Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 6 – Debuted Thursday, December 23, 2021
Written by Anne Cofell Saunders & Brandon Schultz
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
A classic Star Trek setup gets some nice twists, turning it into a character exploration and even an emergence.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
The USS Discovery has been ordered to investigate a subspace rift left behind by the DMA, with Captain Burnham and Stamets confident they can find clues in the “crime scene” to reveal Unknown Species 10-C. Book has ants in his space pants and wants bolder action—like tracking down leads outside the Federation—but he agrees to stick with his gf and go along for the rift ride. The crew (along with the now even more chatty AI, Zora) are buzzing with the possibilities as the ship heads in on impulse (Saru checked his TNG box set to learn they can’t use warp) and they are expecting a bumpy ride, but it is surprisingly calm, and dark, and quiet… too quiet. Antsy Book is ready to go do recon, but cautious Burnham sends a DOT-7 out instead—and good thing, because it gets dissolved with a wailing robot death scream. Realizing the DMA leaves behind a different kind of rift, the USS Discovery finds itself in an impossibly dark toxic empty as they start a 30-minute ticking clock on how long the shields will last.
Even though smartypants Adira assures them “it’s impossible for there to be nothing,” with no data to gather, shields rapidly draining, and the rift literally closing in on them, the crew starts getting nervous. After a nice subtle sidebar with Mr. Saru, Burnham makes the command decision to get the hell out of Dodge with, “Abort the mission, we are getting out of here,” leading to an awkward and oddly insubordinate Owo exclaiming, “We can’t leave without getting answers!” With Stamets learning to delegate and Book assigned to navigate, they try the spore drive, but that fails too, and the ship uselessly spins its wheels while Book gets zapped with an energy surge that sends him to sickbay. Something is wrong with the mycelial network in here too. Oh, and now Book is hallucinating being berated by his estranged father (whose birthday is today). That’s just great.
“I think she can get us out of here”
Following last week’s revelation that Zora has developed emotions, the captain and Saru are a bit concerned about this “uncharted territory,” which is pretty reasonable given that they jumped into the 32nd century to get away from Control, an evil sentient AI. When Gray is left alone in the lounge with nothing to do after the crew jumps into action, he turns to Zora. The multitasking ship’s computer finds itself overwhelmed in this empty void, blind to any external sensors and sort of freaking out over the trivia of everyday internal sensors. Gray suggests playing Trill chess as a way for the multitasking Zora to focus and clear her quantum digital head, revealing it has helped him assimilate to his new android body.
Thanks to the game, Zora calms down and is then able to identify subtle changes on part of the exterior hull along with pressure changes in one corridor. Dr. Pollard is close by and is sent to investigate, finding a corridor of dissolving bulkheads. She has to bear witness as a crewman desperately tries to fix the breach and fails to escape in time when Zora is forced to put up a forcefield as part of the ship is ripped away. Zora is devastated, telling Gray, “Ensign Cortez was trapped, he didn’t survive.” With the ship disintegrating and the captain looking for options, Gray realizes that Zora may be the answer. He runs to the bridge to report that she is having an “emotional response” to everything that is going on, but once able to focus, she was able to sense “micro-variances” on the ship’s exterior, and this enhanced sensor capability could be their ticket out. Except now Zora doesn’t believe she can do it. Wait, what?
“That is not my name anymore”
Although Doctors Pollard and Culber assure him the hallucinations are just part of the void mycelia turbocharging his neurotransmitters, Book is not enjoying being haunted by his father, who calls him a “coward” for hanging out on a Starfleet ship being ordered around by his girlfriend when he should be out there hunting the DMA makers and avenging Kwejian. These two have bad blood going way back, which may be why Cleveland rejected his true name, revealed to be “Tareckx.” While Book chooses to believe this apparition is a real spirit to give him hope that his brother and nephew still exist, his father appears to represent the subconscious anger and Kweijian tradition that fuels his desire to get away from Michael and her Starfleet agenda and into his own “blood for blood” DMA hunt.
There is an upside to all of this as Stamets finds clues in the energy surge in Book’s addled brain. There are particles identifying the DMA as something beaming in from outside the galactic barrier. Book is as surprised as we are, saying he “thought this would be a species we know.” More importantly, Stamets can use this trail of extra-galactic breadcrumbs to lead them out of the void. If only there were some kind of supercomputer that could detect the particles… oh right.
