Star Trek Discovery "There is a Tide" 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.

The second-last episode of Star Trek Discovery Season 3 "There is a Tide" plays a little like Die Hard in space, but it also adds some serious depth to our villain Osyraa. There is a fantastic negotiation scene between her and Admiral Vance. So let's dig in and talk about it.


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Welcome to Nerd Heaven

I’m Adam David Collings

The author of Jewel of The Stars

And I am a nerd

This is episode 49 of the podcast

Today we’re talking about Star Trek Discovery There Is A Tide.

And Happy New Year.

By now, the whole world has switched over to 2021.

So far it’s been a great year. No major tragedies.

Of course, much of the world is still suffering the effects of that pandemic that turned last year upside down. I’m really lucky here in Tasmania. We don’t have any cases at the moment.

The description on memory alpha reads

After capturing the USS Discovery, Osyraa seeks a meeting with Admiral Vance while Burnham and the crew must overcome unimaginable odds as they attempt to regain command of their ship.

This episode was written by Kenneth Lin

It was directed by Jonathan Frakes

And it first aired on the 31st of December 2020.

Make it so.

After I upload each episode of Nerd Heaven, I go and check out what other youTubers and podcasters are saying about the episode. It’s interesting to compare notes and see where we agree and disagree.

I never watch before I finish my own review because I want to keep my opinions my own - as un-influenced by others as I can.

But I noticed the thumbnail of one last night said (“Die Hard in Space”)

And that’s not a bad way to describe this week’s episode.

It’s an action movie with Michael Burnham trying to rescue the hostage crew of Discovery from terrorists who’ve taken over the ship.

Last week, we learned the cause of the burn was basically a shockwave sent from a Kelpien, genetically modified from living on a radiation-soaked planet, having a tantrum.

The general consensus from people was “Is that it?”

I didn’t really comment too much about it, other than my relief that Michael Burnham wasn’t the cause (although I also saw a thumbnail with a depressing theory that she is indirectly responsible because she freed the Kelpiens from the Ba’ul, but let’s just leave that one aside)

No, I wanted to wait until this week, to learn more, before I said too much about my thoughts on it.

Except we never re-visited the planet in the verubin nebula this entire episode. The whole thing was centred on Discovery and Starfleet headquarters.

I wasn’t expecting that.

So we’ll talk more about the burn next week.

This week, in addition to giving us a pretty cool action thriller, also does some very interesting things with Osyraa’s character, which I’m looking forward to talking about.

But let’s start at the beginning.

Osyraa is playing a dirty trick. She has her own ship, the Veridian, firing on Discovery, to make it look as though the two ships are locked in combat, and that the Discovery crew are still in control of their own ship.

Vance is hesitant to Discovery in through the shields immediately. I guess to lower the shields would be to potentially allow the Veridian in as well.

We actually get a decent amount of Vance this episode. He’s doing more than just giving Discovery their mission. And that was great.

The bridge crew are being held in the mess hall. That seems to be standard procedure when you take over a Starfleet ship. It’s always the mess hall.

Remember Zareh, from episode 2 of this season? He was the thug that broke into the pub and terrorised the local township. The bartender threw him out into the ice, to survive if he could.

Well, turns out he worked for the Emerald Chain, and he survived. He’s here now, Osyraa’s second in command for this mission.

Poor Tilly isn’t happy to see him again.

This episode makes a couple of references to Tilly’s ineptitude which lead to the ship’s capture. A lot of it comes from Zareh, who was already trying to belittle her back at the beginning of the season.

To be honest, this is fair. Don’t get me wrong. Tilly performed admirably for an ensign put into the big chair during a very difficult situation. But I’m sure the chain took over quick and easier than they would have if there had been an experienced captain in charge. No shame against Tilly for that.

For the first time, We actually see some point to this morphing thing that Book’s ship does. They’re travelling through a transwarp conduit, and we finally get an understanding of why they are considered so dangerous. They’re full of debris from other ships. Book’s vessel is constantly morphing into different shapes to avoid hitting all this stuff. Okay. That actually makes sense. Nice to finally get answers to two outstanding mysteries in this scene.

Strangely, there’s a big ship in the way. Book says “There’s no morphing our way around that.” and then the ship morphs its way around that.

Vance is going to have to let Discovery in before their shields fail. So he orders a window just large enough for that ship. But orders security on alert. Something is weird with all of this. And then Book’s ship arrives.

But Michael can’t get through to federation HQ for some reason and is unable to warn them.

So Discovery is let in.

Michael decides the only hope now is to board Discovery.

So book’s ship morphs again into a long thin sharp kind of shape.

