Latest Star Trek: Discovery Episode Introduces Su’Kal And Doug Jones
One reason to be excited about Star Trek: Discovery is that Doug Jones is a series regular, portraying kelpian captain Saru. Chances are, you’ve seen more than one thing Jones appeared in, but you wouldn’t know his face from it. When Jones appears, whether its in Guillermo Del Toro films or the first iteration of the Hellboy film franchise, he’s often covered head-to-toe in an elaborate costume. Well, the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, Su’Kal, gives Doug Jones a chance to act with his actual human face. What’s even better about this decision is that it shows how much of the performance of Saru is the actor versus how he looks. From the first moment to the last, Jones is Saru, and watching him do it sans makeup made almost no difference at all.
The episode itself is the first part of the answer to season 3’s biggest question. What caused the Big Burn that destroyed nearly all the dilithium in the galaxy? It’s the first step in a multi-part answer, and one that could change the status quo (again) for the show. Of course, the other looming threat in the season also rears its fearsome head. In fact, facing down fearsome challenges is something of a theme in this episode.
The crew of the Discovery is a unique ship in the Starfleet of the far Star Trek future. With its spore drive, which allows it to essentially teleport anywhere in the galaxy (or further), it can travel where other ships can’t. Without the fuel for the warp drive that defines the universe, the galaxy has become a larger, scarier place. Naturally, this makes Discovery a target for those seeking to sit atop the power structure of this new galaxy.
Spoilers to follow.
The Emerald Chain Makes Its Move
Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive
While Doug Jones was the star of this episode of Star Trek: Discovery, the highest stakes sit with Mary Wiseman’s Ensign Tilly. Thanks to the actions of Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham, Tilly finds herself in the role of acting captain. Earlier this season, Burnham took command of Discovery and proved she belonged there. However, she’s still Michael Burnham, so she found herself on the outs with Captain Saru. Thus, trustworthy Tilly became the acting First Officer and then the acting Captain. However, when the Emerald Chain attacks, there is little that Saru could have done differently. (Burnham might have figured something out, though.) As the episode ends, she’s lost the ship to Janet Kidder’s Osyraa.
Osyraa is interesting because traditionally, the green-skinned Orion race is typically sexualized. From Kirk’s (from all universes) fascination with them to the humanoid flesh markets in Enterprise, we rarely see Orions in roles like this. Osyraa is in charge and fearsome, and adding Discovery’s spore drive to her collection would make her the de facto ruler of the known galaxy. Yet, there is a bigger prize that she did not discover. The answer to the Big Burn question involves the titular Su’Kal and a planet effectively made of dilithium.
Star Trek: Discovery has a habit of changing up the status quo at the end of each season. If this trend continues, a limited supply of dilithium could open up the galaxy again. Perhaps they will be able to crack the mystery of the spore drive so that more ships can have that capability. Honestly, of all the praise this season deserves, the notion that the scientists of the 32nd Century can’t figure out how it works stretches belief. Either way, I suspect that we’re not headed immediately to the big starship battle we’re expecting.
The Future of Star Trek: Discovery, in…uh…the Future
Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive
As I mentioned in my review of the season three premiere, this season seems to be all about the aspirational quality of the Federation. In 3189, the galaxy is a fairly hopeless place. There is still amazing technology, but the citizens of the Milky Way are further apart than ever before. At least, before first contact, they didn’t know they weren’t alone in the universe. So, my money is on the resolution of this season involving a way to reopen the galaxy. This will either be through the mining of that dilithium planet, spreading around the spore drive, both, or something else. The answer lies with Osyraa, because for all the facing of fear going on in this episode, we don’t know yet what frightens her.
The Away Team, consisting of Saru, Burnham, and Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Culber, materializes into a very elaborate holo-program. A survivor on the ship that appears to responsible for the Big Burn has no knowledge of the outside world. Thus, the computer running the simulation changed the appearance of the Away Team. This is how Star Trek: Discovery gave us most of an episode with Saru looking like a human Doug Jones. A fellow kelpian, Su’Kal, somehow survived more than a century in this strange hellscape, and the crew doesn’t know how to save him.
What’s even more exciting is that it’s still not clear how the Emerald Chain and this storyline will intersect. It’s also not clear if Discovery is done jumping around in time or dimensions. Still, there feels like there’s a lot more story left to be told in the 32nd Century.
Star Trek: Discovery debuts on CBS All Access at 9 am PST on Thursdays.
What did you think of the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery Su’Kal, and did you like seeing Doug Jones in the flesh? Share your thoughts, reactions, and reviews below.
Featured image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.