Star Trek: Discovery ‘The Sanctuary’ Finds Itself In A Battle For Book’s Home Planet
Easily the best new character on this season of Star Trek: Discovery is David Ajala’s Cleveland Booker. He was the first person Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham met in the future. Sure, they started out in a rough place, but their relationship evolved pretty much along the lines that everyone suspected it would. As the Discovery finds its place in the future Federation, Burnham finds herself pulled in two different directions. She still wants to be in Starfleet, but she grew comfortable living her life with Book. In the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery, both converge as the crew must head to Book’s home planet, a world called Kwejian.
The DNA of this episode is pure Star Trek. The ship and crew goes to a threatened planet who need our heroes to defeat the villain. In that respect, this is very much like episodes of previous series. Yet, the interesting dynamic at play in Star Trek: Discovery this season, means that the Federation doesn’t carry the weight it once did, especially on Book’s home planet. This change in dynamic adds to the tension at play. Of course, there is how the villains react to the Discovery itself. Even more interesting though is how it changes the loyalties of the people they are trying to help. A number of characters reveal their beliefs about what the Federation really is, and it shows that the group’s reputation has taken a huge hit in the century since the “Big Burn” wiped out all warp travel.
What also makes The Sanctuary a great episode of Star Trek is the way they weave their larger narratives into the episode. All three narratives in the episode are serial stories. Yet, this episode has a self-contained feel.
Spoilers to follow.
Michael Burnham’s Home: Is It With Discovery or On Book’s Home Planet?
Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive
The episode begins with our “B” story, namely the medical problems of Phillipa Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh. The former Emperor of the Terran Empire-turned-Starfleet tag-along experiences these episodes, fixating on a tragic memory. We don’t make much progress in this narrative, other than Georgiou is resistant to help. Yet, Georgiou is important in this episode strictly because of her connection to Michael. The people that Michael cares about on Discovery are what ties her to serving in Starfleet, but the year she spent living and adventuring with Book makes her yearn for another way of life. (And that she answers only to herself in the latter scenario surely doesn’t hurt.)
In the previous week’s episode, Burnham seemed to make the decision to stay with Starfleet. In this episode, we see Book decide to stay as well, at least as long as Michael is there. When he receives an emergency communication from his adoptive brother, Book appeals to Dough Jones’ Captain Saru. Surprisingly, the diminished Starfleet agrees to help, but demands that Discovery serve only as observers. Yet, the villain Osyraa, mentioned before but introduced in The Sanctuary, played by Janet Kidder, is not at all intimidated by Discovery.
The resolution of the conflict in this episode is very action oriented. Also, this is surely not the last we’ll see of Osyraa. However, the crew members of Discovery followed regulations (in that way Star Trek characters don’t actually follow them) and saved Book’s home planet. It also proved to be the thing that convinced Cleveland Booker to officially join up with Starfleet, or at least the crew of the Discovery.
Stamets and Adira Have a Sweet ‘C’ Story
Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive
We were surprised to hear the characters using “she” and “her” pronouns for Blu del Barrio’s Adira character. Del Barrio themself is non-binary, and we reported that their character would be, too. Thus, in The Sanctuary, we got what might be one of the nicest gender/pronoun-focused scenes since Dale Cooper immediately accepted Denise Bryson in Twin Peaks. When Adira confronts Anthony Rapp’s Lt. Cmdr. Paul Stamets about their pronouns, the character is clearly frustrated. Stamets, however, smile and simply says “okay.”
The rest of their story focuses on how Adira bonded with a Trill symbiont, allowing them to access the memories and, in a sense, “talk” to others the symbiont bonded with. The most troubling of these interactions is with their deceased boyfriend, Gray Tal (played by trans actor Ian Alexander). So, Adira being a non-binary character is not the only first, it seems. This is the first time we get to experience what it is like for those bonded with Trill inside their heads. This is a much better relationship for both Stamets and the audience than his previous bestie, Tig Notaro’s Jett Reno. Notaro, the producers, or both decided to play Reno as rude, but this doesn’t come off as charming as the storytellers think it does.
Also, briefly mentioned, the crew discovers both the source of the Big Burn and a new mystery. Initially perceived as a musical melody, the source is actually a Starfleet distress signal distorted by the gravity of a neutron star. What’s at the center of that disturbance is surely our big mystery for the final couple of episodes.
What did you think of the latest Star Trek: Discovery? Share your thoughts, reactions, and reviews in the comments 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.