Spoilers are coming toward you at warp speed, so you’d better have deflectors on full

Previously on Star Trek: Discovery: Episode 1: “The Vulcan Hello”; Episode 2: “Battle at the Binary Stars”; Episode 3: “Context is For Kings”; Episode 4: “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry”; Episode 5: “Choose Your Pain”; Episode 6: “Lethe”; Episode 7: Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad; Episode 8: “Into The Forest”

Cast: Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), Doug Jones (Saru), Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler), Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), Jason Isaacs (Captain Gabriel Lorca), Emily Coutts (Keyla Detmer), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), Kenneth Mitchell (Kol); Guest Cast: Kenneth Mitchell (Kol), Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), Jayne Brooke (Admiral Cornwell); Written by Erika Lippoldt & Bo Yeon Kim; Directed by Chris Byrne

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From the outset of the episode, we’re given mixed signals based on things we’ve seen before. For starters, Discovery is ordered to fall back behind Starfleet lines as the mission on Pahvo has gone wrong. Lorca pleads for the safety of the planet as Kol’s Klingon Ship Of The Dead is heading that way, but his pleas are ignored as the mission there went wrong. With communications closed, the starship heads back at warp five rather than using the spore drive, and it is Saru’s pleas that seem to give Lorca full motivation to devise a means of figuring out the Klingon cloaking device — and they have three hours to do so.

Okay, here’s the problem for starters. Lorca has shown a blatant disregard for other life forms (the tartigrade, the space whale, etc.), so his compassion for the Pahvo (essentially living entities within every planet and rock on the planet’s surface, but far less corporeal form than the others) seems disingenuous. And not to jump ahead, but the Pahvo don’t come into play whatsoever. Last week, they are the ones who sent out the signal to Kol’s ship, seemingly having a greater plan in mind (and triggering memories of the Organians on the original Star Trek; higher life forms who frown upon conflict). This week whatever that plan was doesn’t come into play at all and likely won’t.

But here’s where things really go south, destroying the episode’s (and perhaps much of the season’s) credibility: Twenty minutes later they’ve come up with a techno-babble theory to utilize a device to read the algorithm of cloaked vessels, thus making them visible to their sensors. A landing party, using bio-sensor devices to make themselves read as Klingons, will have to beam over and install the device. Not surprisingly, Burnham and Tyler are the ones to do so (what is surprising is how Burnham has to convince Lorca to let her participate — this is exactly the sort of thing she was brought aboard to do).

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Which is all fine, except for the fact that in twenty minutes they’ve come up with a solution that has eluded them through the entire war. Twenty frakkin minutes. Why hadn’t they put their little Federation thinking caps on prior to this? It makes zero sense.

Successfully adding tension to the episode is that while Burnham and Tyler are carrying out their mission, Lorca needs Stamets to engage in 133 micro-jumps so they can read every aspect of the Klingon vessel in order to put the algorithm into effect. Stamets is reluctant, given the physical and mental toll jumping has had on him, but Lorca appeals to his scientific side, showing that he’s been charting Stamets’ jumps this entire time and it’s charted the possibility of reaching parallel universes. Touched, and not knowing the captain cared (does anybody believe that he really does?), Stamets agrees, believing that when the war is over they will get back to their core mission of exploring the cosmos.

When the signal of a Klingon vessel is detected, Discovery spore warps back to Pahvo. There, the Ship Of The Dead decloaks to fire on them, providing the opportunity for Burnham and Tyler to beam over to the ship and begin their operation. Along the way they encounter the chamber that we’d seen previously with dead bodies, as well as Admiral Cornwell (who turns out to to still be alive, though without the use of her legs) as well as L’Rell. The site of the latter triggers a bit of PTSD in Tyler, who becomes overwhelmed and paralyzed (surprising considering how he had no problem beating the crap out of her when he fled Klingon imprisonment several episodes earlier), and filled with flashbacks that suggest torture or, perhaps, painful surgery. This combined with later quick flashes — plus L’Rell’s very un-Klingon excitement at seeing him — would seem to reinforce the dopey theory that Tyler is actually a surgically-altered version of that idiot Voq, which is going to be a major let down if it turns out to be true.

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Very cool sequence as Discovery warps in, attacks the Klingon ship, and warps out. Kol has the ship cloak, which triggers the algorithm, thus allowing Discovery to do its readings and prepare to take down the vessel. Effective intercutting with the spore chamber conveys the agony Stamets is undergoing.

Back on the Klingon ship, suddenly they’re speaking English, which is actually the result of Burnham’s universal translator — thank God! Even that change removes the ponderous nature that these Klingon sequences often have. On the ship’s bridge, Burnham exposes herself, claiming her translator is there to prove their desire to communicate. Also, seeing Captain Georgiou’s insignia pin (which Kol says he picks his teeth with) triggers a reaction in her, which the Klingon enjoys taunting her about. Burnham challenges him to a battle to the death after revealing that she is the one who killed T’Kuvma, whose ship this is. Laughing, he accepts her challenge and they engage in a pretty well choreographed fight with Klingon blades. Burnham definitely reveals herself to be a badass here, more than holding her own. Discovery, having the proper frequency, beams aboard Tyler and Cornwell, with L’Rell jumping into the beam at the last moment. Then Burnham, who manages to snatch back Georgiou’s insignia, is beamed away in mid battle. Following this, Discovery opens fire and destroys Kol’s ship.

Cornwell is sent to a starbase via medical shuttle, where she is expected to make a full recovery, which, despite his asking for his best wishes to be sent her way, doesn’t sit well with Lorca, knowing that she had every intention of taking Discovery away from him until he had gotten help with his emotional issues.

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Nice sequence between Tyler and Burnham in which he details some of what he went through, and what he had to do to have L’Rell keep him alive (it includes creepy sex, which we get glimpses of during a nightmare he has before going to her cell, asking what she’s done to him. To which she replies, “Do not worry, I will never let them hurt you. Soon…” ).

Starfleet wants Discovery to come home, where Lorca is supposed to receive a commendation. The captain, in turn, tells a recovering Stamets that he wants him to have it instead for what he did. He also more or less manipulates Stamets into doing one more jump to the Starbase to get the crew away from appraoching Klingons. Stamets emphasizes this is his last jump; he wants Starfleet’s best doctors to examine his condition and figure out what’s happening to him.

So, the last jump takes place, before which, from his command chair, Lorca activates an override with his name on it. He comments with a smile, “Let’s go home” and the jump takes place, instantly seeming to go wrong. Stamets’ eyes go all Gary Mitchell (TOS fans will get that reference), while Discovery finds itself in a seemingly unknown segment of space. Their starbase isn’t where it’s supposed to be and there is wreckage of Klingon vessels all around.

This would seemingly be another fan theory come true: that Lorca is from the Mirror Universe (though that is not confirmed in this episode) and home is where he did indeed bring them.

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Some solid elements, but the story contrivances — particularly the relatively simple solution to the problem that has been plaguing them — are infuriating.

Star Trek: Discovery returns in January 2018.

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