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With tensions and stakes high as Starfleet continues in their efforts to end the war with the Klingons, Burnham begins to settle into her new position aboard the USS Discovery.


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Michael Burnham has synthesized her new uniform on the USS Discovery, now with no rank, and she takes it in. Cadet Sylvia Tilly comes in and complements the look, then brings her a container. Burnham realizes it's the last will and testament of Philippa Georgiou. She can't deal with it at the moment and puts it under the bed. She then answers a call for the bridge, and runs into Commander Saru in the process, the first time she's seen him since Captain Gabriel Lorca drafted her. He bluntly expresses frustration that Lorca assigned her to the crew, and was certain he wouldn't see her again. She insists she's there to help, but he's unconvinced.

On the bridge, the two observe a fighting drill in progress. The crew died, and Lorca angrily orders it ran again without him, taking Burnham off the bridge. He takes her another room, isolated at the moment and filled with weapons. He says he studies war, and learns from the best of all species. Then, she turns to a force field-quarantined room. She looks in and the tardigrade comes close, startling her. It wasn't even scratched by Klingon weapons and its claws could tear the ship apart, so Lorca wants her to weaponize whatever gives it those qualities.

Act One

The Sarcophagus is adrift in space. Voq views a map and talks out to T'Kuvma for help. L'Rell comes in and convinces him that they need to use parts from the USS Shenzhou to fix the ship. Voq dismisses it, refusing to use Federation technology out of a need to keep them pure, but L'Rell declares what good that does them if they starve. She admits that she was forced to choose between the Houses of her parents, but instead built a bridge between them. She persuades him to build a similar bridge, and get the Federation tech.

On the Discovery, Ellen Landry comes to monitor Burnham's progress. Coldly, she names the creature Ripper. Burnham notes it is similar to Earth tardigrades. She also notes that the creature didn't break in to the USS Glenn, but was a stowaway. Landry quickly turns to how to use the creature, but Burnham notes the creature isn't necessarily hostile, and wants to study it more. Landry dismisses the information, insisting that Lorca isn't interested – he just wants to know what it can do for him.

Lorca gets a communication from Admiral Katrina Cornwell. She brings Corvan II to his attention, which will soon be attacked by Klingons. They need to protect the mining colony for their fleet, and the Discovery is the only one close enough. Lorca insists they can jump the full distance this time.

In engineering, however, Paul Stamets says no way – there are many more calculations needed to do longer jumps. He describes the technology they took from the Glenn, but there's a missing component. Lorca insists they try something, and Stamets admits there's a few things they can try.

On the Sarcophagus, Kol arrives, apologizing for how he treated T'Kuvma earlier, and bows. Voq asks him to get up, as only their enemies should kneel. Kol is interested in the cloaking technology, and Voq says they are almost operational. He welcomes the House of Kor and they chant they will remain Klingon.

Act Two

On the bridge, Stamets informs Lorca that the spore drive can be used. He issues a black alert and the crew gets ready. Stamets loads the spores in engineering. Interestingly, Burnham is observing the tardigrade in Lorca's lab, and it screams. The jump is not successful, and puts them very near a sun, and the ship struggles to get out of its gravitational well. Fortunately, they get out and go to warp.

Landry comes to the lab, and Burnham immediately notes the tardigrade seemed to react to the spore drive. Landry doesn't care about the information, only caring about the immediate mission of its usefulness to fighting.

In sickbay, Stamets gets his injury repaired by Doctor Hugh Culber. Lorca wants Stamets to get back to engineering as soon as possible. Culber delays, and Stamets wants more time to study. Lorca insists the ship is a warship, which makes Stamets uncomfortable. Lorca declares everything is the property of Starfleet, so he either gets back to the mission or leave with a tarnished reputation.

