Ever since Section 31’s AI-driven computer system “Control” was introduced a few weeks ago, I’ve had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I haven’t really addressed it in my reviews until now, as it was both far-fetched and kind of depressing, but now I have no choice. I’ve got a very bad feeling about where this plotline is going. But first: let’s discuss the main plot of this week’s episode.
This week’s A-story concerns one thing: the fate of Dr. Gabrielle Burnham, aka the Red Angel - who may hold the key to stopping Control’s destructive quest, and who’s being sucked out of the show’s timeline by time itself. Dr. Burnham wants only to be released, so she can keep trying to stop Control, while Captain Pike and the crew want to stop Control in the here and now, rescuing the good Doctor from her time prison in the process. And of course, her daughter Michael has a few things to say as well.
Sonja Sohn may not be around any longer on the show, but if this was her sole episode, she fucking nailed it. Her world-weary, no-bullshit attitude is note-perfect when you consider the number of times she’s witnessed the death of all sentient life (let along her own daughter). Imploring Pike to delete the sphere’s data before Control can access it, she exudes a compelling mixture of desperation and exasperation; you get the sense that across her various time escapades, she’s done this many times before.
Naturally, Gabrielle Burnham’s relationship with her daughter is fleshed out significantly in this episode. We get a revealing flashback, featuring a very dorky-cool, science-obsessed young Michael being hidden away while her mother uses her time-travel suit to attempt to fight Klingons (only to get flung hundreds of years through time). More affecting are the Red Angel suit’s logs, numbering in the hundreds, through which Michael observes her mother talking through both her life-saving mission and her emotional journey. It’s extremely sad, hearing this woman speak of repeatedly failing to save the galaxy, seemingly doomed to keep travelling through time to correct mistake after mistake - and crucially, keeping an eye on her daughter to remind her of why she’s even doing it.
Unfortunately, the sphere data can’t be deleted, as it’s seemingly hard-coded to protect itself from deletion. So the crew decides on a risky gambit to shoot the data, inside the Red Angel suit, into an infinite time loop, while keeping Gabrielle in the current timeline via technobabble. This is quite a divisive plan, which means we get a pair of strong emotional conversations - between Gabrielle and her daughter, and Gabrielle and Georgiou. Again, Sohn knocks it out of the park, expressing love and admiration for the two women and their sacrifices, and also expressing a near-total lack of hope. Demystifying and deromanticising time, she reveals that she’s watched her daughter die countless times. It’s a little pocket tragedy, all taking place within a tiny containment field.
Discovery’s data-ejection plan doesn’t go so well, as Section 31 begins siphoning off the transfer. And at this point, we need to talk about Control.
At the end of last week’s episode, Section 31 Captain Leland was stabbed in the eye by his own ship’s computer system, and it wasn’t clear what was going on exactly. But this week, Control interrogates Leland via hologram, explaining that it intends to use his body as a fleshy vessel through which to enact its dirty deeds. Speaking of their shared “evolution,” it injects Leland full of nanites, which proceed to spread throughout his body, creating a spider-webby texture across his skin that continues glitching in and out through the episode. At one point, it appears that mechanical bits are poking through his skin. And thus, the episode does nothing to calm my fear that this plotline is moving towards a Borg origin story.
Control even fucking says “Struggle is pointless,” which is two thesaurus entries away from “resistance is futile.” Come on.
I’m not opposed to Section 31 being responsible for the creation of the Borg. It’s the kind of universe-shrinking development that prequels pull so frequently, but it would certainly tell a pretty strong story about the ethics of unchecked military development. Canonically, it opens up a giant fucking can of worms with regard to both the Borg’s development in the Delta Quadrant and what must be the mother of all Starfleet coverups, but I’m honestly kinda okay with that too if they pull it off right. It’s just that the Borg are way too overexposed in the franchise already, and while making them into the Federation’s ultimate closet-skeleton is an interesting concept, it’s also yet another demystification of Star Trek’s most terrifying enemy. We’ll see if this is in fact where they’re going in the coming weeks - but given everything we saw this week, it seems pretty clear.
Back to the plot: luckily, Georgiou and Ash both grow somewhat suspicious of Leland’s newfound thirst for the sphere data and hatred of Dr. Burnham, and each one fights their commanding officer in turn. Neither wins: Ash gets stabbed in his hybrid gut, while Georgiou is forced to abandon the fairly decent fight she puts up in order to escape being blown up. Everyone knows something’s wrong with Leland; Georgiou is pretty sure Control is behind it, tipped off by his reference to “the larger mission.”
As for the various characters’ fates: Dr. Burnham doesn’t have that hopeful an exit from the episode, being sucked through a time vortex alongside - but not within - her time-travel suit. Leland escapes back onto his ship. Ash escapes that ship in an escape pod. Seemingly everyone is wounded in some way, and Discovery fires an obscene number of photo torpedoes at the research facility that played host to much of the episode’s action. We’ve got a fairly clear idea of where we’re headed now. Shit is going to go down with Leland, and I’m dreading it. Just dreading it.
There are now three more episodes to go in this season. The Red Angel is seemingly gone, and though it’s entirely possible she could return, it’s Discovery against Control now. Will 54% of the sphere data be enough for Control to gain its sentience? How hard will it fight (including coordinating multiple ships against Discovery, apparently, almost like a hive mind) to gain that sentience? How will L’Rell and Voq’s baby, now on the sacred Klingon planet Boreth, factor into all this? And if Gabrielle doesn’t know what the seven signals are all about, well...what ARE they all about?
- Discovery keeps setting itself up to retcon itself out of existence: now, with the stated intent of erasing all the knowledge gained from the sphere.
- “I could say more about your future, but...you won’t like it.” Nope, Christopher Pike would not like it at all. Beep, beep.
- There’s a Discovery officer in a wheelchair! Makes you wonder what it would’ve been like had Melora Pazlar become a DS9 series regular, like she was intended to.
- “I like science,” says Spock, stating the obvious.
- Leland is possessed by a non-corporeal evil in this episode. Almost like another famous TV Leland.
- Is Georgiou the first character to refer to the Prime universe as the Prime universe, in-universe? (In case anyone had delusions to the contrary: despite the visual similarities, this is not JJ Abrams’ Star Trek universe.)
- There’s no way they won’t use the Red Angel suit to vanish Borg-Leland away to the Delta Quadrant of the past. Hell, they could burn the spore drive out at the same time and kill a few canon birds with one stone. Thanks, I hate it.