Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, November 19, 2020
Teleplay by Anne Coffell Saunders
Directed by Doug Aarniokoski
A mixed bag of an episode with some excellent action and fun character moments interspersed with sequences that drag down the momentum. David Ajala returns to liven things up, leaving us wanting more. In the end, it may be better than the sum of its parts but “Scavengers” feels mostly like a setup for things to come as we approach the season’s half-way point.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Welcome back to the fleet, Discovery”
Jumping forward three weeks to give the crew and ship time to upgrade with cool 32nd-century gizmos, we are settling in with the new Starfleet. The Discovery—with its shiny new NCC-1031-A registration—is now Admiral Vance’s on-call rapid-response ship, thanks to the now reclassified super-double-secret spore drive. While other captains are handed out various milk runs, Saru is to prep to take on the Emerald Chain bad guys if things go south in the Argeth system… and in this century, compasses all point south.
The hint of a rift between Michael and Saru grows after Book’s ship shows up on its own, complete with one cat and no captain. Book is on the Emerald Chain planet Hunhau and he has found a clue to The Burn, but Grudge showing up solo means he is in trouble. Of course, Michael 3.0 is going to ignore orders and go after him, and of course Emperor “you had me at unsanctioned mission” Georgiou is coming with.
“I’m not leaving you”
Turns out Book is stuck on a salvage yard of a planet where slaves pick over ancient ships, all under the somewhat dimwitted eye of one of Osyraa’s nephew. On the trip out we got some nice banter with Georgiou and Michael, each one getting under the other’s skin. Georgiou is also showing more signs that she came out of her Kovich interrogation a bit messed up and is suffering from Mirror Universe flashbacks. This is all nice character stuff and well played, but there is no time for all that as we need to ramp up for a good old-fashioned prison break.
Six episodes in, and we finally find a purpose for Georgiou, acting as Michael’s evil whisperer to talk their way into this invite-only planet, posing as a bigshot antiques collector with dilithium to burn. Phillipa keeps Greenie McNepotism busy while Michael works out the escape plan with Book, who inexplicably starts off by demurring, but soon escalates to leading a massive prison escape. In addition to finding an anachronistically-named “black box” that is neither black, nor a box, Cleveland has made some new friends, including an exiled Andorian named Ryn. The goal is to get the controls to the head-exploding perimeter fence, but even after the Emperor MacGyvers a gun out of spare parts, she and Michael get captured.
“I don’t think you’re crazy”
Back on the renovated Disco, Paul Stamets has some bonding time with the tween Trill wunderkind Adira, who wins the curmudgeon over with an upgrade to his navigation cube, allowing him to lose the arm interface things that were so damned itchy. Adira has also accepted that her dead boyfriend Gray will be her constant companion and hype ghost, although he is frustrated by having to view the world solely through her limited perspective. In a nice moment of candor, Adira spills the symbiote beans that she sees dead people—or person—and Stamets immediately believes her; he’s been to other universes and planes of existence, so a Trill “soul” vision is actually low on his weird meter. We begin to see the well publicized but still impressive chemistry with Anthony Rapp and Blu del Barrio. However, the moments with Gray feel a bit forced. And this bit where no one can see or hear Gray—“He says he likes you”—threatens to get old fast.
After some fun with Tilly showing Grudge how much she’s not a cat person, we get some good stuff with her and Saru returning to their command training mentoring dynamic. It’s nice to see some character growth for Tilly, who is learning to put the ship and crew ahead of her friendships, and also nice to see Mary Wiseman get to act beyond frazzled quips for comic relief. Instead, this episode uses the delightful David Benjamin Tomlinson to lighten things up, as Linus inappropriately pops in and out of scenes throughout, unable to get a handle on his new personal transporter. Tilly convinces Saru to reveal Michael’s insubordination to Admiral Vance, even though it breaks his heart.
“Time to face the firing squad”
Over on the slave planet, the Orion nephew shows Michael and Phillipa who’s boss by boarding their ship to steal their dilithium, but he has fallen into that trap of not knowing that Michelle Yeoh knows kung fu. After Emperor has another badly timed MU flashback that almost ends the prison planet uprising, she kicks her way back into focus, turns off the perimeter fence, and everyone gets out thanks to a nicely-paced action sequence highlighted by David Ajala competing with his own ship to see which can be cooler while erasing a significant portion of the Emerald Chain’s roster. Team Michael returns home, with Book, the black box, and an injured Ryn. All this excitement and reunion results in the big kiss between Michael and Cleveland that not even a Linus interruption could stop. Let’s hope this love connection works out better than her last boyfriend.
Saru and Admiral Vance aren’t nearly as enamored with the Discovery’s first officer and her self-appointed fetch quest mission, although Vance admits the intel she gathered may have been worth it, losing Saru some points. This leaves the Kelpien in a no-win situation, but he (and actor Doug Jones) rise to the occasion in a Picard moment, reminding her that being a Starfleet officer is all “about trust.” Coming full circle, Michael’s well-intentioned rule-breaking strips her of the position of first officer, and more importantly, Saru’s respect. This being Discovery, we end with some light crying.