As Stamets begrudgingly goes back to engineering, Lorca decides to replay the last transmission from the colony to motivate the crew. The cries and screams make everyone take pause. Landry decides to take drastic action, pulling a knife and a gun, then ordering the computer to sedate the creature. Burnham objects, but Landry continues to deactivate the force field. The creature is not sedated and immediately goes for the door. Landry shoots, but it only makes the creature attack her. Burnham quickly turns on the lights, driving the creature back to the cell and she reactivates the force field. Despite the quick action, Landry dies in sickbay.

Act Three

Voq and L'Rell board the Shenzhou. Voq decides to go to the bridge to find something of value, and finds a display with the crew manifest. He takes in the abandoned scenery. They reach the dilithium processor, and they have to free it carefully. During, Voq expresses his respect of L'Rell. She calls him lord despite serving T'Kuvma for years, and Voq questions it. L'Rell admits she has never wanted leadership, preferring a supporting role. Voq says he is fortunate.

Saru visits Burnham on her request. She starts to apologize for the way she's treated him before. She then noticed his threat ganglia weren't activated, and Saru realizes she used him for the research, believing the creature's killing of Landry to be self-defense. He leaves, but not before noting she'll fit in very well on the ship.

Tilly brings Burnham some spores discretely for her research, and Burnham thanks her. Tilly feels helpless, and this is the only thing she can do at the moment. Burnham takes the canister and, carefully, deactivates the force field, places the canister open, and waits. Surprisingly, it interacts with the spores and gently touches her with one of its appendages.

In engineering, Burnham shows Stamets evidence that the crew of the Glenn was actually using the creature to solve the navigation problem of the spore drive. Stamets is convinced, and beams in the creature into the room with the spores to see what happens. Interestingly, it appears to be communicating with the spores in a form of symbiosis.

On the Sarcophagus, Voq and L'Rell come back with the dilithium processor shocked. Kol has bought the loyalty of the crew with food, saying Voq has failed to do so. Kol declares the ship will serve him. Voq defies him, and Kol starts to walk toward him. L'Rell, however, steps in between, giving him the device and taking food, accepting his leadership. Kol wants to kill Voq, but L'Rell suggests another idea.

Act Four

Lorca orders black alert as Stamets transports the tardigrade into the chamber. The equipment latches onto it, and the navigation map now is complete. The ship jumps as the colony is attacked, and kills two targets. He orders the ship to stay put as the others fire on it and get closer. Shields steadily decrease and the crew's patience is tested. Stamets inputs new coordinates and waits for the signal. Lorca waits for the right moment and orders it. They leave explosives in their place and jump, destroying the rest of the ships. They jump back to confirm the victory. As they celebrate, the device unhooks from the tardigrade and Burnham notes it appears to have weakened it.

Voq has been abandoned on the Shenzhou, and looks at the crew manifest again in anger. He despairs as L'Rell beams onto the bridge. She insists she wanted to save his life earlier, saying the rest of the crew is loyal to Kol. They must hatch a grander plan, saying he should go to the House of Mokai for preparations. She also says he should be prepared to sacrifice everything.

Burnham goes back to Ripper and feeds it more spores and apologizes. She goes back to her room to ponder and Tilly eventually arrives. She says everyone's talking about her. Burnham doesn't respond, and Tilly turns to the unopened container from Georgiou. She convinces her to open it, but leaves when there's still no response. Burnham decides to do so, and finds it is Georgiou's telescope.

Memorable quotes

"You judge the creature by its appearance, and one single incident from its past. Nothing in its biology suggests it would attack, except in self-defense. Commander, this creature is an unknown alien. It can only be what it is, not what you want it to be."

- Michael Burnham, to Ellen Landry

"You can tell your threat ganglia to relax. I'm only here to help."
"My ganglia remain unconvinced."

- Michael Burnham and Saru

"The phaser will only piss him off."
"Think of it as a placebo for my skepticism."

- Burnham and Stamets, before observing the tardigrade interacting with the spores

"Let's send our Klingon friends a message they won't forget."