“I believe we can meet this moment”
As the Captain and Gray adjourn to her ready room to deal with Zora’s crisis of computer confidence, Saru heads up some nice bridge crew brainstorming to sort out a guiding signal. Things get awkward again with Owo as she gets in Saru’s face with “We can’t let anyone die” and demands to be allowed to leave her post to deal with some collapsing containment field in another part of the ship. Obviously “request denied,” and seriously, Joann, get it together. But the Kelpien does raise morale with one of his short but powerful rallying speeches. Zora also needs a bit of a pep talk as she is experiencing guilt over Cortez’s death and actual fear. Instead of just hitting control-alt-delete, Michael treats Zora like a member of her crew in distress, with empathy and some relatable backstory, and they are back in business. And thanks to Book’s brain particles they have a way to send that signal via Bryce’s mumbo jumbo simplified down to an actual sonar pulse… in space.
Unfortunately, the shields’ ticking clock will run out before they can make an escape. These guys can’t catch a break, so they opt for the crazy “but better than death” idea of putting everyone into the transporter buffer. After some group hugs and Owo’s apology to Saru for her outburst—this is Discovery after all—everyone beams out, leaving Captain Burnham alone with her EV suit to do a slow-mo hero strut to the bridge surrounded by sparks and flames. As Zora starts to lose focus again, Michael is there to keep her straight with ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ clichés to help the sentient AI, who feels the pain of the ship being torn apart. As the heat and radiation drain Michael, it’s Zora who steps up to keep the captain going… by singing “Stormy Weather.” (I see what you did there, Discovery.) Afterwards, Burnham wakes up in Sickbay, miraculously healed and greeted with the news that Zora saved them all.
Things wrap up with the ship being repaired at Archer Station while Book and Saru bond over internal rage. Saru reveals he has to fight to keep it together whenever he hangs out with the Ba’ul at council meetings and advises Book to not let his anger define him. Michael and Zora also have a final moment of trust and bonding, and Zora creates her own little holographic family tree, populated by her beloved crew (including the still-absent Tilly).
A ship in a bottle
“Stormy Weather” is a standard mid-season episode with some traditional space science exploration all in service of finding a single, but key, clue to the season arc along with telegraphing some upcoming potential conflicts. And it does all that with aplomb, but there is more going on here beneath the surface, making this an important episode for Discovery and a real pivot point for a number of characters. It does this with a nicely balanced set of connected stories and effectively evokes the season’s theme, although the writers should trust the audience to get it without having someone give a speech about “uncertainty.”
Director Jonathan Frakes takes on the challenge of doing a bottle show with a heavy load of bridge scenes and keeps things humming by moving from ship location to ship location via the nicely connected main story and subplots. With minimal but effective visual effects (voids are a budget-saver!) and no cool AR wall moments, the episode relies on on-set pyrotechnics (already overused this season) and some experimental camerawork that (mostly) does the trick keeping things varied (but Frakes can really give producing director Olatunde Osunsanmi a run for his Dutch Angle money). The welcome result is Discovery’s own version of Apollo 13, with an aborted mission turned into a nail-biting fight for survival, relying on ingenuity and teamwork to save the day.
Time to shine
The best thing about “Stormy Weather” is the emergence of two cleverly paired up characters, with both Gray and Zora finally feeling realized. Ian Alexander gives his best performance of the series so far, now allowed to live outside of Adira’s shadow. And Annabelle Wallis builds on the voice work she did starting with “Calypso” to bring Zora to life. Even in the middle of a life or death crisis, the episode was able to cut to these two engaged in tabletop gaming and still make it work and feel organic with everything else going on.
David Ajala also continues to show his range through his subplot dealing with some serious dad issues, helped along by a strong performance from the episode’s sole guest star, Rothaford Gray. Book’s hallucinations were a smart way to explore the character’s inner conflict as he wrestles with following Michael and Starfleet, or giving in to his anger as well as his former roguish ways. Even though he chooses love, there appears to be more to this evolving storyline that may be giving us the best character arc of the season so far.
As a bottle show, “Stormy Weather” was also a nice showcase for the bridge crew characters and actors, who have struggled to be more than tertiary/sometimes rising to secondary. For the most part, this highlight on the bridge crew works, but at times it got awkward, especially with the Owosekun subplot and clunky backstory. Nothing against Oyin Oladejo, but it just felt like tacked on drama to add some tension to those bridge scenes.
From a galaxy far far away?
