Mar 15, 2021
For a few dilithium crystals more: Star Trek: Discovery “Far from Home”
Previously: The previouslies this week are basically a one-minute cut of last season’s finale, which I suppose was done to explain why the whole crew of Discovery decided to go into the far future with Michael Burnham. Also, we get reminders that Lt. Stamets was gravely injured while helping to build the Red Angel suit, while Leland from Section 31 was possessed by Control nanoprobes and he literally melted down in the spore chamber. Oddly, there are no clips from last week’s episode, “That Hope is You, Part 1”, and even more oddly, this episode isn’t the “Part 2” promised in that episode.
Before I get to the recap, I’d like to present a series of images from an acclaimed ‘90s animated series that might explain a bit of what we’re about to witness.
Given which character has a time machine, and doesn’t appear on screen this week, I think you can draw your own conclusions about who the “Poochie” of this episode will be.
Discovery’s bridge is in total darkness, illuminated in brief flashes of light from instrument panels. The crew is looking pretty dead, and lying motionless with their eyes open. But then Saru wakes up in time to see Discovery come out of the wormhole and arrive in the future, but uh-oh—it’s hurtling directly into a planet.
Saru yells at everyone to wake up and get back to their stations, and they all shout out the usual yadda-yadda about how various systems are offline. The planet is surrounded by big floating rocks, and the Discovery crashes through one on its way to the planet’s surface. Keyla Detmer, the ship’s helmsman (the one with the prosthetic blue eyeball) suggests rolling the ship over like Denzel in Flight so that the shields at the top of the ship will absorb some of the impact.
She aims for a thick glacier, and the ship fires phasers to break up the ice, and we get an HD upgrade of Voyager crashing into an ice planet in “Timeless”. Everyone on the bridge gets flung around, but they all survive and the ship comes to rest partially inside a glacier.
After credits, everyone applauds Detmer’s piloting skills, but she’s hearing everything in muffled tinnitus audio. Everyone notices her discombobulated state, so Saru orders her to Sickbay.
Meanwhile, Ensign Tilly reports that the ship is fubar, and she doesn’t know where they are or “when” they are. But she’s certain that they’re not on Terralysium. Jett Reno (oh good, the queen of awkward line deliveries survived the crash) says they’ll have to make massive repairs to get the ship flying again. Saru realizes that everyone is concerned because they can’t contact Michael, and they have no idea where Michael is. Where’s Poochie? Has anyone seen Poochie? But he says their first priority is to fix the ship and they’ll work in pairs to do it. He then leaves the bridge, and “Rhys” has the conn. Who?
In the corridor, Tilly is describing what she knows so far about the planet. There are pockets of breathable atmosphere out there, and these pockets are “decagon” shaped, so someone must have created them. But the important thing is, she’s detected signs of life.
Meanwhile, one of the Nameless Bridge Crew (I just looked it up; this is “Bryce”, the communications officer) is trying to get the ship’s comms back up and running. He pulls out a device called a “transtator” that’s key to all communications, but he can’t fix it unless they get more “rubindium”.
And then ex-empress Georgiou walks up, and oh good, the queen of awkward put-downs also survived. She starts trying to boss everyone around, because she really, really wants communications up and running again so they can contact Michael. Yes, it seems Georgiou also wants to know where Poochie is. Tilly then looks down and memorably tells Georgiou, “Uh, you have some um, uh, Leland on your shoes.” Her boots are covered in blood and guts and Georgiou says someone needs to go down to the spore chamber to clean up, because there are “gooey bits of him everywhere”. I thought he was entirely made up of nanoprobes, but what do I know?
Meanwhile, Lt. Stamets is in Sickbay in his induced coma, and all is quiet except for the TOS bio-bed sound effect. Dr. Culber revives him and Sickbay is suddenly bustling with activity. He apologizes to Stamets for waking him up, but they have a ton of injured people and they really need the bed. He wants Stamets to go to the “cellular regeneration chamber”, but Stamets is convinced he’s healthy enough to get back to work and the ship needs him. Culber says he’ll allow it, but only if Stamets can spell the phrase, “My partner brought me out of a coma and all I got was this lousy T-shirt!” Stamets’ brain is all “scrambled”, of course, and he can’t do it.
