Mark Watches ‘Discovery’: S02E09 – Project Daedalus

In the ninth episode of the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, I think this season is going to destroy me. Just kidding, it already has. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent

I have too many thoughts, everything hurts, I’M DOING A LIST REVIEW.

  • In hindsight, I really couldn’t have ever guessed where this episode was going to end up. I had properly theorized that perhaps that probe was modified by whomever was responsible for the extermination of life in the future, but the whole Control reveal? Holy shit, y’all. TRULY WAS NOT READY. 
  • THERE ARE SO MANY SURPRISES IN THIS EPISODE. The very first scene is the surprise appearance of Admiral Cornwell, who added an extra layer of suspense to the whole episode. I got this sense early on that by having an admiral around, Pike and the crew were going to be somewhat insulated from Section 31’s tactics. But this script does an incredible thing by revealing that having someone as high-ranking as Admiral Cornwell LITERALLY DID NOT MATTER AT ALL. 
  • Cornwell also helps misdirect the audience. She’s beginning to question Section 31 more openly to Pike in the first third of this episode, but she’s not quite there yet. She interrogates Spock with cerebral mapping, which showed her that Spock either didn’t kill anyone or believed he didn’t. And then… the video. 
  • Honestly, I should have known at that point in this episode that everything was going to be pure fucking chaos for the remainder of this episode. Because we saw Spock’s memory of his escape from the facility, so… what the fuck???
  • Part of the reason I didn’t put the pieces together is that Control had been mentioned so many times in this season, but just… never really was explained? I assumed it was some sort of program, not a person, at least, but I never gave it much thought beyond that it was mentioned in regards to threat assessment and Section 31. So once Cornwell started explaining that Control was being commandeered by Admiral Patar, my mind immediately went to Section 31 as the antagonist, not Control. Again, I get why! We are absolutely primed as the audience to MASSIVELY mistrust Section 31. I assumed that Section 31 was deliberately manipulating Control to their own end. What that end was? I… I didn’t actually have a theory. Were they using this whole Red Angel situation to their own advantage? Was it Patar alone, or did she have support?
  • I also should have known that once this episode began to explore Airiam, she was a goner.
  • But I didn’t. I WAS JUST SO EXCITED TO SEE MORE OF HER CHARACTER. We also got confirmation that she is a human with cybernetic enhancements! That confirmation came along with all of the things that would later be used to hurt me. Repeatedly. OVER AND OVER. 
  • (I am never going to recover from the ending of this episode.)
  • I am LITERALLY so obsessed with the notion that once a week, Airiam had to cycle through her memories to delete some because she only has limited storage space. IT’S SUCH A GOOD IDEA. And how does this episode use it?
  • To hurt me. 
  • Specifically me. 
  • LORD. 
  • LET’S TALK ABOUT SECTION 31. Because… mines. MINES!!! I loved the idea that throughout this show, the writers have made it clear that they’re building off the legacy of what Section 31 one has been throughout Trek history. It’s shadowy, they bend the rules, they often do terrible things in the name of protecting Starfleet or the Federation. And then this episode drops the most literal, physical manifestation of that imaginable: Section 31’s base is surrounded by mines that are extremely, extremely illegal. It’s exceptionalism, plain and simple. I was a little uncomfortable with how Cornwell smoothed it all over by complimenting Pike??? Like, the mines are still deeply unethical, the war is over????
  • There are like ten scenes in this episode alone that deserve Emmys, but let’s talk about the sheer depth of character assessment and understanding required for the writers to compose the chess sequence. I… am still reeling. Do you ever experience a fictional argument so cutting, so deep, so thrilling and uncomfortable that you feel like you were in it?
  • Masterfully acted by Ethan Peck and Sonequa Martin-Green, y’all. MASTERFULLY.
  • And it’s uncomfortable because… shit, I think Spock is right. I think Michael Burnham really does try to shoulder everything as if it is her burden alone. It’s something I could see in that final scene as Burnham tried to burden herself with saving Airiam, despite everything and everyone telling her what she had to do. I also think he’s right because wow, that claim hit really close to home for me, because I also have a tendency to do this as well.
