Star Trek: Discovery continues to pull plot elements out of nowhere, but “Saints of Imperfection” put them to exciting, emotional use.
This recap of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 5, “Saints of Imperfection”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
When I wrote about Star Trek: Discovery’s second-season return, I suggested that this new version of the show might, in an effort to distance itself from the first season, completely forget about the events therein. And now I find myself in the awkward position of having to complain that this season is leveraging the events of the first entirely too much. By the end of “Saints of Imperfection”, the Discovery crew has been reunited with Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), Captain/Terran Emperor Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), and, somewhat implausibly, the late Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). It is, as the kids say these days, a lot.
The reason we have all of this is thanks in no small part to the nebulous mycelial network, which seems to work in whichever way the writers decide; sometimes slightly differently in each episode. And while I can understand why people won’t be, I’m totally okay with this as long as it keeps producing moments of excitement, tension and emotion, which “Saints of Imperfection” had in spades. I can’t say I totally understand how all of this fits together, and I suspect nobody in the writer’s room does either, but there’s a place for pulpy genre TV, and that place is in my heart.
The reunion between Culber and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) was incredibly moving, if you ask me, and I’m glad that Discovery can hand-wave away the logistics of these things so we can enjoy the purer, more optimistic underpinnings of what something like this means to the characters. Star Trek might be a show about spaceflight and extra-terrestrials and Mirror Universes, but really it’s a show about human beings and how we connect to one another. The connection between Culber and Stamets is one of the show’s oldest and most convincing, and their meeting again was long overdue.
Culber emerged during a plan to rescue Tilly (Mary Wiseman) from the multi-coloured, mushroomy spore world, which you’ll recall she was pulled into via that weird organic cocoon. According to May (Bahia Watson), the strongly-accented human embodiment of the species that lives within the network, her race is under threat from a “monster” that turns out to be Hugh. In an attempt to prevent the network from consuming him completely, he defended himself using toxic bark that is incredibly damaging to May’s people, and they naturally assumed that he was trying to wipe them out.
Written down, this is mental. But in execution it works really well, partly because of the performances, but also because of the sheer delight this show takes in scientific curiosity. There’s always a layer of real excitement even during impending catastrophe as the crew are repeatedly presented with new problems to solve and things to understand; I can’t think of another show – much less one this action-packed – that has even a similar tone. It’s what I love so much about Star Trek: Discovery, even though I’m relatively convinced that none of it makes any real-world sense.
The other plot of “Saints of Imperfection” saw Captain Pike (Anson Mount) grappling with the morality of Starfleet’s secretive, potentially dangerous Section 31, especially now that Tyler is aboard the Discovery for the foreseeable future and Georgiou is quite evidently not the same lady he remembers. His worries are justified and in-keeping with his straight-down-the-line attitude, which still plays in stark contrast to the ends-justify-the-means approach of Mirror Universe imposter Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) from Season 1. It also plants a lot of seeds with the potential to bear particularly ripe fruit going forwards, and let’s not forget about the season’s overarching plot to find Spock and figure out the mystery behind the galactic “red angels”.
Look, I can totally understand why people hate Star Trek: Discovery. But I’m not one of them; I think it’s a delightful, exciting, interesting, and visually-arresting bit of soapy sci-fi that is consistently riveting and surprising. In a TV landscape fascinated with sequels and prequels and remakes and reboots, it’s rare to find a show with such a unique sense of identity, and such a deep humanistic spirit. Basic flaws in screenwriting and storytelling be damned, Star Trek: Discovery is great and if you don’t think so you’re no fun.