Star Trek Discovery "Scavengers" Detailed Analysis and 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 latest episode of Star Trek Discovery, Michael Burnham must choose between loyalty to Starfleet, and her captain, and helping a friend. Cleaveland Booker has located a black box that could provide vital information into the source of the burn, but he has been captured. This was a solid action episode with some nice connections to the larger arc, in both plot and character.



Welcome to Nerd Heaven

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

And I am a Nerd

This is episode 43 of the podcast.

Today, we’re talking about Star Trek Discovery “Scavengers”

The description on Memory Alpha reads

After receiving a message from Book, Burnham and Georgiou embark on a rogue mission to find him, leaving Saru to pick up the pieces with Admiral Vance. Meanwhile, Stamets forms an unexpected bond with Adira.

This episode was written by Anne Cofell Saunders

It was directed by Douglas Aarniokoski

And it first aired on the 19th of November 2020.

Make it so.

We begin the episode with a zooming out shot of the USS Discovery, which has undergone an extensive refit to bring it in line with 32nd-century technology. As we pull back, we see the name and registry have been repainted. NCC 1031-A.

Okay. That’s kind of a big deal. So this is now the Discovery A.

But is that valid?

The letter is added to the registry when a brand new ship is constructed and given the name of an iconic ship. But this isn’t a new ship. It’s a refit to the same ship. It’s a very extensive refit, but then, so was the refit to Kirk’s original Enterprise in Star Trek The Motion Picture. But that ship was not the Enterprise A. It was just the Enterprise. The Enterprise A was a brand-new ship that first appeared at the end of Star Trek IV after the original was destroyed in Star Trek III.

So...technically, this shouldn’t be the Discovery A. However, it could be argued that this refit is even more extensive than the one from The Motion Picture. And maybe the rules for registry numbers have changed over the centuries. So … I think we can just accept it.

I’ll admit that I do get a bit of a kick out of the A.

This refit has taken 3 weeks. They’ve installed programmable matter, which makes a lot of sense.

They’ve also detached the nacelles.

Saru says this is to make the engines more efficient and the ship more maneuverable.

The nacelles are floating next to the ship. I’ll admit, this whole detached nacelles thing is a bit weird to me. My first reaction is, that’s silly and doesn’t make any sense. My second reaction is, 930 years have passed. We SHOULD be seeing things that are so wacky and out there that they seem to make no sense. That’s actually logical. So the more unbelievable it is, the more believable it is.

I assume the nacelles are kept close to the ship by some kind of tractor beam or gravity field. How does the power get to them? Wireless power, I suppose. That’s already kind of a thing.

So ultimately, I approve, even though I think it’s weird.

In the briefing meeting, Saru gets some insight into the kinds of missions that Starfleet is now carrying out.

Helping with food shortages. Delivery supplies. Helping planets that are facing solar flares.It’s all very humanitarian aid, and the distances can cause significant difficulties.

Saru immediately sees where Discovery could help. The spore drive would save a lot of time in helping these people. I like how Vance agrees that he could use ten Discoveries, but since he only has one, he needs them to stay close, ready to serve as a rapid response unit.

When Vance says “Rapid Responder” one of the other captains acts like Vance has sprouted a second head. His reaction seems to be way overdone. I kinda get the feeling that maybe this guy was the previous rapid responder. Maybe he’s feeling outed.

But Vance tells them all about the spore drive. It’s classified information that is not to leave the briefing room.

We’ve never really seen a scene like this, with a bunch of captains getting their assignments from the admiralty. It probably happened a lot during the dominion war.

It’s nice to see that all the captains are wearing a similar uniform to the admiral, but with different rank insignias. It’s good. I really like this uniform. It’s my favourite of all the new uniforms.

Argeth is on Yellow. Alert. The Emerald chain, the Andorian and Orion Syndicate, might be making a move sometime in the next 12 hours. Nobody knows what they want on Argeth, but Vance is determined to make sure they don’t get it. When things come to a head, that’s when Saru needs to jump in and save the day.

So the crew of Discovery are receiving their new com badges. Just like the ones all the other Starfleet officers wear.

