The latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, “Such Sweet Sorrow,” may be best remembered as the “The Big Goodbye 2.0.” The crew truly coheres as a family, which has been an ongoing struggle with the show. Many characters have been maddeningly underdeveloped, such as the supporting bridge crew, who were little more than faces in chairs for much of the show’s run. In this episode, nearly everyone (though not all) gets their moment as Discovery (the series and the ship) faces dramatic changes…
****STARSHIP-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!****
Following threads from last week’s nail-biter (“Through the Valley of Shadows”), this week’s offering also follows threads from two of the ‘Short Treks,’ “Calypso” (which sees an abandoned Discovery, fully automated, sometime in the far future) and “Runaway” (in which Tilly befriended a young runaway alien queen and engineering genius named Po).
We see Ambassador Sarek (James Frain), on the shores of what appears to be in a meditative state on a Vulcan beach (Vulcan is certainly a lot more wet and woodsy in this new series), suddenly realizing that his adopted daughter Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green) is in immediate danger…
Last week’s Discovery saw Discovery facing down a fleet of Section 31 ships, all under guidance of an omniscient computerized intellect called “Control”, which is seeking to perfect itself using data stored in Discovery’s computer (gathered from a now-dead alien ‘sphere’ ) that cannot be removed. Michael tells Captain Pike (Anson Mount) that the only solution is to destroy the Discovery, and its intractable sphere data, before the unstoppable Section 31 fleet arrives. Pike hails his old command, the USS Enterprise to aid in evacuating the Discovery crew.
Extending forcefield corridors between the two ships, Discovery’s entire crew is evacuated to the Enterprise, and we get a really good look at the reimagined interiors of the iconic starship. Discovery’s officers each grab small personal mementos and keepsakes on their way out, as they board the Enterprise (which looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous, by the way...wish it looked this good in the Bad Robot films).
Number One (Rebecca Romijn) along with Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), welcomes the captain back aboard his old command, and reports ship’s status. The Enteprise’s exec reports that all of Enterprise’s shuttles and service vehicles have had weapons and tactical systems upgraded for the approaching “Control” fleet.
Section 31 operative Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) enters the Enterprise’s bridge and is not exactly in love with the bright color palette of the Federation flagship.
On Discovery, Michael touches (but does not remove) the Klingon time crystal, which gives her a terrifying vision of the Discovery’s destruction at the hands of the combined entity of Control/Leland (Alan Van Sprang). By not physically removing the crystal, that fate might still be avoided (the time crystals are as much magic as the Bajoran orbs of Deep Space Nine…you’ll either buy them or you don’t).
From the Enterprise bridge, the crew watches as Discovery’s remote control destruction counts down to zero…and nothing happens. Somehow, the sphere data prevented the ship’s self-destruction. Undeterred, Pike readies torpedoes and fires on Discovery, but to no avail. Burnham is convinced that the answer lies in the Klingon time crystal and the time suit created by Burnham’s mother Gabrielle. The Discovery, and her sphere data, can only escape Control by being thrown forward into the far future (her ultimate fate, as seen in the Short Trek, “Calypso”).
Charting only four of the original seven signals that first sent Discovery on this quest, Michael determines that a fifth signal is going to occur soon, and it does… near the planet Xahia, a world familiar to Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) as it is the home of her ice-cream loving friend (and Xahia’s teenaged queen) named Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po, or just… Po (Yadira Guivara-Prip). Discovery spore jumps to Xahea with the Enterprise following at warp, which will take the flagship hours to get there, with the Section 31/Control fleet only 10 minutes behind her. The clock is ticking.
Following the spore jump to Xahea, Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) stops by engineering to check on his ex, Commander Stamets (Anthony Rapp). The two of them realize that they need ‘forward motion’ in their lives and they amicably (though painfully) make their breakup official. A sad moment for the first (and long overdue) openly gay couple featured in Star Trek’s nearly 53 year history.
The queen Po is beamed aboard Discovery, where she gives her friend Tilly a big hug, but is quickly put to work in order to find a way to charge the time crystal using the spore drive (the only source with enough energy of such magnitude). The fully charged time crystal will give the suit enough power to throw the time-suit safely into the future (without the need of a red giant supernova), but it will leave Discovery’s spore drive incapacitated for at least 12 hours. My eyes crossed a bit during this stuff, I won’t lie…
The eccentric monarch Po, working with Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and engineer Jet Reno (Tig Notaro), helps to create a latticework frame around the time crystal that allows engineering teams to work on it without experiencing maddening visions or locking their fates, etc. It also has the benefit of preventing the fully charged crystal’s energy from leaking prematurely before the time-jump. The engineering team also reaches the conclusion that the time-jump of Discovery and Burnham’s suit will overload and burn out the crystal as well. Burnham will be unable to return to the present once she uses the suit to lead the automated Discovery into the far future. There is no other way.
Burnham gets familiar with the operation of the suit (via her mother’s logs) as her colleagues, including Tilly, Georgiou (who accuses Michael of having a martyr complex), former lover Ash (Shazad Latif) and even her adopted parents Sarek and Amanda (Mia Kirshner) all come to say goodbye to their beloved shipmate, friend, and daughter. The tears uncork….
