“Your humanity was beautiful.” – Burnham
Previously on… Star Trek?! Holy shit, that’s the TOS logo and music, and these are clips from “The Cage” and I am freaking out. And even the way this is edited is so 1960s, I love it. Okay, focus, self. We’re reminded of Pike (Jeffrey Hunter) and Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) first visit to Talos IV – the singing planets, the telepathic powers of the Talosians, and of course Vina (Susan Oliver). Legit, my heart is racing. And suddenly we’re back with Pike (Anson Mount) on Disco. Captain’s Log: He hasn’t heard from Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) since she left, but hopes she finds Spock (Ethan Peck) before Section 31 does.
On the Section 31 ship, Leland (Alan Van Sprang) and Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) are having a holo-conference with Starfleet brass (which appears to be an Andorian, a Vulcan, a Human, and a Tellarite – representing the four founding members of the Federation). They consider Burnham’s actions “another act of mutiny” and want Spock apprehended, like, yesterday. While Leland accepts the blame without providing any real explanation, Georgiou explains exactly how Burnham escaped and why they can’t trace her. Considering that Spock needs immediate medical attention, their possible destinations will be limited to Vulcan medical facilities. When Admiral Patar (Tara Nicodemo) asks for additional suggestions and Leland attempts to answer, she makes it quite clear that her question was intended for Georgiou, who suggests a Federation-wide APB…. but don’t tell Discovery. If Burnham were to reach out, it would be to Pike, and they can’t risk him figuring out their plan. The admiral instructs Leland to have Tyler (Shazad Latif) report back if Burnham contacts Discovery, then cuts the channel. Leland makes sure Georgiou knows how much he resents her by making her come up with a way to distract Disco.
So Georgiou orders Pike to search through the debris field where the probe blew up last week, looking for any clues as to what it was made from and why it accessed the computers. (But seriously, why isn’t anyone checking in with the Kelpiens in the wake of that “time tsunami”?) In response, Pike challenges her story about Burnham, disbelieving that she’d simply ignore hails from Section 31. Georgiou reminds him that she’s now “aiding and abetting a murder suspect.” Regardless, Pike thinks that he and his ship can be of more help, but Georgiou doubles down on her orders and reminds Pike and Tyler to let her know if Michael checks in. As Georgiou signs off, Pike turns to Tyler and decides it’s time for him to know the truth about his relationship to Burnham. Tyler confesses that he was in love with her, and she had feelings for him… but there were complicating factors (aka Voq) that lead to their breakup. He promises that his feelings won’t be a factor in the mission.
As Burnham and Spock warp toward Talos IV, the ship’s computer provides some exposition for those in the audience who haven’t rewatched “The Cage” or “The Menagerie” lately: The Talos system is a prohibited region of space, the Talosians nearly wiped themselves out in the nuclear war, and the remaining population has psychogenic abilities. As the shuttle drops out of warp, it looks to Burnahm like they’re heading straight into a black hole. But Spock, even in his compromised state, knows better, and flies them right into the event horizon. Just as Burnham expects the shuttle to lose structural integrity, the black hole disappears and is replaced by the blue-green world of Talos IV. Burnham makes yet another Alice in Wonderland reference and Spock passes out.
Stamets (Anthony Rapp) is walking Culber (Wilson Cruz) back to their quarters for what is apparently the first time since his mycelial adventure. Their conversations are still awkward, with Stamets trying to be positive and act like everything is back to normal, and Culber shooting down every attempt to connect. They spot Tyler in corridor, and Stamets mentions that he’s going to make a formal request for Tyler’s quarters to be moved to another deck to prevent run-ins. Stamets enters their quarters, but Culber follows Tyler to the turbolift, and watches him board it and turn around. The lock eyes just as the doors swoosh closed.