- Gabriel Lorca (mirror), before the USS Discovery destroys multiple Klingon ships

"Hello, Michael. I hope that wherever this finds you, you are well. I imagine you have your own command now. The captain of your own ship. I have always tried to show you by example. The best way to know yourself is to know others. You are curious, an explorer. So I am leaving you my most beloved possession, handed down through my family for centuries. My hope is that you will use it to continue to investigate the mysteries of the universe, both inside and out, and keep your eyes and heart open always. Goodbye, Michael, and good luck. Know that I am as proud of you as if you were my own daughter. Take good care. But most importantly, take good care of those in your care."

- Philippa Georgiou's recorded message, delivered posthumously to Michael Burnham

Background information


Story and script

  • The way actress Mary Chieffo had been playing her role of L'Rell in previous installments inspired the writing of both this episode and its depiction of the character. "From what I'd been doing in episodes one and two," Chieffo explained, "[the writers] were like, 'Oh, let's see how we can create this story.' They gave me that opportunity." (Star Trek Magazine issue 190, p. 36)
  • Jesse Alexander and Aron Eli Coleite were pleased to write this episode and were prompt in doing so. Referencing Lorca's manipulative shipwide broadcast of a distress call from Corvan II in this installment, Executive Producer Aaron Harberts half-jokingly commented, "We did not have to open a shipwide hail to get them to deliver on this." (AT: "3")
  • Thinking of the tardigrade as essentially a metaphor for Michael Burnham – initially consumed with guilt, and feeling like she's a monster herself – led the writing staff to decide that she would befriend the animal. Aaron Harberts explained, "It seemed only fitting that she would, you know, figure out that this monster is not a monster actually; it can help." (AT: "3")
  • According to Lorca actor Jason Isaacs, the episode's script didn't include any reference to Elon Musk but Isaacs himself added it, basically as a sly attempt at persuading the powers that be at Musk's company to give him a Tesla. (AT: "3")


  • When she first read this episode's script, Landry actress Rekha Sharma was surprised and dismayed that her character got killed off so early in the run of Star Trek: Discovery. She later joked that, if she had been given an opportunity to rewrite the character's final words, she would have had Landry say, "My bad." (AT: "3")
  • Mary Chieffo was pleased with how this episode turned out. "What was beautiful about episode four," she remarked, "was that it's such a great example of the collaborative process [....] [The writers] wrote these great scenes, and from that we found a nuance, and an excitement. There's also a real sensitivity and heart. You get to see the sensuality. I want to say something more specific, because I'm so used to not being able to talk about things," Chieffo said, grimacing. (Star Trek Magazine issue 190, p. 36)
  • Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler) appears only as the Klingon Voq, and is credited as Javid Iqbal.
  • Michelle Yeoh (Philippa Georgiou) is credited as a special guest star and appears only in a recording.


