Good god, that’s a long fucking title.
Anyway, the episode opens with what at first appears to be a landscape in the middle of a very freaky electrical storm, but actually turns out the be the synthesizer putting together Burnham’s brand-new uniform.
Burnham is standing in front of it in a gray robe, and looks down at the uniform for a moment. There’s a cut, and we see her standing in front of a holographic mirror image of herself, which she turns off when Tilly walks in carrying a box.
Tilly compliments her on the new uniform, commenting that, “It’s a lot less scary than your convict suit.” She says that it’s like a clean slate, and Burnham replies that it’s not quite that easy.
The box Tilly’s holding beeps, and Tilly explains that there was something at the depot for Burnham, and since she was in the shower and Tilly was already dressed, she figured she’d save her a trip. She’s rambling a bit, and Burnham reminds her to use fewer extra words.
The box beeps again, and Tilly says that it won’t stop until Burnham actually opens it. Burnham takes the box and places a hand on the button, after which the box asks her if she’ll accept the last will and testament of Captain Philippa Georgiou.
This freaks her out a bit, and she shoves the still-beeping box under her bed. Tilly apologizes for her distress, and explains that she didn’t know what the box was. The conversation is then interrupted by the comm beeping and a voice calling Burnham to the bridge.
Burnham leaves, telling Tilly (rather coldly, I might add) that she’ll see her in engineering. She gets to a lift, which opens to reveal Saru already on it.
Burnham directs the lift to the bridge, and the two stand next to each other awkwardly for a moment. Saru then addresses the fact that Burnham, who was supposed to have left on the prison shuttle the previous day, is still on the Discovery. Burnham looks up at him and says that Lorca offered her “an opportunity.” The tendrils at the base of his skull fan out again, and Burnham says, “I can tell by your threat ganglia that would weren’t consulted.”
Saru says that Lorca “keeps his own counsel,” and that if he had told Saru, Saru would have told them that they have no room for a mutineer. Burnham reminds him that he called her a “valuable asset” the last time they spoke, and he tells her that he was just being polite because he thought that they’d never see each other again.
She tells him that he can “tell his threat ganglia to relax,” and that she’s there to help. Saru says, “My threat ganglia remain unconvinced.”
The two reach the bridge, where it looks like all hell has broken loose.
Apparently the ship is under attach by two Birds of Prey. The Discovery attacks and destroys one, but the other fires torpedoes that explode on the viewscreen. Lorca then says, “We’re all dead,” and it turns out that they were running a training simulation. He then begins to clap sarcastically and tell the crew, “Very nice. Very polite,” before reminding the crew that since they’re the only vessel with a spore drive, if trouble comes they’re the first line of defense. Also, they’ll be going right into battle without backup, so they only have the one chance to get this right.
Landry says that they’ll do better on the next drill, to which Lorca responds with, “It will be hard to do worse.” He tells Saru to run the drill again until they get it right, and tells Burnham to come with him as he heads into the lift.
They walk through a corridor, and Lorca says, “We’re the tip of the spear in a science vessel filled with wide-eyed explorers. You know what they need us to do, don’t you?”
Burnahm responds that they need them to win the war; Lorca amends this and says that they need them to survive. He asks her if she knows how they can to that, and Burnham responds that she’s happy to help Stamets work on the spore drive.
Lorca says, “Said the xenoanthropologist,” and Burnham reminds him that she studied quantum mechanics as well. He says that he knows this, but that he has a better use for her as they make it to the captain’s trophy room.
Burnham looks around at all the of items on display, and notes that the room contains “some of the deadliest weapons in the galaxy.” Lorca responds that he studies war, “and this is where I hone my craft.”
He then diverts her attention to the holding pen at the back of the room, and tells her that he thinks she’ll find it’s contents interesting. She looks past the force field, and then comes face-to-face with the creature from the Glenn when it charges the force field.
Lorca continues, noting that it shares an aversion to light with him. Burnham asks him why he would bring something this dangerous on board, looking at him like he’s nuts. Lorca points out that it managed to kill twelve Klingons without even getting a scratch, and that he wants her to study it and find some way of weaponizing the creature.
