Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 8 – Debuted Thursday, December 3, 2020
Teleplay by Kenneth Lin & Brandon Schultz
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
An adequate mid-season episode that did a good job of moving a number of plot and character arcs forward but perhaps juggled a few too many at the same time. Director Jonathan Frakes drew out some good performances and delivered some of the best action for the season so far.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“I have to go home”
After seven episodes of keeping one foot out the airlock, Michael makes good on her recommitment to Starfleet by taking Book’s request to return to his homeworld up the chain of command. Apparently, Admiral Vance has heard this sob story before of Osyraa and the Emerald Chain offering Faustian bargains to pre-warp worlds. Book’s home planet Kwejian is trading tranceworms in exchange for some space crop-dusting to deal with some sci-fi locusts. Vance doesn’t want to risk the Discovery to help but proves to be a big softy after Saru and Michael promise not to let the Emerald Chain scratch the new smart paint.
We also start off by setting up all sorts of subplots on board the Discovery. Tilly and Saru start trying to work out their first officer/captain dynamic. Culber is putting a very reluctant Georgiou under the super scanner to see what her deal is. Stamets and Adira are DJing all the weird sounds coming from the Ni’Var data on The Burn. Detmer is still coping with all her new high-tech controls. Ryn the Andorian refugee from the Emerald Chain wants off the ship until he finds out Osyraa is lurking about. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Linus is shedding. This episode is already very busy, and it’s just getting started.
“You’re scared of the monster you serve”
Book’s reunion with his empath brother from another mother does not go well. These two had a falling out back when Kyheem sided with the Emerald Chain to become the Steward of the Kwejian sanctuary and started selling tranceworms to be slaughtered. Kyheem’s urgent call turns out to just be him doing Osyraa’s bidding to bring Ryn (the Andorian she de-antenna-ed) to her. After a few rounds of backstory, Book starts chipping away at Kyheem’s dedication to an evil overlord.
And right on time, Osyraa shows up in her heavily armed ship to face off against the Discovery, which tries its best to play the friendly observer card. Citing protocol to give Ryn asylum, Saru and Osyraa trade barbs and slave history lessons on Kelpiens and Orions. When she runs out of patience for all this Starfleet nonsense, she starts bombarding the planet and says she won’t stop until she gets what she wants. There was no maniacal laugh or twirling of a mustache… but those were implied.
“You still need fancy equipment to deconstruct me?”
Before setting off for her adventure, Michael checks Georgiou into Sickbay to get a futuristic “atomic scan” to sort out what the hell is going on with her. After a few rounds of fun verbal jousting and light threatening with doctors Culber and Pollard, Phillipa dons a sperm suit “hyper-conductive” medical outfit for the procedure. Things get tense when the flashbacks of San return, causing the “electromagnetic gel” covering Phillipa to make her go full cubist.
For all her posturing, Culber nails that she’s actually terrified. Wilson Cruz goes toe-to-evil-toe with Michelle Yeoh. She knows whatever is happening to her is serious, and the traumatic atomic scan confirms the worst: She is dying. With so much else going on in this episode, that’s all we are going to get from this mystery box.
“It sounds like music”
Over in Stamets’ lab the search for the origin of The Burn is finally getting somewhere, and that somewhere is the Verubin Nebula, its point of origin. In a classic Trek technobabble teamwork scene, Saru, Stamets, Tilly, and Adira work out there is a Federation distress signal coming from the center of that nebula and it appears to be the source of that mysterious music everyone has been hearing. Mind blown. But put a pin in this: It will take the rest of the episode and beyond to crunch the data enough to get the full picture, moving The Burn investigation into a future episode.
With the algorithm churning away, Adira spends the rest of the episode bonding with Stamets, who has become something of a surrogate father, which includes a lovely scene of them playing music together. Adira finally opens up about being non-binary, and of course Paul is cool with that. And Adira is definitely in need of the support, as they are not coping well with the confusion of hosting a Trill symbiont. “I’m waking up every day and I never know who I am going to feel more.” Even worse, Gray is no longer talking to them. But like The Burn and the Emperor’s brain, this thread is also left hanging for another episode.
“I’m about to do something that might get us both killed”
Even with the bridge crew reminding Saru of Vance’s watchy-no-shooty orders, Saru isn’t about to sit back and let the people of Kwejian get wiped out by this Greenie Meanie. But newly minted XO Tilly has a diplomatic workaround that involves Detmer going rogue in Book’s ship with Ryn as co-pilot to point out all of the weaknesses in Osyraa’s cruiser. This seems a bit convoluted as the thuggish Emerald Chain are not the Sheliak, so shooting at them via legal loopholes probably won’t work. But it does allow for some big-budget space action.
Getting Keyla off the bridge does appear to have the added benefit of curing her 32-century yips. Eschewing all the fancy safe controls, Detmer goes old school and full manual as she darts Book’s ship around, picking off all the weak points in an exciting and fun space battle sequence. She even has time to give some courage to Ryn the Cowardly Andorian. Turns out all that talking to Culber about feelings and stuff wasn’t needed and adrenaline is the real cure to PTSD—who knew? Osyraa decides to bail but throws some over-the-top ominous “You have just sealed your own fate and the fate of the Federation” blah blah blah villain warnings before she goes. We will be seeing her again, you can be sure.
