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Burnham and the crew navigate a dangerous alien landscape in a race against time to save Tilly's life, but Stamets is not at all prepared for what they find in the process. Section 31 is assigned to help track down Spock, much to Pike's dismay.



"Words define who we are. Officer. Orphan. Widower. Shipmate. But there is no word for the unique agony of uncertainty. I do not yet know the fate of my friend. Stamets refuses to lose hope. He believes Tilly survived whatever the alien we call "May" did to her. I want to believe that's possible, too. I want to have faith. But in its absence, only duty remains."

Michael Burnham runs through the corridors of the USS Discovery. She stops in engineering to see Paul Stamets standing over a mycelial transport vessel. She sits in her and Sylvia Tilly's quarters, hoping that Stamets can recover Tilly from whatever May has done to her. Burnham returns to work on the bridge, her mind preoccupied. At that point Keyla Detmer tracks down Spock's shuttle. Christopher Pike hails the craft, hoping their relationship will convince Spock to give himself up to Starfleet. This does not work, and Pike has the Discovery fire a torpedo near the shuttle, disabling it. The shuttle is brought in by tractor beam. In the shuttlebay, it is revealed that the shuttle has been piloted by Philippa Georgiou, whom Pike assumes is her prime universe counterpart.

Act One[]

As Pike and Georgiou discuss their shared history, Pike discovers she's employed by Section 31. Apparently Georgiou is charged with tracking down Spock, and had found his shuttle adrift. Pike takes her to his ready room where he discovers a hologram of Leland, with whom Pike also has a history. Leland requests that Pike return Georgiou to Spock's shuttle, suggesting that Pike and Burnham's relationships with Spock would compromise the mission. The discussion between Leland and Pike is cordial, but tense. Georgiou is free to go.

Georgiou explains to Burnham that Pike does not know who she is, but Leland does. She blames Burnham for her position. The two women have words over the fate of Spock.

Meanwhile, Stamets studies the mycelial transport vessel, searching for Human remains. He finds nothing, establishing that Tilly has been transported to the mycelial network. He scans the network to find another transport vessel.

In the network, Tilly awakens. She is covered in mycelial residue. May is present, and describes the transport process. Spores attack Tilly, and May declares that they are "our process," breaking down matter that enters the network and that she is a manifestation of those spores. May asserts that her entire species will die unless Tilly helps her "kill a monster."

Act Two[]

Pike speaks with Burnham, informing her that a liaison from Section 31 has arrived. Burnham sees soon after that it is Ash Tyler. Pike is unfamiliar with their relationship, and conflates Tyler and Voq. He further comments on the changes he perceives in Georgiou and Burnham's reaction to her when she arrived. They will discuss it further.

Pike leaves and Burnham sits with Tyler under the watchful eye of Security Chief Nhan. Tyler cannot discuss with Burnham how he ended up in Section 31 after leaving Qo'noS. Tyler asks Burnham to believe that he will take care of Spock.

In the mycelial network, Tilly and May bicker among the trees. They come to a mutual respect, with Tilly requesting that whatever happens, she will be returned to Discovery.

Stamets has a plan to accomplish just that. It involves a "partial jump" through the network, allowing him and Burnham to walk between the normal universe and mycelial space for about an hour. Pike asserts that "Starfleet is a promise; I give my life for you, you give your life for me. And nobody gets left behind. Ensign Silvia Tilly is out there, and she has every right to expect us. We keep our promises. Please report to your stations and designated safe zones on the starboard side. Good luck, and God speed to us all."

Stamets connects to the spore drive, and the ship jumps halfway into the network. Tilly and May are stunned, and approach the ship. May mistrusts Tilly, who makes them "pinky swear" that their promises will be kept. They run to the ship.

Stamets unhooks from the drive; the jump worked. The mycelia begin to attack the hull. Tilly and May enter the ship and begin searching for personnel. They grab phasers, and Stamets and Burnham track them to the weapons locker. The two groups encounter one another, with Stamets and Burnham seeing May for the first time. They begin stalking the "monster" that is terrorizing the mycelial network, and discover that it is Hugh Culber.

Act Three[]

Stamets, Burnham, Tilly, and May look at Culber, in a fetal position on the floor. His hair has grown, and his clothing has become disheveled. May orders them to "kill it!", but all refuse. Stamets runs after Culber.

Burnham reports the "complication" to Pike as the ship begins malfunctioning. She, Tilly, and May begin following Stamets and Culber. May points out deadly bark that Culber has been defending himself with, like armor, against the disintegrating powers of the mycelial network. This confirms for Burnham that he is alive.

