This week we get a Jonathan Frakes directed episode that is a bitty and disconnected but which covers a lot of ground. It’s not quite 100% b-plots but it feels that way at times.
The main victim of this lack of focus is the trip to Book’s home world and family. It is a huge planet that feels like one bit of woodland and six or seven people. Star Trek can often fail to distinguish between a planet, a town and a specific place but I felt like the plot tripped over itself in the level of confusion here and implied that the population of the planet was essentially Book and his brother.
We do get to meet Osyraa, the not-so-big-bad leader of the Emerald Chain crime syndicate. What the episode lacks as a self-contained narrative arc, it compensates for by moving multiple season story arcs forward. In Osyraa’s case we meet her (a member of one of classic Trek’s under-used species, the Orions) and get insight into her basic motives (she is a mob boss, that’s about it).
Meanwhile there is plenty of other stuff going on. Georgiou is finally seeking treatment for her black outs from Dr Culber. Her uncooperative attitude makes her a terrible patient but makes for some good dialogue.
Adira resolves a key question for reviewers of Discovery and clarifies their choice of pronouns to Stamets. Luckily for them Stamets as decided to turn down his tendency to be an arsehole to people and is supportive. It’s nice as well that both Culber and Stamets have their own separate plots this episode, which makes their brief interaction feel like two people in a stable relationship (and also be Adira’s adoptive dads).
Stamets and Adira also make progress on finding the source of the Burn and the mysterious music motif.
I’m writing lots of short paragraphs, which is how this episode feels. It would have been kind of cool if Frakes had done this episode as a series of vignettes like the “22 Short Films about Springfield” episode of the Simpsons.
Tilly and Saru get to run Discovery and Saru (delightfully) tries out different signature catch-phrases.
Detmer deals with the loss of her pilot mojo by embracing her inner Han Solo and launching an attack from Book’s ship on a much bigger star ship. Technically, that is part of the main plot but it is also another season plot arc dealt with.
It’s a Frakes episode, so it is largely competent but unremarkable. It’s the first episode this season where I felt like the old Discovery problem of letting the flaws in plotting take centre stage returned. Book’s relationship with his brother, the nature of their planet, the society they live in, the deal with the Emerald Chain and the eventual resolution of the lice problem all felt badly under-cooked. Trek (and sci-fi shows in general) have to get a lot world building done with some big broad brush strokes, small sets and a couple of actors to suggest that their is a whole planet full of people. The episode failed to pull that off.
Cora’s review reminds me that we also had a minor Linus the reptile guy sub plot: http://corabuhlert.com/2020/12/05/star-trek-discovery-visits-the-sanctuary/