Captain Christopher Pike temporarily takes command of Discovery to investigate a rare stellar phenomenon.
Tropes in this episode:
- Asteroid Thicket: A large asteroid surrounded by a very unusual and shifting gravity field, resulting in a storm of randomly moving and exploding chunks of rock.
- Bait-and-Switch: The viewer (and Burnham) is set up to expect that Spock is coming aboard as Pike's science officer — and then it turns out to be a different crewmember who we've never heard about before (and probably won't ever again).
- Pike lampshades that Nhan is wearing a Red Shirt, and then it's Connolly who gets killed during the away mission.
- Blatant Lies: When Saru confronts Burnham about her obvious apprehension in meeting Pike and his subordinates, Burnham tries to write it off as just being focused on the mission. It's clear Saru doesn't buy it, but he doesn't press the issue.
- Buffy Speak: Pike is fond of this way of speaking.Captain Christopher Pike: I was expecting a red thing. Where's my damn red thing?
- Pike reaching out towards Burnham as he's beamed away parallels Burnham being beamed away from Captain Georgiou a season previous. Unlike the previous situation, Pike is able to beam straight back to rescue her.
- Saru mentions his sister and how he's unlikely to see her again.note
- The episode contains several small nods to Pike's eventual fate as revealed back in the TOS episode "The Menagerie". At first, because of the damage the Enterprise has suffered, Pike can only communicate with the Discovery through Morse code, i.e. a series of beeps, and later he complains that he doesn't like the Ready Room because there's nowhere to sit in it.
- Commander Nhan is from Barzan, the same planet that discovers an unstable natural wormhole a century later in TNG's "The Price".
- Pike mentions that Spock always maintained that logic was the beginning of the answer, not the end, mirroring Spock's later lesson to Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country:Spock: History is replete with turning points, lieutenant. You must have faith.
Spock: That the universe will unfold as it should.
Valeris: But is that logical? Surely we must—
Spock: Logic, logic, logic ... logic is the beginning of wisdom, Valeris, not the end.
- Continuity Nod:
- Connolly mentions his roommate at the Academy was part Caitian.
- Early on, Burnham gives the entire crew complement of the Enterprise as 203, which is exactly as quoted in "The Cage" — which takes place in 2254, a couple of years prior to Discovery. This also lines up with the Enterprise being on a five-year exploratory mission which kept them away from the Federation while the Klingon War raged from 2256 to 2257.
- Creepy Child: As a child, Spock is introduced animating a giant holographic snake. He then closes the door in Burnham's face when she tries to introduce herself.
- Failsafe Failure: The eject system in Pike's pod aborts when his suit helmet fails to seal properly, and he can't fix it himself because the suit is still stuck to the chair. With his HUD offline, the crew of Discovery have to run a remote override to get the helmet to seal and trigger the eject system.
- Gadgeteer Genius: Jet Reno managed to jury-rig her crashed ship into a makeshift lifeboat for her remaining crew. She also managed to jury-rig her patients (of multiple species) to keep them alive, reasoning that the biological body is just another machine.
- Impossibly Compact Folding: A portable gravity field generator starts as a small slab about the size of a manhole cover that can be carried by two people. When activated, it unfolds into a complex contraption larger than a minivan.
- Instant Armor: The ejection system on the pods causes a space suit to fold out of the seat and encase the wearer in a matter of seconds. This becomes a problem for Pike when the suit malfunctions and stops just short of sealing his helmet, leaving him fused to the chair in pod about to crash.
- Killed Mid-Sentence:Connolly: Just relax and let me do—
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: If the Lighter and Softer episode (compared to almost all of Season 1) wasn't a clue on its own, Pike makes a comment to Burnham that sounds like it's addressed to the audience.Pike: Wherever our mission takes us, we'll try to have a little fun along the way too, huh?
- Lethally Stupid: Connolly disobeys orders and not only gets himself killed but puts Pike in mortal danger with the debris from his ship. Burnham has to risk her own life to rescue Pike.
- Made of Explodium: The asteroid is made of a substance that reacts explosively to abrupt changes in gravitational fields, which there are quite a lot of in the area.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: The away team consists of two junior officers, the ship's Science Officer, and the ship's Captain. Later, when the transporters are disabled, it's Burnham — and not one of the two engineers standing next to her — who runs to repair it.
- Mildly Military:
- Pike makes Burnham lead pilot of the drop pods, which puts her in command of that part of the mission. Connolly repeatedly disobeys her instructions and then disobeys direct orders from Pike. Because Connolly gets himself killed, we do not get to see how Starfleet deals (or does not deal) with that level of gross insubordination while in the field.
- Pike also lampshades how Lorca clearly didn't want other crewmembers to feel at ease when coming to his ready room to discuss with him, and Pike notes how that's going to change.
- When introducing himself to the crew, Pike asks them all to introduce themselves, but no ranks, because they "don't matter."
