‘Star Trek Discovery’ Season 3 Episode 8: The Sanctuary

Adira and Stamets get at the heart of the burn, while a mission to Kwejian paints a target on the Federation.

Clarence Brown
Discussing Network

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Where’s the bucket of water?

With this season of ‘Star Trek Discovery’, so many mysteries have been put on the table. What caused the burn? Where is the Federation? What is the meaning behind the mysterious song? Where is momma-Burnham? Much like the previous seasons of Discovery, formulating theories has been a huge part of the fun. And undoubtedly, the mysteries have begun to unravel, some providing a beautifully satisfying conclusion, while others lead to even more threads of intricacy.

The latest episode of Discovery etches away at the heart of the matter. And while it doesn’t necessarily provide concrete answers to all the questions, it does take a huge step in pushing us along the correct course. In the end, one can only hope the unraveled thread will be as enjoyable as the conundrum itself.

Season 3, Episode 8: The Sanctuary

The episode starts by directly addressing Georgiou’s vision, as we find that the former emperor is not in a good place. While Georgiou has chosen to navigate the dilemma with the usual dismissive terrain flare we’ve grown accustomed to, Hugh Culber isn’t having it, iterating to the officer the seriousness of the matter. Maybe the most intriguing part of the conversation rested in Culber’s attempt to determine if the cause of Georgiou’s visions were physiological, psychological, temporal, or interdimensional. While we’ve addressed the temporal effects of time travel in this season, the concept of adverse interdimensional effects is something new to consider.

Why is she so mean?

We later see Culber and Chief Medical Officer Pollard put their newfound 32nd-century technology to use, as the duo perform a deep medical analysis on Phillipa. In addition to the added bonus of seeing the magnificent Michelle Yeoh dun the skin-tight medical examination suit, we get to see just how far medical technology has advanced, with some type of real-time holo-focused imaging system. While in the midst of the procedure, Georgiou has yet another vision, full of Terran imagery and what looks to be a younger Georgiou holding a bloodied figure in her arms. At this point, it's hard to tell if this is a suppressed memory or something entirely different. Before the examination concludes, we see Georgiou’s face shift phase. The moment reminded me a bit of a changeling, but the jury’s out on what is exactly going on here. And although things look dire for the former emperor, Culber isn’t willing to give up on his patient just yet.

The episode also awards us a look into first-officer Silvia Tilly in her new role. And, to my surprise, I LOVED IT! We see Tilly going over the ship’s personnel with Captain Saru and even helping the captain with a special task. Seeing Tilly managing the ship’s operations just seems to work for me, especially knowing how thorough and by-the-book she is prone to operate. The showrunners also execute what I feel is a brilliant shift in tone by removing ‘Silly Tilly’ from the equation, and moving the butt of the episode’s light-hearted moment elsewhere, focusing on Saru’s quest to find a catchphrase. Later in the episode, we even get to see Tilly think outside the box, devising an unconventional solution when Kwejian is threatened by Osyraa. I want more of this Tilly!

We start to get more answers about the burn, finally! The combination of the Ni’Varian data, along with Burnham’s black boxes, was enough for Paul Stamets and Adira to pinpoint the exact origin of the Burn, the Verubin nebula; which contains both unusually intense radiation and highly unstable electromagnetic fields. What’s more is that our team discovers that there is a signal coming from the nebula, a signal that is the same as the very song that both the Barzan family was singing, and Adira was playing on the cello. Strangely enough, Saru’s acute hearing is able to detect that the song is a distorted Federation distress signal. While the process of coming to this conclusion felt more treknobabble than anything, it was enough to keep our team workings towards a solution, as Adira is off to decode the signal found at the heart of the burn.

Brother? That’s so corny.

A mission to Kwejian is deemed necessary when Cleveland Booker gets a message from his brother, Kyheem, that his home planet is being threatened at the hand of Osyraa. Saru is able to persuade Admiral Vance to allow Discovery to assist in the mission, but with no engagement, playing only the neutral role of observer. We learn that Booker, or as Kyheem knows him, Tareckx, has been away from his home planet for fifteen years. We also learn that Kwejian originally came under the control of Emerald Chain after a deal was made for the trade of tranceworms in exchange for a solution to the sea-locust infestation that had been ravaging their crops for over a century.

Book arrives on the planet, only to find that his brother has lured him there at Osyraa’s request, in order to get the Andorian Ryn back under Emerald Chain custody. Apparently, Ryn has access to vital information that could bring the Emerald Chain to its knees. But when Kyheem refuses to offer up Ryn to Osyraa, she begins to rain down photon torpedoes on the Kwejian defense grid. What’s more, is that we finally get to see Osayraa in all her Orion-glory, as she goes about threatening both Kyheem and the Discovery.

Unfortunately, this is where I feel this episode starts to fall apart, making it my lowest-rated episode of the season by far. Although this episode was directed by the great Jonathan Frakes, I feel that he was handed a pretty poor script. And to his defense, he did the best he could with the source material. For starters, almost everything on Kwejian just felt very cookie-cutter, and not particularly new and different; I wasn’t impressed by the look of the forest scenes, the sea-locust didn’t seem all that visually striking, and on top of that, Kyheem’s home didn’t feel especially different or futuristic.

Then we have to look at the entire motivation behind why Osyraa is willing to risk life and limb to once again capture Ryn, whom she had deemed a fugitive. In what may have been the most anticlimatic revelation of all time, we learn the Osyraa is hellbent on catching Ryn because he knows a piece of valuable information. Information that could potentially bring down the entire Emerald Chain. And that information is, wait for it… the Emerald Chain is low on dilithium. To which I say… really? How is that information valuable? Hasn’t the lack of dilithium been the driving force behind everything we have seen this season? Why the heck is knowing the Emerald Chain has a deficit of dilithium a valuable piece of information? Sorry, I just don’t get it.

Brother? That’s so corny.

When Osyraa refuses to stop the attack on Kwejian, Saru is conflicted between providing aid to the planet in outright defiance of Admiral Vance’s orders, or sitting back and watching the planet be utterly destroyed. Tilly finds a way to skirt Federation protocol, by suggesting that Kayla Detmer take Book’s ship on a rogue mission to disable the Viridian. And in doing so, we get to see Detmer deliver a precision attack on Osyraa’s flagship heavy cruiser, with Ryn’s help in determining an effective attack vector. The moment also provides just the right circumstance for Detmer to tear away from lingering personal issues around the post-traumatic stress of time travel, even encouraging Ryn in the process.

Book’s backstory wouldn’t be the only revelation we see in the episode. As Adira begins the hard work of deciphering the encrypted message emanating from the source of the burn, Stamets calls Adira ‘she’. Adira uses the moment to declare non-binary status to Stamets, stating they would like to be referred to as ‘they/them’. Overall I felt this was a great moment for the character; one that felt like a teaching tool for the wider television audience. I think the way in which it was conveyed was both informative and educational. In the end, Star Trek will always be about infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

Finally, we are starting to get answers. The resolution to the source of the burn carries on, and in the interim, providing the right about of growth to foster the development of the show’s principal characters as the mysteries around them unravel. Let’s just hope there is an abundance of satisfying conclusions ahead.

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Clarence Brown
Discussing Network

Podcasting and writing mostly about Star Trek. Somewhere in Texas.