In which Lorca disobeys orders, Burnham insubordinates respectfully, and Stamets jumps a lot.
So, some reminders going in – Stamets won’t tell Colbert about all the symptoms he’s having of probably-alternate-timeline-visions, Ash Tyler was the Klingon defector’s concubine, and Burnham convinced the Pavo Spark-creatures to send out their sonar pulse, and Discovery now has to defend Pavo from the ship of the dead. Now, Lorca is being ordered away so that Starfleet can develop a technological solution to the Klingon cloak within Federation borders, and leave Pavo to die. He’s ordered point-blank to jump to Starbase 46, but instead he orders warp 5. This is subterfuge, though. They have a few hours transit time to think of a solution to the Klingon cloak instead. However, Lorca needs an excuse as to why they’re not spore-driving home. As such, he tells Stamets to go check in to sick bay and get all the most time-consuming tests possible done.
They start with the hypothesis that the Klingon cloak bends space via gravity to alter the paths of light. This comes with leakage, but in order to develop a correlative algorithm they’ll have to plant devices on a Klingon ship to generate control data. Thus, they’ll use Discovery as bait to get the Light of Kahless to engage in battle long enough to deliver a boarding party.
The tests having been run has, in fact, revealed a problem – use of the spore drive is rewiring Stamets’ brain. The Doctor is not happy about Stamets using the spore drive anymore, so Lorca orders him to deliver a report. In the meantime, Lorca wants Stamets to make 133 jumps, microjumps, in succession to intercept the EM signals from the devices at multiple angles. As a reminder, Lorca is perfectly fine wth ordering people into danger, killed his own crew rather than letting Klingons torture them, and if that weren’t enough wants to do it with experimental technique.
He’s also got chief managerial skills, and has been collecting data from Jumps that indicate potential isolated universes connected to the network. And showing Stamets that he’s into the Spore drive for more than just it’s weapon potential. Lorca then orders a boarding party be prepared, just Ash and one other, but denies his request for Burnham despite her insistence that she’s the best person for the job. She insists again, harder this time.
Stamets studies the coordinates and Tilly makes some modifications to, I guess, pipe in spores to the drive rather than put them in mason jars. Dr. Colbert knows there’s no way he can stop Stamets from doing the procedure, but then Tilly opens her mouth and mentions the side effects too, which nobody was talking about yet. Oops. Still, Colbert won’t try to stop Stamets, but their relationship is probably about to get rocky, assuming everyone survives. He’s got a remote-treatment cuff – presumably it’s just a servo filled with pre-specified medicines. And with that, and a pep speech from Lorca, they detect the Klingon cloak over Pavo. That they can detect it from that far away suggests that a Federation ship should henceforth always know when a Klingon cloak is nearby, even if they can’t target it. Which pretty severely limits the utility of said cloak to tactical positioning, and makes it useless for ambush strikes.
The Discovery can do mid-warp jumps. It seems to be able to drop them from Warp 5 to stationary in mid-jump. What other maneuvers are possible here?
Kol is happy to see Discovery there alone, and doesn’t appear to suspect a trap. He’s just happy to steal it, and orders the ship of the dead to decloak and engage. In that time, Tyler and Burnham beam in with harnesses that will mask their human lifesigns and in a tactical crouch, weapons out, because everyone is better at this than Yar was. And thus, the battle is on. The first drop point is easy, all the Klingons are heading to battle stations. However, the link won’t be useful without the second sensor, which has to be placed on the bridge. On the way, they detect a human lifesign, and Burnham has guilt about starting the war and needs to divert to it. When the first hack attempt fails, Tyler just cuts the wires, because prison doors on Klingon ships fail open.
Inside is Admiral Cornwell and L’Rell, neither in particularly good shape. Nash is not pleased to see L’Rell, what with all the torture. Cornwell may be paralyzed from the waist down and Tyler’s having a traumatic episode, which Cornwell identifies. Burnham has the mission – she arms Cornwell, leaves Tyler alone with the paralyzed admiral and L’Rell, and goes on to the mission. The Klingons, meanwhile, aren’t having an easy time dealing with Discovery‘s attack pattern, and it’s distracting them enough that Burnham can plant the second sensor. Discovery gears up for the Blink shell maneuver and drops right out of sight.
