Star Trek Discovery "Die Trying" Detailed Analysis & Review

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By Adam David Collings. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In the newest episode of Star Trek Discovery, the crew finally locate Starfleet headquarters, in what is a fanboy extravaganza. We see Voyager J and the USS Nog. I love the back and forth between Admiral Vance and Saru and Burnham. Can they convince him to trust them, and is coming back to Starfleet, after so many centuries all they hoped it would be?

Another great episode of Star Trek.

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Transcript

Welcome to Nerd Heaven

I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars

And I am a nerd.

This is episode 42 of the podcast.

Yes. 42. A very significant nerd number. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate life, the universe, and everything.

Ok. on with it.

Today, we’re talking about Star Trek Discovery season 3 episode 5. Die Trying.

The description on Memory Alpha reads

After reuniting with what remains of Starfleet and the Federation, the USS Discovery and its crew must prove that a 930 year old crew and starship are exactly what this new future needs.

The teleplay was written by Sean Cochran based on a story by James Duff & Sean Cochrane.

It was directed by Maja Vrvilo

And it first aired on the 12th of November 2020.

Make it so.

The episode opens with Saru giving a captain’s log. And that’s awesome. I believe it’s the first time we’ve heard him utter those iconic words. The interesting thing is, it’s a supplemental log. Last week started the same way, with Doctor Culbert giving a supplemental log.

A supplemental log is just that … it’s a supplement. The original series used supplemental logs as a little catch-up for those viewers coming in part-way through the broadcast who might have missed the beginning of the episode. In-universe, it’s like an addition to the day’s log. Now it’s conceivable that we would open a story with them supplementing their log, but the things they say just don’t feel very supplemental. They feel like the main content of a log.

The first two seasons of this show often used supplemental logs to good effect, because it meant they didn’t have to quote a stardate, and they had no good system for stardates in the pre-TOS era.

But we’re now in the 32nd century, and we have a good Stardate system. In fact, a stardate is mentioned later in the episode. So why are doing all these supplemental logs at the start of episodes? Feel a little weird.

But anyway, Saru is giving a captain’s log. And I love that.

Discovery is about to arrive at the coordinates where they’ll find the headquarters for both Starfleet and The Federation. And it’s nice to see that the writers are finally understanding the distinction and relationship between those two entities.

There’s a hint of misgiving in Saru’s voice. They don’t know what the Federation or Starfleet look like in this century. Will they be eager to see a 930 year old ship? Will the Discovery crew have a hope of fitting in with this version of Starfleet? Will the common ideals remain enough to bind them together? As they were in the fantastic crossover novel Star Trek Federation by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stephens. Great book. Check it out if you haven’t read it.

Michael doesn’t just want to know what’s become of Starfleet in this universe. She wants to find out what happened to her mother. Maybe there will be some answers here.

So, headquarters is contained in a distortion field meant to hide it. I’m not sure it’s very effective. It’s this big glow blob thing that must raise a few eyebrows, both visually, and on sensors. But anyway,

Discovery flies in.

Have you noticed that the shuttle bay doors always seem to be open these days. I know they have a forcefield to hold in the atmosphere, but that’s just meant to be up while the doors are open for ships to come in and out. It’s kind of weird that they just fly around with it open all the time. Very odd. I mean, it looks cool on screen, but it’s not very practical.

This opening sequence is just a massive Star Trek geek-out. We get to see a bunch of 32nd century Starfleet ships, but we don’t get a really good look at them. The lighting in this shot seems designed to obscure them, more than show them off, which I think is a terrible shame. I want to get a sense of these ships.

One of them seems to have really long nacelles, like Discovery. Another seems to be shaped like a donut.

The looks on everyone’s faces is priceless, and kind of matches how we’d all feel if we were suddenly in the heart of Starfleet territory, surrounded by ships.

The crew notice ships with neutronium alloy fibres, organic hulls, ships that are entirely holographic, a new USS Constitution that can sleep a crew of two thousand, detached nacelles, and a flying rainforest.

And then we see the USS Voyager. NCC 74658-J

Which is really cool.

Not all Starfleet ships that re-use the name of a previous vessel get the letters in the registry. Often, they just get a brand new number. It’s only special ships that retain that registry number and add a letter on the end. Enter Enterprise was one example. It seems Voyager is another. And that makes sense. Voyager’s journey home from the Delta Quadrant would be the stuff of legend in this day and age.