But for some reason, they don’t exchange their uniforms for the new ones.

That seems a little odd.

Anyway, there are practical reasons for adopting the new badges.

In the 24th century, Starfleet made the badges communicators, rather than just decorative.

By the 32nd Century, they’re so much more.

They’re also tricorders, holo padds, as well as communicators, and personal transporters.

This is all a very logical evolution of the technology. I like it a lot.

They kept the user interfaces on the new consoles similar, so it would be easy for the crew to adjust. But at the same time, it’s adaptive, programmed to analyse the way people work, and conform to whatever would be most useful for them. It’s all very clever.

The crew seem to really like it.

There’s an ongoing joke about Linus beaming into random parts of the ship because he doesn’t know how to set the coordinates properly on his personal transporter.

It’s amusing, if a little overdone.

And then they’re hailed by Grudge the Cat, who has decided to pay them a visit.

I love how she’s just staring at the screen purring.

Michael has been looking for the black boxes of ships destroyed during the burn, to get information about what caused the phenomenon.

Book was on his way to the Bajoran exchange (another DS9 reference) But he heard about a black box on Hanhau, which is Emerald Chain territory. He programmed the ship to bring Grudge here to Starfleet headquarters if he didn’t return after 24 hours.

Seems like he’s in trouble.

So technically, Grudge didn’t fly the ship. Pity.

Naturally, Michael wants to go rescue him. Not just because the black box could be invaluable, but also because she cares very much about Book.

The black boxes record the time of detonation, and they don’t all match. This suggests it didn’t all happen at once. It had a point of origin that swept outwards. With a third black box, they could triangulate that point of origin.

This is valuable information.

Saru understands how important this is to Michael, but he can’t authorise this mission. They need to be ready to jump to Argeth at a moment’s notice.

Admiral’s orders.

He’s seen how vulnerable the federation is. How important these humanitarian missions are.

Of course, his big mistake here is not taking this to the Admiral. He’ll learn this lesson at the end of the episode. But instead, he flatly forbids Michael from doing anything about Book or the black box.

We all know where this is heading. We know what Michael is going to do.

She’s always had this rebellious streak that leads her to take matters into her own hands. And while she’d made some progress keeping that side of herself in check, the last year of working on her own as a free spirit, outside any chain of command, has only made things worse.

She can’t let this go.

So she goes to Georgiou. The only other person on this ship who doesn’t care about chain of command. Gorgeous is always up for an unsanctioned mission.

But she makes a very astute point. Michael is gonna cause a lot of problems for Saru by doing this. He’s trying to win Vance’s trust and prove the legitimacy of Discovery’s dedication to Starfleet. If Michael goes ahead with this, it will definitely hurt that.

But that’s not enough to dissuade Michael.

Her dilemma feels very real here. She has two very strong motivations. A man she clearly loves, whether that love is romantic or not, and critical information to solving the mystery of the burnt. But it’s not just about the mystery to her. She genuinely believes the Federation will never get itself together until they learn the truth.

What do you think about that? I think I need a little more convincing. I agree it’s very important for them to find answers. If they know how and why it happened, they’re better able to determine if it’ll happen again and prevent it.

But I’m not convinced that the Federation can never again rebuild and stand proud without that information.

Book has actually made a pretty big sacrifice here for Michael. He’s put aside his own work to try to recover this black box - a very dangerous mission - because he knows it is important to her.

In a sense, they are both being very self-sacrificial here. Book put himself in danger for her, and she is risking her entire career for him. And that’s basically what love is. Self-sacrifice. The definition of love is putting the needs of another person ahead of your own needs.

Book’s ship continues to slowly grow on me. The asymmetry still bugs me, but I’m starting to understand the design. The bridge on the side kinda gives me millennium falcon vibes, but way more futuristic. I really like the shot that starts as a purely CGI exterior of the ship flying at warp, and then zooms in on the bridge. We spend a reasonable amount of time looking through that window watching Michael and Georgiou walking around and talking. It’s very effective and adds some real believability to the ship as an environment.

