Star Trek: Discovery, season 2, episode 9
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.
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.
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.
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.