Netflix TV review: Star Trek: Discovery: Season 3, Episode 4
Written by Arthur
Trip to Trill
Adira’s rich complexity
8/10 Rating 8.3/10
No astounding twists and turns but, as Discovery’s crew heal, this fourth chapter in Season 3 is nonetheless a solid outing.
This episode of is brought to you by the letters E and H, standing for “emotional healing”. This big theme is flagged up pre-credits when Dr Culber is given a rare Captain’s log-style voiceover. The crew are physically healthy, but their stress hormones are off the charts, which, given that they’re stranded almost a 1,000 years past their own times, is understandable. As is heavily hinted, Lt Keyla Detmer is faring worse than most, and cutting to her as Dr Culber says the crew is feeling “disconnected” (which could also be a reference to the vestige of evil AI Control that may yet be living within her augmented brain) foreshadows her dinner party breakdown at episode’s end.
But the one whose healing is put front and centre is new character Adira. Played brilliantly by non-binary actor Blu del Barrio, they were revealed last week as being a human host for symbiont lifeform known as a Trill – beings previously seen in both TNG and DS9 – and carrying the suppressed memories of the symbiont’s previous hosts, including Starfleet’s Admiral Tal whose old voice message gave Michael and her crewmates hope of rekindling the Federation flame.
The trip to Trill taps into classic Trek – rather silly and po-faced aliens wearing robes intone portentously about their traditions and, in this case, the sacred Caves of Mak’ala. As we’d expect from Trill’s previous appearances in the Trek universe, theirs is an ossified society, unwilling to change, even if, following the decimation of their people, this would enable them to – hey, theme alert – heal. To them, a human acting as a host is an “abomination”, and Adira is banished from the world.
Pleasingly unpredictable, it’s the religious leader, Guardian Xi (Andreas Apergis), who – rather than being the fusty traditionalist – realises the potential Adira represents to rejuvenate the Trill. Aiding Adira, he takes her to the sacred caves and pops her in a milk bath where, reminiscent of the precogs in Minority Report, she floats on her back and communes with her symbiont’s previous hosts. Michael, in need of some emotional healing herself, is sent by canny Dr Culbert to accompany Adira; as he says, the transitional period she finds herself in will enable her to empathise with Adira. We see a few flashes of Michael’s new maverick persona – “That was not Federation protocol,” observes Adiraxxx after Michael makes short work of three Trill adversaries in a series of slick martial arts moves that deliberately invoke Michael’s dark mirror, Georgiou.
But Michael’s touchy-feely side wins out this episode as, entering the Trill Matrix via the milk-bath, she’s able to guide Adira towards reconnecting with her symbiont’s previous hosts. We discover that the most recent is actually Adira’s boyfriend, Gray Tal (played by fantastic young actor Ian Alexander, who played Buck in The OA), and, following his death in an explosion, Adira volunteered to have the Trill symbiont embedded within their body in order to keep it safe. It’s an intriguing premise, and well handled, marking Adira out as a character (or characters?!) with immense potential for new and evolving storylines, not least the fact that – as seen in DS9 episode ‘Rejoined’, Trill society forbids “reassociation” – the joining of a symbiont with a host who was previously romantically involved with a former host. By casting del Barrio it seems clear the series intends to use Adira’s journey as a means to explore the very current shifting sands of gender identity. So-called fans who are still frothing at the mouth over the “political correctness” of Discovery thus far are going to lose their cool – which, as far as we’re concerned, can only be a good thing.
Elsewhere this episode, more healing takes place. Saru uses the ship’s computer – altered (for good or ill?) by the Sphere Data, as seen in short Treks episode ‘Calypso’ – to mop the metaphorical brow of his ailing crew. He gives them the night off, and calls his senior officers to a dinner. As Lt Detmer breaks down during a haiku game (her attempt is worrying – “No one can get Stamets’ blood off the med-bay floor” – but it does at least contain 12 syllables), the tension between Tilly and Stamets comes to the fore. The latter has been stubbornly working through his horrific injuries – “You were impaled with a spike and placed in a coma!” has become an unlikely running gag – and dismisses Tilly’s idea to create a new magic mushroom-drive interface using dark matter (perhaps, unlike Discovery’s writing team, he thought it was too silly?). By episode’s end, all animosity has dissipated. “We all had to stop pretending we were fine first,” says the sage Dr Culber, but now the crew – seen gathered together to watch some Buster Keaton – can move forward and focus on more than just the five word mantra, as he said during the pre-credits sequence, that gives them hope: “When we find the Federation…”
A solid episode, then, and relatively unremarkable by Discovery’s high standards. But, with an ensemble that continues to go from strength to strength, and a fascinating new and richly complex character in Adira (and their hallucinatory boyfriend, Gray), Discovery Season 3 shapes up to be even better than those that have gone before.