Previously on Star Trek Discovery: Ash Tyler’s strange behavior finally gets the attention of his crewmates and L’Rell admitted that he is really Voq, altered to appear and act like Tyler. With two people inside him fighting one another, L’Rell convinces Saru that she’s the only one who can save him – and presumably she does so by “killing” was remains of Voq so that only Tyler remains. In the Mirror Universe, Emperor Georgiou and Burnham together defeat (and kill) Lorca. Just as the Emperor is about to fall to his remaining troops, Burham grabs her during beam out. Despite their lack of spores on board, Tilly and Stamets devise a plan to get home and destroy the Terran Flagship at the same time, but when Discovery arrives back in the Prime Universe, they find that they overshot by 9 months and it appears the Klingons have won the war.
Back in the Prime Universe with two episodes left: Let’s DO THIS.
The crew of the Discovery are getting their bearings and worker bees are changing that pesky “I” back to a “U” on their saucer when Saru goes to see Burnham, and learns for the first time that Emperor Georgiou is on board. And she wants to eat him. Saru keeps mostly cool and orders Georgiou immediately transported to quarters, but then confronts Burnham about her lies regarding the “lack” of Kelpians in the other universe. She wanted to “spare [him] the pain.” That seems to be a good enough answer for Saru, but I think there’s still more to unpack there. But before they go there, Saru threatens the poor, nameless transporter operator with charges of treason if he ever speaks a word of what he’s seen. And then Saru is summoned to sickbay.
Saru and Burnham have a walk-and-talk: Burnham rattles of “excuses” for bringing the Emperor back but settles on it basically being a debt she wants to repay to her captain, but not quite in those words. Saru seems to understand and forgive once again. Burnham asks for an update on the war and the ship, and Saru then fills her in on Tyler, telling her that “the Klingon” has been excised and asking her to go see him and “offer encouragement.” She refuses.
Saru gets an update from the medical staff: They appear to have Tyler left in a modified Klingon body, making him neither/both Klingon nor/and Human. Saru and Tyler talk it out, and Tyler is able to give more gory details about his surgeries by accessing Voq’s memories and is willing to provide any information he can to the Federation. And then reveals that Voq submitted to this torture willingly, as a sacrifice for his people, and that he and L’Rell were in love. The Tyler that remains seems truly remorseful, and wants to make amends for what he did when Voq was in control. Saru tells Tyler that it’s Voq who is responsible for the death of Culber (among other things) and although he’ll be monitored and have limited privileges on board, he does not deserve to be in the brig.
Saru returns to the bridge just as a Federation vessel approaches… with sheilds up. A boarding party beams over, guns at the ready. Once they secure the bridge, Sarek and Cornwell follow, looking for Lorca. Before getting a response to her demand, Cornwell gives a simple command and is able to take control of the ship, then tells Sarek to “start with [Saru].” That’s right, a forced mind meld on the acting captain in the middle of the bridge, right in front of the crew. But it’s “what the times require” according to Sarek.
Sarek confirms that Saru is Prime Saru, but that Discovery’s been through a lot. Cornwell asks after Lorca again, and Sarek lets her know: He’s dead.
Time for a meeting! But first, Cornwell phasers the bowl of fortune cookies sitting on the table in the conference room. Amaze. She’s furious at Lorca, but also at herself for not grounding him when he started acting erratically. And Sarek attempts to comfort her (I guess) by pointing out that it was “not the most obvious conclusion” that Lorca had been replaced by his Mirror Universe counterpart. Hate to burst your bubble, but it kinda was to the audience.
We quickly learn that Discovery’s Terran counterpart was destroyed by Klingons shortly after they arrived in the Prime Universe. Cornwell processes the intelligence Discovery gained in the Mirror Universe and comes to the conclusion that Prime Lorca, the Lorca she knew and presumably loved, is almost certainly dead. So that means we’re definitely going to see him again, right?
