“Point of Light”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 3 – Debuted Thursday, January 31st
Written by Andrew Colville
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Things slow down a bit for the third episode of the season, but the intensity increases in a very emotional episode. Filled with lore, intrigue, and a strong theme of family, “Point of Light” focuses on character development. A number of recurring guest stars make welcome returns, some of whom deliver their best performances in the series to date. This is the first episode of the season to take its full focus off the USS Discovery and fans are likely to enjoy the visit with the Klingons, who have been going through some changes since the war ended in the season one finale. Whiling falling back at times into of the issues that plagued the first season, “Point of Light” still builds on the improvements to Discovery’s sophomore season.
The episode starts with a personal log from Michael Burnham, kicking things off classic Star Trek style. Although he again doesn’t appear in the episode, Spock remains an important character in this season as thoughts of him weigh on her. Cluing us in to the theme of the episode, Michael refers to him as “my brother Spock,” without caveats like “adopted” or “foster.” He is family and she is worried, after learning he has checked himself into the psychiatric wing of Starbase 5. And to make things even more of a family affair, it is not too long until Amanda pays an unexpected visit to the USS Discovery, arriving via Sarek’s ambassadorial ship, but notably without Sarek, which was a big surprise to Michael.
Turns out after Amanda learned Spock had taken leave, she went to see him at Starbase 5 only to be rebuffed. So she decides to steal his encrypted medical files as a consolation prize and tries to get her daughter to help by decoding them. Michael Burnham shows character growth as she takes the encrypted data to Captain Pike, who plays by the book and doesn’t want anyone on his ship to get involved with the stolen data. However, following a strange call with the Captain of Starbase 5 who informs him that Spock has escaped and murdered a few people on his way out the door, Pike senses there is something wrong going on and orders Burnham to decrypt the files.
Burnham and Amanda are also reluctant to believe that Spock has snapped and started killing people, but they recognize that he has issues going back years related to how he was brought up by Sarek, who may be a great ambassador, but is not going to win any Father of the Year awards, on any planet. Amanda holds a lot of guilt, revealing she gave Michael all the love she wasn’t allowed to give to Spock, breaking our hearts as she says, “I was not a real mother.”
The files reveal how Spock has been haunted all his life by a red angel, which actually appeared to him early in life following an attack by logic extremists who tried to kill Michael Burnham as a child, something shown briefly during the first season of Discovery. We also get a bit more insight into one of the big mysteries of Star Trek: Discovery, which is why we’ve never heard about Michael before as a part of this family. Here she explains to Amanda that she did something as a child to Spock that caused a rift that still remains, in order to drive a wedge between the two of them and protect him in case the logic extremists decided to get to her through those close to her.
We still don’t know what this horrible thing was, but the promised pieces of how this all fits together are slowly falling into place. Sonequa Martin-Green and Mia Kirshner show great chemistry together as they both move the plot along with the mystery of Spock and his connection to red bursts and red angel, and as they explore more of the backstory of this very dysfunctional family. This storyline wraps up with Amanda taking the lead, saying she will use what she has learned to find her son.
While Amanda, Pike and Michael are moving the season arc along a bit, it turns out they are not the primary focus of this episode. Cutting in and out of the happenings on the USS Discovery is some serious palace intrigue on Qo’noS. We last left L’Rell and Voq/Tyler on the Klingon homeworld in the season one finale, with the war being tidied up way too fast and L’Rell left in charge of the Empire. “Point of Light” picks things up by showing that her grip on power is tenuous at best. After some deft handwaving to explain why they are speaking English and everyone has hair, “Point of Light” gets deep into the weeds with the Klingons and things get downright operatic, as they were meant to be.
Chancellor L’Rell is doing her best to fulfill T’Kuvma’s vision of a united Klingon Empire, but the High Council is having a hard time dealing with a woman in charge, especially one with a human “pet” in the form of Tyler. He may truly be Voq the Torchbearer and have introduced what will become the iconic D7 Klingon battlecruiser of the TOS era, but his fellow Klingons can’t see past his transformed human appearance and to be fair, he looks less fierce warrior and more hipster bartender at an artisanal pop-up bar. Leading the charge to challenge L’Rell’s authority is Kol-Sha, the father of Kol, who butted heads with L’Rell in season one and died when the USS Discovery blew the Sarcophagus ship to bits. In a nice bit of casting, Kol actor Kenneth Mitchell returns to play his own father (something TrekMovie guessed back in October).
