Discovery arrives at the coordinates Adira Tal gave them last episode, and find what remains of Starfleet and the Federation. Alas, as time-traveling refugees (and violators of laws passed some time in the last thousand years), they are treated with distrust and suspicion. To prove their loyalty, the crew is given three hours to hunt down a cure for a disease afflicting Kili refugees.
Tropes in this episode:
- Aesop Amnesia: Saru gently accuses Michael of this when she suggests they steal the flight logs of the Kili's vessel, after it appears that the distrustful Starfleet won't give it to them. He points out that the Federation is already distrustful enough of them as it is, and following her suggestion would only make their situation worse. He's not mean about it, but he does express some disappointment that the harsh realities of what she has already been through haven't sunk in by now.
- Artistic License History: According to The Other Wiki, Saru's discussion of the Renaissance being immediately preceded by the Dark Ages is about two centuries out of date, even as of 2020. As the article shows, the term "Dark Ages" is presently disfavored altogether. For 200 years prior to the term's being discredited, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Dark Ages were regarded as lasting from the fifth to the tenth centuries, with the Renaissance beginning — at the earliest — during the fourteenth century.
- Break the Haughty: The chief interrogator does this to Georgiou when he reveals the Terran Empire collapsed. She's in such a shock when Burnham bumps into her, it actually catches her off guard.
- Brutal Honesty: Culber has Burnham tell Attis that his family is dead, as he is reluctant to help as long as he holds onto an empty hope that he can find a means to cure them.
- Captain's Log: Saru dictates a log about joining up with the present Federation.
- Contemplative Boss: Saru and Burnham end the episode by looking out of a viewport while musing about the current state of the Federation.
- Continuity Cavalcade: The Discovery crew make numerous references to the events of season 1 and 2 during the Interrogation Montage (Culber's death and resurrection, Reno's encounter with Michael, and Tilly impersonating her mirror universe counterpart).
- Continuity Nod:
- Voyager is in its 11th iteration (NCC-74656-J) by the 32nd century. She's also following the Enterprise precedent of keeping the original registry number and adding a letter to each descendant.
- One of the other ships the crew geeks out over is the U.S.S. Nog, named after the first Ferengi in Starfleet. Word of God is that it is an Eisenberg-class vessel, named after the character's recently-deceased actor Aron.
- Discovery is in violation of the Temporal Prime Directive, established after the Temporal Wars referred to in Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Vance notes that the Federation doesn't do five-year missions anymore.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Burnham shuts down the cryogenic pods holding the bodies of Attis's family, so that he will reappear and they can try to rescue him. She then confronts Attis and says that there is no cure for what happened to them, but with his help they can save the Kili so no one else will feel the same pain.
- Da Chief: Admiral Vance is the C-in-C of what's left of Starfleet, as well as a Reasonable Authority Figure. He may be initially suspicious of Discovery given her unorthodox arrival, but Saru and Burnham persuade him into giving them a chance to prove themselves. After they succeed, he welcomes them back to Starfleet.
- Dream Melody: Burnham notices the music the holo of Attis's wife is humming is the same as the music Adira played on the cello, which was a memory of Senna Tal's. Given the distance and lack of communication, she asks Lt. Willa how that is possible. Willa doesn't have an answer.
- I Choose to Stay: Nhan chooses to stay on the Tikhov so Attis can be taken from it without abandoning it, since it will give her an opportunity to visit her homeworld once the Barzan shift has ended.
- Internal Reveal: Georgiou learns of the collapse of the Mirror Universe's Terran Empire.
- Invisibility Cloak: Federation Headquarters is hidden by a distortion field that masks it from outside observers, which can only be found if you know where to look.
- Jerkass: Willa is pretty blunt and hostile. While assigned to watch the Discovery, she mostly stands around being rude and unhelpful towards them.
- Like a Duck Takes to Water: Burnham is given command of Discovery for the first time, and she quickly takes charge with relative ease, working in near-perfect sync with her crew as they retrieve the Tikhov.
- Logic Bomb: Georgiou shorts out the holograms interrogating her by blinking at the same rate as their holomatrix cycles while asking them illogical questions.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Georgiou's interrogator, being well-studied on Terran history, manages to genuinely rattle her with the news that the Terran Empire collapsed.
- Polluted Wasteland: Urna, which was a hub for refining unstable metals in the 23rd century until the pollution poisoned the atmosphere and rendered the entire planet uninhabitable due to extensive radiation contamination. The Kili stopped there to scavenge for food, unaware that the plant life had mutated to become highly toxic.
- Put on a Bus: Commander Nhan chooses to stay on the USS Tikhov instead of Dr. Attis to be the representative of the Barzan species on the ship when Attis is taken elsewhere for treatment.
- Reality Ensues: So Federation HQ suddenly gets a visit from a 23rd Century vessel they have on record as being destroyed, with its crew expecting a warm welcome. They instead get interrogated and questioned like criminals. Without any sort of evidence to verify their claims, since everything about Control and the spore drive was deeply classified or erased, the Federation, already in pretty rough shape and with limited resources after the Burn, are not going to take any chances on a rogue element without some kind of proof.
- The Reveal: Our heroes learn more about the state of the Federation before and after the Burn. Before, there were over 350 members; after, the number dropped to 38. On the bright side, that number now includes Kaminar and Benzar, much to the delight of Saru and Nhan.
- Rousing Speech: Burnham gives a short one before they jump to rendezvous with the Tikhov.Burnham: We have three hours left to retrieve the seed sample and create an antidote for the Kili. Let's show them who we are. (to Willa) You might want to hold onto something. Black alert.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Burnham suggests to Saru that they prove their worth to the Federation by getting their hands on the travel log for the Kili refugees and trace the origin of the prion disease afflicting them, which they can then retrieve the cure for using the spore drive. Saru points out that stealing from their potential allies wouldn't be a very good first impression, so he goes the diplomatic route of asking for the list with Burnham helping ease things along.
- Something Only They Would Say: Adira convinces Vance that they really have bonded with the Tal symbiont by mentioning that Senna would have reported sooner, but he wanted to see snow on Earth one last time.
- Technology Porn: When Discovery arrives at Federation Headquarters, her crew marvel at the 32nd-century starships.Nilsson: Detecting neutronium-alloy fibers. Those-those used to be theoretical.
Tilly: Some of these hulls are organic. Some-some are completely comprised of holographic-containment walls.
Owosekun: Is that a new Constitution? I bet it can sleep a crew of a thousand! No, two thousand!
Detmer: Detached nacelles? Where do they even put the warp core?
Nhan: Must be a scout. Wonder what its range is like.
Tilly: That's a flying rain forest!
- Teleporter Accident: The Tikhov was hit by a coronal mass ejection at the same time Attis was beaming into the seed vault, causing him to phase in and out of existence.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: Michael finds Georgiou just standing in the middle of a corridor, completely unresponsive, after her debriefing where she learned the Terran Empire collapsed centuries ago.
- Un-person: Vance has trouble believing Saru's story because there are no records of their journey. Discovery was recorded as being destroyed in 2258, with no mention of Control or Discovery's unique capabilities.
- The Unreveal: Having found the remnants of Starfleet, Michael immediately tries asking what caused the Burn. She's told it's classified. at the end of the episode, she asks if, having proven themselves, they can learn now. And... turns out Starfleet doesn't know either. They've got a thousand and one theories, but no concrete evidence that could prove any one.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Saru learns that the Kelpiens joined the Federation, but nothing is said about what happened to the Ba'ul.