In which everyone’s pointing guns at everyone, no quarter is expected nor given, and you can’t keep a good Empress down.
L’Rell probably mercy-killed Voq’s psyche, Empress Georgiou was deposed by, and then killed Lorca. Discovery is in the right universe (probably) but nine months late and the Klingons have won. And Saru’s first meeting with her does not go well. I feel like Saru’s danger-ganglea should have gone off for this, unless they’re just in a constant state of attention at this point. Burnham has to disarm Georgiou, and she outs their dinner last night as an act of spite. It never ends for Saru, he’s called away to Sick Bay, and there’s not much left of the Federation. What few ships are around aren’t responding to hails. And this call to Sick Bay probably means Tyler is awake.
The fact that Federation ships are not answering the Discovery sets forth some interesting possibilities: The Discovery may now be a traitor ship thanks to its counterpart slipping through, although this seems unlikely given the nature of the accident. Still, such coincidences are a feature of the relationship between universes and are far from unheard of. Alternately, perhaps any remaining Federation ships have had to switch to emergency codes after Klingons started using Federation signals to lure ships into ambush, and Discovery‘s codes are out of date. Finally, perhaps the remains of the Federation have already been broken up and sold off, and the ships they’ve seen are independently operated.
Burnham is sent to Sick Bay to see what they can recover of Tyler, but since it’s not an order, she can’t make herself go. Doctor Pollard assesses the operation a success otherwise – personality markers are now within human ranges, but that’s poor assurance. That said, the doctor has deemed him safe enough to let out of restraints, even if he’s still behind a force field. Tyler can now access Voq’s memories, and the Klingons even have a word for Species Reassignment Protocol to infiltrate Starfleet. Voq was a test case so perhaps that’s more of a codename than common lexicon. The procedure sounds barely survivable, and the whole thing was intended to capture Discovery. Tyler is, at this point, cooperative and as contrite as can be. As such, he gets to leave Sick Bay and is not confined to quarters, but he does get a monitoring bracelet.
A Federation signature approaches in battle-ready status and boards immediately. The boarding party consists of a squad so heavily-armed and efficient that I have qualms about calling them Starfleet. The delegation is led by Cornwell and Sarek, and they are ready to take out Lorca. Cornwell has an admiralty override, and Sarek’s role in this is in direct reflection to Rebel Sarek’s role in the mirror universe. There he was the only sure way to verify intentions and create trust – here he’s sacrificing trust for sure information, because this is War.
That said, the suspense-line that takes us into the credits is a bit Voyager-y as Sarek draws out the reveal of something we, the audience, already know perfectly well.
Cornwell apparently has license to fire of phasers cathartically in a briefing room to disintigrate Lorca’s bowl of fortune cookies while bringing us all up to speed. Discovery did indeed swap with the Terran discovery, which was then destroyed. Now that Discovery is back they can at least neutralize the cloak, but there’s a lot of ground to make up – the Klingons have been using world-killing weapons, suicide attacks on starbases using antimatter disruption. And the worst part is that the Klingons aren’t even coordinating – they’re just competing with each other for Federation-killing points.
Just like the Empress, Cornwell intends to classify inter-universe travel. In an ultimate irony, that decision is going to leave Kirk in the lurch in a few years and may have helped the Defiant escape its fate, thus precipitating this entire problem. The decision here is to make sure that Federation citizens don’t try to find the counterparts of their loved ones. And now the litany of bad news concludes with a meeting between Cornwell and Georgiou.
Cornwell offers assurances that if they can find a way to send her home after the war, they will. One wonders whether the Empress will ever forgive Georgiou for saving her life.
Stamets has a face-to-face with Tyler, and Tyler also has one of those nobody-wants-to-sit-with-you-at-lunch moments until Cadet Killy helps him out, joined by some others. It’s a real Federation healing moment, and we can only hope that it will be borne out and not betrayed by some damn fine acting on L’Rell’s part.
Discovery is trying to come home, but Starbase 1 doesn’t respond, because it’s not there. It’s been taken by House D’Gor and painted with their crest. And there’s a good chance that they killed the 80,000 Federation citizens that used to live there. Discovery has to flee, and Cornwell is basically shut down.
