“Will You Take My Hand?”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episode 15 – Debuted Sunday, February 11th
Teleplay by Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts, Story by Akiva Goldsman, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts
Directed by Akiva Goldsman
“Will You Take My Hand?” wraps up the first season of Star Trek: Discovery with a solid episode that satisfies the main threads of the series so far. The character development is strong, with many of the arcs coming to a conclusion. The plot lines tie things up with some tropes and cliches along the way, but was still able to deliver some surprises. There is much to admire, notably the embrace of the ideals of Star Trek. But there are are also moments that take you out of the narrative, including some head-scratching story logic.
The cast is at the top of their game, with effective performances across the board. Guest star Michelle Yeoh continues to chew up the scenery as the Terran Emperor. Sonequa Martin-Green carries the episode as Michael Burnham’s journey is book-ended with the dramatic season opener.
The production design and costume teams also delivered some of their best work of the season. The finale brings welcome servings of world-building as well as copious fan service, with call-backs to earlier episodes of Discovery and from general Trek lore. However, there wasn’t as much action as one might hope for a season finale set to resolve a war.
The first season of the new Trek series ends by answering most of the remaining questions, while opening up some new lines of inquiry to discover in the future.
Best served cold
The episode begins by setting the stage and the stakes, with a Klingon armada approaching Earth as the USS Discovery approaches the Klingon home world of Qo’noS. Sorry, Emperor/Captain Georgiou doesn’t want us to call it a “home,” letting the bridge crew know the Klingons are all “animals.” The introduction is also set for us by a hard-boiled voice-over from Michael Burnham, telling a tale about defeating fear in war.
The opening bridge scene is one of many to evoke echoes of the season opener. Once again we have Michael Burnham, Saru, and Georgiou bantering. This time the sibling rivalry of Saru and Burnham has been replaced with a precision tag team passive-aggressive testing of Georgiou. And this Mirror Georgiou is not doing a good job of hiding her ruthlessness or showing the kind of fun camaraderie the real Captain Georgiou had in that first episode. Things descend into innuendos about the tastiness of Kelpiens in one of many moments in the episode that borders on the fine line between entertaining and corny.
As worked out in the previous episode, the plan is still to go to Qo’noS to do some recon for a planned Starfleet attack. Georgiou and Burnham visit the two resident Klingons on board to press them for information on which cave is best to jump the ship into on Qo’noS. The chat with L’Rell turns violent as she is clearly not ready to join #TeamFederation, mocking her torturers by telling them they have “already lost.” Luckily Voq-now-Tyler is more than happy to drop some knowledge about how the location of the Shrine of Molor is their best bet, and lucky for them the land has been given to the Orions, of green-skinned “Orion slave girl” fame.
Throughout all of this Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green have a great dynamic, showing a new spin on the chemistry they have had since the first episode. Both seem to be trying to bring the other to their way of thinking and it isn’t clear if either of them are making any headway, but it is fun to watch.
Soon Georgiou puts together her Orion Sin City heist team by bringing in Tyler and Tilly, who has a wonderful moment of transitioning from Captain Georgiou fangirl to Emperor Georgiou realization dread. Burnham shutting down Tilly’s reflexive Terran salute was one of the funnier bits and just the start of Mary Wiseman’s track to carry much of the comic relief for this otherwise serious finale. Keeping with the heist-movie motif, Tilly is also given the mapping drone in a case with a hand-cuff lock.
With the team suitably decked out as “lowlifes”, they head out after Stamets spore-drops them into a cave under Qo’noS, exclaiming “Am I good or what?” Paul has been through a lot this season and even though Anthony Rapp has little to do this episode, he has fun with what he’s got. And the effects shot of the jump into the cave is one of the coolest for the season.
Qo’noS after dark
The action then moves to the Orion compound on Qo’noS, which was impressively realized in what may be some of the most elaborate single-episode sets for Star Trek ever. Everywhere you looked there is something more fascinating and weird to check out. This city was also well-populated, with a mix of Orions, Klingons out to have a good time, and other aliens. There is so much going on, it’s worth a second viewing to catch things like Ceti Eels on a grill, or a Trill girl getting a tattoo and more.
While having an Orion city on Qo’noS may seem incongruous and a thin excuse to have a stop in Space Vegas without wasting time going to a different planet, it actually makes a bit of sense. What better way for the Klingons to ensure Molor – who was defeated by the revered Kahless – never regains a powerful following. Giving the land of his temple to some amoral aliens keeps his followers on the fringe.