  • The events of this episode take place a day after DIS: "Context Is for Kings" and six months after the Battle of the Binary Stars.
  • This was the first time "uniform synthesis" was shown so closely as at the start of the episode.
  • After Trek host Matt Mira pointed out that the teaser scene featuring Saru and Burnham in a turbolift harkens back to "the McCoy/Spock of it all, where they're just constantly at odds." (AT: "2")
  • This episode is the first time that Saru's "threat ganglia" have been referred to by name. They previously appeared in "The Vulcan Hello" and "Context Is for Kings".
  • The battle simulation for training purposes on the bridge of the USS Discovery is not the first time such a battle drill has been carried out on the bridge of a starship, since it is also done on the bridge of the USS Voyager in VOY: "Learning Curve". A similar simulation is the Kobayashi Maru scenario, which, like the simulation seen here, involves the Klingons as enemy combatants. That simulation is depicted in the films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek.
  • In the first scene set in Lorca's menagerie, what seems to be a Horta in a glass cage can briefly be seen. In all later scenes set in the same room, the cage is empty.
  • In Klingonese, Voq repeatedly refers to T'Kuvma in this episode as "my lord," matching how Voq addressed T'Kuvma in "Battle at the Binary Stars". Although L'Rell likewise referred to T'Kuvma using that phrase in "The Vulcan Hello", she instead refers to Voq as "my lord" in this installment. Her doing so, while apparently attracted to him as a potential lover, reflects Valkris addressing Kruge that way in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
  • L'Rell reveals that both she and Voq ate Philippa Georgiou's corpse, partially out of revenge, partially because they were on the verge of starvation. This follows Georgiou being killed in "Battle at the Binary Stars".
  • L'Rell's mixed heritage, with her father from the House of T'Kuvma and her mother from the House of Mo'Kai, recalls both Burnham and Spock having been raised by a Vulcan father and a Human mother. L'Rell speaking about her childhood is also the series' second depiction of Klingon childhood, after T'Kuvma's youth being portrayed in "Battle at the Binary Stars".
  • Being initially assumed to be a "monster" and then realized to merely be acting in self defense is not only the case with the tardigrade in this episode but also is true of the mother Horta in TOS: "The Devil in the Dark", the first episode to depict that creature. Matt Mira commented, "It harkens back to the Trek theme 'be careful, you don't really understand it.'" (AT: "3")
  • Corvan II was previously mentioned in TNG: "New Ground", which stated that the Corvan gilvo was on the verge of extinction due to extensive industrial pollution on that planet – matching the information given in this episode that Corvan II is a major industrial hub, its mines producing forty percent of the Federation's entire dilithium supply.
  • The "end transmission" screen at the end of the distress call from Corvan II heavily references the cover of the Star Trek Star Fleet Technical Manual, both in the logo and in the font used. (citation needededit)
  • This is the first episode in which Kol appears in the flesh; he previously appeared in "Battle at the Binary Stars", although only via holo-communicator. This episode reveals he is a member of the House of Kor. In his two appearances to date, Kol has expressed very elitist sentiments, looking down on T'Kuvma for not being a member of the upper aristocracy and on the various social outcasts, like Voq, who T'Kuvma welcomed into his House. This appears to be a call-back to DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach", in which it was explained that Kor himself denied Martok's application to the KDF's officer corps, because his family were not nobles, but from the lowlands of Ketha Province (a poor backwater region).
  • This was the first episode to show the outer ring of Discovery's saucer section in rotation mode.
  • This episode also marks the first appearance of Discovery medical officer Hugh Culber.
  • Stamets threatening to quit his duties aboard the Discovery because it has been newly conscripted for war is similar to, in the alternate reality, Montgomery Scott, in Star Trek Into Darkness, threatening to leave the USS Enterprise because it had likewise been conscripted for military purposes. Both Stamets and Scott addressed their grievances to their commanding officer, Lorca and James T. Kirk respectively. However, whereas Stamets is persuaded by his commanding officer to return to work, Scott wasn't, resulting in him temporarily leaving his ship.
  • Lorca mentions the Wright brothers, Elon Musk, and Zefram Cochrane; the first and second of these names are notable in reality and the third name is significant in the history of Star Trek. Although the Wright brothers had previously been referenced, this was the first time Musk was referred to in the entire franchise. It was also the first time Cochrane – who appears in TOS: "Metamorphosis", Star Trek: First Contact, and ENT: "Broken Bow" – was referred to in DIS.
  • The death of Ellen Landry is somewhat similar to the death of Natasha Yar in TNG: "Skin of Evil". Both women are security chiefs aboard the "hero ship" of their respective series and are unceremoniously killed off in the course of their respective series' first season. Matt Mira implied a reference to these parallels in AT: "3".
  • By being born in 2226, Michael Burnham is revealed to be four years older than Spock, who was born in 2230 (calculated, in the alternate reality, as stardate 2230.06, as revealed in Star Trek Beyond); the year would be the same for both Spock Prime and the alternate-reality Spock, since it is three years before the Narada arrived from 2387 in the turn of events that created the alternate reality.