Cut to Culber attending to Stamets in the cellular regeneration chamber, and he actually is trying to spell out that dumb phrase. He thinks he got it right, but Culber corrects him that “T-shirt has a hyphen”. He gives him an injection for the pain and kisses him and tells him, “It’s good to have you alive.”
Meanwhile, Detmer is in Sickbay looking stunned at all the casualties. Dr. Pollard, who we learned late last season may or may not be Chief Medical Officer, patches up Detmer’s wounds with an insta-healing wand and tries to send her on her way. But Detmer continues to stand there looking shellshocked for a while. Oh good, I can’t wait to see the surely satisfying payoff to the There’s Something Wrong with Detmer four-episode story arc.
We also get a shot of Security Chief Nhan in Sickbay looking concerned about Detmer. I guess she also survived, despite completely disappearing from the season finale after the big fight scene with Control-Leland.
We next see Nhan in Saru’s ready room, along with Georgiou and Tilly. Georgiou complains that “what’s-his-name” isn’t fixing the transtator fast enough (see? Even she can’t remember the names of the Nameless Bridge Crew) so they still can’t contact Poochie. But Tilly reiterates they don’t have enough rubindium to repair the thing. However, they might be able to get some from a nearby settlement. Tilly says she’s got lots of information on this planet, but she doesn’t know which planet it is, to which Georgiou responds, “This is like reading an obituary backwards!” Huh? Tilly says she’s picked up fifty life signs in the settlement, and they even have warp-capable ships. But the very strange mystery is that she detects no signs of dilithium, which as we know from last episode is the result of the Burn making it all go boom.
Then Tilly starts getting flustered and stammering, just for the sake of allowing Georgiou to say, “Should we get the Command Training Manual, or can you find your own way to making a point?” Well, they sure seem dedicated to making this character as annoyingly unlikeable as possible.
Saru says he’ll lead an away mission to get the rubindium they need, but they have to conceal their presence as much as possible. Georgiou points out these aren’t “Kelpiens who have never seen a starship,” but Saru is concerned about polluting the timeline or something. He wants to “barter peacefully,” while Georgiou says that if it were up to her, she’d just go and take what they need. Saru says that’s why he’s bringing Tilly instead of her.
Georgiou thinks this is a bad idea, because Tilly has “as much psychic dominance as… a kitten.” Psychic dominance? Can she please just stop talking? This causes Tilly to yell out, “What the ffff…” before Saru stops her from cursing again.
Down in Engineering, some lowly ensign is scooping up Leland’s bloody remains and dumping them in a barrel. Stamets shows up and finds Jett Reno here, just waiting around to pair up with him. This gets him annoyed, because I guess there was some friction between these two last season that I barely remember. She also refers to the ensign as “Hazmat” until he says his name is Gene, to which Jett replies, “I’ve already forgotten that.” Lots of yukks on the starship Discovery!
Then it’s back to Saru and Tilly getting dressed up in the local wardrobe and walking out of the ship. They stroll through the Icelandic scenery and Tilly notices the big chunks of planet somehow hovering in the sky. She starts babbling about how strange the planet is: “No one’s ever had to say… what this is like, or what this feels like. It’s so weird!” Is everyone just going to babble nonstop in this episode?
She admits she’s only talking because she’s “scared”, but Saru tells her to keep talking. She wonders why Saru brought her on this mission, and he says this is their first encounter with people from this time period, and he needed someone more stable than Georgiou to make a good “first impression” on the future. For some reason, Tilly takes “less insane than the empress of the Terran Empire” as a huge compliment and gets a case of the sniffles.
Then they see an ominous looking guy in a dark cloak off in the distance, and Saru says, “First contact!”