There are a lot of tasty morsels in “Scavengers,” but in the end, it doesn’t add up to a satisfying meal. Often the curse of mid-season outings in heavily serialized shows, this episode feels more like a setup for things to come, something past seasons of Discovery have suffered from but season three had avoided so far. On the plus side, the prison break action was entertaining, albeit too brief. Breaking one of our hero team members out of custody is a time-honored Trek tradition, but with so many plates spinning, we didn’t get the fun elaborate planning this subgenre is known for.
Writer Anne Cofell Saunders showed some of her impressive Battlestar Galactica, The Boys (and more) pedigree, sprinkling into all that action some strong moments of growth and humor. However, likely due to being a newcomer in season three, her episode makes some of our heroes feel a bit out of character. And for our new character Adira, we get very little of the Trill mythology witnessed in “Forget Me Not,” unless you count her awkward old man mock channeling “those kids and their crazy chaos.” Have we forgotten so soon, there is a real old man in there somewhere among the “circle” of other former hosts?
But in the end, the important moments landed. Adira is slowly easing her way into the crew, with her sympatico awkward genius Paul as a guide. Michael’s betrayal of Saru and her slowly slipping away from Starfleet—at least in terms of rules, if not ideals—feels right with everything we know. The chemistry between Book and Michael is electric, so much so that it’s hard to believe they took this long to actually kiss, and no amount of spinning cameras and swelling music is going to convince us otherwise.
As for our season arc storyline, “Scavengers” was very much a bridge but somewhat to nowhere as she just handed the McGuffin off without even a peek. It’s almost cruel to go through all this and have Michael pay such a price and not even give us a hint as to what it was all about. And as a side note, how did no one not once think to compare ship logs to triangulate the source of The Burn before? Even without a spore drive, 120 years is a long time to not even try.
We did get some more bits about the Emerald Chain, revealing that they are adversaries of the Federation and encroaching, but also willing to do some diplomacy as well. We have yet to meet the leader Osyraa, but it now appears she is a she, and an Orion. And as the Bajorans are working with the Emerald Chain, they remain on our list of potential bad guys for the season—although one of the slaves was a Bajoran, so who knows? But the Emerald Chain seems to just be generic gangster thugs, so it’s still likely there is some bigger big bad out there, and it would be good to get to that bigger and more important story soon.
Mystery man Kovich didn’t return to answer any of our questions about who he is, but this episode made it pretty clear he did something to Georgiou. She is slowly being debilitated by these flashbacks, and Michael has noticed. It’s getting worse, and her Terran tendencies to keep an evil stiff upper lip are failing her. Taking a closer look at those flashbacks may provide some clues, so keep an eye out for us doing some more analysis and theorizing.
Star Trek: Discovery has thrust the show into a whole new era, and sure we have seen some cool stuff and gotten some glances at a few ships, but so far this galaxy feels a little small. If we are going to shortchange the main plot, it would be nice to offer up more than teases and hints in the mythology department.
While mostly entertaining, “Scavengers” is likely the weakest entry of season three so far. All the top-notch elements are still here from music, production design, visual effects, and performances. However, the episode succumbs to serving the season arc as an interstitial, setting up elements to be paid off later at the cost of delivering a complete story. Hopefully, this isn’t a trend, and overall the season remains the strongest of the series.
Random extra bits
- The refit Discovery adds 32nd-century detached nacelles for better maneuverability, upgraded internal systems, and programmable matter interfaces. Elements of the exterior also have a new blue glow.
- It’s unclear why the USS Discovery would need the new NCC-1031-A designation. After it was refit, the USS Enterprise kept its original NCC-1701 designation. It was the duplicate replacement ship that added the “-A.”
- Gray mentioned the ship has a basketball court, and also areas for bocce ball and fencing.
- The new badges also function as PADDS, tricorders, and personal transporters.
- It’s cool that Discovery was able to keep its crew together, but shouldn’t Starfleet want more than just Lt. Willa to help them acclimatize to the new Federation and missing out on 950 years of history and technology?
- Apparently “real dilithium” is especially prized, perhaps distinguished from recrystallized dilithium?
- Part of the ruse on the scrapyard planet was searching for self-sealing stem bolts, a running gag from DS9.
- Vance says, “Make sure they clear the ship before doing the baryon sweep,” a process first seen in TNG’s “Starship Mine”
- The nephew also showed off what looks like a Type-2 Starfleet phaser from TNG movie era, but Georgiou said it wasn’t authentic.
- Michael pawed through a bucket of Federation badges, which was a bit grisly when you consider what happened to all those officers.
- Included in the ships being salvaged was what looked like a Starfleet Miranda Class and a Hiawatha-type ship.
- Georgiou body-shames Grudge, calling the cat a “blob,” and quipping she has her own “gravitational pull.” Or could these be more hints that Grudge is more than just a cat?
- Book’s “cat collar” app makes meow sounds.
- Vance’s briefing had ten Captains including Saru, five of whom were human. We learned of some assignments:
- Captain Kardashev (human male) sent to Reilling VII to install shields to protect for solar flares
- Captain Rahma (Osnullus female) to Kaijur XII to bring replicators for a food shortage.
- Captain Bandra (human female) to take the USS Le Guin (presumably named for the author Ursula K. Le Guin) to Na’Seth for a supply run, taking 2 months.
- There was also a human male captain named L’Teis.
- Ryn the Andorian is played by Noah Averbach-Katz, husband of Mary Wiseman (Tilly).
- Line of the week: “Your emotional spectrum runs from cranky to homicidal.”
More to come
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