UK TV review: Star Trek: Discovery: Season 4, Episode 3
Much plot silliness6
Good character work7
Ian Winterton | On 06, Dec 2021
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
We cold-open in Episode of Discovery Season 4 with hooded raiders beaming on board a Starfleet starship to rob its dilithium. “Choose to live,” the thieves’ leader beseeches the captain, but he – apparently not learning as a cadet from the Kobayashi Maru training scenario when to recognise a no-win situation – he fights on, and gets a sword through the gut.
As observant fans will already have surmised from the pithy catch-phrase, hoods, and nifty sword skills, the raider is a member of the Qowat Milat, the warrior sisterhood of Vulcan (now, with Vulcans and Romulans reunited, Ni’var). The murder of a Starfleet officer can’t go unpunished and so a party is put together to bring the perpetrator – identified as J’Vini (Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves) – to justice. But President of the United Federation of Planets, Laira Rillak (Chelah Horsdal), keen to do nothing that might divert Ni’var from path back to rejoining the Federation, gives the pointy-eared ones joint lead on the operation.
Representing Starfleet, of course, is Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green) who, Rillak states, has her confidence (she evidently passed the President’s test in Episode 1) and “dare I say, the confidence of her mother”. Teaming Michael up with her biological mother, Dr Gabrielle Burnham, is always a good move, not least because Sonja Sohn lights up the screen with her tough-but-calm persona every much as she did when playing Kima Greggs on The Wire.
With her mother having another Qowat Milat in tow, Michael is persuaded by Saru (Doug Jones) to take Tilly (Mary Wiseman) – who’s been advised by her counsellor, Dr Culber (Wilson Cruz), to get out of her comfort zone. This unlikely choice is explained away with customary Trek logic: Michael and the two Qowat Milat have more than enough combat training and Tilly’s interpersonal and tech skills may come in useful. It’s silly, of course, but great fun – Wiseman gets to show off her pitch-perfect comic timing when Tilly, handed a Qowat Milat sword, inevitably drops it.
In-story, the error in picking Tilly becomes immediately apparent when, during their first encounter with J’Vini, the second Qowat Milat is killed. Suddenly the team is bad-ass mother and daughter – impressive enough – plus Tilly.
It’s all part of the fun, though, and Tilly’s skillset (of course) turns out to be essential. J’Vini likes pledging herself to lost causes – one of which, it’s revealed, was Gabrielle when, as the Red Angel, she first materialises – close to death – into the 32nd century. J’Vini’s current, self-imposed quest is to protect a hitherto unknown species – the Abronians – who, having escaped their dying world in an asteroid/starship, have become the target of robbers keen to harvest them for their latinum-rich blood.
It all ties up a little too neatly – tech problems with the Abronian cryo-pods fixed in seconds – although we’re kept interested by the cast having great fun. “I need you to stay here,” Michael tells Tilly. “As bait.” It’s more of a romp than an exciting adventure – which is kind of perfect when you’ve got Wiseman in the mix. Hopefully a Tilly-centric episode isn’t too far down the line.
In other subplots, we get the frankly tedious tale of Gray Tal’s (Ian Alexander) consciousness transferring from Adira’s (Blu del Barrio) mind into his synthetic body. There’s a chance, we’re told, that Gray won’t make the jump and will, effectively, die in the attempt. Some sort of shock like that would be powerful but, for now, the writers are content to serve up the thoroughly pleasant love story between Gray and Adira. Gray wakes up and everything is perfect. Man, this nauseating stuff had better be a set-up for something really bad to happen to Gray. Or maybe, although we saw no signs this ep, Gray’s “rejoining” will turn out to be problematic. Here’s hoping, because the brilliant del Barrio deserves a storyline worthy of her talent.
Finally, Book (David Ajala) and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) carry on where they left off last week, a grudging respect now turning into a friendship. With Book still weighed down by grief and guilt following the anomaly destroying his home planet, Stamets makes good on his promise to “figure this thing out for you, whatever it takes”. Having dubbed it the DMA (Dark Matter Anomaly), Stamets is sure it’s a primordial wormhole, although he can find no evidence of tachyon particles (keep up at the back). He and Book travel to Ni’var to consult with their finest minds, and Book mind-melds with President T’Rina (Tara Rosling) to relive his time with his brother and nephew on Kwejian just before the world went boom.
It’s good therapy for Book, but apparently confirms that – because there’s no tell-tale blue flash – there were no tachyons present. It’s all very flimsy, even by the standards of Trek’s pseudo-science, but this isn’t the stuff we’re really here for. More compelling is the effect on character, as seen in the closing scenes, when we see Tilly laughing with Saru as she tries her hand at tending to his alien potted plants – and Book and Michael lying on the bed together, gazing up at a hologram of a forest on Book’s disintegrated home.