Aug 2, 2021
Star Trek: Discovery “Such Sweet Sorrow”
Previously: Pike got a time crystal from the Klingons on Boreth, but paid the price by getting a glimpse of some really bad things in store for him. Control took over Burnham’s old friend Gant, which tried and failed to “restructure” her, and everyone learned that Control can take over people as well as ships. Discovery was then surrounded by Control-operated Section 31 ships and was totally outgunned, so the only solution was to destroy the ship.
Also in the previouslies are a few clips from “Runaway”, the Short Treks episode where Po, would-be Queen of Xahea and scientific genius extraordinaire, stowed away on Discovery and became friends with Tilly. So that rather clumsy and underwhelming mini-episode is now retroactively part of this season’s arc.
Remember my prediction last week that this episode would be a big, empty action spectacle? It turns out that’s next week; this week is all about the setup. So basically, last week’s cliffhanger ending was all bait and switch, leading us to believe a big battle was imminent, when in reality they have enough time to evacuate the ship, say 7 or 8 tender farewells, check out the Enterprise, build a new Red Angel suit, and harness the power of a supernova all before getting to the battle. Yes, all that happens and more this week, in what still turns out to be one of the more talky episodes of the series.
Sarek is meditating on a Vulcan beach as Amanda brings him a big steaming bowl of… dry ice. I’m shocked she doesn’t say it’s plomeek soup, because this show usually never misses a chance at TOS fanwank. Suddenly, Sarek gasps and says, “Michael…” This is due to Sarek sharing his katra with Burnham when she was young, in case you’re wondering why he’s only sensing danger in regards to Burnham and not his flesh and blood son.
Burnham’s voiceover delivers an entry from her log—yeah, she’s got enough time to record a personal log entry while Discovery is being evacuated—where she explains the plan is to destroy the ship, and we see both Tilly and Saru gathering up sentimental items from their quarters. Burnham’s VO says, “This is actually happening! Yet somehow, I still can’t believe it,” which is something I often find myself saying while watching this show.
She mentions that Control has “infiltrated” local subspace relays, which is to explain away why they can’t just contact Starfleet to send backup. But at the end of last week’s episode, Pike was able to contact the Enterprise, so I’m not sure what to make of this.
Cut to a shot of Discovery floating next to the Enterprise, and for pretty much the entire episode, every shot of the Enterprise is accompanied by subtle TOS fanfare callbacks. On the bridge of Discovery, Detmer gets the ship in position to initiate the “docking sequence”, and in a fairly ridiculous moment, several “evacuation corridors” shoot out of Discovery and attach to Enterprise, and we’re to believe that people can just walk from one Starfleet ship onto another. I’ve seen a lot of silly bits of tech in this franchise, but this is one of the few that actually made me say out loud, “oh, come on.”
We watch more of the cast evacuate. Culber gives Sickbay one last look, while Stamets turns out the lights in the spore chamber. Burnham’s VO reminds us of how they have a time crystal, and how her mother was trying to stop Control from getting the Sphere data. She adds, “All these questions without answers,” which is yet another thing I often found myself saying while watching this season.
Burnham’s in a room with the time crystal, and Pike tells her to pack it up and get it over to the Enterprise. But as soon as Pike leaves, she puts her hands on it, and apparently time crystals are now like the Orbs from Deep Space Nine, because as soon as she touches it, she gets a glimpse of the future. In the vision, the whole crew is back on Discovery, and they’re under attack by Control-Leland, but for now all she gets are quick flashes.
On the bridge, Pike and Saru trigger the auto-destruct, which here only involves their handprints, so we thankfully don’t have to endure ten minutes of them reciting random numbers and Greek letters. They then stroll on over to the Enterprise in one of those evacuation corridors, and Pike smiles at the Discovery crew mixing and mingling with the Enterprise crew.
Pike steps onto the bridge, and I’m sure the hardcore Star Trek geeks are having seizures over this scene, because the Enterprise bridge here looks virtually nothing like the Enterprise bridge on TOS. There are small visual references here and there to the original design, but it’s much more in line with the look of the Discovery, which is fine by me. For some reason, some fans think it’s a huge cop-out to not use exact replicas of sets built in the mid-1960s, which would just look ridiculous beside this show’s usual aesthetic.
Admiral Cornwell turns over the captain’s chair to Pike, and Rebecca Romijn as Number One greets him, and we see various other members of the Enterprise bridge crew who remain nameless, with the exception of “Lt. Amin” at the helm.
Georgiou requests permission to come aboard, primarily so she can react with disgust at everything that happens in this episode, like when she steps onto the bridge and says, “Orange? Really? Eww.” To me the décor looks red, but we already know humans from the Mirror Universe are more sensitive to light, so maybe they see colors differently too?
Everybody gets ready to respectfully watch as Discovery self-destructs. But the ship doesn’t blow up. The computer says “auto destruct failure”. Pike fires photon torpedoes, but Discovery’s shields have been activated. They figure out that the Sphere data is “protecting itself”, and I can only conclude that this “data” is basically now an AI that’s taken over the ship. And they’re worried about Control why, exactly?
