‘The Sanctuary’ – Star Trek: Discovery Season Three, episode eight. Reviewed by Philip Bates.
It’s testament to the Star Trek: Discovery writing team and actor David Ajala that Cleveland “Book” Booker is so likeable. He wouldn’t be, in theory: he’s been the person (perhaps unwittingly) tearing Michael Burnham away from the rest of the Discovery crew since the season began, her love for him driving a wedge between who she was and who she is now, causing understandable tensions and pushing her from her Starfleet ideals. The amount she’s changed was particularly notable in last week’s ‘Unification III,’ in which she met her mother again and returned to the planet formerly known as Vulcan. Certainly in the first episode of Season Three, Book was lined up to be an uneasy ally, calling Burnham a “true believer” – and most definitely not in the same way Stan Lee used that hailing around Marvel Comics fans.
And yet, you do like Book. He’s smart, charming, and challenging. He’s revealed new aspects of Michael, of Starfleet, but he’s not just a plot point. He’s a distinct character you feel genuine affection for. You want to see him and Michael together. And this character is expanded upon considerably in ‘The Sanctuary’ – this week’s Discovery – which takes us to Book’s home planet Kwejian, in the stranglehold of the Emerald Chain.
The sense of scale is really ramped up in ‘The Sanctuary’ as antagonist, Osyraa, kills a returning character in the first few scenes then starts systematically destroying settlements on the planet. The Discovery is in a tricky situation – they’re under instructions not to interfere, and if they do, they cut off Kwejian’s “aid” coming from the Chain… but they can’t just let innocent people die. Especially not as Michael and Book have beamed down and can’t now be reached.
Fortunately, Tilly, the new Number One, immediately proves her worth. The solution isn’t ideal and will make things more complicated for the rest of the season but it’s a smart swerve that furthers Detma and Ryn’s arcs.
It’s a good move, switching from last week’s more sedate narrative to something more action-packed in ‘The Sanctuary,’ while maintaining a focus on character pieces.
Stamets and Adira’s growing respect and friendship is a great counterpoint to the explosions on Kwejian. Adira has settled in really well, now that they’re over the “rebellious teen” phase. Mind you, the lasting impression of Adira’s partner, Grey (one of annoyance and mawkishness), means that when Adira says they’re not talking, you do breathe a sigh of relief.
This season is doing well to juggle so many characters, selecting a handful of crew members each week to spotlight. Still, it would be nice to get an episode in which Michael isn’t the primary focus. She’s a fantastic character but there are loads of fantastic characters: it wouldn’t hurt to take the foot off the Burnham peddle once in a while.
Still, things might change for next week’s ‘Terra Firma: Part One,’ which looks to give more time to Georgiou, Stamets, Tilly, Adira, and Saru. Things have certainly changed by the end of ‘The Sanctuary’ – for Book, for the Federation, and for the Emerald Chain, shaping up to be this season’s main antagonists. But do they have anything to do with The Burn? We’re promised big developments on that front very soon…
What did you think of ‘The Sanctuary’? Let us know in the comments below.
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