(written from a Production point of view)
While Captain Burnham leads an away mission to a planet that was once home to the aliens responsible for the DMA, Book and Tarka secretly infiltrate the USS Discovery.
Captain Burnham dictates a log entry, as the USS Discovery arrives at the dead planet on the edge of Species 10-C's hyperfield. Twenty-nine hours remain before United Earth and Ni'Var will be bombarded by debris from the DMA. Their only hope to stop it is to enter the hyperfield, and to do so, they will investigate the planet, a former gas giant bombarded by asteroids until the gas burned away, its star surrounded by a pair of Dyson rings made from the same rare material as the DMA controller. Burnham speculates that there is a connection, believing the planet was the 10-C's homeworld, and the ruins will show them more about their culture. Burnham, Saru, Lieutenant Commander Detmer, and Dr. Culber prepare to take a shuttle down to the surface, with Ensign Adira Tal hoping Detmer will "fly good".
Meanwhile, on board his ship, holding position under cloak behind Discovery, Booker asks Tarka to scan the hyperfield again, but the scientist points out that a new scan won't tell them any more than the last dozen have. They too are trying to find a way inside the hyperfield, and Tarka believes the DMA's power source can come from no other place. If they could get in, find the power source, and disable it, Tarka is sure "everybody wins". Booker thinks Burnham will likely find a way in before they do, and wonders if they stuck close to Discovery, they would go in along with them. Tarka takes the idea further: attaching the ship to Discovery's hull, something Booker compares to the Kowolian nightsprey, an animal from his lost homeworld, attaching to a jajtspat; the larger creature often doesn't realize it's there. Tarka points out that a jajtspat doesn't have a sentient computer monitoring its perimeters, but proposes an idea: a patch to numb Zora's sensors on a portion of the hull large enough to obscure Booker's ship. Zora will probably pick it up eventually, but Tarka hopes by then, they will have ridden Discovery through the hyperfield. But he warns there was a catch: The patch had to be installed manually, which means that Tarka would have to board Discovery and install it at the access point in engineering. When Booker says he would also go along, Tarka replies he would move faster alone, but Booker points out that Tarka doesn't know Discovery as well as he does. Tarka retorts by asking what happened if Booker encountered Burnham. Booker remains adamant, knowing that one wrong move meant it was over for both of them, so they would work together.
In Discovery's shuttlebay, President Rillak takes Burnham aside, mildly protesting that both the ship's captain and first officer were going on the mission. Burnham assures her that Lieutenant Commander Nilsson is in command, and they would be in good hands. Rillak concedes that Burnham, as a xenoanthropologist, is ideal to lead the mission, but questions why Saru is also going. Burnham points out Saru's expertise with languages, and that Kelpiens had better sensory capabilities than Humans did; he might see something the others would miss. Plus, every moment they spent on the surface meant the DMA was that much closer to killing billions of people; Burnham intended to make that time count. Rillak makes clear she understands, but Burnham wonders if the other delegates do as well. Three of those delegates – General Ndoye, President T'Rina, and Dr. Hirai – are there to send them off. T'Rina expresses the hope that they will travel safely, and find the answers they need quickly. "In other words, make the trip count," Hirai adds: "don't screw it up." Ndoye, however, protests at the idea of wandering a dead planet when they should be actively seeking to contact the 10-C. Burnham understands this, but believes what they might find on the surface could better facilitate that contact. Ndoye points out the "might" and "could", seeing it as a gamble for so much uncertainty, but Burnham believes that contact with the 10-C would be more difficult if they knew nothing about them. She promises that she will find the answers they need, as she and her chosen crew prepare to board their shuttle.
As DSC-09 descends into the ionosphere, Detmer warns Discovery that they were about to lose contact; the officer at comms wishes them luck. Culber sarcastically finds it reassuring that the laws of physics still worked outside of their galaxy. Detmer assures them the ride will smooth out momentarily. Saru, meanwhile, detects numerous impact craters on the surface, and the atmospheric dissipation indicates the impacts occurred a thousand years earlier, around the same time the hyperfield was constructed. To Culber, this makes sense: given how advanced the 10-C are, they would have been able to evacuate in time. Burnham brings up scans of the ruins, showing that the materials seem to be able to withstand the pressures at the core of a gas giant, speculating that the 10-C lived in the gas layers. Culber points out one structure that seems to be largely intact.