L’Rell is still hanging around, and Cornwell goes to see her and give her a status update. The Klingons winning is notexactly according to T’Kuvma’s original plan. That said, she’s not exactly weeping that a disunified Klingon confederation is wiping out what her leader saw as an existential threat to the Klingon culture. One suspects that Cornwell wanted any possible way to negotiate with the Klingons, but what she got was assurance that the only way this ends is with the Klingons crippled or the Federation exterminated. Pro tip – never tell your enemy to engage Total War mode, even if you think you can’t lose. You can always lose especially if they’re nerds that just traveled to an alternate dimension.
Georgiou has figured out that Burnham has the same connection to Sarek that Mirror!Burnham had to Georgiou, and since fate is the same-but-different between universes, Georgiou might have some keen insight into defeating the Klingons. Indeed she does – wipe out Quo’nos. This runs counter to standard human doctrine of pushing slowly back, leaving the prey somewhere to run to, and their biggest assets to save by surrendering. It is, in fact, much more analagous to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though Cornwell outlines an attack on military targets only. It’s a direct attack made possibly by the methods of engagement being used and meant to deal with an enemy that has shown no evidence of caring about mounting casualties over time. Starfleet is currently massing in defense of Earth, and quirks of Quo’nos prevent it from being scanned before Discovery gets shot out of the sky.
Fortunately, the geology is probably the same between universes and Quo’nos has large pockets of empty geological space in the form of dormant volcanoes. And the Mycelial network can help error-correct since it connects to life, or space, or something. If only they had the spores to do it. They’ll have to regrow them, but Stamets has an Idea.
The original sample may be enough to seed a planet that’s ideally suited to it flourishing – or they were keeping the site of their original harvest secret. Meanwhile, Sarek and Georgiou fight over Burnham’s true loyalty. Typically this ends when someone sneaks bacon into their pocket, but I don’t think that’s going to help Georgiou this time. In fact, Georgiou wants to tell Sarek the secret to ending the war – it’s not by restricting their attack on Quo’nos to military targets. The Klingons will regroup from the initial attack, but Georgiou has the secret and all she wants is freedom. It seems to convince Sarek, whatever it is, since he leaves to go consider ‘evolving details’ of the plan on Vulcan. He leaves Burnham with some remarkably sound advice on matters of the heart, for a Vulcan.
Burnham and Tilly also have a very informative exchange about the expectations of signing up for Starfleet. Burnham signed on after her whole family was killed by Klingons and the Vulcans wouldn’t let her join the Science Academy. Tilly signed on to starfleet never actually picturing it having to be used in war, and was brought into the reality of it exceptionally quickly – recall that she’s a cadet and Burnham joined the Discovery six months after the Battle of the Binaries. It’s worth bearing in mind that even a pre-war Federation had its problems, one of which is a populous who is necessarily insulated from the vast and shapeless forces shaping the internal policies of neighboring xenophobic empires. If you think Americans are out of touch with the internal politics of, say, North Korea or Daesh, try imagining the average Federation citizen on earth trying to stay informed on Klingon or Tholian movements. The Great Bird of the Galaxy does not, in fact, have tweets. Tilly is, in this situation, trying to convince Burnham to stop giving Tyler the cold shoulder – because however he’s treated is what he’ll become – that’s the lesson of the Mirror Universe.
Discovery has made it to the mycelium moon and prepares to shoot spores at it. Dozens of spore transport pods rain down on the surface, using propellors and thrusters to slow their descent. The pods fire spores into the planet and create a terraforming field that quickly establishes a root structure, which is then irradiated with electromagnetic energy. All of this grows a fungal forest in mere moments, which grows to maturity and starts sporing immediately.
What Burnahm seems to be the most upset about is that Tyler promised he’d come to her if the trauma and urges got to be too overwhelming, and she believes there was still enough Tyler in control to have warned her before Voq took over. In fact, he thinks the only reason the Voq personality didn’t eradicate Tyler is because he fell in love with Burnham.
Sarek gives Cornwell the go-ahead for the plan, once it’s confirmed they have the spores to harvest. Cornwell’s inspiring speech references Captain Archer and the crew of the NX-01 100 years prior being the last humans to visit Quo’nos. And the person charting the course will be Captain Phillipa Georgiou, who’s being passed off as a long-lost prisoner recently recovered from a Klingon prison transport. Cornwell is in on the Updated Plan. Does it seem glaringly obvious to anyone else that Burnham is going to betray Georgiou again as part of her redemption arc? Because I kind of feel like it should be.