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RECAP | Star Trek: Discovery 504 - 'Face the Strange'

Don't bury your mind in the abstract for too long, you'll turn into a Rothko painting.

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains story details and plot points for Star Trek: Discovery.

Graphic illustration of Burnham touching a glitchy monitor in 'Face the Strange'

Previously, in "Red Directive," Captain Burnham admits to Book she doesn't know how to be around him anymore, while the ex-courier wonders if some things are hard to move past, for both of them. While on an away mission in "Jinaal," Burnham tasks with new first officer Rayner to familiarize himself with the crew with one-on-ones as connection is a choice; not a skill.

Meanwhile, while on Trill, after meeting with Jinaal Bix, inhabiting Dr. Culber's body, offers the captain the next clue to locating the Progenitors' tech. Unfortunately, any gains they achieved is sabotaged as Moll manages to slip a piece of tech onto Adira's uniform without their knowledge.

In Episode 4 of Star Trek: Discovery, "Face the Strange," on the way to the next clue, the U.S.S. Discovery is sabotaged by a mysterious weapon, leaving Captain Burnham, Rayner, and Stamets as the only crew members who can possibly save the ship in time.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Personnel

  • Moll (Malinne)
  • L'ak
  • Adira Tal
  • Michael Burnham
  • Rayner
  • Keyla Detmer
  • Joann Owosekun
  • Gen Rhys
  • William Christopher
  • Linus
  • Sylvia Tilly
  • Paul Stamets
  • Dr. Hugh Culber
  • Cleveland "Book" Booker
  • Jett Reno
  • R.A. Bryce
  • Airiam
  • Zora
Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Locations

  • Salata Major Beach
  • U.S.S. Discovery
Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Event Log

Fifteen hours earlier, Moll and L'ak are seen rendezvousing with a broker on a moonlit shore. They hand him a bag of latinum as payment for an item, but he insists that the price has gone up. The weapons dealer begins to cough and experience psychedelic effects, and Moll divulges that she had anticipated his betrayal and soaked the latinum in Fop'yano poison — the same toxin that the broker had sold to the Emerald Chain to use on people like her. As his mouth foams and he collapses, Moll retrieves an item from his pocket. While her spirits are buoyed by the prospect of having an edge over the U.S.S. Discovery-A's pursuit of the Progenitors' tech, L'ak second guesses their situation — he feels as if the walls are closing in. Moll reassures him that their success will mean no more bounties on their heads, looking over their shoulders, or running. They kiss, Moll extending her hand to reveal that the item is…

…the spider-like device which Moll placed on Ensign Adira Tal's sleeve. Back in the present, the mechanical menace scurries through Adira's quarters as they make plans to meet with Gray when he graduates to the next level of training in a few months. Adira hears its metallic steps, but Commander Paul Stamets' request for assistance draws them away, and the creature melts into the bulkhead.

Moll and L'ak hand a weapons dealer a satchel of latinum on the surface of Salata Major in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

Discovery arrives at the coordinates supplied to them by Jinaal Bix, but scans do not detect anything of note. On the Bridge, Captain Michael Burnham refuses to give up, tasking Lieutenant Linus with sending DOT-23s to conduct a more in-depth scan of the area. Lieutenant Christopher reports that Trill has found no sign of Moll and L'ak, a fact which irritates Commander Rayner. The first officer insists the thieves should have been there hours ago when the captain was on the planet. Unbeknownst to the crew, Moll's device emerges from a nearby wall. Lieutenant Commander Gen Rhys advises that the couriers are likely to wait for Discovery to lead them to the next clue. The arachnid-like spy blends back into the bulkhead as Rayner dismisses Rhys' observation as a guess. Angered by the interaction, Burnham turns to the commander and asks him to join her in the Ready Room.

The two senior officers beam to the privacy of the conference area, and Burnham bluntly pronounces Rayner's behavior to be unacceptable — that’s not how they do things on Discovery. The captain values having the crew engaged, involved, and encouraged to speak freely, prompting Rayner to 'freely' express his opinion that such a policy is a mistake. Red Directives require decisiveness and discipline — not collaboration. Burnham takes offense to the idea that her crew lacks discipline, but Rayner believes that the ship's personnel are too comfortable with one another. Burnham counters that their familiarity saved the Federation, the galaxy, and Rayner himself.

