Shaka, when the spoilers came.
This is it, then. Crunch time. Last week's episode polarized "Star Trek: Discovery" fans, but regardless of whether or not you enjoyed that installment, there were some undeniable issues. Arguably, the biggest of which was why did everyone give up so easily when they were trying to destroy the Discovery? Solutions across both YouTube and Reddit have included simply firing more photon torpedoes, using the prefixed code so that the Enterprise could order the Discovery to lower her shields, spore jumping to a location — possibly Sector 001 — where the whole of Starfleet could've fired on Discovery, or even trying to communicate with the sphere data, since it seems to be rapidly showing signs of intelligence. All of these ideas really should've occurred to trained Starfleet officers. They may not have worked, but it would've been nice to have at least heard them mentioned.
Moreover, if Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner) and Sarek (James Frain) sensed Cmdr. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) was in danger, which was ridiculous enough, you'd have thought they might have taken it upon themselves to inform Starfleet, especially since a sudden subspace communications blackout (which stopped the Discovery and Enterprise crew from calling for reinforcements) would go quite a long way to supporting their reasons for concern.
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Finally, we're not quite sure why Leland (Alan Van Sprang) still needs the sphere data so desperately, since even without Control achieving consciousness, it seems capable of murdering almost an entire division of Starfleet and commandeering 30 starships.
All these questions, or possibly none of them, may or may not be answered in this, the Season 2 finale of "Star Trek: Discovery." And frankly, there's a lot riding on this; the second season has been mediocre at best, so a well-written, dynamic finale will go a long way in carrying the reputation of this franchise forward another year while we wait for the third season.
The pre-credit sequence offers hope of a quality conclusion. We see crewmembers rushing around to get everything done in preparation for battle. (Although, if they hadn't taken quite so much time wrapping up their lives just a few hours before, they might not be in so much of a rush now.) The dialogue is sharp, especially between Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Lt. Saru (Doug Jones), and there's a nice split-screen, comic book-esque representation of a conversation between Cmdr. Reno (Tig Notaro), Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and Saru.
The refit of shuttles and drones from both the Discovery and the Enterprise to use in the fight is reasonable enough, but there really does seem to be an excessive amount of them. Leland appears on the viewscreen and Georgiou tells him her side has more than 200 vessels, compared to his 30.
To combat this itty-bitty armada of probes, pods, drones, bots and shuttles, Leland deploys what looks like hundreds of drones from each of the Section 31 starships. A 20-second montage of concerned faces on the Discovery and the Enterprise follows set to a dramatic, staccato orchestral accompaniment, and the opening credits roll.
Hence the climatic space battle is set up and instantly, it feels unimaginative and disappointingly mainstream. It enables the writers to have explosions everywhere, screeching fighter sound effects and fast-moving "action" scenes filling the screens with random laser fire and VFX to dazzle the viewer. This also marks the point at which hope of a high-quality finale begins to fade.
In "Star Trek: The Original Series," references are made on more than one occasion to the USS Enterprise having phaser-gun crews. Most notably, "Balance of Terror" (S01, E14). While this concept became inconsistent and was never mentioned after "The Original Series," "Discovery" takes place a few years before, so continuing the occasional retrospective throwback, this could very easily have been incorporated — before the ship's phasers became fully automated, for instance — and would've been great to see, removing the need for a space fighter substitute and bringing the battle back to something more believable and less contrived.
Battles between starships in "Star Trek" have been portrayed in a number of ways, from a slower, much more dramatic, submarine-style fight in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" to a slightly faster-paced conflict in "Star Trek: First Contact," though thankfully not quite as insane as Lt. Malloy's handbrake turns in "The Orville." (In "Deep Space Nine" the Defiant was a smaller craft designed specifically for greater maneuverability.)
We've seen phasers in "Star Trek" fired in both short pew-pew-pew bursts and as a beam; these are battlecruisers after all, they'd have different weapons for different purposes. The "Discovery" Season 2 finale was an opportunity to do something really interesting by taking the best of what's been done before and putting a slightly new spin on it.
For instance, the USS Discovery could have used its spore drive to return to Sector 001 — not necessarily Earth, but, say, Alpha Centauri — where Starfleet had managed to muster 15 starships, the best they could do at such short notice. The battle with Leland, Control and the Section 31 fleet of ships would take place here. Phaser fire is exchanged between the ships, and we see the gun crews of Enterprise and Discovery firing different types of anti-ship phasers and loading photon torpedoes to be fired as the precious stockpile of munitions dwindles.
Then a few smaller, improvised shuttlecraft are flying from the Section 31 ships and attempting to breach and board Federation starships, with "assimilated" Section 31 crewmembers — like Specialist Gant — aiming to infect the Starfleet ships and ensure the survival of Control. This way the action can now incorporate close-quarters battle between Starfleet officers and Control's crewmembers in the corridors of starships as each Starfleet crewmember fights desperately to repel boarders. One starship is on the brink of being overrun, but impulse control and the auto-destruct are no longer functioning, so the captain must ask the other Starfleet ships to destroy his vessel for the greater good. It seems the battle is being lost. Eventually, the Klingons join and momentum finally shifts … and so on.
