“There Is A Tide…”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 12– Debuted Thursday, December 31, 2020
Written by: Kenneth Lin
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
While “There Is A Tide…” is hampered a bit by sitting in the middle of a three-part finale, there is still enough here to make it a solid entry for season three. The episode takes a classic setup and sprinkles in some big emotional moments for our characters that have been building all season. Strong guest stars elevate the drama along with a standout performance from series regular Anthony Rapp.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“What the hell is going on here?”
The action picks up right after last week’s cliffhanger, exchanging the previous episode’s spooky sci-fi weirdness with fast-paced sci-fi action. Big bad Osyraa, now fully in command of the USS Discovery, is pulling the old pretend to be chased by other baddies to get the good guys to let you into their fortress trick, but Admiral Vance takes a bit more of a show before he is ready to open Starfleet HQ’s barn door. She has Zareh from episode 302 along, upgrading him from a one-dimensional villain all the way to 2D. He is in charge of rounding up the Discovery’s crew and taunting them with clichéd dialog. Under guard with the bridge crew, Ensign/Acting Captain Tilly is now regretting letting Zareh live.
As the tension ratchets up, Michael and Book worm their way through a dangerously cluttered transwarp conduit to burst onto the scene. With the plot demanding their coms break right at that moment, they are left with no other choice but to ram his ship into the shuttle bay just as Vance relents and lets the Disco into Starfleet’s inner sanctum. Michael’s plan is simple: Discovery can’t spore without Stamets, so her goal is to get to him with a little help from a concealment device to help her John McClane her way through the ship. Book allows himself to get captured so he can join Tilly’s hostage gang with Ryn, but before he goes they slow things down just enough to give Michael a chance to tell him, for the first time, that she loves him. It’s actually a lovely moment, but bad things often happen soon after characters have emotional moments like this, so add that worry to the list.
“Mr. Stamets I can assure you, we have other methods now”
Stamets is being held captive in his lab by the surprisingly compassionate Chain scientist Aurellio, played with apt subtlety by Discovery veteran Kenneth Mitchell. The two chat about tardigrade DNA, Andorian opera, and family life. Aurellio sees the kinder side of Osyraa and is blind to the Chain’s atrocities, even while talking to his fellow scientist chained to a railing on a ship held hostage. He genuinely believes he can regrow a tardigrade and the Chain will bring the miracle of the spore drive to the entire galaxy. But Paul’s cold splash of “I believe she is more than she appears to be but she’s also everything she appears to be,” may snap this true believer out of his spell, a little.
Meanwhile, the bridge gang uses a bit of Morse Code to distract and then dispatch the goons holding them. They quickly start their plan to retake the ship, with a little help from Ryn hacking the Emerald Chain OS that controls the computer. Mary Wiseman and Tilly rise to the occasion to organize the group into teams, leaving Book and Ryn behind to turn Saru’s ready room into their own little Alamo while the rest head to the armory to stock up.
“The past is the only light with which we could see the future”
It doesn’t take Vance long to figure out Osyraa has the Disco, but instead of exchanging fire, she invites herself over to HQ. Now Osyraa – sorry Minister Osyraa, la-di-da – wants to get all diplomatic. This isn’t a criminal shakedown; she wants to talk peace and even an alliance. WTF? Eli the truth-detector EMH says she is genuine. Sending a nice fruit basket with a card might have been a better start than holding a ship hostage, but here we are. She is proposing using her apparently significant scientific resources to create spore drives for everyone, using the cachet of the Federation to lend legitimacy to the operation. It turns out that after a century of brutality, she and the Chain have a bit of a PR problem.
