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'Star Trek: Discovery' doubles down with an ambitious episode seeking to tie threads together and take care of unfinished business. Does it succeed?

Tilly death do us part: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ S2E5 recap

Star Trek: Discovery doubled down in the middle of its second season with an ambitious episode seeking to tie threads together and take care of unfinished business. Instead, it does the exact opposite – and fans are left holding the pieces.

CBS TV Studios President David Stapf unveiled his goal “that there should be a 'Star Trek: Something' on all the time on (CBS) All Access.” Please don't.

CBS TV Studios President David Stapf unveiled his goal “that there should be a Star Trek: Something on all the time on (CBS) All Access.” Please don’t.

Training wheels

To say Discovery has its hands full with this half-century legacy is an understatement. CBS is juggling high demands from a core fandom while introducing a new generation of Trekkies in the Netflix era. All they needed to do was hire some diehard fans of the canon with talent & experience to head things up and dig right in, right? That appears to have been easier said than done.

Watching season two of Discovery has been like riding a bike for the first time without training wheels: going too fast or too slow, swerving left & right, overcorrecting, not able to lock in that sweet spot. I guess you can admire the pluck, design, and special effects.

Some more successful ST:D episodes such as “New Eden” have seen a return to a more familiar Trekian framework of episodic storytelling. But the series continues to muddle contentious ideas alongside the real-world minutiae of Discovery’s turbulent production cycle, which has seen three showrunners before completing two seasons.

Lacking actual character motivation? Just shove in an elegy!

Leaving aside the episode’s inauspicious title, “Saint of Imperfection” can’t even get off the ground before Michael, sprinting to save Tilly, entropies mid-stride into a slow-motion reflective voiceover meditation on hope & duty (or something). It’s meant to be poignant af, but serves only to bore while delaying resolution to ep. 4’s cliffhanger.

When exactly did Burnham & Tilly become besties – was it perhaps during their whopping three private conversations? Why are we reminiscing for so long on a quick jaunt down to engineering? We’re only two minutes in, Michael & I are out of breath, and the popcorn ain’t even ready yet.

Lurching between boredom & confusion

The brakes are mercifully taken off and we find out Discovery wasn’t chasing Spock at all – it’s Evil Georgiou from the mirror universe now working in Starfleet’s black ops, Section 31. A bit of actual banter here breaks up the episode’s otherwise embarrassingly groan-worthy dialog. Thank the galactic mind for Michelle Yeoh, clearly sinking her teeth into her new alternate-universe role.

Tilly meanwhile wakes up in “the” mycelial network. That’s where Discovery’s magical mystery drive repeatedly deus ex machina’s df outta ST:D teleplays by instantly traveling to any spot in the universe, after the series’s typically wooden take on a ship status, the “black alert”.

Ensign Tilly, confused and getting attacked painfully in a beautifully ethereal (and admittedly very Trekian) landscape, blows up in anger at her kidnapper, JahSepp. The otherwise comedically talented Wiseman pulls off this suddenly fiery repartee, but it’s off-putting to see Tilly this furious. She’s probably just coming down off that dose of psilocybin from episode four.

Fungal entity JahSepp explains she breaks down organic matter in the network to make it “useful in new ways”. Call me alarmist, but that’s a pretty big red flag for anyone made out of organic matter – like Tilly, who somehow snaps right back to her wisecracking ways. This bewildering emotional kaleidoscope might just make more sense if you preload with shrooms yourself before watching.

Could the CIA be this annoying?

Back on Discovery, the Section 31 liaison officer arrives in the form of Ash Tyler, better known to his Klingon homies as Voq. Starfleet’s spooks apparently hire any misfits dropped into their laps, including former galactic despots and mind control victims in the grips of extreme PTSD.

At this point, Captain Pike finally groks that everyone else knows more about what’s going on than he does, so he tries to prize an inkling of info out of Tyler & Michael – to no avail. Taking command of a new starship can be bumpy, but this is ridiculous.

And so the search for Spock that turned into the search for Tilly becomes the search for Culber. Yes, for Valentine’s Day we get the return of Hugh, Stamets’s far more talented boyfriend, brutally murdered by Ash/Voq in this dimension.

Hugh has been stuck in the mycelial network suffering for quite a while. Why didn’t JahSepp just read his mind and talk to him like she did with Tilly? Presumably that would have skipped over too many concerned, empathetic eyebrow furrows from Stamets.

Starfleet has never looked so chaotic neutral

Pike at this point willingly risks the entire ship & crew by jumping Discovery halfway into the realm that has already imprisoned one crew member. Just how detailed was the captain’s briefing about that spore drive? Isn’t it a bit rash to bring everyone into this dangerous different dimension – no matter how blue & shiny?

It’s not just the Cap living on the edge, either. Tilly’s reckless gravitic mishap in the cargo bay started the mess she’s in after all. Burnham & Stamets have got to be breaking Federation safety protocols constantly. Bet you a quarter gram of latinum Saru ends up chaotic neutral too now his fear glands are pickling in a jar behind sickbay. (Ed. note: That happens.)

Increasing urgency and near misses alternate exhaustingly with far-fetched delays and partial saves. While everyone on the bridge thinks they’re gonna die any second, the quintet in engineering spouts corny exposition about how to save Hugh for precious minutes – Discovery’s and ours.

Enough with the damn elegies

Commander Burnham flexes her xenoanthropological skills (not really – her degree is purely decorative) and whaddya know, everything turns out downright peachy. But just when you thought the lectures would be over, another slo-mo elegy replete with Michael’s voiceover narration ensues. I get it: she’s the protagonist and I’m supposed to care about her inner life. Give me a solid montage over this shlock any day.

Do I hear Michael waxing all nostalgic again about things that just happened to her a few minutes ago? I think my popcorn’s finally ready – don’t bother pausing this ST:D.

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