Rayner's argument intensifies into an outburst, but the commander takes a moment to pace and reevaluate his position. Rayner acknowledges that his criticism was over the line and apologizes. Burnham presses on, matter-of-factly stating that the Burn is over and Rayner is on her ship — she expects him to do things her way. Rayner lifts his chin, challenging the captain with the query, "And if my way is better?"

Captain Burnham looks directly across from her towards Rayner about her approach with her crew in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

Meanwhile, in Engineering, Stamets spots Moll's device bustling across the wall, following it until it melts into a panel. Burnham and Rayner continue their face-off in the Ready Room, when the lights suddenly flicker and Lieutenant Commander Joann Owosekun transmits an update from the Bridge — odd energy fluctuations have been detected and an unauthorized signal was just broadcast from the ship. Burnham and Rayner attempt to beam to Discovery’s command center, but their personal transporters convulse.

The Ready Room is suddenly transformed, now awash in sparks and debris with stars speeding past the rear viewport. Transporters and comms appear to be inoperative, so Burnham and Rayner rush to the turbolift. As the doors open, they confront an unsettling sight on the Bridge — Saru and the command crew are unconscious on the floor, and all wear mid-23rd Century Starfleet uniforms. The viewscreen displays a voyage through a wormhole, and Discovery rides in the wake of what Rayner refers to as a "red thing." Shock covers the captain's expression. The question isn’t where they are, but when. Nodding to the figure in the distance, Burnham states, "That’s the Red Angel. That was me."

Captain Burnham processes the stunning scene, registering that this is the day they traveled to the 32nd Century. Rayner notes the absurdity of going back in time to the moment Discovery went into the future. The crew begins to stir, and Burnham hurries Rayner out of the room; the time travelers aren’t supposed to be there, so they must avoid being seen. They regroup in the Ready Room, and the captain theorizes that Jinaal's coordinates weren’t as empty as they had thought. Commander Saru's voice can be heard ordering everyone to brace for impact. Aware of how history transpires, Burnham is certain they will survive the crash landing, but Rayner is not particularly enthused by the prospect.

The lights flash again. Burnham and Rayner remain in the Ready Room, but their surroundings have changed once more. The room is open to the atmosphere, its incomplete rear bulkhead now displaying a lovely view of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge on Earth. The captain nervously gestures to the commander, who turns to find a construction worker wearing a hardhat and enjoying some music. Confused by the unexpected visit, the man assumes this is a surprise inspection. Burnham and Rayner immediately adapt to the situation. And, as the worker walks off to inform his foreman; the commander offers him advice — fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Once the man departs, Rayner sheepishly confesses that he hates that saying.

Captain Burnham exhales, proclaiming that they are in drydock when Discovery was first being built. They haven’t just traveled back in time, they are jumping through it. While the people they come across on their journey still live in the moment, Burnham and Rayner's awareness are not being affected by the shifts. The 32nd Century officers trace their steps, remembering that the ordeal began when energy fluctuations prompted them to try beaming to the Bridge. Whatever is influencing the ship must have hit it at the exact moment they were beaming!

Captain Burnham across from Rayner in her Ready Room looks around the room accessing what has changed in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

The lights shudder and the environment morphs, the completed starship is now taking weapons fire in the midst of a massive space battle. Although the year oscillates, Burnham and Rayner are returned to their original positions in the Ready Room every time. Explosions rock Discovery, and the chronometer reads Stardate 1051.8 — the Battle with Control. They deduce that this can’t be a time eddy or a neural attack, and the truth suddenly dawns on Rayner — it’s a "time bug," a Krenim chronophage left over from the Temporal War.* They are designed to paralyze an enemy vessel by randomly cycling through time, lasting weeks or months until the "little suckers" run out of juice. Curious as to how Moll and L'ak got the device aboard Discovery, they assume the unauthorized broadcast was a notification beacon intended to alert the couriers to their position.

