Yippee-ki-yay, Michael Burnham: Star Trek: Discovery "There is a Tide..."
Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Tilly and Saru had a run-in with an evil courier named Zareh who hasn’t been seen since episode two. They turned him over to local authorities, who left him to die on a planet covered in killer ice. Ryn the Andorian was highly sought after by Osyraa, because he knew the Emerald Chain was running out of dilithium. Discovery located the source of the Burn, which was a spaceship that crashed on a whole planet of dilithium. Saru, Culber, and Adira ended up on that ship, while first officer Ensign Tilly was left in charge. Under her command, Osyraa easily took over Discovery and set a course for Federation headquarters and it was up to Book and Burnham to stop them.
Here we are, with just one more episode left to the season, and it really doesn’t feel that way. Honestly, I still feel like I’m waiting for the season to start. When they announced Discovery would be moving its setting to the far future, I had visions of a scrappy ship trying to rebuild the Federation against all odds; I didn’t imagine they’d find the already-formed Federation five episodes in, then proceed to go on one-off missions like almost every other Starfleet vessel in franchise history. This unfortunately seems to be the fate of most Star Trek shows from Voyager on: come up with an interesting premise, then run away from it as quickly as possible.
The episode opens on both the Viridian and the Discovery approaching Federation HQ, and Osyraa has set up a Trojan horse scheme where she’s making it look like Discovery is under attack from the Viridian (in some very Star Destroyer-opening-of-Star Wars-looking shots). She’s also making it look like Discovery’s comm systems are down, so they can’t respond to hails. Inside HQ, Vance sees the ships approaching, but he’s suspicious and not ready to let Discovery in just yet.
On Discovery, Osyraa is informed that the entire bridge crew have been taken to the ready room, while the rest of the crew is in the brig. Also, they’ve taken over the ship’s computer, but there’s one “small bit of code” they’re having trouble deleting. A henchwoman shows it to Osyraa, and it’s the Buster Keaton movie the whole crew was watching several episodes ago when the Sphere Data was becoming sentient and trying to bring them all together. Osyraa says to shut it off, but of course getting rid of the Sphere Data isn’t that simple; in fact, we cut to an instrument panel where Buster Keaton continues to watch over the goings on.
In the ready room, the bridge crew is getting roughed up by Osyraa’s goons. Tilly steps forward to say that they don’t need all the other hostages for “leverage”; they only need her, the captain. Enter her old friend Zareh, who scoffs at the notion of Tilly being captain. He brings up their previous encounter, and how she should’ve made sure she finished the job, while showing off his dead, frostbitten hand. He then totally mocks her, saying that due to her excellent leadership, it only took 12 minutes to take over the ship, whereas if Discovery had been in lesser hands, it might have taken ten. Hah! He tells his men that Osyraa doesn’t want any of the hostages harmed, naturally. Also, I should note they go almost the entire episode without anyone addressing Zareh by name, which is weird; I had to look online to remember his name.
Meanwhile, Burnham and Book are aboard his ship, morphing through what I would guess is the “transwarp tunnel” mentioned last episode. We see what makes it so dangerous, as the corridor is filled with huge debris they constantly have to dodge. His shields are down, but luckily, the computer says they’ll be reaching Federation HQ in… 90 seconds? How long did it take them to catch up with Discovery? Because it looks like both ships were able to reach HQ at almost the same time. Again, why does Osyraa even need the spore drive?
Inside HQ, Vance is warned that if they don’t let Discovery in, the ship will be crushed against their shields. He doesn’t want to lose Discovery, so he has no choice but to allow them in, but just as he gives the order, his people spot Book’s ship coming out of the tunnel.
On Book’s ship, Burnham tries to contact HQ to tell them it’s a trap, but communications are fried. Book warns that Osyraa did something just like this on “Benthos IV” (a reference to a Delta Quadrant planet mentioned in Voyager’s “Vis à Vis”) when she snuck past shields and destroyed the presidential palace. They’ve only got one option here, but before they put the plan into effect, Book makes sure Grudge is safe and secure in her cat bed.
Book aims his ship full speed at Discovery’s shuttlebay. They brace for impact and the ship crashes into the bay and everything bursts into flames, and I guess Discovery lowered shields to get into HQ, but isn’t there supposed to be a forcefield protecting the shuttlebay? How did they get past that? Also, there’s no reaction shot of Vance back at HQ learning that Book’s ship just rammed itself into Discovery, which you’d think would raise a huge red flag with him.
