“Project Daedalus” revealed some of the mysteries behind recent goings-on, and included a relatively moving send-off for an underappreciated character.
This recap of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 9, “Project Daedalus”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
For all Star Trek: Discovery‘s futuristic harbingers of doom, perhaps the most reliable is Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook). Whenever she turns up you just know **** is about to go down, and “Project Daedalus” didn’t make much effort to disprove this theory. When Cornwell stealthily boards Discovery with suspicions that Section 31 has gone rogue (blimey, there’s an unexpected development), it doesn’t bode well for anyone, least of all for Airiam (Sara Mitich), the unwilling cybernetic conduit for a gestalt self-aware intelligence that is trying to learn and evolve by pilfering the Sphere’s copious amounts of intergalactic AI data.
It turns out Airiam has a tragic human backstory that was rather cynically deployed in “Project Daedalus” right before she was deemed surplus to requirements and ejected into space. This is naturally how Tilly (Mary Wiseman) was able to get through to her in the crucial moment with a heartfelt monologue, giving a character who has received virtually no characterization in two whole seasons a last-minute emotional send-off.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. After navigating a reprogrammed minefield, Discovery is able to dump Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green), Airiam and Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) on Section 31’s prison base, where Airiam has been instructed to upload all the juicy AI data white Saru (Doug Jones) figures out both how the admirals in charge of Section 31 have been running it despite being dead for two weeks, and how the footage of Spock’s (Ethan Peck) escape from a Starbase psychiatric facility included him murdering three people whereas his own memory of the event does not. The answer is the same in both cases: Control went nuts, killed Section 31’s leadership, and has been sneakily running things in the meantime in order to snatch the data that would grant it full and complete consciousness.
This is pretty played-out, as far as sci-fi plots go, but it has enough character focus and long-term implications that I can run with it. Just before she’s jettisoned into the cold nothingness of space to replay her favorite memory before turning into a big ice cube, Airiam spares the time to tell Michael than Control wants her dead and that she’s the key to everything, thus virtually confirming that the Red Angel is her from the future. (It could be someone else, I suppose, but Discovery has long operated on the basic principle of “Michael, because she’s the best” when it comes to plotting.) She also mentioned the titular “Project Daedalus”, although nobody knows what that is yet. I’m sure it’ll be lots of fun.
Speaking of lots of fun, that is absolutely not what Spock’s having, and neither is anyone else forced to endure his petulant tantrums. Look, I get it, logic failed him; it makes sense for his experiences, like Saru’s, to have fundamentally altered how he sees himself and the world, which is why he’s able to give hysterically on-the-nose and almost certainly unwanted relationship advice to Stamets (Anthony Rapp). But while Discovery is doing a great job of handling Saru’s post-vaharai awakening, Spock is just behaving like a beardy child, and it doesn’t work. It especially doesn’t work considering his grievance with Michael is based on a childhood spat that she has repeatedly atoned for since, and whatever logic he has left in him should be enough to recognize that.
Nevertheless, when the crew assembled on the bridge for Airiam’s tearful farewell, I was reminded once again of what I really do enjoy about this show: The sense of camaraderie, of shared goals and experiences, and of human connection, even in the face of decidedly inhuman adversaries. Most of the reactions to Airiam’s death, even among the minor characters, seemed genuine, and that counts for something; even as the show bent over backward to wring some emotion from the loss, the cast took it hard. And that’s all we need.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.