Saru points out that the mycelium are penetrating the hull. Pike calls red alert as the hull grows increasingly compromised. Tyler uses a combadge to hail Leland on the Section 31 ship, which is cloaked in a hologram of an asteroid. Leland uses a tractor beam, assisted by probes of some sort, to hold the Discovery.

Stamets follows the trail of footprints to Culber. He talks to Culber, discussing their third date to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He reaches out to his partner, and Culber takes Stamets' hand. They embrace as the rest of the team arrive, and Tilly is attacked by spores. She says that Culber is merely trying to protect himself, not attacking the network. Burnham asks how Culber could be there, and Stamets theorizes that when he discovered Culber's body after being murdered by Voq, Culber's essence was transmitted through Stamets to the network – as if through a lightning rod. But when in the network, the mycelium attacked him like healthy cells do a cancer.

Aboard the Section 31 ship, Georgiou convinces Leland to give Discovery three minutes more in the network.

Stamets and Burnham enter the airlock between the network and normal space, but Culber cannot cross over. He begins to disintegrate.

Act Four[]

Stamets is understandably upset. The Culber that has been discovered is made of mycelial matter, which cannot survive in normal space. Culber says to Stamets, "You have to let me go." Stamets replies, "I can't leave you twice."

They embrace, and Tilly and Burnham realize that the cocoon in normal space is comprised of normal matter, which will allow Culber to move from the network to normal space. Tilly pleads with May, and they pinky swear to reconnect. Stamets pledges to see Culber "on the other side," and the group moves to normal space.

The Discovery jumps back to normal space from the mycelial network. The team has made it back. Pike goes to engineering, denying Tyler the privilege to join him.

Stamets watches as the cocoon disintegrates, assuming the form of Culber. They embrace – Culber has returned.

Later, Pike beams over to the Section 31 ship. Admiral Katrina Cornwell is there, and she addresses Pike and Leland. She explains that one of the seven signals left behind tachyon radiation, suggesting time travel. She suggests the two cooperate, cutting the "manlier-than-thou bullshit." She asserts that they have more important things to do than debate Article 14 of the Starfleet Charter (which contains the provision for Section 31). Leland and Pike are "on the same team," and Leland apologizes to Pike for crossing a line. Pike confirms that Tyler is a permanent addition to the crew.

Burnham receives a message from Georgiou. Georgiou demands thanks, and implies the superiority of mirror Burnham and suggests that she needs to find Spock before vigilantes do. Georgiou asks Burnham to trust her. Burnham remains skeptical.

"I envy those who can believe there is a greater hand writing our story, who chooses the words to keep chaos at bay. Connection. Joy. Love. And resurrection. With these words, the path becomes clear for a moment, and then disappears. If I have a path... I'm still searching for it. We all are. That's how we find our way, by choosing to walk forward, together. And if there is a greater hand leading us into an uncertain future I can only hope it guides us well."

Culber is being scanned and seems to be in good health. Pike looks at pictures of the Red Angel. Tilly dries her hair as Burnham enters their quarters. They share a moment. As Burnham returns to the bridge, she muses on the universality of the choice of paths we all must make. She looks at Tyler, and then to the middle distance.

Memorable quotes[]

"Quite the welcome, my dear."

- Philippa Georgiou, to Michael Burnham after being met with a bunch of phasers aimed at her

"Fancy. Covert ops, intelligence gathering, threat assessment."
"Fun times."

- Christopher Pike and Philippa Georgiou after she reveals her Section 31 badge

"Commander Burnham has a hard time believing those charges; so do I."
"The innocent don't run."
"You ran from us."

- Pike, Georgiou, and Burnham on Spock's charges of murder

"When I find Spock, I'll be sure to pass along your regards."
"If you lay a hand on my brother..."
"You'll what? ... Ah, now here's a woman I recognize."
"Shuttle bay's through there. I'm sure you need to get back to your snake pit."

- Philippa Georgiou and Michael Burnham

"What the hell did you do?! What did you do?!"
"Broke down your biological form, transported it across the dimensional plane, and reconstituted it here in my home."

- Sylvia Tilly and May Ahearn

"How the hell did you end up with Section 31?"
"It's a very interesting journey, actually."
"Tell me."
"But it's classified. A word that pops up pretty frequently in my new vocabulary."

- Michael Burnham and Ash Tyler

"Let's say I let you use the ship as a doorstop. Can we survive prolonged exposure to the network?"
"The mycelia will attack the ship, decomposing it as soon as we enter, but titanium is not their favorite food, so we'll have about an hour before they eat through the hull."
"That's an hour to find Ensign Tilly. So far, I hate this plan."

