Discovery boldly goes…
It’s been an interesting season – what started out seemingly as standalone episodes with one plot thread pulling them together has blossomed into something that has to be watched in its entirety. As we close the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, we do it with one of the biggest space battles in (on-screen) Trek history to date and once again the show pulls on those emotional ties to make us really care about characters that we didn’t even know last year.
Opening with the Discovery and Enterprise surrounded by Control’s assimilated fleet, it seems like even with their modified shuttles and probes, the sentient crews are outgunned and outnumbered. It’s impressive that so many shuttles and probes were able to be modified to be battle ready when they’re still trying to actually synthesise the Red Angel suit they need to aid Discovery’s planned trip to the future; all of this happening as the ships go into battle.
What happens next is lots of exploding consoles and flames as we kick off what appears to be a battle that runs for almost the entire episode. The two-ship dynamic brings with it the chance for director Olatunde Osunsanmi to play with the format a little in a way that Trek has rarely done before. Split screen and flicking between the two ships as if they were one actually brings a sense of urgency and what could feel like a gimmick works. Osunsanmi’s direction is top notch – it’s clear that the Game of Thrones effect is in force here and the battle between Control and the Starfleet ships is as thrilling as anything in the fantasy series.
As the episode plays out – very much in the way it did in the Time Crystal driven visions last week – Michael begins to realise that they’re heading for the exact same result and as she struggles to lock onto coordinates in the future, the torpedo that became the centre of those visions last week hits the Enterprise. It genuinely feels like we might be about to see the moment that Captain Pike has already seen in his glimpse of the future where he gets exposed to the delta radiation results in his wheelchair bound future. Number One, or Una as is finally confirmed this episode, and Admiral Cornwell attempt to defuse the torpedo but Pike eventually looks to be embracing his fate when he relieves her and takes over the attempts to stop it from exploding. In the end, it’s Cornwell who sacrifices herself to put Pike out of danger.
By about thirty minutes in it felt like the trope of an old enemy riding in to help out in the battle might have been avoided, but nope – suddenly the L’Rell turns up with her massive ship with a Klingon armada following closely behind to help save the day. Not only that, she brings with her some Ba’ul ships; one of which is piloted by Saru’s sister who has seemingly switched from being a priestess with no knowledge of space travel to someone who can fly a ship into battle within a few episodes. Despite evening the odds, it feels that they don’t actually contribute much to the episode other than attempting than giving us a big, thrilling, entrance.
And then there’s Po, who takes it upon herself to take a shuttle craft and attempt to lead off some of the automated attackers – one of a few examples of us being told something is happening but then us not really seeing any of the results. Po doesn’t appear again until towards the end – she was an awesome character last week, but not sure they had anything for her to really do this time around.
We have lots of lingering questions of Control’s strategy – it’s an AI that could duplicate itself, protect itself and could take over anyone it likes, but seems to be totally encapsulated in Leland – and this is one of the biggest issues I have with this season. In trying to give the AI a face, the writers have reduced it to a character rather than a real threat and one which can be beaten with good old fisticuffs rather than something more cunning. When Geogiou leads Leland to engineering and finally defeats him in the Spore chamber with a magnet, logic goes completely out of the window as she declares Control has been neutralised. If so, why are they still taking Discovery to the future? And how do you neutralise something that could exist anywhere just by ‘killing’ one instance of it?
It’s also still very much up in the air as to whether Control has anything to do with the Borg as many expected – it would seem not seeing as Control has been ‘stopped’ and even if Ex-Leland somehow survives he’s still on board Discovery in the distant future rather than back in the past. One thing to note is that the Beta Quadrant, especially at the distance from Earth that we’re talking about, is a LOT closer to the established starting point of the Borg Collective than anywhere else so there’s every chance that this could still all happen.
Despite all of my concerns, the way the episode ties together everything we’ve seen so far in Michael and Spock’s realisation that they have to first send the signals that led Discovery to this point BEFORE they can jump to the future works well and we flick back through the season’s biggest events – and despite previously telling us that it was Michael’s mother in the Red Angel suit, we find that most of the times we’d seen it, it was indeed Michael herself.
Also as with last week, the high stakes lead us to lots of lovely character moments dropped in – Stamets and Culber get a chance to reconcile with Culber returning to the Discovery before it’s fateful jump to the future and it’s the final conversation between Spock and Michael really delves into the characters and their relationship. Her appeal to him to “find that person who seems farthest from you and reach for them” foreshadows Spock’s relationship with his future Captain, James T Kirk.
In fact, for an episode that has so much happening, the number of nods to canon is impressive – the sounds on the Enterprise, the blue phaser beams and the reference to Regulation 157 Section 3 which comes from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribble-ations are just a few examples and there’s a fair bet that there are dozens more.
Where we go next now is very much a question that is up in the air – Discovery is now almost a millennium in the future – a point in time that we’ve not seen within Star Trek in any detail before; but not only that, it’s 51,000 light years from Earth, in the far reaches of the Beta Quadrant, which is almost as far away as Voyager was stranded. Discovery might have a spore drive, but whether it still works is another question entirely. There’ll be questions to answer next year and no guarantees they’ll come quickly – will we see a future of humanity? has humanity even survived another thousand years? AND – given Michelle Yeoh is supposed to be heading up her own Section 31 series, how is she now going to get back to the right time and place?
The epilogue of the episode where we get to see just why Discovery is never mentioned anywhere else in canon and also why the Section 31 we know from other Trek series is completely different to that of the Discovery universe is pretty much everything needed to bring the series events in line with what we previously knew. And that final moment when we see the Enterprise for the last time with Pike, Number One and a newly shaven Spock really gives us a warm feeling. CBS, we know you’re listening – we genuinely would love to see more of this Enterprise crew so please give us that opportunity.
Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2 is as uneven as the season that came before – and while it resolved some plot holes and tied the larger Discovery story up with canon with the biggest reset button possible there were more holes introduced when pulling everything together. Despite this, there’s a lot to love and I’m genuinely excited to see what happens next now that the writers have a totally blank canvas.
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