Mar 9, 2021
Star Trek: Discovery “Saints of Imperfection”
Previously: Mirror Georgiou recruited Voq/Tyler AKA Vyler into Section 31. Lt. Spock was wanted for the murder of his doctors. Tilly started to see the ghost of her junior high classmate May, who turned out to be a “multidimensional fungal parasite” from the mycelial network who somehow dragged Tilly into a cocoon, whereupon she disappeared.
This episode is bookended with more slowly-delivered pretentious speeches from Michael Burnham. I can appreciate a Star Trek series wanting to eschew the usual captain’s log entries, which on other shows became a dumping ground for clumsy exposition, but these monologues are, well… very hard to pay attention to. This one starts with “Words define who we are…” and I couldn’t tell you what she says next because I completely zone out. But judging by the rest of the episode, I don’t think I missed much.
As Burnham’s monologue concludes, she and Pike walk out onto the bridge in slow-mo, which then snaps back to normal motion as Detmer reports she’s picked up Spock’s shuttle heading into a nebula. They intercept the shuttle, but there’s no response, and Burnham warns they’ll lose Spock if he makes it into the nebula. So Pike orders some torpedoes fired in the shuttle’s vicinity to disable it, and then has the craft tractored into a shuttle bay.
In the shuttle bay, we get Spock Fake-Out Moment #1,356 as the shuttle’s doors open, and instead of Spock stepping out, it’s Mirror Georgiou. So I guess she’s basically everywhere. We learn Pike was close friends with the prime universe Georgiou, but he’s mystified when this Georgiou is all catty and sarcastic and evasive. He figures out she’s on a “classified mission”, and she shows off her Section 31 black badge. She says she’s been tasked with hunting down Spock because he’s wanted for murder, but by the time she found his shuttle he was already gone.
In Pike’s ready room, they get a holographic call from that guy Leland, who’s the head of Section 31, and he too is old friends with Pike. While Georgiou randomly eats an apple, Leland says he’s coming to pick her up, and also send over a Section 31 “liaison” to work with Discovery’s crew as they track down Spock. One guess who that’ll be.
In the spore room, Stamets tells Burnham that he’s convinced Tilly is still alive. After a lot of technobabble that pointlessly namedrops Antoine Lavoisier and the law of conservation of mass, they determine that the cocoon is really an “organic transporter”, and Tilly has been taken to the mycelial network.
Sure enough, Tilly wakes up in another cocoon inside the network, which once again looks a lot like Pandora. May shows up, still in her Starfleet uniform, to explain she brought Tilly here to help find a “monster” that’s destroying her species. So why was she so intent on finding Stamets in previous episodes?
Tilly is then surrounded by glowing spores which are other members of May’s species. But as soon as they touch her hand, they start burning her skin. May shoos them away, explaining the JahSepp try to break down all matter that enters the mycelial network, which just might be important later.
Back on Discovery, Pike tells Burnham that the Section 31 liaison is waiting to see her, and of course, it’s Vyler. Pike is very confused about this guy, who used to be the ship’s security chief, but then killed a doctor, then left to serve the Klingon chancellor, and is now doing black ops for Starfleet. Okay, I guess when he puts it that way, it does seem a tiny bit odd.
Burnham sits down with Vyler for the first time since he left to be with L’Rell. He can’t say what’s happened to him, because it’s “classified”, but the gist is he can never return to the Klingon homeworld. Also, Vyler is being watched by Nhan, the security officer from the Enterprise who is apparently the Discovery’s new chief of security. And between Vyler and Cmdr. Landry from last season, I’d be plenty nervous if I were Nhan, considering the high level of turnover in this position.
On the bridge, Stamets explains to the crew that Tilly is trapped in the mycelial network, and Discovery can rescue her by doing a “partial jump” which will leave the ship half inside and half outside of the network. But once they’re inside, the mycelia will start eating through the hull, so they’ll only have an hour to rescue Tilly. Also, if anybody gets near places where normal space and mycelial space intersect, they’ll end up all “twisted” like the crew of the USS Glenn way back at the start of season one.
Pike agrees to the plan and opens a ship-wide channel to give a speech letting everyone know that they’re not going to leave Ensign Tilly behind, and he orders the whole crew to make their way to “designated safe zones”. In the spore room, Stamets gets into the spore chamber, which is actually called the “reaction cube” (who knew?), and explains to Burnham that this is the only place where they’ll be able to safely cross between normal space and mycelial space. Then the Discovery does a partial jump, ending up submerged halfway in a giant cosmic blue wave.
Meanwhile, in the mycelial network, Tilly looks up at the “sky” and sees Discovery’s saucer. She and May are able to walk up a hill or something and climb onto the saucer, and Tilly promises May that she’ll help her find the monster, and even shows her what a pinky swear is.