And if her political career wasn’t hard enough, L’Rell’s personal life is simply a mess. She remains deeply in love with Voq, who is now Tyler, who is sort of the victim of her abuse. Added to that, Tyler is also in contact with his other former girlfriend Michael Burnham, whom he rings up to give an update on the political situation, but ends up sort of flirting with, including talking about his new beard (but no mention of the topknot, which has to go). L’Rell is, of course, jealous of all of this as she knows they have a connection she may never be able to match. Things only get worse when Tyler learns that L’Rell has hidden the fact that they have a child together (from when he was Voq); the baby was gestated ex-utero and she has shunned it, not even giving it a name. “It’s complicated” doesn’t begin to explain these relationships and Mary Chieffo is outstanding as she lurches from crisis to crisis through this episode, being able to emote and reach us through the prosthetics.
But before things get too soapy, brutal Klingon politics intercede in a big way. Papa Kol has bugged L’Rell and Tyler–using his own warpaint no less–and he knows all the dirt. He kills L’Rell’s uncle and steals the baby. Like a proper bad Klingon, he isn’t above resorting to blackmail and kidnapping, using the baby in trade for the Chancellorship. And these Klingons aren’t all talk, talk, talk as things devolve into a good old-fashioned fight with mek’leths, bat’leths and Kol-Sha’s cool paralyzing weapon that seemingly ends L’Rell’s reign. Lucky for her, one of the House Mo’Kai aides who has been hovering around all episode turns out to be …. wait for it … Emperor Georgiou in disguise, and she has even cooler and deadlier toys than Kol the White, ending his briefest of administrations and wrapping up what may be the best choreographed fight of the series.
Turns out the Federation wasn’t done with L’Rell after handing her the “iPad of Death” at the end of season one, and they are going to do anything, and I mean anything, to keep her in power. The solution to this was downright biblical, with L’Rell presenting the severed head of Tyler to the High Council claiming she killed the treacherous human herself after he killed her baby. She sells the heart-wrenching lie by throwing the head into a flaming pit, watching her approval ratings soar. Dead Kol-Sha is refashioned as a hero when she reports that he gave his life to save hers, and she is now well on the road to uniting the Empire. And since Discovery can never miss a chance to hit you over the head with the thematic message of the week, she tells them to call her “mother” because that is the “fiercest” title of all.
There were also a few other goings on around the USS Discovery, primarily related to the ongoing drama with Tilly and her work in the Command Training Program, which is being severely compromised by the fact that she is being haunted by her dead friend from junior high. Mary Wiseman finds yet another level to take Tilly’s Tillyness to as she loses her grip on reality, resulting in some embarrassing moments of shouting at the unseen ghost while she’s supposed to be shadowing Captain Pike on the bridge. Doug Jones, seamlessly stepping into the role of den mother of the trainees, gives his best angry parent full name shutdown “Ensign Sylvia Tilly!” resulting in her quitting the program and sulking into the turbolift.
For someone who is so hell-bent on being a senior officer, Tilly continues to show a lack of respect for the chain of command. She should report her condition to a doctor or her supervisor. This habit of keeping things to herself was also demonstrated in the Short Treks episode “Runaway” and is something she is going to have to work on. She heads to her quarters–where Michael is already there crying over what she may have done to Spock–and loses it completely, in a deeply emotional scene between the two roomies. Luckily Michael still has the power of logic (and reminds us she is a xenoanthropologist), and susses out that Tilly isn’t going crazy, she is merely possessed. Just another day in Starfleet.
After some science mumbo jumbo in the lab, it is determined that Tilly is infested with some kind of sentient fungus thing that has grown from a spore she picked up in the Mirror Universe and was triggered by Dark Matter. Sounds pretty ominous. “May” seems preoccupied with Lt. Commander Stamets, who she thinks is the captain, likely due to his connection to the mycelial network. After Paul shows a severe lack of bedside manner, he sucks the blob out of Tilly and locks it into an isolation field. What is going on here is a mystery, but with everything else we know, they might as well have put a sign on the floating fungus that says, “This way to the resurrection of Dr. Hugh Culber.”
The last bit of “Point of Light” deals with a new element in the show: Emperor Phillipa Georgiou in her new role, which she describes as a “Starfleet security consultant” disguised as the “retired” Captain Phillipa Georgiou. The exiled emperor makes it clear she has gone local and is now working on behalf of the Federation, for reasons. Georgiou also gets in on the familial theme for the episode, telling L’Rell “children are parasites.” Apparently, you can take the woman out of the evil universe but you can’t take the evil universe out of the woman.
After sorting things out with L’Rell on Qo’noS, we find Georgiou on a mysteriously cool new ship, with a dark decor to match her sleek new black leather outfits. Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you probably still figured out she is now working for Section 31, the nefarious clandestine organization that has caused trouble before on Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. But they do have cool stuff, so they were able to pull off the deception of creating fake heads for L’Rell’s consolidation of power. Yeoh continues to relish in this new role, with just the right level of hamminess to make it fun.
