“Welcome to the Tower of Babel.” Captain Christopher Pike
Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) meets his first officer on the USS Enterprise, Number One (Rebecca Romijn) in the transporter room. She gives him an update on the Enterprise’s repairs. Their chief engineer says the holographic system is the cause. Capt. Pike: “Tell Louvier rip out the whole comm system, from now on we’ll communicate using good, old-fashioned view screens. Truth is I never liked the holograms. They look too much like ghost.” When they get to the mess hall they discuss the real reason Number One is here. She has been looking into the matter herself. Number One can’t believe Spock killed three doctors. The crew aboard the Enterprise doesn’t know the details, but they are concerned for him. Starfleet’s investigation is classified as Level One, which is unusual. Number One: “Something about this investigation isn’t adding up. I’m not letting him go without a fight.” As she eats her hamburger, she slides her computer tablet to Pike. He wishes he could stay longer but he has to go.
In Paul Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) lab, he and Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) are looking at the blob formerly known as May. Stamets is amazed that the mycelial network contains life, and that May is a sentient being. Tilly thinks about the real May she knew, and feels guilty that she wasn’t nicer to her. Stamets thinks she is being too hard on herself.
Some of the bridge crew, Lt. Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts), Lt. Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), Lt. Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) along with Commander Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) from the Enterprise, Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) and Commander Saru (Doug Jones) discuss the blob and Spock in the ready room. Saru is suffering from a bad cold. Linus remarks, “I had a cold last week, which sucked.” He has six sinuses; everyone understands. Pike discusses Spock to Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) alone. Number One brought the warp signature of the shuttle Spock stole when he escaped from the psychiatric hospital. Capt. Pike: “Number One is very resourceful. People have a tendency to end up owing her favors.” He plans on following the warp signature to catch up with Spock. Burnham requests she not be involved. After talking to Amanda, she feels she might do more harm than good. Burnham: “He is lost captain. You are better suited to help him.” Pike doesn’t agree with her assessment, but either way, they are going after Spock. They walk onto the bridge, Pike tells Saru he looks like hell and he should go and get some rest. After he leaves the bridge, Pike orders Detmer to warp out, but then something grabs them out of warp. The bridge crew tries to determine what happened. The ship is being held in place. Pike: “Like a damn fly in the web.” Burnham looks through her view screener, “And there is the spider.” A huge fiery sphere has them.
The bridge crew determines that the sphere is made up of living and inorganic material. Linus says the sphere is ancient, at least 100,000 years old. It has pulled them into a multi phasic stasis field. The sphere is vibrating at a high frequency. Suddenly everyone on the bridge is speaking a different language. Burnham is speaking Klingon, while you can hear different Earth languages. The sphere has infected the computer with a virus and the universal translator isn’t working. Saru is called back to the bridge because he can speak 94 languages. Pike greets him in Hebrew, “Welcome to the Tower of Babel.” Saru gets to work and asks, “Am I the only one who bothered to learn a foreign language.” He can detect ultraviolet light from the sphere that human eyes can’t detect. Pike sends a message to Stamets in engineering, they might be forced to jump, so be prepared.
“Weird dream, I was playing drums for Prince, and there were doves and berets.” Jett Reno
The universal translator appears in working order in engineering because Tilly and Stamets are speaking English. Commander Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) appears, Discovery’s chief engineer [Whoever that is] sends her to help. She and Stamets immediately get into it. She insults the spore drive, “I’m a gearhead, not a farmer.” Reno is more comfortable with running the ships on dilithium. Stamets reminds her how in the past Earth ran on fossil fuels before we began using solar. He mocks her for wanting to stick to the old ways. Jett Reno: “I am uninsultable, especially by a guy that thinks he can run a ship on mushrooms that I pick off my pizza.” Stamets: “Spores are clean; they’re renewable” Jett Reno: “Do they come with house dressing?” Stamets: “Do you have any idea how many planets have been ruined by dilithium mining? How battles were fought to corner its supply? Of course you don’t, you’re one of those people who never think about that.” The electricity is surging through engineering, the conduits overload, to keep the electricity from frying them, they use gas to direct the electricity out. The three receive an electric shock and pass out for a moment. When Stamets gets up, he checks on Reno. Jett Reno: “Weird dream, I was playing drums for Prince, and there were doves and berets.” They realize the electrical surge freed the blob from containment. Looking from the viewpoint of the blob we see Tilly, the blob attaches itself to her arm.
On the bridge it is clear that Saru is suffering from more than just a cold. Burnham and Pike help him to sickbay. Dr. Tracy Pollard (Raven Dauda) examines him. Saru is impatient because he wants to get back to saving the ship. Finally he tells them what is wrong with him. The sphere’s vibrations triggered a biological process called the Vaharai. It happens before Kelpiens are culled by the predator race on Kaminar, the Ba’ul. If they don’t die, they will suffer from fearful hysteria. His people call this the Great Balance of Kaminar; it is terminal. Saru: “I am a slave to my biology.” Burnham is shocked and distressed by the news.