At first, I thought they were forming into a breaching pod. Something that could pierce the hull. That makes sense. But then I realise, as usual, Discovery’s shuttle bay doors are open and they just have the forcefield in place.

So….forming into a sharp thin shape allows the ship to get through the forcefield? I find that harder to buy.

And in fact, these forcefields are generally designed to hold in oxygen, but allow shuttles to pass through, so why would they need to do anything special to go through anyway?

Osyraa mentions something about them getting in while Discovery’s shields re down, which does make sense. Shields should prevent anything from getting into the shuttle bay.

But why are discovery’s shields down? Maybe to allow the tractor beam to pull them in, but why the need for a tractor beam? Discovery has thrusters.

It’s all a bit messy.

But let’s move on.

This is where we meet Aurellio. He’s a scientist working for the Emerald Chain. One of the best in the galaxy, apparently. He’s confined to a hoverchair because of a genetic defect he has. It’s another little element to add some interest to his character. And it’s nice to see people of different abilities on the show.

The interesting thing here is that Aurellio is plated by Kenneth Mitchell who played Kol in season 1, and then Kol’s father in season 2, as well as the child of Voq and LaRell. He’s fast becoming the new Jeffery Combs. In fact, he’s now played just as many distinct Trek roles as Combs.

But this is the first non-Klingon role he’s had.

But what I didn’t realise when I was watching, is that Kenneth Mitchell is currently suffering from Motor Neurone Disease and is confined to a wheelchair. And that’s really sad. My heart goes out to him. But isn’t it nice that they were able to create this character for him to play.

I love how Book’s first priority when getting back onboard Discovery is to find and secure his cat. He went all the way to sickbay and then back to the shuttle bay. A little far-fetched perhaps, but cute.

Book has a life-sign masking device which Michael can use to get around the ship undetected. He has to turn himself in because they’ll be expecting a pilot for the ship that just breached them. With some luck, they won’t even know Michael is on board.

And there’s a nice little moment when they say “I love you” to each other.

This relationship has played out so much better, and more naturally than the Tyler relationship in season 1.

Even though Michael wasn’t able to warn Vance, he figures it out himself, which is good. It shows he’s got some brains on his shoulders.

Michael makes her first kill but gets a knife in her leg for her trouble. I like this. It’s showing she’s a capable fighter but she’s not Superman.

She takes the regulator’s badge but it won’t transport. Probably coded to his bio signs.

But why does she need his badge to transport? She has her own Starfleet insignia badge on her uniform. Why can’t she just transport with that? Certainly, no reason I can think of.

Osyraa hails HQ and Vance chats with her. She’s releasing all the Discovery crew, except the bridge crew, who she’s keeping as leverage, but keeping them in good health.

She’s here to talk and hopes that things will go well. If so, Vance will have the bridge crew back shortly.

This is an unexpected development. We were expecting invasion, not negotiation.

Michael is hiding out in the Jefferies tube. At first, I was confused about the phaser she was using. Did she get it off the regulator she killed? It seemed holographic, projected by a wrist band. Turns out, this is the new Starfleet phaser, as seen in the opening credits. This is what the Discovery crew use now. But they don’t have holsters. The phasers are constructed from programmable matter. They just wear a little thing on their wrist. This is really cool. I’m surprised the comm badge doesn’t create the phaser actually. It does everything else.

There’s a nice moment where Michael records a touching goodbye message to her mother, as she knows this might not end well. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gabrielle shows up with the cavalry next week.

I like that Osyraa calls out the absence of the Federation president. The type of negotiations she’s about to enter into really should include the Federation president. This has been an issue in the past for Star Trek. How many decisions did Sisko make on behalf of the entire Federation that really should have been above the pay grade of a captain?

Vance explains that to have the president sit down with a known terrorist at this time would be a security breach, which makes perfect sense, so he’s been authorised to negotiate on behalf of the Federation. He’s Starfleet Chief of Staff so he’s pretty high up there. And he’s not gonna make the final decision anything.

Nicely done.

I like the scene where the bridge crew overcome their guards. They work together, anticipating each other’s ideas, with the distraction of the morse code tapping. It shows these people have worked together for a long time now. They know each other well and make a good team.

Tilly immediately takes charge. Again, doing the best she can under the circumstances.

Zareh has managed to locate the intruder with the badge she took from the regulator, who’s death has now been discovered.

Aurellio wakes Stammets so they can discuss the spore drive.

They bond over opera music, which Stammets has slowly come to appreciate because Culbert loves it.

Stammets identifies, that Arellio has children, and that his partner is Orion based on the traditional piercing behind his ear. And Stammets admits he has a child too. Adira.