Georgiou can tell there is romantic tension between Michael and Book. She’s quite amused by it. But I love when Michael tells her she isn’t qualified to judge on matters of the heart, since her emotional spectrum ranges from cranky to homicidal. Which it definitely does. But in some twisted way, Georgiou does feel some form of love. She loves Michael like a daughter. A replacement for the one who betrayed her.

And that’s when Georgiou has the first of her episodes. It’s not exactly a seizure, it seems more emotional than physical. But she’s suddenly overwhelmed by what I assume are memories. She sees her hand covered in blood, and cries over someone called San. I wonder who that is.

Something weird has been going on with Georgiou ever since she was interrogated by that bloke with glasses. I am really curious what he’s done to her. Michael has noticed something is not right.

Hanhau is a private salvage yard. Not open to new customers. The general public are expected to do their business at the local Bajoran exchange. But Georgiou talks them into letting her land with promises of large quantities of dilithium.

I think we’re getting some information in this episode to help us get some idea of where the new Starfleet headquarters are situated in the galaxy.

Federation space is primarily in the alpha quadrant. Their early adversaries, the Klingons and the Romulans are primarily in the beta quadrant.

The core of federations worlds are near the border between the quadrants. Worlds like Bajor and Cardassia are much deeper into the alpha quadrant, a long way from the border with the beta.

Michael indicated she could get to Hanhou, complete the mission, and be back, at warp speed, within 12 hours.

Hanhau is close to a Bajoran Exchange. I’m not sure exactly what that is, but it’s clear near Bajor.

So I think we can say that Starfleet headquarters is pretty deep into the alpha quadrant. Near the outer parts of what was considered Federation space back in the 24th century.

And then the scene we’ve all been waiting for. Tilly meets Grudge. Apparently, she’s not a cat person, but, I’ll admit, she’s doing pretty well. It’s a cute scene. I genuinely laughed when Tilly asks Grudge if he ate Michael.

Admit the cuteness and humour of this scene, Tilly learns that Michael has stolen Book’s ship and left on the mission.

The wide shot of Hanhau as they descend on the settlement looks awesome.

Tolor, the Orion they’re dealing with is the nephew of Osyra, leader of the Emerald Chain.

There’s a lot of slave labour on this world. I guess the Orions are back to their old tricks. But it’s not slaves as a commodity to sell. These people are working because they owe Osyraa.

Naturally, Georgiou wants to meet her, as she sounds like her kind of girl.

Seriously, how long do you think it will be before Georgiou goes full rogue and tries to take over the galaxy for herself?

The only thing that’s holding her back from doing that, at this point, is Michael.

Well, that and the weird seizures. I suspect that’s part of some plan to disarm the danger that she represents to the galaxy.

It’s time for our next DS9 reference. Self-sealing stem bolts from the 24th century. And we’ll meet an actual Bajoran shortly. It’s almost as if Alex Kurtzman had a listening device in my office, when I’ve been talking about how I want more love for DS9. I guess I’m not the only person who has felt that way.

Georgiou says she wants items from before 2400, which was the end of the 24th century. And the guy holds up an old TNG phase. Nice. but apparently, it contains parts for a later time. I wonder if the writers actually meant pre-2300, which would be the 23rd century.

So was this all just part of the act, to give Michael time to find Book? Or is she genuinely interested in old technology? I can’t see Georgiou being nostalgic, especially for stuff that’s not even from her native universe.

Michael has re-jigged Book’s cat-finder to locate him. And he’s close.

He’s a slave working here.

And this is where we meet Lai, the Bajoran.

And I’m thrilled to say his makeup effect looks just like it did on Deep Space Nine. I guess it’s kind of hard to mess up a Bajoran nose. Notice he’s not wearing an earring. So either it’s forbidden for slaves to adorn themselves, or he doesn’t believe in the prophets.

We also meet Ryn, an Andorian slave who is responsible for implanting all the newcomers. Seems most of the slaves view him as a traitor.

But Book is kind to him.

When Lai tries to steal a water ration, Tolor makes an example of him. From a writing perspective, it's useful because it demonstrates how difficult it is for people to escape this prison.