Captain Burnham resolves to prohibit Moll and L'ak from obtaining the Progenitors' tech, and she activates her tricom badge in order to calculate a pattern to the time cycle intervals. She proposes they find Stamets, as the scientist lives outside of time because of his tardigrade DNA. Rayner's face conveys befuddlement, but the captain thinks that — while Stamets will be trapped within the time bug's trap like everyone else — he will be as aware of the situation as she and Rayner.

Chaos reigns in Sickbay, with those wounded during the fight against Control filling the biobeds. Dr. Hugh Culber treats Stamets for a shrapnel wound to his chest. The astromycologist tries to warn his partner about a "scary bug," but Culber attributes the calls for a "Zora" to delirium and induces a coma. Space warps around them, and the moment snaps back to the Ready Room, where Burnham and Rayner see that Discovery is now under a Cloak Alert. Burnham's badge shows that the last cycle sustained itself for twice as long as the one prior to it. She checks the stardate and predicts Stamets will be in Engineering. They take a turbolift — Burnham programs a direct route to storage on Deck 13 via service shaft epsilon so as to uphold the Temporal Prime Directive** — and the captain inputs an override code to mask their biometric readings.

The ship goes to Black Alert, and a bleak revelation occurs to Burnham — this is the day Osyraa attacks Discovery. The turbolift doors slide open, and they are greeted by one of the Emerald Chain's heavily armed regulators. Burnham and Rayner spring into action, ducking weapons fire and dispatching the helmeted guard. Osyraa's reinforcements storm the corridor, but the duo fend them off in ferocious hand-to-hand combat. A regulator nearly gets the drop on Rayner, but Commander Jett Reno delivers a blast to the foe's head and remarks, "Get a better helmet." Reno doesn’t recognize Rayner, and the time traveler poses as an officer named Commander Lock who is on temporary assignment. He's grateful for the save, and Reno says he can repay her with a drink at Red’s. The engineer advises him to steer clear of the "bucketheads," and the time shift crescendos once again.

Due to a time bug, Burnham and Rayner find themselves in an abandoned Discovery bridge in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

Back in the Ready Room, Burnham and Rayner perceive several differences — accumulated debris clouds the viewport, the power systems blink unsteadily, and it seems as if no one has been there for years. Musical tones lure them to the Bridge, and they enter to the sounds of "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)." The viewscreen doors are sealed, and Zora welcomes them by asking if they are real or if this is another dream. Discovery's A.I. relays that Captain Burnham and the crew died decades ago, and it is now 3218 — almost 30 years in the future. Zora's memory is unreliable, but she explains that the Progenitors' technology fell into the wrong hands. Burnham orders her to open the viewscreen doors, an act which unveils a horrific scene. Federation Headquarters has been torn apart, its interior superstructure exposed to space.

Zora provides further details — by the time Starfleet found Discovery and deactivated the Krenim chronophage, Moll and L'ak were too far ahead to catch. Burnham spots a Breen ship among the starbase's debris, and Zora confirms that the Breen somehow acquired the Progenitors' secrets and launched a devastating attack. The captain slowly advances toward her captain's chair, wiping dust from its surface and reminiscing about needing all of her strength to prevent herself from running away the first time she walked onto this Bridge. She respected Starfleet too much to believe she deserved to be there after mutinying on the U.S.S. Shenzhou, yet Rayner points out that she must be the first person in Starfleet history to captain a ship that they originally boarded as a prisoner.

Grinning, Burnham admits that she never gave up and refocuses her efforts on solving the current crisis. Tracking the time cycles isn't enough, so Zora recommends other variables — the ship's location, distance, and speed. The captain latches onto the final factor, determining that their speed is a vital part of the equation. When Zora maps the intervals to a spacetime diagram and expands them to higher dimensions, the resulting pattern is a conical wave that tells them how long they'll have between time jumps. The holographic illustration accurately predicts the next shift, and Zora pleads for them to set things right.

