It’s interesting that we got to see the end of a character’s story just at the point in the series when there’s some clarity. “Die Trying” mixes the style of Discovery with the classic Trek of The Next Generation and other shows. While one of the crew departs, we get a whole lot of mystery from another. “
We start the episode with Saru giving a little recap (through his captain’s log) of what transpired over the last episode, “Forget Me Not.” As he was gazing out the window, Michael walked up, telling him that all ship’s records are ready to hand over to Starfleet.
Michael told him that she knew they wanted to ask about The Burn first, but she’d also like to ask about her mother.
They arrived at Federation Headquarters, which appeared to be under cloak. The Discovery pushed through the veil, and we learned that the ships within were powering the ‘distortion field.’ There were 20-30 ships, and Lt. Nilsson said that some were made of ‘neutronium allow fiber,’ which in the 23rd Century was only theoretical.
NOTE: Sharp-eyed fans saw the U.S.S. Voyager-J and the U.S.S. Nog ships within this scene. Nice. Easter eggs!
The crew was in awe of various designs, including ships made with organic or holographic hulls, detached nacelles, and even ring ships complete with rainforests.
Soon, Starfleet took control of the ship and brought it in to dock. They requested Saru, Michael, and Adira beamed over.
NOTE: Now they call Adira “Tal” instead of Adira.
The three beamed over and met the Commander of Starfleet, Charles Vance (Oded Fehr), and his chief security officer, Lt. Audrey Willa (Vanessa Jackson). Vance told Saru that Kaminar (his homeworld) was now a Federation planet. Still, they were just out of range to have constant contact with them.
NOTE: This means that Saru’s joining Starfleet back in the 23rd Century resulted in becoming a Federation-aligned species. This was one of Saru’s dreams!
They were interrupted by a message saying that the Orion / Andorian activity in the Sigma Draconis system. They talked about this being the “Emerald Chain.”
“Osyraa’s becoming more brazen by the day,” said Vance. He then turned to Adira and said that he knew Admiral Senna Tal, and she told him that Senna never meant to keep him waiting.
“He just couldn’t bear to leave Earth without seeing snow one last time,” said Adira. He said that he was “familiar” with Senna, but not with Adira. She then went for a full medical diagnostic.
Vance was soon informed that the Kili (a cool alien race with bulgy, black eyes, and three fingers) was getting worse. They were suffering from a cascading failure in the nervous system. Michael said they could help, but Vance said Starfleet had the logs of the Kili ship. They were contact tracing all the planets the Kili visited to find the source of the mystery illness.
Burnham apologized for overstepping, and Saru stepped in to say they were anxious to help. Vance said they needed to be debriefed first, and they needed to learn the full story of the Discovery.
In Vance’s offices, Saru and Michael explained the whole story of how they arrived in the 32nd Century. A strange EMH (emergency medical hologram) named Eli watched them at a very close range. They told him that the Red Angel suit was sent back to make one final signal, and then it was destroyed. They also said they only had one time crystal.
Michael explained that the Sphere Data had merged with Discovery’s computer and contained records from the last 100,000 years.
Vance said there were just 38 worlds (down from 350) in the Federation at present, but he refused to say anything more about The Burn. He also said there were no records of Discovery, the spore drive, the Red Angel, or Control.
“Our records say that the Discovery was destroyed in 2258 with no mention of a displacement activated spore drive,” said Vance. “So, two truths now exist in one place. That never got well.”
He told them that in the 30th Century was filled with Starfleet fighting a war to uphold the Temporal Accords. This all ended with an agreement banning time travel. He said that their presence in the 32nd Century was a crime.
NOTE: Temporal Accords, or ‘Temporal Cold War,’ was a massive part of the Star Trek: Enterprise storyline.
Michael told Vance that if they hadn’t jumped, all organic life would have ended (thanks to Control). He thanked her but could not believe her without evidence. He said that he’d be taking over the Discovery for “analysis and retrofit,” and the crew would be reassigned.
Saru tried to fight it, but Vance wouldn’t budge. He told Saru that they must put the needs of Starfleet ahead of the needs of his crew.
Back on the DISCO, Michael cooked up a plan to get a hold of the Kili’s flight log so they can try to solve the puzzle of their illness. Saru admonished her for even suggesting that.
Saru and Michael went before the assembled crew in the shuttle bay to give them the bad news. Everyone was angry. Lt. Willa said they’d all be called in by department for debriefing.
