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Star Trek: Discovery - "Will You Take My Hand?" Review: "Moral High Ground"

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Star Trek Discovery 1.15 "Will You Take My Hand?" - Review:
Directed by Akiva Goldsman, Story by Akiva Goldsman & Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts & Teleplay by Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts

One of the biggest benefits of opting to do a prequel series is the chance to explore the idea that Starfleet wasn't always a utopian organization that you know from the television series and the movies. It had to go through its own trials and overcome its own difficulties to get there, and Star Trek: Discovery has so far succeeded in exploring the murky origins of the organization that will one day play host to Captain Kirk. "Will You Take My Hand?" does a great job at pushing Starfleet in a direction where it will be forced to make its toughest choice yet. Is it willing to sacrifice its ideals to survive?

The Klingon fleet is approaching Earth and the stakes could not be higher for mankind's survival. Emperor Georgiou has struck a deal with the Federation to take charge of the Discovery and her freedom in exchange for crucial intelligence on how to defeat the Klingons and end the war, and she plans to do it by destroying the Klingon homeworld. After taking the Discovery into one of the supposedly inactive Volcanoes inhabiting the planet of Qo'noS, Georgiou decides to launch a scouting mission under the pretense of gaining intelligence, but in reality, she intends to use the active volcanoes to destroy all life on the planet, ending the war in a victory for the Federation, but at a cost of everything they have stood for.

The small team that accompanies Georgiou to Qo'noS is made up of familiar faces. Georgiou takes both Ash and Michael with her, as Ash may be useful with his Klingon knowledge and expertise and he ends up gambling in an attempt to gain vital intelligence needed. His enjoyment of the sport is another reminder for Michael of Ash's Klingon past as Voq, and that there are still lingering issues there between the two. Georgiou has better luck with the interrogation, and as a result learns of where she needs to be in order to destroy the planet. Tilly finds out too late that she carries a hydro-bomb, and not only that, but it's been sanctioned by a desperate Starfleet, Admiral Cornwell admitting so herself.

However, Michael is adamant that Starfleet shouldn't abandon their principals, and it's interesting to see this as the culmination of Michael's arc as a character in this first season. From someone who was so intent on responding to the Klingons with aggression to the point where it led to her becoming Starfleet's first mutineer, she now is the only champion for a peaceful solution when even Sarek cannot see a better alternative. It shows how much her character has grown since returning from the Mirrorverse, and her seeing what Starfleet could turn into if it abandoned its principals is a good reminder as to why they should be stuck to. She is able to arrive just in time to prevent Georgiou from destroying Qo'noS by offering up an alternative solution that could save both the Federation and the Klingons.

That alternate solution comes in the form of L'Rell, who has been loyal to T'Kuvma's cause all along. A threat to the Klingon homeworld even if unsuccessful would force the Klingons to turn away from their attack on Earth before it can begin, so Michael gives the detonator to her to use it as insurance as they know she will not destroy her homeworld. L'Rell uses the threat of mass extinction to unite their race under her leadership as the war comes to an end.

It was also interesting to take into account Ash's decision in this episode to remain with L'Rell rather than return to Starfleet. I had been expecting him to make a heroic sacrifice this episode to do something that would make amends for his actions as Voq, so it's good to see that the show played against type and predictability by keeping his arc open for more development next season should he return. If he does return though, just how different will he be? There are both sides of Voq and Ash there, and it looks as though the more time he spends with L'Rell, the better the chances are he will start to embrace his Klingon side all the more.

With Earth saved, the Discovery returns as heroes from their voyage and are awarded honours for their service. It was a nice emotional touch here to see Stamets holding Culber's medal, recognising his actions posthumously. It has been confirmed that Culber is actually due to return in some capacity next season on Discovery, but what form that is we don't know just yet. Flashbacks? His mirrorverse counterpart appearing in this reality? Time-travel? There's unlimited possibilities to explore here, but it'll certainly be a welcome return. Also in the clear for now is Georgiou, who has escaped capture and remains on the run in a universe that isn't her own. Hopefully it won't be long before she shows up in the future, because the show could definitely use some more Michelle Yeoh. I loved her presence this week and she didn't even try to blend in as a Starfleet Captain, with her scene on the Bridge at the beginning of the episode very much acting as a calm before the storm.

Her scenes with Tilly this week were also pretty great. Obviously this world's Tilly was not the Tilly that Georgiou knew back on her world, but seeing them working together was still a treat and Tilly's quick realisation that Georgiou was the Emperor after initially believing her to be the Starfleet Captain was a nice touch. Hopefully we get to see more of these two working together in the future if Georgiou does return.

Star Trek: Discovery has not shied away from including subtle winks and nods to the fanbase. From a direct Captain Archer reference to Lorca opting for a Scottish accent to cover as an Engineer in the Mirrorverse, they've always been there. It's also not the first time Christopher Pike has been referenced on the show, with his name (along with Archer's), appearing on a list of exemplary Captains that Saru looked up to during his early days in command. But to have the USS Enterprise appear in person under the command of Pike was a great way to end the season, as we get to see what it was up to in its pre-Kirk days.

It's something I've been expecting the show to hopefully delve into at some point, and it's good to see the season end on a very tantalising prospect of both crews meeting. It's not the first time Michael has encountered the Enterprise, as David Mack's Desperate Hours prequel novel explored the encounter between a Georgiou-led Shenzhou and the Enterprise before Discovery even started. Will their meetings in this book get a shoutout? Or more likely, will they be ignored altogether as most of the general audience are not likely to have read the tie-in novel? It remains to be seen for now, but it certainly opens up plenty of possibilities and new directions for the show to take when it returns for its sophomore season, which will be closer in tone to the more traditional nature of Star Trek that fans know and love, whilst hopefully maintaining the same high quality drama that has made the show's first season so good.

What did you think of Will You Take my Hand? and the show's first season as a whole? Let me know in the comments section below.

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