Stamets proposes a theoretical scenario for Jett Reno facing her in Engineering in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

On this occasion, Stamets materializes from the time jump and finds himself in Engineering with Reno. She tells "Doctor Truffles" that she is waiting for the reference calculations for the injector coil, and Stamets feigns recognition until he reasons she requires the information for the O.B.D. diagnostic. The scientist asks his colleague about a "theoretical predicament," wondering if — hypothetically — calibrating a chroniton stabilizer to partition world lines per Scaravelli's Constant would nullify any temporal unpleasantness that might hit the ship. Reno concurs, so long as he factors dimensional variations, and elicits an awkward denial when she asks if Stamets is stuck in a time loop. She playfully jabs his shoulder, cautioning that burying his mind in the abstract for too long will turn him into a Rothko painting.

As Reno departs, Captain Burnham pokes her head up from a maintenance shaft and softly whispers for Stamets' attention. The astromycologist moves quickly, commanding the rest of his staff to evacuate due to a spore breach or risk having mushrooms grow on their lungs. Burnham and Rayner crawl from their hiding place and fill Stamets in on everything they've learned to this point. Repeating events has stressed the scientist, though he took solace in reliving the time Lieutenant Linus got stuck in the replicator. Stamets escorts them to the panel where the "time bug" embedded itself in the power distribution subsystem, but improperly removing it might cause incalculable timelines to converge and repeatedly rip every molecule into infinite directions for eternity. "Sounds bad," according to Rayner.

In order to disconnect the time bug from Discovery's inner workings, they must nullify its effects with near-perfect precision based on the shifting intervals. Fortunately for Stamets, the captain can supply him with that intel. The scientist transfers the data to his PADD, sharing that he’ll need help gathering parts to build a chroniton stabilizer. As their current cycle winds down, the three officers agree to meet on Deck 13 after each reset. The jump occurs and they make their scheduled rendezvous, but the only place to find the field disruptor fluid Stamets requests is in the holodeck that — at this time — has just been installed in the captain's quarters, which is bio-metrically secured.

A future Burnham grips Book's hands as he returns to her quarters after getting in a workout in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

Burnham volunteers for the assignment and discreetly steps foot in her room, finding Grudge relaxing on the bed. The captain opens a panel and removes vials of the liquid, but Cleveland "Book" Booker returns from the gym before she can exit. The Kwejian throws Burnham further off balance when he removes his shirt, and he draws her close to underscore his confidence in her "new" captaincy. He implores her to trust her instincts and says she is made for this. Book agrees that change can be hard, but that's the only way anything meaningful can happen. He steps forward for a passionate kiss, and they exchange "I love yous" on Burnham’s way out the door.

Burnham reunites with Rayner and Stamets in Engineering, where the astromycologist is disturbed that his subordinates don't realize that a "spore breach" isn’t a real thing. He adds the field disruptor fluid to his freshly constructed chroniton stabilizer, but the "time bug" has a defense mechanism — a purple-hued temporal shield that disintegrates a spanner in mere seconds. Another reset occurs, and they gather on Deck 13. Stamets explains that time within the shield is moving at an ultra-accelerated rate, so anything — including humanoids — will age to dust before it reaches the bug itself. However, they can mitigate the effects by taking the ship to maximum warp and breaking the warp bubble, which is what protects the vessel from the effects of relativity. Dropping out of warp at that speed will impede the time inside the shield from being able to keep up.

Convening in Engineering, Paul Stamets in Discovery's 23rd Century uniform addresses Rayner and Burnham in 32nd Century uniforms in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

Rayner voices the prospect of deadly whiplash or breaking the Discovery into a million pieces, but Stamets replies that the inertial dampeners should prevent that — hopefully. He also details that their actions won't affect the future, as changes to the period they're in don't become permanent until after the bug resets. Breaking the bubble and deactivating the time bug within the same cycle will cause everything to revert to the way it was before. They have 14 minutes to pull off the risky endeavor, but — at the current time — Captain Gabriel Lorca still commands Discovery. Luckily, the Mirror Universe menace is on an away mission with Saru and Ellen Landry, but a somberness settles in when Stamets and Burnham find out that their friend, the late Lieutenant Commander Airiam, is on duty on the Bridge.

