Warp Factor Trek

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After the previous episode turned out to be a bottle show, Michael Burnham leads her crew into a cross-country marathon.

Log Entry

Doctor Kovich tells Burnham that the USS Locherer will handle the search for the fugitives while Discovery searches for the Progenitor technology. Doctor Kreel – the Denobulan scientist who created the most recently discovered clue – specialised in generating rain on a molecular level. This leads Discovery to Halem’no, a desert planet with one vegetated area. Adira reports pre-industrial humanoid life signs. Dressed in native clothing, Tilly and Burnham listen to the Halem’nite language of whistling before they beam down.

Burnham and Tilly arrive on Halem’no

After chatting with Book, Culber asks for Stamets’ help to do a full neural scan on himself. Burnham and Tilly find a group of Halem’nites heading for the High Summit. The travelers, led by Anorah, are greeted by Ravah, who introduces themself as the voice that guided everyone. When Anorah can’t breathe, Burnham tries to shake the dust loose from her lungs. The noise of the Halem’nites’ healing ritual causes her to collapse.

Ravah and their father, Ohvahz, tell Burnham and Tilly that only the most devout can enter the summit, proving themselves by a gruelling foot race with no hydration. Burnham, Tilly and Ravah enter the race. The ambitious Ravah reminds Tilly of a particular student.

Rayner is shown a diagram of the High Summit by Adira

Adira and the DOTs have found four more weather towers on the planet, whose energy-distribution matrices failed. The towers have auxiliary control panels hidden nearby. The High Summit’s can be reset.

Several Halem’nites drop out of the race. Burnham notices that most of the moss on the trees is blue, although some is yellow, and an eight-hundred-year-old control panel might cause that, by leaking radiation. Burnham pretends to drop out, buying her time to rebuild the panel’s motherboard.

The severely dehydrated Tilly and Ravah, the last two participants of the race, are tasked with carrying water bowls

Ohvahz gives Ravah and Tilly water bowls as a challenge to not spill. Ravah drops hers. However, Tilly pours some of her own water into Ravah’s bowl, so they tie.

Burnham and Adira reboot the control panel. Tilly is already in the tower with Ravah but doesn’t see another clue. Burnham and Tilly realise that Ohvahz intends to sacrifice them to “the gods”. He seals them in a room of solid tritanium. They are in a vacuum chamber, from which all the air will be sucked out. Tilly feels Ravah’s death will be her fault but Ravah is grateful that they’ll meet the gods.

Ravah and Tilly at the serenity wall

Tilly notes symbols on the “serenity wall”, which Ravah identifies as numbers to help recall prayers. Each symbol actually stands for one of the weather towers, with the High Summit being number three. Tilly recognizes the symbol for five from the clue that led them here.

Burnham beams into the neighbouring control room and asks Ohvahz to open the door. Ohvahz thinks Burnham is a hallucination but Burnham reveals that the High Summit is actually a technological product of ancient aliens. Tilly asks Ravah about their mother and, in response, Ravah teaches her a song which Burnham can hear over comms. She hums it to Ohvahz and explains to him that she is not a god. Finally, Ohvahz opens the chamber. Culber beams in with a medical team and revives Ravah.

Burnham shows Discovery tech to Ohvahz, including a view of the planet from orbit. She talks about the Denobulans and says the Federation can show the Halem’nites how to maintain the High Summit’s controls. The family is reunited but Tilly briefly ponders if they did a good thing. Moments after Ohvahz tells Ravah that they should listen when the gods tell them something new, it begins to rain.

Rain begins to fall on the High Summit and its verdant surroundings

Culber brings Book a plate of mofongo and admits that he’s having a spiritual awakening. He doesn’t think Stamets understood this. Culber realizes that Book misses his relationship with Burnham.

She and Tilly recover the next clue from tower five – a metal card with Betazoid text. Burnham suspects that the responsibility of technology is the real message.

Status Report

This episode’s plot is a mix of a literal race and semi-comprehensible religious and spiritual politicking. Thrown in are some excruciatingly coincidental transport blockings, just so the episode can last longer than thirty seconds.

The woodland cinematography is good and the regular cast all do really well. The star is Mary Wiseman as Tilly. There are many references to her students and her teaching position at Starfleet Academy. This is interesting because we now know that the upcoming Starfleet Academy series is set in the 32nd century, post Discovery. As such, one can’t help perceiving that we’re being given a feel for a show that the likes of Tilly and even Burnham might at least guest in. This episode’s guest cast fare less well than the regulars, stuck with being friendly and caring but still sacrificing people to the gods to make it rain.

A moment from the making of this episode

Beyond the race, the obvious and basic theme is a Voyager-ish quandary of how blatantly and quickly the captain and crew can toss the Prime Suggestion out of an airlock. Yes, there have been many episodes on the non-interference directive in all the Trek series, but this is no carefully considered “Who Watches the Watchers” type of episode. This is one of those where the lead characters jump to showing off tech to a pre-industrial civilisation on a level far worse than that which got Rayner demoted. In that sense, it’s a very traditional Trek episode but also clichéd, as Prime Directive episodes always tend to be. They’re either dull or exercises in finding loopholes or just plain ditching the rules while pontificating about them, Janeway-style. That’s what we have here. At least Burnham doesn’t claim to be a god.

Rating: 3/5

Overall, this is a very dull, typical story, with unremarkable guest performances but with great work from the regulars and what may well be hints and teases for a forthcoming series. At least there are some amusing lines, wise lines, and Mary Wiseman stealing the show.

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