Cornwell takes a beat and then refocuses on the briefing: With Discovery gone for the last 9 months, the Federation fleet has been without the hard-earned cloak-breaking algorithm gained from Stamets’s spore jump extravaganza. The algorithm now been sent to the remaining ships, but the damage has already been done. Twenty percent of former Federation space is now occupied by Klingons. Cornwell runs down the brutal and unconventional – but also uncoordinated – attacks from the Klingons, still fighting as 24 houses rather than a unified empire, which makes them even more difficult to predict and defend against.
Cornwell orders Discovery to jump to Starbase 1, one of the last remaining Federation outposts, where all information regarding their trip to the Mirror Universe will be destroyed. When questioned by the crew, Sarek points out that the prospect of another universe, a universe where someone you loved and lost might still live, could be so tempting to some as to be dangerous. But then it’s Stamets’s turn to take the air out of the room when he tells them they can’t jump. So they the dangerous way – by warp.
Cornwell’s about to call the meeting to a close when Burnham has one more ball to drop: Emperor Georgiou. She takes Cornwell and Sarek to the Emperor, and they have quite and interesting standoff. Mirror Georgiou simply wants to go home, Burnham is pushing for her to be granted political asylum, and Cornwell just doesn’t want to be dealing with this. They don’t even know how to send her home, but for now they want to keep her somewhat happy.
Elsewhere on the ship, Tyler is on his way to the mess and runs into Stamets in the hall. He immediately apologizes, but of course Stamets feels just pain and anger. Before he storms off, he makes sure that Tyler feels even a small part of the pain. It’s difficult to watch, and it is beautifully acted by both Shazad Latif and Anthony Rapp.
As Tyler enters the mess, the room goes quiet, as his crewmates watch him head to the food slot, then the whispers start. He seems to know to expect this, and takes a seat alone. Tilly, once again proving to be the kindest person in space, excuses herself from her table and goes to sit with him. He tries to give her an out, saying that he’s fine, to which she replies, “How could that possibly be true?” Then, proving to be the most understanding person in space, she tells him he doesn’t have to talk if he doesn’t want to – just eat. Following her example, others begin to come over and pull up chairs, trying to support someone they know as a friend.
Coming out of warp, Discovery can’t reach the Starbase on subspace. When they go to the view screen, there’s debris floating around the starbase and a Klingon house crest painted on the exterior. Not a single non-Human lifesign is aboard. Discovery detects that they’re being scanned and Saru orders a retreat.
Cornwell is shook. She leaves the bridge and goes to see L’Rell, as they have a certain understanding. She brings L’Rell up to speed, telling her that the Klingons are winning, but without honor or unity. L’Rell insists that the preservation of Klingon culture is worth it, but Cornwell fights back that the Klingon culture is not under attack and that the Federation stands for equality for all. L’Rell stands her ground and that’s when Cornwell loses patience – she asks L’Rell what the Klingons are after, sine they won’t even make demands or accept surrender. Matter-of-factly, L’Rell tells her that Klingons must either conquer or be conquered.
Burnham checks in with Georgiou, who picked up on her connection with Sarek, and is clearly trying to figure out how to play that to her advantage. But Burnham’s just there to get some tactical advice from the Emperor, looking for any insight on how to defeat the Klingons and bring this war to an end. Before answering, Georgiou wants a real answer for why Burnham brought her to this universe. Burnham wanted to show her a place of hope (funny thing, when you’re on the losing side of a war), but even Georgiou knows that Burnham is trying to alleviate her guilt. She can use that, too, and starts to spill the beans. Burnham takes what she’s learned straight to Cornwell.
Cornwell has finally reached what’s left of Command, and it’s meeting time. The Klingons are amassing for an attack on Earth, but Cornwell says its time to go to them: she wants to strike Qo’noS. Except that no human’s been there in the last century and there’s no way to analyze the surface at long range because of the atmosphere or something. But she has a plan for some very short range scans. Qo’noS is a planet of caves, thanks to lots of ancient volcanic activity, and she plans to jump Discovery inside one of those caves in order to scan the surface of the planet and locate tactical targets. You know what? I’m just going to choose to believe that a starship built to withstand all the spinning that comes with a jump through the mycelial network can withstand the subterranean pressures of an alien planet. I mean, if KelvinKirk’s Enterprise can hang out underwater, anything’s possible. Actually, no. I’m still mad about that one.