After trading some of the hardware from Lorca’s menagerie of weapons it was time to hit the club for some sex, drugs and rock intel. The plan to seek out info on location of Molor’s temple was set in motion with some dialog from Georgiou saying “We’re not here for bread and circuses,” evoking the title of a classic Star Trek episode in a moment that was too winky for an episode that already was replete with plenty of more subtle and satisfying fan service.
While Michael and Tyler played Klingon shuffleboard and Captain/Emperor Georgiou embraced the more overly-sexualized side of the Mirror Universe with a couple of Orion prostitutes, Tilly gets invited to a little hookah session with an Orion who has a very familiar face. In a delightful moment, Clint Howard makes his fourth appearance in the franchise, in a scene that echoed his first from back in 1966 when he played Balok as a child. This time instead of pushing Tranya, he was huffing vapors, which turned out to be an important volcanic plot point and also gets Tilly totally wasted.
Michael and Tyler’s attempt to find information on the location of Molor’s shrine reveals just how much Voq is left as Tyler easily converses with some Klingbros and can gamble using Voq’s skill and knowledge. This all seems to hit Burnham hard as she is still dealing with his betrayal and her own past. The whole emotional moment was played well by the actors with very effective editing and pacing.
After coming up empty, Burnham opens up to Tyler about how her parents were killed by Klingons. In another powerful emotional scene, Sonequa Martin-Green and Shazad Latif break through for this episode and get to the core of their character arcs and the arc of the Klingon War. She has an epiphany about seeing the Klingons as people, as Tyler reveals he can see both sides through his unique perspective. Tyler, again using his knowledge of being Voq, gets the needed information about Molor’s temple, while Michael is having doubts about the mission, which is about to go south anyways.
As predicted by anyone paying attention, Georgiou had something to hide. This was no recon mission. There is no mapping drone in the case, as Tilly opens it up to find a “hydro bomb,” designed to make Qo’noS uninhabitable by activating the not-so-dormant-after-all volcanoes all across the planet. The Emperor – done having her fun with the two Orions – sucker-punches Tilly, takes the bomb and now we have a ticking clock.
Let’s wrap it up
Back on the Discovery, the crew ring up Admiral Cornwell with Michael leading the charge and arguing against genocide. In case you didn’t get the parallel, Burnham brings up her mutiny in the pilot, saying this time she is ready to defy orders for the right reasons. And in a “I am Spartacus” moment, Saru and the rest of the crew rise to join her, letting the admiral know despite the threat to the Federation, they “are Starfleet” and war crimes just aren’t on their todo list for the day.
Michael finds the Emperor in the ruins and lets her know she talked the Federation out of her dastardly plan of “planetary slaughter.” Of course, being an evil emperor, she still wants to go through with it, as it will somehow help her rise to power or something. It finally sinks in to Michael that this Georgiou is not going to be a suitable substitute for her dead captain. However, Burnham still can manipulate the tiny bit of Georgiou’s sentimentality for her dead Mirror daughter to get her to relinquish the bomb’s detonator. And – inexplicably – they just let the Emperor go with her pardon in hand and a “Be good, Philippa,” which might as well have been “see you in a guest arc in season 2.”
Plan B is to give the detonator to a surprised L’Rell, now back in her Klingon regalia. It falls to Tyler, reverting to Voq-mode, to inspire her to take on the mantle of leadership. This moment leads to their love rhombus finally coming full circle as Tyler tells Michael he is going to stay with L’Rell. Once you get past scratching your head about why Starfleet would let this former spy with classified info go, you are rewarded with a powerful goodbye scene, complete with obligatory kiss.
The Klingon-Federation War ends with L’Rell using the bomb to strong-arm the Klingon High Council in their volcanic chamber. This former prisoner faces mockery from the assembled leaders of the fractured houses, but they pay attention when she whips out her iPad to show them her favorite new game app is Planet Crush. You almost expect Threepio to show up and decry “she’s holding a thermal detonator!” Once again Mary Chieffo proves why she is the season one Klingon who has risen to the top and deserves to reunify the houses with a speech mixing threats with calls to a return to honor. So, this conquering-obsessed race on the verge of ultimate victory decides pack up their warriors and bring the fleets home. That was easy…
Everyone is a winner
The war arc was wrapped up quickly to give us an extended coda, complete with medal ceremony akin to the end of JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek. Stamets gets promoted to Lieutenant Commander, Culber gets remembered, Tilly is now an ensign on the command track, and Saru is the first Kelpien to get Starfleet’s Medal of Honor. Detmer, Airiam, and the rest of the bridge gang are there and it seems everyone is getting a medal too, except Chewbacca, screwed again.