Now the comms are down in engineering, so they can’t get in contact with the bridge. They’ve placed Tilly in a containment chamber. The blob is sedating Tilly, Stamets and Reno and wonder if it is to keep her calm or to prevent her from fighting back. Meanwhile, Saru and Burnham are trying to figure out what the sphere wants. Its virus is taking Discovery down. Burnham: “It is not logical for a virus to kill its host.” Dr. Pollard: “You are attaching a known medical diagnosis to an unknown entity.” Saru thinks maybe they can use some type of digital antibody against the virus. Burnham is going to a lab to work on it, Saru is going with her, against Doctor’s orders. Once in the lab Burnham asks him why he didn’t tell her about this earlier. Saru: “How do I explain to the woman who has fought over and over for the right to take her next breath that I come from a race that submits?” Burnham: “I’m your friend. There will never be judgment between us.” Saru: “Well to my shame…hiding is my nature.” He makes a request, since he left Kaminar and joined Star Fleet he has kept a detailed journal of his experiences. He would like her to make sure that once General Order 1 is lifted off Kaminar, that his journal be shared with his people so they’ll know what they can accomplish. She promises she will.
“The Sphere has been trying to tell us something and we have not been listening.” Michael Burnham
Since they can’t get in contact with engineering, Burnham heads down there. The electrical surge also locked them in. Stamets tells her what has happened to Tilly and that they are trying to communicate with the blob. Burnham realizes the sphere is trying to communicate with them. She runs back to the lab to discuss this with Saru. Burnham: “The Sphere has been trying to tell us something and we have not been listening.” Saru realizes his threat ganglia had picked up on the sphere before all of this began. His people are sensitive to death. Saru: “Not first contact Burnham. Last contact. I think it came to us to die.”
Captain Pike is ready to fire proton bombs at the sphere to break loose. Burnham and Saru show up just before he gives the orders. Saru tells him the sphere is trying to communicate with them, it is trying to share the information it has gathered the past 100,000 years with them, so that it will be remembered. He accidently reveals he’s dying to the bridge crew in explaining the sphere’s actions. The virus wasn’t sent to disable the ship, but to communicate to them. Pike isn’t sure about this, but Burnham convinces him Saru is right. Discovery is a science vessel and this is its purpose. He agrees, but they’ll have to lower their shields to get the sphere’s info.
Stamets and Reno determine they are going to have to drill a hole in Tilly’s head to place an implant so that Stamets can communicate with the blob directly. To keep Tilly calm, Stamets asks her what her favorite song is and he joins Tilly in singing a David Bowie song. Once they finish putting the implant in her head, the voice of May (Bahia Watson) comes out of Tilly’s mouth. May tells them it is from a species in the mycelial network called the Jah Sepp. An invader came into the network destroying the mycelial ecosystem. Stamets thinks May is there to ask for their help. No, May informs him he is the invader, every time he used the spore drive and made his jumps, it messed up their ecosystem. She hitched a ride with Tilly to stop him. Stamets sincerely apologizes and says he’ll do what he can to repair the damage, but she needs to let Tilly go. May tells him she won’t, she has plans for Tilly and creates a cocoon around her.
Pike orders the shields lowered, the ship starts receiving the sphere’s information. The sphere is getting hotter internally, it is going to explode. Pike is prepared to expel the warp drive and ride out the explosion to safety. Before they can expel the warp drive the sphere explodes but they are pushed away from the explosion. The sphere reversed the polarity of the stasis field and pushed them out to safety. Burnham: “Its final act was to save us, so we can tell its story.” In engineering, Reno and Stamets saw Tilly out of the cocoon. Now Burnham helps Saru back to his quarters. The captain and the rest of the bridge crew stand in honor as he leaves.
Saru’s quarters are covered with plants from his planet. He had brought the seeds to remind him of home. Saru: “Somewhere along the way I lost who I was. So focused on being the best Kelpien in Starfleet. Defined by my rank and uniform…until that is all I became.” Burnham: “You are wrong. Look at what you achieved. You found yourself among the stars. You found your bravery. Your strength. You saved so many lives Saru. Including mine.” He asks her to use a knife he brought from home, [That belonged to his sister] which he now uses to prune his plants, to sever his ganglia before the pain gets unbearable. Burnham is crying and tells him she can’t do it, she asks is this inevitable. He said he would do it, but he’s in too much pain. Saru regrets asking her because he knows she has lost so many people already. This makes Burnham realize that they are family, and he admits she has become a sister to him. His biggest regret is leaving his sister behind. When he left Kaminar, Captain Georgiou asked him not to go back because of General Order 1. Now he asks Burnham to rebuild her bond with her brother Spock, just as they were able to rebuild their bond after her mutiny. She promises she will. Burnham grabs the knife to sever the ganglia but before she touches them, they fall off. He asks what happened and she tells him. Saru is surprised he is alive and they both laugh and cry.
