In the fifth episode of the third season of Discovery, the crew finds home, but discovers how complicated that idea is. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of death, grief, PTSD and trauma
I CONTINUALLY LOVE THIS SHOW AND WHAT IT CHOOSES TO DO.
The willingness of this show’s writing team to take us to such uncomfortable but gripping places is surely one of the main reasons I have responded to Discovery as I have. Look, the video for this episode is proof that despite how much hope I had for what the crew found, I knew that the story wasn’t going to make this easy or joyous for anyone. But that’s not because this is a grim, cynical kind of show. I find that Discovery takes us through darkness in order to find the light, and this episode itself is a wonderful example of that mantra and tone.
Still, I can’t deny how emotionally powerful it was once Discovery entered the protective barrier that kept the Federation hidden from outsiders. I have a great appreciation for the overall structure so far of this season because it allowed for the payoff we experienced here. The show opened with the chaotic results of time travel, the logistical problems the crew faced upon arriving in an uncertain future, and the eventual return “home” to something familiar to them. Well, relatively familiar, I should say, because this is all still very, very new to these characters. Thus, by the end of “Die Trying,” I got this sense that Discovery had basically rebooted into an entirely new story. Which is one HELL of a thing to pull off MID-SEASON THREE.
But I’ll get to that later on. I wanted to talk about the way in which this particular episode tormented me personally, because holy shit, this was a stressful story. We the audience know that Discovery crew have sacrificed so much in order to save the LITERAL ENTIRE UNIVERSE, and yet, this script believably conveys the motivations for people like Admiral Vance and Lieutenant Willa. I know everyone wanted a loving, celebratory welcome, but so much of Discovery’s story is impossible to corroborate. (I did appreciate that hilarious montage that bounced between all the various debriefings, perfectly illustrating how utterly ridiculous the ride has been aboard this ship.) The arrival of this nearly-one-thousand-year-old ship is a marvelous thing, but it’s also understandably met with a lot of suspicion.
Which doesn’t negate the emotional impact this has one everyone. There’s a large part of this that is filtered through Burnham and her own personal struggle with her place in Starfleet. After everything she and the crew have sacrificed, she’s offended by Admiral Vance’s response and demand that they prove themselves. At the same time, it was also clear that Burnham was worried about sticking to protocol, something she was ALREADY struggling with due to her year away from Discovery. So yeah, it was deeply realistic to me that Burnham was so frustrated by this process, even going so far as to clash with Saru and openly defy Admiral Vance. All of this is a continual adjustment process for Michael Burnham, and this newest chaotic iteration is no exception.
That being said, Burnham’s idea of how to win over Admiral Vance and prove the intent of Discovery wasn’t a bad plan at all. I loved that at the heart of it was the idea of hope: that the seed-vault ship contained the possible answer to the disease that the Kili were inflicted with. There’s such a wonderful character trait revealed through this: that despite everything Michael has been through, she can still imagine a better world. In this case, solving a problem for the Federation would not just demonstrate what Discovery was capable of or what they aimed to do. I saw this as a subtle way of demonstrating that the Federation could actually live on and grow. That later became represented in the whole “looking up” metaphor, too! The spore drive allowed the Federation possibilities that hadn’t been available to them for over a century.
What else was possible?
It was also deeply satisfying to me from a narrative structure standpoint that there was basically a secondary episode tucked into the greater framing device in “Die Trying.” The plot on the Tikhov is of course related to the story of the reunion with the Federation, but if there’d been an entire episode dedicated to Dr. Attis and the seed-vault ship, I bet it would have been fantastic, too! I can still recognize storytelling hallmarks that feel deeply Trek in nature, and Dr. Attis’s is one of those. He and his family made a decision to be the caretakers of the Tikhov because they believed in the future. That ship would prove invaluable to future generations. But what happens when tragedy strikes? Dr. Attis’s story is heartbreaking, as it is an examination of how grief (and Dr. Attis’s refusal to engage in the process of grieving his family) drove him to make decisions that seemed bizarre to the Discovery crew. But it was so fitting, wasn’t it? All of these characters—Dr. Culber, Nhan, and Michael—were dealing with grief on some level, and they were, in turn, the perfect people to try to reach through the seemingly impenetrable wall of sadness surrounding Dr. Attis.
But only when they worked together, of course.
That was also the case for the crew onboard the Discovery, who Lt. Willa got to observe while the others were on the away mission. My little dysfunctional family!!! They are so chaotic but look how well they work together! My gods, the trifecta of Stamets/Tilly/Jett Reno was PURE BEAUTY. The constant insults! The respect disguised as hatred! The three brilliant minds working together to come up with a solution through sheer spite alone!!!! I LOVE THIS WEIRD FAMILY SO MUCH.
While I am sad to see Nhan go, this was such a fantastic story for them to do so. First things first: I’m glad they’re not DEAD. Them leaving Discovery was a decision they made for themselves and to uphold what they believed in as a Starfleet officer. And prior to that decision, they got to experience a reunion of their own. Rachael Ancheril is stupendous here as Nhan, y’all! Her performance managed to encapsulate her sense of awe at seeing other Barzans, as well as communicating the grief that came with joining Starfleet and being separated from her kind. She also acts as the moral center of this episode when it came to the ethical problem of Dr. Attis and consent. She was the one who advocated for respecting Dr. Attis’s decision to remain onboard the Tikhov rather than leave his family behind to get medical care. It’s a classic conflict in the Trek universe, but it didn’t feel stale at all here, especially since it led to Nhan choosing to remain behind on the Tikhov so she could honor the Attis family and return to Barzan. I hope we see Nhan again, but I really appreciated that she got to choose her own future—and her own happiness—in this new timeline.
HI, MICHELLE YEOH IS STILL CRUSHING THIS ROLE. It wasn’t surprising to me that so far into the future, people could detect what universe a person was from. (Either the Prime or Terran one, that is.) As for everything else revealed here? I’m not sure I should do anything but take it all with a grain of salt. It’s possible that there are biological or genetic differences between Prime and Terran humans, but I also wonder if the holograms that interrogated Georgiou were lying in order to trip her up. The human man who eventually took over had a completely different vibe, and I remain intrigued by much of what he said.
Georgiou has long sat in this fascinating gray area within the universe and cast of Discovery, and her debriefing only further highlighted that. Still, I’m curious. I agree with the unnamed Federation member that Georgiou stayed with Discovery because she cared about someone (MICHAEL BURNHAM, DUH), but… does Georgiou have an endgame? Will she continue to observe what this world has to offer before making a decision of whom to align herself with? Or will she always stick close to Michael? I don’t actually know, and I appreciate that the show keeps me guessing with how Georgiou will be used. INCLUDING THAT FINAL SCENE??? What the fuck was that? I don’t get it??? What is this show about to do to me???
The video for “Die Trying” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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