In a series of scenes that drag the pacing down a bit, this unlikely pair starts hashing out a deal for an entirely new kind of Federation that includes Chain concessions over ending slavery and not hassling pre-warp civilizations. “You are a chain of planets, we are federation of mercantile exchanges,” quips Osyraa. But our man Vance isn’t a sellout, and he even gets scatological to throw off Osryaa’s nice guy act and make a point that while she has been enjoying the fresh fruit good life on the backs of a brutal system, he and what remains of Starfleet have been literally eating s—t to maintain what’s left of their moral core. He is ready to make peace, a time-honored tradition of the Federation. But he isn’t going to forfeit their ideals, nor forgive Osyraa’s many, many crimes. You tell her, Chuck!
“My whole life is in that nebula!”
Michael’s trip to Stamets’ lab is quite eventful and a bit of dangerous fun. A fight with a Chain regulator leaves her bleeding and limping after being stabbed in the leg, but she snagged one of their badges as a consolation prize. She still can’t call off the ship, but somehow she can send an SOS to her mom on Ni’Var, so maybe the Vulcans and Romulans will come to rescue everyone in the finale. It doesn’t take long for Hans Gruber Zareh to sort out what she’s doing and send a team into the Jeffries tubes to track her down. Burnham cleverly starts a fire and the Chain gang gets vented into space with the oxygen purge while Michael hangs on, costing her a pair of boots—but the payoff of seeing the befuddled baddie floating in space with those boots alongside was totally worth it. Yippee-ki-yay, motherchainer!
Burnham eventually makes it to Paul and to the emotional heart of this episode. Keenly aware of the ticking clock and how this episode hasn’t cut back once to check in on Hugh and Saru in that radioactive nebula, Stamets is determined to spore them back for the rescue, even with the Chain still in control of the ship. (Maybe Michael shouldn’t have told him Adira is in the nebula too now, as that really pushed him over the edge.) As the MVP of the episode, Anthony Rapp breaks our hearts with his anguish, but Michael is in single-minded-Burnham mode and puts him down with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Remember, she can do that—she grew up there and everything.
“The Burn has left us with a legacy of isolation and fear”
Back at Federation HQ, Osyraa is not taking well to Vance’s final offer and returns to the Disco in a really bad mood. Finding out Tilly and the bridge pack are free doesn’t help, which is really bad news for Ryn, who has chosen this moment to finally stand up to her. He has learned a thing or two about those Federation ideals from this plucky group of Starfleet officers, and so no, he won’t rat them out. Noah Averbach-Katz nails the landing on Ryn’s arc for the season just in time for the Greenie Meanie to vaporize him. Yeah, she can wave an armistice around, but at her core, this is who she is. Notably, Aurellio was there to see it, finally understanding how the Chain’s sausage gets made, and he may be ready to turn vegan.
Michael’s mission also comes to an intense conclusion as she takes some pretty extreme measures to get Stamets away from Osyraa. Three seasons of frustration come to a head with Paul as he is strapped into some kind of energy pod thing. The heartache of this dynamic continues as he doesn’t want to go, but Michael is in pure needs-of-the-Federation mode and even if it kills her a little bit inside, she shoots him out a window to the apparent safety of a Federation tractor beam. Mission accomplished, but at what cost?
Oh, and this episode isn’t done with us yet. Set phasers to adorable… purged from the computer by the Chain, the Sphere Data (aka proto-Zora) has found its way into the DOT bots and they report for duty to Captain Tilly, who has taken the armory and looks ready to get a bit Killy in the season finale next week.
Sum of its parts
There is a lot to like in “There Is A Tide…” There’s action, character moments, plot progression, and even some dark humor. But it still feels a bit disjointed, which is the price you pay for being the middle episode in what is shaping up to be a three-part finale. After last week’s intriguing—yet still head-scratching—reveal on The Burn, it was a risk to leave that thread behind for an entire episode to play out the retake-the-ship trope, and they didn’t even finish retaking the ship.
