Star Trek Discovery enters its third season’s end game in “There Is a Tide…”
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,” Brutus tells Cassius in that play, “which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune” (Act IV, Scene 3). In other words, know when to take your shot at success.
In this episode, Michael Burnham and her crewmates take full advantage of the tide to resist Osyraa’s takeover of Discovery. Here are five pivotal moments from “There is a Tide…” to watch for.
1. Star Trek calls us to make the past right
For a while, an armistice between the Emerald Chain and the Federation seems a tantalizingly close possibility. But once Admiral Vance asks Osyraa to willingly stand trial for her crimes, the accord is DOA.
Non-fans sometimes mock Star Trek as being “too talky.” But Star Trek sincerely believes discussion and dialogue are the way forward to a better future.
Admiral Vance embodies that belief in this scene. Osyraa accuses him of “abstractions,” but Vance invokes hard realities of the post-Burn era that have compromised the Federation’s “moral clarity.” His insistence the past can be made right even though it can’t be undone is a truth we, no less than Osyraa, need to hear and heed.
2. Aurellio emerges as a breakout “bad guy” in Star Trek Discovery
Villains regard themselves as the heroes of their own stories. Aurellio, the scientist working to discover the spore drive’s secrets for Osyraa, is even more. He’s completely dedicated to the Emerald Chain’s leader because she’s shown complete dedication to him.
In his discussions with Stamets, Aurellio (compellingly played by Kenneth Mitchell) forces the Discovery engineer, and us, to see the third season’s “big bad” as a real, multifaceted person.
In return, Stamets confronts Aurellio with some unpleasant truths about Osyraa, truths which clearly rattle Aurellio’s confidence in her. But the scene is a classic example of Star Trek insisting on the difference between right and wrong without denying that, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, the line between the two cuts through every heart.
3. Michael Burnham proves a pain in Paul Stamets’ neck
Stamets’ elation when Burnham rescues him rapidly turns to desperation when he realizes Burnham has no immediate intention of taking Discovery back to the Verubin Nebula, where Hugh and Adira remain with Saru on the irradiated dilithium planet.
Few humans in Star Trek have pulled off the Vulcan neck pinch. Burnham, raised on Vulcan, has an advantage. She also used it in the Star Trek Discovery pilot episode.
But this scene packs an emotional wallop because of the changes it rings on Vulcan philosophies about the needs of the many, the few, and the one.
Without quoting any Vulcan mantras, the scene evokes Spock’s neck pinch against McCoy in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In both instances, the pincher used the technique to get a “pinchee” out of the way so they could get on with saving the ship and its crew. But where Spock alone sacrificed his life in Star Trek II, Burnham here sets a potential joint sacrifice, and one not willingly shared, into motion.
Paul’s cry, “My whole life is in that nebula!,” is gut-wrenching. Michael’s sorrow at the impossible situation is genuine. And Star Trek Discovery again proves it can be a dramatic heavyweight.
4. We’re feeling Andorian blue over Ryn’s demise
One of the best character arcs in Star Trek Discovery season three was Ryn’s journey from being Osyraa’s cowed and broken henchman to being a staunch ally of the Discovery crew. He is the latest in a long line of Star Trek characters whom Starfleet inspires to become the best version of themselves.
Even for sci-fi, Ryn’s death seems fairly definitive! While we’ll miss Ryn going forward, his testament to the Discovery crew as exemplars of bravery, strength, loyalty, and love will stay with us.
5. No Business Like Show Business
The DOT worker robots are one of the coolest innovations Star Trek Discovery has introduced. Self-sufficient robots handling starship maintenance and repair tasks people might find too uncomfortable or risky makes sense. Heck, we’re already using Roombas in the 21st century! Why shouldn’t Starfleet use a futuristic equivalent in the 32nd?
As it did all the way back in “Forget Me Not,” the seemingly sentient sphere data the crew saved in season two projects a Buster Keaton flim clip—the “ancient Earth entertainment” Osyraa’s crew couldn’t delete from the Discovery computer early in the episode.
Now, the clip signals the sphere data’s presence in the DOTs and its willingness to not just care for but help save the people who saved it.