Star Trek #1653: Jinaal

CAPTAIN'S LOG: A Trill host possesses Culber to lead Burnham to the third clue. Rayner becomes Burnham's XO.


WHY WE DON'T: They never figured out what to do with Gray, did they?

REVIEW: Star Trek Discovery has always been the touchy-feely Star Trek - even more than TNG in its day - and this episode's theme of connecting and exploring different types of relationships can be found in every plot and subplot. My favorite, of course, is Rayner's first day aboard and being ordered to get to know the crew. He's the least touchy-feely officer in Starfleet since Captain Jellico! That makes for good comedy - 5 minute interviews turning into 20-word introductions - a smattering of character building for the show's lower decks, and finally, a lesson from Teacher Tilly that's actually quite affecting. Rayner is too impatient for this stuff, but you can tell he's trying, in his way, and did retain something from each conversation. But then the pendulum swings the other way with Tilly's "analyzing them isn't the same as knowing them", and I think we come off respecting both characters more. She's really grown up, but Rayner needs to grow OUT. He eats some crow here, but though stubborn, is shown to be able to do so and learn from his mistakes. The only reason people aren't talking about him the same way they did Shaw on Picard is that Discovery isn't as popular a show, I tell ya!

The A-plot, however, has Burnham and Booker following the clues to Trill, where a specific host from 800 years ago turns out to be one of the scientists who crafted the treasure hunt. Through the magic of the zhian'tara (and so we might call this the part of the World Tour that leans into Deep Space Nine lore), Culber is possessed by the host in question - the boring title's Jinaal - who brings them to a cloaking monster's nest for the next piece of the MacGuffin. It's a fun part to play for Wilson Cruz, though not that far from Culber's usual persona. And through him, we start to understand the ethical nature of the puzzle. To be found "worthy" of the Progenitors' technology (which may well mean one destroys it, in the end), one must be smart (the clues), but also hold life in high esteem. So here, super-anthropologist Michael Burnham (and you know I like that aspect of her) has to navigate animal behavior to get at the clue. Jinaal enjoys Culber's fit body, but also trolling Burnham and her "Associate", and the puzzle piece was never near the creatures, of course. This was an ethical dilemma and they passed. What the scientists never counted on, it seems, is people like Moll and L'ak cheating and stealing clues away from those who are worthy.

Speaking of being worthy (or not, as the case may be), Gray really does Adira dirty in this one. He's of course on Trill, and because he's a character we know, he's probably given more to do and say in these ceremonies than a trainee normally might. And that's fine. But after six months in a long distance relationship, Adira is feeling very apprehensive (Reno called it!) about her visit, and Gray really manipulates them into an amiable break-up (or, "the slaughterhouse", as Reno puts it). Adira is ready to put in for a transfer to Trill, but Gray says they wouldn't ask them to do that. Oh, but they can't CHOOSE that?! He mentions different kinds of relationships. He's the one who asks "are we breaking up?" when Adira said nothing of the sort, and forces them to agree that perhaps they are. They're just following his lead. And having put those words in Adira's mouth, he says "you're right, this is the right thing". It makes me hate Gray, but this may be one of the most realistic break-up scenes I've seen on television. Adira is completely sand-bagged, and sort of clutching on to the dregs of the relationship when they hold hands with Gray at the host's funeral. I do question whether we needed closure on this relationship, though. Unless Adira acts (or acts out) in later episodes, I probably could have done without a take down of a character the show never had a handle on. I think both were more interesting when they were "joined", actually. But Adira has to stick around so Moll can put a bug on her, setting up the next episode.

Meanwhile, the show hasn't said goodbye to Saru who is ALSO in a demure relationship, albeit one that acts as a contrast to Adira-Gray. President T'Rina is quick to call Saru out on his bull, and quick to forgive. She's absolutely honest, as you would expect a Vulcan to be. The big problem in the relationship is a political one. It might prove unpopular for her to announce her engagement to a non-Vulcan, and her aide tries to sway Saru into a romantic sacrifice. I'd rather be more wary of the conflict of interest they've created for themselves, serving on the Federation council and often voting in the same way (because they share the same values, surely). So as you can see, we do have different takes on connection (symbionts, lovers, colleagues, empathy), which works within the larger framework too, since all humanoids are connected through their Progenitor origins.

LESSON: Connection isn't a skill set, it's a choice.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Cheered at the Rayner stuff, jeered at the Gray stuff... The rest of the episode falls into the solid middle.