The USS Discovery and her crew have already been through quite a lot this season, and it begs the question: Is everyone alright?
In a refreshing change of pace, Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) starts the episode with a supplemental medical officer’s log. In it, he remarks upon the shared trauma of the crew, questioning the stability of everyone’s mental health in the wake of returning to Earth. He hopes that bringing Adira (Blu del Barrio) and her symbiont Tal to the Trill homeworld will not only help jog their memories, but that doing so will provide some much-needed insight on the state of the Federation.
Because of this level of interest, Adira is surrounded by senior staff in sick bay. Saru (Doug Jones), Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Drs. Culber and Pollard (Raven Dauda) each ask questions surrounding Adira’s memories of the joining and the circumstances therein. Without too much to go off of, Culber suggests they go to Trill for some answers rather than dig about in Adira’s hippocampus. After batting around the pros and cons, Adira agrees to the trip.
Wasting no time, DISCO jumps directly to Trill after the opening credits. They are received with warmth and wonder by Commissioner Vos (Andrew Shaver), and are granted access to the surface. Relieved, Saru heads to navigation to discuss the future of DISCO’s ability to utilize its spore drive with Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp). Stamets is characteristically defensive about the whole procedure, but relents when Saru reminds him that DISCO will need additional options for a navigator should Stamets be wounded again. Saru suggests that he and Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) work together to find a solution. She earnestly offers a suggestion, but is quickly – and rudely – dismissed by Stamets, harkening back to his grumpier days of season one.
Meanwhile, Culber pays Burnham a visit, officially asking her to escort Adira to Trill for emotional support. When she protests, Culber reminds Burnham that her unique experiences in developing her own sense of self make her the perfect candidate to guide Adira through a comparable process. After some convincing, Burnham agrees and links up with Adira before going to the surface.
Having completed his analysis, Culber meets with Saru in the ready room and explains that while the crew might be physically sound, they are not okay. After surviving the traumatic encounter with Control, followed by a 932-year leap into the future, Culber explains that the crew is in dire need of some metaphorical grounding to help them remain connected with themselves and each other.
On the surface, Burnham and Adira are welcomed by an assortment of Trill officials, including Commissioner Vos, who in turn introduces Guardian Xi (Andreas Apergis) and Leader Pav (Karen Robinson) each of them looking more pleased than the last at the prospect of a host and symbiont. Vos asks where the host and symbiont are, and when Burnham explains that Adira is the host, things take a turn. Outraged by the scandal of a symbiont joining with a human, Vos labels Adira an abomination, and demands they be separated at once. They argue about Adira’s fate, and ultimately concede not to force separation, but they insist that they leave without offering any recommendations on how Adira could access Tal’s memories.
After the meeting, Burnham and Adira follow Vos, who leads them into a trap without bothering to hide it. Fortunately, Burnham sees it coming and neutralizes both Vos and his guards. Xi nearly gets phasered as well before explaining that he only wants to help, offering to take them to the sacred caves of Mak’ala to help Adira connect with Tal.
Back on DISCO, Saru consults the ship’s computer, searching for solutions to the crew’s collective mental health issue. Startlingly, the computer adopts a different voice with a matching new demeanor, and begins suggesting methods of entertainment and gestures of gratitude instead of exercise regimes. Saru is naturally confused and suspicious, but ultimately takes the advice under consideration.
He plans an elaborate meal for the bridge crew, warmly ushering them to the table as they arrive. The tension is nearly tangible, and while Saru attempts to bring them all together, each of them begin to crumble under their pretenses. Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) makes fun of the situation by crafting an impromptu haiku, prompting the others to follow suit. They pressure Detmer (Emily Coutts) to join the fun, but she spirals into a deep dark place by repeatedly mentioning how much blood Stamets lost during their rough landing. Stamets naturally protests, and the table descends into a family holiday dinner meltdown, each of them leaving one by one as tempers flare.
