Star Trek #1654: Face the Strange

CAPTAIN'S LOG: A booby trap makes Burnham and Rayner jump around in time.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Move over, Booker! Now Rayner is the co-star!

WHY WE DON'T: Déjà Vu-yager.

REVIEW: At the top of the show, we get more information on Moll and L'ak with all the talk of a bounty on their heads, and we're supposed to be feel some empathy for their situation, but it's nothing that sounds too surprise (at least, not yet), and they're still plenty ruthless. They just bought a "time bug" and in a neat transition, the thing gets off Adira's uniform and starts crawling around Discovery. We're led to believe it's just spying on the crew to get to the next clue, but it's really about to cause a time anomaly. The episode remains satisfyingly cagey about what's causing the time jumps through the first Act, but Burnham and Rayner will be hopping around Discovery's history through the episode, admittedly a twist on a trick used a couple times on Voyager (in Shattered especially), but with Rayner as one of the mains, it could still be good, right?

It is, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the hoary contrivance that gets them in this position. The two of them teleport to Burnham's ready room and back (it's on the return trip they get caught in the loops) even though it's only a few feet away?! It feels wrong on the first go, and when you realize it's how the plot is put into action, it's both wrong AND dumb. Couldn't they have had the first scene take place somewhere below decks so that a jump to the top deck made sense? Or have them walk on the first trip, then be called to engineering at which point there transport gets intercepted? But for a premise that requires attention to detail - to get each era right - this is an episode that often fails on that metric. For example, Past Burnham mentioning her future self's "pips" when neither era's uniforms have pips ("stripes" is what she should have said). Or having Burnham send Rayner to Culber for medical treatment at the end when he's really more of a councillor now, and Pollard should have been named. And there are just way too many people who don't notice the future uniforms, like the workman in drydock and Linus. At least they remembered Stamets' powers and though not physically time-travelling like the others, he always remembers the true timeline and becomes an invaluable ally.

That said, I do like that Rayner gets to learn THE lesson of the show - that personal connections can be useful and that Discovery is the better for its crew's closeness. He hopefully eat crow for the last time, and he and Burnham made a fine team, and he even reached out to Stamets at the end. He feels integrated into the crew now. And there are many high points in the tour of the ship's history... Action Reno mocking the Emerald Chain's very punchable helmets. Burnham having to fight her mutineer-era self. How she tells Booker she loves him as if it were still true (and making us think it may well be). Stamets trading on how irate he used to be in the old days to get time alone in engineering. The mention of the Krenim (from Year of Hell) as the originators of the time bug. The low point, however, has to be the whole Airiam thing. That somehow, telling her that she would die in a year does the trick where none of the personal info shared does. I don't understand how it convinces her or the rest of the early-series crew. Not unless she's already infected with a computer virus (she isn't), checks and realizes it's all true. A moment with Tilly might have worked better here, I don't know.

And of course, what's MISSING is as bothersome as what they got wrong. Production limits likely prevented an appearance by Georgiou or Lorca, but also by Aldis Hodge's character from Short Treks, Craft. There's a moment where we THINK we're in the future where Zora is left alone for centuries - a longstanding mystery that may or may not get an answer by the end of the season (sure to drive me nuts) - but we're actually only 30 years along in an alternate future where the Breen got their hands on the Progenitor tech (they HAVE been mentioned repeatedly this season) and destroyed the Federation. The scene is used to give the larger arc some clearer stakes, and foreshadow the revelations coming in the next episode. But dang, I really wanted to see Craft's era again.

LESSON: Be careful not to go backwards and forwards to the well too often.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Rayner being such a big part of this tour of the past is great, but the episode kind of signs checks it can't cash.