The latest Trek iteration ends its first season on a mediocre note
After a meandering debut season that often thrilled, Star Trek: Discovery closed its initial run Sunday night — but didn’t quite stick the landing. High on resolution, but low on drama, “Will You Take My Hand?” took some convenient narrative liberties to wrap up the first season’s plot arc a little too tidily.
At the close of last week’s “The War Without, The War Within” — another meandering, inert episode — Starfleet and Adm. Cornwell installed Capt. Georgiou as Discovery’s captain ahead of a crucial mission to the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS. But as some of the crew knew, Starfleet actually knowingly gave the ship’s command to the Terran emperor. She makes little effort to conceal her true allegiance; when a Discovery officer uses the word “homeworld” to describe Qo’noS, Georgiou spits that “Klingons are animals and they don’t have homes.”
Her comments to Burnham and Saru are even less concealed — and the resulting dialogue is forced. “Scared Kelpien makes for tough Kelpien,” Georgiou tells Saru, referencing his species’ use as Terran livestock. Playing along, Saru says he’s so tough he’s “simply unpalatable,” and Burnham refers to her “firsthand” experience with Kelpien tenderness.
When Burnham joins Georgiou in the bridge to solicit intelligence about Qo’noS from the captive L’Rell, the Terran interloper moves from rhetoric to action. L’Rell goads the “captain” — “I can tell you require seasoning,” another entry in the episode’s forced culinary entendres — so, to Burnham’s horror, Georgiou enters L’Rell’s sell and begins to brutally beat her. “There’s another way,” Burnham says, taking Georgiou to Tyler’s quarters.
Fiddling with a bowline knot — it “doesn’t run, doesn’t slip,” Tyler says during a hokey scene where he explains that the knot ties him to his past — the officer listens as Burnham questions whether he can access the purged Voq’s memories to assist in Starfleet’s mission. Conveniently, he can! Tyler instructs Georgiou and Burnham about where they can plant a drone for data collection on Qo’noS’ surface. In a whimsical turn, Georgiou enlists Tilly to join her, Burnham, and Tyler, and the foursome departs for an Orion outpost on Qo’noS.
Once they arrive at Qo’noS, the members of the landing party take different avenues to learn the location of the proper site to deploy their reconnaissance drone. That yields some entertaining moments, like when Tilly unwittingly munches on some gormagander meat from a street vendor. Tyler plays a game with Klingons named t’Sang, and when the Discovery delegation happens upon a burlesque, Georgiou remarks that she “knew your whole universe couldn’t be boring.” In her own attempt to glean intel, the Terran emperor engages in a threesome with the Orion dancers — and then holds them at gunpoint as she requests information.
With Burnham and Tyler off playing t’Sang and Georgiou getting intimate with two Orions, another Orion in the burlesque convinces Tilly to smoke a mysterious substance out of a hookah-like instrument, which knocks her out cold. When she comes to, Tilly inspects the briefcase she’s guarded and discovers that it contains a hydro bomb, not a drone as she, Burnham, and Tyler had believed. Returning from her sexual escapade, Georgiou punches Tilly as the cadet makes contact with Burnham, and she makes off with the bomb. (Recap continues on page 2)
Reconvening with Burnham and Tyler, Tilly alerts them of the stakes: The volcanic system on Qo’noS is active, not dormant as Starfleet’s outdated intelligence had suggested, so when Georgiou deploys the hydrogen bomb, it’ll initiate a cataclysmic episode that will devastate the Klingon planet. Burnham rightly suspects Adm. Cornwell has approved this violent plan, and she beams back aboard Discovery to convince her superiors to make take another route. “We do not have the luxury of principles,” Cornwell admonishes, to which Burnham replies, “That is all we have, admiral.” As Burnham threatens mutiny, Saru and the rest of the crew on Discovery’s bridge stand in solidarity with her, forcing Cornwell to reassess her plan.
The subsequent scene effectively concludes the Klingon-Federation conflict that Burnham played a key role in beginning in the series premiere. Burnham confronts Georgiou in an abandoned Klingon temple, where the Terran has already deployed the hydro bomb. “Why not join me,” Georgiou says, with flair that feels ripped straight from Star Wars, “Starfleet and Klingon alike will be at our mercy.” But when Burnham says Georgiou will have to kill her to carry out the bomb’s detonation, the Terran backs down with barely any resistance.
Burnham then calls on Tyler and L’Rell, the latter of whom she delivers a proposition: Now that the Federation has deployed a weapon that could defeat the Klingons, L’Rell should defuse the weapon and use the moment as a pretext to unite the feuding Klingon tribes. Tyler — speaking as Voq — tells L’Rell that as torchbearer he has lit the way for the race’s leader and that it is time for the Klingon “to leave the shadows.” L’Rell agrees and Georgiou leaves, as Burnham somewhat implausibly tells her to “be good.”
The rest of the episode is falling action from the already-limp climax. Tyler tells Burnham he’s decided to join L’Rell in her travels, the two share a final kiss, and he leaves her with a bowline knot by which to remember him. L’Rell and Tyler then transport to a Mo’Kai Klingon ship, where the Klingon begins the “reunification” of her race.
Back on Earth — in Paris — Burnham meets with her adopted parents, Sarek and Perrin, and discusses her humanity with them. Sarek atones for his approval of the plan that would’ve created Klingon genocide, and as a reward for her work reinstates Burnham’s rank of Starfleet commander. “The Federation is as grateful to you as I am to my daughter,” he solemnly declares.
The rest of Discovery’s crew receives similarly distinguished accolades. Tilly’s admitted to Starfleet officer training school, while Saru becomes the first Kelpien to receive the medal of honor. Discovery then sets out for Vulcan — and the episode concludes with a callback to the very first Trek episode, as Capt. Pike of the U.S.S. Enterprise hails the ship before the credits roll with the original Star Trek theme.