We don’t get a great look at the new Voyager, but its primary hull seems to follow a similar shape to the original.

It’s the eleventh ship to bear the name.

Memory Alpha has said that Voyager J is a 32nd century intrepid class vessel. But that doesn’t make sense. The intrepids were a class of ships used in the 24th century. Starfleet doesn’t re-use the class name like that. If it were intrepid class, it should look exactly like the original voyager. Anyway, this isn’t on-screen canon.

And then the big moment, we fly past the USS Nog. NCC-325070

This is a blink and you’ll miss it moment, and honestly, you’ll probably miss it even if you don’t blink. You can barely read the name with all the lense flare going on.

This particular moment was spoiled for me by the internet, because I don’t get Discovery until Friday night, here in Australia. So I spent the whole episode waiting for the USS Nog to show up. I expected it to be a significant part of the story. It wasn’t. It was just a quick visual easter egg.

But, it’s an awesome one.

I love that they did this. Alex Kurtzman has confirmed this ship is named after the character Nog on Deep Space Nine, who was the first Ferengi to join Starfleet. And he’s said this is an Eisenberg class ship.

This, of course, honours the late Aron Eisenberg who played Nog, and who tragically died just over a year ago. In my opinion, Nog was one of the greatest characters in all of Star Trek. He had the greatest character arc the show has ever done, and by all accounts, Mr. Eisenberg was a wonderful human being. So I’m thrilled that Discovery honoured him in this way.

After Discovery hails headquarters, letting them know the USS Discovery is reporting for duty, they ask for the Captain, First office and Tal to beam aboard. Their sensors can detect the presence of the symbiont.

As they are snatched away by a transporter beam, the musical score goes full-on fanboy, which honestly was appropriate for this moment.

We get a decent look at the new Starfleet uniforms. They’re similar, but not quite identical to what we saw in Tal’s memories last episode.

They look like a decent continuation of the style we’ve seen on the USS Relativity, and from the temporal agents in the temporal cold war.

There’s a bunch of different uniforms. The admiral uniform is different, obviously, as it always is. Then there are light grayish blue uniforms with a stripe going up them in traditional TNG-era department colours. But there is another uniform, light dray on the bottom with dark blue shoulders, in a shape I’m not sure how to describe in words. This is worn by the chief of security and at least one other officer. This particular uniform looks the least Starfleet and seems to be out of place among the others.

Oh, and the com badges are not identical to the one worn by Admiral Sena Tal. I actually prefer Tal’s com badge, because the Starfleet delta is a bit more visible. But anyway.

And we meet Admiral Vence, commander-in-chief of Starfleet.

Saru is delighted to learn that Kaminar joined the federation.

We learn about The Omega Chain, a coalition of Andorian and Orions. And we learn of someone called Osyraa, who is becoming more brazen every day. I imagine we’ll learn more of him and his organisation in future episodes. The omega chain gets name-dropped again later.

The admiral knew Sela Tal, but makes it clear that he and Adira are strangers to one another. And then Adira is taken off for a medical diagnostic. And that’s the last we see of her in this episode. I wonder what all of that is about. Maybe they just want to make sure that the symbiant and the human host are healthy with one another. But the Trill themselves would have been better equipped to determine that.

I’m really curious what that’s all about.

I noticed, on my first watch, there was a little visual easter egg, a mention of the Kazon on a computer monitor. I imagine that before the burn, the Federation’s influence extended into the Delta Quadrant. Maybe even the Gamma Quadrant as well. Distances that were insurmountable for Voyager were probably considered “just next door” before the burn.

This season, and this episode in particular, are making me feel the same way that I first felt when I started watching TNG. This is Star Trek, but it’s a whole new Star Trek. It’s a great feeling.

I enjoyed the first two seasons of this show, but I’m loving this season way more than I was expecting to.

But then we learn about the Kili. Some refugees of a cool-looking new alien race are sick with some kind of disease which is plaguing their world. Burnham is immediately keen to help with that problem, but Vance wants to hear their story first.

And I’m pleased to see they are finally telling someone the truth about their situation. The whole truth. Control, the sphere data, the spore drive. The red angel. All of it.

And I’m glad about that. The whole hiding who they were thing was starting to get a bit old, and well...strange.

