The 'Star Trek: Discovery' Crew Tries to Infiltrate Section 31's HQ in 'Project Daedalus'

Tilly (Mary Wiseman) works with Airiam (Hannah Cheesman) to crack a code in the "Star Trek: Discovery" episode "Project Daedalus."
Tilly (Mary Wiseman) works with Airiam (Hannah Cheesman) to crack a code in the "Star Trek: Discovery" episode "Project Daedalus." (Image credit: Michael Gibson/CBS)

Captain, there be spoilers here!

With just five episodes left, fans have begun to formulate some theories about what the mysterious Red Angel is all about.

By this point in the first season, a large portion of the "Star Trek: Discovery" fan base was speculating that Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) was in fact Voq, the albino Klingon, outcast from his house and society, and there was significant evidence (albeit circumstantial) to back this up. It was also postulated that Capt. Lorca (Jason Isaacs) might be from the Mirror Universe — and of course both of theories turned out to be correct.

Related: 13 Things 'Star Trek' Gets Right (and Wrong) About Space Tech 

The Red Angel this season is proving a little less predictable. However, there is one theory that caught our eye … and we'll look at that at the end of this recap, since there are events that take place in this episode that lend further credibility to this particular hypothesis. 

The episode is titled "Project Daedalus," which itself is telling. In Greek mythology, Daedalus and his son Icarus devised a plan to escape from incarceration by using wings made of wax that Daedalus had invented. That image certainly sounds rather like the Red Angel exosuit. 

Adm. Cornwell (Jayne Brook) confronts Spock (Ethan Peck) about his escape from psychiatric care. (Image credit: Michael Gibson/CBS)

The episode begins with Adm. Cornwell (Jayne Brook) joining the fugitive crew of the USS Discovery so that she may speak with Lt. Spock (Ethan Peck). Cornwell performs a lie-detector test on Spock and determines that he's telling the truth about the circumstances of his escape, or at least he believes he is. The problem is that she has footage taken from inside Spock's cell on Starbase 5 showing him knocking out and then shooting the doctor and two guards. 

Cornwell explains to a bemused Capt. Pike (Anson Mount) that the footage comes straight from the top. However, her attempts to contact the Starfleet admirals who look over Section 31 have been unsuccessful and "Control" — the advanced computer system that Section 31 uses for threat assessment — is not accepting her data-input codes, so she is unable to seek verification. 

And one Starfleet admiral in particular, Adm. Patar (Tara Nicodemo), lobbied Starfleet to turn all decision making over to Control once the Red Angel started appearing, because she's a logic extremist, apparently. 

According to Cornwell, every Starfleet admiral uses Control for recommendations and advice, but they ultimately still rely on experience and judgment and naturally she can't speak to any other Starfleet personnel as that would betray the Discovery's position. 

The Discovery must go to the Section 31 headquarters, arrest Patar and reset Control — you know, switch it off and on again. Yank the power cord out. Control-alt-delete. That kind of thing. 

If this plot sounds ridiculous … that's because it is. It strains believability, and if you're shifting uncomfortably in your seat, just wait until Pike and Cornwell return to the bridge and Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) starts blurting out to the admiral that she's "not a fugitive and she's never been a fugitive before except for that one time when she was 16 and went through a rebellious phase…" What?! The interaction is cringeworthy to watch, painful to hear, utterly unnecessary and totally out of place. 

All this kind of thing shows is that Tilly is not mature enough to be in the Command Training Program and perhaps she should repeat 8th grade instead. At this point the opening credits roll, but you won't have noticed because you've run into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and escape this truly dreadful scene. 

Then we go straight to an unprecedented insight into the mind of Lt. Cmdr. Airiam (Hannah Cheesman). She's the cool, almost-android bridge officer that looks like she should be part of Daft Punk. Before this episode, no one even knew whether she was an alien, an android or an augmented human — or an augmented alien, for that matter. 

Related: Machine Dreams: 22 Human-Like Androids from Sci-Fi

Her backstory is potentially quite interesting, and it's just a shame it's staggeringly obvious that we're learning so much about her in one episode — right now — because she's going to die, in this episode — in a short while. It couldn't be more obvious if she'd finally filled in her will, packed everything in boxes labeled "Parents" and "Charity" and put a red shirt on that morning, because she felt like wearing "something summery." 