Back from credits, Discovery has been let inside Federation HQ. Osyraa is in Discovery’s corridor, wanting to know how a ship flew into her shuttlebay. Zareh says not to worry; they haven’t picked up any life signs from the wreckage, but his “regulators” are on the way there to take care of the situation. In other words, Zareh’s regulators: mount up!
Now Osyraa’s down in Engineering, where Stamets is in the spore chamber and still has the mind-control headband on. Also here is a bearded guy in a wheelchair. Osyraa exposits that his name is “Invigilator Aurellio” (he’s an exam proctor?) and he’s “the greatest scientist in three sectors”, and she’s confident he can replicate the spore drive’s functionality. Indeed, Aurellio has already figured out that Stamets is a conduit to the mycelial network.
There’s a personal relationship between these two, because Osyraa confides in him that she’s nervous and about to “take the gamble of my life”. But Aurellio reassures Osyraa that she’ll finally be the one to “free us all from the yoke of dilithium”. She then asks the computer to play Andorian opera while he works. And Aurellio is played by Kenneth Mitchell, who previously played Klingons like Kol and Tenavik on this series, and did some voices on Lower Decks. Earlier this year, he revealed he was diagnosed with ALS, which is why he’s in the wheelchair—it’s not just the Wheelchair Genius Guy trope, for once.
Inside the flaming wreckage of Book’s ship, Book gives Burnham an extra dose of radiation meds to clear up the lesion on her face. He also gives her a wristband that will conceal her location from sensors, but he only has one. He tells her to go find Stamets while he stays behind, because they’re expecting to find someone in the wreckage anyway. “Go save the day, Michael.” She always does. And then Burnham picks this moment to say she loves him for the first time, and he loves her too, and they kiss.
Back with Admiral Vance, he wonders why Osyraa would only bring one ship to launch an attack on HQ. Then suddenly the light bulb goes off in his head, and he realizes that Osyraa is not on the Viridian—she’s on Discovery. He orders all ships to high alert with weapons at the ready.
In the ready room, Zareh tosses Book in here, while of course roughing him up a little for good measure. Is there a movie/TV law that in hostage scenarios, the bad guys always have to throw all their hostages in the same room? They’re just begging for them to start plotting a way to break out. I mean, stick a few in the ready room, put a few in the mess hall, leave a few in the brig… this isn’t that hard.
In a corridor, we get a brief glimpse of one of the Emerald Chain goons, and it looks like he’s using a knife to try to steal badges from Discovery’s memorial wall. Not cool, dude. Michael shows up and takes him down, but he stabs her in the leg. She eventually chokes him out, then does some Lamaze breathing before pulling out the knife. She grabs his badge, but finds out his personal transporter isn’t functioning because reasons, so Burnham limps off.
At HQ, they hail Discovery, and a hologram of Osyraa appears. She introduces herself as “Minister Osyraa of the Emerald Chain” and says she’s here to talk, and she promises that Discovery’s crew is safe. She’s keeping the bridge crew on the ship, but the rest of the crew will be put on shuttlecrafts and returned to them. Vance says she should just let everyone go, but she needs “leverage”. And now I’m getting serious Battlefield Earth flashbacks where everyone would constantly go on and on about “leverage” without ever explaining who or what they wanted leverage for or against.
Cut to Burnham in a Jeffries tube, doing the old routine where she uses a phaser to cauterize her leg wound. She then uses the Emerald Chain guy’s badge to send a top-secret message to the planet Ni’Var AKA Vulcan. It’s a communique to her mom, explaining the whole situation, and how “I might not see you again until another distant future,” and blah blah blah, we all know those Romulan ninja nuns will come to the rescue next week, right? She hears comm chatter that Aurellio needs help taking the mind-control headband off Stamets, and heads off that way.
At Federation HQ, Osyraa beams in for the talks, and I have to ask, when did the actress become British? Her accent constantly shifts from British to American, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, and I’m totally confused, because Wikipedia says Janet Kidder is Canadian. On the plus side, it seems they’ve stopped using prosthetics on the Orions and gone back to the green body paint, because Osyraa’s skin looks a whole lot less rubbery now. She sees Vance and wonders where the Federation president is. Vance says that due to this being a security issue, he’s been authorized to negotiate with her instead, and Osyraa’s accent shifts again with, “Wot-ever gets the job done.”