The rather annoying EMH notes that Saru may be the last Kelpien who still retains biochemical traces of Vahar’ai.

Which is odd, because Vahar’ai is basically a stage of development, like puberty. So we are to say that the offspring of Kelpiens who have gone through Vahar’ai and shed their ganglia, are born without ganglia of their own, they are are born as “evolved Kelpiens” as the second season episode rather incorrectly called them. That’s weird.

Remember, long ago, there were “evolved Kelpiens,” but the Ba’ul forced them back into their pre-vahar’ai state. None of this has been explained very well.

There are currently 38 member worlds of the Federation that Vance is aware of. There may be other worlds out there that still consider themselves members, but have lost all contact. There were 350 member worlds at the Federation’s peak. I wonder when exactly that peak happened.

And I do still love the floating tables and chairs. They’re cool.

The EMH, Eli has confirmed that Saru and Michael are not lying. But Starfleet records hold no references to Control, a red angel or a spire drive. Thanks, Spock.

So he’s understandably skeptical. He can’t corroborate their story. And the Federation spent most of the 30th century fighting a war to uphold the temporal accords. We, of course, know this as the temporal cold war. Time travel is outlawed. Which means, the Discovery crew’s presence here is by definition, a crime.

This all makes perfect sense. Given their past, the present-day Starfleet would be very uncomfortable with time-travellers, even if they claim to have come from a time far predating the temporal war.

Are the discovery crew here as an attempt by somebody to change the future? He can’t rule that out. And he shouldn’t.

He can’t afford to trust them without evidence.

You’ll notice that Starfleet, and Vance in particular, is the antagonist of this episode, because he opposes Saru and Michael’s goal. He stands in the way as an obstacle to what they want.

Note, that doesn’t make him a villain. This isn’t evil Starfleet. I think a lot of fans have had enough of evil Starfleet lately. No. This is Starfleet being cautious, as they should.

Vane plans to requisition Discovery for analysis and retrofit, and split up the crew.

This immediately gets our heckles up. That sounds terrible. The crew of Discovery are a family. (and yes in this season, they have earned that descriptor). The reason they all left their lives behind to come into the future was so that Michael wouldn’t have to be alone here. If they are split up now, it defeats that whole purpose. They might as well have remained in the 23rd century and let Michael fly Discovery on auto-pilot as she originally planned.

This is really upsetting to all of them, and not something any of them are going to want to take sitting down.

And I’m totally on their side in this.

However.

What Vance is saying makes sense from his point of view. If the Discovery crew are here for some nefarious reason, it decreases the probability of them being able to carry out whatever it is they intend by breaking them up, separating them randomly.

It seems harsh, but I understand why he’s doing it.

Vance asks Saru to put the needs to Starfleet ahead of the needs of his crew.

That’s hard.

There’s a fantastic scene between Saru and Michael, back in Discovery’s ready room. Michael is all worked up about this, and understandably. She makes some good practical points why Vance is wrong. Why the crew should be kept together. They know this ship. They know the spore drive, and if this family is broken up now, some may never recover. All true.

But Saru rightly points out that it’s Vance’s call. He’s the admiral. He’s the commander in chief.

They chose to rejoin Starfleet. They could have just stayed out there as a rogue element, like so many others in the galaxy. They chose to come back and submit themselves to Starfleet’s chain of command.

The balanced, two-sided conflict here is delicious.

Michael is all set to steal information about the Kili, so they can help cure the disease and prove their worth.

Saru has to remind her that Starfleet officers don’t operate that way. A lesson he thought she’s learned by now, after her ill-fated mutiny on the Shenzhou. And I think she had, but she’s been living as a free spirit in this century for a year. She admitted she’d let go of a lot of things. She needs to be reigned in by Saru, and she knows it. Her humble realisation of that is nicely portrayed.

While the crew are interrogated, with various levels of cooperation, Saru and Burnham attempt to request the roster of planets the Kili visited through official channels.

They’re starting to get through to Lieutenant Willa.

Burnham’s unique knowledge of the past helps her to solve the mystery of the Kili Illness. The only way to cure it is to get a hold of some pre-mutated plants from Urna. The only place to find this is a Federation seed vault ship, which still exists today. The USS Tikhov. It holds samples of every plant in the galaxy. It’s like a vast seed library.