Back on the ship, Nhan is talking to Georgiou as they walk to a turbolift. We learn that Discovery is not covered with normal ice, but rather “parasitic ice” that grows as the temperature drops, and when the sun goes down the whole ship will be “entombed”. Georgiou tells Nhan she could have stayed on the Enterprise. Nhan replies that she came along for the sake of Lt. Airiam, the half-robot woman who sacrificed herself for the ship last season, and Nhan thought sticking around would somehow “honor” that sacrifice. Georgiou continues to not mince words when she replies, “What an unbelievably shitty decision.” I’m all for a character being bluntly honest, but this is just douchebag behavior.
They exit the turbolift and run into Linus the Saurian, the rejected Orville character who sneezed all over a crewman last season. Georgiou sees his huge reptilian eyes, which seems to turn her on. She declares, “You must have an enormous visible spectrum,” and decides to go hang with him instead of Nhan.
Saru and Tilly are still following that evil looking guy, and soon end up in a Roger Dean album cover. The guy walks into an invisible portal that transports him away, and somehow, they know it takes him up to the settlement, which is built into a mountain.
They follow behind him and get teleported to what’s basically the futuristic version of a saloon from an old western, complete with swinging doors at the entrance. They enter in slow-mo, to western movie-like pan flutes and rattles on the soundtrack, and they notice that all the saloon workers and patrons have ray guns tucked into their coats. They pull out their guns and Saru and Tilly put their hands up. Saru introduces both of them by name and Tilly mutters, “My name lacks authority.” How much more of this total nonsense will we have to endure?
The aliens don’t believe they’re really Starfleet, so Tilly quotes a Starfleet regulation about the way an officer should behave, but she’s having a hard time following it right now because she’s scared, so they lower their weapons. The lead guy says his name is Kal, and he knew one day Starfleet would come to help them. He says this planet has no proper name, but they call it “The Colony”, and a lot of them are from Coridan. Coridan was the planet asking to be admitted to the Federation in the TOS episode “Journey to Babel”. Also, we saw some of the planet’s inhabitants on Enterprise and it looks like they didn’t change the design of the species makeup very much since then (making me wonder why they radically altered the Klingons for this show, but let’s not get into that again).
Another Coridan guy is worried that “Zareh” has tracked the strangers here and their presence will only cause trouble. But he changes his tune when Tilly says they have dilithium. Kal agrees to fix their broken communications device in exchange for all the dilithium they can get.
Back on the ship, we get Jett and Stamets teaming up to fix something in a Jeffries tube. Stamets is obviously not fully healed yet, but Jett can’t go into the tube because she supposedly hurt her back in the crash. She gives him a big lecture about admitting that he’s not up to this right now, and how they should get Nilsson (Airiam’s replacement, somehow played by the same actress) to climb up there instead, but Stamets ignores her and does it himself.
In the saloon, Kal is examining the transtator, while marveling at how old the device is. Tilly is amazed by the magic wands and metallic particles he’s using to create an exact replica of the thing. He says it’s just “programmable matter”, which is the same thing the instrument panels on Book’s ship are made of. He’s dumbfounded that Tilly doesn’t know anything about it.
He then says he’s lucky he had a diagram of an old transtator handy, and Tilly replies, “Can’t bake a peach pie with a gazpacho recipe!” And this is something her grandma used to say. Was her grandma suffering from dementia at the time? Kal wonders if he’s “Starfleet material”, and if Tilly is, anyone is.
Saru asks the other Coridan guy about this “Zareh” person, and why they’re so scared of him. He explains Zareh is their courier (last episode, Book also described himself as a courier), and they totally depend on him for survival. Saru realizes Zareh is exploiting this settlement, and wonders why the Federation hasn’t intervened, and the other guy is confused.
And who should arrive at this very moment but Zareh himself and his gang? And this is a different look for Jake Weber, best known for playing Patricia Arquette’s husband on Medium. He’s our outlaw villain for the episode, and his boots even jingle-jangle like he’s wearing spurs as he walks through the swinging doors. He already knows Saru and Tilly are from the ship that just crashed, and he doesn’t buy their story about being “adrift” for a long time, because he tracked some strange readings just before they appeared.