That tragic and inevitable outcome aside, we might as well enjoy the story while we can. Turns out that she is actually an augmented human. The reasons why she is augmented are not fully explored, but we see her as a normal human through the power of (digital) flashback. As a result of her cybernetic alterations, she has limited space in her memory and therefore has to delete anything she doesn't want to keep every week. 

Imagine being able to delete any selected memories you want; how useful would that be the morning after a particularly raucous night at the Horta Hard Rock Nightclub, on Janus VI, knocking back shots of Altairian snake venom? Or after a first date that ended disastrously? Guilt, shame and embarrassment could all be eradicated with one click.

Cmdr. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Spock begin to analyze the data they have from the Red Angel and the associated signal bursts, and thus begins their ongoing clash as brother and sister. It's a highlight within this episode; as anyone with an older brother or sister will tell you, the dialogue is well-written and well-acted. Peck shines as Spock, and this is definitely one of Martin-Green's most authentic performances in "Discovery" to date. 

Lt. Cmdr. Deadmeat Airiam, meanwhile, with Tilly's assistance, is trying to decipher those unauthorized, encrypted sub-space transmissions that Tyler has been blamed for sending. However, every time Airiam seems to make some progress, those three pesky red dots appear in her eyes and somehow she and Tilly end up having to start back at the beginning again. Only eagle-eyed Cmdr. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) seems to have noticed Airiam's strange behavior. 

Meanwhile, the crew's analysis shows that the Section 31 HQ is located in an abandoned prison, surrounded by a minefield. And these are especially nasty mines — so nasty, in fact, that the Federation outlawed them. Naturally, Pike has issues with Starfleet still using them and he seizes this opportunity to ask Cornwell why the Enterprise was sidelined during the Klingon War. Her answer is somewhat unexpected and catches Pike off-guard. 

"You sat out the war because if we'd lost to the Klingons we wanted the best of Starfleet to survive," she says, "and as this conversation makes clear, that was you and all you represent."

Even the bridge crew go a bit gooey. 

However, this answer feels a bit haphazard. Surely, if you're facing total annihilation, preserving the best example of your ethical and moral values won't make a shred of difference since everyone else is either dead or in chains on Rura Penthe digging for dilithium. 

Meanwhile, Burnham continues to try to help Spock and he continues to reject her efforts. Each one, though, is pushing the other's buttons, and it's entertaining to watch. Airiam continues to act strange and Nhan is still the only one who sees it. It seems Airiam is trying to download something, but the process keeps getting interrupted. 

The Discovery approaches the minefield surrounding Section 31 HQ and their attempt to sneak through fails. Suddenly every conceivable type of mine is flinging itself at the ship; some are attracted to the shields and others have giant spinning saw blades on them that slice through the hull. Just when it seems like the Discovery can't take any more, Airiam completes her download, sends a mysterious message, and, like that, the mines come to a stop. 

Patar hails the Discovery, informing them that a Section 31 vessel will arrive shortly and they will be arrested for being fugitives of the Federation, harboring a wanted murderer etc., etc.

Nhan (Rachael Ancheril), Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Airiam enter Section 31 HQ, hoping to disable the AI system Control. (Image credit: Michael Gibson/CBS)

A plan is hatched to beam aboard the former prison and reset Control. For some bizarre reason, power appears to be offline and all environmental systems are down, so there's not even an atmosphere; environment suits will therefore be required. Airiam naturally insists that her skills are essential to the away team's mission, and then, thankfully, Nhan also volunteers. At this point, you'd be forgiven for thinking that her days are numbered as well, but we'll just have to wait and see. 

Burnham, Airiam and Nhan transport over and find the frozen dead bodies of a number of Starfleet personnel, including Patar. It appears they've been dead for at least two weeks … which is roughly the amount of time since the "red burst" signals started appearing. 

Life support and gravity are restored and we're reminded that the "Star Trek: Discovery" environment suits that we last saw in the premiere episode of Season 2 have those disappointing, VFX retraction mechanisms that tuck the whole helmet away, very conveniently out of sight. We've never liked those. That combined with the fact that the phasers everyone is carrying seem to make charge-up noises every time they're pointed in a different direction, removes any tension this scene may have had. It's like the sound-effects team found a new noise they liked and wanted to use it as much as possible until the novelty wore off. 