The credits roll, and we cut back to the binary star system, where the Klingon flagship is still adrift. Voq is drawing something on a map, and addresses T’Kuvma, saying that they’ve been stuck there for half a year, and things are looking pretty grim. Basically, they’re running out of food, and he asks their dead leader to show them some way out.
The female Klingon in white (who is named L’Rell) enters the room and asks him if he’s become an artist. Voq replies that what he’s looking at is a map of all the derelict ships that they’ve scavenged for supplies. Unfortunately, in all of those ships, they haven’t found what they need to repair their engines and get out of here.
L’Rell points out that there’s one ship that they haven’t checked yet: the Shenzou. Voq rejects this idea, saying that it would be blasphemy to use any part of the ship that killed T’Kuvma. L’Rell points out, “You had no such outrage when we ate its captain.”
Wait. Back the fuck up. They ate Georgiou? I mean, I know that they’re starving, but that’s cold.
Anyway, Voq doubles down on not scavenging the Shenzou, and L’Rell asks what’s the point of staying pure if they all die in the process, before telling him a bit about herself:
My father was T’Kuvma’s blood kin, but my mother was House Mókai, the watcher clan, the deceivers, the weavers of lies. When I was a child, she gave me a bat’leth, and told me to cleave my own heart. To choose one house over the other. Instead, I built a bridge to serve both. Now it is your turn to build. To go into that graveyard and bring back the Shenzou’s processing unit for the good of your people. You must go to that ship.
Back on the Discovery, Burnham is working on the project Lorca gave her when Landry walks in.
She explains that Lorca sent her down there to help, thinking that with Burnham’s scientific knowledge and Landry’s tactical expertise that they would make a good team, that “together, we can deal with Lorca’s little monster.”
Burnham asks how Landry knows that the creature is a monster, and Landry retorts that she’s seen what it’s capable of. She looks at it through the force fields and suggests that they name it Ripper: “That’s what it looks like. That’s what it does.”
Burnham tells her that Ripper has a lot in common with a tardigrade, a micro-animal capable of survival in extreme environments. Landry asks her if she said “micoscopic,” Burnham responds, “In our case, somehow, macroscopic.”
Landry asks how it got on board the Glenn in the first place. Burnham tells her that the most recent log entries were corrupted, but an older captain’s log talks about finding a “stowaway” with no indications of hull damage or anything in the transporter pattern buffer to explain it. Landry then reminds Burnham that they need to find something on Ripper that they can use as a weapon.
Burnham says that Landry’s still judging it by appearance and how it acted on the Glenn when there’s nothing to indicate that it’s normally aggressive: “Commander, this creature is an unknown alien. It can only be what it is, not what you want it to be.”
Landry says that she hates Vulcan proverbs, and decides to give Burnham a little advice of her own: “Lorca isn’t interested in what you are. He’s interested in what you can do for him. And if he needs us to make that thing useful in his war, that’s what we’re gonna do.”
We shift scenes to the captain’s ready room, where Lorca’s meal of something that looked wriggly in life is interrupted by a call from Admiral Cornwell.
The admiral says that she didn’t realize that he was eating, and he asks her to excuse the breach of protocol. Cornwell gets right down to it: they’ve received a distress signal from the mining colony on Corvan-2, which she plays for hi. One of the colonists is saying that they’re under attack by the Klingons, their patrol ships have been destroyed, and their shields are going down. They request immediate evacuation, and it ends.
Cornwell tells the captain that the colony is where they get 40% of their dilithium, and Lorca adds that if they lose Corvan-2 that would ground about half their fleet. The admiral then says that the nearest Federation vessel is 84 hours away from the colony and asks Lorca if the spore drive is ready to go.
Lorca reminds her that they’d “be ready if you called, and we are,” adding that they’ve managed to make a number of short jumps successfully, and that he has no doubts they can make this longer one.
Cut to engineering, and Satemet telling Lorca, “There is no way in hell we’ll be ready to jump that far.”
Lorca says that Stamets told him that they knew what went wrong with the Glenn, and Stamets replied that it was because they ran into a “Hawking radiation firewall” that they couldn’t detect. Lorca asks if he can prevent it from happening again, and Stamets says that he can, but as the drive is largely based on probability, a long jump increases the chances of ending up somewhere they don’t want to be. Wait-isn’t this basically the infinite improbability drive from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Is this going to end with the ship turning into a sperm whale?