  • I think one could write an entire dissertation on the chess scene. I really do. There’s all the stuff about how each character relates to their father; there’s Spock’s reference to Burnham not understanding his character because it’s been so long since she last saw him; THERE’S ALL OF SPOCK’S ANGRY, CRUEL COMMENTS ABOUT BURNHAM’S PLACE IN THE WORLD AS A CHILD. Oh my god, the whole bit about Spock finding failure liberating? Because it allowed him to ENJOY expressing an emotion?
  • A little suspense commentary in terms of craft: A brilliant thing this episode did was build on the audience knowing that Airiam was compromised. By itself, it’s a solid technique: We, the viewers, know the truth that the characters do not, and it is agonizing to see them not pick up the signs that are right in front of their faces. But the script for “Project Daedalus” adds another layer: Security Chief Nhan starts to figure out that Airiam is behaving weirdly. So, not only are we getting the base layer of, “When is everyone else going to find out?”, but then we get, “NHAN IS SO CLOSE TO FIGURING IT OUT, WHAT IS SHE GOING TO DO NEXT.”
  • Let’s add yet another thing that I referenced earlier: Admiral Cornwell’s presence allows a certain level of safety. We assume that an admiral that high up in command will matter a great deal, but then Admiral Patar reveals that Starfleet Command ordered the attack on Discovery. 
  • It’s such a damning moment; Starfleet was willing to destroy Discovery, the crew, and the very same officer that Cornwell “spared” because he was the best of the best. All those designations were rendered meaningless. It didn’t matter to Section 31 at all.
  • (Except… it wasn’t Section 31 at all, was it? It was Control, manipulating everyone!!!)
  • With large casts, I find that I tend to really love moments when characters who I never thought would ever speak to one another suddenly interact. In this episode’s case, that would be Stamets and Spock, two intellectual powerhouses who are utterly unlike one another. And yet, they share a fascinating conversation about grief, emotions, destiny, and faith. Here are two characters who have both been ensnared in plots and plans that seem much, much bigger than themselves. Stamets insists that he’s unimportant in the grand scheme of things, only moments after asking Spock to consider that he is unique. So unique, in fact, that the Red Angel sought him out. So, who lacks faith in their uniqueness? In their own abilities? It’s a fascinating question because Stamets’s synchronization with the mycelial network was something he chose for himself, whereas the Red Angel is not something Spock chose. Does that fact make these two cases vastly different from one another?
  • Love that Spock delivered that fatality about Dr. Culber before leaving Engineering. LOVE THAT. 
  • Once Burnham, Nhan, and Airiam head to Section 31’s HQ, though, this episode focuses on this one plot alone. It has to. There’s an intense tightwire act here, as the evidence of what Control has done begins to mount up, and it does so QUICKLY. Saru is the first to crack the mystery of why the headquarters has been abandoned and is able to help the team zero in on both Control and Airiam.
  • I do have a question, though. How aware of all of this is Section 31? It’s clear the communications from Patar were all fake, so I think it’s safe to assume that at the very least, Section 31 doesn’t know where Discovery is. But does Section 31 know about their headquarters being… I don’t know. Taken over? Destroyed? Has Control been feeding the rest of Section 31 holographic information???
  • I’m sure we’ll find out the ramifications of that in the future. But this episode only concerns itself with the immediate problem: Burnham and Nhan have to stop Airiam from giving the sphere’s data to Control, or Control will later become the force that exterminates life in the universe. However, this task is tragic; it’s not a simple away mission by any means. Control infiltrated Airiam, and it is forcing her to carry out its desires. The situation is played with immense horror: From Burnham’s perspective, as she refuses to open the HQ’s airlock and vent Airiam into space, and from Airiam’s perspective, as she fights to hold on to her humanity while an AI continually forces her to do things she doesn’t want. 
  • I kept thinking that Burnham would come up with a solution before Airiam’s fate was sealed, but no. 
  • Oh, no, that wasn’t what this episode was.
  • I’m still reeling. It’s taken me like 90 minutes to write this review, and the final scene of this episode is so fucking HAUNTING. The look on Burnham’s face. Airiam’s acceptance of what is going to happen. THE FINAL MEMORY SHE LIVES. 
  • Why the fuck did she tell Burnham that all of this was because of her? What is Project Daedalus?”
  • “We’re coming home!” just… throw me off a cliff, why don’t you.

The video for “Project Daedalus” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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