Previously on Star Trek Discovery: Emperor Georgiou arrived on the USS Discovery and threatened to eat the Acting Captain, but Saru played it cool and hand her sent to some quarters. Tyler began the long recovery process of rediscovering who and what he is, and he and Burnham broke up for some valid attempted-murder-related reasons. But the fact that they still care for each other was so evident that even Sarek told Michael not to regret the relationship. Burnham also went to Georgiou to get some advice on defeating the Klingons and ending the war. As the Klingon fleet approached Earth, even Cornwell went to the Datk Side and convinced what’s left of the Federation Council to turn over control of the mission to the Terran Emperor.
Ahhhh! Season Finale!!!!
There are several Klingon ships just beyond the orbit of Saturn on their way to earth. With a quick swipe cut, we learn that the Discovery is just about the same distance from Qo’noS. Burnham begins a voiceover that’s somewhat like Dispatch’s “The General,” about knowing fear on the eve of battle – fear speaks very fast and very loud. Immediately, we see Georgiou do exactly that as she asks for a status report and then cuts off several members of the bridge crew with aggressive and even racist rhetoric, going so far as to ban the phrase “Klingon homeworld” because Klingons are “animals and don’t have homes.”
Burnham’s VO continues: Recognizing fear by these characteristics should be easy, but the question remains of how to defeat it. Saru fakes a malfunction in order to call Burnham over for a chat. Saru expresses his concern that Georgiou is running Disco like a Terran ship, but Burnahm gives a “just following orders” answer before Georgiou chides her for stepping away from her station without permission. As she walks away, Georgiou attempts to intimidate Saru, but this time he’s sassing back.
Burnham’s had enough and starts quizzing Georgiou on her own history, attempting to expose her as an imposter. Captain Emperor passes the test, but then asks Burnham to walk with her. Through corridors that have lots of other crew members walking around and going about their business. As they discussion the very classified information surrounding around Georgiou’s origins, the deal she made with the Federation, and the “real” plan. Smart.
Burnham says that the Federation must be desperate to put Georgiou in command, to which she counters that Burnham was desperate when she came looking for advice. Georgiou’s done her home on Burnham, too. And her assessment? No follow through. After being told she should have killed her captain and fired on the Klingons, Burnham grabs Captain Emperor’s arm and demands to know the real plan. Georgiou is not thrilled by that, and doesn’t give any details – just that this is the Federation’s only chance. And Burnham will go along with it.
How do I always have 5+ paragraphs before the opening credits and only 8 minutes into the episode?
We come back from the credits (which I’ve really come to love, btw), and Georgiou and Burnham have gone to see L’Rell, who does not understand how someone she ate could be standing in front of her. (Why is this a theme in this series?) The answer she gets? “You have the wrong Phillipa Georgiou” and they leave it at that. Georgiou turns on a projector and L’Rell reacts to the site of Qo’noS. Georgiou asks for information, L’Rell makes a threat, Burnham makes a plea, L’Rell swears at her in Klingon, and then Georgiou enters the cell and gets violent.
Georgiou lands several blows on L’Rell (Michelle Yeoh is truly amazing), leaving her bloody, but she still won’t provide any intel. Burnham finally puts an end to it and takes Georgiou to see Tyler.
Standing in his room, Georgiou speaks about him like he isn’t there, calling him “half-breed” and “it.” She feels that Tyler, not truly being of either side, can’t be useful to or trusted by either side. Burnham explains that he has access to Voq’s memories, and Tyler adds that he’s trying to find a way to ground himself in his human identity (by tying sailing knots?) and he’s willing to provide whatever information he can to help Starfleet.
So, they bring up the map of Qo’noS again, and Tyler helps them figure out which cave to jump Discovery into and where to transport a landing party so they can have access to a shrine connected to the dormant volcano system. They settle on an area that’s controlled by the Orions, and Georgiou’s excited about that, because it seems the Orions are similar in both universes. Georgiou decides to add Tyler to the landing party, and then announces she’s bring a fourth person: Tilly, who’s apparently just been waiting outside this whole time. She enters, gushing over the long lost Phillipa Georgiou as she is wont to do, and not 15 seconds in, realizes that this is the Emperor. Oops. Shout out to Mary Wiseman for finding a way to provide a laugh with a Terran salute.