At this point, I’m speculating that Arellio is actually Osyraa’s husband. She was acting very protective of him at the beginning of the episode. They seemed to have a personal connection. The episode never says it outright, but I think it’s strongly implied. What do you think?

We learn that sadly, the tardigrades are long-extinct in the 32nd century. (unless he’s lying to Aurellio)

But Aurellio thinks he can grow new tardigrade cells from Stammet’s DNA, thereby making other people able to navigate the mycelial network.

Michael takes out her second regulator, in another thrilling action movie sequence. It’s not just a fight scene. It makes good use of the fact they’re in space. It’s a triumphant moment. Although I suspect Michael should be facing more unpleasant consequences from the cold alone, when the tube is exposed to open space.

I also like how they have an EMH serve as a lie detector during negotiations as standard procedure.

So far, Osyraa is being truthful. She wants the Emerald Chain to unit with the Federation in peace.

And she’s being genuine.

Her reasoning, the chain can’t go on the way they are without dilithium. So realises she has to make changes to how her organisation works if it is going to survive. The spore drive is a big bargaining chip. So why does she need the Federation? The Federation was always a symbol of hope. The Emerald Chain will never earn the trust of the people like the Federation once did. What the chain needs most now, is legitimacy.

Remote parts of the former Federation, who no longer have contract with headquarters, are already engaged in trade with the chain, because they have no choice. This is really interesting stuff.

A fruit platter is brought in and Vance mentions that their replicated food is made from human feces. But he doesn’t say feces. That’s the base material they use in their replicators. They break it down to the atomic level and then reform the atoms.

This, of course, is a total load of … well….. Feces.

That’s not how replicators work.

Replicators work on a similar principle to transporters. It’s all based around the conversion between energy and matter.

Replicators don’t create matter from other base matter. They convert energy into matter. And then, when you recycle leftovers, that matter is turned back into energy.

They don’t stick base matter into them.

This might have been the case for the more primitive “food synthesisers” back in the 22nd century. But not of the 24th century onwards.

Modern Star Trek has a real problem with replicators. In Picard, they looked like 3D printers. They even built up the food item layer by layer like a 3D printer.

But it’s not how it’s supposed to work.

This annoys me.

The emerald chain, apparently, don’t use replicator technology. Not sure why. I mean, you don’t need dilithium to power a replicator. Dilithium is just a catalyst in creating the matter / anti-matter reaction in a starship’s warp core.

Osyraa wants trade with the chain legalised, and she wants to establish an embassy at Starfleet Headquarters. That will send a powerful message.

This is a big issue for Vance. The Emerald Chain engage in morally reprehensible acts. Slavery. Oppression. Interference with pre-warp civilisations.

Surprisingly, Osyra is making changes to the way the chain operates. She’s outlawing slavery. She’s even pulling back from worlds like Kwijan, at considerable financial expense, over a 15 year period, to prevent causing chaos.

She’s even got an armistice written up, a treaty that the president can sign.

And Eli, the EMH confirms she is being completely genuine about all of this.

This is very interesting to me.

This is taking Osyraa from being a moustache-twirling villain to something much much more interesting. She is now by far the most interesting villain we’ve had on Discovery. Now she has depth.

She’s still very dangerous, but she’s a reasonable woman who is willing to make significant changes for the good of her people.

I’m kinda loving this.

Aurellio seems to have a very rosy-coloured view of Osyraa and the chain. He’s surprisingly blind to the horrific things she’s done. Stammets tries to open his eyes to the reality of it all.

Vance is impressed with the armistice. Osyraa has made a lot of concessions. She really is wanting to plot a new course for the chain. One free from the immoral acts of the past.

But Vance needs more.

He can’t just ignore the past.

So he asks Osyraa who will be the public face of the chain for this alliance. The implication is that it can’t be Osyraa. She’s a known terrorist and criminal. Not somebody that the Federation can legitimise.

As soon as he asks that question, I think Osyraa is reasonably sure that a deal is not going to be reached.

She wants to be the public face of the Emerald Chain, or at least be the controlling power in the background.

But Vance wants her to give herself up to trial for the crimes of her past.

Vance can’t just forgive the crimes of the past. He can’t just overlook it.

Osyraa says the past cannot be undone,

And Vance says “but it can be made right.”

This is a very interesting dilemma, and I’m curious where people sit on this.

One the one hand, Osyraa has made a genuine commitment to change her ways from now on. And since the burn, the Federation hasn’t had completely clean hands. They’ve done their best to continue living the ideals they have always represented, but this is a messier universe than it once was. Maybe the concessions Osyraa is making are worth wiping the slate clean and forgiving the crimes of the past.

