The ultimate artifice of the showrunners is revealed when yet another of the Short Treks is referenced, this time, somewhat disingenuously, as part of the ‘Previously’ montage. It does all point quite obviously to the explanation why Discovery, its technology and activity has never been referenced in the rest of Trek and also raises the alarming possibility we’re going to get a hurriedly shoe-horned appearance from Harry Mudd before the season closes.
The episode proper begins with Sarek homaging “The Last Jedi” with a Vulcan beach party which consists of meditating in the sand until your wife brings you a bowl of Plomeek soup. Meanwhile, on Discovery, despite the imminent threat of the Section 31 fleet, we have a very casual evacuation in progress as people calmly pack their trinkets and belongings and seemingly wander around the ship saying goodbye to people and places. They board the Enterprise and attempt to activate the self destruct, to turn death into a fighting chance to live. But this is “Star Trek: Discovery” so the best-laid plans gang agley more than aft. When it becomes apparent that the sphere data is resolutely pro-life and will not allow itself to be destroyed under any circumstances, they come up with a plan B – to send Discovery forward in time to where Control won’t be able to get to it.
Of course, this is completely impossible because the Red Angel suit has been destroyed and they don’t know how the time crystal actually works. As luck would have it, though, another red bust signal appears and guides them to Xahea, home to Po whom Tilly met when she stowed away aboard Discovery.
With renewed hope, they jump to Xahea where Po is able to work out how to activate the Time Crystal (a thing she has only read about – so they’re apparently widely known about) and Stamets manages to figure out a way to rebuild the apparently impossible to rebuild time travel suit with barely an inconvenience. The rest of the episode then plays out as a series of character moments and emotional exchanges as the crew make their respective decisions on whether to stay in the present or leap into the future. Burnham, of course, has no choice as she’s the only one genetically able to pilot the suit. And, oh yeah, it’s a one-way trip.
Of course, their ability to jump straight to Xahea raises the issue of just why they can’t keep the Discovery out of Control’s hands indefinitely but the writers finally throw a narrative wrench into those gears by tying the spore drive’s power output into the time travel preparations. Once they begin, the spore drive will be out of action for hours, making them vulnerable.
It’s pretty clear now, that the production had two episode’s worth of story and three episodes left to fill, which is why we get this curiously sedate episode in the middle of arguably one of the galaxy’s most critical moments. If we’re feeling generous, it’s the eye of the hurricane, but it does feel like there would have been a tighter two-parter here that wouldn’t feel so repetitious. Sure, it allows for some fun times, such as more Jet Reno (always a good thing) and an overdue thawing between Stamets and Culber but the writers also indulge in some truly WTF? moments such as Sarek and Amanda somehow managing to reach the Discovery even though they set off from Vulcan and are oblivious to the fact Section 31 are barrelling towards Discovery at the same time. It really makes no sense for them to be able to reach Burnham for a face-to-face heart-to-heart.
In its best moments, there’s a real eve of battle feel to the episode which recalls the quieter moments from “The Best Of Both Worlds Part 1” and Pike’s bidding farewell to Discovery and her crew has genuine emotional heft but much of it is undercut by the gang – including Spock – telling Burnham they’re coming with her. It undercuts so much of the drama because we know that even if nobody else survives, Spock can’t go back to the future indefinitely. It’s as if they didn’t end “The Best Of Both Worlds Part 1” when Riker said ‘Fire!’ but kept going until after the deflector dish fired.
It’s a perfectly serviceable episode, but it’s too much promise for too little pay-off. Ctrl-Alt-Leland’s fleet has been imminent for two whole episodes now and I’m getting impatient for them to arrive. When they finally do, they surround the Enterprise and Discovery but do so in a way that I expect Spock to suggest indicates ‘two-dimensional thinking’.
Next week looks fun, though, and I think we can all look forward to “Star Trek: Discovery” asking “Star Trek: Voyager” to hold its synthale while it pulls off the most outrageous reset button push of the entire franchise.