Star Trek Discovery: Su’Kal

Discovery heads to the Verubin Nebula in order to find the ship at the source of the Burn. While Burnham, Culber and Saru brave dangerous radiation levels in order to search for a possible survivor, Tilly takes the helm of Discovery. But Osyraa isn’t far behind them, and she’s determined to get her hands on Discovery’s spore drive.

If you wanted to summarise this episode of Discovery with a single internet phrase, then perhaps the most appropriate would be “omgwtfbbq”. For indeed, there’s a lot to unpack here, and a cliffhanger ending that will surely lead into an exciting and explosive season finale over the next couple of weeks.

The Discovery crew have tracked the source of the Burn to a Kelpien ship trapped in the Verubin Nebula, but there are more revelations to come. Even though the crew likely died of radiation poisoning, the Kelpien who sent the distress call seems to have been pregnant, and that might mean that her child is still alive and in need of rescue. Wait a minute, you say – this distress call was sent decades ago, and surely any child would have perished from radiation poisoning as well. No, for as it turns out, the titular Su’Kal is very much alive.

Having lost his parents, Su’Kal has spent his life being raised on a giant holodeck by a group of increasingly malfunctioning holograms. Burnham, Culber and Saru head down to try to retrieve him, but naturally things aren’t straightforward. This holodeck is all Su’Kal knows, and he isn’t keen to even countenance the idea of an “outside”. Furthermore, since he was conceived and born in an environment rich in radiation, and with a dilithium planet nearby, he seems to have special dilithium powers. When he gets angry or upset, the dilithium responds, and this may well have been the cause of The Burn. Hang on, you say – this is Star Trek, not Doctor Who. How can one individual have power over all the dilithium in the galaxy? Have the Star Trek writers been reading too many Kotaro Uchikoshi visual novels again?

Whatever the truth behind Su’Kal and The Burn, it’s not the only thing happening in this episode. For while Saru and the others are navigating Su’Kal’s holodeck, it’s left to Tilly to captain the Discovery. Anyone would be anxious about their first time in the captain’s chair, but Tilly has an extra challenge to contend with – Osyraa. The leader of the Emerald Chain has got her eye on Discovery’s spore drive, and even though Tilly brings her best banter to the game, she can’t stop Osyraa’s troops from seizing control of the ship. What happens now? How will Discovery’s crew get their ship back? Those are questions for another episode.

Notes and Observations

  • I can see why the holodeck might need to disguise Saru – seeing another Kelpien could have disturbed Su’Kal, but why change Burnham and Culber too? You can’t really argue that the holodeck was protecting him from seeing a human, since it turns Saru into a human. Transforming them into a Trill and a Bajoran seems more like fanservice than anything else.
  • Even if Su’Kal has power over nearby dilithium, how is he able to exert that influence across the galaxy? Is all dilithium connected on a subspace level?
  • Gray is back, but is there any way he will ever be able to communicate with anyone other than Adira? Will he get transferred to a new body? Maybe a hologram?

Summary – Su’Kal: Don’t get him angry – you wouldn’t like the galaxy when he’s angry.

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