Burnham suddenly gets a more detailed future vision, where she’s on Discovery, which is taking a beating from the Section 31 ships. Consoles are exploding, and as per Star Trek tradition, they’re full of rocks. They get boarded by Control-Leland, who walks onto the bridge and phasers everybody in sight. The whole cast quickly dies before our eyes, and the only one who even tries to put up a fight is Burnham, but she’s not fast enough and Leland shoots her in the head.
Burnham snaps out of the vision, and tells Pike not to fire more photon torpedoes, which seems to have some connection to what she saw in her vision. She insists it won’t work, and they all believe her, even though she doesn’t offer any explanation. Number One says they only have an hour before Control-Leland arrives, and they talk about how they can’t delete the Sphere data, they can’t destroy it, and for some reason Discovery can’t just spore jump away. So Burnham comes up with the only possible answer: They have to use the time crystal to send Discovery… to the future!
In the Enterprise ready room, they discuss how to accomplish this, and Saru says they can build another time travel suit just like Mama Burnham’s Red Angel suit. And apparently, they can do this in the hour they have left before Control-Leland arrives. It’s that easy, huh?
Well, there’s a hitch: the suit was coded to Mama Burnham’s DNA, meaning the only person who will be able to use the suit is Burnham. She says she learned how to use the suit from watching her mother’s mission logs, so she’ll be able to open up a wormhole to the future, and then they can put Discovery on “auto-pilot” and have the ship follow her there. Everyone decides that Burnham is the one who’s been sending the signals, so after taking all that time to establish that the Red Angel was not Burnham, it seems Burnham is now back to being the Red Angel again. Or the “Signal Generator Angel”, which appears to be a separate entity from the Red Angel, though I’m pretty sure in the first few episodes of this season they were the same thing.
However, they’ll need the equivalent of a supernova to power the suit, and there’s a funny bit where Georgiou suggests firing an “antimatter core” into a star to create a supernova. This idea is shot down due to how it would, you know, obliterate all life in the immediate vicinity.
Instead, another signal appears right on cue to provide the answer. This time, it’s above the planet Xahea, which was previously mentioned in “Runaway”, and as soon as Tilly hears the planet’s name, she starts babbling about her good friend Po, who’s a genius, and has also figured out a way to recrystallize dilithium. Everyone’s surprised to hear all this stuff, so apparently Tilly never bothered to tell any of her superior officers about an alien stowing away on Discovery, or even that said alien had access to technology that could provide Starfleet with limitless energy.
Pike says they’re all going back to Discovery so they can spore-jump to Xahea. The Enterprise will warp there the old-fashioned way, and Pike tells his crew to be ready for combat. Number One says she already took the liberty of getting their “new experimental tactical flyers” ready, so you can expect to see those next episode. And she did this because she was “assuming the shit would hit the fan.” Wow, no wonder Pike in “The Cage” couldn’t get used to women on the bridge, if they’ve all got mouths on them like this one.
After they make the spore jump to Xahea, Culber visits Stamets in Engineering. Culber says that once this is over, he’ll be permanently joining the Enterprise crew, while Stamets says he’s giving more thought to taking that position at the Vulcan Science Academy that was briefly mentioned earlier this season. So it seems they’ve decided that moving on is best for both of them. And credit where credit is due, at least this ended up as a simple story about the end of a relationship, and not some stupid horror-movie thing where Culber turned out to be an evil clone from the mycelial network, which is where I originally thought this was headed.
In the transporter room, Tilly is still not shutting up about her cool friend Po, and she’s even got a bowl of spumoni at the ready, because Po loves spumoni. And when Po beams aboard she immediately squeals and runs to hug Tilly and ugh, this is all so cringey.
Pike then takes Po to see the time crystal, and for some reason the whole damn cast is in here to meet Po, including Spock, Saru, Jett Reno, and Georgiou. And they all instantly take a liking to her, and after Po writes out some calculations in the air with her spumoni spoon, she figures out how to replicate the energy of a supernova to power the time crystal. Just like that! So much cringe. Burnham gets a lot of heat for allegedly being a Mary Sue, but she’s not one-tenth, or even one-thousandth the Mary Sue that Po is in this episode.
So, Po can power the crystal, which will power the time travel suit, but there’s a couple of catches: First, it’ll take out the spore drive, so they won’t be able to use it in their battle with Control-Leland, but I’m not sure why that matters, since they’ve told us repeatedly that jumping away is not an option. Second, the crystal will burn out quickly, meaning that Burnham can take Discovery into the future, but she won’t be able to come back.
Burnham’s on the bridge breaking the news to everyone. Her plan is to somehow meet up with her mom at the “anchor point” on Terralysium, where I guess they’ll peacefully live out the rest of their days. Vyler thinks this is an idiotic plan, but Burnham tells him things are supposed to unfold this way, and adds, “Trust the mystery.”