Back on the bridge, Cmdr. Saru (Doug Jones) has studied the footage of both Spock shooting the guards on Starbase 5 and the bridge's conversation with Patar that took place only a short time ago. He determines that they're both holographic projections that have been created by Control itself. Yeah, it's gone full Skynet.

The system is blocking all communications from the Discovery, so they can't even contact Starfleet. They deduce that it must want something from them, something specifically from Airiam. Tilly sees that Airiam had downloaded all her memories to make as much space available as possible for that download she completed earlier. She's become "Airiam Mnemonic."

Discovery opens a secure channel to Burnham and Nhan to update them of the situation, at which point Airiam smacks seven bells out of both of them and, in the process, rips Nhan's all-important breather apparatus from her face, leaving her gasping on the ground like a goldfish out of water. 

Nhan scrambles for her breather device after she's attacked by Airiam in the Section 31 HQ. (Image credit: Michael Gibson/CBS)

The Discovery crew learns that the data Airiam downloaded was all the information that the giant, alien asteroid that died in "An Obol For Charon" (S02, E04) had specifically on artificial intelligence. Control deliberately shut off life support and killed everyone on the station and manipulated events so that Airiam could bring this data to it after she was corrupted by the future-modified probe/squiddie that attacked the shuttlecraft in "Light and Shadows" (S02, E07). Yes, Control is looking to achieve consciousness and kill all sentient life in the galaxy. 

We did warn you that this plot was ridiculous.

Burnham manages to shut Airiam in an inner airlock chamber, where she tries to override the door mechanism. Meanwhile, Tilly is trying to reach Airiam herself by talking about fun times had on the Discovery. It all gets a bit over-emotional and Airiam pleads that the only way to stop her is to open the airlock. 

"It [Control] wanted me to kill you! It's all about you!" Airiam cries. Remember that.

"You have to find Project Daedalus…." And she's blown into space. 

On the upside, though, Nhan has managed to reach her breather apparatus and, with the probable exception of several broken ribs, it looks like she's going to pull through. 

So, about that Red Angel theory. YouTube channel The Popcast has come up with a very interesting hypothesis. We know that the Red Angel is a human in a mech suit, and it seems to be guiding Discovery around the Alpha quadrant to right some wrongs here and there. We've also seen what appears to be the Red Angel taking the form of both a male and a female in episodes so far.

We don't know why the Red Angel is coming to the rescue, but we believe its mission is to make micro changes in the timeline to correct a major problem in the future. This is something we've seen before in "Star Trek." Popcast speculates that "Discovery" showrunner Alex Kurtzman is possibly trying to link everything together, including events from "The Original Series" and the Kelvin timeline. We also know he wants to link the destruction of Romulus to the new Picard series. 

Popcast's theory pivots around a time-traveling Spock. He never mentions his adoptive sister, Burnham, in any other series because she died when she ran away from home not long after she was adopted by Amanda and Sarek — except she didn't. She was saved by Spock's first vision of the Red Angel. What if Spock could send a message back to his younger self, save Burnham and use her to help make the changes in the timeline necessary to unlocking the technology that could save Romulus and also Vulcan?

However, the Spock that would be the one to initiate all of this would be an old Spock, probably not in any shape to go galloping through the cosmos, let alone through time, so the one time jump he does make is to visit Burnham's parents — and they take it from there. And that's it, in short form. 

The theory may sound crazy — and it might actually make too much sense and be too plausible, ergo there's no way Kurtzman would use this — but we suspect there's a male and female Red Angel and there's been way too many throwaway references to Burnham's mother and father recently to not believe they're going to mean something.

Watch the episode in full on YouTube and see what you think, but for the time being at least, we think the Red Angel might be at least one of Burnham's parents. 

If you want to entertain some more mind-blowing ideas about the possible role that Section 31's Control artificial intelligence has, you should watch YouTube user Ketwolski explain his theories. What's especially interesting is how the concept of Control, which stems from the novel "Star Trek: Section 31 — Control" by David Mack, may or may not ultimately lead into the events of the "Short Trek" episode "Calypso."

The first season of "Star Trek: Discovery" is available to stream in its 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.

The second season of Star Trek: Discovery consists of 14 episodes with no midseason break. It airs on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on the Space TV channel in Canada; the rest of the world can see it on Netflix on Fridays.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.