Warp Factor Trek

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This second episode aired along with the first installment of Star Trek: Discovery’s fifth season, “Red Directive”, as a double header. This is something that’s becoming a standard in sci-fi TV — applied also to the likes of Ahsoka, and the upcoming season of Doctor Who as well as the past couple of Trek seasons.

Log Entry

Following on from the events of “Red Directive”, Michael contemplates the quest for Progenitor technology while Discovery undergoes final repairs in dry dock. President Rillak hosts an inquiry into Rayner’s actions, discussing the circumstances of him and Michael having indirectly caused a sand avalanche. Michael testifies that she disapproved of Rayner’s decisions about risking the avalanche. Rayner argues that the inquiry is a waste of time, as he is far more concerned about the threat posed by the Progenitor tech.

Meanwhile, Grudge returns! Michael consults Book, who is thankful not to have been sent back to Federation imprisonment. As she tells him, Michael hopes that having knowledge about the planet Lyrek — where there is either the Progenitors’ power or a clue to it — means they won’t have to search for the twin-mooned planet like Moll and L’ak will. Michael wants Book to provide insights on them, since they are former couriers.

Discovery arrives at the twin-mooned planet Lyrek

When Discovery jumps to Lyrek, the crew find a Promellian necropolis protected by an energy field. Saru, on his final mission, and Michael beam down. The pair engage in a deep and amusing conversation.

Aboard Discovery meanwhile, Book recognises recordings of Moll and L’ak’s tactics as ones committed by a loving pair of thrill-seeking couriers rather than political antagonists.

On Lyrek, Michael and Saru continue their discussion, Saru advising Michael to take Book as his replacement as First Officer. The pair find a nearby obelisk but are then attacked by drones. A holographic transmission of Rayner advises Tilly and Adira on dealing with the drones, using an EMP that Saru and Michael cause by overloading their phasers in the statue from which the drones emerged.

Tilly and Adira consulting Captain Rayner about how to thwart the drones

On Discovery, Book contacts Moll and L’ak to try persuading them to give themselves up.

Back on Lyrek, Michael notices phaser burns which prove that Moll and L’ak were there first. Saru and Michael also find the remains of a Romulan poem giving a clue to another location — this is a paper-chase-type treasure hunt. The first four verses indicate that the next location is Betazed, but the couple are aware that the poem should have a fifth verse, as is traditional in this Romulan form.

Book speaking with Moll and L’ak while Culber and Stamets stand by

Book’s attempt to make an appeal to Moll and L’ak fails. Moll admits they only have each other.

Saru pushes the obelisk aside to reveal the fifth verse, which contains an artefact identical to one drawn in Doctor Vellek’s diary. Michael and Saru return to Discovery, where Michael has Zora turn the artefact into programmable matter, so it can be manipulated into part of a cylindrical 3D map. The now-complete poem directs them to Trill.

Tilly, Stamets, Adira, Michael and Saru realise that Trill is where Discovery should go next

Book recognises Moll as a courier trained by her father, who was Book’s namesake. She may be family.

After Saru leaves Discovery, Admiral Vance tells her that Rayner will be retiring immediately, forced out. She offers Rayner the First Officer position, not wanting a yes-man.

Michael appoints Rayner as Discovery’s second-in-command

Status Report

It’s easy to see why these two episodes were released as a double feature rather than as a single movie, because although they’re basically a single story, they feel very different in tone. The first half — “Red Directive” — is largely action-oriented while catching up with most of the regulars, but this half highlights more character arc developments. Yes, there’s some action, as Michael and Saru are attacked by the Promellian defence drones, but this is far more devoted to the relationships between Michael and Saru, and Michael and Book.

The Michael-and-Saru dynamic is wonderful to watch, largely due to Doug Jones’ performance, while the Michael-and-Book dynamic feels at first doomed with sorrow to come, but they’ve already done that story last season. Michael and Book’s relationship here could perhaps be more accurately described as post-doom! They’re on different paths now, which could well prove interesting. There is a danger of predictability there, if we’re going to be led to Moll being Book’s de facto sister, but similarly Rayner becoming Michael’s new First Officer was visible a mile off. Continuing with the relationships theme, we hear that Adira misses Grey, who is absent, while Eve Harlow as Moll and Elias Toufexis as L’ak are good, especially Toufexis under all his prosthetic makeup. Callum Keith Rennie as Captain Rayner gets to display a lot more subtlety this time too, making for an interesting character. Really, though, this is Doug Jones’ show, and he, as always, is magnetic in every scene, be it dramatic, humorous, or wistful.

When it comes to other points of interest, the basic format is not one of them: a space-chase treasure hunt is a fairly unoriginal basis for a story arc, though it does of course nicely echo the original “The Chase” episode of TNG that originated the Progenitors, and it offers us more of a proper chase, so to speak. Again, this isn’t the only TNG callback in this episode, as the location of the obelisk (which doesn’t bear that much resemblance to the Preservers’ one in the TOS episode “The Paradise Syndrome”) is a Promellian necropolis: Promellian in the sense of the battle cruiser that traps the Enterprise-D in the TNG episode “Booby Trap”.

The Promellian necropolis

As with “Red Directive”, direction and music are excellent. We even get some proper location filming for the planet under the twin moons. That whole sequence feels a lot like the drone attack stuff from TNG’s “The Arsenal of Freedom”, but this time in a proper forest, really showing how far we’ve come since the days of the unconvincing set in the earlier episode.

There are plenty of questions left hanging by this episode: How many locations will we visit? Can the Progenitors’ relics really create life? Is Moll family to Book? Will the Romulans’ descendants come looking? What is the pathway drive?

Rating: 4/5

If this had been a double-length episode, it might get an even higher score. As it is, this second half of the premiere gets the same score as the first part, albeit for different reasons. We have less action and more humour, but still a little bit much in terms of padding, some more enjoyable and entertaining than others.

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