And now with nothing to do, it appears that Tyler is their latest recruit, joining what Yeoh describes as a group of misfits on this ship, which is sure to be seen again this season, doing the work Starfleet doesn’t want to do. Before he can get his own black badge and cool outfit, Tyler has to say goodbye to his son forever, beaming him to the Klingon monastery on Boreth. Just when Tyler thought he was putting together one family it has been snatched away, sending him into yet another complicated situation on this ship of misfit spies.
Cleanup in aisle cha’
In our review of the season 2 premiere, we described it as a sort of reboot for the series. This new approach continued in the second episode which sought to evoke classic Star Trek, with an exploration mission and struggles with the Prime Directive, and it continues in the third episode with what is clearly a reboot of the Klingons in Discovery, or perhaps it is more of a “de-boot.”
Alex Kurtzman and, especially his co-creator, Bryan Fuller sought to remake the Klingons for the modern era. Significant time and resources were devoted to developing and remaking this classic Trek foe for Discovery, fitting them into a modern allegory and redesigning them for high-definition peak television. The end results were mixed. In the second season, the warrior race has been refreshed. There is a clear acknowledgment that they went too far in some areas, and the team behind Discovery gets some credit for listening to the #NotMyKlingons critiques.
In “Point of Light,” Klingons have hair again, as they did in the Next Generation era, which itself showed an evolution from the redesign of the TOS film era. Sure there is an explained logic to the change, that Klingons shave during a time of war (season one) and let it all hang out in a time of peace (season two), but the change is clearly a way to make fans feel they understand these Klingons. The makeup itself has also gone through a big transformation, especially with the speaking characters like L’Rell. The heads are less elongated and the makeup around the eyes and mouth are less intrusive, allowing more of the actors’ performances to come through.
Another big change is the use of English extensively, limiting the scenes in Klingon with subtitles. In-story reasons were given in some cases, but notably, during L’Rell’s speech to the council, they used the old Hunt for Red October zoom in effect to transition from the native tongue to English (also used effectively in Star Trek VI). This was done well and should be the standard for the show going forward. It is notable that in 2017 Alex Kurtzman specifically said they chose not to do this technique as it “would’ve felt very inauthentic.” What they were trying to do was laudable; however, the combination of heavy makeup and actors speaking a foreign language phonetically simply was not working in practice. To Kurtzman’s credit, he changed course and we are all the better for it. Qapla’!
But what they have done to fix the Klingons for season two goes deeper than hair, makeup, and language. The Klingons here just seemed more Klingon. The duplicitous infighting was classic TNG-era court intrigue. L’Rell propping up her power on a glorious myth is right out of the Ron Moore playbook. There are also little things like Kol’s father using technical spy paint to listen in on L’Rell was reminiscent of how the Duras sisters hacked Geordi’s VISOR in Star Trek: Generations. And even with all the intrigue, in the end, these Klingons resolve things in blood, and due to this being a streaming show, things can get bloody indeed. Oh, and the blood was pink too, again how it should be. One new thing that has been added is some lion or tiger sounds to the Klingons as they face off, enhancing their ferocious natures.
And moments like showing off the design for the classic Klingon D7 battlecruiser was also a bit of a fix. The one shown in “Point of Light” fits with what we know from Star Trek: The Original Series and I can’t wait to see an actual D7 ship in action. But this was also setting something right from season one when L’Rell’s prison ship was identified as a “D7” in the episode “Choose Your Pain.” Subsequently, that ship has been re-classified as a “Sech class” (based on the Eaglemoss brochure). While not as iconic as the USS Enterprise, many fans looked at that ship from season one and knew that was no D7.
The episode title itself is a deep cut of Klingon lore, coming from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Rightful Heir” where Worf recalls the words of Kahless saying “I will go now to Sto-Vo-Kor. But I promise one day I will return.’ Then Kahless pointed to a star in the sky and said, ‘Look for me there, on that point of light.'” And that point of light was the location of Boreth, where Tyler took his son in the final moments of the episode. These guys did their Klingon homework.
The bottom line is, these are your parents’ Klingons, but still with new and interesting twists, turns and designs to make something new.
The other big thing, which was actually just briefly touched on for this episode, was the introduction of Section 31 into Discovery. We have known this is coming for some time and for the most part what we saw of Georgiou, Leland, and their ship of misfits was intriguing. Incorporating Tyler into Section 31 is also smart and offers some interesting possibilities and will certainly bring him back into contact with his old pals on the USS Discovery. And there was an intriguing hint that Section 31 could be involved with what is going on with Spock on Starbase 5, possibly concocting the story of his murderous escape.