He finds the transtator that Tilly is hiding behind her back, saying it could have easily been fixed with “up-to-date tech”. But he knows they don’t have “up-to-date tech”, because they’re time travelers from the past. He gets angry at Kal for helping them, and shoots him with an energy weapon that burns through his chest and makes blue blood pour profusely out of his eyes and mouth. Kal falls to the ground quivering and Saru reaches for his phaser, but Zareh threatens to kill Tilly if he makes a move.
Back from break, Zareh is going through their stuff and talking about selling the parts on the “Tellarite Exchange”, while Other Coridan Guy covers up Kal’s body. Saru offers to make a deal: Zareh can keep these parts if he releases Tilly and “Os’Ir”, which I guess is Other Coridan Guy’s name, which nobody mentioned before now. Zareh and one of his thugs look Tilly over, and in a subtitled language, the thug talks about shaving her head and selling her hair, but Zareh says that bigger spoils await.
Saru doesn’t understand the language, and Zareh says that “even a V’Draysh captain” would know “Pidgin”. And “V’Draysh” is a future mangling of the word “Federation” previously used in the Short Trek episode “Calypso”, which means that pseudo-canon short might actually be part of the regular continuity now? Zareh swings his dick around some more in a scene that basically amounts to “Look at me, I am the captain now,” and he demands they take him to Discovery to get all the dilithium, but Saru refuses. Zareh warns that eventually, the parasitic ice will crush the ship and everyone inside.
There’s a brief interlude on the ship where Stamets is in the Jeffries tube and Reno is watching his progress via video link. Nhan shows up looking for Georgiou, and it seems the point of this scene is let us know that Georgiou has disappeared, and where could she have gone, I wonder?
Back to Saru and Zareh, who are now haggling over how much dilithium Saru will give them. Huh? Isn’t Zareh the one with all the guns? Why doesn’t he just demand all of it? Zareh decides that Tilly should be the one to go back and get the dilithium, but he warns her to be back before dark, because the parasitic ice can be deadly, and he’s even seen it get into someone’s throat. He then calls her “sweetheart”, which is what really gets under her skin.
Back on the ship, there’s more of this endlessly fascinating subplot with Stamets crawling around a Jeffries tube and Jett watching on video. Lt. Nilsson shows up to see if she can be of any help, and Jett sarcastically says no, because they’re at “the ne plus ultra of personal satisfaction”. Is this stuff supposed to be funny or… what? This dialogue is making Lower Decks look gut-bustingly hilarious in retrospect. Regardless, something in the Jeffries tube explodes, or maybe the parasitic ice is crushing the hull, or something. All I can really tell is that Stamets starts bleeding again.
Back at the saloon, Zareh’s men have found Georgiou wandering around outside. Zareh laughs at this “one-woman tactical response” and orders his men to shoot her. But she warns Zareh’s thugs that their boss is putting them in grave danger, because Zareh’s “competitors”, which she couldn’t possibly know anything about, must have also seen Discovery crash on this planet, and they must surely be on their way here too. She also remarks that she’s going to “enjoy this new world. If this idiot can run a settlement, imagine what I can do in my sleep!”
Zareh shoots her, but for some reason he’s set his energy weapon to stun. It seems he doesn’t want to kill her right away, and instead wants her death to be “real slow”.
Predictably, a big martial arts fight breaks out. Saru jumps in, and at one point he makes use of those bony darts he can now shoot out of his head, as revealed last season.
Lots of bones get broken, and Georgiou snaps necks and grabs a gun and starts shooting, and eventually the only ones left standing are Zareh and our heroes. Saru stops her from killing Zareh, by saying it’s not the Starfleet way. Their argument is interrupted when Tilly notices that the sun is going down, and soon Discovery will be crushed by ice.
Back on the ship, Stamets is still stuck in the tube. So right about now they should be calling in somebody who can crawl into the Jeffries tube and cut him free, right? Nope, instead Reno calls Culber to Engineering, who just yells at Stamets for being in there, and then gives him a supposed pep talk that ends with, “I need you out of there alive, so I can kill you!” Jett tells him to use his “multi-tool” to open a compartment, then he has to grab a whooziwhatsis and pull out the Whatever Circuit and replace it. He finishes and all the lights in the ship come back on. Wait, all the power to the ship was dependent on this one compartment and some SATA cables?