Still, one problem. No spores. Why does everyone except poor Paul keep forgetting this? Stamets is ready to go grow some more mushrooms, with some magic time-defying terra-forming on a nearby moon. (They couldn’t have done this in the Mirror Universe?) Tilly questions this plan, because Stamets’s own research on this wasn’t decisive, but apparently that was by design. He’s got this.
Emperor Georgiou, meanwhile, has summoned Sarek to her quarters to compare and contrast their respective Michael Burnhams. Georgiou tells Sarek she wants to help the Federation end the war, but that she couldn’t give Burnham all the information necessary to do so. The Klingons will regroup and come back stronger. But Georgiou believes she can bring this conflict to its conclusion, and guarantee victory for the Federation. In return, she wants her freedom.
Sarek decides to head back to Vulcan to discuss some “evolving details” with leadership there, which Burnham questions. Sarek deflects, and in turn decides to question Michael about her relationship with Tyler, which he learned about from his mind meld with Saru. There are some many levels of ick right there. Clearly, Burnham is still conflicted about her feelings for Tyler, both then and now, and Sarek encourages her to make peace through granting grace. Burnham seems disappointed by her emotional choices, and Sarek simply reminds her that she’s human. As he says goodbye, he not-so-subtly hints that it could be for the last time.
Burnham goes to get a status report from Tilly, who’s preparing the spore-growing torpedos. Spore-pedos. But they end up talking about the exchange she just had with Sarek. Tilly asks if Burnham ever expected to see war and death in Starfleet. Burnham’s seen it all before, but Tilly hasn’t. She says that makes her naive, but Burnham says that makes her optimistic. This prompts Tilly to share what she learned from Captain Killy – in order to maintain that optimism, we must understand the darkness inside of us, and by understanding it, we can fight it. And then, she too tells Burnham to go see Tyler, saying that he’s not the same person who killed Culber and tried to kill Burnham, and how they choose to treat him now determines who they really are.
Discovery arrives at the moon Stamets has picked out, and there’s a beautiful mycelial forest in full bloom within a few minutes! SCIENCE! As the spore generation percentage count increases, you can see the hope growing on the faces of the bridge crew. Again, well done.
At the prodding of nearly everyone, Burnham goes to see Tyler. He apologizes, explains that Voq is gone, and Burnham believes him. What upsets her is that Ash Tyler, who promised to come to her if things got to hard, didn’t. Tyler implies first that he shouldn’t be held to that promise because he doesn’t know who he is anymore, but also that the promise doesn’t matter because this is really about Burnham running away because “things got complicated.” That complication apparently being that he was Klingon and her parents were killed by Klingons. Excuse you? This is some bull. shit.
Burnham opens the floodgates and lets him have it. She does not owe him a damn thing. So then, he tries to tell her that the only reason he’s not Voq right now is that his feelings for her kept him grounded in his humanity, and he doesn’t think he can be that Ash Tyler again without her. She tells him that she had to rediscover herself after the Battle of the Binary Stars. It’s hard, but she did it alone, because it’s something that has to be done alone. He’ll have to do it alone, too.
Cornwell checks in with Command again, and the Federation Council has agreed to Georgiou’s plan. They have no choice. She returns to bridge to brief the entire ship on the next part of their mission: The jump inside Qo’noS. And then, surprising everyone else, she introduces the mission commander: Captain Phillipa Georgiou. “Long presumed dead,” she was recently rescued and brought aboard under Cornwell’s specific orders. And after a brief exchange with Burnham, Captain Georgiou takes the center seat.
Real talk: Going into this episode, the thing that I was most afraid of was some kind of reset that would bring us back to the start of the war or return Culber to sickbay, cheapening everything we’ve seen to this point. It doesn’t seem that is the case – instead of that single spore that landed on Tilly shoulder somehow triggering a time jump, reset, and resurrection, we’ll be bringing Terran Empire tactics to the Prime Universe and jump inside a planet. And I am here for it.