Lorca responds, “I get it. It’s trial and error. Let’s try something.” Stamets tells him that they don’t have the processing power to calculate and hold a course, and Lorca asks how the Glenn managed it. Stamets goes over to the drive console and activates a display, saying that they’ve integrated the rig the retrieved into their own systems, but would need a supercomputer to get it to work.
Lorca says that they must have missed something on their doomed sister ship, and Stamets replies, “Sir, being chased by a lethal monster in a death trap surrounded by Klingon bodies is distracting, but no, I would have noticed an extra supercomputer. That’s just me.”
Lorca notices something new in the reaction cube and asks Stamets what it is. He explains that it’s one of the items that they took from the rig. He adds that it seems to interact with the spores somehow, but seems to be missing something.
At this point, Saru points out that they have roughly six hours before the Klingons take Corvan-2. Stamets says that they can’t rush this, but Lorca wants him to get this sorted out immediately. He tells the captain that there are some other things he can try; Lorca tells him to just get it done before leaving.
Back with the Klingon ship, a Bird of Prey has just warped in. Voq and L’rell come onto the bridge just as another Klingon beams aboard. Said Klingon turns out to be Kol, the one who was a dick to Voq and T’Kuvma is the second episode.
Voq, surprisingly, welcomes him aboard rather than telling him to take a hike. He asks why Kol has decided to visit, and he kneels, saying that he was disrespectful the last time they spoke, and has returned “with humility.”
Voq tells him that “T’Kuvma teaches that in a united Klingon Empire, no one knells but our foes.” Kol gets up and praises the wisdom of Voq’s words, then gets down to business: this ship is the only one to have cloaking technology, and they really need to get it back into the fray. Voq tells him the same thing he told L’Rell, that they’ve scavenged all the ships in the area, but they haven’t found a dilithium processing core, which they need to get the ship to fly. L’Rell gives him the side eye, either because he’s still refusing to scavenge the Shenzou, or she thinks Kol is up to something. Or both.
Kol gives the refrain “remain Klingon,” which is taken up by the others.
We then go back to the Discovery, where Lorca asks Stamets from the bridge if they’ll be able to control where they’re going or not. Stamets responds with a resounding “maybe,” and Lorca opens a channel to the crew to tell them they’re going to black alert and to head to battle stations.
Stamets starts up the spore drive, and the scene cuts to the trophy room, where Ripper is going nuts. On the bridge, Saru tells Landry to reroute power to the phasers, and they make the jump.
And end up right next to a fucking sun.
Lorca, quite astutely, observes that “that isn’t Corvan-2,” to which Saru equally astutely replies, “No, sir, it is not.” Unfortunately, because stars have a lot of gravity, they’re being pulled in.
The captain starts giving orders to try and remedy that fact, and calls engineering to sarcastically ask Stamets if he took the “wrong off-ramp.” Stamets says that the navigation buffer overloaded, then the ship jolts and rams his face into the console, which looks incredibly painful.
After that, the ship manages to pull itself away from the sun’s gravity well, and Lorca gives the order to get the hell out of there.
Back in the trophy room, Landry walks in and tells Burnham that whatever she has “better be good. Lorca’s on the warpath.” Burnham explains Ripper’s earlier freakout, and Landry theorizes that maybe it was caused by it not wanting to crash into a sun. Burnham says that Ripper started freaking out after the drive was activated, but before they made the actual jump, inferring a connection there.
Landry doesn’t get the relevance, and Burnham tells her that this would help explain some of the creature’s behavior. Landry points out that “understanding how it feels was not our mission,” and that Lorca just wants to know how it kills: “Lorca told me to keep you on task, that your curiosity might lead you astray. We’re not letting him down.”
We then cut to sick bay, where the doctor, Culber, is using a device to treat the broken nose Stamets got himself when his head hit the console.
Culber tells him to hold still or he’ll “end up looking like a Tellarite” as Lorca enters. Lorca asks the doctor how Stamet’s is doing; the doctor tells him that he almost ended up with bone fragments stabbing his brain. Stamets says that the frontal lobe is overrated. Culber retorts, “Well, I’ll save it. You know, just in case you might want to have a feeling one day.”
