When Book (David Ajala) receives word from his brother that his home-planet of Kwejian and ‘The Sanctuary’ is in trouble and it involves Osyraa and the Emerald Chain (the organisation that seems to be developing an opportunistic if not wholly criminal set-up in the wake of the Federation’s depleted resources) he wants to head back immediately. Admiral Vance is not inclined to let the Discovery cut across the void (thus saving weeks of transport), but reluctantly lets the ship go under strict orders not to engage any hostile forces or create any situation that would lead to a further and formal rise in tensions further afield.
When they arrive, it’s clear there may be more to the message than there first seemed, especially in the wake of something – or someone – that Osyraa wants returned to her…
Meanwhile Culber tries to work out what’s wrong with Georgiou – a person who is less than the ideal patient under any circumstances and Adira tries to locate the source of The Burn. But first there’s a delicate conversation to be had with Stamets…
Star Trek: Discovery doesn’t have the budget of the other sf series of the moment, The Mandalorian, but sometimes suffers from the same frustrating pace where there’s key episodes surrounded by set-pieces that hide the lack of forward momentum
If last weeks’ episode was an important, almost mythological in stance, this seems like an adequate space-filler with a main story that could almost be slotted in anywhere and with developments that only inch the bigger stories forward. Under the direction of veteran Trekker Jonathan Frakes, it feels like it’s addressing some footnote issues set around a fairly basic story – perfectly watchable but if which missed wouldn’t really prove an obstacle to picking everything up next week. The Sanctuary’s problem of an infestation of Avatar-like flying bugs who affect the planet’s crops is almost the ‘B’ plot, the maguffin for which Book’s brother and his people (and where exactly are those other people… it seems otherwise abandoned apart from one home?) are suffering because of machinations being used to keep them in place. The creatures aren’t evil or locust-like, but just in the wrong place at the wrong time causing problems. Though one could argue that it’s once again Burnham that comes up with the solution to encourage them to move (a combination of harmonics, chakras and the Force, apparently), there’s no tears or real angst and it feels decidedly low-key in an episode that more deliberately highlights the relationship of other characters.
In a franchise famous for prosthetics it’s being almost off-putting to see a race that is simply humanoid with green skin…it looks almost unfinished. But the episode’s boo-hiss factor is handled by Janet Kidder’s Osyraa who is fine in a ‘chewing-scenery’ set-up, but her performance is fairly old-school, especially compared to Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou who seems far more inherently dangerous and intimidating even when sedated. The thinly-veiled reason Osyraa is so pro-active is revealed as wanting to get to Ryn (the Andorian who escaped with Book in Scavengers – and who is played by Noah Averbach-Katz, Marie Wiseman’s husband) before he can tell anyone that the Syndicate is running out of dilithium to power their own craft. That doesn’t really make a lot of sense… if Ryn’s the only person who knew that he’d likely have been dead long ago, silenced to keep that secret and would almost definitely have told everyone he could since his escape – though neither (conveniently) appears to be true. Osyraa is obviously being set up as a recurring villain in something akin to an old gangland turf war full of tit-for-tat engagements, so we’ll see if she gets slightly better material to work with going forward.
Newcomer Adira (Blu del Barrio) throws in to the conversation that she’s never really identified as one gender or another (and even less so now being an amalgam of various Trill identities) and says she prefers the pronoun ‘they’ rather than ‘he or ‘she’. It’s a conversation that might have been more dramatically portrayed elsewhere, but it’s treated both sensitively and simply matter-of-factly by same-sex couple Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Culber (Wilson Cruz) and fortunately goes well… t could be a timely subject for the audience with gender identification moving more into the news and the likes of Elliot (formerly Ellen) Page talking openly about their transition this week. Yes, it feels more like a deliberately placed reach-out message to the audience for contemporary tolerance and understanding rather than an organic part of the episode itself, but it’s done in a way that if it makes one viewer feel better or better understood then it’s likely a message worth saying – especially with the opportunities a sf setting can offer to do so. That’s something Trek has always strived to do. Hopefully with it now being overtly said, Adira’s character will continue to stand on their own merits without being defined by one factor.
Humour-wise, Michelle Yeoh as Georgiou provides, as ever, dynamic snark and though we don’t know much more than we did last episode, the dueling words between Culver and Georgiou provide some welcome banter that’s sardonic more than chilling. There’s all-out smirk in the way that Saru decides he needs a Captain-esque catchphrase, none of which land well even with the help of Tilly (Mary Wiseman). There’s good coverage for Detmer who manages to work through some of her PTSD by seizing the moment to take manual control in an important mission involving book’s ship and though the sequence feels more like an amusement park simulation ride in its viewpoint, it’s all well realised.
A decent episode, then, but next week’s chapter – which seems to focus more on Georgiou’s dilemma, looks more tasty…
- Production Design / VFX9