Friday, 13 November 2020

Die Trying: Discovery S3 E05

Thanks to the symbiont Tal's memories from its time with host Sena, Discovery arrives at the distortion field-hidden Federation headquarters.

As with Earth it's not quite the warmest of welcomes for the "ancient" starship and the crew face a barrage of questions in debriefing to corroborate the story since all records show Discovery destroyed in 2258 and no mention of the Red Angel, wormholes or the spore drive. 

In an attempt to prove their loyalty to the Federation and Starfleet, Burnham leads the ship out to recover a sample from the USS Tikhov seed bank in order to generate a cure for an illness ravaging several Kilee aboard the station.

Nice and straight forward episode that splits between Burnham's mission on the Tikhov and (for the most part) the debrief of Georgiou. It's an episode that's crammed with references, nods, great guest stars and a poignant end. The arrival at headquarters is every starship fanboy's dream with a better look at a ton of new designs in a lot better close up than we've seen in the flashbacks to The Burn. As you'll be more than aware we have the USS Nog in honour of the late Aron Eisenberg who passed last year, holographic and organic hulls as well but there's an even more in-your-face hat tip to one USS Voyager with the appearance of a dart-shaped primary hull emblazoned with NCC-74656-J - that's 11 versions of the ship since the late 24th Century which might well be giving the Enterprise a run for its money on iterations!

Seems that Starfleet is as cautious as the rest of the galaxy and if it's not the Emerald Chain coalition (they're definitely going to be a larger threat than we credit them for at the moment) of the Andorians and the Orions (reported in by the USS Kai Hoga (hope I got the spelling right - must be Bajoran!!!) then it's trying to rebuild the Federation after not just The Burn but also the Temporal Wars (nod to Enterprise) which have taken a severe toll and placed a lot of restrictions in the way of time travel effectively making the Discovery crew criminals. There's also the clarification that the Federation is now a mere 38 worlds including Kaminar (Saru's homeworld) and Barzan (Commander Nhan) but is significantly less than the 350 it was at its peak due to the lack of faster than light travel.

Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr) is the bearer of all this good news accompanied by his security chief Lieutenant Audrey Willa (Vanessa Jackson) who, to be fair for most of this episode, needs a damn good slap in the face for disrespecting the chain of command and never gets pulled on it even though both Saru and Vance do likewise at other points in the episode. She's a more hard-nosed version of the admiral who almost appears to be a clone of the Earth Defence Force leader from People of Earth complete with skepticism and no-nonsense approach.

There's nothing too spectacular about the main story and you never feel that - even though it's threatened - the crew will be split up around the fleet with the mission to the Tikhov allowing for that necessary demonstration. Tying in the Barzan people, we learn that they are the ones currently assigned stewardship of the seed bank with suitably dangerous conditions awaiting the landing party.

The Tikhov is gloriously represented internally with every surface overgrown due to the father of the Barzan family seeking a way to save his family following a tragic accident. 

Initially it's not clear that this is going to be an episode that will focus on the underused Rachael Ancherill (who is listed in the main credits if you didn't notice...) as Nhan offering her the chance to reflect on the Barzan's choice to remain on Discovery and not go home and her decision to make a change in the here and now for a greater good and for herself. 

After her inclusion in Brother last season and transfer from the Enterprise with Captain Pike, Nhan came across as a bit stuffy and maybe even a fraction pompous with traits that suggested she saw herself as far more elite than the Discovery crew. Unless I'm mistaken she's the only one rocking the Discovery style skirt for one thing!

But the character has softened, the edges smoothed and I've enjoyed seeing her interact more with the crew however this scenario makes it very clear that the main cast is too crowded now with Adira, Book likely to be back more permanently, the new Starfleet contingent and more so there's had to be a bit of movement. It's a shame it had to be this way but there are at least options for the future (and we hope she's back given her main cast status!!!). Nhan is a character that could well find this new development opportunity a big step forward and one that the writers should take a hold of and run with!

Now then, let's turn to the other aspect of Die Trying...Georgiou and her debriefing which leaves her oddly jarred as we see from her final interaction with Burnham just before the end titles.

What is just mind-blowing is that famed director/actor David Cronenberg turns up to oversee her questioning by two holographic officers. She makes short work of them leaving Cronenberg's unnamed character to step in. He's born on April 5th, referring back to First Contact with the Vulcans and notes the divergence that occurred between the Prime and the Mirror Universes at that time, he's aware of Georgiou's background as the Terran Emperor and drops in that her empire fell many centuries previous - in fact there hasn't actually been any contact with the Other Side for the last 500 years with the gap and therefore the chance to jump across widening since the 22nd Century.

Their verbal sparring is fantastic, charged and actually a counterpoint to the Reno/Stamets/Tilly disjointed relationship we observe as they in turn track the mission to the Tikhov. Is Cronenberg's character from Section 31? What's his modus operandi here? We don't know but his time with the former Terran Emperor is clearly ground-breaking since it knocks Georgiou sideways. 

Perhaps the most frustrating yet expected piece of Die Trying is the lack of further information surrounding the now legendary Burn from 120 years in the past. At first Vance says it's classified and not for Burnham to hear but when he does open up there's frankly absolutely jack all he reveals so all the bluster was a waste of energy. This is the big question - who or what caused it and why? Who is benefitting from the destruction of dilithium plunging the galaxy into a "dark age"?

The new Federation doesn't look too rag-tag but Discovery now offers the organisation and the series itself a more positive step forward and a way out of that dark age thanks to the spore drive for one. Maybe the uniforms themselves of the 32nd Century fleet are designed to be a bit more drab although the style did remind me of the early season Babylon Crusade jackets for a second. These do seem a better fit than those and now carry a thick stripe on the front to denote department with rank carried on the oval combadges which I'm guessing means we'll be saying bye bye to 22nd Century phasers, tricorders and communicators in the next few weeks.

By the end we have that annoying A-Team sense wielded again with Admiral Vance declaring that the crew can stick together but they are there at his call as part of Starfleet. If anyone remembers this isn't too far off what Hunt Stockwell was doing in season five of that '80's show, sending the team off on a mission of the week and I really REALLY hope this isn't the direction we're headed. At least there is this musical link that's beginning to form and is noticed by Burnham who has now encountered it a total of three times. Is this something linked to The Burn or again is this something else that's being dripped into the season with a much later payoff?

Die Trying, for all its intents and purposes is a fairly standard episode. The Easter Eggs, the nods, the Federation reveal, a sparkling bit of head to head are what make it but overall it's the most average of the season so far which will probably be remembered more for two starship references than anything else.

What are your thoughts on the Federation?

ALSO check out our full set of season one reviews from Lower Decks HERE!

Track back on our season three Discovery reviews HERE

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