When May takes Tilly into the mycelial network, Stamets and Burnham devise a risky scheme that will enable Discovery to retrieve her. Meanwhile, Pike finds himself reluctantly accepting help from Section 31.
This was the episode that caused my occasional viewing companion to declare that Discovery had become just too ridiculous, and I can’t say I disagree. For the bulk of the episode, Discovery is wedged half-in, half-out, of the mycelial network, a locale which seems to bear some conceptual resemblance to both The Wood Between The Worlds in The Magician’s Nephew, and that intermediate dimension that Nightcrawler uses for his teleportation in X-Men. If you were already having difficulty with a universe-spanning network of mushrooms being in Star Trek in the first place, then learning that it’s also the forested home to a race of sentient beings is probably going to be a step too far. This is the kind of plot development one expects in Doctor Who, but it feels very out of place in the Star Trek universe.
But why did May even bring Tilly to the mycelial network in the first place? As it turns out, she needs Tilly’s help in tracking down the aforementioned monster that’s ravaging the mycelial network. At first, I assumed this might be another tardigrade, but the truth is far harder to swallow – this “monster” is none other than Hugh Culber, who has somehow been alive within the network since the end of last season. Since everything that spends any amount of time in the network gets metabolised by the spores, he’s been coating himself in a spore-repelling tree bark that also just happens to grow there. May wants him dead for spreading the deadly bark everywhere, but of course Burnham, Tilly and Stamets are on hand to persuade her that an even better option would be for them to take Culber home.
What follows is a horrible mess of corny dialogue and pointless plot developments. No, Culber can’t return with Burnham and Stamets, because his reconstituted body is made of spore material, so Stamets must face saying a painful second goodbye to his partner. Oh no, wait, he could actually get home through the weird Metroid cocoon that brought Tilly here, because, erm, something about matter and DNA that doesn’t make much sense. Oh, but this means the link between Tilly and May will be severed forever, which is suddenly very upsetting to both of them. Yes, even though May invaded Tilly’s body without consent, and the entirety of their onscreen relationship was difficult and antagonistic, now they are suddenly soulmates who cannot bear to be wrenched apart. If the writers were trying to recreate the ending of the His Dark Materials trilogy, then they failed by a long shot. Nothing so far this season has built up their relationship to a point where I either cared about it or felt it was very deep and close, and so seeing them separated really does nothing for me. It’s not even as the real May was a big part of Tilly’s life – yes, maybe she was Tilly’s first friend, but they only knew each other for six months.
Meanwhile, Section 31 continue to interfere in events, with this episode featuring both the duplicitous Emperor Giorgiou and the newly appointed Discovery liaison Ash Tyler. Given Tyler’s actions as Voq, Pike doesn’t have much time for him, and gleefully uses the letter of regulations to make his life difficult. It’s petty yet also somehow amusing. Other than that, however, I’m already tired of Section 31 and their ridiculously advanced technology providing a deus ex machina whenever our protagonists get into trouble.
Notes and Observations
- Presumably Giorgiou is interested in the potential of the mycelial network to return her to the mirror universe.
- How come Pike and everyone else knows about Section 31? I thought they were super secret until at least the late 24th century.
- If it was Culber’s corpse that Stamets took into the mycelial network, how was he even revived when he got there? For that matter, is it even the original Culber that’s been rescued, or his mirror counterpart?
- Early in the episode, Burnham refers to Stamets as a widower – it hadn’t previously been stated that he and Culber were married.
- Pike talks about Leland being ‘up to his ass in alligators on Cestus III’. Presumably he is referring to the Gorn, since it was their claim on the planet that led to the events of Arena in TOS.
Summary – Saints of Imperfection: In the forest, there’s a monster, and it looks so very much like Hugh.