With confirmation the red angel is a ‘man in a suit’ from the future, there’s a renewed impetus to find Spock so Burnham requests permission to head to Vulcan because she believes her mother may know where Spock is. Meanwhile, the Discovery is tasked with remaining in orbit around Kaminar – not, as you may expect, to deal with the fallout of the planetary puberty unleashed last week, but to scan for any residual energy signatures which may yield more information on the red angel.
With the confirmation the red angel is somebody in an armoured suit, a disturbing possibility occurs: is the red angel going to turn out to be Burnham herself? Is that why Discovery’s been content not to push her to the foreground of every episode this season because she’s going to turn out to ultimately be what the season was about? Oh god, I hope not.
Anyway, Burnham’s welcome on Vulcan is much warmer than we might have expected given the frostiness that resulted from her non-confession during Amanda’s previous visit but then again, it’s hardly surprising given Michael’s mother is hiding something.
Yes, after weeks of Spock-teasing, “Star Trek: Discovery” finally grants us the relief we’ve been seeking in a dark, wet, narrow red cave. Sorry, that sentence got away from me and got weird. Anyway, Spock’s there all right, except he’s not all there and as his sister and mother debate the best way to help him, Sarek turns up and it all gets a bit Vulcan kitchen sink drama. There’s an oddly unnecessary bit of retconning as Spock is revealed to have had a learning disability when he was young (which seems to heavily foreshadow the idea that somehow at some point the red angel cured him of it?) and eventually Sarek reasons his way to the most obtuse and unbelievably boneheaded decision he’s ever made: Burnham should return with Spock and deliver him to Section 31, who are the most motivated to help Spock recover. Cool. Yeah. Sure. Section 31 – known for their compassionate approach to both individuals and situations and motivated by a deep-seated desire to do what is fair and right. I know Sarek was opposed to Spock’s decision to enlist in Starfleet (a courtesy he doesn’t repeat with Burnham, whose career he seems hell-bent on protecting) but it’s a bit much to hand him over to the militant black-ops wing of the employers you disapprove of.
The family soap opera shenanigans on Vulcan (as ever, Sybok is the spectre at the Plomeek Soup feast of “Star Trek: Discovery”) segue into the glossier but no less soapy power politics of Section 31 as Burnham inexplicably follows Sarek’s advice only for ‘Captain’ Georgiou to have to remind Burnham of what she should already know: she cannot trust Section 31. Why the idea of simply returning with Spock to Captain Pike and Discovery never occurs to Burnham joins the long, long list of her bad decisions.
Mind you, maybe taking Spock back to Discovery isn’t such a good idea after all because low and behold, they’re having problems of their own. Classic Trek problems at that: a mysterious rift in space/ time. Pike, ever willing to put himself in harm’s way, volunteers to pilot a shuttlecraft to investigate the anomaly further but he’s joined by Tyler who’s flexing his Section 31 muscles and wants to keep an eye on a Captain he believes is withholding information. Of course, it’s not very long before the shuttle is sucked into the rift itself and find themselves transported to the world of “The Matrix”. Suddenly attacked by their own probe, some 500 years older with commensurate technology, they face a twin dilemma of figuring out how to escape the rift and survive the hostile probe’s assault.
With only two plotlines to juggle, the episode unfortunately decides to focus on the wrong one, giving undue prominence to the silly soap operatics of the Sarek family and Section 31. They would have been fine – better even – as the b-plot to the ongoing temporal rift story on Discovery. Not only does it give the rest of the crew an opportunity to shine (and hints at some decidedly sinister developments for our favourite Nebula cosplayer Lieutenant Commander Airiam) but it feels more like a “Star Trek” and adds more to the ongoing arc than Spock’s repeated carving of some numbers into a wall like a deranged “Lost” fan. Whether or not it’s the red angel is uncertain but what is clear is that there is a hostile force in the future too. Of course, this brings echoes of the temporal cold war of “Star Trek: Enterprise” which this episode seasons with a homage to “The Galileo Seven”. Of course, that’s not the only original series reference, as the production team seem intent on writing themselves into a “Cage”.
Rescued by the exciting sci-fi action of the temporal rift and by some decent character development for both Pike, Tyler and their relationship, “Light And Shadows” still feels like a sudden deceleration from the previous run of episodes, an abrupt slowdown as the pieces are shuffled around the board to prepare for the season’s ‘back 9’. It dampened my enthusiasm for the forthcoming “Section 31” series a little by suggesting that we may get much more court intrigue and less bad-ass covert ops than we might have expected. Perhaps in concentrating so much on Georgiou’s tedious machinations, the writers hoped we’d overlook the series plumbing new depths of careless writing as the destruction of the shuttle triggers a ‘time tsunami’ shockwave in orbit of Kaminar and the USS Discovery just buggers off without a so much as a second thought for the anomaly’s effects on the planet below, which is probably still reeling from the massive social and evolutionary disruption which occurred a mere half a day before. At least the pedestrian puzzle of Spock’s number crunching isn’t strung out longer than it needs to be although it looks like next week’s episode is going to be a load of old TOS.