Instead, the show's creators seem to have pinned everything on depicting fast-flying fighters in their space battle rather than focus on what they actually had to work with. It's what you might expect to see if J.J. Abrams wrote this episode and Michael Bay directed it.
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As the battle rages, Burnham rushes to get the time suit ready to fly. Meanwhile, Queen Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po (Yadira Guevara-Prip) has stolen a shuttlecraft and is flying about in the midst of a full-on firefight. She tells Capt. Pike (Anson Mount) that the Section 31 drones that have detached have a refracted lattice-shield design — Po knows this because she can see it in the wave patterns, apparently — and they can be destroyed only by targeting both the port and starboard side emitters simultaneously. That certainly doesn't make things any easier.
Back on the bridge of the Discovery, Reno announces that the time crystal is fully charged and Georgiou suggests a plan to bring Leland on board as presumably she has some sort of cunning plan up her leather sleeve.
The battle continues and, for some reason, none of the larger Section 31 vessels have directly engaged either the Discovery or the Enterprise. Instead there are lots of explosions and teeny-tiny spacecraft spiraling through space squirting laser fire around the screen. Moreover, the shields of said starships are holding up remarkably well given the amount of fire they're taking. Any lesser vessel would surely have suffered a ruptured warp core by now.
Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) suffers a serious injury in engineering and is rushed to sickbay as sparks and debris fly from every direction. This brief sickbay scene is probably the most believable sequence in the episode.
Burnham and Lt. Spock (Ethan Peck) prepare the time suit and drag the scene out somewhat — you'd really think every second would count at this stage. Since Burnham will be the main target once she's left the Discovery's shuttlebay, Spock declares that he will fly ahead of her in yet another shuttlecraft — that for some reason wasn't being used in the fight outside — to ensure she reaches a safe point away from the ongoing battle, so she can time jump. Pike orders all remaining shuttlecraft, which turns out to be a surprisingly high number — we counted 14 — to form a protective cover around her.
Meanwhile, Leland has beamed aboard the Discovery, taking advantage of the momentary drop in shields needed to allow Burnham to exit the shuttlebay. The turbolift doors open and he comes out blasting, in an almost identical manner to Burnham's premonitions. He's forced to retreat and locks out access to the turbolift.
Explosions continue to rock both the Enterprise and the Discovery, sparks continue to fly from every corner of every room and small, non-threatening debris continues to get thrown about. Considering the amount of damage both ships appear to be taking, it's nothing short of a miracle that no one on the bridge gets seriously hurt. And somehow, the shields still haven't been depleted.
Following her "Ender's Game" maneuver, Burnham reaches the perimeter of the battle without damaging the suit or injuring herself. However, the time suit isn't accepting her commands to travel 950 years into the future. She furiously stabs away at the controls, but it's not having any of it. At this point an undetonated photon torpedo embeds itself into the hull of the Enterprise.
We return to sickbay and see that Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) didn't, in fact, transfer over to Enterprise like he said he was going to do last week, thus ensuring all the key cast members are now onboard the Discovery for when it disappears down the time hole and pops up again in a year's time for Season 3. This scene is actually handled very well, and is undoubtedly the high point of this otherwise disappointing episode. Wilson Cruz, a solid actor, is given solid dialogue and in a genuinely moving scene explains to the barely conscious Stamets that he, Culber, has realized his former partner is his family and whatever happens, whatever they decide to do, they do it together.
Burnham and Spock deduce that the time suit will only allow Burnham to go backward, so she must create the red signals over the USS Hiawatha, Terralysium, Kaminar, Boreth and finally Xahea — setting in motion each element of this battle — before she can jump forward. No reasonable explanation is given as to why this is the case, which is a shame considering this is pivotal, instead, Burnham offers us, "[It's] because we've been stuck in an open loop this time, this time! I have all the pieces to close it."
Meanwhile, Leland is scouring the Discovery, trying to find his data. Georgiou and Cmdr. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) have the responsibility of trying to stop him. In an interesting set piece, the three of them are trapped in a small section of corridor, the set of which was clearly constructed on a stage within a rotating gimbal. Due to an extremely localized problem with the ship's gravity systems, they end up fighting on the walls, the ceiling and so on, as the camera remains fixed and the set rotates. It's nice, but it goes on far too long — probably to justify the expense of the set build – and with the savagery that Leland (to all intents and purposes, a machine) is punching them both, it becomes unbelievable how neither of them get broken jaws.
