In possession of the coordinates for Federation and Starfleet headquarters, Saru dictates his first official captain’s log and prepares to report for duty with his new Number One, Michael Burnham. The pair ponder what they will find upon their arrival, and the first officer expresses an interest in inquiring about Gabrielle Burnham’s fate. Concealed by a distortion field for security purposes, the outpost presents the U.S.S. Discovery with a majestic 32nd century sight as it finally comes into view.
Regular readers can attest to my love of all things starship-related, so one can only imagine my joy over seeing the Discovery crew nerd out about the Federation vessels grouped around headquarters. A new U.S.S. Constitution, ships with detached nacelles, a floating rainforest, and hulls composed of either organic material or holographic-containment walls? Oh, and don’t forget the U.S.S. Voyager-J (I’d like to think the “J” stands for Janeway!). Also, if you look closely enough, you’ll see that Discovery passes a ship bearing the name U.S.S. Nog, a beautiful tribute to the late Aron Eisenberg.
Saru, Burnham, and Adira Tal beam over to report for duty and meet Admiral Charles Vance, Starfleet’s commander-in-chief (how can one apply for that job?). The excitement is palpable, and we learn that the Federation now consists of 38 planets (down from a peak of 350), Saru’s native Kaminar is a member, and the presence of the Emerald Chain, an Orion-Andorian alliance controlled by Osyraa, is detected by the U.S.S. Cuyahoga in the Sigma Draconis system. The nod to the region where “Spock’s Brain” took place isn’t the only Easter Egg, as a holographic map also references Kazon, Talax, Cardassia Prime, Talos, and the Founders’ Homeworld.
Saru and Burnham bring Vance up-to-speed on Discovery’s history, the spore drive, and the Sphere data, but the lingering effects of the 30th century wars related to the Temporal Accords leave the admiral reluctant to trust time travelers. Vance intends to refit Discovery and reassign the ship’s crew, causing Burnham to secretly encourage Saru to illegally obtain records regarding an illness infecting Kili refugees. Burnham wants to find a cure in order to prove the crew’s worth, but the captain insists on following proper protocols to get the data.
Holographic interrogators question the rest of the crew, and Georgiou pulls a Kirk-style maneuver to confuse and short circuit the holograms assigned to debrief her. The fact that Federation scanners can now distinguish Terrans from humans builds on the notion that the people of the Mirror Universe’s Earth are a completely different species. A lone organic interrogator intrigues Georgiou, but he also rattles her by revealing that the Terran Empire fell centuries before, the distance between the two universes has expanded, and no crossings have occurred in over 500 years.
Meanwhile, Saru and Burnham shed light on the prion infection and convince Vance to permit Discovery to retrieve samples from the Federation seed-vault ship U.S.S. Tikhov (the “M” in its registry number seems to indicate this vessel is a descendant of the 23rd century Tikhov). With Saru remaining behind and Vance’s security chief Lieutenant Willa accompanying her, Burnham takes command and jumps Discovery to the Tikhov’s coordinates. The Barzan (another new Federation member!) currently supervise the vessel, so Nhan accompanies Burnham and Culber on the away mission.
The boarding party finds that the seed vault has been compromised, and they also locate a holorecording of the Barzan humming along to a melody, which Burnham recognizes to be the same as the one that Adira recalled from Senna Tal’s youth. Unfortunately, Culber and Nhan discover that the Barzan family had perished and left behind Attis, a grief-stricken father who is stuck out-of-phase. Stamets, Reno, and Tilly figure out a way to rescue Attis, who gives Burnham access to the seeds needed to help the Kili.
Despite needing treatment for exposure to terminal levels of radiation, Attis refuses to abandon his family. Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) shines in this moment, deciding to forgo her career and honor Barzan’s commitment to the Federation by safeguarding the seed ship herself. Back at headquarters, Vance appears impressed by Discovery’s work, but he explains that the Federation no longer has the luxury of handing out five-year exploratory missions.
In an impassioned plea, Saru references the painter Giotto (not to be confused with Giotto from Captain Kirk’s security detachment in the classic episode “The Devil in the Dark”) and the manner in which the Renaissance artist’s work helped elevate Earth out of its so-called “Dark Ages.” Saru and Burnham successfully convince the admiral to keep Discovery’s crew together so that they can utilize the spore drive and Sphere data to serve the Federation. Questions about The Burn and the peculiar musical melody abound, but things are beginning to feel more like home.
After a journey across time and brief stops at Earth and Trill, “Die Trying” brings Discovery back into the Federation fold and casts light on how the interstellar government has coped in the 120 years since The Burn occurred. The episode deftly balances the awe of Starfleet’s marvelous technological innovations with the isolation of an organization that is largely cut off from its own population. In addition to advancing the ongoing narrative, the installment’s excursion to the seed ship pays homage to the standalone mysteries embedded in previous Star Trek series. So many exciting events have already transpired this season, yet we’ve only reached the fifth episode! Stay tuned as we continue to boldly go…
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who has contributed articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.