When Book’s homeworld is threatened by the leader of the Emerald Chain, Burnham and Discovery decide to lend their support in defending it. Meanwhile, Stamets and Adira start analysing the Ni’Var data on the origin of The Burn.
Discovery’s mid-series has been all about relying on standard sc-fi storylines – a move that makes for entertaining episodes, but not overly original ones. This week sees the return of the Emerald Chain, the generically evil Orion/Andorian mafia led by classic villain Osyraa. We quickly get the measure of Osyraa at the start of the episode, when she executes her nephew for failing to stop our heroes a couple of episodes ago. Ah, we say to ourselves – here’s another antagonist who rules with pettiness and fear. I wonder how that will turn out for them.
Anyway, the real problem of the week concerns Book’s home, Kwejian. Thanks to an ecological disaster that sent all the planet’s ravenous “sea locusts” onto land, Kwejian is forced to deal with the Emerald Chain, trading their rare tranceworms for insect repellent. As you may recall, Book is an interstellar tranceworm rescuer, so naturally he’s been at odds with his home and family for quite some time.
What follows is a rollercoaster ride encompassing sea locusts, tensions between Book and his brother, and even an “X-Wing versus Death Star” style space battle when Detmer and refugee Andorian Ryn take Book’s ship to attack Osyraa. In fact, it’s Ryn’s presence aboard Discovery that has Osyraa so riled up in the first place. It turns out that he knows that the Emerald Chain is running out of dilithium, leaving their future power uncertain. Of course, Osyraa could have had Ryn killed while he was still a prisoner of her nephew, but in true villain fashion she has chosen to make things harder for herself. Were she and Ryn lovers at one point? Is he really good in bed?
Meanwhile, Adira and Stamets have pinpointed the source of The Burn – the Verubin Nebula. Further analysis shows that there is a Federation ship broadcasting a distress call from within the nebula, and in fact, when combined with the distorting effect of the nebula’s radiation, it creates the ubiquitous melody that we’ve heard in earlier episodes. I love the eeriness of this Federation distress signal having become a piece of music that has spread across the galaxy, but I should probably know better than to get my hopes up for a really juicy and satisfying conclusion to this mystery.
- Adira comes out as non-binary in this episode, telling Stamets that they never felt like a “her” and would like to be referred to as “they/them” from now on. Since actor Blu del Barrio is non-binary, this development has been anticipated for weeks, and has finally come to pass on screen.
Given that Adira is hosting Tal, it was speculated that the pronoun choice might be down to the fact that the symbiont has lived as both a man and a woman in past lives. However, Adira makes it clear that this is something that pre-dated joining, and that they had previously only been out to Gray.
The coming out scene itself is a pretty low key exchange between Adira and Stamets. In past episodes, we’ve seen Adira wince a little at being referred to as “she” or “her”, but up until now this could have been chalked up to discomfort about being joined with Tal. However, here they finally tell Stamets what the issue, and he responds with an easy acceptance.
- Gray is no longer talking to Adira. Is this the natural progression of past hosts getting integrated with the new personality, or is he deliberately holding back? He might even be doing it to encourage Adira to move on and start interacting more with the Discovery crew.
- Linus is still being treated as the joke character – in this episode he is banished to his quarters to finish moulting. Is it really okay for the one guy who looks a bit different to everyone else to be used as the comic relief?
- After her “Luke vs Death Star” antics against Osyraa’s ship, Detmer seems to have got her groove back. I quite like Detmer, even though she and the rest of the bridge crew could all use a bit more characterisation and screen time. Joking around over lunch in the mess hall doesn’t really cut it.
Summary – The Sanctuary: Book continues to hold a Grudge.