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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S3E11 "Su'Kal"

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Discovery ventures to the Verubin Nebula, where Burnham, Saru, and Culber make a shocking realization about the origin of The Burn as the rest of the crew faces an unexpected threat.

Tropes in this episode:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Lampshaded by Tilly when she accuses Osyraa of projection.
    Osyraa: Don't test me, Red.
    Tilly: OK, we'll skip Freud.
  • Boarding Party: When Discovery tries to jump away, Osyraa beams in a boarding party to seize Stamets before he can initiate it. More boarders then seize the remaining decks, ending with the bridge.
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  • Break Them by Talking: Osyraa tries this on Tilly after being told Saru isn't available, denigrating her as not up to the job of being captain. Tilly refuses to be cowed.
  • Cliffhanger: Osyraa has seized Discovery and uses the spore drive to jump both Discovery and her own ship, attached with mechanical tentacles, to Federation headquarters. Burnham and Book, using the latter's ship, are left behind. Meanwhile, Saru, Culber, and Adira have to keep Su'Kal from potentially causing another Burn.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Osyraa uses her cloaking device to make her ship read like a Federation vessel, and even somehow has the correct response codes when pinged. A Federation vessel randomly showing up in the middle of nowhere at just that moment is naturally suspicious, so Tilly orders a wider scan and realizes it's a cloaked vessel. The disguise still serves its purpose of distracting them long enough for Osyraa to catch up to them.
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  • Ensign Newbie: Deconstructed. Tilly is clearly aware of the gravity of the situation, but Osyraa is simply faster and more experienced.
  • Face Your Fears: In order to escape the holoprogram, Su'Kal has to face the kelp guardian, a manifestation of his fears created by the program based on an old Kelpien legend. Unfortunately, he's too immature to do this, and it comes with the added wrinkle of him releasing dilithium-neutralizing radiation any time he's frightened.
  • Gravity Screw: When fleeing the kelp guardian, Burnham trips into the pit between the staircases, only to suddenly fly into the sky a few moments later. She wakes up in another part of the structure.
  • Holodeck Malfunction: When they beam into the ship, Burnham, Culber, and Saru find themselves in a malfunctioning holoprogram. The characters within are in various states of malfunction, such as a replicator training program using a tree as a demonstration. Attempts to deactivate it fail, either because those commands have long since degraded or it was simply keyed not to respond to anyone but the crew. It also turns the away team into different species (Trill, Bajoran, and human, respectively) and gives them different clothing. This turns out to be intentional, however, as the holoprogram was designed to protect and nurture Su'Kal until rescue, and altered their appearance so as not to upset him. This proves to be problematic as the disguise also hides their equipment, without which they cannot monitor their radiation exposure.
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  • I Choose to Stay: Culber chooses to stay with Saru instead of leaving with Burnham, saying that if anyone can understand prolonged loneliness he can.
  • Impairment Shot: When Book is being affected by the radiation, his vision starts to go blurry.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Discovery now has a cloaking device, as part of her upgrades. So does Osyraa's ship.
  • It Only Works Once: When Osyraa boasts that her ship outguns Discovery, Tilly points out that Book's far smaller ship disabled hers in their last encounter. Osyraa assures her that the vulnerability they exploited has been corrected.
  • Little Stowaway: Adira uses Reno's badge to transport to Book's ship before the Emerald Chain seizes Discovery, then takes Book's radiation medication and beams down to the planet.
  • Manchild: Su'Kal has had nothing but holoprograms for company for 125 years, and so has not emotionally matured beyond that point.
  • Mind-Control Device: The Emerald Chain attaches a device to Stamets's head which forces him to follow their orders.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Saru's well-meaning attempts to rescue the sole lifesign on the Kelipen ship have led to the risk of another Burn happening because Su'Kal's delicate emotional state has been upset by their arrival.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: Tilly threatens to self-destruct Discovery to keep it out of Osyraa's hands. Osyraa counters this by seizing the ship faster than Tilly can order such an action.
  • Not Worth Killing: When Osyraa seizes the ship and demands Tilly vacate the captain's chair, Tilly defiantly says Osyraa will have to kill her. Osyraa refuses on the grounds that she doesn't want to get blood on her new chair, instead just walking over and tossing Tilly aside.
  • No, You: Osyraa tries to get under Tilly's skin by suggesting she feels she is undeserving and unprepared to be in command, that she sees herself as a fraud. Tilly replies by suggesting Osyraa is projecting.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Saru is noticeably distracted and hyper-focused on finding the ship and rescuing the child, having not seen another Kelpien since they landed in the 32nd century. It has a negative affect on his command ability, causing him to take unnecessary risks until Burnham pulls him back in.
  • Radiation-Immune Mutants: Su'Kal's exposure to the radiation of the Verubin Nebula in utero, combined with the ship providing some protection, has made him immune to radiation levels that will kill most humanoids inside of a day.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: The Vulcan hologram which recognizes Culber and Saru as rescuers occasionally reads its own internal dialog script aloud; for example, referring to the rescue team as "anticipated input".
  • Reality Ensues: It's not just that Tilly gets put in charge; it's also that every military-minded officer in the cast — Michelle Yeoh's Section 31 agent Philippa Georgiou; Rachael Ancheril's Cmdr. Nhan, former Chief of Security — has been written out and is therefore in no position to be Properly Paranoid.
  • The Reveal: When Su'Kal is scared, he releases a burst of radiation which causes a Burn-like effect on Discovery, far tamer than the real thing but debilitating nonetheless. Once the away team learns of this, they come to the conclusion that his exposure to the planet and the nebula in utero has mutated him in such a way that he actually caused the Burn.
  • Revenge by Proxy: Osyraa is conducting military exercises near Kaminar, evidently to lure Discovery to her by attacking Saru's home. When that doesn't work, she tracks the ship down to seize it herself.
  • Sherlock Scan: Osyraa works out that because Tilly is in command and Discovery hasn't jumped away, they must be investigating something in the nebula and Saru must be where that something is.
  • Spotting the Thread: Tilly orders a scan for any nearby habitable planets to explain why a Federation ship would suddenly pop up near them with no warning. Upon finding none, Tilly orders a wider scan that reveals high neutrino emissions. From this, Tilly puts together that the ship must belong to Osyraa, because their ship and desperately-needed dilithium are the only two reasons anyone would be out this far.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Su'Kal asks Burnham if she is another holo, she rolls with it to get him to open up. It's not very effective, as Su'Kal is reluctant to talk about anything involving "outside" and balks at her suggestion of resetting the entire program.
  • Title Drop: Su'Kal is the child's name, a Kelpien tradition of naming a child such after a great tragedy. It roughly translates as "Benevolent gift."
  • You Are in Command Now: Saru joins the away team to search for the survivor, leaving Tilly in charge of Discovery in the meantime. She's understandably nervous.


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