Michael Burnham and Philippa Georgiou receive no respite after returning from their rescue mission on Hunhau. Following an adversarial consultation with Dr. Culber, the Terran relents to a medical exam concerning the blackouts she has been experiencing. Cleveland “Book” Booker tells Burnham that he must return to his home planet of Kwejian to see his brother Kyheem, who fears a reprisal from Osyraa and the Emerald Chain. Apparently, The Burn caused tidal changes on Kwejian, which spurred sea locusts to rise up, consume the harvest, and leave the population starving. The Emerald Chain offered a special repellent in exchange for valuable trance worms, but now they desire something more.
Saru and Burnham convince Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) to allow the U.S.S. Discovery-A to jump to Kwejian and act as observers. At the labor camp on Hunhau, where Michael saved Book in “Scavengers,” we finally meet Osyraa (Janet Kidder), who demonstrates her brutality by murdering her nephew Tolor for permitting the workers to escape. On a lighter note, we are treated to Tilly briefing the captain in her role as acting first officer, and the two discuss options for Saru’s new signature call to action. “Execute,” “hit it,” and “manifest” are suggested, but Saru remains skeptical of those choices.
In engineering, Saru and Tilly learn that Paul Stamets and Adira Tal have used the Ni’Var data to determine that The Burn originated in the Verubin Nebula. A signal is being broadcast from the location, and the sound it produces resembles the melody that the Barzan mother hummed on the seed vault ship and Gray Tal played on the cello. The group clears up the distortion and realizes that they are hearing a Federation distress signal, so Stamets assigns Adira to find and decode the message hidden within the transmission.
In a pivotal moment for the young crewmember, Adira informs Stamets that they’ve never felt like a “she” or a “her,” and instead they use the pronouns “they” and “them.” Stamets accepts this news without question or hesitation, supplying a perfect example for how to react when someone tells you about their pronouns. Adira trusts Stamets once again, confiding that they are unable to communicate with Gray at the moment. Meanwhile, Doctors Culber and Pollard examine Georgiou, who nearly experiences a cerebral hemorrhage as her body appears to fluctuate or phase.
Discovery arrives at Kwejian, and Saru dispatches Burnham and Book to assess the situation on the surface. As the two move through the sea locusts infesting the planet’s sanctuary, they are captured by Kyheem and his forces. Booker’s non-biological brother explains that Osyraa seeks custody of Book’s Andorian friend Ryn (Noah Averbach-Katz). Osyraa’s ship Viridian enters orbit and demands that Discovery surrender Ryn. The Federation’s presence angers the Orion leader, who messages Kyheem to let him know that she now requires Ryn and Book.
The Viridian opens fire on Kwejian’s defense grid, but Vance’s orders hamper Saru’s ability to target the Emerald Chain’s vessel. Tilly devises an ingenious solution: have Lieutenant Detmer go on a “rogue” mission and attack the Viridian using Book’s ship Nautilus. Ryn accompanies Detmer and to furnish vital intel about the enemy starship’s technical layout. Georgiou, who unearths startling data that suggests she is dying, also wishes to help Burnham, but Culber intercepts her before she can depart Discovery.
Detmer and Ryn (and Grudge!) courageously undertake a dangerous mission to subdue the Viridian. Detmer proves that the discussions she has had with Culber regarding her personal trauma have been fruitful, as she inspires confidence in herself and her Andorian co-pilot. The Starfleet officer’s fancy flying and accurate phaser fire severely damage the Viridian, prompting Osyraa to threaten the Federation prior to retreating from the battle.
On Kwejian, Burnham urges Book and Kyheem to put their differences behind them and combine their empathic abilities to persuade the sea locusts to return to their natural habitat. Recalling the way Discovery accelerated the vahar’ai for all Kelpiens in “The Sound of Thunder,” Burnham has the ship amplify the electromagnetic connection between the sea locusts. This grants the brothers with enough mental reach to successfully send the locusts back to the sea.
Aboard Discovery, Ryn confers with Tilly and reveals that the Emerald Chain is running out of dilithium, while Book makes peace with Kyheem and meets his nephew. The notoriously independent courier recognizes the assistance that Discovery and the Federation have provided to Kwejian and other imperiled worlds, leading him to tell Michael that he wants to be a part of the vessel’s valiant mission.
“The Sanctuary” imparts a great deal of information about Book, his family, and his homeworld. Trips to Earth, Trill, and Ni’Var added a sense of familiarity and nostalgia to the 32nd century, but this excursion to Kwejian furnishes Discovery with an entirely new culture to explore. The season’s various threads feel as if they are coming to a head, as the Emerald Chain’s dilithium shortage and the signal emanating from The Burn’s point-of-origin seem to foreshadow that many answers might soon be found. From Detmer’s breakthrough to Book’s affinity for the Federation, the episode also proves particularly adept at dealing with personal growth. What’s next? As Saru might say, all we can do right now is, “Carry on.” 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.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.