Michael Burnham is also allowed to give an extended speech, which was previewed in her voice-over from the beginning of the episode. The former mutineer reminds the assembled guests – including those complicit in the recent attempted genocide – that the Federation and Starfleet are all about righteousness and goodness and exploring strange new worlds. While this should be a feel good Star Trek moment, it felt a bit forced and a bit too much.
More satisfying were quiet character moments, including Michael and her mother Amanda, with Mia Kirshner ably returning to the role. Once again there is a nice callback to something earlier in the season, showing that Michael now understands her mother’s advice to never forget her humanity. And it was left to her father Sarek to give Michael the big news that all was forgiven and she was returned to the rank of Commander. While a nice scene, it still feels like this later season Sarek is too sentimental compared to the ice cold Sarek seen in “Lethe” and will later be seen in “Journey to Babel.”
The episode – and season – ends with a classic light mood on the bridge, with our crew bantering like old pals. Tilly is excited to see Vulcan, Stamets is happy to let the ship just warp, awaiting some new way to use the spore drive that doesn’t involve hooking him up to the mycelial network and Saru notes he is only the acting captain until they pick up the unnamed new captain on Vulcan. Sarek is also hitching a ride home for fun.
Of course that wasn’t the end, as this is Discovery and so we need to get our twist on. This week’s surprise arrives via a priority one distress call from a Starfleet vessel. Little hints on the ID of said vessel start dropping until it is revealed to be Captain Christopher Pike’s USS Enterprise. We don’t see or hear from any of the crew, which includes Mr. Spock, but we did see the ship come into view in a wonderful reveal. This may have been predicted, but it should still be an emotional thrill for any Trek fan.
Complete with classic music cues, Starfleet’s famed NCC-1701 fills the screen, and comes nose-to-nose with the USS Discovery. And with that huge moment to keep fans chattering during the gap between seasons, we fade out into Alexander Courage’s theme for the original Star Trek over the Discovery end credits.
Deus Ex Michaela
While “Will You Take My Hand?” succinctly ended the first season arc for Discovery, the conclusion to the Klingon-Federation War felt rushed and doesn’t entirely make sense. Based on everything we know about Klingons, it is hard to imagine a bomb threat and talk of losing their way is enough for them to hand back all their victories and give L’Rell the keys to the Empire.
Even the head of her own House of Mo’Kai (Ujilli) was seen laughing at her, and he was right. A good speech may be how the Federation can be swayed, but persuasion on Qo’noS should require some action. Something like Michael Corleone’s “Baptism of Fire” path to leadership would have been more the Klingon way; perhaps using a targeted version of the hydro bomb to take out some or all the heads of other houses. And it wouldn’t have hurt for the Federation to show an act of courage and honor along the way to get the Klingons respect. Wasn’t that the whole point of the concept of “The Vulcan Hello?”
While the trip to Orion Town was fun, it was another lost opportunity for Discovery to fulfill its promise to explore the Klingons as “the other.” We spent an episode on Qo’noS yet learned very little about the Klingons. Time might have been better spent with L’Rell as part of the plan from the beginning with her and Voq/Tyler and Burnham learning to trust and sympathize with each other to find a way to peace.
Yes, it was satisfying that the ideals of the Federation were upheld and part of the solution for the episode. However, the entire set up of the Federation badly losing a war, handing the Discovery to the Emperor and the agreement to wipe out Qo’noS was an absurd straw man for Burmham and the Discovery crew to take down. One would hope the bar for testing Federation idealism is higher than a “yes” or “no” on genocide.
It’s not that the plot was handled poorly. The war was concluded, the idealism of the Federation and Starfleet was reinforced and we are off to more adventures in season two. However, it just feels like there was so much potential to do better with the Klingon-Federation war arc, not just in this episode but throughout the season.
This disco is a family
The best thing about this finale is how it deals with the characters, which is what it is all about in the end. Across the board we learn more about each of our characters as they grow and close important chapters on their arcs.
Like all good ‘Peak TV’ aspiring shows, Discovery was replete with broken and flawed characters. In this finale, the crew has grown and learned through the trials and tribulations of the previous 14 episodes to become their better selves. Paul Stamets is no longer the gruff curmudgeon, but is now affably effective. Without losing her vitality, Tilly has been tempered and is able to demonstrate strength and resolve. Saru has used his instincts as a prey species to find courage and confidence as a leader.