Lorca then explains the stakes again: if the Klingons take Corvan-2, the Federation will lose the war. He then asks Culber, “So, can you fix the lieutenant’s inability to get our ship to go where it’s supposed to go?”
Said lieutenant does not take kindly to this, and retorts that he warned the captain that they weren’t ready to make a jump that big, and reminds him that “time is an essential component of good science.”
Lorca shoots back that the Discovery isn’t a science vessel anymore, it’s a warship; Stamets says that this isn’t what he’d signed up for. Lorca then tells him what he can do: get the hell off the ship.
Stamets heatedly replies, “If I go, I’m taking everything with me. My spores, my drive. This entire ship was designed around my scientific specialty.” Lorca reminds him that everything on board belongs to Starfleet, not him, and asks how he wants to be remembered: “Alongside the Wright brothers, Elon Musk, Zefram Cochrane? Or as a failed fungus expert? A selfish little man who put his own ego before the lives of others?”
Stamets tersely asks Culber if they’re done here; he then stalks out of the room as the doctor tries to tell him he still has blood on his face. Lorca then tells the computer to play audio from Corvan-2 over the ship’s loudspeakers.
This doesn’t sit too well with Landry, who says, “We’re going this” as she pulls a rather large rifle from one of the shelves.
She tells the computer to release a sedative mist into the holding pen as she grabs a rather wicked-looking knife. Burnham asks her why she’s sedating the creature, and Landry replies that she plans to “lop off its claw so you can figure out what makes this thing so good at killing Klingons.”
Burnham, because she’s smart, doesn’t think this is a very good idea, since they have to idea how sedation would affect Ripper. The computer finishes releasing the sedative, and Landry opens the pen.
And we find out that sedatives don’t affect Ripper at all, as it knocks Landry aside and rushes to the door.
Landry then opens fire, which manages to attract the creature’s attention. It doesn’t hurt it at all, naturally, but it rushes over and mauls Landry. Burnham manages to get it off her by turning all the lights up, which causes it to rush back into the pen, which Burnham seals. She then has the computer beam both her and the critically injured Landry to sick bay. Unfortunately, she is too late, and Landry dies.
Burnham and Lorca are in sick bay when Culber declares Landry dead, and Lorca seems particularly put out. He turns to Burnham and tells her to “find a use for that creature. Don’t let her death be in vain.” He walks out, leaving Burnham to stand there for a moment.
We go back to Voq, who is suited up and standing upside-down on the Shenzou‘s dilapidated bridge. He walks to the captain’s ready room, where he puts down a cube that pressurizes the area. It finishes his work, and he retracts his helmet and suit. While there, he comes across a tablet, which he activates to show a profile of Burnham and Georgiou.
He calls L’Rell to let her know that he hasn’t found anything useful on this deck or in the ready room; L’Rell, however, replies to tell him that she’s located the part that they need to repair their own vessel.
Voq meets her by the warp core, and she explains that there’s some kind of residue on it, and that they need to be careful lest they explode. They get to work, and converse that they do so. He tells her that they might not always see eye-to-eye, “but I have come to know you as one who is astute. More astute than I.”
She thanks him for his compliment, calling him “my lord.” Voq asks her why she calls him that; she tells him it’s because T’Kuvma had chosen him as his successor. He points out that she must have had some doubts about this, as L’Rell had followed T’Kuvma for several years and Voq barely knew the man. L’Rell gives him this answer: “T’Kuvma saw something in you. A purity of devotion. I do not want the mantle of leadership. Standing behind you, I am free to move. Able to be your enforcer, defender, campaigner.”
Voq says that he’s fortunate to have her, and they manage to retrieve the processing unit.
Voq then smiles and thanks T’Kuvma, both for getting the part that will allow their ship to fly, as well as not dying horribly in the process.
Back on the Discovery, Burnham continues her study of Ripper. A chime goes off, and Burnham opens the door to admit Saru, who asks her what she needed him for so urgently.
Burnham tells him that she’d been thinking about the way that she behaved towards him on the Shenzou, and admits that she may have been a bit unfair. He reminds her that she frequently undermined him, and was extremely dismissive of his opinions. She replies with, “You wouldn’t be wrong to call me out for being selfish, but I can’t help but notice that your threat ganglia are quiet now.”
