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Star Trek: Discovery - Su'kal & There is a Tide... - Double Review: "The Origins of the Burn?"

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Star Trek Discovery – 3.11 – “Su’kal” – Review

Star Trek: Discovery gave us some much needed answers about the origin of the Burn in an emotionally brilliant episode, Su’Kal, that really focused the direction of the season as it came to explore the fate of the Kelpiens and look at their plight. It felt like a classic episode of Voyager or ‘90s Trek: a select part of the crew beaming down the surface of an alien planet, in this case, the Verubin Nebula, to find a mystery against a ticking time bomb whilst the Federation rushes to aid Saru’s home planet as it came under attack from enemy forces.

The quest to find the origins of the Burn has been one of the main defining points of Discovery Season 3 so far and to see it get an answer was a rewarding moment, backended by the subtler more character-driven approach over the big action spectacle which looks like it’s coming in the next couple of episodes. I have to say though, I do love that we finally got to see a human version of Saru, Doug Jones captured the expressions of his character perfectly and the surprise at finding out that he was human was a perfect piece of acting and demonstrates why Jones is one of the best cast members on the show.

Coupled with Michael being a Trill and Culber as a Bajoran, they were allowed to explore a corrupted holodeck as they saw fit to in keeping with its program. The holograms on the planet that the group kept encountering were thoroughly enjoyable and varied, program training signals, and Michael pretending to be a hologram to get through to Su’kal himself worked wonders, the emotional heartbeats of Su’kal’s reaction to Michael and their bond eventually developing as Michael taught him social interaction was one of the finer moments of the episode, a quieter touch but a welcome one. The focus on character interactions in conjunction with the big plot-heavy moments has done this show plenty of favours, making it standout this season compared to the previous two in all the right ways. After all, Su’kal’s upbringing hasn’t been easy: He has spent several years alone and his isolation coupled with the limitations of the hologram programs have kept him childlike in nature, having not yet advanced to adulthood.

The way the Kelpien elders had set up a monster as a test for him to overcome in order to be free allowed for an interesting problem, but as always in Discovery, time was very much not on their side, exposure to the planet’s radiation put them at risk and they needed Discovery to remain in close contact with the planet to ensure their survival.

But Discovery itself isn’t without its own problem as in space, Osyraa has arrived, eager and quite happy to find the ship with all its Viridian attached. Without Michael, Book, Culber, Adira and Saru, the team is outmatched and quickly taken over in under 15 minutes, demonstrating her skills at her finest and showing just hwo vulnerable the Discovery really is. It's an eye-opening moment that establishes the first part of this three part series finale with incredible intent: Will the ship's crew be able to stop Ossyra from achieving victory over the Federation, which she is now able to dive right into their headquaters herself? It's a gauntlet of high odds, and if there's ever been a show that knows how to raise the stakes from zero to a hundred in a matter of minutes, as we've seen from the first three seasons so far, Discovery has very much been THAT show.

Star Trek Discovery – 3.12– “There is a Tide…” – Review

Star Trek: Discovery followed up the previous episode's cliffhanger with a bang as it pushed its characters into a corner and made them the underdogs almost instantly. Osyraa has the upper-hand on the ship and is able to fool the Federation into lowering the shields thinking it is Discovery that is returning from their mission, and within seconds, is able to board the headquarters. But rather than kill Admiral Vance and destroy the Federation she has made a bold, risky gambit: an alliance. This is Osyraa however, there’s more than meets the eye, and she’s able to manipulate Vance’s AI into believing that every word she says is the truth. She isn’t lying. She’s just not revealing everything.

Captured on board Discovery, There is a Tide… was the moment for the bridge team to shine. With the help of Book they’re able to escape and mount a rescue mission, whilst Michael does her best Bruce Willis in Nakatomi Plaza rescue attempt, with a real sense of Die Hard in space (which I'm almost certain this is what this episode was pitched as) about this episode. It’s brash. It’s bold. It’s daring, and it works, she’s able to keep the invaders at arm’s length much to the surprise of returning antagonist Zareh, who Tilly left to exile in Far From Home bringing some cunning, calculative energy to the table that sees thing come full circle. There’s enemies on all sides, and this is a crew that needs to stick together.

So, when Michael decides to do it alone again and get Stamets out of the Discovery sacrificing the ability of the ship’s space-travel jumping abilities, it’s a shock to the system with Stamets who pleads with her not to save him. He’s developed a strong connection with Adira enough to view them as a child, and with Hugh and Saru stranded behind on a planet with time running out for their survival chances, the stakes are higher than ever. It’s unlikely that all three major characters will die in the finale, but of course it ups their stakes remarkably high, putting the characters out of the comfort zones and creating further divisions between the groups. There’s a reason the finale is called That Hope Is You (2), we’re back in a similar situation to where we were in Season 2. And from Stamets’ perspective, not much has changed for Michael. When the two next meet, expect there to be a division of opinion – especially if in the unlikeliest of circumstances, we lose Hugh or Adira next episode. Even if we lose Saru, especially with Discovery’s habit of rotating Captains each season, it’s going to leave a mark. I hope we don’t, though – Saru is a strong contender for my favourite character on this show and there's a lot of room for continiued development into Season 4.

The welcome return of Star Trek veteran Kenneth Mitchell as Emerald Chains scientist Aurellio gave us a chance to see a human side of Stamets before this moment however with the two bonding over their mutual interest in science and opera. Stamets is quick to dismantle Aurellio’s belief in Osyraa, showcasing him at his biggest strength right before the confrontation with Michael. It’s a culmination of everything Stamets’ arc has been building towards all season in terms of character development, and to see it payoff is quite something. Anthony Rapp is the real standout here, putting in a singular best performance and probably the strongest individual performance of the season. “I believe she is more than she appears to be but she’s also everything she appears to be,” is a hell of a speech and could prove to be character defining in the finale, for Aurellio as well as Stamets.

I do feel like the episode at times felt like it was noticeable in its “middle act” set-up mode without any immediate resolution, but it does a fantastic job at upping the stakes for the finale. The character moments worked great, as did the action, even if I can’t help but feel like this was designed to work more when binged in conjunction with both episodes before and prior to this. Also of note, we lost the underutilised Ryn here, whose character sacrifice proved to be a big defining moment and an appropriate sent-off to his arc. At the same time, whilst I could have used another episode with Osyraa, maybe something that explored her on her home turf a bit more, the conflict that we got between her and Vance was one of the highlights of a pretty excellent episode. It feels like an important distinction this time out that Vance is not the leader of the civilians, and I wonder if we’ll learn more about them either in the finale or next season. Maybe we could even in the unlikeliest of circumstances, get a surprise cameo? I mean, Riker is so far two for two in both Lower Decks and Picard. There's no way he's not showing up in the finale at this point in some form or another, especially with Jonathan Frakes' involvement in this series behind the camera.

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