The shuttle lands, then cloaks to conceal itself, as the away team moves out. Saru's scans show no life signs ahead, but he clarifies that the scans are showing no life signs at all, theirs included. Burnham instructs the team to set their phasers to stun. Just then, Saru sees what appears to be tentacles lashing out, and hears a high-pitched shrieking, before calling for the others to take cover. Saru clearly appears disoriented and distressed, but assures the others he was alright, just experiencing vertigo, a glint of light off an object ahead of them. Culber realizes it looks like the cusp of a very large bone.
Meanwhile, aboard Booker's ship, Tarka tells Booker the shuttle has gone all the way to the surface, which meant Discovery would remain until they returned. He has created a pair of devices that would mask their life signs from Zora's sensors. As he hands one to Booker, Tarka sees he is uneasy, and asks Booker to level with him. Booker admits the people on Discovery are like family to him, but Tarka tells him to weigh his conscience against the lives at stake if they didn't stop the DMA. He realizes it was complicated with Burnham, but the lives they were saving included hers and her crew, whether they knew it or not. Booker finally activates his own sensor mask, and kneels down, looking over a schematic of Discovery. Tarka asks if it was a "Kwejian thing", and Booker replies it wasn't: he just liked "having a torso". Tarka kneels down with him, and soon sees why as they beam aboard: Booker has set the coordinates in one of Discovery's Jefferies tubes. Consulting his schematic again, he points the way to engineering.
On the surface, Burnham warns her people to stay alert, and asks Culber about the scans of the bone. The doctor reports the bones were of low density and would have been flexible, similar to cartilage, and that their physiology was adapted to floating in gas layers. Detmer asks about the blue dust blowing in the wind, and Culber believes it to be a complex hydrocarbon compound of some sort, not found in Federation databases. Burnham brings their attention to her scans, showing that the site was a mass grave, which meant that even with their advanced technology, a complete evacuation of their planet was impossible. "It would be for anyone," she adds, thinking on what awaited Earth and Ni'Var. They had to get inside the structure and discover how to communicate with the 10-C. Saru clearly remains distressed and disoriented, and admits to Burnham that he is feeling something he has not felt in a long time: the coming of death.
Rillak enters the crew lounge to find Dr. Hirai playing a word puzzle game from ancient Earth; he explains it was introduced to him by Dr. Kovich, and asks her help for a word for "an act which a person is bound to complete". Rillak suggests "mission", trying to bring his attention to the one they were on, but Hirai replies that the word had ten letters, the middle letter being G. Rillak takes him to task about his bluntness with Burnham before she left, particularly how it affected Ndoye; she was trying to contain the delegates' stress and panic, and needed his help to do it. Hirai remains unfazed, saying that whether they worried about tomorrow or not, it would arrive all the same, and couldn't see how they could help with their lack of perspective on that. While she admires his looking at the long view, Rillak was focusing on matters of the present, which included Hirai returning to work for the first contact briefing in ten minutes. She turns the game board over and inputs the word before leaving. Hirai sees the word is "obligation".
In the Jefferies tubes, Booker sees they're at the mess hall; if it was empty, they could drop down and take a shortcut to engineering. Booker brings up the feed, and sees that it is not in fact empty: Ndoye is seated at a table with T'Rina. Ndoye believes she should be back at home preparing a defense or an evacuation. T'Rina supports Burnham's mission, but Ndoye believes it was a waste of the time they had left, as the DMA would impact both of their worlds in days, and asks how T'Rina can be so calm about it. T'Rina is confident that her vice-president has matters in hand, and Ni'Var has well-defined evacuation plans. Ndoye remains pessimistic, knowing that most of their populations could not be saved. T'Rina points out that they were there specifically to prevent such a catastrophe; the general remains adamant that they should be talking to the 10-C right then and there and demanding they disable the DMA. T'Rina concurs with Burnham's belief that they could not make that contact without knowing who they were speaking with, but Ndoye believes that "opportunities arise as they are seized", and that they should have gone directly to the hyperfield, before rising to leave.