In Discovery’s ready room, Bryce and Rhys are tapping on the furniture, obviously communicating with each other in Morse code. The guards pick up on this and tell them to stop tapping, but they keep doing it, and eventually Owo and Detmer start yelling that the two guys will get them killed. And of course, it’s all a big diversion to allow the hostages to fight back and quickly incapacitate their guards. Tilly tries to access the ship’s computer, but it’s entirely under Osyraa’s control. She asks Ryn if he can hack into it, and of course he can, because everyone on Star Trek is automatically a technology whiz. Book then breaks the news that Culber and Saru and Adira are still in the nebula, and Tilly says they have to get back there as soon as they take back the ship.
Osyraa and Vance are meeting privately, and joining them is Eli the hologram, who’s here for the sole purpose of being a lie detector. Osyraa messes with Eli a bit, then repeats directly to him that the bridge crew is safe, and Eli reports that she’s telling the truth. Then Osyraa says it was “so easy to take the ship, I almost thought that it was a trap at first,” and it’d be extra-hilarious if Eli chimed in with, “She’s telling the truth!” She says that when she invaded Discovery, all she found was an “ensign with the conn”, and Vance looks pained.
Finally, he asks what she wants, and she wants “peace”. In fact, she wants the Emerald Chain to unite with the Federation, and Vance’s interest is piqued. Osyraa says that unlike the Federation, the Chain has the scientific knowledge to reproduce the spore drive. And while they could go it alone, she realizes that the Federation is still a “symbol of hope”, and so she’s proposing a “new Federation”. Okay, that’s different; I think we all assumed she was jumping to Federation HQ to blow the hell out of the place, but it seems she actually wants to have peace talks.
On the bridge of Discovery, someone finally says Zareh’s name for the first time when they inform him one of his regulators was just found unconscious. Zareh contacts whoever has the guy’s badge now, saying he knows where she is, and we cut to Burnham on the other end listening in as Zareh G says he’s about to have to regulate.
In the spore chamber, Aurellio has the mind-control headband removed from Stamets so he can ask him questions. Stamets comes out of his white-eyeball trance and the first thing he does is remark on how they’re listening to Andorian opera. Never change, Stamets. Aurellio waxes poetic about Andorian opera singers, and how their “antennae increase resonance” and create “four layers of overtones”. Stamets asks Aurellio about his children, saying that he recognizes the piercings behind Aurellio’s ear as an Orion custom to celebrate childbirth, and he assumes Aurellio’s partner is Orion. I think they’re trying to clue us in that Aurellio and Osyraa are a couple, but it’s left too vague to say for sure.
Aurellio says he does indeed have children, and Stamets says he has a “child” himself (apparently referring to Adira), as well as a partner who’s currently trapped in a nebula, and he’s really worried about him. Aurellio ignores this and asks how Stamets communicates with the spores. Stamets is less than helpful, but Aurellio guesses it’s got something to do with the tardigrade DNA in his body. Stamets says they couldn’t possibly find more tardigrade DNA, because that species is extinct, but Aurellio says the Chain has the technology to grow more tardigrade cells.
Meanwhile, the regulators are closing in on Burnham in the Jeffries tube, but she’s already working on a plan where she’s got a strap of cloth tying her wrist to a metal rail. Zareh taunts her over the communicator just as a regulator is about to reach her. Burnham fires her phaser at some object which explodes and triggers the “fire suppression protocol”, and airlock doors open. The regulator closing in on Burnham realizes she’s about to get blown into space, so she grabs onto Burnham’s boots. Burnham gives her a couple of Kirk-Kruge “I have had enough of you” kicks to the face, and then the woman pulls off Burnham’s boots just as she goes flying into the void. The computer starts to close the airlock doors just as Burnham’s strap breaks, and she just barely avoids flying into space as well. On the bridge, Zareh sees the frozen body of his regulator floating past the viewscreen. And again, doesn’t everybody in this future carry personal transporters? Why didn’t the regulator just tap her badge before getting blown into space?
