Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 10 of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2. Not caught up? See our spoiler-free review of Season 1’s opening episodes here.
“You have to find Project Daedalus!” were Airiam’s last words, before she was flushed out of an airlock. It’s not long before we discover what the project was, and how vital a piece of information it is to understanding the Red Angel.
Pre-credits in Episode 10 of Disco Season 2, we’re treated to Airiam’s funeral, with the wiping of her personal data part of the ceremony, and eulogies from each of our main players giving us a taste of their personalities. Michael, in particular, reinforces in our minds – and of Spock – her apparent need to blame herself for everything, while we see Saru, stoic and caring, sing a song. It’s truly awful, recalling other arse-clenchingly cringe-worthy Trek moments such as Picard and crew belting out Gilbert and Sullivan tunes (watch through your fingers here).
Kelpien dirges notwithstanding, this is a rattlingly good adventure as we’re taken from the revelation that the Red Angel’s “bio-neural signature” indicates that the person in the suit is Michael, to a brilliantly unexpected twist come episode’s end. We’re also treated to Spock behaving more like his old sardonic self, and the best line of the episode comes during his bonding with Michael halfway through the episode: “I’m sure Captain Leland appreciates your choice of high-density urethane foam in lieu of his nasal cartilage,” Spock observes, as his adopted sister, having bloodied Leland’s nose, smacks nine hells out of a dummy. Keeping subplots to a minimum – we spend a little time exploring Dr. Hugh’s identity crisis, which, of course, has thematic parallels with Michael’s dilemma – the focus remains on the main prize: capturing the Red Angel. Fittingly, it’s Michael who realises the best way to ensnare her future self – the entity always appears to save her life, so all they have to do is put her life at risk and hey presto…
It’s enjoyably ludicrous, even by the standards of Trek. Stamets utilises some brilliant pseudo-science to devise a trap – containment fields, gravitron beams, mini-wormholes, time crystals – that all centres on Michael being strapped to a chair and then exposed to the lethal atmosphere of an alien world. The plan works, although not until Michael has actually died, and Spock has had to hold his crew mates at bay with a phaser to stop them intervening too early. And then comes the twist – which was subtly prepared for throughout the episode.
Leland’s poetically ironic death – a spike in the eye, delivered by a physical symbol of his clandestine world, the iris scanner – only comes once he has fulfilled his narrative purpose: filling Michael in on her secret backstory. Her parents, secret agents for Section 31, worked on Project Daedalus – a quest to develop time travel technology. The Red Angel suit was the result, but, due to Leland’s error of judgement, he allowed the Klingon’s to discover Project Daedalus’ whereabouts and the ensuing attack orphaned Micahel – except, of course, it didn’t.
Seeing Michael’s mother stagger forward from the Red Angel is a masterful stroke – and one that will come as a surprise to everyone apart from Georgiou. She obviously knows more than she’s letting on, her eyebrow raises at various points an indication that she thinks it unlikely that the Red Angel is Michael.
Although, of course, it may yet transpire that Michael is the Red Angel too. With her mother in Star Fleet’s hands, perhaps events will unfold that mean Michael is forced to steal the suit and flit away back to the future. Or the past. Time travel is confusing. But, although the Skynet-like time-travelling rogue AI plot is a little tired as a trope, in the hands of Discovery’s writing team, it’s proving tantalising nevertheless. Onwards.
Star Trek: Discovery is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. New episodes of Season 2 arrive weekly on Fridays, within 24 hours of their US release.