This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 11
There’s a more ambitious and probably more effective version of this episode—one that is told fully from Dr. Burnham’s point of view, a la the foray into Airiam’s world and perspective we got in “Project Daedalus”—but the one we got is pretty darn effective, too. Mostly, because Burnham’s mom is a total badass, with a ferocious commitment to defeating Control before it kills all life in the universe. If this is what Star Trek: Discovery looks like when it properly treats Michael like the main character she ostensibly is, then keep it coming.
Instead of seeing Dr. Burnham’s fight completely from her out-of-time perspective, we get much of her journey through our Burnham’s emotional processing of the fact that her mother has been alive for the past 20 years, by some definition of the time period. It’s affecting to see a character we have seen go through so much have to process yet another emotionally-devastating bombshell. Yes, the news that her mother is alive is, in one way, wonderful, but, at least initially, it brings up lots of questions about why Dr. Burnham would leave Michael at all.
The answer comes quickly, via Michael’s viewing of her mother’s vlogs (don’t @ me—Dr. Burnham basically has her own YouTube channel). Dr. Burnham didn’t choose to leave her family; she put on the Red Angel suit when the Klingons attacked as a way to protect her family, only to get pulled far into the future without the ability to control when she would call her permanent home.
From there, Dr. Burnham set about changing the timeline that would lead to Control destroying all sentient life (other than itself, I guess) in the universe, but, thus far, she has been unsuccessful. Control has always been one step ahead of her—even though Dr. Burnham has the ability to travel through time, Control has A.I. processing capability, hologram technology (proto-holodeck anyone?), and what a bunch of Federation resources at its wily disposal.
At this point, it’s unclear why Control is such an a-hole. Like, what did humanity ever do to you? Hopefully, that will be addressed in a future episode. For now, it’s more of a Stop the End of All Life As We Know It And Ask Questions Later sort of situation.
You things are dire when even Georgiou and Tyler are on-board with the Federation A-Team’s plan. While both Georgiou and Tyler are initially persuaded by AI!Leland to steal the Sphere’s information from Discovery and/or Dr. Burnham, they quickly start to have some qualms about following an increasingly suspicious Leland. (Personally, everything AI!Leland does feels in character for Leland, which is to say super shady and without character motivation context, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, and getting to see Georgiou and Tyler team up, in some way, is, in fact, a gift.)
Inevitably, it becomes clear that Dr. Burnham will not be able to stick around—first, because she has a mission to complete, and, second, because Control seems poised to kill her, if she does stay in this present. Before she goes, however, Burnham finally gets the catharsis she frankly deserves. Dr. Burnham tells her she loves her, and that she has been there (creeper-like) for all of Michael’s biggest moments; for Dr. Burnham, watching Michael grow and thrive has been the thing that has kept her going on what must be an incredibly lonely mission to save all of humanity.
Michael gets to tell her mom that she loves her, too, and that she’s coming for her. She will cross space and, more difficultly, time to find her. Before Dr. Burnham gets pulled back through the wormhole that tethers her to the far future, she looks doubtful—not because she doubts her daughter’s love or motivation, but because she perhaps overestimates time, an entity that she has come to personify as tough, savage, and extremely powerful in her time traveling it.
Me? I’ve come to believe in Michael Burnham’s power. If she can survive being Curmudgeon Spock’s brother, than she can survive anything. Michal Burnham has started wars and crossed the multiverse. Sure, most of that was accidental, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t learned from it all or come to understand her own might—a power that lies not only in her own abilities, not the least of which is her capacity to love, but in the team she surrounds herself with.
While last week’s episode was an exposition-driven ensemble piece that began to bring the larger threads of this season’s storyline together, this week’s episode was a much more elegant, character-driven (though not without its plot shenanigans) hour tethered by phenomenal performances from Sonequa Martin-Green and Sonja Sohn. It was yet another reminder of just how strong this show can be when it fully commits to its ensemble and their tapestry of relationships with another.
Even Bratty Spock (she wrote, with affection) got his act together and finally started provided some past-due emotional support to his sister. (He’s really started to grow on me these past episodes, now that he is part of a larger ensemble and not falling into any tired, problematic Chosen One tropes.) The episode ended with Spock comforting Michael and luring her into a game of chess. If he starts reading excerpts from Alice in Wonderland aloud to comfort his sister, I may take him off of my Do Better, Character list.
While the Discovery may have gotten a partial victory by keeping Control from downloading all of the information from the Sphere, they currently seem very outmatched. Good thing Dr. Burnham is out there, somewhere in the future, on the job.
While I have decided to accept Control as a serious villain for the sake of my Star Trek enjoyment, the nebulous AI’s take over of Leland makes zero sense on a logistical or narrative level. (It makes sense on an actor/production level, but that is not a real story reason.) I’m also not sure why Leland’s body is like Terminator-level indestructible when the Discovery crew shoots it? This is all very hokey.
I was very distraught when Ash was shanked by AI!Leland, but I laughed out loud when he messaged Discovery and only got out a throaty “Leland” before dramatically collapsing onto the ground and ending the call. That Ash Tyler sure knows how to make an entrance and exit.
I love that AI!Leland initially convinced Georgiou to steal the Sphere’s info by telling her that Dr. Burnham’s presence threatened Georgiou’s own maternal relationship with Burnham. Frankly, Georgiou’s history as a dictator feels like more of a threat, especially because Burnham can have more than one mom figure, but this was effective psychological manipulation—especially for a non-human entitiy. Sorry, is that speciest?
How do we think the Klingons are going to come into all of this? I may not miss the clunky soap operatics, but I do miss Mary Chieffo’s L’Rell. And I want to see L’Rell and Cornwell back together again.
Spock was a total nerd in this episode, quoting Shakespeare and philosophers, and I loved it.