The first set of jumps is to force the Klingons into hiding, so that they can get the data. This lets the Klingons know what Discovery does. Now comes the real multi-jump, and Stamets makes sure that if this kills him, his last words were ‘I love you.’ The multiple jumps also seem to have a cumulative effect on the integrity of spacetime in the area, although it’s also possible that’s an artifact of the video stream. Sorry. As Stamets goes, with his techs moving spore capsules as fast as they can, Stamets is not doing well.
Cornwell works on talking Ash out of his shock as the jumps continue, illuminating the Ship of the Dead as it goes. Stamets is seeing the fungal forest, and Doc Colbert is ordered to keep it going. If you guessed as soon as you saw the spore chamber in that initial episode that someone would die inside of a transparent chamber while someone they love watches with their hand pressed against the window, congratulations.
The Klingons have detected sabotage near the burial chamber, and suspect L’Rell. Kol orders her amputated and for the Ship of the Dead to leave – he’s caught on to this being a trap and although he doesn’t know the payoff, he’s at least smart enough to leave now. Burnham is therefore forced to play her hand – shoots a couple of dudes and demands parlay through her translator. It doesn’t endear her to Kol, who decides that the idea of a UT is cultural appropriation. To keep him talking, she varies diplomacy with ‘I killed your messiah and you’re a coward.’ Meanwhile, Nash is still having an episode, but eventually snaps out of it to go save Burnham in a burst of violence. Burnham keeps up with the coward accusations and challenges Kol for Georgeou’s Stafleet Delta. As we have noted, the Klingon concept of ‘honor’ doesn’t map 100% to the human concept, but it’s close enough.
Burnham has some Vulcan martial arts but not the raw strength of a Vulcan. Still, all she needs to do is keep them busy. The Discovery has finished its jumps, and needs about five minutes to build the cloak-penetrating algorithm, so Lorca makes the call to stay until they get their crew back. Especially since the Kliongons aren’t firing yet. Burnham survives long enough to humiliate Kol and get beamed out when they solve the cloak – L’Rell hops along for the ride. Burnham gets enough warning to not pick up any hitchhikers.
Once their people are back on board, Lorca lights up the Ship of the Dead, making sure to put in eyedrops so he can watch it explode. Lorca’s kind of inscrutable, but at least Burnham gets a nod from Saru, plus she has the Delta to put into an autoclave to get all the cooties off of it. There is, however, a lingering concern – Stamets.
Also, the Admiralty gives a report that will explain why Lorca’s actions were awesome before telling him how much trouble he’s in for disobeying, like, all the orders. For some reason they can’t transmit the cloak algorithm for 11 hours. Lorca’s being called back to keep Discovery safe and to get an award.
Burnham meets up with Ash, who’s all torn up about being damaged like a real person. He tells her about L’Rell, and how Tyler survived the Klingon ship – by seducing his torturer. He’s kind of expecting to get blamed, but Burnham’s not like that, and they’ll stick around together. Meanwhile Stamets is, in fact, still alive, and ambulatory. Ready to jump again, too. Lorca does have limits- he wasn’t going to ask, now that it’s not necessary to win the war, but Stamets insists. But this will be his last jump ever. After this, he needs to go under the microscope to figure out what’s happening to his brain.
Ash’s nightmares aren’t just about the torture, so when he wakes up in the middle of the night he goes to the brig. L’Rell, in custody, seems to have deliberately introduced some sort of control over Tyler which she plans to use soon, but not immediately. Stamets goes into the chamber for the last jump, but it goes wrong for him. The chamber frosts up and an ‘incomplete navigation sequence’ caused by Stamets stroking out mid-jump can’t be good news. The Discovery is… elsewhere. Surrounded by unfamiliar wreckage and unfamiliar stars. And since the jumps were, up until recently, routine, they probably didn’t finish transmitting the cloaking frequency, either.