Star Trek: Discovery 3.11 Su'Kal
Dropping on Christmas Day here on Netflix UK, the eleventh episode of Star Trek Discovery's third season picks up on the main threads of the season - namely the conflict with Emerald Chain and the mystery of the Burn after a largely separate two-part story dealing with Phillipa Georgiou's departure for her own spin-off series.
Su'Kal is an important episode, bringing this main narrative threads to a head before the presumably climatic final two episodes, though it does suffer a little from the previous detour. Season three has been dancing around these events ever since they left the Vulcan-Romulan home world Ni’Var several episodes ago. This is the first time that any real confirmation is given as to what caused the Burn and the first to see Tilly in command. Some of the best material from the episode is centred around these two events.
I'm afraid I'm still struggling to buy Janet Kidder's Osyraa as the big bad of the season. After the might of the Klingon Empire and Control before it, a leader of a criminal organisation feels like something of a misstep. That aside, Kidder brings the right level of smarm and ruthlessness and I loved her face off with acting Captain Tilly - the use of 19th Century to throw back Osyraa's attempts to undermine Tilly was a perfect comeback, Mary Wiseman really selling the role of someone both out of her depth and yet destined for command. I particularly loved the bridge crew smiling her on as she refused to surrender.
The attack on Discovery was exciting; the tentacles from Osyraa's juggernaut of a vessel latching on to the star ship while enemy soldiers transported in an captured the crew was impressive. It also raises the stakes for the finale; while I don't buy Osyraa as a threat to the surviving Federation, having a Starfleet vessel that jump into headquarters certainly makes her dangerous, proving Admiral Vance's fears right. I'm hoping acting Captain Tilly is successful in taking back the ship in the coming two weeks. I would love to see her be the one to put Osyraa down.
The journey into the nebula was Star Trek at its most Star Treky; a visually stunning, nightmarish labyrinth of radiation clouds threatening to tear Discovery apart. The visual treats continued as Culber, Saru and Michael began searching for the surviving Kaminar on the crashed vessel. It was certainly a welcome episode surely for Doug Jones, who got to spend most of the episode looking 'human' while Culber was Bajoran-ed up and Michael became a Trill, as they found themselves in the ultimate Holodeck episode; a nightmarish world where the surviving Su'Kal had been raised alone. From the M.C. Escher’s inspired staircases to the ghostly phantoms, the decaying program was a vivid representation of Su'Kal's broken mind, having grown up with only Federation programs and the trauma of being alone.
The almost occurrence of another Burn revealed how the planet made up almost exclusively of Dilithium, and the childhood trauma that led to the first galactic disaster (it wasn't Omega after all, despite being the fan favourite since episode one). I feel there's plenty more to be explored here to make the resolution of the Burn mystery fully satisfying, but with Culber, Saru and now Adira left behind, there is more to time to delve into Su'Kal's abilities.
I'm genuinely worried for the three Starfleet officers stranded on the planet. Wilson Cruz has really grown as a member of the ensemble this season, demonstrated through Culber's own admission that he has found a new sense of purpose in the future. Killing him off now - particularly after the shocking events of season one - will feel like a betrayal. Similarly, Blu del Barrio's Adira has really grown on me as the season progresses. Like Culber, her relationship to Stamets has become one of the foundations of the show and I would hate to see that broken apart. The loss of Doug Jones' Saru would be a huge crime, given that he has so much more to give as the captain of Discovery. While I like that the episode acknowledged his flaws as he was emotionally invested in helping Su'Kal, I would hate for this to be his undoing - and as much as I love Tilly, she's not permanent captain material yet.
I was also glad to see Booker prove himself, venturing into the nebula to discovery the planet within and then launching a rescue operation even as Osyraa's forces took down Discovery. David Ajala is another compelling member of the ensemble in season three, both as the classic 'outsider' and in how he emboldens Michael's character.
It was the investment in these characters that made the final act of Su'Kal so compelling. There are genuine, emotional stakes in place and I don't know if everyone is going to make it out alive. The episode ended with the Discovery captured by Osyraa, Saru, Culber and Adira exposed to deadly radiation on the planet and Booker and an injured Michael at the edge of the nebula, unable to save the ship. The stakes are certainly raised high as season three enters its end game. Let's hope it doesn't disappoint.