Jett congratulates Stamets, calling him “Bobcat”. When Culber asks what the deal is with the nickname, she replies, “I don’t know, I’m on drugs.” Presumably she means pain medication for her back, but something more illicit is certainly possible.
Back at the saloon, Saru is dressing Georgiou down over how she just killed a bunch of people. Then Zareh starts to threatens Os’Ir, saying if he helps the Starfleet people he’ll make sure he pays for it. This gets cut short when Tilly smashes a beer bottle over his head and says, “Sorry, sweetheart.”
Saru says he’s the acting captain and demands Georgiou’s weapon, which she points at his head before handing it over. Os’Ir talks about how his dead friend Kal always knew the Federation would come and save them, and that sure worked out well for him. Saru promises to give them the dilithium they need, then says they’ll turn Zareh over to him for whatever justice he has in mind.
Os’Ir decides to make Zareh go outside where he won’t survive the night, which I guess is revenge for him trying to make Tilly do the same, because Tilly even gives him her backpack. Georgiou caps things off by promising to rip Zareh’s throat out if he ever comes back to this settlement, and he leaves with his tail between his legs. Os’Ir then reveals he had a personal transporter all along, which will allow them to safely get back to their ship.
Back on the Discovery, Bryce puts the new transtator in, and the ship is good to go. On the bridge, they all give status reports about how the ship’s sensors are at 73% of whatever, and so on. But when they get around to Detmer, she’s still lost in thought and their voices are muffled. She finally responds that they may not have enough power to lift off, but Saru says they have to risk it. Discovery tries to break out of the ice but it’s not happening. They detect a big “enemy vessel” above them, and Georgiou says Zareh’s friends must have arrived. Everybody starts panicking and Detmer seems to be in the midst of a full-blown breakdown.
Discovery gets hit with a tractor beam and pulled up out of the ice. Saru is informed the ship is hailing them, and also phasers are online and ready to fire. Unsurprisingly, Saru makes the decision to open a channel instead of firing on them, which Georgiou looks visibly disappointed by.
The channel is open… and its Michael Burnham! With long hair! She’s bathed in heavenly light as she tells the crew she’s been looking for them for so long, and everyone holds back tears of joy.
She says she arrived in the future a year ago, and she’s been looking for them the whole time, and everyone looks at each other like she just told them she’s been hanging around for 20 years or something. Cut to black.
This was another low-key, by-the-numbers episode; With these first two episodes, I can see how they’re playing on how Star Trek was originally envisioned as a sci-fi spin on westerns, and the plot of this episode is a pretty obvious riff on the western trope of a frontier town being terrorized by a gang of outlaws. But after last week’s cliched outing, I was really hoping for something a little fresher and more original, and maybe learning something substantial about life in the 32nd Century, which didn’t happen here.
The best I can tell, the theme of this episode is that the crew has to stick to their Starfleet ideals even in this scary new future, as embodied by Saru and Georgiou arguing about playing by the rules versus doing things the Terran Empire way. But then Saru’s by-the-book approach almost gets everyone killed, and it’s only Georgiou giving it to the bad guys with both barrels that saves the day. And when Saru takes the very high-minded Federation approach of turning Zarah over to the locals, they decide to leave him outside to die in the cold. It kind of undercuts the notion that what we just witnessed was some sort of victory for the “Starfleet way”.
And making the episode all the more muddled were the dumb antics on the ship involving Nahn, and Linus, and especially Jett and Stamets. Most of the dialogue was so off the wall that I have to wonder if the writers have ever heard another human speak. Tig Notaro and Michelle Yeoh both give particularly awkward performances, but everyone comes off as uncomfortable with their lines and I don’t think there are any actors on the planet talented enough to deliver this bizarre dialogue in a convincing way.
Next time: Discovery goes back to Earth, but gets attacked when they try to approach. And then Tilly becomes a literal tree-hugger.