May 20, 2020
Star Trek: Discovery “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2”
Previously: Leland-Control and his Section 31 ships were coming for the Discovery and its Sphere data. They couldn’t delete the data or destroy the ship, so the only solution was to build a brand new Red Angel Suit (to be piloted by Michael Burnham) to send the ship and its crew into the future. That is, with the exception of Dr. Culber, who was staying behind on the Enterprise, and Vyler, who had other things to do. Another signal led them to Queen Po of Xahea, who made us cringe and then figured out how to power the Red Angel Suit, but only enough for a one-way trip. And then it was time for both ships to prepare for battle.
Pike and Saru continue to get their crews psyched up for the big battle. Both ships launch “squadrons” of shuttles to draw Section 31’s fire away from Burnham long enough for her to create her time wormhole. Soon, the space around Discovery and Enterprise is swarming with tiny spacecraft, and who knew that either ship could just spew out squadrons of shuttles to help with space battles?
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Down in Engineering, they’re putting the finishing touches on Burnham’s Red Angel suit, which is a process that mostly involves Stamets, Burnham, and Nhan yelling at junior officers for almost screwing the whole thing up. On the bridges, Detmer and Number One have a chat between ships, helmswoman-to-helmswoman, and we learn this version of Number One gets a bit salty when the person she’s talking to isn’t being clear. Saru joins the conversation, and there’s a split-screen view of all three of them, which I’m pretty sure is the first time this effect has ever been used on the show.
Finally, Control-Leland’s fleet arrives, and Leland hails the Discovery and demands the Sphere data, or else he’ll destroy them. Georgiou says they have 200 ships at the ready and Leland is outnumbered, so Leland says, “Count again.” And then all the Section 31 ships open up, releasing hundreds and hundreds of smaller drones, and everyone on both ships looks stunned.
The battle finally starts, and there’s plenty of phaser fire, and explosions, and hull breaches, and shields are getting knocked down to 86% and 82% and yadda yadda. And all I can think of right now is Roger Ebert reviewing Star Trek: Nemesis: “In movie after movie after movie I have to sit through sequences during which the captain is tersely informed that the front shield is down to 60 percent, or the back shield is down to 10 percent, or the side shield is leaking energy, and the captain tersely orders that power be shifted from the back to the sides or all put in the front, or whatever, and I’m thinking, life is too short to sit through 10 movies in which the power is shifted around on these shields.” That about sums up the ennui I’m experiencing while watching this battle.
In the midst of the fight, there’s time for Po to be all quirky and cute and stuff. She takes a shuttle out without authorization, and figures out that the only way to destroy the Section 31 ships is by having two ships attack them from both sides. And this never becomes important; it’s just a lame attempt to justify Po sticking around for the battle.
More explosions happen in space. On Discovery’s bridge, Georgiou says Leland is going to destroy them all. She suggests they “invite him aboard”, and I can’t tell if she’s being serious or if this is one of her increasingly unfathomable “jokes”, but either way, the idea gets shot down and never becomes important.
In a corridor, Burnham, Stamets, Spock, Reno, et al are rolling the new Red Angel Suit along on a gurney, like a dying patient being wheeled into the OR. In a confusing effects shot, some shrapnel or something crashes through a nearby window, and Stamets gets seriously wounded. He’s even making squishy noises like his clothes are soaked with blood, so you know it’s serious. Tilly and Nilsson take Stamets to Sickbay while everyone continues on.
More space battle shots follow. In Discovery’s shuttlebay, Spock and Burnham have the Red Angel Suit assembled and ready to go. Spock sticks the time crystal in the suit, which then wraps itself around Burnham like Iron Man’s armor. Spock says he’ll be piloting a shuttle to accompany her as she heads out to create the wormhole, and they give each other the Vulcan salute before they go.
Saru drops shields and Burnham takes a running leap out of the shuttlebay, and she’s now flying through space in yet another moment strongly reminiscent of Kirk and Khan “space skydiving” in Into Darkness. She flies through phaser blasts and explosions, and there’s so much CGI crammed onto the screen that I can barely tell what’s going on. But the Iron Man imitation continues with a HUD superimposed over Burnham’s face like she’s Tony Stark.
On the Discovery bridge, they detect that Control-Leland beamed aboard while the shields were down. He comes storming onto the bridge with guns blazing, and it’s just like Burnham’s vision from last week, except this time around, Leland only kills random redshirts. Owosekun is the only member of the regular cast who gets hit, but it’s predictably just a superficial wound.