Regardless, Burnham gets on the communicator to taunt Zareh back with, “You’re gonna need more regulators.” He’s also gonna need some more FBI guys, I guess. And then the homage to a certain ‘80s action movie becomes complete when Burnham scampers off barefoot.
Back at Federation HQ, it seems they’re taking a break from negotiations to enjoy a charcuterie dish. Osyraa is eating a slice of apple, saying it tastes like the real thing, but Vance admits he’s never eaten a real apple. He then declares, “It’s made of our shit, you know.” No, he actually says this. That’s the “base material” in their replicators, he explains. Also, “It’s pretty good for shit. And we don’t have to commit atrocities for it.” Wow, I never thought this franchise would come out and say where their food comes from, and put it quite this bluntly, but there’s another longstanding question about Trek tech you can finally put to rest, nerds.
Osyraa loses her appetite and they return to negotiations. She first wants the Federation to acknowledge that the Emerald Chain’s society is ethical, and that capitalism—for lack of a better word—is good. She says the Federation has been hobbling along for years now, while the Chain has a bustling economy. Vance points out that bustling economy is based on a lot of slave labor, but Osyraa promises they’ll outlaw slavery, and Eli nods that she’s telling the truth. Vance says that if they agree to this, the Emerald Chain will have to step back from trying to influence (i.e. bully) planets like Kwejian lower down on the technology ladder. Osyraa then pulls up a large block of holographic text, which she calls an “armistice” between the Emerald Chain and the Federation. She says if the Federation signs this, the Chain will even start honoring the Prime Directive and stop interfering in the affairs of less developed planets.
In Discovery’s ready room, Ryn tells the bridge crew he’ll mess up the ship’s internal sensors, so they’ll be able to move freely about the ship. And it looks like Book and Ryn have already decided to stay behind to buy the bridge crew some time. Tilly weakly tries to say she’s got a plan in mind, but Book says he and Ryn need to stay here to protect the crew, because they’re the best hope for taking back the ship. The bridge crew breaks out and Zareh on the bridge sees he suddenly can’t track them.
Back at the spore chamber, Stamets hears all the comm chatter and realizes things are not going as planned. He’s still trying to reason with Aurellio, telling him that Osyraa is not a good person, because she’s taken hostages, and she supports “pesticide on Kwejian!” Pesticide? That… monster! Somehow, I don’t think that’s a whole lot worse than using head-exploding technology on slaves, or feeding your relatives to giant slugs. Stamets says she even threatened Kwejian with famine and the death of millions, but Aurellio thinks this is all hyperbole. He says that despite her methods, she’s doing great things for the galaxy. He talks about how, with his “genetic defect”, he shouldn’t even be alive right now, but Osyraa saved him and now he has a family, and Osyraa has “given me everything”. Alas, the philosophical conversation is cut short when Burnham rushes in and stuns both Aurellio and the guard, and frees Stamets.
After a brief scene of Ryn and Book making their last stand against the regulators cutting their way into the ready room, it’s back to the spore chamber, where Stamets starts preparing for another spore jump, saying they have to get back to the nebula to save Saru and Culber. Burnham then mentions that Adira is also in the nebula, and yeah, probably not the best time to reveal that. Stamets goes into hysterics, yelling about how “my whole life is in that nebula!” So Burnham gives him the ol’ Vulcan nerve pinch to subdue him. And I guess Burnham has a plan, because why wouldn’t she want to jump back to the nebula? Or at least jump far away from Federation HQ? It would certainly reduce the amount of “leverage” Osyraa has at the moment.
Meanwhile, Vance is still scrolling through Osyraa’s lengthy terms of service, while she muses over who Eli the hologram is modeled after. After learning he’s just a computer-generated face, she thinks they should have designed him to look like someone who’s known for telling the truth. Like, what, does she want a George Washington hologram overseeing negotiations? Wot-ever. Vance is impressed by the armistice she’s written up, but he says Osyraa can’t be the official face of the Emerald Chain in these negotiations due to her evil reputation. Osyraa says she happens to know a “well-respected scientist” who can step in for her, and he won’t just be her “proxy”. Eli declares, “That is not the truth!”
