Warp Factor Trek

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Two years after the Season 4 finale split Michael and Book up by sending Book to jail for sabotaging (correctly, as it turned out) Starfleet’s attempt to destroy the Anomaly and ended up making contact with a whole new type of lifeform, Star Trek: Discovery returns for a fifth and final season.

Log Entry

The episode starts with a cold open of Michael in an EV suit, trying to break into a starship at warp… and loving it. We then rewind to Federation HQ four hours earlier. Discovery crew members — together with Tilly, taking some time from the Academy — are attending a Federation Day celebration commemorating the Federation’s founding. Stamets is disheartened that the spore drive is about to be replaced by the pathway drive. Saru is going to become a Federation ambassador, working with the Vulcan T’Rina.

In the top-secret “Infinity Room”, Captain Burnham meets with Doctor Kovich and Admiral Vance

Michael’s evening is interrupted by Admiral Vance and Doctor Kovich with a top secret assignment. The mission is a Red Directive — meaning highly sensitive and way above the highest level of Federation secrecy — which means they can’t or won’t tell her anything useful about what they’re looking for, beyond that it’s a potential threat to the security of the Federation and is on an 800-year-old Romulan science vessel, newly discovered at the edge of the Beta Quadrant. Kovich will accompany Discovery and its crew.

While the 24th century Romulan ship is raided by Moll — a blonde woman — and L’ak — an alien-looking male — and the USS Antares is additionally deployed in an attempt to stop them, Discovery jumps to the area, locating the Romulan vessel. Kovich authorises lethal force.

A Romulan vault is discovered

Upon boarding, Michael, Owosekun and Rhys find that the invaders have accessed a hitherto cloaked vault and stolen something. A fight and pursuit ensues, leading to Michael jumping onto the hull of their ship before it goes to warp, pursued by Discovery… which is where we came in.

The USS Antares joins the pursuit, helping rescue Michael. However, the thieves’ ship manages to escape. Suspecting that the thieves are former couriers like Book, Michael elicits his assistance. Captain Rayner of the Antares identifies the thieves as Moll — a human — and L’ak — a member of an unknown species. Michael says the stolen item is a 24th century Romulan puzzle-box. Book nominates a planet which the pair will most likely head to, so Discovery heads there.

Moll and L’ak meet Fred

On the planet, Moll and L’ak take their newly acquired Romulan puzzle-box to Fred, a Soong-type android, who opens it to reveal a diary which he briefly reads. A fight breaks out over the price and L’ak repeatedly shoots the android.

Moments later, Book, Michael and Rayner arrive in the town to find the thieves have gone. Fred has been “killed” but Michael orders that his memory be scanned aboard Discovery. The three give chase on sand runners, which are basically like Star Wars-type speeder bikes.

Book, Burnham, and Rayner, pursuing the thieves

The thieves flee back to their ship and prepare to cause a sand avalanche. Deciding how to deal with this leads to debate between Michael and Rayner. Michael insists that, rather than chasing the fugitives, Rayner have the Antares join Discovery in digging their bows into the sand to use their shields to protect the town. As Rayner predicted, the thieves get away again.

Discovery returns to Federation HQ, where T’Rina asks Saru to marry her. Stamets shows Michael the Romulan diary in Fred’s visual memory, from which Michael recognises the description of a solar system she knows. As Doctor Kovich privately reveals to Michael, the diary belonged to Doctor Vellek, a member of a Romulan team researching the Progenitors from the TNG episode “The Chase”, which established that that race had created humanoid life across the galaxy. Doctor Vellek found Progenitor technology capable of creating life and hid it on a planet under “twin moons.” Michael identifies the planet as Lyrek and intends to fly Discovery there next.

Burnham prepares for the mission to retrieve Progenitor technology

Status Report

As season openers go, this turns out pretty well. The recap of the previous season that acts as a prelude is rather lacking — it’s been two years, so we can expect a lot of viewers to not remember what happened and it doesn’t really help with that. Otherwise, this is a good, exciting action episode, chock full of fights, sand avalanches, and near-suicidal derring-do.

Acting-wise, the regulars are all on top form, as one would expect by now. We also have a new addition to the lineup, in the form of Callum Keith Rennie (from Due South and the 2004 Battlestar Galactica, among others) as Captain Rayner of the USS Antares. He at first comes over as a cliched gung-ho type but he develops more of an interesting character as the episode progresses.

This is a particularly well-scored episode, with the melody of the show’s theme tune woven incredibly subtly and cleverly into the original score. It’s also a visually stunning premiere. Especially impressive effects-wise are Michael on the fugitives’ ship exterior, the sand avalanche and its starship-intervention. There are some great callbacks as references too — the Romulan ship design from TNG’s “The Defector”, Captain Picard in a shot from “The Chase”, and so on.

Vellek’s Romulan science vessel… and Captain Picard, as viewed by Burnham

What’s less great is some of the pacing. A lot of time is devoted to reminding us of Saru and T’Rina’s romance, to set up for their engagement, and there’s a fair amount of comparison between the gold-skinned Fred and the modern synth bodies, like they created for Grey, who doesn’t appear in this episode.

There are also some storyline flaws, such as the incredibly useless briefings that Doctor Kovich gives Michael, which actually prevent the mission from being more quickly solved. Then again, it’s not as if that sort of stupidity doesn’t happen in real security situations.

Rating: 4/5

Overall, this is a solid premiere that promises a worthwhile final season. If you’re hungry for more, keep reading, because this is a double episode premiere

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