Tilly says that she is very different from her Terran counterpart, but Georgiou tells her not to be so sure – the first big sign that something is up. Tilly will be carrying the mapping drone, a sort of donut-shaped device (the closeup on it is sign #2) – until it can be deployed. She then tells the entire team to “dress as lowlives” and find some things to trade.
Apparently “lowlives” wear a lot of leather. But for real, I get a very strong Lily (Alfre Woodard) from “First Contact” vibe from Burnham’s costume. Maybe it’s the combination of the turtleneck/scarf and vest/jacket. Is it just me? Whatever it is, they both look good.
Black Alert! Stamets, after some trademark snark about the uncertainly of this jump, is of course a total rock star and puts Discovery exactly where they want to be. (And the “stabilizer beams are compensating for the planet’s gravitational pull” – SCIENCE!) Once everyone’s settled, the landing party beams to the surface.
I am so intrigued by the green atmosphere on Qo’noS. It’s a Class M planet, so the composition of the atmosphere shouldn’t be too different from Earth’s, which means that the light shouldn’t refract differently. But the color of the oceans also plays a part in Earth’s blue sky, so maybe something’s different about the water on Qo’noS? Or maybe it’s pollution. Are we ever told? Sorry – this isn’t why we’re here.
The landing party is walking around the Orion compound, which appears to be modeled after Times Square in the late 1980s, complete with street meat and public urination. An Orion woman threatens them, and Tilly falls right back into her ruthless persona from their visit to the Mirror Universe, perhaps a bit too easily. They show off the weapons they have to trade, and while Georgiou and Tyler are in negotiations, Tilly takes Michael to get a snack as pretense for a besties’ chat. Tilly doesn’t think the plan they’ve been briefed on is the real plan either, and they decide they’ll have to keep a close eye on Georgiou. The four regroup, and head off, but not before Tyler informs Tilly that she’s been munching away on some endangered Gorgamander.
The team heads into a building that seems to be part brothel, part casino. Georgiou has the team split up to find information as she propositions two Orions – one male, on female (add another count to a Mirror Universe character expressing bisexuality, thereby associating it with other “evil” characteristics). Tilly is uncomfortable just being there there, and Georgiou leaves her behind to guard the drone.
Tyler and Burnahm find their way to a game room, where several Klingons are playing something called t’Sang. Burnham asks Tyler if he can play, and he answers that he can and he’s good at it. No, Voq was good at it. Tyler explains to Burnham how Voq was ostracized because of his translucent white skin, but fate always seemed to be on his side while gambling. Cue the approaching Klingon, who threatens Tyler in Klingon. Of course, Tyler can answer back, joins the game, and seems right at home. This unsettles Burnham, and she makes an exit.
In the lounge area, Tilly is approached by an Orion man (Clint Howard, whom you might recognize as Balok from TOS’s “The Corbomite Maneuver”) offering her “smoke.” She tried to decline, but would rather smoke that get thrown out. So she inhales, and passes right out.
Tyler catches up with Burnham and tells her that he didn’t get any intel, but also that he wanted to check on her because she left so quickly. So, Michael opens up about the death of her parents: The family was supposed to go on vacation, but Michael had convinced them to stay for 3 more days so she could see a supernova. That’s when the Klingons attacked. Her parents hid her, but she could hear them being murdered. And then The Klingons sat down at the kitchen table, laughing as they ate her family dinner. Understandably, she didn’t want to stick around with the jovial Klingons and watch them play a game she doesn’t know.
That being said, being on Qo’noS has humanized the Klingons for her, so to speak. She’s realized that this planet is a home, and if the Federation follows through with its plan, they’ll be destroying that. Tyler can literally see both sides, but counters that Klingons don’t feel compassion. Except that Voq did.
Tyler notices a religious practice nearby and thinks he might be able to get some information on the location of the shrine they’re looking for, so he wanders off.
Georgiou and her lovers had a good time, it seems, and they thank her for teaching them some new things. But they still have to charge her. She proposes a trade – instead of paying them, she’ll beat them up and demand information about the shrine of Molor.