They look over at the containment pen, and Burnahm adds, “Fascinating.” Saru then realizes that Burnham didn’t call him to apologize, but to gauge his reaction to Ripper. She continues, saying that based on Saru’s own lack of a threat response, she has proven that Ripper is’t naturally aggressive.
Saru does not take terribly kindly to this, and tells her that she hasn’t changed a bit, adding “your contrite words were insincere.” Burnham retorts that “they were necessary.” Saru then gives her quite the burn: that he doesn’t question how well she’d fit in here, because she seems to fit in perfectly with Captain Lorca.
He storms out, after which Burnham looks back at Ripper and asks, “Why were you on the Glenn? What were you looking for?”
A little while later, the door opens again to admit Tilly, carrying one of the spore containers. The cadet says that Stamets would kill her if she knew she brought the spores; Burnham acknowledges the risk she’s taking and says she should go, since things might get dangerous.
Tilly, however, says that she wants to stay, since they can’t help Corvan-2 anyway unless they can get the drive working: “All those people are gonna die. I can’t help them. I can help you.”
Burnham smiles slightly at her, and then walks towards Ripper’s pen. She tells Tilly to stand back, then tells Ripper she’s brought something it might like, and “if you don’t, well, they can blame what happens on my curiosity.”
She opens the pen, then sets down the continer and releases the spores. Ripper does, indeed, seem to like them. It consumes some of them, then puts a tendril on her shoulder before retreating back into the containment pen.
Burnham says, “Hello,” and Tilly’s face breaks out into a gigantic grin.
In the engineering bay, Burnham shows the readings that Tilly took on the Glenn to Stamets, pointing out that the doors to engineering were blown outwards, with similar patterns on the reaction cube doors, “as if something inside was going crazy.” She says that with the extra shielding on the room, it looks like they were trying to keep something in.
He responds by giving her a questioning look, and asking for her hypothesis. Burnham points out that the captain’s log says that they found Ripper in their lower decks:
I remember you chided Straal about not growing his own, like you do. You were talking about mushrooms. They didn’t have a forest on the Glenn, like Discovery has. If they stored their mushrooms dry, it would have to be in tremendous quantities, in their lower stores, right there, where the creature first appeared.
Stamets comes to the conclusion that Ripper was looking for mushroom; Burnham says that it was specifically looking for their spores. She adds that, while they currently can’t control where they end up using the drive, maybe Ripper can.
We cut to the ship’s forest, where Stamets has brought a phaser. Burnham tells him that “the phaser will only piss him off”; Stamets replies, “Think of it as a placebo for my skepticism.”
He takes out a communicator, and has Ripper beamed to their location. The creature immediately starts going for the spores, and Stamets concedes that Burnham was right, also noting that Ripper seems to be communicating with the spores.
Burhnam scans the creature with a tricorder, and says that there seems to be some kind of symbiosis between Ripper and the spores. Stamets then laments, “That hardly seems fair. I always wanted to converse with my mushrooms.”
Burnham says that this goes a bit deeper than just conversing; there’s a possibility that Ripper could tell the spores where they need to go.
Back with our friendly neighborhood Klingons, Voq and L’Rell return to find that there’s now a party to which they were clearly not invited. He angrily asks Kol just what the hell is going on; Kol smugly (naturally) says that he brought provisions from his ship. He then adds: “I provided some and your crew fell in line behind me. The price of loyalty is low for those who are starving.”
Voq reminds him that T’Kuvma named him the torchbearer, and Kol responds that in return Voq allowed a human to kill him. Kol is reminded by Voq that T’Kuvma united the houses, but Kol says that’s only going to last until the war is won. Oh, and he’s also taking the ship.
Voq says that he’d die before he allows that, and steps towards Kol to start something. L’Rell, however, places herself between the two. And gives Kol the dilithium processor.
Having seemingly betrayed Voq, she then takes some food off of a plate and starts chowing down. Kol laughs, and then tells her to kill Voq.
L’Rell, however, has another idea: she thinks it would be best to leave Voq on the Shenzou to starve to death.
On the Discovery, Lorca announces that they’re going to give going to Corvan-2 another shot, and orders another black alert. He asks Stamets via the intercom if they’re ready to go; Stamets tells him to stand by before beaming Ripper into the reaction cube. At which point, the rig they took form the Glenn activates and sticks some kind of probes into it.