On the surface, Saru remains fearful, clutching his phaser like a lifeline. Burnham remarks to Culber that she had thought his fear responses dampened after vahar'ai, and Culber agrees, but his adrenaline and cortisol levels were dangerously elevated. Burnham instructs the doctor to try and stabilize him, while she continued ahead with Detmer. Detmer asks what the structure might have been, and Burnham believes it to have been a community structure of some kind, like a meeting hall or a temple. She directs Detmer to keep her eyes open for anything that could be of cultural significance, an artifact or any kind of technology. Meanwhile, Culber tries to ease Saru, who believes something is causing him to feel as he does. Culber reassures him that their environmental suits filtered out any external elements, but as he touches Saru's arm, he begins to hear the same shrieking and see the same vertigo-inducing effects. Saru asks if he understands now, and the doctor shakily admits he does.
Booker and Tarka come out of the Jefferies tubes on the deck below engineering. Tarka detects three life signs, and suggests a diversion to get them out long enough to put in the patch, but sees something is on Booker's mind. Booker suggests asking Ndoye for help. Tarka sarcastically calls that a "great idea": that would have them end up in Discovery's brig, and he had no intention of being "under someone else's thumb". Booker realizes the risk, but points out that Ndoye could keep them informed of Discovery's plans, and that she had voted in favor of their plan at the assembly. She will see the best way to stop the DMA and save her world was to act. Tarka points out that the shuttle could return any moment, and Booker half-jokingly replies he will talk fast. Tarka relents, heading to engineering, and tells Book to "be convincing". Booker taps out a text message, claiming to be from T'Rina, to have Ndoye meet him on deck 13.
Detmer can detect no signs of any cultural artifacts or technology in the room. She looks back at Saru, and asks Burnham if they should escort him back to the shuttle, clearly worried about his state. Burnham puts her hopes on Culber being able to help him and to keep looking, as they had no data yet. Burnham is determined to succeed, but Detmer tries to assure her it was not all on her shoulders. Just then, Burnham begins experiencing the same effects as Saru and Culber. Culber confirms that she too is seeing hallucinations and hearing screaming, and sees her biometrics are increasing. Saru agrees that all of their fear responses were being elevated – all except for Detmer, at least for the moment. Burnham is not detecting any psionic energies or infrasound, and Saru confirms no fluctuations in magnetic or electrical fields either. Burnham tells them to take five minutes and retrace their steps to figure out what was causing it, and orders Detmer to carry on without them. If they could not figure out the situation, Detmer was to return to the shuttle and contact Discovery… alone.
Back in the Jefferies tubes, Tarka arrives just outside engineering and brings up the security feed, showing Commander Reno ordering a triple-brewed raktajino, "hot as hell, hold the nutmeg". She offers one to Adira, who politely refuses, and remarks about how the beverage had helped her while she was stranded on the USS Hiawatha. Reno sees Adira is distracted, and Adira admits they were thinking about Detmer. Reno jokes about "when Gray's away", but Adira clarifies they did not mean in that way; they wish they were more like her, admiring her confidence and her ability to go on a mission without thinking about "all of the ways [they] could screw it up". Reno thinks it safe to assume that, no matter what they show on the outside, on the inside everyone was "kind of a mess". Adira notes that they have never seen Detmer flinch, that she always seems to have everything together. Reno suggests asking her how she felt after flying out of a wormhole and crashing, and points out that no one was always "okay", and that it took strength to admit they weren't. She asks if Adira has considered getting to know Detmer better, and they confess they had no idea where to start. Reno suggests not starting with "I want to be you", as it might be considered "creepy", but assures Adira they will figure it out.
Meanwhile, the away team continues to speculate about the hallucinations. Culber's began when he touched Saru's arm, but neither of them had been near Burnham when she began experiencing it, and Saru had been outside when his symptoms began. Burnham wonders if their EV suits are malfunctioning, or if Detmer had different settings from the rest of them, but neither prove to be the case. Burnham then wonders: what about the blue dust? They realize that all except for Detmer have come in contact with the dust in some form or another. Detmer recalibrates the programmable matter filtering system. Almost immediately, the effects subside, much to the relief of the others; Burnham expresses gratitude that Detmer paid attention during EV training. Saru's respiration is still elevated, but he chalks it up to remembering the sensation of fear against for the first time in a long time, and also compliments Detmer's coolness in the situation. Detmer chalks it up to PTSD therapy and her upbringing, being "the queen of putting things in boxes". Burnham detects something on her scans, through a nearby archway; it would seem the 10-C left something for them to find after all.
