Warp Factor Trek

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After being largely absent from the previous episode, Moll and L’ak return to set up this brain-twisting time-bender.

Log Entry

On a cliff edge overlooking a wide stretch of water, fugitive pair Moll and L’ak meet with a Klingon-like alien to buy the next clue in the treasure trail. The couple have poisoned the latinum they gave him. He used to sell the same kind of poison to the Emerald Chain, who enslaved Moll. She and L’ak plan to continue towards the next location.

Moll and L’ak preparing to head to Trill

Aboard Discovery fifteen hours later, Adira almost catches a glimpse of something: a mechanical bug. The ship arrives at the deep space location from Jinaal’s clue. On the bridge, the crew scans the area, baffled at the lack of anything there. Commander Rayner is vocally critical of the officers’ ability to find the next clue. Michael has him transport to her ready room to give him a talking to. They argue.

In engineering, Stamets meanwhile notices the metallic bug, which activates just as Michael and Rayner begin to transport back to the bridge. They discover that the ship is in a wormhole, and they see the Red Angel which was Michael herself.

The bridge of Discovery while the ship is in a wormhole

With the ship about to crashland, Rayner and Michael head back to the ready room. Soon they find themselves in other time zones and Michael figures out, with the help of Rayner, that they’ve hit a Krenim “time bug” (literally) that Moll and L’ak left them with on Trill. Deactivating the bug will reset everything. Stamets still has an awareness of their era, so Michael and Rayner search for him.

However, the pair are catapulted a couple of decades into the future. There, Zora explains that the entire crew is dead and that – after they failed to find the Progenitor tech – Moll and L’ak sold it to the Breen, who destroyed Federation HQ.

The aftermath of Federation HQ’s destruction, as displayed on Discovery’s viewscreen

After the next reset, Michael and Rayner find Stamets, explaining to him that being mid-transport when the time bug activated protected them from its affects. Stamets shows them that the bug has attached itself to a vital component in engineering. They arrange with Stamets to meet on Deck 13 following each reset.

While endeavouring to remove the time bug during the various resets, they find Stamets coming up with imaginary disasters to clear his engineering workroom of people who shouldn’t see their future captain.

The time bug, protected by a temporal shield

The team determine that the bug is shielded. Dropping the ship out of the warp field while at maximum speed will negate the time bug’s temporal shield. Stamets mentions that they are aboard Lorca’s Discovery and that Airiam is still a member of the crew.

The Michael of this era is still regarded merely as the mutineer who caused the Klingon War. Younger, permed Michael encounters her older self, who nerve-pinches the younger version.

The older Burnham meets her younger, aggressive self

On the bridge, the time-traveling Burnham manages to get to Airiam, who has the conn, and tries to persuade her to participate in the plan, but the rest of the bridge crew disbelieve her. However, Airiam – when told about her death – believes her and agrees to the plan. In engineering, younger Michael and Rhys hold Rayner and Stamets at gunpoint.

Mistaking her duplicate as a shapeshifter, the younger Michael wants to stop them. Talking to Rhys about his love of starships (remembered from the previous episode), Rayner convinces him and the younger Michael to relent.

Still holding their phasers, Rhys and Burnham stand down

With the ship dropping out of the warp field, Rayner rips the time bug free, resetting the timeline. But now, Discovery is two clues behind Moll and L’ak…

Status Report

Michael Burnham gazing from Discovery’s ready room to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge while the ship is under construction

This is certainly a strange episode, with good twists, thrills, and unanswered questions.  There’s good humour too, albeit taking the electronic insect and its ability rather lightly.

So far, this season has been kind of riffing on the 24th century – in particular, TNG episodes and, in this case, tropes. If this episode has the vibe of any other show in the franchise, it’s an early Brannon Braga one, with an element of the feel of something like “Cause And Effect” from TNG’s fifth season. There’s also a vibe of “Starship Mine” in that there’s an almost lone character – in this case three, rather than one – trying to keep the ship safe from other forces aboard. Mostly, it’s reminiscent of “Cause And Effect” though, with the ship and crew looping through different time zones. Like that episode, of course – and many others – it’s a bottle show at heart, set wholly on the ship apart from the opening scene.

Airiam in this episode

It’s great to see Airiam again, though sadly this does miss out on some amazing guest opportunities, both for a Georgiou cameo and, given that one of the time zones is explicitly referred to as “Lorca’s ship,” for a return of Jason Isaacs as Discovery’s original captain, Gabriel Lorca. Though it’s disappointing that neither Isaacs nor Michelle Yeoh appear, it’s possible this was down to their lack of availability rather than intention from the start. Or perhaps not; we may never know.

We also visit a future with a very alone Zora, which feels much like the punchline to the Short Treks episode “Calypso”. That episode was set a thousand years from the ship’s emptying of crew, while the future section here is only a couple of decades ahead. That said, it does remind us, or seed the future for new viewers, of Zora’s fate. It’s intriguing to wonder whether the ship will be left to drift after the finale, or whether this episode – or the 900-year time jump at the end of Season 2 – will have altered that future.

In terms of our current characters, it’s good to see the development that Callum Keith Rennie has made as Rayner, using his knowledge of the other officers to do his job rather than just snap at them.

Rating: 4/5

Overall, this is a return to form after “Jinaal”. It has good thrills and proper Trek-ish temporal hi-jinks in a TNG mould.

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