One the other hand, Osyraa may have made some promises regarding policy, promises that I believe she is willing to honour, but at her core, her values haven’t changed. She’s offering to be good, not because she’s had a change of heart or any true repentance, but out of political necessity. This will be confirmed at the end of the episode where we see what kind of person she is deep down.

Vance asks his people to die for Federation moral values on a daily basis. How can he ask that of them and then just forgive Osyraa with no consequence for her crimes.

So what do you think? Should Vance just accept the armistice and let go of the past, or is he right to push for this?

And what about Osyraa? Is she letting her pride talk her out of a deal that will be good for her people? The federation has a very just legal system and quite humane and generous treatment of the convicted. The penal colony in New Zealand where Tom Paris did his time looked like a beautiful paradise. Osyraa could do worse than to accept punishment for her crimes for the sake of her people and live out a comfortable life as a Federation convict.

It’s funny, but I see a lot of theological parallels here that connect with me on a spiritual level.

It’s these deep and interesting ideas that make this a really great episode of Star Trek.

Sadly, these two can’t find any common ground on this issue so the negotiations break down and Osyraa returns to Discovery, where Book and Rin have been captured.

Michael arrives to rescue Stammets.

But Michael and Stammets have a profound disagreement on how to proceed.

Michael wants to get Stammets off the ship. The Emerald Chain can’t be allowed to learn the secrets of the spore drive from him. So he needs to be removed.

But he wants to jump straight back to the nebula to rescue Hugh and Saru. And then he learns that Adira is there too.

As he says, his whole life is in that nebula.

It’s wonderfully acted. So much raw emotion. Michael admits that they’ll likely die back there, but she has to make the tough call. True to her word. She told Vance she’d never hesitate again, like she did with Arium.

She renders him unconscious

Osyraa asks Aurellio to leave the bridge. She doesn’t want him to see what she’s about to do. But he wants to stay. Stammets words have impacted him. He wants to see who she really is when he’s usually not around.

Ryn gives a nice speech about how he’s no longer afraid of Osyraa because he’s seen real bravery. It’s great.

He won’t fix the sensors so she can locate Michael, Stammets and the bridge crew.

So she’s about to shoot him. But in a potentially foolish attempt to save Ryn’s life, Book volunteers information about the dilithium planet in the nebula. So that’s where Saru is.

But she kills Ryn anyway, and Aurellio is watching.

She’s going to get the information from Book using truth serum.

Michael has put Stammets into an emergency escape field.

She’s going to eject him out of the ship so Federation HQ can rescue him, getting him away from Osyraa’s grasp.

He begs Michael no to do this. Without him on board Discovery, Hugh, Sar and Adira will die a horrible death.

It’s a heartbreaking scene, and so well acted by Anthony Rapp.

He reminds her that the Discovery crew gave up everything to follow her here into the future, so she wouldn’t have to be alone. They did that for her. And now she’s going to let those three die.

She’s doing this to save the Federation from being destroyed by Osyraa.

So many hard choices being made in this episode.

Michael has been captured, but she’s accomplished what she set out to do.

The bridge crew have armed themselves and are ready to re-take the ship. Tilly is being pretty awesome.

And then the dot robots show up, possessed by the sphere data. Otherwise known as Zora.

It’s hard to take these robots seriously, as they look so cute, but despite that, it’s a great ending to the episode. They have a cool new ally. Who’d have thought, when we first saw the sphere data back in early season 2, they’d be paying it off like this?

This wasn’t just a great episode of Discovery. This was a great episode of Star Trek.

I loved it.

And I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it all resolves next week in the season finale.

Next week’s episode is called “That Hope is You Part 2” calling back to the very first episode of this season. Interesting.

I wonder if that name will stay. A lot of these episodes have been getting new names from what was originally announced.

It was cool to see Zareh come back this week, but you know who we haven’t seen since episode 1, that I really expected to be a recurring character throughout the whole season? That lone Federation representative serving faithfully on that outpost. I’m disappointed we never saw him again. Is he still there? Has Discovery even mentioned him to Vance?

But with next week’s episode title making it a direct sequel to the first episode, I’m wondering if this is when we’ll see him again. It’ll be interesting to find out.

I’m still doing my walk to Mordor Challenge that I started in April last year. I’ve passed the gates of Moria.

I’m now back at work on Jewel of The Stars season 3, and am looking forward to getting it out in the world when I can.

Hard to believe there’s only one more episode of Discovery to talk about this season. We’ll be launching into Stargate Universe very soon. I’ve already recorded a couple of episodes. I hope you’ll all stick around for that. I’m looking forward to it.

But first, I’ll see you next week for the season finale of Star Trek Discovery.

Have a wonderful week.

Live long and Prosper.

Make it so.

56 episodes