So Adira is back on the ship, after having some kind of medical examination last episode. She seems a bit workaholic. Doesn’t want to explore the ship. Gray wants to see more of Discovery, but he can only go where Admira goes. And she’s not interested.

Stamets is annoyed that his spore lab has been messed with. Things are not where they used to be. But he’s quite impressed when he learns that Adira has upgraded the interface, so he doesn’t have to have metal plugs in his arm anymore.

Michael finally makes contact with Book. And he says what people always say in this situation. “You weren’t supposed to come and rescue me.”

And then she says what the rescuer always says. “I had to.”

They’ve got 40 minutes to rescue him and get the black box, before he is sent up to work on a ship above for a week. He’ll be harder to rescue from there.

This is where we learn more about Ryn. He was born into the Emerald Chain, but tried to rally people against the organisation. They were starting to listen so Osyraa cut off his antennae and made him the guy who implants the slaves.

Now, this is interesting. We know from Enterprise that Andorian antennae grow back.

So maybe she did something to prevent that, like cauterising the stumps or something. I dunno.

This is why he’s a pariah to everyone.

Saru has a quiet word with Tilly about Michael. Tilly knows even less than Saru.

Saru is feeling pretty distrustful of Michael now. As much as he did when they were back on the Shenzhou. Which is kinda sad, given how close they seemed to have become last season.

This is really interesting because Tilly acts in a way other than what we might expect. Certainly not how Saru expected. But it makes sense. She makes a good point.

She pushes for Saru to tell the Admiral. It’s a delicate time for the Discovery crew at the moment. Things will look bad if the Admiral finds out from someone other than Saru.

Tilly loves Michael like a sister but she also cares for this crew.

Tilly is trying to be understanding of Michael’s motives, but Saru believes Tilly would never have done this, had she been in Michael’s situation.

It’s time for the jailbreak. Ryn is in on it too. He’s retrieved the black box for Book.

Saru is explaining Michael’s disobedience to Vance, but promises, they are still ready to carry out their mission, even without their first officer.

He overhears a line about a ship returning and undergoing a baryon sweep. This is a process that the Enterprise D once underwent. It’s meant to eliminate Baryon particles from the starship’s hull. Let’s hope this ship doesn’t get taken over by terrorists like the Enterprise did.

Vance tells him that diplomacy is failing. Discovery will need to jump soon.

The prison riot is on. But the perimeter fence is still up. Michael and Georgiou have to take it down, but they have their hands full with Tolor and his thugs.

It’s all standard action scenes, which Discovery does pretty well.

I was listening to a writing podcast the other day. In it, one of the presenters said “if your character has seizures, you’d better make sure they have one in the middle of the climactic battle.” It was The Six Figure Author podcast, if you’re interested.

Anyway, this is exactly what happens here. Georgiou is about to shoot Tolor when she has another episode.and drops the gun.

Fortunately, she comes to just in time to bring the fence down, as Tolor beams away.

The slaves all escape, but Ryn is shot with one of those cool ring phasers. I thought, at this stage, that Ryn was a gonner. But Book isn’t willing to give up on him.

And then Book’s ship turns into a transformer!

Seriously, it breaks into a bunch of separate parts and reconfigures itself. Except the new configuration doesn’t seem to look any different to my eyes. I’m not sure what the point of this reconfiguration was, but it was visually pretty cool.

Another example of those “seems silly, but believably silly given the century” things.

I imagine the same technology that lets the nacelles hover next to the ship is also responsible for this transformation.

I’d like to understand a lot more about what the transformation actually means, and why it happens.

Book beams aboard with Ryn.

Georgiou takes out Tolor’s ships. One of them looks like an old Miranda class. The crashing scene looks awesome. Comparable to anything you’d see in a big-screen movie these days.

Michael is more freaked out that Georgiou doesn’t know what’s up with her episodes than she is about the episodes themselves.

From Georgiou’s point of view, until she understands, there’s no point revealing her weakness, because she doesn’t know what help to ask for.