Having achieved absolutely nothing, Control-Leland leaves the bridge and locks himself in an adjacent room to look for the Sphere data. Nhan and Georgiou work on breaking through the door, with Georgiou asking Nhan if she’d like to “join me in making Leland scream?” Nhan replies with the worst line of the episode: “Yum, yum.” Yum… yum. I’ll stay positive and say at least it’s not “Hamlet. Hell yeah.”
Burnham and Spock’s shuttle make it through the battle unscathed, where they land on… I guess it’s a piece of a ship’s hull that just happens to be floating around? Burnham pulls up a holographic screen in front of her and starts mashing buttons, but for some reason the suit isn’t allowing her to set a course into the future.
More space battles. A Section 31 ship launches what looks like a giant Juul e-cigarette, but which is actually a photon torpedo. The torpedo lodges itself in the Enterprise’s hull, but doesn’t detonate. Number One reports that they have just fifteen minutes before the thing blows up and kills them all.
Burnham sees this happen, and tells Spock this is just like her vision. And it sounds like this is the first time she’s telling anybody what she saw. She didn’t think it was worthwhile to warn Saru that Control-Leland was likely to storm the bridge? She didn’t think it would be useful to tell Pike that the Enterprise might end up with a photon torpedo jammed in its hull? Plus, Jett Reno supposedly had the same vision, meaning she didn’t warn anybody either. What was the point of those visions? It didn’t seem to inspire either character to try to prevent anything.
In the middle of this, Enterprise releases some chubby robots that float across the hull and perform repairs. I guess if you’ve always been wondering how the Enterprise gets fixed after weathering heavy damage, now you know. Number One tries to lower a blast door to seal off the rest of the ship from the photon torpedo, but she’s having no luck, so she and Admiral Cornwell head down to see if they can defuse the torpedo.
There’s another shot of the space battle, but in the middle of this one, the cavalry shows up. A giant Klingon “cleave ship” decloaks, piloted by Chancellor L’Rell with Vyler by her side. L’Rell contacts Pike to say that the Klingons are here to “fight for our future!” She tells her crew in Klingon that “Today is a good day to die!” and they all take up the cry with her. I guess this is where Vyler had to go before the battle started, and he was able to arrange for an entire Klingon fleet to get here in the 20 or 30 minutes since he left Discovery.
But wait, it gets dumber: A fleet of Ba’ul ships have also arrived, being piloted by the newly evolved Kelpiens, led by Saru’s sister Siranna. Siranna contacts Saru to tell him she intends to “fight like a Kelpien”, and then she commands her fleet to attack, addressing them as the “Warriors of Kaminar”. So in the space of about six weeks, they went from a completely agrarian, pre-industrial society to fierce space-bound warriors? Sure thing.
Spock is monitoring all this from his shuttlecraft, and he realizes this is the reason Burnham triggered/will trigger a signal over Kaminar: to prepare the Kelpiens for this moment. And that’s our belated explanation for why the Red Angel appeared on Kaminar and changed the course of an entire species’ evolution. It was so they could participate in one space battle. I guess just going back in time a week and telling Starfleet Command to send fifty ships to this location would have been too easy.
Spock then has the epiphany that all of Burnham’s signals are about putting things into place for their current situation, which I think most of us in the audience figured out weeks ago. There are flashbacks to everything that happened because of the signals: rescuing Jett Reno from an asteroid, getting the time crystal at Boreth, going to Xahea to pick up Po, and learning that Terralysium would be their “safe harbor” in the future. See? It’s all coming together. Well, it really isn’t, but we can pretend.
Burnham figures out why she can’t go into the future: it’s because this is the moment where she’s supposed to send the signals in the past. So what exactly is stopping her from traveling into the future? Does the Red Angel Suit “know” that she’s supposed to send the signals first?
On Discovery, Georgiou and Nhan finally break into the room where Control-Leland is trying to access the Sphere data. There’s more awful dialogue where Nhan calls him a “couple of batteries and a data core stuffed in a meat suit”, and Georgiou says he’s like “an AI sausage”. Alas, this only earns an “eww” from Nhan instead of another “yum yum”. Georgiou tells Leland that she’s the only one who knows where the Sphere data is (since when?), and then she and Nhan run out of the room. Clearly, they’re luring Leland into a trap, and somehow the sentient AI from centuries in the future can’t see it coming.
Stamets is just now being brought into Sickbay. What the hell? He got hit by shrapnel like 20 minutes ago. And showing up to treat him is… Dr. Culber. Yes, Hugh decided to stay on Discovery, because Stamets is his “home”, and they’re “family”, so wherever they go, “they go together”, and he’ll be accompanying the crew into the future after all. Holy crap, I think Ross and Rachel were less off-and-on than these two.
