Star Trek Discovery: The Sanctuary (S3E8)

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/

8 thoughts on “Star Trek Discovery: The Sanctuary (S3E8)

  1. I liked Tilly’s retort to Ryn about how to address a captain – strong “First Officer” energy.

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  2. I generally liked this episode, probably because it was less predictable, but yes, the ground planet stuff was quite well known and I think the “we solved the burn” could have been more prominent. It looks like they are giving more time for character work (Stamets and Culbert in particular) which is good. And Adria is getting less-Wesley crusher by the minute.
    And Detmer used the Force so Skywalker not Solo 🙂

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  3. I agree that it was undercooked about Book’s home planet and that led to the big plothole this week. Book’s home planet is not a planet full of people. It’s a colony planet, like a lot of the post-Burn planets appear to be, with a small population protected by a limited defense shield, small enough to get potentially wiped out by their harvests being eaten by sea locusts. (I do enjoy the whacky creature aspect of this season of Discovery.) Book’s brother has ended up the leader, as the resident empath with Book leaving them, and kept them going by trading locust repellant from the Orions in exchange for hunting the trance worms that Book is trying to save. So we get to see his hunting trance worms armed gang and not the farmers, which certainly seemed a bit lame. They never even tell us what crops they’re trying to grow, though there must be a grain crop as they make their own whiskey.

    But what they also don’t explain is how Book and his bro, not being related, are both empaths raised in the colony. Is it a colony with people who are part Betazoid or something else? They aren’t entirely brothers “by choice” — they are the two vital empaths in the colony; how did that happen? And they don’t explain how a colony with a high tech defense shield (that apparently can’t keep out sea locusts,) could not have figured out that boosting the empathic signal of their two empaths could scoot the locusts back into the sea. It does not make Book’s people look super smart despite resources (plothole) because of course Discovery has to come up with the obvious solution for them. (Then again, look at the U.S. during a pandemic, maybe I’m being too harsh.)

    I did, however, really like the Detmer and Rin sub-plot and I was digging the new family dynamic with Adira, since the Doc clearly would like to have kids. I also liked that they aren’t making the Emerald Chain overly super powerful. They seemed to be leaning that way in earlier episodes and I wasn’t looking for another Klingon like plot. But Osyraa isn’t just a mob boss, though she’s ruthless. We learned that the Orions feel that the Federation lied to them, deceived them and damaged them, possibly not just in blaming them for the Burn. And the reality is that maybe the current Federation was deceptive beyond what’s already come up, something the Discovery crew may discover. So that was a lure for future plots.

    On the Georgiou plot, they’re just stalling it out, which was kind of annoying. It was fun watching her Terran mind games run up against the unflappable I died and was resurrected Doc though.

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  4. After commenting here I had an epiphany: Before last season there was short Trek about the Discovery being left alone for centuries. It was weird as it didnt seem to fit to the other short treks (although in hindsight Mudd also didnt appear again IIRC). Im pretty sure the ship in the nebula causing the burn was the discovery. Im not sure how theyll turn it but either its Mirror-universe Discovery (I hope not) or at the end of the season they will send Disco back in time alone to safe….something. Maybe another control thing? Mind you, the alien computer is still there evolving and might cause all non-robot life to die another 900 years down the line. I can even imagine Georgious blackout being a side effect of that.

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  5. Saru’s command phrase ought to be “Let us proceed”, or “Proceed” in the urgent form. He’s all about cooperative decision-making and carrying out plans.

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