In the caves, Xi prepares Adira for the procedure while Burnham stands watch. Adira is pulled under the surface of the pool as she connects with the symbiont, just as Vos and Leader Pav barge in with armed guards. As they accuse Xi of betraying his oath, Burnham begs them to let her go after Adira. They reluctantly agree, and Burnham takes another unprecedented leap into the unknown. Briefly dazzled by the spectacle around her, Burnham calls out into the void for her charge. Adira comes running, and after some coaching, reluctantly links with Tal.
Amidst a surge of memories, we learn that Adira was once in a tooth-achingly wholesome relationship with a young Trill named Gray (Ian Alexander), who had recently joined with Tal. Gray explains the procedure to Adira, insisting that he would remain the same person after becoming a host. Just as Adira gifts Gray with a handmade quilt to chronicle their memories together, their ship suffers a collision, mortally wounding Gray. As he starts to bleed out, Adira offers to take Tal and all the memories that come with it, saving the symbiont.
Woozy from the recollection, Adira rests in Burnham’s arms as their surroundings shift into tranquility. One by one, all of Tal’s previous hosts materialize before them, and Adira is finally able to learn their names. She even sees Gray one last time, and together, they give Adira their blessing as a host. Burnham makes sure to take the time to thank Senna for his message, and with a lingering look towards Gray, Adira declares that she’s ready.
Back in the caves, the attendants scramble to find blankets for Burnham and Adira. Xi asks Adira to speak the names, and is visibly relieved when she lists them all, signifying that Tal’s portion of Trill history remained intact. Vos and Pav abruptly change their tune and apologize to Adira, admitting their faults. Pav offers to mentor Adira, but Adira insists on going with Discovery to help them rebuild the Federation.
Still brooding in the ready room, Saru ponders where he went wrong with his gesture. Tilly, in all her grace, is the first to return and thank him for his efforts. She goes on to commend him on his leadership skills, of which Saru is grateful. Stamets returns next and gives Tilly her flowers, apologizing for his dismissive behavior. Together they agree to revisit the task of finding an alternative navigation interface. Down in sick bay, Detmer pays a visit to Culber, taking him up on the offer to talk before they’re abruptly called to join the rest of the crew in the shuttle bay.
Apparently heeding the computer’s suggestion, Saru hosts a Buster Keaton movie night to bring the crew together. Surveying the fruits of his labor, Culber congratulates Saru on such an effective solution. Saru admits that it was in fact the computer that recommended a film to lighten everyone’s spirits. Culber is understandably alarmed that the computer has made its own upgrades, but accepts Saru’s explanation readily enough.
The only two missing from family movie night, Burnham and Adira, are visiting in Adira’s quarters. She hands Burnham a tablet with the coordinates to Federation headquarters, courtesy of Senna Tal. Adira, having picked up the cello now that she’s connected with Tal, communes briefly what can easily be described as Gray’s ghost. Gray playfully criticizes Adira’s technique, and asks why she didn’t tell Michael he was there. They are both confused as to how this is even possible, and agreeing not to mention it just yet, continue practicing Adira’s bowing.
I have now seen three episodes of Season 3 and find myseef smiling. Like Next Generation and Enterprise the players seemed to have found their rhythm on the third season. Martin-Green and Cruz are laying back and being their characters. M-G is much more nuanced and less fiesty stereotype. Jones is more inside the character. I am enjoying the pacing and the stories are more thoughtful. Rapp suffers from having to play against Wisemen who is still horribly token young genius with no life skills. Definitely the Wesley Crusher of the show.
There are however still at least four players that do not register and once again Star Trek is plagued by to larger a cast. I cannot even remember their names but their all on the bridge and just do not cut through.
Great to see the Trill mythology expand (I have never watched DS9 so not sure if that offered more). del barrio had a diffuclt job she has to communicate being puzzled for most of the episode. I will be fascinated to see where that goes and Alexander communicated a wonderful spiritual loving quality that lifted the episode.
All in all a welcome surprise fresh but grounded and the core play well enough.