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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S2E09 "Project Daedalus"

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Hey, Airiam, you okay over there? You're looking more murdery than usual.
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With Discovery on the run, Admiral Cornwell comes aboard on a secret mission that will take them to the heart of Section 31. Spock continues to grapple with the ramifications of what he saw. But there is still a traitor in their midst, who is waiting to spring their trap.


Tropes in this episode:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Section 31's threat assessment computer, Control, has gone rogue and is attempting to gain sentience.
  • Attack Pattern Alpha: Discovery's crew intiates about a half dozen named evasive maneuvers in the span of about 2 minutes to get through the minefield. In order to prevent Control from anticipating their maneuvers, the bridge crew take turns calling out random evasive maneuvers.
  • Benched Hero: Pike accuses Cornwell of keeping the Enterprise away from the Klingon War because she knew Pike would not let Starfleet break their own rules in order to win. Cornwell counters that Pike and his crew were kept away so that, in the event the Federation was destroyed, "the best of Starfleet" would survive.
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  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Saru's ability to see into the ultraviolet spectrum helps him reveal both the footage of Spock's crimes and Admiral P'Tar's transmission are faked — he explains that if he was watching real people, there would be changes in their UV signatures due to emotional agitation.
  • Canon Immigrant: Control first appeared in the novel Star Trek: Section 31 - Control.
  • Confusion Fu: Burnham tells Pike that the mines are predicting their next move based on what they've already done, so the only way to beat them is to make random course changes.
  • Continuity Nod: Tilly, Detmer, and Airiam all evidently play Kadis-kot, a game introduced in Star Trek: Voyager.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Averted with Airiam — for all the parts of her that aren't human, she still has emotions and memories. Played straight once the future AI takes control of her.
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  • Dead Person Impersonation: The real Admiral P'Tar, along with all the other Section 31 admirals, has been dead for at least two weeks. Control has been impersonating them through holographic technology.
  • A Death in the Limelight: We learn a lot more about Airiam in this episode, just before she has the crew kill her to protect themselves from her.
  • Dying as Yourself: Airiam's last thoughts are replaying the memory of her and her late husband walking on a beach, just before she freezes to death.
  • Eureka Moment: When the ship starts to get attacked by Section 31's mines, Pike rhetorically asks if the current situation is a game. Michael (who had just come out of a 3D-chess game with Spock where he did seemingly random movements) realizes that the mines' programming is set to predict their moves logically, so carrying out random evasive maneuvers will make it easier to get through the defenses.
  • Exact Words: During her interview of Spock, Cornwell asks him why he broke out of the psychiatric facility. Spock honestly answers that he did not. He checked himself out legally because he admitted himself into the facility, and therefore had every right to leave of his own volition, even if he had to disable several guards to do it. Once the Red Angel was proven to be real, he knew he was sane and therefore saw no further reason to be in the facility.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Say what you like about the Mirror Universe, its Terran Empire and former Emperor Georgiou, but keeping the AI down was working well — or certainly better than it did in this universe, where the AI kills all the Section 31 admirals, hijacks Airiam's body and causes her death, and threatens to wipe out all life in the future.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Or, in this case, a fatal home video. The trope is played with a bit in that Airiam's husband, who we see in the recording, is implied to have died. However, the video still used to let us know that she had loved ones and a life outside of Starfleet, making her more than a mere Red Shirt.
  • Grand Theft Me: Control continues to do this to Airiam.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: The futuristic AI is trying to do this to Control — by evolving it to the point where it attains consciousness.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Airiam cannot open the airlock herself as the AI inside her is overriding her motor controls, so she begs Burnham to do it. Nhan ends up triggering the airlock.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Tilly does this with Airiam after Control has hijacked her. She gets through, but Airiam can't regain complete control and asks Burnham to space her to protect everyone else.
  • Insane Admiral: Admiral P'Tar is revealed to be a Logic Extremist, and has locked Admiral Cornwell out of Section 31's computer system. Then again, the only version of P'Tar we ever saw on the show was a hologram created to cover up her death at the hands of Control.
  • Kill and Replace: Control killed the admirals in charge of Section 31 and impersonated them using holograms. Cornwell is the only one it couldn't catch, so it locked her out. This is also how it faked footage of Spock murdering several people.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Inverted. Airiam does get Thrown Out the Airlock in the midst of a sentence, but Burnham's the one speaking it — asking what the Title Drop is.
    Airiam: You have to find Project Daedalus!
    Burnham: What is Project— (Airiam gets Thrown Out the Airlock)
  • Lie Detector: Admiral Cornwell has Spock undergo one of these, in which he re-iterates that he broke out of Starfleet Medical in a non-lethal manner. Subverted in that Cornwell says that it either proves Spock is telling the truth or that he believes he is telling the truth.