Tyler enters the bridge as Airiam (Hannah Cheesman) is reporting that she has yet to find any compromised files after the probe’s invasion of their computer core (the probe uses SQL queries, btw) and Saru (Doug Jones) hands Pike a list of “facilities.” Vulcan medical facilities. Tyler lays into Pike about how they’re supposed to be scanning the debris field, not looking for Burnham and Spock. Oh, but they’re doing just that: Tilly (Mary Wiseman) shows Tyler a map of the debris field and explains that they’ve collected a metric ton of material, but it’s all been from the shuttle, which shouldn’t be possible. At this point, there’s a quick but probably important shot of Airiam. Wink wink. Just keep that in mind, maybe? Pike is going to follow orders and stay put, and the crew will continue to do their assigned tasks, but they’re also going to contact some medical facilities. So there.
Burnham lands the shuttle on Talos IV, and goes out to explore and play with the singing flowers. She turns and sees a woman in a minidress enter the shuttle. Zomg. Burnham follows her in, phaser raised, and the woman introduces herself as Vina (Melissa George). Ahhh!!! She’s trying to talk to Spock, and is concerned that he’s nonresponsive. She explains to Burnham that Pike and Spock have been there before and how she came to be a human on Talos, then invites her underground to meet the Talosians. Burnham realizes that Spock brought them here because he knew they could help him, and that’s all the information she needs. She and Spock beam down to the coordinates that Vina provides.
Where they’re greeted again by Vina, plus three Talosians. Communicating telepathically, the Talosians apologize for freaking Burnham out with that black hole illusion, but that’s how they protect themselves from intruders. At Burnham’s prompting, the Talosians speak in the “ancient way.” She asks why Spock brought them here, and they explain that he’s not experiencing time linearly, and cannot apply logic to the situation, but knew they he could find help here. She doesn’t understand what could have changed how he experiences time, and the Talosians offer to show her, but in exchange, they want to experience the memory of the incident that created the rift between them. Michael’s offended that they might derive some kind of perverse entertainment from their pain, but the Talosians explain that this is the best way they have to understand other species. She refuses, but the Talosians remind her that her brother’s sanity is on the line. Vina chimes in that it’s “better not to resist.” Well, that’s creepy. In an attempt to explain the Talosians commassion (I guess?), Vina shows Burnham how she really looks, and explains that the Talosians gave her to choice to live as she was or as she is, and the implication is that in exchange, they know every part of her mind. In order for them to reorder Spock’s mind, they must “disengage him from logic,” and ask again if they can watch her relive her memory as a form of payment. Burnham begrudgingly agrees, but insists that she see Spock’s mind first, to know what happened to him.
In Spock’s mind, he tells us that it all began the night Michael ran away, the first night that he saw the Red Angel. It showed him her death, and that’s how he knew where their parents would be able to find her. Years later, the Red Angel came to Spock again, and he followed it to a remote planet, where it showed him the end. Like, the end of the Universe… because he mind-melded with it. That seems like a really bad idea. He saw familiar planets, barren; and future tech launching weapons, completely obliterating entire planets. Burnham is shocked out of the reminiscence, and Spock appears to have returned to lucidity.
In his quarters, Culber is staring in the mirror when Stamets enters with dinner – Culber’s favorite. He tries it, but it’s unfamiliar. He’s not connecting, and no matter how Stamets tries to help, it just frustrates Culber. He looses his temper, telling Stamets that he has no idea what he’s been through, and there’s no way for them to pick up where they left off. Stamets doesn’t understand where this is coming from, and why Culber is so angry. He’s trying so hard. And Culber walks out.
In the ready room, Pike and Tyler are having another chat, and Pike refuses to call off the search for Spock [and Burnham]. He expects Tyler to be fully on the side of Section 31, but instead, Tyler tells him that continuing the search will only shine a light on Spock and Burnham’s whereabouts – they should trust Burnham to come to them. That will keep them all safer. So why is Tyler working with Section 31 if he doesn’t trust them as much as he does Burnham? He knows they’re morally suspect, but he also knows that they’re dedicated to keeping the Federation safe, and that’s the the only place left that he can be of service. Meanwhile. Saru’s found evidence that someone on the ship has been sending large, encrypted, unauthorized transmissions to an unknown location. And he’s on a mission to figure out who, what, and why.
