Star Trek Discovery S5E9: Lagrange Point

We waste no time getting into the action this week. Saru is back at Federation HQ in time for the Federation President to appraise him (and us) of the situation: Moll has a head start to getting to the Galactic MacGuffin, Discovery — which can normally travel anywhere in an instant — is still damaged from last week’s risky escape. And another, nastier Breen faction, led by Rayner’s old nemesis Tahal, is sending an entire fleet that also wants the MacGuffin, ideally over Moll and Burnham’s dead bodies. (For reasons of plot, Tahal’s fleet can get there in time to wreak havoc, but the Federation ships in the area can’t.)

So Discovery has no choice but to jump with a not-entirely-repaired spore drive, and it puts them at the mouth of two different black holes. Which works out, since the MacGuffin was hidden at the Lagrange point between the two (the point where gravity is perfectly balanced so it doesn’t get pulled in by either side). So Burnham and crew have to figure out how to get there safely and retrieve the technology… but before they have time to puzzle things out, the Breen simply swoop in and take it.

It’s a terrific plot twist, and while we’ve had our issues with this season, the opening sequence is everything Disco does best — a panicked crew scrambling for a solution when everything’s falling apart around them. And we’re not even past the opening credits yet.

So Discovery is damaged, the Breen ship is only slightly smaller and less intimidating than the Death Star, and Burnham gave Moll the key to open the thing last week in her desperate gambit to escape with her life. The only advantage the good guys have is a phrase told to Burnham during last week’s hallucinatory test — “Build the shape of the one, between the many.” No one knows what that means, but it’s still more than Moll knows. 

So we get the best of all TV plots, an incredibly risky plan! Book and Burnham fly a shuttle through a convenient gap in the Breen ship’s shields (we were worried the Death Star comparison was out of line, but there’s literally a weak spot involving an exhaust port), then sneak around the ship disguised as Breen so they can stick a homing beacon onto the MacGuffin, while Adira does some computer-hacker stuff to get the shields down long enough for them for them to beam the MacGuffin and the crew back to Discovery.

And the only thing better than one risky plan is two. While this is happening, Saru volunteers to head off Tahal’s fleet, hoping any negotiation will slow them down long enough to keep Disco safe. A Federation starship showing up might be seen as an act of aggression, so he prepares to face off an entire fleet in a small shuttle (outfitted with an experimental drive that can get him there before the fleet intercepts Moll’s ship and Discovery, still orbiting the black holes).

So from the first minute to the last, the episode does everything Discovery does well and nothing it doesn’t. It’s a tense, fast-moving episode that still manages a few nice character moments without anything feeling half-assed. A complicated plan pulled off with aplomb is a joy to watch. But a complicated plan that goes haywire? Well that’s a riveting hour of television. One episode left, and we’re heading into it on a high note.

Stray Tachyons:
• We do slow down the action long enough for a cute scene of Stamets and Culber fussing over Adira before their adopted adult child goes on their first dangerous mission.

• The universal translator has always been a necessary cheat on Star Trek, but having a delay and gaps in translation with the hitherto-unknown Breen language adds a nice wrinkle to Burnham and Book’s attempt to blend in on the ship.

• Prickly Rayner and cuddly Tilly have ended up being a great pairing. And of course he curses on the bridge and she can’t bring herself to.

• And of course Burnham and Book knock out some guards and don’t take their guns. Either they’ve never seen an action movie in the 32nd century, or they’ve seen too many.

• Like the best episodes of Picard‘s last season, this one was directed by Next Generation vet Jonathan “Two Takes” Frakes, and he’s just terrific at juggling multiple storylines and keeping everything moving, not to mention directing action with a clear sense of what’s going on. Next week’s finale will be helmed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, who has directed the first and last epsiodes of the past three seasons, and will be directing the Section 31 movie.

• One more bit of Trek gossip; Holly Hunter has been cast in Starfleet Academy, the series that will be taking Discovery‘s place in the rotation, so it looks like the series that’s been rumored since the late ’60s is actually real this time.