In engineering, Reno is admonishing the engineers on maintaining proper power levels with the shield upgrades when she is approached by Lieutenant jg Linus, who reports the replicators on multiple decks appeared to be malfunctioning; the ones on deck 5 were producing steamed bananas. Reno dispatches the engineers to work on the replicators, as without them, they'd have no food; "No pressure," she sarcastically adds, as she leaves with Linus. Tarka seizes the opportunity and climbs out of the Jefferies tube to install the patch. Meanwhile, Ndoye arrives on deck 13, thinking she was meeting T'Rina, when Booker approaches from behind. The general is faster, however, and pulls a knife on him, demanding to know how he got on board. Booker tells her his ship is cloaked nearby. Holding her blade to his throat, Ndoye demands one good reason why she did not call security; Booker replies that he was there to help, but needed her help to do so, and asks for two minutes of her time.
Ndoye tells Booker that United Earth was now in the path of a more powerful DMA thanks to what he and Tarka did, but Booker reminds her that if they had succeeded, they would have been safe. That had been his goal then, and it still was. Ndoye tells him he has one minute left. Booker lost his homeworld, and Ndoye was about to lose hers, and he understood about wanting to take action. He assures her that they could act together to stop the DMA. The general asks for his plan. He knows one of Discovery's shuttles is on the surface and asks if Burnham is among those on it; the look on Ndoye's face confirms this. Booker is confident that Burnham will find the answers they need, and once she does, his ship will be attached to Discovery as it goes through the hyperfield. Tarka will find and disable the DMA's power source. Ndoye asks if he was so confident in Burnham, why doesn't he think the first contact will succeed? Booker clarifies that his faith is in Burnham, not the 10-C; he was not able to let the lives of billions of people hang on the hope they would be sympathetic, and asks Ndoye if she could. Ndoye finally lowers her knife, and asks where she fits in. All she needs to do, Booker replies, is stay in contact, keep him informed of what Burnham is planning, so he and Tarka could do what they needed to do without putting Discovery or anyone aboard at risk. The general points out there is already significant risk in what he is asking, and insists that Booker's plan be a backup only in case contact fails. If the 10-C stood down the DMA before Earth was in the red zone, Booker and Tarka must stand down. Booker gives her his word, and asks for hers in return. With a shake of the hand, she gives it.
On the surface, Detmer does not find it coincidental that the others experienced the same hallucinations, and Burnham agrees it's not; something in the hydrocarbons must be the cause, but she cannot determine what. Saru finds a patch of hydrocarbons different from what they have encountered before, but cannot see why this was the case. Culber discovers more bones, and based on their methylation profiles, he deduces they were infants. Burnham realizes the room was a nursery, and Detmer adds this was why the structure was so reinforced – to protect their young, which Saru takes to mean that the 10-C value children… they valued life. This was the cultural context they needed. Burnham suddenly has an idea, and instructs Culber to monitor her biosigns, as she disables the filters on her suit to allow the hydrocarbons in. It has a markedly different effect this time; "it feels like love," she says. The others disable their suit filters as well, to let this feeling in. Saru expresses a feeling of safety, a feeling Burnham associates with being with her parents. Detmer appears particularly moved by this, and she explains that her father had not been well, having a disconnect with reality, and that it had just been the two of them after her mother died. Saru admits these feelings felt strange to him as well, having not had any "easy breath" on Kaminar, and was ashamed when he felt fear again. But he knew he was not alone, and assures Detmer she was not either. Burnham deduces that the nursery invoked feelings of love and safety, but the mass grave outside invoked fear, just as they must have felt. Kelpien and Human biology were significantly different, but they all experienced the exact same effects from the hydrocarbons. Detmer speculates that some emotions were universal. Saru concurs that it would connect them all in a profound way if true, but cannot see how that can be used to contact the 10-C. Burnham can't either, but knows there is something down there. She instructs them to reset their EV suit filters and return to work, so they can return to Discovery.
