It’s a cute touch with this week’s ‘Previously On…’ recap which takes us back to the pilot and delivers the ultimate Trek re-cap from the very beginning. But before we get too nostalgic, we cut to our modern Pike and it’s impressive just how un-jarring the transition is. Anson Mount really is doing terrific work this season, honouring and expanding what Jeffrey Hunter did with Christopher Pike all those years ago.
And its mere moments before “Star Trek: Discovery” shows just how far we’ve trekked through those stars as it brings Spock and Burnham to Talos IV with some effects work that’s literally interstellar.
The sixties call back is appropriate for an episode which is focussed on multiple trips down memory lane. Although not strictly necessary, the inclusions of the Talosians as the means of curing Spock’s mental fugue is a nice touch and their updated look works well, even if the surface of Talos does end up looking like an Instagram-filtered quarry and somehow feels cheaper than the studio set of “The Cage” five decades before it. It’s nice, though, to see Vina for a third time, creating a kind of Talosian trilogy; a Menagerie à trois.
Meanwhile, onboard Discovery Section 31 has arranged for the crew to be given the thankless task of scanning the area of temporal anomaly for traces of the destroyed probe, but when Saru discovers evidence of a saboteur onboard, Pike’s suspicions naturally turn to Tyler. But Pike’s not the only one who’s focussing on the ex-Voq: Culber’s nursing plans to start his own Netflix Original Documentary Series: “Meeting Your Murderer”.
Once again, Burnham’s terrible secret is at risk of being revealed, the Talosians demanding the memory of it as payment for unscrambling Spock’s psyche for…some reason. After all the build-up, it ends up being incredibly disappointing to discover that Burnham’s heinous act is literally nothing that any pair of siblings would have said and done a dozen times over and barely registers on the scale used to measure some of the stuff his lifelong friend McCoy would say to him across the years. It’s such a misguidedly woke reading of the character that such an exchange would end up being so unforgivable and unspeakable, speaking to a lack of understanding of the character’s long and storied development.
Speaking of disregarding firmly established parameters, it’s utterly ridiculous that Culber and Tyler would be allowed to interact without supervision at all and the idea that the ship’s First Officer would willingly allow a fist fight to take place and actively prevent others from intervening is beyond ludicrous. Saru may rationalise it later, but on any other ship in any other series all three of them would be in the brig and facing court-martial charges. Interesting to see Discovery has drone janitors, presumably used by the episode’s director, T J Scott, to get some of his distractingly dizzying and occasionally archly remote shots he peppers the episode with.
Since his ganglia dropped, Saru jdgaf anymore and it seems to be catching. There’s no denying Saru’s becoming a more fun and interesting character by the week but he’s also on a disturbing trajectory and it foreshadows the distinct possibility that the suddenly ‘mature’ Kelpian race could become villains of the series having had their true predator natures liberated by Saru’s puberty bomb.
In return for learning that Burnham once used ethnic slurs to prevent Spock from accompanying her on a cry for attention, we discover that the Red Angel’s first ever act was to save Burnham. Of course it was, because I’m now absolutely convinced that Burnham will end up becoming the Red Angel, wrapping up season 2 in a near predestination paradox and ensuring that it’s all about Michael once again.
The two storylines finally come together when the Talosians take a leaf from “The Last Jedi” playbook and force-Skype the Discovery allowing Burnham to tell Pike the truth of Section 31’s actions and give them their location. It certainly doesn’t help Tyler’s standing with Pike and when an attempt to make a spore jump to Talos IV is thwarted by sabotage, there’s nobody else to point the finger at, especially when Hercule Saru’s little grey cells discover secret transmissions made using Tyler’s command codes. Of course, for the viewer, it’s tremendous fun watching Saru and Pike conduct a drumhead trial of Tyler while Airiam is in the background, merrily fucking shit up.
There’s a clunkiness to the writing and structure of the episode that recalls the missteps of last season and while they seem to have lost the magic touch of juggling competing storylines but damn if it doesn’t have a lightness of touch and sense of fun this time around, meaning although it’s much less cohesive than it used to be, it’s just as enjoyable. The episode dénouement brings a touch of the old wild west ‘wagon train to the stars’ feel as the captain and crew decide to ignore their orders and go on the run, which seems fittingly Roddenberrian for an episode which called back to the very beginnings of the franchise.