This episode featured, in no particular order: the bitchiest engineer ever, a giant water bear (in spaaaace), some spectacularly bad decision making, introductions to new characters, very tentative Klingon romance, an awkward Last Will and Testament hologram, lots and lots of spores, a disgusting looking dinner I'm really glad we only got to see for a second, lots of women and people of color populating the ship (yay!), dubious science, and incredible visual effects that at a rumored 6–7 million per episode are clearly worth every penny.
In the true Star Trek (and X-Files) tradition, the name of the episode will eventually reveal its context and make you feel things. As an aside, the original series was known for its incredibly evocative episode titles such as "The City on the Edge of Forever," "All Our Yesterdays," "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," and "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky." This would come to be standard in all the Trek series. Seeing the title of episode 4 made me think of the franchise's long history.
The episode opens with Michael staring at her newly generated science uniform (I really hope NASA is working on clothing and food replicators) with clearly mixed feelings. New beginning…but not-so-much since everyone knows who she is and what she did. Saru is clearly unpleasantly surprised to not only see Michael still on the ship, but in a crewman’s uniform. Part of the theme of this episode is Michael settling into her new role, ship, and shipmates (yes, I know that last one sounds like a euphemism for sex. Are there any hints of sexy shenanigans ahead or am I a lazy writer? You'll have to watch and see).
You can see an easing of tension in this episode between Michael and Cadet Tilly (whose relationship I am very interested to see develop), Michael and Lt. Stamets, and Michael and Commander Landry. The audience also gets to see more of what sort of captain Lorca is (ends justify the means, emotionally manipulative, eater of gross foods, and talented tactician).
There is subtle but good character growth for Michael. We see her being softer than previously seen and sympathetic towards Ripper, the sort of ironically named Giant Water Bear (in spaaaace). In contrast, we also see some baffling character actions. Commander Landry dies after being mauled by Ripper but really by stupidity that poor Ripper cannot be blamed for. I get that security officers are often a hard-assed fiery bunch (Hello, Tasha Yar), but Landry's actions were just reckless and not what I would expect from someone who has reached the rank of Commander.
Untested science they barely understand gets tested when an admiral pops in to tell Lorca that the Klingons are attacking some miners at a dilithium mining planet and the Discovery is the only ship that has a chance of getting to them in time. Using Giant Water Bear mushroom spore science (just go with it), they get there in time and Captain Loose Cannon Lorca makes his poor crew crap their pants as he teaches the Klingons a lesson.
Aside from quite sweet Klingon romance, our albino True Believer Voq is dealing with crew and mission issues of his own—mainly backstabbing, betrayal, and polite mutiny. Rude. It's hard out here for a Klingon zealot trying to unite the 12 great houses, destroy the Federation, and scavenge some decent tech. #WhatWouldTKuvmaDo?
Lastly, I want to talk about some appearance observations. Getting a good full body look at Cadet Sylvia Tilly made me realize I have never really seen, that I can recall, a full-figured female member of Starfleet who wasn't a woman of a certain age. It makes me really happy to see that there is room for adorably chubby people in space. I also like that Tilly has kinda bad super pale skin, Merida hair, a habit of nervous babbling, oversharing, and painful earnestness, but also a surprising confidence and refusal to be pushed away by Michael's bad roommate silence or intimidating looks. I delight in seeing Michael's grudging tiny smiles and kind voice that no one else but Tilly earns. Well, Tilly and the Giant Water Bear (in spaaaace).
In this episode, Tilly did Michael a favor that could have gotten her in trouble had she been caught. Afterward, she went to their quarters specifically to tell Michael that she did the most incredible thing she had ever seen. I might be developing a ship.
Next week: A kidnapped captain, Harry Mudd (yes THAT Harry Mudd), more spores, Saru finally getting to give the orders, and Ripper!