Meanwhile, in engineering, Tarka finishes installing the patch, and asks Booker about his meeting with Ndoye. Booker replies that they were good, and would fill him in back on the ship. Just then, Tarka hears Linus and Reno returning, Linus saying there must be some reason for the malfunction. Reno thinks it was almost deliberate, wondering who would play a practical joke in the middle of an existential threat. As Tarka attempts to quietly escape, Reno hears something creaking, and demands to know who was there. She leans over and sees Tarka trying to hide under a console, and asks him if she just "spoiled a surprise party".
Burnham goes over what they've learned about the hydrocarbons, how they conveyed different emotions, but still wonders how and why. Culber points out the chemical reaction to certain emotions, and Saru adds that some species communicate only through chemical changes, such as the Plim of Asp 27, who communicated by changing the smell of their breath. Detmer notes that most of these chemical reactions were when one was with someone else, but what if they were alone? For instance, she did not need to be in the same room with her father to know he was in a "dark place". Burnham knows a number of species on Earth use pheromones, which Culber points out are hydrocarbon chains; perhaps the dust was the pheromones of the 10-C. Burnham compares the hydrocarbons to the Rosetta Stone, an Earth artifact used to decipher hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt. Culber asks if Burnham thinks the hydrocarbons did the same for understanding the 10-C, and while they need to collect more data, Burnham believes they do: they provided context, told a story of sorts. This, she concludes, was what they had come for, and now they had to return to Discovery. Culber lingers for a moment, and then follows the others out.
The shuttle lifts off from the surface and reestablishes contact with Discovery. Detmer turns and begins to apologize for letting her emotional issues compromise the mission, but Burnham interrupts, jokingly saying she will demote Detmer to ensign if she finishes that sentence, and assures her it was okay to not be in control for five minutes. Saru admits that, while they would prefer to bury certain emotions, perhaps it was freeing to acknowledge they would not be who they were, had they not experienced what they did. Burnham thinks this is probably why the 10-C created the hyperfield, to protect themselves, so they would never have to experience that fear and pain again. Detmer is unable to reconcile the idea that the 10-C know what it's like to have their home destroyed, and now they were doing it to others. Culber thinks that if they can convince the 10-C of the harm the DMA is doing, they will stop it, but Saru thinks it possible that they already know, and simply don't care. This puts the crew in a somber mood as they continue to return to the ship.
In Burnham's ready room, Commander Stamets briefs the delegates by saying that they had sent DOT-23s to the surface to scan for more hydrocarbons, and found sixteen unique compounds, counting the two encountered by the away team. Based on their initial findings, they have determined that each corresponds with a different emotional state. Dr. Hirai sardonically comments on how the Rosetta Stone required two languages to understand the third, but at Rillak's pointed glance, takes a more tactful tone. Rillak congratulates Burnham and Saru on their findings. Burnham will order a course set for the hyperfield immediately. As Rillak and Hirai leave, T'Rina offers to take Saru on a stroll on the holodeck; as Burnham and Stamets exchange amused glances, Saru accepts, and they both depart. Burnham reminds Stamets that the DMA hits in twenty-five hours, and to take whoever he needed to continue testing the chemicals. Stamets believes the data changed everything, and admits he is feeling hope for the first time in a long time, like they could actually succeed in making contact, and thanks Burnham for it. Burnham tells him that they had all done it, and would continue to do so moving forward. Hiding behind the wall, Booker thanks Ndoye for telling him Burnham had returned, that it was good to see her.
In the crew lounge, Adira enters to find Detmer sitting alone, and tries to strike up conversation, starting by calling the discovery of the hydrocarbons a "game changer". They ask about the day, and Detmer admits it was "good, but tough". Adira begins to backtrack a bit, understanding if Detmer wanted to be alone, but offering their company if she wanted. Detmer replies that company sounded good then, and offers Adira a seat. She tells Adira that she did indeed "fly good" that day, and thanks them for that. Adira, realizing how awkward that had sounded, thinks perhaps they could not mention that again, while Detmer jokes that perhaps they could mention that for the rest of their life.
