Mark Watches ‘Discovery’: S03E08 – The Sanctuary

In the eighth episode of the third season of Discovery, the team helps out Book and comes face-to-face with Osyraa. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For brief talk of anxiety and trauma, terminal illness

Kwejian and Osyraa

If I can open this review with the slightest bit of criticism: some of the stuff on Kwejian was stretched thin. I understand why this was filtered the way it was, and of course, there was no way to see the whole planet or even a significant portion of the population that lived there. And perhaps this is the whole point: Maybe Kwejian isn’t all that populated anymore. While I watched this, I admittedly experienced a disconnect between how much the show demonstrated to us and one aspect they didn’t. There was apparently a great threat to Kwejian because of the sea locust plague, but we saw almost none of the people who were threatened. At the same time, I get that we had to see this through Book’s experience, and the story is also about his relationship with his brother, Kyheem. (Shout out to non-traditional family structures popping up on Discovery yet again!!!) 

I also think there was a separate value in seeing things unfold through the story of Book and Kyheem: the show establishes that Osyraa is basically the polar opposite of the Federation. Much of the emotional conflict between Book and Kyheem comes from the decision Kyheem made to accept help from Osyraa to take care of their sea locust plague. This revealed to us how Osyraa and the Emerald Chain works: they create literal or metaphorical debts by “helping” those in need. As Admiral Vance detailed, they contact “pre-warp civilizations,” which is obviously intentional, too. They want to find the societies that are most vulnerable so that they can hold something over them. In the context of Kwejian, the repellant for the sea locusts is absolutely necessary to prevent mass starvation on the planet. Instead of helping for the sake of helping, the Emerald Chain helps purely for selfish reasons.

Of course, Osyraa escalates far beyond that in “The Sanctuary” because she wants Ryn, the Andorian that was rescued from Hunhau. At the heart of this, then, is Book’s feeling that Kyheem sold out Kwejian, while Kyheem believes that he stayed behind to save the planet, rather than abandon it like Book did. It’s a situation that Osyraa knows she can exploit, too, and she absolutely does, pitting the brothers against one another and needling at their anger. But on top of all of that? Osyraa is destructively petty. She had her uses for Kwejian, but at the end of the day, she didn’t care about preserving the planet, so that’s why she is so quick to excessively bomb the surface in order to get one person. I admit that while I like a good unrepentantly evil villain, I did enjoy that Osyraa provided a justification of sorts for why she was the way she is. It’s a brief line, but she told Saru that her ancestors taught her that “power is virtue” and that there was “no nobility in suffering.” It’s the case of an oppressed group deliberately and openly becoming oppressors themselves. Is it a complicated motivation? No, but it worked for me in this context. 

And at the end of the day, that’s what I needed from this episode. I loved seeing Book interact with someone else close to him; I loved seeing Osyraa; I loved getting a deeper look at Kwejian empathy. And oh my GOD, did I ever love that Burnham got to be a part of this. That moment at the end when they both expressed happiness that they were together during this experience? I am just so THRILLED by this relationship, y’all! 

Adira and Stamets

I think Steven Universe is perhaps the first Mark Does Stuff project that I consumed with a character that used they/them pronouns. (I’m thinking specifically of Stevonnie and Shep.) But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen this brought up so directly as it was here. Adira uses they/them!!! HOLY SHIT! And the scene is treated with such care, too. I haven’t been publicly out as nonbinary for very long, but even in private spaces where I’ve come out, I felt the same trepidation and hesitation as Adira did here. But I want to also point out that Adira had to feel some sort of safety around Stamets to even begin to feel like they could tell him who they are. So, in some sense, Adira’s admission is a sign of the growth of their relationship with Stamets. I know there’s a bunch of tiring discourse about the notion of safe spaces, but in a very literal sense, Stamets helped create one for Adira, and then, when Adira told their truth to him, he accepted it with a smile. 

From that point on, both Stamets and Dr. Culber immediately adjust every pronoun in reference to Adira, which I loved seeing. I’m using dual pronouns these days—alternating between he/him and they/them because that’s what feels right for me—but there’s something so powerful and affirming when people in my life exclusively use they/them for me and… well, to put it bluntly, when they make it sound natural. Like that’s who I am and there’s no question of it. Maybe the show could have had Stamets and Dr. Culber struggle to adjust to it, and it would have been realistic, but having that instant change? God, that felt good. AND ALSO!!!! I have this sense that Stamets and Dr. Culber are basically becoming gay space dads to Adira???? And this would be the best development possible on this show??? I LOVE IT SO MUCH????

Anyway: I have no theory as to why Gray is no longer appearing to or communicating to Adira. Not a single one!!!

Detmer

Detmer’s plot in this episode isn’t very long, but I’m still pleased that the show’s writers are following through on her struggle with trauma and anxiety. In “The Sanctuary,” she offers to pilot Book’s ship as the “rogue” officer who fires on Osyraa, creating a technicality so that the Federation isn’t declaring war on the Emerald Chain. (Though the ending of this episode suggests that this didn’t matter; I feel like Osyraa doesn’t care about technicalities at all.) When she does, though, Detmer knows that the entire situation is deeply triggering to her, but she also knows she is the only pilot who can pull off the attack on Osyraa’s ship. There’s a lot of really great stuff about courage and fear during her scenes with Ryn, too, and I appreciated that the show wasn’t trying to say that you can just do one scary thing and then poof! All your fears are gone!!! Because that isn’t how trauma works for a lot of people. I’m happy that Detmer found a way to fulfill her duty without destroying herself, though!!! I’M PROUD OF HER!

Georgiou

I think we can all agree that Georgiou is one of the most stubborn characters in Trek history, but I appreciate that there is a REASON for that. The majority of her life was in the Terran universe, and because of that, she has certain values and perceptions that have been hard to shake. It’s painfully obvious at this point that she hates being seen as vulnerable, so what’s worse than this for someone like her? She has a disease that no one understands and could prove to be terminal. That means she might have to rely on other people, which is not something Georgiou has any interest in. 

I do wonder: Does Georgiou know what’s going on with her and she just refuses to tell Dr. Culber or Dr. Pollard? She might not understand the visions she’s receiving, but does she understand the cause? I have a sense that a much bigger story is incoming this season, so for the moment, all I can do is wonder. Will Georgiou finally let down her walls and let people take care of her? Or is she ultimately too Terran for that?

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

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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