Back on that floating piece of hull, Burnham has her signal itinerary all programmed in. Just then, they get hit by… something glowy… which damages Spock’s shuttlecraft. Spock tells her to go, and so Burnham unfolds her Red Angel wings and floats off into space. Time stops and the battle freezes in front of her. She screams as a big black hole opens up and pulls her in.
Inside, it’s like Dave Bowman entering the monolith, as a stream of sparks flies at her in slow-mo. She emerges on the asteroid where the USS Hiawatha was found, with flashbacks to meeting Jett Reno from that episode, and Burnham sees herself with the flaming debris stuck in her leg. Then she gets pulled to Terralysium, with flashbacks to that episode, which include another shot of the Discovery pooping out an asteroid fragment.
Burnham’s visits into the past are then awkwardly broken up by more nonsense in the present, as Georgiou and Nhan fight Control-Leland in a corridor. The gravity suddenly gives out because reasons, but instead of the three floating around like they’re in zero-G, they roll around on the walls and ceiling. Clearly, the stunt-people are in a rotating room, just like Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding or that Lionel Richie video, though I’m assuming the real inspiration here was the hotel hallway fight in Inception. And as they tumble around the walls and ceiling, a lot of rocks are tumbling along with them. Again, I have to wonder where all these rocks are coming from on a spaceship.
Gravity comes back and Georgiou shoots Leland, and for some reason he has to stand there regenerating his face, which gives her time to run. And I have no idea what happens to Nhan after this; she gets knocked out in the corridor and we don’t see her again for the rest of the episode. I’ll just assume that Leland ate her.
On the Enterprise, Number One and Cornwell are having no luck disabling the torpedo. They only have five minutes until it blows up, so Pike stupidly wastes precious time switching places with Number One. Before he heads down, Pike says, “I’m giving you the conn, Una.” It sounds a lot like he’s saying “Anna”, and the subtitles are confused as well, but one of the writers confirmed that her name is supposed to be Una, just like in some of the tie-in novels.
Meanwhile, Burnham is still flying through the earlier episodes of the season. There’s a flashback to Kaminar, and Saru seeing the Red Angel. There’s another flashback to Boreth, and Pike getting the time crystal. Then she flashes back to arriving at Xahea, and Po beaming aboard. She returns to the present, and now she’s successfully able to plot a course to Terralysium, 930 years in the future. On Discovery, Detmer is not sure of how to find her, so Burnham says she’ll create the “sixth signal” to show them the way. And the whole concept of there being seven signals still makes no sense, but just re-read my recap of “Through the Valley of Shadows” because I’m not doing that rant again.
Pike is with Cornwell and the torpedo, and it seems there’s nothing he can do either. Cornwell volunteers to stay inside and pull down a blast door manually, which will kill her but save the ship. Pike wants to be the one to stay, because he’s already seen his future and he knows he doesn’t get killed here. But Cornwell warns him that if he’s wrong about that, everyone on the ship will die. Pike sees the wisdom in this, and so Cornwell pulls down the blast door and Pike watches through a window as she gets vaporized.
And now Pike is looking out into space, meaning the torpedo blew off a huge chunk of the ship but somehow couldn’t penetrate this one door. What the heck is this door made out of? It’s like that old joke about how they should build airplanes out of whatever substance they use to make the black boxes.
Burnham is about to take off into the future, but it seems Spock won’t be joining her, because of the damage to his shuttlecraft. They have a teary farewell scene (didn’t they already have like four of these already?) and Burnham promises to send one last signal—the seventh signal—once they get to the other side, to let Spock know they made it.
On Discovery, Georgiou lures Control-Leland inside the spore chamber. She then magnetizes the chamber, which causes Leland to dissolve into nanoprobes. Georgiou reports that Control has been neutralized, and yet, Discovery still has to go into the future. I guess it’s too late to back out of the plan now.
Burnham fires up the suit again, and flies off with trails of red energy behind her. She opens up the wormhole, and Saru says farewell to Pike, and Po gets one last cutesy moment, and Siranna watches them go while flashing back to happier times with her brother. Vyler watches them go and flashes back to his torrid love affair with Burnham. Spock, having beamed back onto the Enterprise, flashes back to being a kid and teaching Burnham the Vulcan salute.
Discovery enters the wormhole, with everyone on the bridge getting light trails behind them, which must be a reference to that weird scene in The Motion Picture where the Enterprise passes through a wormhole. Discovery disappears, and then a severely damaged Enterprise flies away.
Cut to San Francisco, Earth. At Starfleet Headquarters, Vyler and Pike and Spock and Number One are all being questioned by some faceless high-ranking Starfleet officer. They’re all claiming that the Discovery was destroyed, and they saw the ship blow up. And Number One gets salty again about being asked this question numerous times.