This is a reasonable attitude for a Terran from the mirror universe. Over there, she’d be killed for showing any kind of weakness.

Stamets sits down with Adira in the mess hall. He’s noticed her talking to herself. She decides to open up and explain the whole situation with Gray.

Adira speculates that this has happened because they were so close, and the symbiont passed from one to the other. I’m betting there’s more to it than that. But it’s a reasonable theory.

They get Ryn back to the ship, and Doctor Pollards says he's going to make it. Which is nice. Poor guy deserves a break.

Michael has to go face the firing squad, but on the way, she has a little moment with Book. And they finally kiss. I get the impression this is their first kiss. That they were both honest about not having been romantically involved during the past year.

Stamets sees a lot of himself in Adira. Somebody who lost a person they loved, but then, got them back in some form.

Stamets says he believes Adira. And I want to believe him. But part of me wonders if he still thinks of this as a bit more metaphorical than literal. Is this just part of her grieving process, like he went through with Hugh, or is she literally carrying Gray’s soul around with her? Either way, Stamets is willing to take it at face value and definitely not ridicule.

As he and Hugh get ready for bed they talk about Adira. Stamets is starting to think that he can be a help to her. Something of a mentor. It’s not a role he ever thought he’d find himself in.

It’s time for Saru and Micahel to face the Admiral.

He points out that Saru was right to follow orders but he also needs to trust his judgement. He should have brought this opportunity to Vance, who might have considered the intel worth the risk. He may have actually authorised the mission. They’ll never know now.

I really like this because they’re not turning Vance into the stereotypical bad admiral. He’s a reasonable guy, even though there’s a lot of antagonism between him and Michael because of their differing opinions.

I love that this is a learning opportunity for Saru as well. He’s a good captain, but he’s an inexperienced captain.

Vance doesn’t think Burnham deserves special consideration for saving the galaxy by going through that wormhole. She was doing her duty. She starts each new assignment at zero along with everyone else.

In the end, Discovery didn’t have to jump. I’m guessing the happenings on Hanhau stole away Osyraa’s focus.

Michael saved lives on that planet, which is the only reason she’s not in the brig.

Vance leaves her punishment in Saru’s hands.

So he does what he doesn’t want to do, but honestly, the only thing he can do.

He relieves her of her role as first officer. She will be restricted to chief science officer duties.

Even Michael agrees this is right.

It’s all about trust, and right now, he can’t trust her to the extent that a captain should trust their number one.

I’m starting to think that Michael will never really fit in with Starfleet. She’ll always be the rebel that just can’t manage to follow orders. It makes me wonder how long she’ll hang around Discovery. I guess she has to stay associated with them for as long as the show runs, since it’s called Discovery, and she’s the lead.

So now I’m wondering who the new number one will be. I hope they address this next week and not just ignore it.

It was nice to see Book again. This was a solid episode. Nothing mind-blowing, but a good fun action story, with some good character connections to the larger whole.

I enjoyed it.

Next week, we have the episode Unification III. I’m really curious about this. One of the most iconic two-part stories from Star Trek The Next Generation was Unification I and Unification II. The story was based around Spock’s attempts to re-unify the Romulan and Vulcan people. How will this episode tie into that? There’s gotta be some connection. The name is too much of a coincidence to be .. well .. a coincidence. So I’m really looking forward to finding out what the deal is.

One of my favourite authors, Brandon Sanderson, has just released the 4th book in his Stormlight Archive series. The minute it happened, I sent a link to my wife, so she can buy it for me for Christmas. I’m looking forward to reading it. I might do a couple of podcasts episodes about the book next year, kinda like what I do with my Lord of The Rings series, which I haven’t forgotten about. I haven’t been walking as much as I should, so I’ve gotten a little behind with the whole Walk to Mordor Challenge that it’s all based around.

Anyway, nothing is set in stone. But we’ll see.

Don’t forget, you can get the first book in my Jewel of The Stars series for just 99 cents on all major eBook retailers, or you can read it for free on Wattpad.

Have a great week, and I’ll see you for Unification III next time. Live long and prosper.

Make it so.

57 episodes