On the Enterprise, the issue of the unexploded photon torpedo has to be addressed. Adm. Cornwell (Jayne Brook) takes the responsibility of dealing with it, and Pike goes to assist. On the Discovery, the signature of a truly massive ship is detected and the Klingon Chancellor's ship decloaks, with L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) and Agent Tyler (Shazad Latif) on board, ramming several Section 31 ships in the process. The footage of the accompanying D-7 battlecruisers engaging in the fight is short, but sweet and it's a shame a little of the Klingon theme wasn't played at this point as that never fails to inspire.
Why didn't Amanda and Sarek inform the Federation? If the Klingons had time to get to the battle, Starfleet could've sent reinforcements; surely the subspace relay blackout didn’t extend so far it blanketed the whole of Vulcan as well?
Burnham returns from her time jumping and sets new coordinates for Terralysium, 930 years in the future. However, we learn that the quantum fluctuations within the wormhole make it difficult for Discovery to track her using traditional sensors. Burnham comes up with the idea to create another red signal — the sixth — to guide Discovery through the time hole to the other side.
Poor Nhan is out of the fight with Leland, which has spilled into what looks like engineering. Georgiou manages to trick Leland into believing the sphere data is in the spore drive control console, and, with an impressive roundhouse kick (that may or may not have been Michelle Yeoh), he ends up trapped in a "reaction cube."
On the Enterprise, Pike and Cornwell determine that the only way to save the ship is to close the blast door to that section, which can only be done manually, from a control inside the room. Naturally, no one thought to put one on the other side of the door as well. The two share a meaningful moment as she orders him to return to the bridge.
"If I'm meant for a different future, then this thing can't possibly go off while I'm in here," Pike says.
"Maybe, but how many will pay the price if you're wrong?" Cornwall replies.
Which raises the question, what's stopping him from closing the blast door, like she's going to, so no one has to pay the price if he is wrong? Spock has said that the time crystal showed Burnham one possible future, and, earlier in the episode, he says that the future is still unwritten, the outcome can still change, all of which surely means Pike can change his future despite what the Klingons told him. Regardless, the torpedo detonates and Cornwall makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the ship.
Back in engineering, Leland repeatedly attempts to smash the transparent aluminum he's trapped within as Georgiou delights in informing him that she's magnetized the floor, and in the same way Gant was killed a couple of weeks ago, the nanoprobes ooze from his body while he screams in agony. Could this be applied to killing the Borg, too? Could the Federation's most lethal enemy be defeated with a little magnetic attraction?
After more lip-quivering from Burnham and another emotional goodbye to her brother, she readies herself to time jump into the future … and Discovery is right behind her. To let Spock know that she's safe on the other side, she'll send the seventh and final red signal back through the time hole. As Discovery speeds toward the time hole, there's another montage of all those emotional farewells between key crewmembers that took up so much of last week's episode, in case you'd forgotten about them.
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Fade to black, after which we see sunny San Francisco, the home of Starfleet, for the most perplexing part of this season finale. There's no end-of-season tease-of-what's-to-come, like there was when we saw the USS Enterprise at the end of Season 1. Instead, the crew of the Enterprise are debriefed by a faceless Federation official and, following a suggestion by Spock, are ordered that under no circumstances whatsoever, are the subjects of the time suit, the spore drive, the Discovery and anything generally connected to recent events to be discussed, ever.
This feels like a tacked-on thought in an attempt to appease fans and restore canon, but … it makes little difference, since we're in a new timeline.
Finally, Spock readies himself for the next chapter of his own adventure and opts to shave his beard off. Following an overhaul that appears to have been completed in record time considering the amount of damage the Enterprise sustained, we see her depart spacedock and warp off into space.
Clearly, the events of the "Short Trek" episode "Calypso" take place in the 33rd century, some 200 years after the Discovery arrives through the other side of the worm hole at Terralysium. And one would assume that "Star Trek: Discovery" will continue with the USS Discovery being the principal setting of the show, so the ship has to return along with all the key crew.
It's an unsatisfying conclusion, to say the least.
After last week's episode where it felt like nothing happened … this is the exact opposite and frankly there's too much, in yet another example of this show's erratic, uneven storyline structure. The moment that Burnham makes her first time jump would've been a perfect point to end last week's so-called Part 1 of this season finale.
With "Game of Thrones" entering its final season, a number of news stories have floated about on how the networks are all looking for the next blockbuster series that will generate hitherto unheard-of viewing numbers. "Game of Thrones" has become a runaway sensation despite the fact that the majority of fans are not necessarily big fans of the fantasy genre or Tolkien, they don't play Dungeons & Dragons; they simply appreciate a gripping, well-written, high-quality drama. Can you imagine how great it would be if the next "Game of Thrones" was science fiction? Can you imagine how great it would be if a modern "Star Trek" began to have a similar effect — attracting fans who had no previous interest in the genre, but flocked to watch it because it was addictive television of the highest quality? This is my dream.
Both the first and second seasons of "Star Trek: Discovery" are available to stream in their entirety on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Netflix in the U.K. "Star Trek: Discovery" Season 1 is available now on Blu-ray.
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