overnights

Star Trek: Discovery Recap: Struggle Is Pointless

Star Trek: Discovery

Perpetual Infinity
Season 2 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating *****

Star Trek: Discovery

Perpetual Infinity
Season 2 Episode 11
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: John Medland/CBS

According to Dr. Gabrielle Burnham, astrophysicist and engineer, time is “fluid,” “a living thing [that] has gravity and will,” and not “fragile, precious, beautiful,” but “savage. It always wins.” This is all very nice and extremely scientific, but unfortunately it fails to explain the following:

1. Dr. Burnham (Sonja Sohn) was trapped 950 Earth-years in the future after she accidentally jumped there in the Daedalus suit, instead of the intended one hour back in time, when the Klingons attacked their home. Now, wherever and whenever she jumps, she yo-yos back through the previously described tiny Red Angel wormholes to that 950-years-in-the-future moment, because of Newton’s third law? Somehow, Newton’s third law did not apply to the initial jump forward.

2. If her being stuck in the future and not the present has to do with powering the time crystal with the supernova, there is — as baby Michael notes — a supernova happening every second throughout the universe, and this suit, in addition to time travel, seems to be capable of spore-drive-grade space travel, as well.

3. How Dr. Burnham managed to jump 950 years forward the first time by mistake, but to precise moments in the past with every subsequent jump, witnessing Michael’s every big life moment without even the slightest detection.

4. Why the inhabitants of Terralysium, whom she saved from the past for some inexplicable reason, aren’t being snapped back to their timeline.

I guess you could explain all of this by specifying that “Newton’s Third Law of Motion” only applies to backwards jumps in time and not forward jumps, but again, this is not mentioned at all, nor would doing so make any sense whatsoever anyway. But hey, I’m not a scientist, what do I know?

That said, I’ll tell you what I do know, and it’s far better than all of that:

Control is the Borg. Leland is now the first person to ever be assimilated by the Borg. And I could not be more delighted by this surprise turn of events.

So the needle gun from last week was injecting Leland with nanites, which as we all know is the first step of Borg assimilation. After making him strap himself to some sort of upright operating table for the second round of nanites, Control speaks to him as a series of Discovery crew holograms, explaining that spoofing Admiral Patar and controlling Airiam was easy because they already talk like robots anyway, but now it needs flesh because “there’s an element of human nuance I have not yet mastered,” and “having a face and a body … will give [it] more freedom.” Specifically, Leland’s face and body, because his “pattern of behavior” suggests he can “make questionable moral decisions while avoiding the destructive power of human guilt” and “believes in the ends more than the means.”

If there’s a greater, shadier way to retcon the origins of the Borg — reinterpreting it as a result of Section 31’s morally bankrupt compromises and relentless paternalistic pursuit of the technological advantage over others in the name of “security” — I can’t think of a better one.

Struggle is pointless,” the hologram adds, now wearing Leland’s own face, as I spasmodically button-mash a series of all-caps consonants and exclamation points into my notes.

Dr. Burnham has been trying and failing for two decades to stop Control’s annihilation (she was responsible for pushing the dying sphere into Discovery’s path in the first place). The effort to save sentient life has ironically left her pretty hardened to the concerns and ideas and feelings of individual people — including her own daughter — as I suppose would happen if you suddenly started seeing everyone live and die as though you were a particularly powerless Q. Anyway, she’s concluded the only way to stop Control from evolving is for the Discovery to destroy the sphere data itself. Trouble is, the data only survived long enough to be saved because it is itself “intelligent,” and designed with millennia’s worth of xeno-encryption, which means destroying it is virtually impossible. But because this is Star Trek: I Like Science, we realize that uploading it into the Daedalus suit and then basically flinging the suit forward into the timestream, so far into the future that Control can’t hope to recapture it, could work just as well. They can also save Dr. Burnham from getting sucked back to the future by transporting her molecules into the present with … dark matter particles? (I’ve heard from extremely reputable sources that the way this show is handling dark matter is kinda embarrassing, but whatever, this sounds fine to me, a rube.)

Of course they fail to account for Control now having Borg-Leland, whose main goal is to covertly steal the sphere data. First he orders Tyler to use a Bluetooth-y hacking device to download the data directly from the ship, but Ash has his usual crisis of conscience, bless his heart, and refuses to commit espionage against Discovery (read: against Michael). Borg-Leland then turns to Georgiou What Eats People*, temporarily convincing her — by pointing out that Dr. Burnham’s presence is a threat to her supremacy as the Coolest Spacetime Traveler Girl in the Universe — to plant the hacking device by the containment field down on Essof IV** to divert the upload.