  • To film the scene in which the tardigrade attacks Landry, a stuntman wearing a green-screen unitard pulled Rekha Sharma's stunt double to the ground and continued to shake her. For the ceiling scenes, Director Olatunde Osunsanmi yelled out where the creature was, such as, "He's going along the ceiling 3-2-1, he's at the door! He's trying to open the door!" The stunt double lept off a ladder onto a trampoline, onto a table, all in one take. To depict Landry being butchered by the animal, Rekha Sharma started slightly bloodied, then took on some prosthetics and more blood. (AT: "4")

Reception and aftermath

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  • Exactly two weeks before this episode was released, Aaron Harberts revealed, in AT: "1", that it "may" involve a remarkable-looking Klingon buffet. Precisely a week prior to the installment's release, Harberts teased, in AT: "2", that the episode would feature Burnham confronting the notion that the tardigrade was virtually a metaphor for her and whether or not she was a monster. On the same episode of After Trek, the turbolift scene between Burnham and Saru debuted.
  • Aaron Harberts was pleased with the writing of this installment. "Aron Coleite and Jesse Alexander did a great job," he noted. (AT: "3")
  • After this episode was released, Matt Mira noted that an oft-discussed topic among Star Trek's fanbase was how the installment demonstrated the Discovery using its spore drive. (AT: "3")
  • A Star Trek fan himself, Matt Mira commented about the dialogue in the turbolift scene from the teaser, "That's some quality Trek turbolift banter [....] It's great." (AT: "2") Regarding his response to the revelation that the Klingons had consumed the remains of Philippa Georgiou, Mira admitted, "I was emotionally a little damaged." He also approved of the apparently developing Klingon romance between Voq and L'Rell in this episode, stating, "I'm down with that." (AT: "3")

Production history

Links and references



Special guest star

Guest starring


Uncredited co-stars



2202; 2220; 2224; 2226; 2245; 2249; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Andy; Aneto system; Attack on Corvan II; auxiliary shield generator; bat'leth; Battle of the Binary Stars; battle simulation; Beacon of Kahless; Betarian; biological; black alert; Black Fleet; blockade; bloodwine; BortaS bir-class; box computer; bunker; captain's log; Cardassian vole; cargo deck; central nervous system; claw; cloaking technology; Cochrane, Zefram; Communications Department; containment pen; Corvan II; Corvan II inhabitants; coupling unit; crew manifest; depot; dilithium; dilithium processing unit; Dodge; duty roster; Earth; excess energy cavitation; forest; frontal lobe; frontopolar cortex; Glenn, USS; Gorn; gravity well; hair; Hawking radiation firewall; holographic duplicate; Horta; House Kor; House T'Kumva; iota; Klingon Bird-of-Prey; Klingon raider; kilometer; Kol's ship; L'Rell's father; L'Rell's mother; last will and testament; Legion of Honor; magnetic shield; mek'leth; micro-animal; microbiota; millimeter; mirror; monster; mushroom; Musk, Elon; mycelial plane; nav buffer; O-type star; off-ramp; oneirogenic penthrene mist; Operation Crossroads; pain inducer; palatine bone; particulate vending; patrol ship; pattern buffer; personnel file; placebo; planetoid; poison sac; pressurizer; prison shuttle; proverb; Qo'noS; quantum mechanics; rage gland; raider; reaction cube; Ripper; Sarcophagus; scanner; science vessel; sedation protocol; Shenzhou, USS; Siobhan; skull; spore drive; SPT 21; Star Cross; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Command; Starfleet Command Internal Mail System; stealth protocol; stowaway; symbiosis; T'Kuvma; tardigrade; tardigrade; telescope; Tellarite; threat ganglia; Torchbearer; tribble; Vulcan Science Academy; Vulcan Scientific Legion of Honor; warship; Wright, Orville; Wright, Wilbur; xenoanthropologist; Zaphod

External links

Previous episode:
"Context Is for Kings"
Star Trek: Discovery
Season 1
Next episode:
"Choose Your Pain"
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