Tilly wakes up to the Orion man attempting to steal the case containing the mapping drone. His excuse? “You were asleep. I’m Orion.” Multiple levels of ick. Tilly asks what she inhaled – it’s actual volcanic vapor. But she was told that there is no current volcanic activity on Qo’noS. Plus, the heat from active volcanoes would destroy the mapping drone. Tilly opens the case, and it doesn’t contain a drone at all.
Tilly, still high on volcanic vapor, calls Burnham to update her. They’re on top of active volcanoes and she’s been carrying around a hydro bomb. That’s when Captain Emperor appears and hits Tilly in the face, knocking her out, and disappears with the bomb.
Tyler and Burnham go to find Tilly, who brings them up to speed on the science: The bomb will cause any water to change instantly into steam, causing massive explosions; any land directly over the reaction center will be instantly vaporize; ash will fill the air – basically the apocalypse. Burnham realizes this was the plan all along. She calls Saru, and updates him. While he can get a transporter lock on Georgiou, who’s already reached the shrine and deployed the bomb, it wouldn’t be safe to beam her out because of the shielding surrounding her. And the bomb is already out of range. Saru wants to report her to Starfleet, but Burnham thinks Starfleet is behind all this and she wants to talk to Cornwell.
The next thing we see in Qo’noS exploding. Don’t worry, it’s only a simulation. But during those few seconds before “End Simulation” comes up on the screen, I swear my brain raced right on through “but we know this doesn’t happen in the Prime timeline so if Qo’noS has really exploded that means they’re going to have to do a reset and that’s so cheap…. okay, simulation.” You scared me, Disco.
Standing right in the middle of the bridge, Burnham confronts holographic Cornwell, appalled the the Federation would sink to genocide as a means to win a war. Cornwell stands her ground – the Federation is about to be destroyed and they “do not have the luxury of principle.” As Burnham see it, that’s all they have. She was ready to forsake her principles a year ago, and look where that got her. Look where that got all of them. They’re Starfleet. And this is not their way. Starting with Saru, one by one, the bridge crew “O Captain, My Captain”s for Burnham, and Cornwell is left with no choice but to listen to their plan.
Burnham returns to the surface and finds Georgiou, telling her to deactivate the detonator and she can still go free. Georgiou figures out that Burnham talked the Federation Council out of the plan, and says that they’ll never win unless they go through with it – she knows, she did this back at home. She even tries some emotional manipulation, telling Bunrham she can finally be free of her guilt once the war is over. Haha, nope. As a last resort, Georgiou pulls the Vader line (“Join me…”) just like Lorca did. Still no. Burnham finally comes to terms with the fact that her Georgiou and this Georgiou are nothing alike and gives her an ultimatum: If Georgiou wants to leave the shrine, she’ll have to kill Burnham. Georgiou gives in and hands over the detonator, ready to code it to someone else’s biosigns. Enter Tyler and L’Rell.
L’Rell thinks they’ve brought here there so they could gloat. Instead, Burnham gives L’Rell control of the bomb that could destroy her entire planet. Since “Klingons respond to strength,” she hopes that L’Rell will use this power to finally, truly unite the 24 houses and preserve the Klingon culture. L’Rell doesn’t think she can lead, but Tyler tells her what Voq always knew: The L’Rell is the one who will unite her people. With that, Georgiou leaves with her freedom, and Burnham tells her to “be good.”
Outside, Tyler and Burnham have a chat. He’s decided to go with L’Rell and hopes that if he can’t be good for either side that maybe he can be good for both. He thanks Burnham for her love, which he says saved his life. She tells him that now, in his eyes, she sees only Ash Tyler, not Voq. They share a goodbye hug and kiss, and part ways. As Tyler walks away, Michael finds that he’s pressed a sailing not into her hand. The knot that doesn’t slip.
On a Mokai ship, L’Rell is addressing the leaders of the 24 Klingon houses, reiterating the unification message of T’Kuvma but stating that his methods were wrong – war with the Federation only served to divide the houses, not unify them. A new leader is needed, and she is that leader. Her statement is met with laughter… until she tells them about the hydro bomb under the surface of their homeworld. The Klingons will either “throw down your arms or suffer the consequences.” And the Klingon fleet, now inside the Mars orbit, turns and warps away.
Burnham’s voiceover picks back up, talking about how all members of the Federation have had to unify to better themselves, and now the Klingons have as well and the war has ended. Just like that. But we cannot let ourselves forget the difficult times.