Georgiou seems fine with this, until she and Dr. Burnham have a mom date. The latter fluffs up the former’s conscience, inexplicably asking her to watch out for Michael if she dies again (because Georgiou, the Nazi who eats people, is capable of redemption), but then offhandedly uses the exact, weird turn of phrase Borg-Leland used earlier: Control views her existence as an “unacceptable risk to the mission.” Georgiou realizes Leland has been compromised and backchannels Tyler to halt the upload from the Section 31 ship, which he does, before running into Borg-Leland just as the nanites in his face are doing that thing that’s basically an overture to the facial implant growth we’ve seen appear on recently assimilated people in previous series. The jig is up, and Borg-Leland beats the hell out of Tyler, eventually stabbing him and beaming himself down to stop Georgiou and get the upload himself.

At this point, one might worry that this is the end of Tyler, but let’s remember three factors:

(1) His FaceTime to Discovery to warn them about Leland is far too melodramatic.

(2) From Discovery’s own sensors, we know he manages to flee in an escape pod.

(3) Tyler is a Klingon-human hybrid, which means he likely still has two of everything (internally, anyway) despite not technically needing two of everything, so half his organs could end up being as vestigial as a human appendix.

Now it’s unclear in what shape we’ll actually get to keep him in — there are myriad issues that could suddenly pop up, including (gulp) Borg nanites — but I’d be shocked if they took our beautiful boy from us at the same time that they’re gearing us up to lose Anson Mount. That would be one too many perfect butts to lose in a three-episode period. (Don’t act like you haven’t noticed those flawlessly lit profile shots.) To say nothing of sinking the entire Pyler ship! TL;DR: he’s alive.

With Borg-Leland coming for the data, and the containment field breaking down, saving Dr. Burnham with the transporter trick is suddenly out of the question, and they’re going to have to kill the containment field themselves and let her get yoinked back to the year 3187*** with the suit — but outside of it, for some reason. I’m not entirely sure how this won’t immediately cause her death — from what base did she hop back in time? Will she get return to an atmosphere, or reappear in space and instantly freeze? — but I guess the suit does abscond with either 46 percent or 100 percent of the sphere’s AI data. The amount depends on whether we’re saying Control stole or copied said data, because moments before Discovery beams its people out and torpedo-nukes the facility from orbit, Borg-Leland manages to escape the facility with 54 percent of it.

Not a lot of string to pull here, but I guess I’m on board with the whole “backing into a smarter canonical origin story” thing. This season has become a herky-jerky roller coaster, but one that — not unlike with Lost season four — I can’t seem to stop lining up for time and again. I’m mad constantly, and yet I adore it all the same! Is this what it’s like to be in an emotionally volatile relationship? Tell me this is going to work out!

* Call me a stickler, but I feel obligated to keep reminding us of the fact that she is essentially Hannibal Hitler. She shouldn’t get points for turning against Leland, either, since “saving the future” happens to dovetail nicely with “saving her own ass.”

** Previously referred to here as “Esau IV” — thanks to reader @haoanhle for the correction. Alien spelling is tough.

*** Michael Burnham was born in 2226, the show’s present is 2257. The events on Doctari Alpha took place 20 years before, so in 2237. Plus 950 years = 3187. The power of math, people!

Personal Log, Supplemental

• Dr. Burnham has no idea what Pike is talking about when he mentions the red signals, which invariably means some larger force is at work and will be revealed in the next three episodes.

• Incredible work yet again this week from Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh. The former’s emotional performance and the latter’s fight scenes are undiluted excellence.

• Spock almost apologizes this week, admitting he “was wrong to judge” Michael and that his relentless bullshit these past few weeks was — “Petty?” suggests Michael; “Unmerited.” Not exactly an “I’m sorry you were offended,” but it’s not an “I’m sorry, please forgive my abhorrent behavior,” either. He’s now pivoted to quoting Lao Tzu and saying “I like science” and deciding he likes chess again, so I think that’s as good as we’re going to get in terms of closure.

• While still on-brand with Star Trek’s often-saccharine philosophy, it must be reiterated that Spock’s “l’tak terai” (dyslexia) framed as a personal failing that ends up saving the universe is a corny, slightly disappointing take on disability. We’ve had VISORs and wheelchairs, for one, so I know these shows can do better. Also, the argument I’ve mentioned previously — that all you needed to do was make his biology and identity, as a part-human raised on Vulcan, interpreted as a disability by Vulcans and ergo Spock personally — would have sufficed here from a narrative perspective.

Star Trek: Discovery Recap: Struggle Is Pointless