Star Trek: Discovery – The Wolf Inside (S1E11) Review

*SPOILERS*

Still stranded in the Mirror Universe, Burnham, Lorca and Tyler remain under cover on the ISS Shenzhou while on Discovery, Tilly and Saru deal with Stamets’ deteriorating condition. The episode may be titled “The Wolf Inside” but the latest episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” seems more interested in taking us on a foxtrot. This week, it’s slow, slow, quick-quick, slow.

Slow
It’s a long, old pre-credits sequence this week, taking up a quarter of the entire episode as Burnham records another of her interminably angst-ridden personal logs – surely a really dangerous thing to be doing when she’s under deep cover posing as her mirror universe self – and generally mopes around. It’s prefaced by a brief scene of urgent repairs for an ‘electrical malfunction’ being made to somewhere in Discovery, restoring power to somewhere which turns out to be sickbay. There’s no explanation of how the damage occurred but it provides a convenient excuse to have Stamets be cradling Culber’s body. It’s a clumsy minor retcon to the end of the previous episode which clearly left Stamets behind a force field after Tyler murdered him.

Slow
Despite the apparent desperation of their situation, nobody seems to have a real sense of urgency. The crew take time to ponder their situation at length or indulge in aimless speculative conversation while literally standing next to a murder suspect in an active crime scene. Presumably, as a result of the acute staff shortage, Discovery seems to lack any kind of forensic pathology team as there would certainly be enough evidence to prove that Culber was murdered by Tyler but instead Saru and Tilly assume Stamets did it in his spore-addled state and waffle on from there. Thankfully, the episode finally kicks into high gear when the Shenzhou is ordered by the emperor to take out the ‘Fire Wolf’, the leader of the rebels. And then the opening titles kick in.

Quick-quick
Burnham’s decision to side-step her orders by beaming down instead of nuking the site from orbit (generally acknowledged as the only way to be sure) doesn’t seem to arouse any suspicion or scheming whatsoever despite this universe offering a promotion-by-opportunistic-murder career path. In fact, given they make a point of showing an execution by transporter early in the episode (it becomes useful/ important later for plot reasons), it’s a wonder anyone actually agrees to be routinely teleported at all.

While Burnham and Tyler are planetside, back on Discovery, Tilly is making a really unconvincing argument that she, as an engineering cadet, is best qualified to administer to Stamet’s medical needs. Saru agrees, probably because there’s a distinct lack of any medical personnel around, so why not? Tilly’s idea is to stick him back in the spore drive chamber and let the spores help sort his scrambled synapses, which kind of makes sense if you’d be happy for your auto mechanic to give you a colonoscopy after he’s watched a couple of episodes of “Scrubs”.

Meanwhile, at the lair of the Fire Wolf, Burnham comes face to face with this universe’s Voq and face to facial hair with Mirror Sarek (one wonders what he thinks of Spock’s membership of the Imperial Starfleet). Goatee Sarek mind melds with Burnham and basically binge watches “Star Trek: Discovery” to date. It’s a better deal than Tyler, who gets to revisit only the Klingon highlights (endless conversations) and lowlights (Klingon boobs and sexy time – man they are oddly proud of that scene) before he finally snaps and “Star Trek: Discovery” finally gives us a scene of Tyler and Voq in the same frame at exactly the same time they render the scene moot.

Oh. My. God. Tyler is Voq?????!!!!!????!?!?!?!?!?!??! I did *not* see that coming. My face RN:

Oh no wait, I totally did. My actual face RN:

One of the hallmarks of “Star Trek: Discovery” is that’s it’s really, really bad at keeping its ‘twists’ secret or at least not telegraphing them light years ahead. It’s like its congenitally unable to surprise its viewers. Unsurprisingly, nobody suggests that Van Dyke Sarek mind melds with ‘Tyler’ to see why he went Qo’ay-Qo’ay and they beam back up to the ship so that Burnham and ‘Tyler’ can have a heart to surgically scarred heart and it’s only thanks to a timely intervention by mirror-Saru that Burnham survives this latest lapse in judgment. Speaking of lapses in judgement, back on Discovery, Tilly’s elevation to Mary Sue comes to an abrupt halt as she ends up becoming a Mary sued for medical malpractice.

Slow
Burnham’s decision to not execute Tyler/ Voq immediately had me rolling my eyes that once again, a failure to act decisively would end up causing her more unnecessary trouble in the future so I was genuinely surprised when she did eventually have him marched on to the transporter pad and beamed him off the ship herself. I was even more surprised when it turned out this was part of an elaborate and clever bluff to deliver the imperial data on the USS Defiant to the Discovery; finally, Burnham’s hesitancy and lack of timely action pays off in a narratively satisfying way. It’s quickly back to business as usual though: there’s no swift escape for our heroes, because of course not. Lorca seems curiously sanguine to remain a ‘few more days’ in the agonizer, hinting at a weird masochistic side to our favourite flawed captain and before Burnham can persuade him otherwise, someone else tires of her procrastination.

While all this has been going on, of course, the Shenzhou has been sitting in orbit of the rebel base and not doing anything so it comes as little surprise when another Imperial ship shows up and turns the planet’s surface to magma. The other thing that comes as no surprise is the identity of the emperor. If there’s an Emmy for Prime Time Twist Predictability, “Star Trek: Discovery” is a shoe-in. “The Wolf Inside” is still a step up from last week and it may be that “Discovery” has diverted just enough power to escape the gravity well of Netflix mid-season sluggishness but, again, we find ourselves in a position of having a whole lot of set-up and hoping there’s a good enough payoff.

7/10 

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