Burnham calls Culber to her quarters, and offers him a cup of mavi, to the doctor's surprise; he says it "tastes like home", and Burnham is glad the replicator got it right. She had seen him linger in the nursery, and Culber admits it had been nice to feel that sense of peace, and wished he could have stayed in it longer. He mentions Kovich telling him to take time for himself, but he had been unable to. He admits he is not okay, and Burnham sympathizes with him: How could he, how could anyone, with what they were facing? The doctor keeps thinking on experiencing what the 10-C had felt, while knowing that their technology had destroyed Kwejian and Radvek V. Culber admits that empathy was sometimes uncomfortable, but Burnham also points out that it was the only way to connect, to find common ground to communicate. Culber is worried, however: What if Saru was right, and they knew what they had done but didn't care? How could they connect to people like that? Burnham remains confident they will find a way.
Booker's ship is attached under cloak to Discovery as it warps to the hyperfield. When Booker returns, Tarka informs him the patch was installed and working normally. Booker tells him he has information about the mission, when Reno clears her throat; she is being held under a force field without her combadge. "Nothing like coming home to an unexpected hostage, am I right?" she sarcastically asks. A shocked Booker glances first at Tarka, who is unable to meet his gaze, then back at Reno.
- Saru mentions feeling true fear for the first time since his vahar'ai. (DIS: "An Obol for Charon")
- Detmer mentions having received PTSD therapy, while Reno separately references Detmer's struggles after Discovery arrived in the 32nd century. (DIS: "Far From Home", "Forget Me Not")
- This is the first episode to be set primarily outside the Milky Way Galaxy.
Links and references
- Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
- Doug Jones as Saru
- Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
- Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber
- Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal
- Shawn Doyle as Dr. Ruon Tarka
- Chelah Horsdal as Laira Rillak
- Tara Rosling as President T'Rina
- Hiro Kanagawa as Dr. Hirai
- Phumzile Sitole as General Ndoye
- Emily Coutts as Lt. Cmdr. Keyla Detmer
- Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Cmdr. Gen Rhys
- Oyin Oladejo as Lt. Cmdr. Joann Owosekun
- Sara Mitich as Lt. Cmdr. Nilsson
- Raven Dauda as Cmdr. Tracy Pollard, MD (deleted scene)
- David Benjamin Tomlinson as Lt. jg Linus
- Calyx Passailaigue as Engineer #1
- Jas Dhanda as Engineer #2
- Piotr Michael as Shuttle Computer (voice)
- Jayne Dineo as Discovery sciences crewmember
- Andrea Gallo as Discovery sciences crewmember
- J. Adam Huggins as Discovery engineer
- Leeu as Grudge
- Unknown performers as
22nd century; actuator; adrenaline; air; Altonian; animal; archway; arm; artifact; Asp XXVII; asteroid; bedside manner; bee; breath; biosign; blue; bone; Booker's ship; brig; building; Burnham, Gabrielle; Burnham, Mike: cartilage; citizen; cocoon; comms range; conscience; cortisol; course; crater; Crossfield class decks; crossword; culture; day; death; debris; delegate; density; Detmer's dad; Detmer's mom; DMA; DMA controller; diplomacy; DNA; dopamine; DOT-23; DSC-09 (Disco Zero Nine); dust; Dyson ring; Earth; Egyptian hieroglyphs; electrical field; emergency protocol; emotion; empathy; EV suit; Federation database; feeling; first contact; fossil; gas; gas giant; gigahertz; grave; hallucination; handshake; head; Hiawatha, USS; holodeck; hostage; hour; hull; Human; hydrocarbon; hyperfield; infant; infrasound; ionosphere; jajtspat; Kaminar; Kelpien; Klingon; Kovich; Kwejian (planet); Kwejian (species); Kowolian nightsprey; language; life; life sign; love; magnetic field; mainframe; math; mavi; memory; mess hall; methylation; mind; minute; mission; Ni'Var; norepinephrine; nursery; nutmeg; panic; parasite; pheromone; physics; physiology; planet core; Plim; practical joke; programmable-matter filtering system; protective shielding; psionic energy; PTSD; Radvek V; raktajino; reality; replicator; respiration; room; Rosetta Stone; ruins; sensor; sentience; serotonin; soil; species; Species 10-C (10-C); Species 10-C homeworld; Species 10-C home star; steamed bananas; stress; supercomputer; surprise party; surface; Tal, Gray; team; tech-hub replicator; torso; United Earth; Vahar'ai; vertigo; Vice President of Ni'Var; wall; warrior; wolf; wormhole; xenoanthropologist; year
"The Galactic Barrier"
|Star Trek: Discovery