the entire Klingon race.

Next episode: An Obol For Charon

Random Thoughts and Observations:

This episode also gave us partial resolution on the mysterious crewmember, May Ahern, that only Tilly has been able to see. Tilly is put through the emotional ringer, to the point of jeopardizing her path towards command, before she seeks help from Burnham. We still do not know why the inter-dimensional fungus wanted to speak with Stamets. Tilly also mentions that it was grooming her for something. There is more to this organism than meets the eye.

It might just be me, but I swear I keep hearing a tribble in the background of various Discovery scenes. Is that Lorca’s tribble? Is it multiplying?

We get at least two acknowledgements of the discrepancies between “Discovery” and classic “Star Trek.” First, the Klingons now sport hair, apparently because they shave their heads in times of war (I guess that custom faded long before the Dominion War). And two, Pike prefers flat screens to holographic images.

I am sure that many will appreciate the Klingons expanded use of English, rather than Klingon with subtitles.

Playing his Klingon father, Kenneth Mitchell has now died twice on “Star Trek: Discovery.” Apparently you are required to die twice to remain dead on this show. Also, having one actor play two characters in a Klingon bloodline is not unheard of. In “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” Michael Dorn played the role of defense attorney Colonel Worf, grandfather of his TNG/DS9’s character.

That Klingon baby model really did not hold up well in close ups.

Is this the last we will hear of the child of Voq and L’Rell? I doubt it.

It looks like Tyler has found a home in Section 31. However, the scenes with Georgiou now feel like a backdoor pilot for her spinoff series.

“Context…can alter our perspective” — Star Trek Discovery review, “New Eden,” s2e2

Burnham, Pike and Owosekun on Terralysium
Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 2
“New Eden”
Review by Clinton

This week’s offering, “New Eden,” feels like a story severely hobbled by arbitrary time constraints. Conversations are truncated, introductions are brief or non-existent. However, even with a running time more than 15 minutes shorter than last week’s episode, the script does deliver on many levels.

In what I would call the “A” story, Discovery attempts to intercept a second red signal. This involves using the spore drive to jump to a location over 50,000 light years away, in the Beta Quadrant. When the ship arrives, the signal has once again disappeared. However, Discovery does find something at the location — an M-class (Earthlike) planet, surrounded by rings comprised of radioactive debris. Even more intriguing, the planet is inhabited by humans who have been on the planet 200 years, long before Earth discovered warp drive.

The Red Angel appears on Earth.

At this point, the viewer might begin to wonder if the signals are leading Discovery around the galaxy on some “Quantum Leap” type adventure. Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), meeting with First Officer Saru and Commander MIchael Burnham (Doug Jones and Sonequa Martin-Green), wonders much the same thing. And thus begins an impromptu debate between science and faith.

Pike:
Why did that second signal want us to come here?

Burnham:
As science officer, I would advise restraint in ascribing motivation to what are now simply unidentifiable energy bursts.

Pike:
There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio…

Burnham:
I know my Shakespeare, Captain. Are you suggesting that some kind of divine intervention put those people on the planet?

But there appears to be more to Pike’s musings than he lets on. When the Captain learns that the “First Saved” were transported from Earth to the planet, which the inhabitants call Terralysium, he seems transfixed by their decision to combine all of Earth’s major religions into one doctrine. Later, even though he holds fast to his decision that General Order One (AKA, the Prime Directive) applies to Terralysium, meaning Starfleet cannot interfere with the natural development of the society, he beams down to the surface. Dressed in his Starfleet uniform, he speaks with Jacob (Andrew Moodie), a New Eden citizen whose family had always sought to learn the truth about the events surrounding the First Saved. Pike tells Jacob, “I lied, to protect the others from the truth. The truth is, you were right about us. I know what it’s like to live with doubt, and I guess I didn’t want that for you.” Pike hands Jacob a power source that allows the truth seeker to, once again, fill the town’s church with light.

Is the doubt Pike lives with something about his command? His relationships?  Or, perhaps, it is an internal conflict concerning science and faith? Earlier we learn that Pike’s father was a science teacher who also taught comparative religion. As Pike puts it, “It was a confusing household and we didn’t agree on a lot.” Did the debates in the Pike household mirror his conversations with Burnham?

Tilly working to slice off asteroid section.

In the episode’s “B” story, Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is struggling to find a way to use the metrion-charged asteroid Discovery captured to develop an alternative interface for the spore drive. Lt. Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) has confessed to her that he had previously seen his deceased partner, Dr. Hugh Culber, inside the mycelial network. The experience shook Stamets, who is now very reluctant to interface with the drive.

When Tilly slices off a piece of the asteroid, she is hit by a charge of unknown energy, knocking her unconscious. Later, in sickbay, Tilly is greeted by an unfamiliar woman in a Starfleet uniform. We later learn that the woman, May Ahern (Bshia Watson), was a junior high school classmate of Tilly’s. And Ahern died in 2252.

The fact that Stamets and Tilly have both seen manifestations of the departed should not be a surprise. At the end of season 1, we saw a small particle of spore material land on Tilly’s shoulder. It would seem that whatever connection is allowing Stamets access to another realm is also affecting Sylvia. Stamets tells Tilly, “Astromycology has taught me that nothing is ever really gone. Fungi are the universe’s recyclers. This is how termination begats creation. It’s why life is eternal. And my place is on this side of that cycle.”

The “manifestation” appeared to be pushing Tilly forward, acting as a catalyst to help the ensign realize how she can use the asteroid to save the planet. Whatever the entity’s purpose, it appeared genuinely delighted to observe Tilly’s unorthodox thought process.

Do the two main stories create a unified theme for this episode? Not quite. But they may yet intersect as the season progresses.

Discovery releases the asteroid.

Elsewhere, this episode continued last week’s trend of letting secondary members of the bridge crew shine. Lieutenant Junior Grade Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) joined the landing party and showed that she is more than capable of improvising solutions to problems. We also learned that she was raised in a luddite collective. How she found her way to Starfleet could be an interesting story. Meanwhile, on the bridge, Lt. Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) demonstrated her outstanding piloting skills. Her “Donut” maneuver with Discovery was impressive.

Next episode: Point of Light

Random Thoughts and Observations

The inhabitants call their planet Terralysium. This is a reference to Elysium. In Greek mythology Elysium is the final resting place of the souls of heroes and those of great virtue. Those deemed worthy were conveyed there by the gods.  Could the name have been chosen by the settlers as a non-Christian way of saying a heavenly version of Earth (Terra)?

Favorite bits of dialog —

May (appearing as if from nowhere):
Can I help you with something?

Tilly:
Yes. Yes, thank you. I’m supposed to be on bed rest, but that is practically an affront to my very existence, ’cause the ship’s in high alert, the captain, Burnham, Owo, not to mention an entire planet might be nuked, and that is not happening! Why are you looking at me like that? You’re May, right? Am I talking too fast? I’m problem solving. I’ve had espressos.

May:
In sickbay?

Tilly:
Yeah!

*****

Burnham:
You wanted to see me?

Pike (nursing broken ribs):
Yes. And don’t make me laugh.

Burnham:
Fortunately for you, I was raised on Vulcan. We don’t do “funny.”

Pike laughs, then winces in pain.

Burnham:
Maybe I should just shut up.