Here we are at the roughly half way point of the season for Discovery. Once again showrunners bring the show back to a character driven narrative. While the action centric focus has only surfaced once (episode 6), both ways of story telling have been great, but it’s when Discovery focuses on the characters that it truly shines. We do get a good chunk of story and an even larger chunk of fan service this episode. In the end the three central points of this episode (Burnham, Tilly, Ni’Var) revolve around the theme – fractured.
Fractured – Ni’Var
The main theme to this episode, and epic dose of fan service, revolves around a theme nearly 30 years in the making. Back in 1991, Star Trek: The Next Generation aired an episode called Unification Part I. This episode centered on everyone’s favorite Vulcan, Ambassador Spock. This started a story thread that would run through episodes, movies and more ever since as it discussed the unification of Vulcan and Romulus. While the two peoples could not be more different, the two societies were in fact one race split in two. Spock’s hope was to unite the tow halves once more.
Fast forward several hundred years and Spock’s dream became reality, although a tenuous one at best. Apparently, the burn began on the newly named Ni’Var, home world to both Romulans and Vulcans. Enter Burnham and her rogue mission and all of a sudden, differences of micro-seconds suggest The Burn began elsewhere. There is just one problem. Starfleet and Ni’Var are no longer on speaking terms. Burnham hopes to prove the origin of The Burn, but cannot do so without Ni’Var data, SB-19, which they do not wish to share. To do so could rip the very foundation of the unification apart for a reason we are never really given.
It was great to see this thread resurface after so many years. Writers look for ideas. I doubt in 1991, someone thought ‘Oh! This is a story thread we can reuse for decades!’, but return to it writers have – over and over. It showed up in the shows anytime they could talk Nimoy into coming on the show. It featured in the Star Trek Nemesis and again when Star Trek received its reboot in 2009. Now in 2020 it surfaces once more.
I love the job Tara Rosling does as the Ni’Var president. I don’t know why exactly, but she played the perfect embodiment of a Vulcan leader. She remained firm in logic and candor, yet also remained soft spoken and understanding. Her ending scene with Saru makes me really hope she comes back for more. She brought the intangibles to the role and made it incredible.
Fractured – Burnham
Last episode, Burnham did what she believed to be right, but her actions carried terrible consequences. No longer Discovery’s Number One, Burnham now questions whether or not she fits in aboard Discovery anymore. She finds herself torn between those she loves on Discovery and her love for Book, which I think we can say is official now. To quote Optimus Prime “Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.” And call it does.
The missing data they need to discover the cause of The Burn lays on the planet Ni’Var. Ni’Var won’t speak with the Federation, but perhaps they will speak to the sister of their founder, Spock. Burnham get pulled into this mission despite her not wanting it, but it the process she discovers two things she thought lost.
Burnham finds out she will have an advocate from the Qowat Milat (love how they bring this tidbit over from Picard) to act as her shalankhkai (advocate). President T’Rina makes a remark that tells us the shalankhkai has a close interest with Burnham. I started thinking what cameo could they stick in here? Could a descendent of Tasha Yar, played by Denise Crosby again, resurface? Nope. It’s mommy! Burnham’s mother did survive her ordeal as the Red Angel and now lives on Ni’Var. This makes for a nice little reunion, but where it goes gets even better.
Fractured – Burnham Reforged
Okay, mom is Burnham’s representative. Things are shiny, bright and hopeful right? Not when mom turns on Burnham. The Quwat Milat always speak truth. You kind of expect something will happen, but mom lays the verbal smack down on Burnham beyond anything I expected. I think my jaw dropped as much as Michael’s.
But here’s the thing. Masters, teachers, parents have a habit of knowing their pupil’s weak points and know how to apply exactly the right pressure. The learner either steps up to the challenge or crumples completely. While desperately defending herself, we see halfway through her arguing that this thought dawns on Michael as well. She sees the brilliant card her mom lays out before her.
Michael’s arguments of shock become arguments of passion and conviction. Not only does she manage to convince T’Rina that the SB-19 data will be in good hands with Michael, but Burnham manages to heal her own self doubts in the process, with a little more nudging from mom of course. The scene where Burham slides into her passions is one of my favorite scenes of the year so far.
Fractured – Does Tilly What It Takes?
Lastly we have Tilly. After Burnham’s rogue mission, Saru was left with no choice but to demote Michael. The big question becomes who then takes her place? Unlike other shows, there is no strong back up to take Burnham’s place. It basically came down to the Saru and Burnham show. Saru decides Tilly will become his new Number One. An Ensign becomes the second in command of the Discovery?! If Saru is taken out Tilly will command the ship. Seriously?!
First off, this is Discovery, a science ship. If this were NCC-1701-R (too conservative? 1701-Y maybe?) Tilly would be a terrible choice because there would be no way she could handle the demand of the position, but with Discovery she is the perfect choice. Tilly proves her intelligence time and again down in engineering. She also serves as the heart of the ship. She connects to the crew on every level. Of course talking less and believing in herself more needs to happen, but that comes with experience.
Of course she does not believe in herself and seeks the council of others. I love the face Stamets gives her when she talks with him. Of course then you have to love Stamets’ next move when he summons the crew together in a show of solidarity and support for Tilly. On top of that, Burnham’s late arrival and show of support shows Tilly and Burnham are sisters in every manner save blood. Tilly really is the only choice for Number One.
Fractured – Side Notes
I loved this episode. Only a couple minor negatives stand out. I really wish Georgiou could have played a role in this episode. I would like to see how she would have interacted with Michael’s real mother. The two give Michael such differing mother-styles. Could mom and step-mom become friends? Or would they butt heads and want their own views on how Michael should lead her life?
One other thing that bugs me has to do with Sonequa Martin-Green. I think she does an incredible job as Michael Burnham. She brings such passion and presence to the role. A couple of scenes where she gets really emotional don’t work, but otherwise she nails the role…but…please, STOP WHISPERING! Anytime Burnham gets serious, she drops into a whisper. Some people raise their voices, but Sonequa drops hers. Minor complaint but it really grates when she does it. I noticed Sonja Sohn does it a little as Momma Burnham, but not nearly as severe.
Fractured – Hold on to Your Butts!
Burnham know her place once more. I really like how writers are working the Michael/Book relationship. If feels real and genuine. Tilly holds the title of Number One and Discovery now possesses the data to figure out the secrets of the Burn. So what’s next? Judging by the preview for next week’s episode, not only does Discovery figure out the source of the burn, but all hell will break loose in the process. Not only will we get an action episode, but it’ll be epic action to boot!