However, it is a bit unclear what exactly Section 31 is, within Discovery. As it was originally conceived for Deep Space Nine, Section 31 was an autonomous covert organization that worked in the shadows, doing the dirty work that the Federation couldn’t do, due to its high-minded ideals. It was a perfect way for DS9’s producers to shine a light on some of the inherent contradictions around a utopian society that has to live in a complex galaxy, with dangerous threats from both without and within.
What is not yet apparent for Discovery is how Section 31 fits within Starfleet and the Federation. The idea of Section 31 is for it to work on behalf of the Federation but not within it. It was also extremely secret, with most not even aware of its existence. So, it is unclear why people seem to know about Discovery’s Section 31 and everyone has black Starfleet badges, which would indicate this group is more of a standard covert arm of Starfleet Security. The official Star Trek store has actually started selling Section 31 T-Shirts today. This seems to be more of the approach to the organization taken in Star Trek Into Darkness. By making Section 31 part of Starfleet, it could take away some of the dramatic possibilities and conflict that could arise with an organization that is answerable to no one.
But Michelle Yeoh is great and the ship seems pretty cool, so I’m looking forward to seeing what is next for this new interpretation of Section 31.
“Point of Light” continues builds on the impressive second season of Star Trek: Discovery. These first three episodes aren’t just good for Discovery, but good Star Trek, period. It was worth it for the show to dial back the red angel arc a little bit to give time to bring in the renewed and improved Klingons, adding galactic scale to the season and delivering on some of the promises the first season never delivered. The episode spent a bit too much time moving pieces around the board to help set things up for future episodes but still didn’t feel too much like mid-season filler.
Andrew Colville’s Star Trek writing debut was impressive, showing off some of the skills he picked up working on top-rated AMC dramas like Mad Men and Turn: Washington’s Spies, while still demonstrating some geek cred, no doubt evidenced by his history working on shows like The 4400 and Threshold. Director Olatunde Osunsanmi was able to keep up the new style for the show, but find time for the quiet character moments where this episode really lived. He may be a bit too fond of dutch angles, but he was able to draw out some very strong performances, especially Mary Chieffo’s and Mia Kirshner’s.
“Point of Light” had a bit of the haphazard structure, like some of the season one episodes, as it was designed not to tell a mostly standalone story like “New Eden,” but to reintroduce a number of characters. Also feeling like a return to season one was the tone, missing the lighter moments seen in the last two weeks. However, even with these limitations it still did the job well, especially by making the Klingons Klingons again.
Random thoughts, connections, easter eggs, and more
- Stardate given for Burnham’s personal log was 1029.46.
- Sarek’s ship (or one of the same class) first appeared in the season one episode “Lethe” and is inspired by Vulcan designs from Star Trek: Enterprise.
- The bridge now has a second officer of the same large-headed alien species as “Osnullus.”
- The Command Training Program has a custom gold-lettered version of the DISCO T-shirt (making this the 3rd version of the t-shirt, for those keeping track), which was made available for purchase today, along with a Section 31 shirt. Yogurt would be proud.
- The Sarek family living in the ShiKahr region of Vulcan was first established in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “Yesteryear.”
- The Klingon monastery to Kahless on Boreth was first seen in the TNG episode “Rightful Heir.” Kahless’ story in that episode also inspired Glenn Hetrick’s reasoning for the Klingon ritual of shaving their hair during a time of war, as seen throughout season one.
- Reinforcing Pike’s old-school Star Trek origins, he prefers not to use holograms but instead likes to communicate screen-to-screen, as the Great Bird intended.
- Michael’s science lab is a redress of Lorca’s old ready room set and the bridge of the Section 31 ship was re-worked from the USS Shenzhou bridge set, which was last seen redressed as the ISS Shenzhou.
- This is the first episode written by Andrew Colville, who joined the series as a co-executive producer for the second season.
- This was the second episode of the series directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, who was promoted to executive producer for the second season.
- This is the first proper appearance of Alan Van Sprang as the Section 31 operative Leland, who was first seen recruiting Emperor Georgiou in a season one “bonus scene” revealed last spring.
- This was Damon Runyan’s fourth (and likely final) appearance playing L’Rell’s uncle and representative of House Mo’Kai Ujilli.
- Kenneth Mitchell playing Kol’s father Kol-Sha joins a Star Trek tradition of playing relatives of their original characters including William Shatner (Sam Kirk), Brent Spiner (Lore, B4, Noonian Soong, Arik Soong), Robert Picardo (Lewis Zimmerman), Kate Mulgrew (Shannon O’Donnel) and Michael Dorn (Colonel Worf).
- Wilson Cruz does not appear in this episode and his character, Dr. Culber, was not mentioned.
- Tig Notaro’s Jett Reno does not appear in this episode.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else. The second season debuted on All Access and Space on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, and on Netflix January 18, 2019.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.