Star Trek: Discovery season 2 episode 5 review – Saints Of Imperfection

The crew of the Discovery heads into the mycelial network to stage a rescue. Spoilers ahead in our US chums' review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.5 Saints Of Imperfection

One of the friends I watch Discovery with every week has a theory about the show: the Klingon bits are written by a completely different team of storytellers who aren’t in conversation with the rest of the writing staff.

While this almost certainly isn’t true, it’s a logical assumption to make, given how narratively-cohesive and tonally-harmonic most of this season has been, aside from that brief detour to the soap operatics of Qo’noS that was Points Of Light.

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Conversely, Saints Of Imperfection is another example of how this show has narrowed its story focus in Star Trek: Discovery season two, and doubled down on Trek themes like teamwork, scientific curiosity, and humanistic optimism—and how it is all paying off.

In many ways, Saints Of Imperfection is an episode that should have happened last season. After all, that’s when a majority of the Discovery’s trips through the mycelial network took place. But, hey, we’re getting it now, and it brings up rich questions like: What effect did all of those jumps have on the universe? #climatechange #goodquestion

Another way in which Saints Of Imperfection was long overdue? The return of Dr Hugh Culber, which has been promised since pretty much right after Culber’s neck was brutally snapped last season. While the logistics are hand-wavy and the timing, again, was delayed, emotionally, this return worked incredibly well. The relationship between Stamets and Culber was one of the first elements that worked on this show, especially when it came to character dynamics, so this reunion is one that is easy to get behind, even without the stellar performances from Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz.

Of course, Hugh’s rescue is tied to the mission to find Tilly. After being pulled through the cocoon and into SporeWorld by May, the crew is devastated. Tilly is the steady heartbeat of this crew. Without her, the Discovery is noticeably changed. We see this absense most intensely through Michael’s eyes and emotions. She has been having a rough couple of weeks in general, but losing her friend, roommate, and mentee hits hard. She walks through Discovery in a daze. Without Tilly to rely on, she is lost.

Stamets is also devastated. Not only does he also consider himself a mentor and friend to Tilly, but he was there when she went missing. He refuses to accept that she is gone. Together, he and Michael come up with a plan to go into the mycelial network and get her back. Yet again proving that Captain Pike—and the crew, as it is allowed to act under him—is so different from Lorca’s Discovery, Pike agrees to half-jump the Discovery into the mycelial network to rescue Tilly.

Meanwhile, we get to see the mycelial plane through Tilly’s eyes. At first, the young officer is understandably freaked out. She has been pulled into another form of existence against her will. However, Tilly’s immense capacity for empathy, curiosity, and compassion wins out. When May tells Tilly she needs her help to save May’s world, Tilly listens. (I do wish they had this conversation earlier, but I suppose that would have been less dramatic, and we wouldn’t have seen all of these cool Mushroom World visuals.)

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For the beings of the mycelial network, the Federation is an invasive species. They have carelessly damaged the fragile ecosystem with their jumps, leaving behind a “monster” that destroys everything he touches. That “monster” is Hugh, and he is far from an intentional killer. Cleverly, Hugh has worked out how to keep the mycelial network from fully integrating him. It has kept him alive, in some sense of the word, while hurting May’s kin. It has kept him alive long enough for Stamets and co. to save him.

Discovery doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to exploring or even recognising trauma, so I’m not sure how Hugh’s time in the mycelial plane will affect him moving forward. I’m also not sure what to hope for. On the one hand, I want this show to take trauma seriously, but I also don’t want an entire season of watching Hugh suffer after we were forced to watch his neck getting snapped again and again in the previously-ons. The dude deserves some light, laughter, and love, and so do we in relation to this storyline. Perhaps those things could be found in Hugh’s healing? Also, science. Everyone on this show should work through their trauma in part by delighting in the joys of scientific inquiry.

While Tilly is forced to face the devastating effects of Discovery’s careless use of the spore drive, Pike is confronted with the Starfleet reality that is Section 31. In Points Of Light, I worried that Discovery was bringing up Section 31 and their ends-justify-the-means, unilateral authority without any real context or comment. Thankfully, we get a bit more here, as Pike questions Leland about his ship’s lack of transparency (sometimes, literally) and accountability.

They’re all valid questions, ones that Admiral Cornwell (yep, she’s back!) simply hand waves away as a messy reality of nation-building. Hopefully, the show gets more narrative to explore this assumption as Pike and Leland continue to work together to find Spock, who, yes, is still M.I.A. With both Discovery and Section 31 on his elusive tail, how much longer can the iconic character stay hidden?

Read Kayti’s review of the previous episode, An Obol For Charon, here.