Burnham regains consciousness and confronts Spock about what he experienced. He’s uncooperative, until she pokes fun at his beard. Then the ball starts rolling: the Red Angel showed Spock one possible future – one that could be determined by their actions. And, by the way, she’s sorry. But Spock doesn’t want to hear it – this is not about their feelings and he’s not interested in forgiving her. But she risked to much to bring him here! Correction: He brought her here, because he needed a family member, someone who had context, to witness what he’d seen. Getting back to the point, Spock explains that the Red Angel’s suit is surrounded by an quantum field, but he could still tell that the wearer was human, and sensed loneliness and desperation. She needs to see more. Spock and Burnham turn to Vina and the Talosians, and the memory sharing continues.
Spock is in a white room, and has written all over the floor. A doctor and two security guards enter, and the doctor tells him about the Seven Signals appearing across the galaxy. His hallucination turned out to be a premonition, and he believes the signals are an attempt to communicate. The doctor is looking for an explanation, but Spock insists she won’t find the answers, and he wants to go. Instead, she wants to transfer him to a Section 31 facility, and that isn’t gonna fly. He nerve-pinches the doctor and knocks out the security guards, then turns to face the shadow of Michael watching the memory who tells him that Section 31 claims he murdered these people. He claps back at her for doubting his character, even when inside his memories, and leaves the room.
On Discovery, Culber enters the mess hall and approaches Tyler, kicking the extra chair from his table and slapping away his tray. Everyone in the room is watching as Tyler immediately apologizes – it wasn’t him, it was Voq. And Culber rubs his neck, which is so upsetting. He wants to talk to Voq, and tells Tyler to bring him out. But it doesn’t work like that. So Culber decides to find him, and shoves Tyler. Tilly wants to charge in and break up the fight, but to her surprise, Saru wants to let this play out. Culber and Tyler have a pretty vicious fist fight with everyone watching (including Stamets), and eventually fizzles out with both men face to face. Culber says, “I don’t even know who I am anymore,” to which Tyler replies, “Who do you think you’re talking to?” They push away from each other and Culber sinks into a chair as Tyler walks out.
In the turbolift, Pike questions Saru’s decision in the mess hall. At the time, Saru considered it a much needed catharsis. After all, there are no official regulations governing interactions between medically altered Klingons and mushroom-zombie doctors. Fair point. But Pike would prefer it if everyone on board kept to the standard Starfleet code of conduct from here on out, and wonders if Saru would have made the decision had he not grown out of his threat ganglia a few weeks ago.
As he enters his ready room, Pike catches a glimpse of Vina in the reflection on his console, and looks up to see her standing there, much to his surprise. She felt so much loss when he left Talos IV that the Talosians brought him back to her, in a way. The part of him that lives inside of her never left, but she and an illusion of Pike have spent a lifetime together. He’s a bit weirded out, but happy for her. The Talosians ability to project illusions this far across space is limited, and before this is over, there’s just one more thing. Pike turns to see Burnham and the three Talosians. Since this method of communication is way safer that subspace, she brings Pike up to speed on her adventures since she left Disco. And then Spock comes into frame and reports on the Red Angel and what he’s learned. And they need Disco to come to Talos IV. Now.
With the mess hall otherwise empty, and cleaning drones dealing with the mess, Stamets and Culber sit alone. Culber doesn’t even want to go to sickbay to have his hand checked out because at least now he can feel it. Okay, so why not come home? That’s not his home anymore. The Hugh Culber who shared his life with Paul Stamets isn’t who he is anymore. It appears that our Space Boos have broken up, and Stamets’s heartbreak is palpable. Too bad he’s just been called to engineering for a spore jump.