Vance insists that the person who represents the Chain will have to be completely independent, and also someone who can put Osyraa on trial for her crimes. Osyraa doesn’t take too well to the notion of being tried as a war criminal, and tells him, “You’re staring at the past! I just drew you a real map to the future!” Or rather, he’s staring at the “pahhst” while she just drew a map to the “fewtcha!” What is with her accent? Vance responds that the Burn has clouded everyone’s “moral clarity” for years now, but he’s been doing his best to keep fighting for that clarity. And if this demand ruins their potential accord, so be it.
She beams out in a huff and returns to the bridge of the Discovery. Aurellio is here, once again to kiss Osyraa’s ass and talk about how they “failed” her. She yells at Zareh for losing their key to getting the spore drive working, but Zareh insists Stamets still has to be on the ship somewhere. He’s also got Book and Ryn here, and Osyraa demands that Ryn unscramble her sensors. Ryn refuses, because the crew of the Discovery are just so awesome and inspiring that he’s not afraid of Osyraa anymore: “I’ve seen real bravery, real strength and loyalty. Love. You’re nothing compared to that!” Okay, sure. Osyraa tells her honey-bunny Aurellio that he might want to leave the bridge right now, because momma’s about to get her sensors back, and it might get ugly. Aurellio says there’s no need for violence, but chooses to stay. Osyraa puts a gun to Ryn’s head, so Book jumps in to say he knows where they can get more dilithium, and lots of it.
Osyraa already knows he’s talking about the Verubin Nebula, but Book says only he knows how to get them to the dilithium planet safely. In exchange, she has to let everyone else go. Instead, Osyraa vaporizes Ryn, then tells Aurellio to prepare a “truth serum” to use on Book. Well, I don’t think that quite went as planned.
Stamets wakes up from the Vulcan nerve pinch, only to find himself inside an “emergency escape field”. Burnham says she’s about to launch him out of the ship so that someone at Federation HQ will see him and pick him up. And the escape field is some kind of gooey egg that surrounds him; I guess in the 32nd century, they’re too good for escape pods. Stamets continues to throw a tantrum about wanting to save his family, and begs Burnham not to do this. His true feelings start to come out, along the lines of, “We came to the future for you!” and “We gave up everything so you wouldn’t have to be alone!” If the only reason you traveled 930 years into the future was to accompany Burnham’s stupid ass, that’s on you. Unfortunately, Burnham can’t take a chance on Stamets getting captured, so she locks him behind a door with an overloading phaser. It explodes and blasts through the hull and his gooey egg goes flying into space, where it immediately gets locked onto by a tractor beam. And then Zareh just happens to pop up behind Michael, saying she shouldn’t have done that.
Cut to the bridge crew kicking more regulator ass, and making their way to a weapons locker. It seems Tilly’s clever plan is to grab all the hardware they can and storm the bridge. Suddenly, they hear a noise, and everyone spins around with guns at the ready, and Tilly is even two-fisting it. But the noise is coming from three of those DOTs, as in, the tiny robots that rebuild Discovery’s hull after it takes damage; one of them even starred in its own Short Treks episode. There are three of them, and each one glows with an accent color taken from the TOS uniform scheme—yellow, blue, and red—and one of them projects a clip from the Buster Keaton movie.
Tilly realizes that this is the Sphere Data, hiding inside the DOTs. She asks if they’re here to help, and the red DOT replies in the voice of Zora (the computer voice from the “Calypso” short), “I’m at your service, captain. Shall we take back the ship?” And they all give baby Yoda-like three finger salutes. Well, I sure wasn’t expecting this story to hinge on cute robots, but here we are.
Other than that, this episode is pretty much what I thought it would be: Die Hard on a starship, but I liked it better the first time this franchise did it, when it was called “Starship Mine”. The only thing that was truly unexpected was Osyraa wanting to negotiate with the Federation instead of just blowing more shit up, but based on the previews, I don’t expect that potential truce to hold up for long. I’m glad they didn’t waste time cutting back to the three people stuck in the Verubin Nebula, which would have just slowed things down. Overall, not a groundbreaking episode in any shape or form, but at least it moved along at a relatively fast pace.
Next time: I think they might take back the ship. There’s lots of action, including Osyraa and Burnham fighting hand-to-hand, so I guess so much for that armistice. There’s also glimpses of Saru and Culber and Adira in the nebula, where things look dire, and also Gray shows up in the holo-program as a Vulcan? We’re also about to find out that just like Kirk, Burnham doesn’t believe in no-win situations.