The three officers set their strategy — Burnham will need to convince the crew, who still believe she's a mutineer, to follow her instructions; Stamets will modulate the inertial dampeners; and Rayner will be the one to stick his hand in the "spider’s nest." They split up, but the captain's turbolift ride is interrupted by a stop to pick up Lieutenant Linus, who seems perplexed by Burnham's 32nd Century Command uniform. The Saurian hesitates to comment, eventually composing himself enough to tell her that red is definitely her color. Burnham's smile of relief is fleeting, because — once Linus leaves — the current timeline's Michael Burnham shows up at the door.

The captain pulls her past self into the turbolift, intent on outlining how she is from the future and has found herself stuck cycling through time. Past Burnham perceives the explanation as a ruse, uncertain as to whether Captain Burnham is a shapeshifter. Referring to the captain's rank and uniform, her younger self can't imagine how she could possibly wind up receiving captain's pips after having been convicted of mutiny. Past Burnham squares off with the captain, and the two Michaels prove themselves to be relatively evenly matched at fisticuffs, at least until the captain incapacitates her counterpart with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Out of breath, Captain Burnham comforts the unconscious woman, as — while it's hard to see a path to the captaincy from where she is — she can overcome the long road by not giving up.

32nd Century Captain Burnham pulls mutineer Burnham into the turbolift in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

Stamets glides into Engineering, barking that he is "very grumpy" as a way to clear the room. Rayner climbs in through a shaft, noting that this worked better than the scientist's spore drive excuse. Acknowledging he was a tad more surly "pre-tardigrade DNA," Stamets wrestles with mixing up the 23rd Century inertial dampener procedure with the modern 32nd Century systems that also occupy his mind. Rayner's declaration that Stamets must "unmuddy" those thoughts irritates the astromycologist, and he critiques the commander's "gruff candor" routine. Stamets feels the weight of the moment, but his diatribe makes it clear that he is also bearing the intense pressure of dealing with the Progenitors' unprecedented technology. Rayner reflects, assuring him that he's not in this alone, and impresses Stamets by helping him prepare for their gambit at another console. The first officer uncharacteristically refers to him by his first name, inspiring Paul to laugh with his declaration, "Let’s show’em how a couple of old dogs still know the best tricks."

Captain Burnham arrives on the Bridge with her hands raised in a peaceful gesture, and — seated in the captain's chair — the mechanically-augmented Airiam states that she is not authorized to be here. Lieutenant Bryce and Cadet Tilly question the style of Burnham's uniform and hair, but Airiam calls for security once the captain starts to clarify her predicament. Burnham simplifies her story to guard her crew from too many details, though her intimate knowledge about Lieutenant Joann Owosekun's right cross and the sensors’ report that two Michaels exist on the ship aid her cause.

The captain resumes displaying her familiarity with the crew — Lieutenant Keyla Detmer sits at a window on Deck 6 when she's having a bad day; Owosekun joined Starfleet because she wasn't able to save her friend when she was 15; Bryce loves Comms because he used to listen to old radio emissions in space with his grandmother; and Tilly is frightened her mutinous roommate will knife her in her sleep because of her snoring. Burnham stuns the room when she proclaims that she's not just a future Starfleet captain, she's Discovery's captain. Certain that this is all difficult to process, she asserts that Airiam will trust her account because — Burnham contains her sadness — she has seen how Airiam dies.

Tilly plugs her ears to dodge any additional temporal insights, while Bryce reacts by demanding Burnham be removed from the Bridge. The captain hurries to offer specifics as the comms officer draws his phaser. Airiam perishes 396 days from this moment when an A.I. program infects her augmentation, prompting her to sacrifice everything for Discovery. The crew denies Airiam would ever give up, but her own metallic voice declares that she would if it meant saving her friends. The tension is relieved and the officers stand down, allowing Airiam to ask what Burnham needs of them. Airiam's order for the ship to prepare for maximum warp rings out over the comm in Engineering, assuring Stamets and Rayner that Burnham had succeeded. All seems right with three minutes to go, but "past" Burnham startles them by storming in with Lieutenant Rhys and aiming a phaser at the two time travelers.