- Christopher Pike and Paul Stamets

"All personnel, this is Captain Pike. Starfleet... is a promise. I give my life for you; you give your life for me. And nobody gets left behind. Ensign Sylvia Tilly is out there, and she has every right to expect us. We keep our promises. Please report to your stations in designated safe zones in the starboard section. Good luck, and Godspeed to us all."

- Christopher Pike, to the crew of the Discovery

"Mr. Stamets, are you ready to execute this very bold, deeply insane plan of yours?"

- Christopher Pike, to Paul Stamets

"I told you I would try to help you. Where I come from, we try to keep our promises."

- Sylvia Tilly to May Ahearn

"Fall in.... That's soldier for 'get behind me.'"

- Sylvia Tilly, to May Ahearn

"Whatever you are, I'm holding a type-three phaser rifle. It is more powerful and generally larger than the type-one or type-two. Uh, which I guess is why they call it a three!"

- Sylvia Tilly

"This is Agent Tyler transmitting on secured emergency channel; Control do you read?"
"The hell kind of communicator is that?!"

- Ash Tyler and Christopher Pike, following the former's use of a combadge

"When I was lost here, you found me. Remember? You found me in so many places. You took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when we were on leave. It was our third date, and you were walking so fast, because you were excited to show me the de Koonings! All of them in one room. I had to run to keep up, and as you walked, you held out your hand behind you, because you knew that I would grab it. And I did. And I knew everything about you in that moment. And I'm here now... and here's my hand."

- Paul Stamets, to a frightened Hugh Culber

"Come on, fellas. Cut the manlier-than-thou bullshit."

- Katrina Cornwell to Leland and Pike

"I've had your life in my hands a dozen times. You're gonna have to start trusting me eventually."
"Said the scorpion to the frog."
"Have a little faith, Michael."

- Philippa Georgiou and Michael Burnham

Background information[]

Story and script[]

  • This episode, in which the character of Hugh Culber is resurrected via the mycelial network, thus re-uniting the first gay couple in Star Trek, was the last episode to be executive produced by Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts. Harberts was the first openly gay show-runner in the Star Trek franchise.


  • This episode's title derives from a quote from Guillermo del Toro: "Monsters are the patron saints of imperfection." [1] [2]

Cast and characters[]

  • This episode marks the first time all season 2 main cast members appear in an episode and are credited during the opening sequence. Additionally, Michelle Yeoh receives her usual "Special Guest Star" credit alongside the main cast.
  • At a time before he knew if Culber would return in DIS Season 2, Stamets actor Anthony Rapp stated, "I don't think Stamets is gonna rest if there's any possibility of still maintaining some kind of contact. You know, the mycelial network is so mysterious. I don't know, honestly, what is to come, but I have a feeling there's gonna be some effort made." (AT: "Will You Take My Hand?")


  • This episode picks up where DIS: "An Obol for Charon" left off.
  • This episode reveals that Nhan has become chief of security for the Discovery. Nhan is the third character to hold the position after Ellen Landry and Ash Tyler.
  • Chronologically, this episode features the earliest appearance and on-screen usage of combadges.
  • This episode reveals that Hugh Culber had been reconstituted in the mycelial plane since his apparent death in DIS: "Despite Yourself". It also establishes that Culber and Stamets are married (during Burnham's initial voiceover, she refers to Stamets as a "widower").


Production history[]

Links and references[]



Special guest star[]

Guest starring[]


Uncredited co-stars[]



2251; alligator; altruist; apple; ambassador; atom; bark; black alert; camouflage; Cestus III; Chancellor of the Klingon High Council; chief of security; class 5 torpedo; cloaking device; cocoon; combadge; court martial; cowboy; date; de Kooning, William; Deneva; DNA; doorstop; duty; energy; firewall; frog; Glenn, USS; hull; hydrogen; insect; jahSepp; Lavoisier, Antoine; L'Rell; law of conservation of mass; liaison officer; liaison protocol; lipid; matter; Metropolitan Museum of Art; mitochondrial DNA; mob; murder; mycelial barrier; mycelial network; mycelial space; mycelium; nebula; operational control; organic transporter; Pike's cousin; pinky swear; Pollard, Tracy; posse; Qo'noS; quantum field; red alert; red burst; regulator; scorpion (tale); Section 31; Section 31 ship; security drill; SMT 05; snake pit; Spock; spore; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Charter; Starfleet Intelligence; stoicism; tachyon radiation; Terran emperor; time travel; Torchbearer; tractor beam; tractor rig; tritanium; type 3 phaser; vigilante; Voq; Vulcan; yeel tree

External links[]

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"An Obol for Charon"
Star Trek: Discovery
Season 2
Next episode:
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