“Fear has always been the governing principle of my life. But now…it is gone. More than that I feel power. My own power.” Saru
Dr. Pollard examines Saru and asks how he feels. Saru: “I have never felt this way before. Fear has always been the governing principle of my life. But now…it is gone. More than that I feel power. My own power.” He checks out fine, so she tells him he is fit for duty. Saru becomes sad, Burnham asks him why. He realizes that what they were taught about Vaharai was a lie. The way the Kelpiens order their society is wrong. He knows the truth but because of General Order 1, he can’t go home and tell his people.
Burnham sees Pike and gives him an update on the information they received from the sphere. It is massive, Federation scientist could be working on it for centuries. Pike calls it their ‘dead sea scrolls’. Burnham also delivers the good news that they didn’t lose Spock, the sphere had captured his warp drive and they can follow it. Pike tells her he’ll try to limit her involvement with Spock, but she tells the captain she has changed her mind. She wants to let her brother know she is there for him. Pike is pleased.
Tilly is free but she hears May’s voice and then sees her for a moment. Stamets and Reno try to assure her she is only being paranoid. The husk of the cocoon emits psilocybin to drug Reno and Stamets. The two senior officers are tripping. Stamets injects him and Reno with impedizine to clear their heads. They prepare to inject Tilly when they notice she is gone. May has taken Tilly to the mycelial network.
Doug Jones talks about Saru and his new outlook on life.
Discovery is going to follow the warp signature of the ship Spock’s in. A mysterious, ancient sphere grabs the ship out of warp. It infects the ship with a virus that effects the universal translator and the computer. Soon it causes the ship to break down. It appears to be a hostile action against the ship, but Saru and Burnham figure out the sphere is trying to communicate with them. The sphere is dying and it wants to share all the information it has acquired over 100,000 years so that it isn’t forgotten. Before the sphere explodes it moves Discovery beyond the blast radius, saving the crew.
Because of the sphere’s vibrations, it sets off a biological condition for Kelpiens called Vaharai. Saru believes he is dying. He bravely continues working to save the ship. Saru figures out the sphere is dying and wants to share its information. Burnham and Saru share many tender moments as it appears he is heading towards death. His major regret was leaving his home planet and never being able to see his sister again because of General Order 1. During this ordeal they both realize that they had become family over the years. He asks Burnham to cut off his ganglia so he can avoid lapsing into fearful hysteria and dying painfully. Burnham is reluctant to do it, but before she can proceed his ganglia fall off. To his surprise he feels fine, the fear he has always lived with is gone and he feels his own power. Saru is saddened because he can’t go back to Kaminar to reveal the lie his people have lived under.
Because of the sphere an electrical surge in engineering causes the blob to get loose and attach itself to Tilly. Stamets and Jett Reno work together to free her. Stamets is forced to drill a hole in Tilly’s head so they can put an implant in her head so he can communicate with the blob. The voice of May comes out of Tilly’s mouth and it informs Stamets that because of his spore drive jumps, the mycelial ecosystem was destroyed. Stamets is shocked to learn that and promises to help fix the damage he caused, he only requests May let Tilly go. It won’t, instead it creates a cocoon around her. Reno and Stamets saw Tilly out of the cocoon, but May releases psilocybin in the air, drugging Stamets and Reno. After Stamets injects them with impedizine to clear their heads, they realize that May has pulled Tilly back into the cocoon and taken her to the mycelial network.
Most fans biggest complaint about Discovery was that it didn’t feel like Star Trek. Most of the type of stories fans grew to love about Star Trek, and the feeling the different series inspired, Discovery generally avoided. Instead of exploration, and positive, hopeful feelings, we were mostly left with a dark, grim, war story which showed the worst of humanity. You couldn’t decide who was worst, the Klingons or the Federation. Even the mirror universe Terran Empire wasn’t that different from the Discovery crew. Deep Space 9 had two seasons of war, and showed the darker side of humanity, but it also showed the heroic and decent part as well. This season they have made a concentrated effort to recapture what fans love about Star Trek, and I feel like they have done a good job. This episode fully displays the accumulation of their efforts. It shows the connection the crew has developed with each other, and the optimism and decency that we expect from Starfleet. The ship runs into an ancient alien entity that appears hostile, but they are able to communicate with it and discover something wonderful. Burnham and Saru discover how close they really are. Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones did a wonderful job conveying this. Last season, the show didn’t really develop their relationship, you felt they had a sibling rivalry but aside from a grudging respect for the other, it didn’t go any further. Ms. Martin-Green and Mr. Jones acting in this episode made their sibling relationship feel real. That is a credit to them. The episode was also humorous thanks to Tig Notaro and Anthony Rapp who make a fun comedy team. I hope we get more of them sparring against each other in future episodes. We finally met Number One, and though we only got one scene with Rebecca Romijn, I hope she comes back soon. The episode looked great as usual. They did a great job with the pacing and maintaining the tension. It all added up to a great episode, one that will shine in Star Trek canon.