This week on Star Trek: Discovery Season three episode six “Scavengers”, Michael goes on an unsanctioned mission after receiving a message from Book.
Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is not adapting well to her new circumstances. Although she seems fine and well put together, being under orders is still an adjustment. Her personality has, from the first episode, shown that she is the type of person who takes matters into their own hands. This has been both a weakness and a strength for her. But now having been displaced and separated from her crew for a year after her jump to the future, those personality traits are more intense. She seems to be obsessed with her personal missions versus those of the Federation as a whole.
It’s reasonable that Commander Burnham would feel such an intense need to find out what caused The Burn. She risked everything to save the future of all life. And has arrived at a place and time where her beloved Federation had fallen apart. She wants and deserves answers. But it is also clear that what’s left of The Federation is in need of many things, not just answers to a century-old question of what caused The Burn. To Commander Burnham, this is all new. But to the Federation, they have lived this over a hundred years now. Although she is not wrong when she says that The Federation will not be able to stabilize until the answers to The Burn are found, her loyalty to Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) could complicate that.
Truly Captain Saru ( Doug Jones) was the best choice for Captain of the Discovery. He still understands the necessity to adhere to Starfleet protocols. Since the last episode, the U.S.S. Discovery has spent three weeks being retrofitted and upgraded. The crew has begun training and assimilation as well. His decision to not allow Michael to chase after Book after he went in search of a mysterious black box was clearly difficult for him. He respects and cares deeply for Burnham, but he has to honor his duty and commitment to the Federation.
It’s clear that Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) also shares Saru’s point of view. The crew is looking to move on and it’s becoming abundantly clear that not everyone’s path will be the same. We started to see this in the last episode when Commander Nhan stayed behind to go to the Barzan planet instead of continuing with the crew of the Discovery.
Burnham is risking a lot by aligning herself with Emporer Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) for an unsanctioned mission to find Book. She risks her position as Number One and in Starfleet by disobeying a direct order. She is also risking the legitimacy of the U.S.S. Discovery and her crew as part of Starfleet. But most importantly she is risking her relationship with Saru.
Philippa will follow Michael anywhere and this is their opportunity to find out what this new chapter in their relationship together means. They head to a salvage planet disguised as scavengers willing to trade Dilitthium for parts they need. But Phillipa is exhibiting strange signs of possible repressed trauma. She has strange visions that she seems to be fighting back.
Philipa and Micheal
They find Book but the reunion is bittersweet. Book has indeed found a black box that may contain information about The Burn. But he is now captive as a slave in a salvage yard. Burnham and Book’s embrace is sweet and full of witty banter. You can feel the love. As Philippa and Michael try to orchestrate his escape and the acquisition of the black box, Philippa passes out. The words she’s been saying “Son” in these visions return to her. The first time that happened was during a conversation about Ash Tyler, Michael’s ex. Could Tyler be related to Phillipa in someway? Perhaps they had a connection in the Terran universe that we don’t know about yet. The suspense of not knowing what is happening to Philippa all while in mid-battle to escape with what they need is intense.
Once they have escaped with Book and the black box, Michael confronts Philippa about what happened in battle and why she passed out. Philippa refusing Michael’s help are not surprising given her history. But you would think that by now she would begin to open up more. It’s clear she cares for Michael, it clears Discovery’s moral compass has begun to grow on her. It still feels unknown if this is all part of her character development or if it is a reused plot device to keep some internal drama happening on the starship.
Adira Tal’s (Blu del Barrio) information was essential in the Discovery locating The Federation. Now that they have found the Federation, Adira has yet to find a place. The ghost? The memory of her boyfriend, Gray (Ian Alexander) has manifested itself in ways that they can’t begin to explain to anyone. And so they have kept this secret to themselves. Which has become very isolating.
But perhaps being on board the U.S.S. Discovery is the perfect place for Adira. The Discovery has seen its share of impossible situations. And there she has found that Lt. Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) may be one of the few people who can understand. Although he is usually very arrogant and harsh with the people around him, he seems to display a much softer side with Adira. He doesn’t tend to warm up to people as easily as he has with Adira.
Michael must face the consequences of her unsanctioned mission. But before she does, she gets her romantic and very long-desired first kiss with Book. It is filled with longing, love, and respect.
The Admiral has been very generous in allowing Captain Saru to determine Michael’s fate given her blatant disrespect. Saru has demoted Michael to Chief Science Officer. And Michael assures him that he is doing the right thing. They are coming to terms with the fact that no one came out of the jump to the future the same.
Although the episode ended with Michael simply being demoted, it may have been reasonable to allow Michael to become her own splinter group of Discovery. She has her own ship. Perhaps she could be sent to study The Burn on her own, with Booker even. There is merit to her wanting the answers to the Burn. And her taking off on her own exploration could have been beneficial to all parties involved.