Not wishing to abandon their friend, a volunteer crew consisting of Spock (Ethan Peck), Stamets, First Officer Saru (Doug Jones), Ensign Tilly, Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), Lt. Bryce (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), Commander Detmer (Emily Coutts), and several others volunteer to stay behind and help Michael to send their ship off to the future. Michael tries to dissuade them, but they are not having it. These volunteers all send off heartfelt goodbye videos to their loved ones, the mood is reminiscent of soldiers writing home on the eve of a hopeless battle. This notion of letting go is at the heart of the episode, and the emotions are keenly felt. Some of the secondary characters (such as Detmer and Owo) have been little more than speaking extras for much of the series’ run, finally get their moments, and the actors give it all they’ve got. An alternate title for this episode could’ve been “The Big Goodbye 2.0.”
There is also a foreshadowing moment as engineer Reno (Notaro) has to handle the crystal outside of its protective latticework, knowing that it would mean seeing (and locking in) her future. She touches the unsheathed time crystal and has the same apocalyptic vision of the Enterprise taking an undetonated torpedo right in the saucer section…
Pike, who must return to his Enterprise, says his farewells to the Discovery crew, as well as to his Enterprise science officer Lt. Spock and his own Lt. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) who are remaining with Discovery. He is about to bring up the subject of who will be Discovery’s new (however temporary) captain, but Saru reminds him that the subject can wait, based on the outcome of their imminent encounter with the Section 31/Control fleet. Fair enough. Pike returns to the Enterprise.
Back aboard the Enterprise, Number One reports that the Control Fleet is closing, and we see both Discovery and the Enterprise preparing to engage the sheer overwhelming numbers of the enemy fleet…
It’s taken Star Trek: Discovery to get that same familial feeling we’ve had with other earlier Star Trek series, but it seems like it’s finally happened…a fact cemented with “Such Sweet Sorrow.” The episode’s title, a line from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” clearly applies to star-crossed lovers Ash and Michael, but also applies in a far broader sense to the entire crew letting go of all they care about for a greater calling. Nice to see Tilly, Saru and Stamets, as well as some of the other less-visible supporting characters like Detmer and Owosekun, composing their goodbye videos to their friends and families.
Sadly, lieutenants Bryce (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) and Commander Nilsson (Sarah Mitich, who previously played “Airiam” in S1 until it was discovered she had an allergy to the makeup) are all left maddeningly underdeveloped. In an episode where so many characters had their moments, leaving these three as breathing props is unforgivable.
Beyond these terrible (and typical) oversights, the moments of the rest of the Discovery (and some Enterprise) crew coming together for Michael are both touching and earned.
That gorgeous new USS Enterprise!
You can almost take a whiff of her new car smell…the reimagined USS Enterprise is simply gorgeous. Far better, in fact, than the Scott Chambliss-reimagining of her in the Bad Robot movies. Splashes of orange coloring along the bridge, right where they should be (my eyes saw red, but okay…), a cool approximation of the original captain’s chair, the moire patterns in the turbo-lifts, the bright red gridding in the corridors, and even the helm console scanner. This is as perfect a production design compromise between 1960s retro-futurism and current sleekness as it gets, folks…
While we don’t spend nearly enough time on that magnificent new bridge set, Pike says it best when he utters, “Looks like I remember it.” It does, but with a hell of an upgrade.
The starship-collecting geek in me is already looking forward to the blu-ray set so that I can still-frame the hell out of that bridge…
Oh, and the exterior is no slouch either. Leaning much closer to the TOS-era look than the 2009 version, it also demonstrates that the late Matt Jeffries’ design is still valid, more than 54 years after the late Gene Roddenberry gave it his approval during production of “The Cage” (which was also a voyage of Christopher Pike’s USS Enterprise…). To be honest, I never thought we’d ever see this much of the USS Enterprise on this series, but I’m also glad that we have.
Summing it up.
The genuine sense of foreboding throughout the hour is as palpable as the USS Enterprise-D’s imminent encounter with the Borg in Star Trek: Next Gen’s “Best of Both Worlds”, part 1. If Leland/Control does indeed turn out to be a porto-Borg, as many have speculated, it would be an interesting (if continuity convoluting) notion.
If I have any criticisms, it’s that a few of the minor supporting characters remain little more than animated props, and that an extra few minutes could’ve been easily added into the 48 minute running time to fix this oversight.
I’m also still wondering just how ambassador Sarek and his wife Amanda were allowed to come and visit Discovery during a time of such extreme crisis.
The return of Po wasn’t entirely necessary either, save for the justification of her Short Trek (“Runaway”). Here’s hoping we don’t have Harry Mudd rushing in to save the day next week…please, sweet baby Jesus, anything but that.
“Such Sweet Sorrow” offers lots of powerful character moments, some amazing bits of fan service (I’m still geeking out with that beautiful new USS Enterprise!) and genuine nail-biting tension as well. Looking forward to the season finale… oh, and more USS Enterprise, please. Maybe a future Pike-based series, if anyone’s listening…?