‘Star Trek Discovery’ Season 3 Episode 5: Die Trying
Amid distortion fields, debriefs, and possible divisions, the U.S.S. Discovery finally arrives at the new heart of the Federation.
The principles behind the United Federation of Planets not only govern the organization and its core worlds but also dictate the moral compass of the Star Trek franchise as a whole. In fact, the most impactful and interesting episodes often revolve around the imperative to adhere to these core principles, while not forsaking the inherent humanity of the very nature thereof. Amid a catastrophic event, deciphering how many of these central edits, and much of the organization behind them for that matter, remain intact, has been a driving force for the crew of Discovery as they attempt to make sense of how it all went sideways.
Season 3, Episode 5: Die Trying
Die Trying opens with a very hopeful log from Captain Saru (Doug Jones); stating his optimism of what lies ahead as Discovery arrives at the new joint home of both the Federation and Starfleet. The Federation, the interstellar governing body, and Starfleet, the space force maintaining Federation principles, are the familiar touchstones the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery anxiously awaits. And before arriving 930 years in the future, the continued existence of the Federation had never been a question of debate. Suffice it to say, no one could have ever anticipated a catastrophic event such as the burn, ultimately leaving the question of how just much of the Federation they know and love actually remains.
Any such questions may have been temporarily pushed aside as the U.S.S. Discovery entered the Federation distortion field, a security measure that is maintained by the collective power of all the ships within. The technological marvel of the distortion field was quickly supplanted by a myriad of other wonders of visual delight, such as neutronium-alloy fibers, organic hulls, holographic containment walls, detached nacelles, and many others; including a heartfelt tribute to the late Aron Eisenberg in the U.S.S. Nog. The visuals also included a canon-affirming future iteration of the U.S.S. Voyager. Needless to say, each and every one of these moments had me punching the air, invoking a touchstone of the familiar with the right amount of future-flare; helping the audience and crew cope with the current circumstance, though many questions remain.
Upon entering the presence of their new superior officer, Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr), Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) seeks to find an answer to the question that she has had for over a year now. What caused the burn? Unfortunately, the first officer's inquiry is met with no answer. In fact, the admiral suspiciously doesn’t offer up any nugget of information aside from acknowledging that there are only theories, with no concrete answer on what actually happened. This reveals a somewhat disappointing inditement of the current state of the Federation. If anyone would have been able to get to the bottom of things, it would have been Starfleet, right?
The admiral’s reluctance to fully embrace Discovery may be bound in the notion that Discovery's mere presence raises a huge red flag. Time travel has been outlawed in wake of the temporal wars, thus making the arrival of the U.S.S. Discovery and her crew, problematic by their very nature. Vance’s cold stance on Discovery and her crew doesn’t stop there, he informs Saru that his crew will be broken up and the ship studied before getting a full refit. In addition, the crew will need to immediately undergo full debriefs. Welcome to the future.
For the most part, the debrief sessions felt light-hearted, turning what could have been an intensely nerve-wracking examination into some of the most fun in the episode. The major takeaway from it all seemed to lie in the way in which the crew conveyed their first-hand account of the last few years, which not only showed an unflappable and hardened resiliency to the current situation but also served as a platform to finally get the weight of it all off their chest. Albeit seemingly in a gleeful and joyfully-cathartic manner.
The questioning of Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) initially struck a similar tone, but the mere fact of being the former terrain Emporer made her interrogation much more interesting. While the other sessions were conducted by holo-officers, Georgiou’s was overseen by a mysterious man wearing glasses, whom we come to know as Kovich (David Cronenberg). As you would guess, speculations have run wild on who this character could be. Kovich seems to be a terrain expert. Not only does he try to unravel Phillipa by revealing the five-hundred-year-old inability to cross between prime and terrain universes, but he also reveals the genetically evil disposition of the terrain people. Both of which the unwavering Emporer takes in stride; even asking Kovich questions of her own. By the end of their encounter, we can only speculate that something more substantial will come from the encounter. A notion solidified by seeing a somewhat stilted Georgiou found staring into nothingness as the episode ends.
Meanwhile, Captain Saru and Commander Burnham are anxious to prove the value of Discovery and her crew, suggesting the admiral keep the crew intact due to their expertise working with the now critically important displacement-activated spore drive. After an opportunity presents itself, Burnham suggests using the spore-drive to obtain a pure genetic sample that could save the population of a Federation-member species which is in the midst of a medical pandemic. Vance awards Discovery the opportunity to demonstrate her usefulness, though he commands Burnham to lead the mission while Saru will stay behind at Federation headquarters. The mission is simple; spore-jump to the U.S.S. Tikhov, obtain a sample from the Federation seed vault, synthesize a cure, and jump back to Federation headquarters. Though missions rarely go as planned.
The fun in this act of the episode is found in the race against the clock, while also dealing with the results of an accident on the U.S.S. Tikhov. We learn the seed-vault ship was crewed by a Barzan family, who are the same species as Commander Nahn (Rachael Ancheril). Much like Saru’s path to Starfleet, Nahn lived with the fact that she may never encounter her species again. What’s more, is the impact of the revelation that this future has somehow progressed with her planet now being a member of the Federation. A platitude that was quickly shattered as the away team of Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), Michael Burnham, and Nahn find that an accident has killed three of the Barzan family members and has left the father, Doctor Attis (Jake Epstein), in a permanent phasing-state; shifting in and out of reality.
Team dysfunctional (Tilly, Stamets, and Reno) work together to solve the mystery of the father’s situation, concluding that Attis may have been transporting at the moment in which an unexpected CME hit the station and killed his family, leaving him in a ghostly state to roam the ship. Burnham and the crew work quickly to find a solution to the situation, before requesting Attis’ help in retrieving the sample.
What I hadn’t foreseen in this mission is that it would be an exit strategy for the character of Commander Nahn. A character who joined the crew in season two as Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) took command of Discovery in an effort to decipher the mystery behind the red-bursts. As the acting chief of security, Nahn played an integral part in unraveling the mystery, before joining Discovery as the ship jetted toward the future. Nahn’s yearning for home leads her to stay with the Tikhov to ensure the mission of her people, with the added anticipation of returning to the Barzan homeworld.
Ultimately, this episode goes a long way in solidifying the must needed trust between the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery and their newfound Federation. By completing a critical mission with the use of the spore drive, Discovery is able to demonstrate its strategic value, while also showing the invaluable cohesiveness of its crew.
Now that we‘ve met up with the Federation, what’s next for Discovery? While the Federation is content to let the mystery of the Burn go unresolved, Micheal Burnham can’t seem to let it go; as she believes unraveling the mystery is the key to the survival of the Federation. And as a viewer of the show and a believer in the principles of the Federation, I tend to agree. Though, at this point, a path to a solution is not so clear.