We learn Starfleet wants to make Vyler a permanent Section 31 officer, so I guess he’ll be a regular on that Section 31/Georgiou show that I’m still not looking forward to at all. And then Spock tells Faceless Starfleet Guy that “more radical steps” need to be taken to prevent another Control. In a big clue to where this show is headed next season, he thinks that everyone with knowledge of what happened should be “ordered to never speak of Discovery, her spore drive, or her crew again, under penalty of treason.” Hey, if you’re going to copy the ending of a Simpsons episode, why stop there? Why not make it under penalty of catapult?
The Enterprise is in Spacedock above Earth while Spock makes a personal log, saying it’s been 124 days since Discovery went through the wormhole. He meets up with Amanda while his voiceover tells us that both Sarek and Amanda have sworn to never speak Michael’s name again. Well, that’s one way of explaining why Spock doesn’t mention Michael on the other shows. I think most of us just assumed it was for the same reason he never mentioned Sybok, or told Kirk who is father is. In his quarters, Spock touches his beard, and then looks at his blue Starfleet uniform.
The next shot is clean-shaven Spock reporting to the bridge, and boy, does he look odd without the beard. After doing a double take, Number One reports that they’ve discovered an anomaly in the Beta Quadrant. Naturally, it’s the “seventh signal” that Spock has been waiting on. Pike then talks about a new moon that was just discovered and wants to go check it out, and Spock agrees: “Let us see what the future holds.”
Pike gives one last “Hit it,” and the camera pulls back from the bridge like the reverse of the opening shot of “The Cage”, and the Enterprise warps away. The closing credits play to the Discovery theme mixed with the TOS theme.
For me, this was a pretty dull episode. An hour of hundreds of spaceships going pew-pew at each other with no appreciable progress made on either side is mind-numbing. The fight between Georgiou and Nhan and Leland, other than the “Dancing on the Ceiling” bit, was boring and confusingly shot; were we really supposed to be on the edge of our seat wondering if Control would actually get that Sphere data at the last minute? And Pike and Cornwell and Number One standing around and staring at a photon torpedo was equally pointless. It seems like Cornwell’s sacrifice was only included for the sake of killing off a recurring character, which is de riguer for shows to do these days to give gravitas to their season finales. But I didn’t particularly care about Admiral Cornwell, and I certainly wasn’t in suspense over whether or not the Enterprise would get blown up.
And Michael flying back into the past as the Red Angel and re-experiencing all the plot points of the season? I think we all knew that’s how the season would end about two or three episodes in—and it makes the random “Burnham’s Mom is the Red Angel” revelation seem even more meaningless in retrospect. Burnham was the Red Angel all along, just like everyone predicted from the start. Nearly everything in this episode was a foregone conclusion, and the few unexpected moments (like the Kelpien Kavalry showing up to save the day) were just dumb and ridiculous.
As for this season of Discovery, I think I’ve made all my complaints pretty clear throughout these recaps, so I won’t go through them all again. I’ll just say that I was honestly hopeful this season would be better than the first, and it certainly seemed promising at the start, but things quickly fell apart around five or six episodes in, right around when Discovery’s showrunners were fired and replaced. I’m assuming the original showrunners had a much different idea of where the season would end up, because from that point forward, everything felt like the writers were just winging it and making things up as they went along. (Remember Ensign May and the JahSepp and how the spore drive was killing their species? Totally forgotten.)
The writers were clearly struggling to have earlier episodes make sense in light of later revelations, and failing miserably. I won’t get into all the plotholes this caused, partly because there’s no way I could even scratch the surface here, but mainly because they were really just the symptoms of an underlying condition. And that condition is called Mystery Box Syndrome, which often results in mediocre screenwriters adding complexity solely for the sake of complexity, with no deeper thought involved.
And finally, there’s the question of just what the next season will bring. I was pretty sure that season three would have Discovery trapped in the future for a few episodes until finally finding their way back to the 23rd Century, but that notion seems to have been disproven by this episode’s epilogue taking great pains to establish why no one ever talks about Michael Burnham or the Discovery or the spore drive in any later-occurring Star Trek show. It’s actually amazing to see a Star Trek series write itself (or at least, its first two seasons) out of continuity, but that appears to be what just happened. I dismissed all those rumors about Discovery changing its setting/time period as just wishful thinking from people who hate the show, but it’s looking like they were right all along.
But hey, at least the fan theories about Control being the origin of the Borg didn’t pan out. Small victories.
I thought I’d be signing off from Star Trek recaps at the end of this article for a good long while—at least until the Picard series premieres later this year—but it looks like CBS All Access will be making an effort to prevent mass cancellations this season, by airing new episodes of Short Treks sometime this spring. So join me for mini-recaps of those mini-episodes, whenever and whatever they may be.