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Star Trek: Discovery - The Sanctuary - Review: "Unwelcome Homecoming"

Jonathan Frakes brought us back to Book’s home planet for the first time in The Sanctuary, the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery that slowed down the pace for an introduction of a bold new threat that looks set to be the main, non-Burn related antagonist of the season. Osyraa’s formidable introduction shows that she’s not someone to be messed with: everyone on Book’s homeworld, including his brother Kyheem, are terrified of the Emerald Chain, and are willing to fall in line. Sanctuary it seems, is very hard to find in places like these.

The antithesis of Starfleet’s virtues and everything that they stand for is Osyraa, an agent of chaos and a mercenary who will require a formidable threat from Starfleet to stop. At this stage, she’s by no means the Lorca or even the threat of Control that we had from previous seasons, but then again, she’s got plenty of time to make an impression. The conflict that arises between two empaths, Book and his brother, allows for the main driving narrative on the ground that also gives us room to learn more about who Book is as a person, and flesh out his dynamic with Michael in the process. They work together to solve a problem in the end and move the alien locusts back into the water for the first time in centuries by combining their empath powers together in a way that feels a bit anticlimactic but earns its emotional narrative structure, and gives Book a motivation to stick around on Starfleet further rather than just having him as a bystander on the sidelines helping out when needed. This is a good thing: he’s largely been in a supporting role for much of the season and it’ll be good to see him be involved in Starfleet just that little bit more than before. Could he end up joining the Discovery on a full-time basis? Or will he go back to his rogue-like ways?

This feels like a standard, run-of-the-mill episode that is geared towards setting the cogs in motion for what is to come. It’s Jonathan Frakes, so you know he’s going to make something like this interesting especially when there’s action involved, and the high-stakes fighter mission versus Osyraa’s flagship with Detmer as a lead pilot was a breath of fresh air that I needed, fleshing out the bridge crew beyond the core cast and examining her personality and presence when removed from almost all of her peers. It’s the little scenes that have the crew congratulating Detmer in the background after the day is won that make the team’s bond feel more real and more human, and Detmer bragging about her Maverick piloting skills pays off incredibly well.

The smaller scale subplots in this episode were fun and vitally important at the same time: Stamets and Adira continue their dynamic and we learn that Gray isn’t talking to Adira anymore, surely a significant plot point. Now with Tilly given a promotion and away from Engineering Adira comes into their own. Adira is no longer content to hide who they is, and they believe that they've never felt fully confident as a she or a her, and going forward they prefer to be identified as they or them. It's a touching moment that's given the emotional need for resonance that it deserves, standing out in an otherwise packed episode as on of its more quieter but impactful moments with Stamets instantly accepting this new revelation. Elsewhere, the show wastes no time in moving forward with its main storyline storylines: a mystery that is an instant throwback to Battlestar Galactica and its usage of All Along the Watchtower arises that could have dramatic repercussions for the show. There’s one song stretching across the galaxy throughout time and space itself that is linked to a multiple number of species across the galaxy, could it be something that's linked to the Burn? It's certainly rather optimistic to suggest that it's the song that united the world in Bill & Ted Face the Music.

This is, in short, a very busy episode that doesn’t always give room for its plot to shine with some storylines feeling more dominate over others. There’s even time to continue the dynamic between Culber and Georgiou introducing another random pairing this season that turns out to be a delight: Wilson Cruz and Michelle Yeoh get along like a house on fire. An initially reluctant Georgiou is smart enough to know whatever is happening to her isn’t good, and the scan confirms her worst fears. She’s dying, and this time, it could really, actually be it for The Emperor.

It’s classic Discovery with its desire to throw 20 different subplots at you at once and not leave time for you to take them all in, but from the looks of things we’ll be getting a more prominent role for this storyline next episode. In a season where so much of the main arc is spending its time preoccupied with the Burn, she’s often felt like a spare part, left to be a scene-stealer rather than a major focus of an episode. That looks set to change next week: Georgiou appears to be back in the spotlight.

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