We learn more about Tyler as he literally holds on to the rope of his humanity. Perhaps the most troubled character of them all, this transformed Klingon has finally found peace with his dual nature and is ready to return to his people to bear the torch of hope he has learned from his time being human.
Most fulfilling of all is the resolution of Burnham’s journey, which has been the biggest through line for the series so far. We ache for Michael as she struggles through the guilt of the death of her parents. We feel for her as she finds a way to forgive herself and we can rejoice with her as she is able to learn from her past to lead this family back to the light.
The season ended with the exciting – and emotional for Trek fans – introduction of the USS Enterprise. The famed ship of the original Star Trek wasn’t just a cameo – it will apparently play a role in the second season, which is a risky but intriguing idea sure to keep the buzz going during the hiatus.
The ship we saw has been re-interpreted to be both familiar to the classic look, but also fit well within the aesthetic of Discovery. The effects work was impressive, as the ship has been updated beautifully for a modern audience used to how Starfleet ships look on this new show.
Of course with the look of so many things in Discovery being different than the traditional style of the TOS-era, it is no surprise that the USS Enterprise was handled differently. Star Trek: Discovery is a new show and its creators should be given the latitude to both expand the canon and to fulfill their own design vision. They should not be shackled to paint within the lines and as I wrote in an editorial after the first trailer was released “I just can’t get too worked up over aesthetics as long as they are ‘in the zone.’” I still believe that.
Upon reflection, I am of two minds about the Enterprise. It was wonderful and exciting and a very respectful and beautiful redesign that works well with the show. However, redesigning the Enterprise could be also be seen as unnecessary and possibly counter-productive.
Even though Discovery is a visual reboot in terms of tech and style, it is still part of the canon of the Prime universe of Trek lore. One way this show could have made that clear was to leave this one element alone, as it has been handled on other Trek series that have shown the classic USS Enterprise. The ships of Star Trek are characters and the most iconic of them all is the original Enterprise. Seeing it in its original glory – perhaps with some more detail and fitting within the lighting scheme of Discovery – could have been a great way to honor how this new series is part of that Trek history. And it could have put to rest the continuing debate on if the show truly is part of the prime timeline.
That being said, with the new Enterprise playing a part in the second season, and not just a cameo for the season one finale, it seems reasonable that the ship has been updated to work with the show along with all the other many elements that are part of this visual (but not story) reboot of Star Trek.
Discovery’s adventure is just beginning
“Will You Take My Hand?” is a surprisingly character-focused season finale that wraps up the big arcs for the season and sets up some mystery for season two. This initial journey of Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery feels fulfilled, even with a rushed story that had some head-scratching logic. At times a bit hokey and maybe straining the fourth wall, the episode also paid off fans of the series and the franchise with plenty of callbacks.
The cliffhanger twist with the redesigned USS Enterprise may dominate much discussion about the episode, but what’s more important is that we now have a ship and crew that seems ready to start exploring strange new worlds and seeking out some new and exciting stories for the next season, and beyond.
Random thoughts, connections, easter eggs
- The “Previously on Discovery” voice over was done in Klingon by Mary Chieffo (L’Rell).
- How did the USS Discovery get so close to Qo’noS without being attacked? Or maybe it fought all the way to the heart of the Empire in a cool series of unseen battles? Would it kill these guys to give us some hot ship-on-ship action?
- It was revealed that Georgiou is from Malaysia, just like Michelle Yeoh.
- Georgiou’s group was referred to using 24th century (and sometimes 22nd century) term “away team” instead of the usual 23rd century parlance “landing party.”
- Included in the weapons traded to the Orions were Nausicaan pistols.
- With the exception of a long-distance distorted shot in Star Trek: First Contact, this episode featured Trek’s first urination scene and it was a “two-fer,” as the Discovery production team takes the idea that Klingons have redundant organs a bit too far.
- Tilly eats some “delicious” street meat before finding out it was gormagander space whale from episode 7.
- Even with all the scantily clad people around there was no graphic nudity. While Discovery has occasionally pushed into TV-MA territory with language and violence, this so far appears to be a line they aren’t willing to cross.
- Add to the list of Tilly proclivities and ailments, she has a “very narrow esophagus.”
- Clint Howard’s Orion seemed to have a punch bowl of tranya.
Star Trek: Discovery is available on CBS All Access on in the US and airs in Canada on the Space Channel. It is available on Netflix outside the USA and Canada.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.