The problem is, the Tikhov is four months away.

The spore drive is the obvious solution. But the only crew-member Vance needs is Stammets.

He’s gonna put a new crew of trusted officers on Discovery.

Burnham makes some valid points in argument, but as usual, her tone is insubordinate.

It takes Saru to find the diplomatic middle-road.

He’ll remain on the station, kind of like collateral.

Burnham will command the Discovery, but Willa and two security officers will accompany them.

You see, Vance is not completely unreasonable. But he does need to be convinced.

So they jump to the Tikhov’s coordinates, but the ship is stuck in an ion storm. They have to reach in and tractor them out.

And this is where we get another great Detmer scene.

As things get tense, she starts to blank out. She’s going all distant again. Because once again, the pressure is all riding on her shoulders.

But Owo notices she's freezing and gives her some reassuring words. “You have time. You can do this.” And it’s enough to pull Detmer back, now that she’s being honest.

I really liked this.

I can see a real friendship growing between those two characters. Kind of like a Geordi / Data thing, or a Tom and Harry thing.

The most interesting part of the interrogations is definitely the Georgiou stuff.

The bit where she shuts down holograms by blinking at them is kinda weird.

The guy who questions her is kind of interesting. He wears glasses because he thinks they make him look smarter. (Remember even in the 23rd century glasses were mostly a thing of the past, unless you’re allergic to Retinax V like Kirk) He reminds me a little of Bill Nighy.

He’s fascinated by Georgiou and the Terrans in particular. They build an empire based on the maxim, because we feel like it. So why did she join a Starfleet crew? He figures out she has a personal stake. She cares, personally, for Michael.

He also figures out that the only way he’ll glean information from her is by the questions she asks him. Nice.

She wants to know who is really calling the shots in the galaxy today. Who caused the burn? Are they the same? You can see that she’s already planning her next move. Is she wanting to take over the whole thing for herself? Maybe set herself up as an emperor again? It’s in her nature.

But she learns that the terran empire fell centuries ago, which we know from Deep Space Nine.

It’s all thanks for mirror Spock’s preaching of peace, as motivated by Kirk. but as Kirk pointed out, the empire could not stand forever. It would fall eventually. This really seems to have rattled her.

WE also learn that the distance between our universe and the mirror universe started expanding after she crossed over. I wonder what caused that. Kirk’s encounter there? Something else? There hasn’t been a crossing in over 500 years. That puts the last crossing at no later than the 27th century. He said over 500, so I wonder exactly how much earlier it was.

And I wonder what the mirror universe looks like now, in 3189.

Different Federation worlds take turns looking after the seed vault. At present, it’s a Barzan family. Nahn is excited to learn that her people joined the federation in the 25th century.

The Tikhov is overgrown with plants, which is a little weird. It’ll be explained later, of course.

They find a holo recording of the Barzan family. Someone is humming a tune. The same lullaby that Adira was playing on the cello.

This appears to be quite the mystery, and we’ll come back to it at the end of the episode.

Don’t let me forget.

While looking through the logs, Nhan learns that something terrible happened here. A light hurt the wife and kids. The husband hoped a cure could be found in the vault. He’s been growing the plants from the seed vault, searching for answers.

Culbert finds the wife and kids dead in stasis.

The husband, Attis is in a weird state. He appears and disappears. He’s out of phase.

Nahn says that Barzans don’t have the same concept of death as humans. But she doesn’t really explain what that means. Attis clearly believes he can find a way to bring his dead family back to life.

I wish they’d explored this concept a little more. Because at face value it doesn’t make sense. What exactly do Barzan’s believe about death?

They can’t get into the seed vault without Attis’s password. So they have to find a way to reason with him.

Stamets, Reno and Tilly figure out that the ship was hit by a coronal mass ejection. Attis was beaming at the time, which is why he survived, but also why he’s out of phase, kinda mid-transport.

But they cure him of this with the transporter.

And Michael manages to get through to him.

He gets her the seeds she needs to save the Kili.

But Attis won’t leave the Tikhov. He won’t leave his family.

I don’t understand. Can’t they beam his family on board with him, while he gets medical treatment.

Is this just a suicidal thing because he can’t bear to live without his family?

Michael wants to force him to come, because if he stays, the seeds will be lost? A valuable part of Federation history. I guess, she assumes if he stays, he’ll keep taking the seeds and growing them, depleting the supplies from the vault.