This was fun: Several scenes with hologram AI asking the crew about their recent experiences:
- Culber had to explain that he died and came back
- Jett demanded food during her examination
- Stamets argued that he was essential to the ship
- Tilly told how she served with the Terran fleet
- Nhan refused to say anything beyond her name, rank, and serial number
Later, Michael and Saru caught up with Willa and asked again about the Kili. She told them that Starfleet was not sure of Discovery’s intentions yet. Michael said that they had a spore drive, and they could help. Willa said she’d ask Admiral Vance.
Next, Georgiou was in for questioning. They asked her repeated questions about her crimes in the Terran and Prime Universes. She asked nonsensical questions and blinked in such a way that the two hologram AI shut down. She said she interfered with their harmonic rate.
NOTE: This was the most mysterious interaction in the episode.
The man (director David Cronenberg) who stood to the side of the questioning was then questioned by Georgiou. She asked him why he was wearing glasses. He said they made him look smarter.
Vance told Saru and Michael that the Kili were contaminated on the planet Urna. Saru said that Urna used to be an industrial center. Michael said that back in the day, the Federation feared that radiation would soon contaminate the entire surface. If the Kili ate anything on Urna, they would be contaminated by the mutated vegetation.
Eli, the same hologram AI from earlier, said they needed an uncontaminated sample of the food the Kili ate to create an antidote. Eli noted that since all the plants on Urna were mutated, then no cure could be synthesized.
Michael remembered that the Federation seed vault ship, the U.S.S Tikhov.
NOTE: The Tikhov was named after a Soviet scientist named Gavriil Adrianovich Tikhov, who is considered the “Father of Astrobotany.”
Vance said that the Tikhov was five months away, but Michael said the spore drive could get them there in an instant. Vance said they would go, with a new crew and Stamets. Michael argued with Vance, saying they’d waste time training a new crew on a ‘thousand-year-old ship,’ and he told her:
“Watch your tone, Commander. You’re not home yet.”
Saru negotiated to stay and asked that Burnham lead the mission, with Starfleet observers aboard as well. Vance agreed and assigned Willa to go on this trip with Michael.
The Discovery jumped to the location of an ion storm and found that the Tikhov was in the storm. Michael ordered that Rhys use the tractor beam to lock onto the Tikhov, but he said he could not because the ship was shaking too much. Detmer yelled at him, saying that she was “working on it!”
NOTE: If I was captain, Detmer would still be in sickbay with Culver, not flying the DISCO. She is always about to lose her cool. This is the opposite of how Sulu was… always cool.
Owa calmed Detmer (again), and she was able to steady the ship in the storm. Michael called Culber to the bridge, and they realized that it was Tikhov operated by a Barzan family. This is Nhan’s species. She was also assigned to go to the Tikhov with Michael and Culver.
Nhan was also surprised to hear that the Barzan had joined the Federation (in the 25th Century). Michael and Culber had to have special breathing devices on the Tikhov, as its atmosphere was tuned for Barzan anatomy.
They beamed over and found that the seed vault had been opened, and plants were growing everywhere.
Back on the Discovery, Georgiou smashed her interrogator’s badge and took it apart. The badge had been making projections, which he was interacting with. He told her that April 5 was his birthday, which was First Contact Day. He knew that in the Terran Universe, the Vulcans who came to visit Earth were killed (as seen in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “A Mirror Darkly, Part I.”)
“Vulcans need to learn to stay in their lane sometimes,” said Georgiou.
He noted that Terrans do as they please and wondered why Georgiou joined the crew of the Discovery. She said that she’d tell him the answers if he let her ask him some questions in return. He agreed.
Georgiou asked him what caused The Burn and who is really in charge — with the Federation in tatters. He said they still are not sure, but the Federation endures, unlike the Terran Empire, which fell centuries ago. Georgiou seemed shaken by this.
He also told her that no one from the Terran Universe crossed in 500 years. Georgiou turned it around on him, saying that the Federation was afraid of whoever caused The Burn. He flipped it back, noting that there was someone on Discovery that Georgiou cared for.
“Vulcans need to learn to stay in their lane sometimes,” said Georgiou.
On the Tikhov, they discovered an active, playing hologram film of the Barzan family. One child from the family hummed the same tune that Adira played on the cello in “Forget Me Not.” Michael pondered this for a moment.
NOTE: Does this music have something to do with The Burn?
Michael went into the seed vault, a substantial rotating room with layers and layers of honeycomb-like cubbies, full of seed samples.