Discovery achieves maximum warp, giving Captain Burnham a moment to confide in Airiam on the Bridge. Airiam is astonishingly serene about her fate and adds that she won't retain her memories from this time cycle anyway. A status check on Engineering reveals Rayner and Stamets' captive quandary, but the captain encourages her first officer to handle the situation. Rayner speaks to Rhys, insisting that he knows him in a future time when he has been promoted to Lieutenant Commander. The tactical officer's incredulity endures until Rayner recounts Rhys' love for the curves of the 23rd Century Constitution-class. The lieutenant's grip on his weapon wavers.

Past Burnham intercedes — even if Rayner is from the future, it's too dangerous — and wields her phaser in Stamets' direction. Harkening back to a memory that Captain Burnham had shared earlier, Rayner confronts her younger counterpart with the fact that — on her first day on Discovery — she didn't feel she deserved to be there. Rayner steps forward until her phaser rests on his chest, pronouncing that past Burnham does deserve to be here. She’s doing a "damned good job" in all the shit she’s going through, and it's going to make her one hell of a captain. Rayner also lost his family in his youth, and he learned that the only thing left you can trust is the voice in your head. He implores her to trust her instincts, watching as past Burnham lowers her phaser.

The viewscreen in Engineering flickers as they endure another time anomaly as Captain Burnham lifts her hand to the screen in 'Face the Strange'

"Face the Strange"

Stamets hails Captain Burnham, who orders Detmer to exit the warp bubble, an act that sends blue static crackling across the viewscreen. Rayner simultaneously engulfs the time bug in the chroniton stabilizer, straining as his hand fends off the time differential. The illumination in Engineering flickers rapidly, the fluctuation accelerating until Burnham and Rayner suddenly land back in the Ready Room once more. The computer confirms they're back in the present, having only lost six hours to the disturbance. The past hasn't been altered in any way, though the commander is nursing his injured hand.

Rayner contemplates their trial, crediting Burnham's success to her relationship with her crew. He accepts that he can be stubborn, a trait he also saw in "past" Burnham. The captain muses that the experience reminded her of life's constant changes, a lesson which helps her understand how arduous it is for Rayner to adjust to his new role. The duo see eye-to-eye on another truth — they made a good team. The commander wonders how they'll explain this to the crew, but Burnham jokes that they'll get it as soon as they say "time bug."

Stamets stares into the panel which said time bug inhabited, pulling out its charred remains and wishing he had been able to squish it. Adira notices the mechanical arachnid and wonders if it had anything to do with six hours passing in the blink of an eye. The Bridge crew embrace the information in a similar fashion, and Gen Rhys is particularly happy that he didn't shoot the captain during the standoff.

Commander Rayner, his hand now healed, enters in time to hear Captain Burnham impart her own appreciation for the way everyone came together. She requests an update from the DOTs who have been scanning nearby space, and Linus communicates that a warp signature matching Moll and L'ak's ship was detected. Rayner praises Rhys for his earlier assertion, earning a nod from the tactical officer. Moll and L'ak's trail vanishes, but the captain is confident that her crew can solve the mystery of the next clue's location. As the officers set to work, Captain Burnham settles into the captain's chair, the joy palpable on her face.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Canon Connections

* "Year of Hell" — Introduced in this Star Trek: Voygar two-parter, the U.S.S. Voyager encountered the technologically-advanced Krenim, which once dominated the Zahl territory with their deadly temporal weapons.

** "Relativity" — Lt. Duncane reminds Captain Janeway about the Temporal Prime Directive, a fundamental Starfleet principle, to not discuss her experiences with time travel with anyone as to not disrupt the timeline, alter history, or create paradoxes.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Log Credits

  • Written by Sean Cochran
  • Directed by Lee Rose
Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Section Banner - Notable Tunes

  • "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" — Doris Day