Star Trek Discovery: Perpetual Infinity

Discovery has finally captured the Red Angel, only to find that she isn’t Burnham at all, but rather Burnham’s mother. Whilst Pike and the crew try to get to the bottom of how Burnham’s mother got into this situation, on the Section 31 ship, Control takes over Leland’s mind and body.

Partway through this episode, Spock claims that “I like science”. I like it too, but when it comes to this episode (and indeed this series), I do have to put even the pretence of scientific rigour aside. I’ve been making comparisons to Doctor Who all season, but it does seem easiest to just regard this episode as being what the Doctor would describe as “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey”.

Let’s start with the origin story of both Burnham and the Red Angel, which we finally get to see for ourselves. Back when the Klingons attacked the Burnham home for the time crystal, Dr Sam Beckett stepped into the quantum leap accelerator Gabrielle Burnham stepped into the Red Angel suit in the hopes of jumping back and warning her family before the attack began. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out quite as planned, and Gabrielle ended up 950 years in the future, in a galaxy devoid of all sentient life.

For some reason, this jump anchors Gabrielle in the future in such a way that whenever she jumps anywhere else, she always gets “snapped back” to 950 years hence after a short while. Nonetheless, she’s spent an unspecified period of time not only watching over Burnham, but trying to stop Control getting the sphere data it needs to develop full consciousness. Sending the sphere back into the past so that Discovery could protect the data was her idea – even though this surely just risks exactly what’s happening now in terms of Control getting hold of the data even sooner.

Given how badly that plan is going, the Discovery crew end up trying the opposite – sending the data “infinitely far” into the future so that Control can never access it. Even if we just gloss over that, various questions remain. The sphere is a collection of data gathered from elsewhere. In 950 years, Control could surely gather much of the same information from its original sources. Certainly knowledge of sentient artificial entities such as Lt Commander Data, The Doctor, and the vast variety of holograms and androids encountered by various Starfleet officers shouldn’t be that hard to come by. Deleting Control should be the goal, not simply restricting its access to one source of information.

Notes and Observations

  • How is the Red Angel suit able to jump so far through space as well as time?
  • Last episode, it sounded as if Culber had been reinstated because they needed a medical officer to help with Burnham’s plan. This seemed a bit implausible, given that Discovery clearly has other medical staff. In this episode, it comes across more that Hugh wanted to get involved, rather than that he was the only qualified person available.
  • When Georgiou switched off the transfer device, she could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if she’d also removed it so that Leland couldn’t just reactivate it.
  • For some reason, Spock’s mixed heritage and his dyslexia makes him the only person able to comprehend the Red Angel.
  • How exactly was Gabrielle even able to move things like the sphere or the people of Terralysium through space and time? If she can send things to a specific time and place, there must be other things she could have sent back to better explain to the Discovery crew what was going on. Maybe she could have even affected Control way back when it was being programmed, instead of intervening now, when it has already become so dangerous.
  • Gabrielle says the suit will always return her to Terralysium – is this at odds with it anchoring her 950 years in the future? If all the galaxy is a lifeless wasteland in the future, then presumably the people of Terralysium aren’t still merrily thriving in that time and the planet is no longer Class-M. Is Gabrielle simply living on Terralysium in a different era to those people, and just going back periodically to check on them? Whatever the case, she clearly has mad survival skills.

Control versus the Borg

Does Control have anything to do with the Borg and their origin? I don’t really think so, but let’s examine the evidence for and against this theory.

The argument for

  • The snaking tentacles of the probe from the future looked very Bog-like.
  • Control effectively assimilates Leland in this episode, with visual effects similar to Borg assimilations (darkened, raised veins, injected nanomachines).

The argument against

  • The Borg originated in the Delta Quadrant, not the Alpha Quadrant.
  • According to the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact, “Human – we used to be exactly like them. Flawed, weak, organic. But then we evolved to include the synthetic”. Control may now be infiltrating organic life forms, but it definitely started out as an artificial intelligence.
  • The stated goal of the Borg is to assimilate all life and bring it closer to perfection, not destroy all sentient life in the galaxy.

Summary – Perpetual Infinity: The Archangel Gabrielle Burnham came down.

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