Down on the planet, Book and Kyheem have a final showdown fight, but when push comes to shove and then to dart gun, brother can’t pull the trigger. Aww. But with the Chain gone, they re left with their original problem, famine-causing sea locusts. Michael has the solution, taken straight from the season two Blu-ray. Using the ship’s tech they can enhance the brother’s head glow thing to politely ask all the locusts to GTFO… and it works.
So, what was the big deal that caused Osyraa to go to all this trouble? Ryn knows her big secret and it isn’t that she wears a terrible wig, because that is pretty obvious. Turns out the Emerald Chain is running out of dilithium. Maybe he could have just broadcast the secret and saved everyone the trouble, but we got there in the end. He learned an important lesson that the Federation is actually not so bad after all and so did Book, who ends things saying he is ready to sign up with the good guys.
So many stories, so little time
“The Sanctuary” is one of those middling episodes that happens around the halfway point of serialized seasons. It has a number of good moments, but unlike last week’s episode, it suffers slightly from trying to do too many things at the same time. While it juggled too many important character arcs, it was a nice change of pace to spread the heroism around and not have everything be about Michael. And in the case of Detmer, everything clicked, fitting organically with the plot, and was fun along the way. Emily Coutts continues to impress, and her partner-in-crime Noah Averbach-Katz is making Ryn into an interesting character as well.
As for Tilly’s debut as first officer, so far she comes off more as an excellent executive assistant. And her lawyerly idea to have Book’s ship do the fighting might have helped give Detmer some relief, but clearly it didn’t work, and if Vance falls for the “she went rogue” BS, he is the one who deserves a demotion. As for when half the bridge crew starts questioning Saru’s orders, she is the one who should have shut that stuff down. Hopefully, this mixed bag for the acting first officer is what the writers intended.
With the highly anticipated introduction of Osyraa, it was a bit of a letdown that she turned out to be a simple brutish villain. Season three has brought in some impressive guest stars, but Canadian actress Janet Kidder didn’t do much with what she was given. This is a bit surprising in an episode helmed by Jonathan Frakes, who is known as an actor’s director.
But Frakes made up for it when it came to working with some of the regulars, especially Sonequa Martin-Green. Michael’s growth as a character both in how she fits in with the ship and with her resident BF Book all felt right for where we are in the season. And the former Number One definitely delivered when it came to the action in the episode, both on the planet and the space battles, which were especially fun and exciting. With so much going on, the pacing still worked, although some of the comic moments may fall flat for some, as humor is subjective.
This episode did find time to move a number of season arc plots forward. It started with a lot of promise when it came to The Burn investigation, tying some loose ends together with those clues about the music that were sprinkled into earlier episodes. Dropping that tantalizing clue that a Federation ship sending out a distress call is at the center of the nebula at the origin point is a lot to chew on, but running out the clock on unlocking more via Adira’s algorithm was almost cruel.
As for the Emperor, it’s starting to look like she is just ill, and while it may actually not be something Kovich did to her, it is somehow tied to her past in the Mirror Universe. The scenes with Wilson Cruz and Michelle Yeoh were a delight and it’s great that he continues to stretch and be more of a doctor in season three.
We learned a lot about Book’s origin story, but there are still quite a few blank spots, including how he got his name, what kind of an empath he is, and what those glowing things are on his forehead. The exploration of his home planet did more to reveal the post-Burn Federation, no longer capable of protecting pre-warp civilizations from being exploited by the likes of the Emerald Chain, than it showed us life on Kwejian. You can see how this pains Admiral Vance; Starfleet just isn’t what it used to be by a long, long way. It’s also curious how many seem to have a very dim view of Starfleet and the Federation, even down to scary stories told to little Andorian children.
Playing it safe
In the end, “The Sanctuary” is a by-the-numbers Discovery episode, doing what it needed to do. It didn’t take any big swings, except maybe with some of Saru’s catchphrases. While offering delectable bits of just about everything with an extra helping of action, there was no big idea or thee to really sink your teeth into.
With just five episodes left, there is still a lot of ground left to cover in what remains Discovery’s best season.
Random extra bits
- It’s nice for Culber to finally get a desk.
- A map in Vance’s office showed a “Klingon Zone.”
- On the Salvage planet, Osyraa held a Starfleet badge from the late 24th century (like those seen in Star Trek: Picard).
- Osyraa’s ship is named Viridian, which is a color that mixes green and blue and an appropriate name for the flagship of the Orion/Andorian Emerald Chain alliance.
- Why do all guns on Discovery make so much noise? (Even wooden dart guns.)
- The USS Discovery has a music room with a piano… unless that was one of the new holodecks installed with the refit.
- It is again mentioned that Book’s ship is capable of using transwarp, but in this case with only a 50% chance of surviving the trip to Kwejian.
- Osyraa uses the Bajoran measurement of land area hecapate when threatening how much of the planet she will destroy.
- Saru workshopping his catchphrase is reminiscent of Captain Freeman doing the same on Star Trek: Lower Decks.
- Captain catchphrase candidates suggested or attempted include:
- Hit it. (but possibly with a different spin that Captain Pike)
- Carry on
- With all their fancy medical tech, why haven’t they replaced Ryn’s antennae?
- Discovery first used the method of transmitting a signal to an entire species in “The Sound of Thunder.” In that case, it was used to evolve all Kelpiens through vahar’ai.
- If the sea locusts move back out to sea, won’t they just starve?
- Line of the week: “His name is Linus, and you can peel off a part of his face if you want.”
More to come
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