Ripper does not seem to be enjoying this.
Burnham also doesn’t seem to have known that this would hurt it, as she looks pretty concerned and rather horrified. She glances over at Stamets, who activates the map and is surprised to find that it now contains every charted star system. Stamets sets the course and tells Lorca that they’re ready to go.
On the bridge, Lorca asks if anyone is not ready. Everyone apparently is, and he gives the order to go. And lo and behold, it actually works this time.
On Corvan-2 itself, things don’t seem to be looking too great. The shield around the colony actually falls, and it looks like it’s over, but the Discovery jumps in just in time. They manage to destroy two targets, and then Lorca tells them to stop.
A bunch of birds-of-prey start to converge on them, but Lorca orders to hold their position. He asks Stamets if the drive is ready to go as they get closer. The shields are being depleted, but Lorca still waits, then says, “Let’s send our Klingon friends a message they won’t forget” before ordering another jump. The wave from this jump destroys the rest of the attacking Klingon ships, thus saving the colony.
However, while the rest of the ship is celebrating saving the colony and not dying, Burnham is still looking at Ripper as the rig detaches from it.
Meanwhile, Voq is in the ready room on the Shenzou, looking at Burnham’s record on the tablet we saw earlier. He angrily snaps the unit in half, then addresses T’Kuvma again, lamenting that he’s been left to die, but also saying, “My faith tells me this is not the end.” He watches the flagship warp away, and then L’Rell beams in.
Needless to say, he’s not particularly happy to see her.
He shouts that she had renounced him, but she tells him that she did it in order to save his life. She also adds that Kol’s going to notice that she’s gone soon. He accepts this (rather quickly, in my opinion) and lets her go before saying that they need to go after the ship.
L’Rell says that they’re too loyal to Kol now, and that they “must strategize on a grander scale.” She tells him that she’s stolen a raider, and that she’ll use it to take him to meet with the matriarchs of House Mókai “who will expose you to things that you never knew possible.”
She then tells him that there will be a cost. Voq asks what he would have to sacrifice, and L’Rell responds, “Everything.”
On the Discovery, Burnham goes to see Ripper, spores in tow. She opens the pen and asks the creature, “Hey, you feeling better? I brought you the good stuff.” She opens the container, and Ripper eats the spores, but then backs away from her when it’s done. Looking contrite, she says that she’s sorry.
Later, in Burnahm and Tilly’s quarters, Burnham is laying on her bed and staring up at the ceiling. Tilly enters and greets her, adding that it’s been a long night. She adds that everyone’s talking about Burnham and how she solved the navigation problem, thereby saving a bunch of people on Corvan-2, but Burnham doesn’t answer. The box under the bed beeps again, and Tilly decides that she has something to say about that:
It’s probably none of my business, but my mother used to say…that’s not true, my mother never really said anything to me unless she was criticizing my hair. But you…I don’t know, I just think if it made its way across the galaxy to find you, you should open it. And you shouldn’t be afraid to open it. Because I watched you tame the most incredible creature, and, well, you’re not afraid of anything.
Tilly then leaves to give Burnham some privacy, and Burnham takes the box out and puts her thumb on it. It asks her again if she’ll accept Georgiou’s last will and testament, and she does. A holographic recording of Georgiou then starts playing.
Hello, Michael. I hope that wherever this finds you, you are well. I imagine you have your own command now. The captain of your own ship. I have always tried to show you by example. The best way to know yourself is to know others. You are curious, an explorer. So I am leaving you my most beloved possession, handed down through my family for centuries. My hope is that you will use it to investigate the mysteries of the universe, both inside and out, and keep your eyes and heart open always. Goodbye, Michael. And good luck. Know that I am as proud of you as if you were my very own daughter. Take good care. But more importantly, take good care of those in your care.
The message ends, and Burnham finally opens the box. It contains the telescope from the first episode.
So, this episode was kind of a bummer. On the one hand, yay, saved colony. On the other hand, they had to harm yet another living creature in order to do it. I’m thinking that there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.
We got to find out what the Klingons were doing over the past six months, though. And I like that we got a little more development for L’Rell, who’d been in the first two episodes but in a very small role. I am all for badass lady Klingons.