NOTE: This seed vault is based on a real-world thing, namely the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. It’s maintained by Norway and houses thousands of seeds from various plant life from around the world.
Nhan and Culber watched the family’s holo. Nhan said this was the first time she’d heard her native language spoken since joining Starfleet.
Nhan “fast-forwarded” the record and watched the father, also the lead scientist, Dr. Attis (Jake Epstein), talk about a disaster that happened near the ship and how he must find a cure for his family. The record ended with the scientist turning into particles and disappearing.
Culber discovered that the family was in cryostasis tubes, intended to keep them alive. But they were all dead.
In the vault, Michael could not access the central computer because she didn’t know the password. As she guessed at it, the scientist appeared and attacked. As he spoke, he phased in and out of reality.
NOTE: I could not help but think of the Lower Decks episode where Rutherford made Boimler get stuck in phase. That was a funny one.
Michael came out of the vault to discuss with Nhan and Culber. They didn’t quite understand what was happening to the scientist. Still, Stamets, Tilly, and Jett were all working on the problem on Discovery. As they bickered, Willa said they did not act very professional.
Soon they figured out that Attis was in the middle of beaming when a CME (coronal mass-ejection) happened from a nearby star. So that screwed up the process of him beaming back normally.
To save him from the effects of the CME, Tilly beamed him into the vault with some kind of magnetic twist. It fixed him.
“Dysfunction aside, you all make a pretty good team,” Willa said to Jett, Tilly, and Stamets.
“Dysfunction is the team,” said Jett. HA HA! Funny!
It took a bit of time in the vault, but eventually, they got Dr. Attis to give up the password. They got the correct seeds. When it was time to go, Attis refused because he would not leave his family.
Again, the three met outside of the vault. Culber said that he was being irrational because he’d die from the radiation in days if he didn’t leave. Nhan pushed back.
“Dysfunction is the team,” said Jett.
“Just because you don’t believe in a choice does not make it irrational,” said Nhan. They went back and forth over what to do since letting Attis die would mean the seed vault would not be watched. Culber beamed back with the seeds.
Michael told Nhan that Starfleet could not leave someone behind. Nhan said that it was Attis versus Starfleet.
“Sometimes there is no good choice,” said Michael. “Only what you can live with.”
Nhan said she’d stay. They cried and hugged, then Michael beamed back, leaving Nhan on duty on the Tikhov.
At Federation Headquarters, Vance was happy with the outcome. Saru said the Discovery was ready to serve Starfleet again. Vance said they do not have five-year missions anymore.
“Exploration is a luxury we cannot afford,” said Vance.
Saru then told Vance a parable about the painter Giotto, who helped move “the world” out of the ‘Dark Ages.’ He said that thanks to Giotto and his paintings, humans looked up. Saru noted that their presence may help the Federation “look up.”
“Sometimes there is no good choice. Only what you can live with.”
Michael asked again for Vance to let the Discovery stay together so they can help. Vance pointed out Detmer, who was obviously bad off. Michael said they all trusted Detmer. He agreed, but they would do exactly as he said. They agreed.
But just as he dismissed them, Michael brought up The Burn. Saru looked unhappy at this. Vance said all they had were 120 years of theories.
“Captain, Commander — welcome home,” Vance said.
Culber cured the Kili.
Michael and Willa discussed the music, and Willa said she knew the tune and could not explain why.
“Some things get in the ether,” said Willa.
Later, Michael tried to ask Georgiou the same question, but the empress only stared. Georgiou was catatonic for some time and then walked off.
“Exploration is a luxury we cannot afford,” said Vance.
Saru met Michael at the same window, which they gazed out at the start of the episode. He said that the Federation saved his life twice. Michael said the Federation is its people. Saru agreed but then told Michael to choose her words more wisely when speaking to the admiral.
Michael visibly chafed but agreed to do so.
“So much we do not know, but I am certain of one thing,” said Saru. “We are both looking up.”
TREK REPORT SUPPLEMENTAL:
A really good one! Though this was definitely a Discovery episode, they snuck in a little TOS/TNG magic with the mission to the Tikhov. That whole thing could have been Riker, Dr. Crusher, and Worf on the Tikhov. I really enjoyed it.
But, as pointed out earlier, Georgiou managed to steal the show. Will that encounter and revelation about the Terran Universe mean that she’ll never be able to get back where she belongs? Is Georgiou stuck in the 32nd Century — or is this a creative way to begin her Section 31 spin-off show? I guess we shall all see.
RATING: 4 out of 5