Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 14 of Star Trek: Discovery. Not caught up? See our spoiler-free review of the series’ opening episodes here.
The crew of Discovery might be back in their own universe but, as Burnham notes, it “doesn’t feel much like home”. Overshooting their return by nine months, they find the Federation and Star Fleet in disarray, the Klingons exploiting the advantage their cloaking technology gives them to the full. There is hope, though – T’Kuvma failed and the Klingons do not fight as a unified empire, but as 24 separate houses, each vying for control. Sarek – returning here, together with admiral Cornwell, puts it best: “We are fodder for their feudal savagery.”
All that, plus Mirror Universe Georgiou imprisoned, Ash Tyler – apparently free of Voq’s influence – allowed to go free, and we’ve only just got to the opening titles. It’s testament to the skill of Discovery’s writing team that they can juggle so many storylines with ease. There have been mutterings from some quarters of fandom that they miss Trek having a ‘story of the week’, but when the ongoing saga is this well plotted and, damn it, gripping, it seems a churlish gripe.
Saru deserves a special mention. He seemed, at first, to be too mild for the captain’s chair, but seeing him growing into the role has been heart-warming. It’s sad, then, that he gets displaced this episode – not once, but twice. Although, as Cornwell shows signs of indecisive leadership and the next captain… well, who knows how long she’ll be in that chair?
With Cornwell taking command, Discovery takes the fight back to the Klingons. Although their transmission of the intel enabling the Federation to detect cloaked ships will be useful, it comes nine months too late – the Klingons have reduced Federation space severely. As the destruction of Star Base 1 and the deaths of 80,000 Star Fleet personnel reminds them, the only language the Klingons understand is war. And Mirror Georgiou has a unique take on it: the Klingons in her universe are no threat, as the Terran Empire reduced the surface of their homeworld, Cronos, to blackened ash. A similar attack – although one Burnham hopes and assumes will be less murderous – is planned.
But, as they mention, no Star Fleet officer has set foot on Cronos since Enterprise’s Captain Archer almost 100 years before (the first ever Enterprise ep, Broken Bow, continuity fans), so a full survey of the planet’s topography and defences will be required. The plan Burnham hatches is typically brilliant: they’ll use the spore drive to materialise inside one of Cronos’ vast subterranean caves, and gather their data that way.
Before this can be achieved, Stamets – taking time out to make Ash feel even worse than he already dies for killing Dr. Culber – needs to grow more spores. Warping to a deserted and dead moon, they whack down some terraforming tech and, with an ease that stretches credibility, have a moon-wide spore farm within hours. Burnham’s plan is already to be executed. But…
Behind the scenes, Cornwell and Sarek are making dark decisions – to win this war, they will need someone at the helm who has already humbled the Klingons. And so, telling the crew not in the know that the captain did not die but has been rescued, Empress Georgiou takes command of Discovery. The season finale will see, in among the many expertly woven storylines, Burnham forced to do the same thing that kicked off the Battle of the Binary Stars: disobey Captain Georgiou. Only this time, she has the backing of the entire Federation. And her adopted father.
With a week to wait until the finale arrives, where’s a temporal anomaly when you need one?
Star Trek: Discovery is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Monday, within 24 hours of their US release.