Pike calls for “eyes up for Commander Burnham”, and everyone stands at attention to salute her bravery. She gives a farewell speech and tells everyone she loves them. And this is a nice, emotional scene, but it’s undercut by how it’s highly unlikely Burnham is going to be stuck in the future permanently, or for any extended length of time.
In Engineering, Po has already finished building her supernova-generator. But it seems she’s going to remain on the ship to keep making us cringe. Her only explanation is that she can’t see herself going back to her planet to “wave a hanky from the throne” as Discovery warps away.
Burnham is walking through a corridor when Sarek and Amanda randomly show up. It seems they were able to track down Discovery due to Sarek and Burnham’s katra-linkup. Hmm. If that’s the case, then why didn’t the ambassador take a few minutes before leaving Vulcan to call up Starfleet and request a few more starships accompany him as backup?
Burnham tells them that she’s going into the future for good, and says goodbye to them, and she and Amanda get all teary. Burnham thanks them for taking her in when she was young, and Sarek asks for forgiveness for all his failings as a parent. And then they both leave the ship. It’s a nice scene, but this is slowly turning into an episode of This is Your Life as everybody who ever cared about Burnham drops in for a cameo appearance to say goodbye.
Burnham goes to her quarters to watch more mission logs from her mom and understand how to use the suit. Tilly is at the door, but she’s not here to say goodbye. They go into the corridor where Spock, Stamets, Jett Reno, Saru, Detmer, Owo, and even Nilsson are here to declare that they’re all staying on the ship. They’ve all decided that they’re going to let themselves get stranded in the future with Burnham, and Saru says this kind of sacrifice is what being in Starfleet is all about. Though, it’s unclear if everyone on the ship is onboard with this plan, or just the ten people currently in this group.
Everybody gets back to work, and Vyler pulls Burnham aside to tell her that he won’t be going into the future with her. His lame excuse is that he needs to stay behind with Section 31 and make sure something like Control never happens again. Sure, whatever, bro. They have a final kiss, which is followed by a montage of Saru, Tilly, Owo, Detmer, and Stamets all recording goodbye messages for their families. On the bridge, Pike’s back in his gold Enterprise uniform, and is ready to go back to his own ship. He says that Discovery needs a new captain, and everybody looks at Saru, but he thinks they should worry about that later.
Pike then gives a big farewell speech about how exceptional they all are, and how he’ll miss every single one of them. And of course, he saves Burnham for last, and tells her he’s grateful to have been around to watch her “discover [her] heart”. He goes to leave, and everyone stands at attention again as Pike walks off the bridge. Hmm, two of these scenes in one episode, huh? Interesting choice.
Control-Leland is just a few minutes away, but Reno and Stamets and Tilly realize that the time crystal isn’t fully powered up yet. The only way to fully charge it is to remove the “cage” around the crystal, which will cause whoever’s in the room to see the future. Jett Reno volunteers to be exposed, and as soon as the others leave, she opens up the crystal and sees the same vision of the Discovery crew being killed by Control-Leland, which means this is apparently still destined to happen.
Meanwhile, Pike is beaming back to the Enterprise with Vyler, who says he’s got something important to do, and is leaving before the battle starts. I guess he’s got some other people to go bore to death. And Georgiou is the one operating the transporter for some reason, and just as they beam out, she says to Pike, “I’m Terran, by the way. From your Mirror Universe.” Okay, so she was the first one to say “Prime Universe” in franchise history, and now she’s the first one to say “Mirror Universe”, 50+ years after the Mirror Universe was first established. Is it possible Georgiou is like Deadpool, and is aware of being a Star Trek character?
As he beams out, Pike says, “What Mirror Universe?” But he winks, indicating he knew it was Mirror Georgiou all along. Okay, well, glad to see that plot thread got all wrapped up.
On the bridges of both ships, they see Control-Leland’s fleet of Section 31 ships warp into view. Everyone gears up for a fight, and Saru tells his crew to “prepare for battle!” And then… cut to black.
Despite the rather talky nature of the story, this was one of the better episodes of the season, as everyone said their farewells with the proper amount of emotion and gravitas. But again, the impact is somewhat lessened because you know there’s no way Discovery and its whole crew are going to stay in the future for good. There are rumors going around online that Discovery is changing its setting in season three to the 28th Century, or something like that, but I find that hard to believe. I could see an extended story arc in the future with the crew trying to figure out how to get back to their own time, but I can’t see it being a permanent change; it seems more like wishful thinking from Star Trek fans who hate this show and want it to be erased from the timeline.
Next up: It’s the big season finale, so now it’s time for the huge and ultimately empty spectacle we were promised last week. Enterprise and Discovery are out to protect Burnham long enough for her to make it into the future, and we see her floating through space in her Signal Generating Angel suit. Lots of explosions follow, along with Burnham passing through what looks like a black hole.