On the ship, it’s all dark and purple and there’s no sign of anyone. May says the monster must be aboard the ship, so Tilly grabs a phaser rifle. Eventually, they’re found by Stamets and Burnham, and then they hear screams and the whole group goes looking for the monster. When they finally find it, the monster turns out to be Dr. Hugh Culber, previously killed by Vyler, and now alive and looking like a homeless guy.
It turns out Culber wasn’t trying to hurt the JahSepp, but rather, he was covering his body in a toxin to prevent them from burning his skin. Stamets flashes back to that time last season when he ended up with cloudy eyes and was floating in and out of the mycelial network, and concludes that Culber must have passed through him to end up in the network. Okay, sure. But presumably, they buried the body of Dr. Culber in normal space, so I guess this is some sort of clone?
On the bridge, the mycelial wave is penetrating more of the ship, and it finally reaches the bridge. Everyone is forced to one side of the bridge to escape from the encroaching CGI.
Tyler taps his Section 31 badge, which turns out to be a communicator—I guess Section 31 are early adopters, and this tech will filter down to the rest of the fleet by the TNG era—and contacts Leland for assistance. It seems the Section 31 ship has been nearby the whole time, holographically camouflaged as an asteroid. Leland’s ship trains its tractor beams on Discovery, which some way or another buys them more time to rescue Tilly.
In the spore room, everyone gets back to the reaction cube, but Culber can’t pass back into normal space; his hand vanishes when he reaches through the barrier. May starts to explain that his body is made up of mycelial matter, but when pressed on the subject, it seems she understands all of this about as well as I do. They then come up with a technobabble plan to add human DNA to the cocoon, which will allow Culber to pass back into the normal universe, and it all makes no sense whatsoever.
May is sad, because if they do this they’ll lose the cocoon, which means she’ll have no way to keep in touch with her new best friend Tilly. But Tilly promises they’ll meet again, and May even makes her waste precious time doing the pinky swear again.
They make it back, and Discovery jumps out of the mycelial network. In the spore room, they’re all staring at the cocoon as it suddenly dissolves into the nude form of Dr. Culber. Though, this brief bit of nudity it isn’t really a first for the franchise; it’s about on par with naked Picard in the “four lights” torture scene or naked Q hovering over the bridge in “Deja Q”. Stamets embraces the reborn Culber, and it seems Hugh also got a shave and a haircut on his way back to normal space.
With the crisis over, Pike pays a visit to the Section 31 ship to talk to Leland, where he also encounters Admiral Cornwell, who I don’t think we’ve seen since she went all genocidal on the Klingons back in the season finale. She tells Pike and Leland that despite their differences, they’ll have to work together to find Spock, because he’s their only connection to the signals. Oh yeah, the signals, those things that were apparently such an imminent threat to all life in the galaxy that nobody’s mentioned them for two episodes.
Cornwell also reports that they ran an analysis near the site of one of those signals, and found signs of tachyon radiation. Which means we’re about to get some time travel hijinks on this show, as if things weren’t already confusing enough. Leland apologizes to Pike for… something, and then we find out Vyler will be serving as liaison on Discovery for the foreseeable future.
There’s closing narration from Burnham that I again can’t pay any attention to, as Burnham goes to comfort Tilly, who’s all weepy over… something. Then Burnham walks onto the bridge in slow-mo again, and exchanges meaningful looks with Tyler. Wow, seems just like old times, huh?
And hey, perfect timing for Vyler to come aboard again, seeing as how he now has an opportunity to kill Culber for a second time. Just as before, it seems everyone’s decided that Vyler is “really” Ash Tyler, and the murderous presence of Voq is completely gone and therefore unimportant.
Thanks to the psychedelic trees and jumping between realities and visiting with multiple ghosts made up of magical spores, this was quite the acid trip of an episode. I suppose an episode that leaves you with a “what the holy hell did I just watch” feeling is better than another rote TNG-lite episode, but I still don’t know if that makes it any good.
May’s motivations keep shifting from episode to episode, and the same applies to the members of Section 31. Their goals are probably intentionally murky, but I’m sure it’ll eventually become obvious that those are being made up on the fly, too. So this episode was really just a lot of light and noise and fury to resurrect Dr. Culber, though it remains to be seen if there was a good reason for bringing him back, or if the writers simply didn’t want to be seen using Star Trek’s first male same-sex couple as an excuse to stuff one of them in a refrigerator.
And now Culber is joining a growing list of characters on this show like Vyler and Mirror Georgiou who have impossibly convoluted backstories. The show seems to be going down the road of mistaking complexity for depth, which is no surprise, considering the show is executive produced by Alex Kurtzman, who took the movie franchise in the same direction. We’re getting to the point where you have to know massive amounts of backstory to understand this show, and even then it’ll be a struggle sometimes, particularly when it comes to all the endless technobabble.
Next up: A Saru-centered episode, as the Discovery returns to his home planet to have an encounter with the Ba’ul, who appear to be creatures with black skin and glowing red eyes who drip oil all over the place. I wonder if they’re evil.