So Nahn decides to stay behind and watch the seeds, fulfilling the Barzan watch.

She’s suddenly feeling very connected to her people.

Somehow, Nahn again connects this, emotionally, to Arium’s death. I still don’t quite understand the connection.

I was shocked that Nahn was leaving the ship here, because they’ve only just promoted her character to the opening credits of the show. So, I’m convinced we haven’t seen the last of her.

Anyway, it was nice to see her so happy.

So it seems that Michael has proven herself and the Discovery crew to Vance.

He is willing to put them back on the active duty roster.

But Starfleet doesn’t have 5-year missions anymore. Exploration is a luxury they can no longer afford.

Saru argues, via a historical anecdote, that their unique position, from a revered time, might help the Federation to look up, to regain some parts of itself that it has lost.

Vance agrees that Starfleet has been in triage for a long time.

He’s willing to let the crew stay together, but they’ll go where he says, when he says. There’s still a way to go to making the Federation what it once was.

As for exploration, well, everything in this century is a new frontier for the discovery crew, so in that sense, they are exploring.

It’s nice to see them all come to an agreement.

Burnham really wants to know more about the burn.

There are a lot of theories about what caused it. They’ve never found sufficient evidence to support one over the other.

He feels there are no further conclusions to draw unless someone can find additional evidence, but there are more important concerns right now.

I like how Burnham takes this as a personal challenge to find new evidence, but at the same time, acknowledges that right now, it’s not the highest priority.

She’ll keep her eyes open, but she’ll follow orders.

This feels like a big turning point in the season. They’re now accepted into Starfleet. No longer are they doing their own thing. They’ll be receiving missions. It’s a nice little status -quo shift.

Now, back to that music.

Lieutenant Willa says half the people here know some version of that music, including he. Barzans, a Trill living on Earth. They all know this mysterious piece of music, but don’t know why, and yet, they’re separated by vast distances due to the shortage of dilithium.

Willa can’t explain it, but isn’t going to lose any sleep over it.

But it’s got Michael intrigued. And it’s got me intrigued too.

I really hope they can pull off a satisfying conclusion to the mysteries they’re raising this season. The resolution of the red angel thing last season was not all I had hoped for.

But I’m feeling optimistic.

Gorgeous is acting really weird. She doesn’t even notice Michael for a moment.

I think she’s in grief that the Terran empire fell, and that she’s so far from her home, probably never to see it again. But I also think she’s plotting. And that worries me quite a bit. But at the same time, I’m pleased that they’re being honest with her character. As she said, she’s wicked, even for a Terran. In season 2, I think the writers forgot that.

Saru needs to remind Michael to choose her words more carefully with the Admiral in future. If he’d been a less reasonable man, things might not have ended up so well.

I’m excited to see where this new status quo is going to take us. What mission will Vance send the Discovery on next week? It’ll be exciting to find out.

Most Star Trek shows find themselves in their third season. It was true of TNG, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise. It seems to be true of Discovery as well. They’ve found a good balance that I think will appeal to a wide variety of Star Trek fans. The tone feels way more Star Trek than previous seasons, but there’s still enough character focus to satisfy me. And while I enjoyed the darker tone in season 1, I don’t think they’ve over-compensates. They found a tone that I’m still good with. After all, I already liked Star Trek before it got dark with DS9, Discovery, and Picard.

Personally, I think there’s room for lots of different types of Star Trek, but what they’ve hit this season is the type that will have the broadest appeal, I think.

I’m hoping it wins back some fans who had previously been anti-discovery.

Next week’s episode is called Scavengers. That’s all we know about it so far.

Last year, I wrote a Christmas sci-fi short story, set in my Jewel of the Stars universe. I put it up on Wattpad, where you can still read it for free, but I’ve just published it on all the major eBook retailers, where you can find it for 99 cents. So whichever way you prefer to read it, I’d encourage you to check it out.

It’s a nice little story to get you in the festive mood. Because Christmas does seem to be coming a bit early this year. After a very strange year, I don’t blame people for wanting to hold onto something happy and fun.

Anyway, my story is called The Christmas Star Disaster. You can find it at Books2read.com/christmasstar and that’s the number 2.

See you next week.

Live long and prosper.

Make it so.

56 episodes