Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 11 of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2. Not caught up? See our spoiler-free review of Season 1’s opening episodes here.
Though continuing on from the last brilliantly taut episode – complete with the cliffhanger revelation that the Red Angel was, in fact, Dr. Gabrielle Burnham, Michael’s mother – this is a much more ho-hum affair. It doesn’t help that new plot developments saw yet more borrowings from familiar sci-fi tropes, so now, on top of Terminator’s rogue AI, we have an enemy that can take on human form, as in Battlestar Galactica (which also featured a rogue AI). It’s all a little tired, even though Alan Van Sprang puts in a great performance as Leland’s doppelgänger.
The pseudoscience that marred the previous instalment remains – and is taken to even more ridiculous levels. “We may,” says Spock, “be able to modify a transporter enhancer with dark matter to pierce the time stream long enough to lock onto Dr. Burnham, beam her into our space-time. Permanently.” The writers get away with it – just – by having Spock add: “I like science.”
More positively, seeing Gabrielle’s story via her mission logs – she’s constantly snapped back to a point 950 years in the future – is pleasingly complex and, thanks to her relationship to Michael, is anchored in actual human emotion. It’s testament to the episode’s writers and actors Sonequa Martin-Green and Sonja Sohn (best known as The Wire’s “Kima” Greggs) that, in the face of some off-the-scale technobabble, there survives a genuinely moving story. After holding back all damn episode, Gabrielle finally lets out the truth – she’s been with Michael all through her life. The speech is a great piece of writing:
“Seeing you gave me strength and resolve. Seeing you reminded me of what I was fighting to save.I have been fighting for you, Michael. To get back here to you.”
“But,” she adds, “I can’t come home now, honey.”
And, with an “I love you, baby girl”, she’s flung back into the space-time continuum – and Michael’s tears surely prompted a few in the audience at home.
Mixed in with the less inspired sci-fi is, more pleasingly, the slotting in of some jigsaw pieces from earlier in the season; the Sphere, we discover, was sent by Gabrielle, and she rescued the people of Terralysium (from the second episode of this season) from World War III to prove to herself that time could be changed.
Also worth watching this episode – as ever – is Michelle Yeoh’s Georgiou, taking yet another step along the way to becoming as close an ally of Michael as her deceased Prime Universe counterpart was. It also helps that seeing Yeoh display her martial arts skills never ceases to please. Where to from here, then? Leland’s evil clone survived – with 54 per cent of the data that will ultimately create the killer AI uploaded – and fled, masking his warp signature, so the battle to stop the AI wiping out all sentient life is still on. But it’s Michael’s emotional arc that’s more interesting; as well as her promise to find her mother again, we finally get a sense of how Michael and Spock were as siblings – and might one day be again. The closing scene – involving 3D chess, naturally – is fabulously understated. Although it doesn’t explain why Spock – in all his years with Kirk and, later, Picard et al. – never once mentioned his human foster sister. You’d think he would. Considering how utterly awesome she is.
Star Trek: Discovery is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.99 monthly subscription. New episodes of Season 2 arrive weekly on Fridays, within 24 hours of their US release.