We begin with the Klingon armada closing in on Earth – finally giving an actual physical presence to this threat that’s largely been just words since Discovery got back to their universe. Likewise, somewhere else in the galaxy, Discovery is rolling up on Qo’Nos. It’s setting up the conflict and stakes quite neatly, in a way that doesn’t need any further explanation, which is why we then have Michael delivering a pseudo-koan about the eve of battle in voiceover.
There, on the bridge, when they’re all meant to be doing their jobs, Michael and Saru choose to confer about how they don’t trust evil Georgiou. Evil Georgiou calls them out for gossiping, and Michael attempts to out her as an impostor by asking questions about her past, rather than, say, announcing ‘hey everyone, remember when we went to the evil universe?’. Given that the whole crew’s been over to the evil universe and Michael’s made no secret about Georgiou’s death, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to pretend evil Georgiou is anyone else – or, indeed, that anyone present would believe it for more than a moment.
Case in point – when evil Georgiou and Michael go down to the brig, even L’Rell instantly says that she saw Georgiou die and something funny’s going on here. This attempt to interrogate L’Rell about the conditions on Qo’Nos quickly degenerate into evil Georgiou knocking seven bells out of her, ostensibly for disrespect but mainly for fun. With that option bearing no fruit, they check in with Ash – who, since he has all of Voq’s memories, can tell them everything they need to know about Qo’Nos, begging the question of why they didn’t do this in the first place.
Presented with a map of the planet, Ash immediately points out a perfect way for them to get their scanning drone into the network of underground tunnels. It’s via age-old shrines that unfortunately can’t be found from orbit, and you know what that means – it’s time for the away team (i.e., the named characters) to beam down there and start asking questions. Evil Georgiou insists that Tilly joins them, a decision she bases entirely on the track record of her universe’s Captain Killy. It’s presumably also evil Georgiou who decides what disguises they’ll wear – they’re heavy on studded black leather, and hers literally has a cape.
Down on Qo’Nos, in some sort of Klingon version of Kowloon, they start loudly and ostentatiously pretending to be humble arms dealers. When that doesn’t get them the information they need, evil Georgiou ups the ante and takes them to an alien strip club. Everyone proceeds to act in a profoundly professional way befitting Starfleet officers, by which I mean evil Georgiou takes two of the strippers to a private room, Ash and Michael do some Klingon gambling, and Tilly stumbles into a back room and gets high. It’s meant to be gritty, it comes off more like the fan script Badger was always talking about on Breaking Bad.
Still, it works out a lot better than splitting the party tends to. Evil Georgiou and Ash both find out about a convenient nearby shrine that should do the job, although all the Klingon laughter involved in Klingon gambling takes Michael to a bad place. While she and Ash fumble to deal with their respective trauma, Tilly’s making a discovery of her own – when she checks to make sure nobody stole the drone while she was space-high, it turns out it’s actually a bomb she’s been ferrying around. A bomb which evil Georgiou pops out of nowhere to immediately grab and run off with.
Between Starfleet having put evil Georgiou in command, and the general way the Starfleet admiralty are, the others quickly figure out that the plan is to blow up the whole planet. Michael gets on the space-phone to Cornwell to object in the strongest possible terms, since five minutes on Qo’Nos have convinced her that Klingons don’t deserve to be wiped out. (And having dated one may help there too.) Cornwell insists that it’s the only way, and in times of crisis ethics get put aside, which is about standard for Starfleet admirals. Michael rallies the whole crew around her, which is coming perilously close to committing mutiny again, but luckily she has an alternative plan.
Back on Qo’Nos, evil Georgiou has released the bomb into the thermal vents, and has the detonator in her hand when Michael turns up in the nick of time to talk her down. Evil Georgiou explains loudly and clearly that she is nothing like the Georgiou Michael knew – as all those subtle clues like eating Kelpiens suggested – but, when push comes to shove, can’t bring herself to kill any universe’s Michael. It’s then that Michael springs her plan, which is to turn the detonator over to L’Rell, who can use it as leverage to reunite the Klingons and end the war.
As Starfleet were already willing to work with evil Georgiou, it sort of makes sense that they’d now work with L’Rell, but why they’d trust her remains a mystery (evil Georgiou, it should be remembered, actively wanted to blow up Qo’Nos). Plus, the Klingon empire uniting as one force is how this whole mess started in the first place. But nonetheless, it works, the Klingon armada back off from earth – and between Michael very nearly mutinying to get Cornwell to listen to her plan, and L’Rell threatening her own people with the destruction of their homeworld, this week it seems like everyone’s willing to negotiate with terrorists.
Despite evil Georgiou’s many, many crimes, they turn her loose and forget all this silliness ever happened. And Ash – whose human side, at least, only remembers L’Rell with fear – decides to go off with L’Rell to give her the benefit of Voq’s memories. Here we could talk about Michael and Ash’s goodbye scene, and how both actors are trying so hard to sell it that almost some of the lines land alright – but I’d prefer to speculate on just what the Klingons think about their L’Rell, who stopped them rolling over Earth, suddenly having a Starfleet officer in tow. At the very least there’ll be muttering, probably about Starfleet’s expansion of power, which I seem to remember the Klingons being quite angry about – but then, that was almost fifteen whole episodes ago.
As for poor old Ash’s arc, it feels worryingly like the writers – having sprung the twist and revealed he was Voq – didn’t really know what else to do with him.
Anyway, the crew of Discovery return home as heroes. Michael gets to give a speech about Starfleet principles, which is intercut with the announcements of what medals they’ve all been awarded, making it sound like some kind of Dadaist cut-up or poetry slam. And outside, she runs into her adoptive parents. They tell her they’re very proud, and Sarek admits that it’s possible he and the rest of the Starfleet brass went too far when they sent an evil emperor to blow up a planet. It’s smiles all round.
This round of happy ending is a little undercut by the fact that, by all accounts, the Klingons had most of the Federation in flames until very, very recently. We got a list of atrocities one or two episodes ago that likely had a death count in the millions. And while the medal ceremony isn’t the place to mention it, there’s zero reference to any sort of rebuilding efforts. Oftentimes, the universe Discovery presents feels like anything that isn’t actually onscreen is painted in the broadest of broad strokes, as with them getting back from the evil universe to discover that oh no, the Klingons are winning – this time, they’re not even trying.
But still, the plot is – more or less – wrapped up in a neat little package. After a season of grimdark, they have the opportunity to end it on an upbeat note. So while giving Sarek a lift to Vulcan, they get a distress call from a certain Captain Pike of the USS Enterprise. Cliffhanger noise!
The Trek essentials
‘to explore strange new worlds‘: Even if the shrines are a bit disappointing and dimly lit, Qo’Nos makes for a pretty good intergalactic flea market. With alien strippers, gambling, and whale meat, there’s fun for all the family!
‘to seek out new life and new civilisations‘: Amazingly, they’ve run into the ship from that popular show about space from the ‘60s! Who could have expected that? Honestly though, this has been one of the hardest categories to write in, because the show’s stayed largely within established territory – now it seems they’re going to be leaning further on the Original Series. And they were already leaning on it enough, given as they made Michael Spock’s adoptive sister. Between this, and the film reboots, you’d think they’d recognise that all the nostalgia value was mined from the originals long ago. We’ve even had years of parodies, including the exemplary Galaxy Quest and Futurama‘s ‘Where No Fan Has Gone Before’. The drawer is well and truly empty.
‘to boldly go where no one has gone before‘: This episode marks Star Trek’s first bisexual three-way.