  • Loophole Abuse: When Saru points out that mines are illegal under Federation law, Cornwell insists that the Federation didn't build them. Pike rightfully calls it out as being a Distinction Without a Difference, since the Federation is using them either way.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: To the point that Stamets, a high-ranking engineer, is the one trying to restore power — and asking Spock, the season's most-hyped guest star, to help out. (One wonders why Jett Reno isn't called upon.)
  • My Skull Runneth Over: Airiam has to periodically dump portions of her memory because her implants have finite storage space. This is yet another indication that the series takes place about a century before Data's positronic brain allows for nigh-unlimited storage of audio-visual information.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Saru's ability to see beyond the visible (to humans) spectrum has been touched upon before, but really becomes pertinent now. Perhaps more importantly, it's now a plot point that viewscreens and other Starfleet devices both record and transmit in the non-visible spectrum — something they don't really need to do, though it obviously proves handy in Spotting the Thread.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Spock is barely bothering to maintain his emotional control, at one point angrily smashing a chess board during an argument with Burnham.
  • Reality Ensues: Burnham tries to Take a Third Option by disabling Control, but her efforts are pointless because Section 31 headquarters is a former penal colony. Understandably, it wouldn't be a very good prison if you could just phaser open any door you pleased.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Spock gives an absolutely blistering one to Burnham, telling her that her constant need to place responsibility for things beyond her control (the death of her parents, the Logic Extremists, the Klingon War, and now Spock's mental health) on her shoulders alone isn't some form of noble self-sacrifice but rather a massive case of self-importance and arrogance.
  • Red Shirt: Subverted. Security chief Nhan beams down to the Section 31 station, is wearing red, and is put in mortal danger — but it's Airiam who dies, and only after Character Development has elevated her to a Mauve Shirt. (Additionally, Airiam's funeral is featured prominently in the trailer for the next episode, indicating that another major element of the Red Shirt trope — that nobody remembers them — is being averted.)
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Every time Airiam gets overridden, her eyes flash with three red dots. Lampshaded by Nhan when Airiam's cover is blown and she's about to attack the rest of the Away Team.
  • The Reveal: It turns out that Spock — the "half-human abomination" — was the true target of the logic extremists. Burnham's presence was beside the point.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Spock gets incredibly sarcastic during his chess game with Burnham, especially when calling her on her tendency to blame herself for everything and take excessive responsibility.
    Spock: After all, the entire Klingon war was your doing. Even your parents' death was your responsibility. If only you hadn't asked to watch a star go supernova. But you're wise to blame yourself. Children should know when a war-faring race will attack without warning. Perhaps you could have done something. A child fighting a Klingon — those are excellent odds.
    Burnham: Shut up!
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Cornwell's attitude towards Pike's idealism can be summed up as this, with the caveat that she and the other admirals wanted Pike's ideals to survive in the event that the Federation was destroyed.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: When Pike accuses Cornwell of sidelining Enterprise to keep him from protesting their morally questionable decisions, Cornwell shoots back that they did so to ensure that the best of Starfleet, and their ideals, would survive if the Federation lost — and points out that, via his line of questioning, Pike is proving that they made the right decision.
  • Silent Credits: There's no music over the closing credits, just ocean and wind sounds.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Invoked by Michael as a way for Spock to test that his recently addled mind is back to its normal logical working order. It does not end well.
  • Space Is Cold: Admiral Patar and the other officers at Section 31 HQ are frozen solid. Played more realistically than other examples, as they've had over two weeks to freeze instead of just a few minutes.
  • Space Mines: Section 31 headquarters is surrounded by blade mines which can slice through starship hulls and blackout mines which scramble navigational data to disorient ships.
  • Stable Time Loop: Control is implicitly the AI from the future that destroys all life, and it spurs its own evolution by hijacking Airiam to evolve its past self.
  • That's an Order!: Pike finally has to order Burnham to open the airlock and eject Airiam into space. Ultimately, Nhan pulls the lever before Burnham can.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Airiam is ejected into space to keep Control from forcing her to kill Burnham and uploading AI data that would make Control unstoppable.
  • Title Drop: Airiam's last words are for Burnham to find "Project Daedalus".
  • We Can Rebuild Her: Airiam was once fully human, but the shuttle she and her husband were on crashed, and as a result of her extensive injuries she was rebuilt into a half-human, half-cyborg.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Up until the Future Probe took her over, the character of Airiam was, for all intents and purposes, makeup. This episode marks the first (and last) real Character Development she's had.
  • Wham Shot: Burnham rolls over one of the bodies on the Section 31 base, to discover it's Admiral P'Tar.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Pike calls Cornwell out, saying that rejecting Starfleet's core beliefs because of war means they've already lost the battle.

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