Director Jonathan Frakes did a fine job keeping the ball rolling with some fun moments, tense situations, and genuine emotional impact. Although even with the always excellent Oded Fehr, there was a bit of a grind with the diplomatic tête-à-tête. On the other hand, the back and forth between Stamets and Aurellio was fascinating, and Ken Mitchell’s return to Discovery was very welcome with a nuanced performance that really opened up the Emerald Chain. It’s also going to be hard to say goodbye to Ryn, who has grown as a character this season, but his sacrifice made sense and was earned. And as Ken Mitchell proves, there can be opportunities to return to Discovery for Averbach-Katz.
Working on the chain
Leaving Su’Kal and his implications for The Burn to the finale, “There is a Tide…” rushed out quite a lot of world-building for the Emerald Chain and Osyraa. Not just a 32nd-century version of the criminal Orion Syndicate, we now learn it is a vast and complex civilization, complete with advanced science and even an element of democracy in the form of a Congress. As for Osyraa herself, she gets some new layers of nuance, showing a softer side and even sympathetic side. Humanizing and expanding on adversaries is good, but it’s a little late in the game to be doing it. The season would have been better served to have layered these things in along the way.
A welcome element was Vance standing up for the ideals of the Federation, not willing to compromise even under the enormous strain of the post-Burn galaxy. This hopeful message is an important part of Star Trek and alleviates any tiny worries that the Federation was going to turn out to be some dark version of its former self in season three. Even though Vance has been the face of the Federation all season, it was good to acknowledge that he is Starfleet and not part of the civilian leadership, which so far has been a no-show (unless Kovich counts, but he is too delightfully mysterious to slot in anywhere at this point). Osryaa’s mention of the Federation President not being part of the talks did seem pointed, perhaps hinting at a cool finale reveal. Then again, this is the show that name-dropped Lorca about fifty times in episode 309 without payoff in 310, so don’t get your hopes up for Jonathan Frakes as a cloned President William T. Riker in 313.
23 weeks of Star Trek almost over
You can say a lot about 2020, but it has been a big year for Star Trek. With Picard, Lower Decks, and Discovery we have had 32 new episodes of Trek, including 22 in a row starting in August. And this third season of Discovery has been a delight, with a change of pace and setting for the show that has helped the weeks go by. “There Is A Tide…” is a solid entry in what has been the best season of the show so far, effectively setting up the stakes for the highly-anticipated season finale in the new year. I can’t wait.
Random extra bits
- This is the third episode of the season and seventh of the series for director Jonathan Frakes, who now ties executive producer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi (until next week’s episode).
- “There Is A Tide…” is a quote from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
- The trick of capturing a ship and having it fired on to sneak in was used just two weeks ago for the season finale of The Mandalorian.
- Book says Osyraa used the same trick to destroy the Presidential Palace on Benthos IV.
- Michael’s losing her shoes, taking a guard’s weapon and communicator, crawling through tubes, and taunting the hostage-taker leader were all homages to the Christmas classic Die Hard.
- Other Star Trek episodes that have paid homage to Die Hard include TNG’s “Starship Mine,” DS9’s “Civil Defense,” and VOY’s “Macrocosm.”
- While traversing the cluttered courier transwarp tunnel, Michael calls out a Wanderer class ship.
- Emerald Chain devices use Orion language script.
- Emerald Chain officer Kana (Lisa Berry) was of the same unknown species as Kima from Short Treks’ “Children of Mars.”
- Aurellio was Kenneth Mitchell’s fourth role on Star Trek: Discovery; he played three different Klingon characters during the first two seasons.
- The DOT-23 robots are the 32nd-century successor to the 23rd century DOT-7 robots introduced in season two and on Short Treks.
- The DOT-23s gave Tilly a Vulcan salute, albeit with only three little digits. Adorable.
- The closest ship securing the USS Discovery was the Eisenberg-class USS Song (NCC-325084).
- Why couldn’t Zareh use any of the available 32nd tech to fix his mangled hand? (Ryn’s antennae, same question.)
- Line of the week: “You’re going to need more regulators.”
More to come
Every Friday the new TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe and discusses the latest episode. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Stitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. Episodes are available on Fridays internationally on Netflix.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.