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Star Trek Discovery: Face the Strange

“It will be a long road. Just don’t give up.”

It seems it is the way of any show lucky enough to knowingly go into their final season to find a way to revisit the high and lowlights of their characters’ journey. Discovery is no different. Lucky for me, this week’s retrospective also offered a side order of character development.

I found it interesting that The Powers That Be chose to focus more on where their characters were emotionally at each time skip rather than allowing us to relive classic moments. Stamets got to compare his ruder and more acerbic self with the new kinder and gentler version. The knife was twisted that much deeper when Michael is faced with a Book still very much in the throes of their relationship. And we got to revisit with Airiam. However, while I could appreciate how impactful that was for Michael, since I’d never bonded to Airiam it didn’t affect me that much.

If either these particular emotional beats or the particular points in time become relevant to the season long arc this episode will probably impress me more than it currently does. Though I have to admit I loved the idea of Michael functioning as both protagonist and antagonist. Watching a character squaring off against themselves never gets old. Though I did wonder why Airiam couldn’t have simply ordered Michael to stand down, or Rhys to stun her?

We weren’t limited to romping through Discovery’s past. We get to see the ramifications of Michael’s failure to recover the Progenitor tech. Which leads to the problem with time travel shows. You always run into the question whether time is fixed or fluid. Since one of the main themes of this episode revolved around the refusal to give up, we are assured this show falls into the latter category.

I’m not sure if the next topic is a major theme, so much as a philosophical discussion of management theory. While there are many variations, most fall into two buckets: top down and bottom up. Rayner is very much a top-down captain. And considering his formative years occurred during a war, it makes complete sense. There is no time for doubt or second guessing in matters of survival. However, in peacetime there are other, often higher, priorities. And a top down managerial style may not be the best way to achieve them.

While there have always been threats and the occasional war, the Federation and by extension Starfleet’s mission was built around peaceful ideals. And a bottom up management style, where everyone is encouraged to be collaborative, has been prioritized. This approach may take longer but it often leads to finding the best answer rather than just an effective one. While both styles have their pros and cons, this show definitely leans towards the latter. This is the context for Rayner’s season long arc – his conversion from a wartime captain to the vanguard of Starfleet’s highest ideals.

Despite what happened here, I doubt Rayner is thoroughly convinced and I’m sure there will be some backsliding in his future. However, he came away from this adventure with more respect for Michael and more of an appreciation for her methodology. All the decisiveness in the world would not have gotten them out of that time loop. It was the relationships that saved them.

That said, Michael’s belief in Rayner is not misplaced. Even if he didn’t show the crew much respect during his interviews, he was paying attention. The only success he had during this little adventure was when he stopped assuming that Stamets was just the resident genius who can pull off miracles with a wave of his magic tricorder (and yes, I know they no longer use them in the 32nd Century) and listened to what Stamets needed. And more importantly, when Rayner used what he’d learned about Rhys and Michael to forge connections with their past selves.

I don’t think there’s much else to say. The side quest is completed, the crisis averted, and lessons have been learned. Mol and L’ak have the coordinates to the next clue and a head start, but at least the Discovery is back in the hunt.

3.5 broken warp bubbles

Parting Thoughts:

When Stamets started shouting for people to leave without any justification, at first it felt over the top. Then I remembered just how “surly” he was in the first few seasons. It was very much in character for Stamets. Makes you kind of wonder what Hugh ever saw in him.

It never pays to think too hard about the technology implications in Star Trek. However, I couldn’t help thinking about how easily any time related tech could be abused to the point where it breaks the space-time continuum. And also that if a weapon, say a time bug, is invented, then it usually doesn’t take long til a counter-measure is discovered. Just sayin’.


L’ak: “I just feel like sometimes the walls are closing in on us, you know?”

Rayner: “Let’s stick to the facts, Commander. What we know, not what we guess.”

Michael: “You’re on my ship now and I expect you to do things my way.”
Rayner: “And if my way is better?”

Reno: “I’m waiting, Dr. Truffles.”

Stamets: “I’ve just been repeating my past actions, some of which has been deeply unpleasant. But I did get to see Linus stuck in the replicator again.”
Rayner: “Always a silver lining.”

Michael: “Change can be hard.”
Book: “It’s also the only way anything meaningful can happen.”

Stamets: “Uh, that’s bad.”

Linus: “Let me just say red is definitely your color.”

Stamets: “I need you to press pause on the 'gruff candor' routine.”

Rayner: “You show me more patience than I deserve.”

Rhys: “I’m just glad we didn’t shoot you.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, the supernatural, and anything with a cape.


  1. Shari, thank you SO MUCH for reviewing this season for us. I've been postponing starting season five, and now I can catch up. Comment coming soon!

  2. They did not know in advance that this would be their last season. Maybe they tweaked this episode with ADR, editing or reshoots. But when this episode was shot, they did not know they were canceled. All episodes were already in the can. After the cancellation they had some reshoots, but supposedly those only affected the finale.

  3. Okay, I'm caught up now and I liked this episode more than the first three.

    I liked that the focus was on Michael, Rayner and Stamets. The three of them just worked together in an effective, fun way. Particularly, as you said, Shari, the way Stamets kept channeling his former rudeness to keep clearing the room.

    Rayner, again as you said, was paying attention and doing his job, and he showed here that picking him as her second was a smart move on Michael's part. I started liking him. (Or, I started liking Rayner. I always like Callum Keith Rennie in anything.)

    As a final season bit, it was nice to see how Michael had changed over the course of the series by having her fight her earlier self. It was more than a "Kill us both, Spock!" moment. That early Michael felt like a stranger to me. (Face the strange -- good title)

    I'm not that invested in Airiam either, but that scene on the bridge where she said it would be like her to sacrifice herself for her crewmates got to me.

    And I loved Reno asking Michael, "Are you stuck in a time loop right now?" :)


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