'Star Trek: Discovery' season 5 episode 6 goes old school and benefits because of it

a group of people in very plain, grey clothing stand outside under trees
Capt. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Lt. Tilly (Mary Wiseman) are very much the focus this week (Image credit: Paramount+)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Discovery" season 5, episode 6

Here we are then, the other side of the halfway mark of the very last season of "Star Trek: Discovery." Will the plot actually advance any further? Or does the chase across the galaxy for the Progenitors MacGuffin continue, offering another chance to insert a stand-alone, episode-length adventure along the way? Interestingly, a look at the IMDb top 10 rated episodes of "Discovery" there isn't one single entry beyond the second season. 

This week's curiously named installment is entitled "Whistlespeak" and it's almost a throwback to old school-style of sci-fi storytelling, more typically found in something like "Stargate SG1." And a 10 episode-long chase for an alien artifact would be just fine in that show, because each season was typically 22 episodes long. Sadly, that's one reason why "Discovery" has been deteriorating, rather than improving, because each season — and it's far more obvious in seasons 3, 4 and 5 — seems to follow a very cookie-cutter formulaic approach. 

Related: Star Trek streaming guide: Where to watch the Star Trek movies and TV shows online

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Watch Star Trek on Paramount Plus: Get a one month free trial 

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There's always a threat facing all life in the universe (killer AI, exploding dilithium, gravity waves, Progenitor tech), there's always a series of clues-of-sorts that have to followed and that usually entails a set of standalone adventures before finally everything concludes in a disappointing payoff. Tragically, "Discovery" never really found its identity and it struggled from the outset when the original concept was not to focus on the captain of a particular starship, but rather the first officer. 

If in doubt, knock out an episode where the Prime Directive has to be broken to save some folk. Easy (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

That combined with the fact that big-budget TV sci-fi has shifted to shorter seasons with more expensive episodes over longer seasons and more expansive storylines. Just remind yourself what other sci-fi shows have managed to achieve in five seasons; "Stargate: Atlantis" and "Babylon 5" both had five seasons, "Battlestar Galactica" only had four and "Stargate: SG1" had 10. (Although the less said about the whole Ori storyline, the better.)

All that aside, this particular episode was a quirky little number that was actually quite enjoyable. So, that's nice. Yes, there are one or two enormous small plot holes and the super-convenient tech has somewhat taken a turn for the ridiculous. This is not swallowing a pill to genetically alter you temporarily, these are easy-install "optical tricorders" — yes, indeed, you need never have the burden of having to actually carry a tricorder anymore, because now they can be worn like contact lenses.

This week, Capt. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Lt. Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) beam incognito down to the surface of a pre-warp, pre-industrial world much like the Planet Vancouver that we often saw in just about every incarnation of "Stargate." And why-oh-why do these primitive, unevolved civilizations always have traditions that seem harmless at first, but upon further examination almost certainly seem to involve decapitation, disembowelment or any one of a hundred different, excruciating ways of dying, all in the name of glorious sacrifice to some god or another. Was the human race ever like tha...oh wait, hang on. Damn.

Mmm, fire indeed hot. These primitive folk do know that fire needs air to burn, right? Just checkin' like. (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

In this particular instance it's simply suffocating. Of course if you blew the fires out that also happen to be burning in the room, you know, using up all the precious air that's left, you might last a teeny-tiny bit longer. But that's probably not covered in standard Starfleet training, rather undergraduates are instead taught how to rebuild an illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator using only a discarded toothbrush, a clothes peg, an empty washing up liquid bottle and sticky-back plastic. 

You also have to wonder how the local population had such an in-depth knowledge of the sacrificial chamber if no one ever survived, but we'll look past that, just like the writers did. And boy-oh-boy, there's along time to kill before you get killed. On the up side, the dialogue is pretty sharp this week and despite all its flaws, this is a well-paced installment. Still, a cliffhanger might be nice at some point before the show wraps permanently. All things considered though, given the low bar "Discovery" has sadly set itself, this one isn't terrible. 

In other, somewhat related news, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish has stepped down and it's rumored that the entertainment giant is going to create an "office of the CEO" and have a team making the important decisions rather than a rich, white man who doesn't seem to have much of a clue. Sounds like a plan, right? Well, wait for it... Instead, three rich, white men will be making all the important decisions. George Cheeks, president and CEO of CBS; Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Paramount Media Networks and Brian Robbins, president and CEO of Paramount Pictures.

Lt. Tilly in engineering, doing something in another curious choice of publicity image from Paramount (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Needless to say, Paramount's share value has taken a nosedive this week. Now while most of this is related to Paramount Global, it will of course affect the future of Paramount Plus, including programming choices, budget and just about everything else that determines whether or not we'll get to see any "Star Trek" going forward, let alone quality "Star Trek." Let's face facts, the only reason we're getting a Section 31 TV series TV movie is because of contractual obligations. 

The fifth and final season of "Star Trek: Discovery," and every other episode of every "Star Trek" show — with the exception of "Star Trek: Prodigy" — currently streams exclusively on Paramount Plus in the US, while "Prodigy" has found a new home on Netflix. 

Internationally, the shows are available on Paramount Plus in Australia, Latin America, the UK and South Korea, as well as on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. They also stream on Paramount Plus in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In Canada, they air on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and stream on Crave.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as 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.