Just when you thought there wasn’t mushroom for more drama on Star Trek: Discovery, the Saints Of Imperfection (S2E05) come marching in!
Picking up where we left off last week, the episode opens with Burnham doing her best Tom Cruise impression, sprinting down to the lab after learning that Tilly is missing, presumed mushroomed (but not, hopefully, in a “Hannibal – ‘Amuse-Bouche’” sort of way). Despite one of their shipmates being up shiitake creek without a paddle, things are looking up for the crew of the USS Discovery as Spock’s shuttlecraft is within their grasp. Will Discovery’s long search for Spock finally come to an end?
No, of course not. It’s just another Spock-tease with the shuttle containing ‘Captain’ Georgiou who, it turns out, is also on the hunt for Starfleet’s most elusive Vulcan. Continuing “Star Trek: Discovery”’s recent hot streak of juggling multiple storylines, “Saints Of Imperfection” weaves together the ongoing backdoor piloting of “Star Trek: Section 31”, the mycelial mystery and the riddle of the red angel with some spectacular no-one-left-behind ship imperilment and the return of not one but two regular cast members to the ship.
There’s been a definite improvement in the visuals in this season, bringing a freshness to many a familiar Trek vista. This time out, there’s a great torpedo’s eye view of the Discovery’s attempt to disable Spock’s shuttle and the in-and-out spore jump is undeniably spectacular.
In a packed episode, we get a lot more insight into the mycelial network and the capabilities of the civilisations which inhabits it. The idea of a mycelial transporter may turn out to be the Checkhov’s enoki of the episode but it’s still an intriguing idea and helps bolster the idea that the ship itself can travel through the network with ease. Section 31 continues, in this show, to intrigue rather than irritate although the more “Discovery” delves into them, the more it will need to explain, at some point, how Starfleet’s dirtiest little secret was pretty much common knowledge some ten years before Kirk sat in the command chair yet were utterly unknown by the time Sisko shaved his head and grew a beard. In any event, their involvement in the ongoing Spock hunt immediately feels like it raises the stakes. It certainly provides an incentive for our heroes to get to him first, given 31’s likely shoot first, no questions asked attitude.
While all this is going on, of course, we have an away team in the mycelial universe, thanks to Pike glibly approving and insanely risky and untested plan which places the entire ship at risk. His focus on the overriding importance of his primary mission seems a little fuzzy this time out, but I’m not complaining because it makes for a fantastic episode. I’m increasingly fascinated by how creatively the show finds ways to use the standard sets – it’s the most bottley of Star Trek bottle shows yet somehow it still manages to not feel small or claustrophobic.
After teasing some horrible monster stalking the mycelial forest – I’ll confess I was convinced it was the tardigrade – it turns out the monster is none other than the late lamented Doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz). With something of a homage to “Aliens”, “Discovery” apologises for postponing (again) the search for Spock and offers instead the hunt for Hugh. For a brief time, it seems like the episode is prepared to do something seriously brave and offer Stamets little more than closure as it’s revealed that Hugh is little more than a mycelial energy recreation, effectively a fungal hologram. Luckily, everyone remembers the mycelial transporter and the writers remember the TNG episode “Second Chances”.
With Hugh restored to the material world, we seem to be closing off the mycelial network plot again – at least until the writers need a way to fling the ship half-way across the universe again – and focussing down onto the red bursts and Spock’s connection to them. Even Admiral Cornwell seems impatient for some significant progress, ordering Pike and Section 31 to join forces to accomplish the mission, bringing our second restoration of the episode as Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) winds up back on Discovery as Section 31’s liaison officer.
Last season, I said repeatedly that I really liked the characters of “Star Trek: Discovery” but hated the story there were in. That faith has been vindicated so far this season as I’m enjoying the story a lot and still love the characters. They’re doing a much better job of not egregiously pushing Burnham front and centre of each episode as clumsily and disruptively as they did in season one, Anson Mount is proving to be a great addition as Pike and they’re even doing a pretty good job of whetting the appetite for the Section 31 series. It feels a little like we’re nearing the end of a consciously corrective sequence of episodes designed to subtly but deliberately re-orient the series and re-balance the cast of characters and I’m excited to see where the series is going to go next. If nothing else, I’m glad that Stamets has been reunited with his husband – he seems like a fungi.