Zoom in on Paris, where Amanda and Michael are chatting outside of Federation Headquarters. Michael tells her that, as a child, she didn’t understand Amanda’s plea that she not forget her humanity, but she does now. Sarek joins them, and acknowledges his part in the heinous decision made regarding Qo’noS and commends her for her actions. And then tells her that she’s been pardoned and reinstated with the rank of Commander and places what appears to be a Command insignia on her uniform (but it’s still a science uniform). And thanks her.
Sarek then lets it drop that he’ll be traveling on Discovery back to Vulcan where they’ll be picking up their new captain. Poor Saru.
The voiceover resumes, and we finally see that this is Burnham’s speech to the Federation Council during their Medal of Honor Ceremony, now seemingly in a command gold uniform. Her conclusion? The only way to defeat fear is to tell it “no.” They all have to be “torchbearers,” moving forward in light, and that is the mission of the Federation.
Tilly, now an Ensign, has been accepted into the command training program. Stamets, wearing his own medal, is holding the one awarded to Culber. And Saru stands proud as the first Kelpian to receive such an honor. Not to mention the rest of the crew… except they weren’t mentioned at all.
Back on board, Burnham is once again donning Science Silver and chatting with Tilly and Stamets about their trip to Vulcan. They’ll be going by warp until Starfleet can find a non-human interface for the spore drive (Prediction: Never.). Acting Captain Saru enters the bridge, and they get underway. But it isn’t long until they pick up a Priority One Federation distress call… But they can’t make it out, so they drop out of warp. The distress call is from Captain Pike. Burnham and Sarek share a knowing look – it’s the Enterprise. As the iconic TOS music begins to play, the Enterprise approaches Discovery. The two ships are nose to nose, and the screen goes black.
And then the TOS end credit music plays, and I literally gasped so loudly that I startled my clowder (a clowder is a group of cats).
I’m not sure how I feel about potentially seeing a third actor portray Spock (as I’m assuming Zachary Quinto would not be available), but I certainly wouldn’t mind Captain Pike and Number One going on some adventures with this Discovery crew, a la Desperate Hours. But we’ve got several months of speculation on social media before we find out. I’m looking forward to it.
I also couldn’t help noticing the writers falling back on the trope of people from the “evil” universe being promiscuous and liking sex that isn’t strictly between one man and one woman. If I were to be charitable, I could say that for all we know, the Prime Georgiou swung both ways and frequently engaged in three-ways and we just never saw it because she died in the second episode.
Overall, the finale might be my favorite episode of the series so far. It’s taken me a while to warm to Discovery. It was a little like going into a tunnel and not being sure if there was going to be a light on the other side. But being able to look back on the first season as a whole, now that we know who the main characters are and who’s a good guy and who isn’t/wasn’t and seeing that it ultimately had something positive to say at the end of it all, I can feel comfortable saying that, yes, this is Star Trek.
I was wayyyyy too excited to see the 1701! I didn’t even think of Number 1 showing up! That will be so wonderful. I love Discovery so much, it’s going to be hard to wait forever for a new season.
I liked the arc of redeeming Starfleet’s principles. I’m not so sure about the Klingon conclusion. If we’re meant to read Disco as an analogy for US foreign relations (as many Trek series have aimed for in the past), then the conclusion that “they just need a brutal, conniving tyrant to keep them under control for us, so let’s supply the big bombs” is a terrible message. This is especially dodgy if the popular assumption is true that the Disco Klingons are now influenced by/represent Islamic culture. Surely the writers must be aware of all the historic examples where backing a strongman (or woman, in L’Rell’s case) in the name of “unity” or “control” has backfired?
And maybe this is intentional, maybe this is supposed to set up the continuing Federation/Klingon violence later on in TOS. But I find it distasteful that Disco treats a doomsday device as an ideal solution, rather than the hurried compromise it is.
That they take it as given that Klingons only respond to displays of power, and can’t be reasoned with, is slightly lazy writing. But it’s worse if they’re viewed as any sort of real world analogue.
With luck, this will be addressed in future seasons (and in a way has already been addressed in much of the ’90s Trek). But I’m sure they could have written this just a little bit differently, with much different implications.