first_img Can you tell there are only two episodes left after this one? Things are clearly ramping up for a big finale, and it appears the Discovery might not make it out in one piece. After the big reveals of recent episodes, this season has become all about trying to change the future. Or rather, how to avoid a possible and increasingly likely future where an AI has wiped out all sentient life. The role of fate in the universe, how much of the future is malleable, those are interesting questions. Ones that Star Trek loves to chew on every now and then. The importance of the Discovery and Michael Burnham’s unpredictability, we learned last night, makes the future super malleable, at least at this moment in time. That’s why Captain Pike’s role here is so interesting.With Dr. Burnham pulled irrevocably back into the future, there’s nothing more for the Discovery to do but protect the Sphere data from Control and wait for more signals. The revelation that Dr. Burnham never heard of the signals caused exactly the debate you’d think it would. Can the crew even trust them? If Dr. Burnham wasn’t sending them, who is? Could they be Control setting a trap. And yeah, that’s possible. But they also have to consider that the signals led the Discovery to help people. Including the descendants of a people Dr. Burnham saved. Plus, something the show didn’t bring up, Dr. Burnham still could have sent the signals from a point even further in the future. Maybe they pulled her from a time before she’d sent them. To steal a phrase from another sci-fi series, wibbly wobbly timey-wimey stuff.Mary Chieffo as L’Rell; Anson Mount as Captain Pike; Shazad Latif as Tyler (Photo Credit: John Medland/CBS)As much as I’d be down for a full episode of this debate, Michael Burnham points out that it’s accomplishing nothing, and there are more pressing matters at hand. Considering there are two weeks left in the season, she makes a point. A new signal appears above a planet in Klingon space. Specifically, the monastery where Tyler and L’Rell sent their son. The Klingon monks there guard the time crystals, which are exactly what the crew needs to send the Sphere data into space where Control can’t get it. After an argument between L’Rell and Tyler about whether Tyler visiting their son would put him in danger, Pike elects to go. He really is the ideal Star Trek captain. He has the confidence and charisma of Kirk, with the compassion and dedication to Starfleet values of Picard. It’s too bad he won’t last.Pike elects to go retrieve a time crystal, and L’Rell warns him that difficult trials await him. He holds steadfast both to her and the guardian he meets at the monastery. With the fate of all sentient life at stake, he’s not going to leave empty-handed. As the old Klingon guardian leads him through the monastery, Pike is surprised to learn he’s talking to L’Rell and Tyler’s son. It’s an effect of the Time Crystals. Time moves much faster for the people who live near them. Trees grow instantly too, which is a cool visual effect. At this point, we’re wondering when these trials will start. Turns out there’s only one. It’s real rough, though.Doug Jones as Saru (Photo Credit: John Medland/CBS)What makes this plot about trying to change the future a bit bitterly ironic is Pike. This series takes place after “The Cage,” but before “The Menagerie.” We know what Pike’s future looks like already. It’s a burned, disfigured face and a robotic wheelchair that allows him to communicate in beeps. The Discovery can prevent Control from wiping out all life, but The Original Series already set Pike’s future in stone. And now Discovery has too. When Pike grabs hold of the Time Crystal, he sees his future. A ship being destroyed around him, he gets the crew to safety. He’s trapped on the bridge and an explosion burns his face. He flashes further forward and sees the life he’ll eventually lead. The future terrifies him, and he’s given a choice. Leave the time crystal and maybe prevent that future, or take the crystal and guarantee it. As Pike represents the best of Starfleet, it’s not even a choice. He’ll gladly sacrifice himself to have a shot at saving the universe.As cool and full of Trek fanservice as that story was, the B-plot was plenty exciting as well. As Star Trek: Discovery moves toward its season finale, these episodes are getting so much better. While Pike’s getting the time crystals, Burnham wants to investigate a Section 31 ship that checked in an hour late. She wants to go after Leland, hoping to destroy control as soon as possible. Acting Captain Saru gives her permission to go, and Spock goes with her. As he points out, Burnham’s mom can’t come back in time to save her anymore. That’s a nice way to raise the stakes in these final episodes. They can’t count on a last minute deus ex machina anymore.Ethan Peck as Spock; Ali Momen as Kamran Grant; Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham (Photo Credit: Russ Martin/CBS)They come across a ravaged ship with one surviving crew member that served with Michael on the Shenzhou. He helps them get to the bridge of his ship so they can isolate Control and reboot the system. The whole story has the pacing of a good thriller. After we saw Control take over Leland last week, there isn’t anyone we can trust. That includes this crewmember. At this point, it’s not a matter of whether he’ll turn out to be Control, but when. As his dialog slowly starts to get more pro-AI while Spock is conveniently out of the room, Burnham grows more concerned. This is some great suspense here. We know the reveal is coming, we’re just growing increasingly anxious waiting for it.When the fight does happen, it’s fun, fast and scary. Even if Burnham does have main character invincibility at this point, watching the assimilation needle get ever closer to her eye is still unsettling. So is the part where, after Spock at least distracts the crewman with a failed Vulcan nerve pinch, Burnham phasers the guy multiple times and he keeps coming. She blows a giant hole in his chest and it doesn’t knock him down. Instead, a metallic Control goop comes out of him and speeds toward Burnham. For a brief second, it’s a full on horror movie until Spock figures out to magnetize the floor, stopping Control in its tracks.Tig Notaro as Reno (Photo Credit: John Medland/CBS)This whole excursion did more than provide the episode a few action beats. I mean, the action beats here were good enough that I wouldn’t have minded. Spock and Burnham learn that the whole situation was a trap for Burnham. She is the one variable the computer can’t predict. That’s why it’s so dead set on controlling her. That should make for some exciting situations over the next two episodes. So should the complication that ends the episode. After Pike returns to the Discovery, the ship finds itself approached by 30 Section 31 ships, all taking aim. The Discovery is outgunned and can’t run. Pike calls the Enterprise to receive the full crew of the Discovery, preparing for its destruction. Looks like the incident that burns Pike’s face is closer than we thought.This episode set us up for what’s sure to be two harrowing final episodes of the season, but it also managed to be plenty thrilling itself. It appears that as the show gets more episodes under its belt, it gets better at striking the balance between classic Star Trek storytelling and modern sci-fi action. It at least knows that action-oriented episodes don’t have to be entirely brainless. I’m excited to see where Discovery takes the series in Season Two’s final two episodes and beyond. I also appreciated the nice character moment between Jett Reno and Culber. She helps him start to realize that he needs Stamets just as much as Stamets needs him. He gets a second chance, which is way more than Reno got with her wife. It was a sweet, genuinely touching moment that gave me hope for this storyline. I just hope the show gives itself enough time to land it.Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS All AccessPreviously on Star Trek: Discovery:Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 11Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 10Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 9 Stay on target ‘Star Trek: Picard’ Teases Troubled Patrick StewartHow Designers Achieved the Sci-Fi Sound Magic of ‘The Orville’ last_img


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