Pike’s about to jump the ship to Talos IV, but the spore drive won’t engage. Someone sabotaged it. And everyone suspects Tyler. Those transmissions that Saru was looking into? They were authorized with Tyler’s command codes. He insists that he had nothing to do with either the transmissions or the spore drive, but Pike confines him to quarters anyway. Pike orders the ship to head to Starbase 11 and let them know they’ll be coming in for repairs. But don’t worry, they’ll change course halfway there and head for Talos IV and hope they get there in time. And just in case anyone forgot, we get one more shot of Airiam and the three blinking red dots in her eyes.
Spock confirms that he’s now shown Burnham everything he needs to, and it’s time for her end of the bargain. Vina tells her, “You don’t want them to force payment.” There’s that creepy feeling again – ugh. Both she and Spock have to relive the same memory. It’s earlier the same night that Michael ran away, and Spock tried to stop her. She felt that she could only be a danger to them, but he didn’t accept it, to the point of insisting on going with her. To protect him, Michael tells Spock she doesn’t want him. That he’s a freak. That the human part of him is so small that it’s inconsequential, and he’s incapable of love. “Don’t you get it? I don’t want you in my life. Stop following me, you weird little half-breed.” What a punch to the gut. Look, I know I’m just recapping here, but this scene is so beautifully shot, as the lines are passed between the young actors, Arista Arhin (Michael) and Liam Hughes (Spock), and Martin-Green and Peck. You can feel their emotional turmoil and their heartbreak, Spock’s at Michael’s words, and Michael’s at having to say them. This was just really incredible.
Back in the present on Talos, Spock tries to brush it off, but Michael takes that chance to explain herself again, that she was trying to protect him. Because she loves him. But she knows now that that wasn’t the right way to do it. She apologizes again. But Spock feels it unnecessary – in sassy Spock fashion, he thanks her: Michael showed him that his humanity was a burden, and he immersed himself in logic from then on, to escape emotion. But his bedrock was time itself, and time has failed him. Causing logic to fail him. He has nothing to build on, yet this could be the inflection point in history for the entire galaxy. But… he called on Burnham. She posits that his real bedrock is their relationship, but he’s not about to admit that. Vina interrupts this family feud to tell them Disco is approaching, but with another ship hot on their tail.
Leland threatens Pike to stand down, but he will not be intimidated. Disco drops out of warp, scans for Spock and Burnham, and locks on the transporter. They attempt to beam them on board, but Leland’s ship as a lock, too. They’ll be torn atom from atom – McCoy’s worst nightmare – if one of the ships doesn’t release its transporter lock. Vina appears to Pike and encourages him to let them go, let them all go, and he disengages transporters. Burnham and Spock materialize on the Section 31 ship, and Leland gloats, ordering Pike to Starbase 11 before warping away. Georgiou, however, thinks that was all a bit too easy.
Meanwhile, a shuttle is approaching Discovery from the surface. Leland starts to question Spock and Burnham, but they don’t answer, so he threatens them. Burnham essentially laughs in his face and Spock delivers a middle finger disguised as a LLAP salute, as the projections fade away. The real Spock and Burnham disembark in the Discovery shuttle bay, happy to be home. So much so that Spock cracks a smile. And so does Georgiou, as she tells Leland how the Talosians messed with her in the Mirror Universe, so she did away with them. But she kept that information to herself on this mission, rather that miss the opportunity to watch him explain himself to the Admirals again. Spock and Burnham quickly brief the entire bridge crew on what they’ve learned about the Red Angel, and acknowledge that they’re all now fugitives. Pike is about to deliver one of those classic Trek “I’m about to defy orders, and I can’t make you do that, but I hope you trust me” speeches, when Detmer (Emily Coutts) cuts right to the chase and asks for their next heading.
Next week, we take a trip to Section 31 HQ and Airiam goes rogue.
Down another cannon rabbit hole: IMO, this episode of Discovery really does a lot of support and expand on the action in TOS “The Menagerie.” It gives some additional weight Spock’s special bond with Pike, and explains why he would risk everything to help him. Not the mention how he knows that the Talosians could provide that help. Does it make “The Menagerie” less ableist? No, probably not. Does it make Spock a bit more sympathetic in that story? I think so.