The big season arc reveal for this episode was that the DMA, and presumably Species 10-C, come from outside of the galaxy. Assuming the Kelvans haven’t moved up in a big way, this indicates the superbeings behind the DMA are something new, which Book conveniently says out loud to drive home that point. Hopefully, this isn’t a red herring and Discovery is going to do something totally new here instead of trying to tie it back to some classic Trek race or adversary. The whole point of jumping to the 32nd century was to plow the “fresh snow” of the new canon, leaving behind the crutch of connecting to legacy shows for the big plot points.
But it’s the Zora storyline that is the most intriguing. Season four has been dropping some nice hints, until last episode with the quick reveal that the AI now has emotions. Here we see what it means to have an emotional AI running your ship, which clearly brings some challenges. This is obviously not going to be the end of the story, as we know Zora becomes even more incorporated into the ship (thanks to “Calypso”), but having to take a moment to deal with the ship computer’s feelings in the middle of a crisis could become problematic. One thankful thing is that while there are some obvious issues, there is no indication of an “evil AI” like the clichéd Control; instead Zora is almost the “anti-Control” with her love for the crew being a possible hindrance… likely to be explored in future episodes.
Two-takes Frakes does it again
“Stormy Weather” is a strong little episode that tells a simple story well, adding some interesting layers of character nuance and setting up some intriguing threads to explore in future episodes. Director Jonathan Frakes keeps up the pace with a classic Trek show format, weaving in and out of the different stories without getting distracted. While mostly a bridge and middle-season episode designed to set up future payoffs, “Stormy Weather” still holds together on its own and keeps up the anticipation for what’s coming next.
- “Stormy Weather” is named for a 1933 torch song, which Zora sang to Captain Burnham, and the name of a 1943 musical film starring Lena Horne, who also released an album titled “Stormy Weather” in 1957. Lena Horne is the grandmother of Discovery executive producer Jenny Lumet.
- This is Jonathan Frakes’ seventh time directing Discovery and his 26th Star Trek directorial credit (which includes two feature films).
- This is the fourth Discovery writing credit for co-executive producer Anne Cofell Saunders, and the second this season, following “Anomaly.”
- This is the third Discovery writing credit for story editor Brandon Schultz, who joined the series as a writer’s assistant in season one.
- Captain Burnham retells the story of losing her parents, which was seen in a flashback in the season two episode “Perpetual Infinity,” also co-written by Schultz. She first told the story to Tyler in season one.
- Raven Dauda appears as Dr. Tracy Pollard for the first time since the season three finale.
- Pollard has been promoted to full Commander, but it is still unclear if she is the Chief Medical Officer.
- Saru mentions past Starfleet encounters with subspace rifts and includes the USS Enterprise, possibly referring to the TNG episode “Force of Nature,” and the USS Voyager, possibly referring to the Voyager episode “The Omega Directive.” Saru could also be talking about the 32nd century USS Voyager-J and a possible 32nd century USS Enterprise.
- Saru says Starfleet records document successful long-term survival in a transporter pattern buffer, possibly referring to Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, who used the same technique to survive for decades, as revealed in the TNG episode “Relics.”
- First appearance of a new Starfleet workout outfit, worn by Owo and Detmer in the ship’s gym.
- Burnham borrowed the idea for making a holographic tree from the Akaali Lalogi Orb, a plot point in the previous episode “The Examples.”
- Michael’s tree initially included her birth parents Gabrielle and Mike Burnham, her adopted family of Sarek, Amanda, and Spock, her former captain Philippa Georgiou as well as Mirror Georgiou, and Saru. She later adds Book and members of the Discovery crew, including Tilly, Rhys, Christopher, and Adira.
- The wall panels on Book’s ship simulate Kwejian Tuli trees. Classy!
- Adira had to step in for Linus on the bridge because he resting in his quarters “under a heat lamp” and under the care of Dr. Pollard.
- For the first time, Zora is visualized by a holographic waveform, which has been part of the opening credits since the season began.
- Zora chose her own name, which means “Dawn” or “new day” by some cultures on Earth, Ba’ku, and Ni’Var.
- Gray also chose his own name but only because he thought it sounded cool.
- The waveform is also shown inside a holographic circle, together resembling Zora’s real interfaces seen in the Short Trek’s episode “Calypso.”
- Zora reintroduces herself to the crew with this new hologram and says, “Hello,” a possible homage to the Apple Macintosh computer which used “Hello” as part of its introduction campaign.
- Grudge gets a new cat carrier.
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 Paramount+ in the U.S. and on Fridays where Paramount+ is available around the world. In Canada, it airs on CTV Sci-Fi Channel on Thursdays, and streams on Crave on Fridays. Starting November 26, Discovery also streams on Pluto TV in select countries in Europe and is available as a digital download in additional international territories.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.