- Negative Space Wedgie: The shifting gravity fields around the asteroid, which resulted in a particularly dense and unpredictable Asteroid Thicket.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Pike is adamant that they rescue whoever is aboard the lost ship in spite of the low odds of survival. Burnham assures him that the crew of Discovery feels the same, despite being more realistic about the situation. Pike then puts his money where his mouth is a second time when he beams back down to rescue Burnham as the Hiawatha is falling apart around her.
- The Nose Knows: Saru can smell Burnham's apprehension, not that he needed to with her obvious body language.
- Off with His Head!: Jet Reno makes sure to stop Captain Pike before he triggers a trip laser which would have done this to him. Having missed the end of the war, she's understandably cautious about potential Klingon boarders and covered her bases.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Thanks to Dr. Pollard and to 23rd-century medical technology, Burnham is up and walking about normally once again scarcely a couple hours after taking a red-hot fragment of metal straight through her right thigh.
- Percussive Maintenance: When his spacesuit's helmet won't close, Pike slams the back of his head against his seat several times to try and force the visor down. It doesn't work.
- Plot-Driven Breakdown:
- The Enterprise suffered massive system failures while investigating the red bursts, forcing Pike to commandeer Discovery in order to continue his mission. This continues at the end of the episode, since the damage is so extensive that the ship will have to be towed back to dry dock for repairs, keeping Pike on Discovery.
- The Hiawatha's transporter fails just before the last group beams off, forcing Burnham to step off the pad to reset it. She's then cut off from the transporter when an explosion sends her flying through the rod Pike had used to wedge open the malfunctioning door.
- Precision F-Strike:Burnham: We got debris!
Connolly: No shit.
- Properly Paranoid: Saru and Burnham won't let Pike take command of Discovery until he follows standard procedure and submits to a DNA scan on the bridge. Pike goes along with it, knowing what they've been through.
- Put on a Bus:
- The explanation given as to why the Enterprise and its crew didn't participate in the war, or were even mentioned; they were still on a five-year exploratory mission and were so far out they'd never get back in time, so were ordered to continue.
- The old girl is then put on a bus again at the end of the episode, as her systems were so scrambled by the investigation into the Red Bursts that she now requires drydock time. Pike stays on as Discovery's skipper in the meanwhile.
- Red Shirt: Connolly ends up being an almost textbook example, except that as a science officer, he wears blue instead of red. The actual red-shirt-wearer, Nhan, ends up surviving.
- Saved by Canon: Pike of course survives his pod malfunction. He has to live so he can eventually retire on Talos IV.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Apparently Connolly is trying hard to be Spock.Connolly: (After a long explanation about the signals and failure to identify them) Every time we tried to scan, the computer went haywire.
Burnham: Like a compass at the North Pole.
Pike: Well put! Why didn't we think of that, Connolly? Huh? Think of all the syllables that gave their lives...
- Shout-Out: The U.S.S. Hiawatha crashed on an asteroid full of exotic matter and radiating gravity distortions, and bears the registry number NCC-815 ... just like Oceanic Flight 815, which crashed on an island full of exotic matter and radiating gravity distortions in the premiere episode of Lost. Even better, Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman is regularly part of the Production Posse of Trek film series executive producer J. J. Abrams.
- Talking Is a Free Action: Nope. Connolly gets blindsided by a giant rock while arguing with Burnham about whether he has his navigation system calibrated properly to avoid the giant rocks in the Asteroid Thicket.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: When Pike has the primary bridge crew introduce themselves, he orders no ranks, just their names. Airiam still introduces herself as "Lieutenant-Commander Airiam", presumably out of habit.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: When Burnham comes to her senses after being knocked around by the collapsing ship, through her hazy vision she sees the red angel approaching her. Then Pike runs right through it to rescue her, showing it was only visible to her.
- Too Dumb to Live: Connolly is confident of his ability to navigate the debris field in spite of multiple warnings from Burnham to the contrary. He dies bragging that he's got it in hand.
- Unobtanium: At least a significant part of the asteroid is made of some exotic mineral. Transporters can't lock onto it, and whatever it is is giving off energy readings very similar to both the mycelial spores and Ripper.
- The Un-Reveal: We don't see any more of the Enterprise's interiors aside from Spock's quarters and the immediate outside of his doorway. Given the enduring Broken Base (to put it mildly) over the cosmetic updates on display in the first season, this may have been deliberate.
- Wham Shot:
- Burnham reads Spock's last personal log, in which he talks about a recurring nightmare. He explains that he's encoded an image of it into the log. When Burnham decodes the image, it's the same pattern as the red bursts, predicted well in advance of their arrival.
- In the ready room scene, we see Pike find a fortune cookie message and pick it up, taking a moment to read it before Burnham enters. At the end of the scene, he discards the message and the camera zooms in let the audience see it:
- Where's the Kaboom?: When the Discovery shows up at the coordinates of the nearest red signal — only to find no signal and a sudden debris field.Pike: I was expecting a red thing. Where's my damn red thing?