Star Trek: Discovery review: Season 5 Episode 2, "Under The Twin Moons"

This episode of Star Trek: Discovery slows down the pace a little so that it can develop relationships and reintroduce us to Saru, Burhnham, Booker and Tilly.
L-R Doug Jones as Saru and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
L-R Doug Jones as Saru and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ /

Captain Rayner will either go full villain or turn out to have a heart of gold. The mysterious obnoxious jerk character trope can only go one of two ways.

This season of Star Trek: Discovery could easily get exhausting if they kept up the pace of the premiere. So while "Under the Twin Moons" is a slight return to the old ponderous Star Trek: Discovery, it's forgiven.

We start with one of Captain Burnham's signature profound but meaningless monologues about the meaning of it all, same old Discovery. But we're soon reminded that she has reason to be having an existential crisis because this season's mission deals with an ancient mystery that goes to the very creation of all humanoid life in the galaxy. So this too is forgivable.

Discovery has always felt apart from the rest of the Star Trek universe, even when it's trying to link itself back to canon. This ancient mystery is a big honking reference, not only to Star Trek: The Next Generation but to one of TNG's most beloved episodes, "The Chase," so expect to see frequent reminders of that TNG link.

We're then taken to a disciplinary hearing where Captain Rayner is getting grilled about his decision in the last episode to torpedo the bad guy's escape route from space, prompting the bad guys to let off their own torpedoes and nearly destroy a village. We've established that Burnham is a master diplomat, but she's struggling here not to call his plan really really stupid, and in front of the president of the Federation no less. You may have screwed up in the past, but have you ever screwed up so bad the president turns up and forcefully nudges you into retirement?

Rayner then loses his cool and goes on a rant about how he "doesn't have time for diplomacy and rules," but he "gets results, damnit!" This makes me think he's a villain, but Discovery likes to zig when you expect it to zag. The big revelation about Rayner could simply be that he was having a bad day that day.

Burnham is then informed that her ex-boyfriend Booker and his cat Grudge will be assigned to the Discovery full-time because of his expertise with these particular bad guys, who I am trying to not think of as Mickey and Mallory from Natural Born Killers, because they're real names are Moll and L'ak. Booker is getting settled in his quarters when Burnham comes by with a gift of a remote control holographic mouse that Grudge is adorably disinterested in. (Didn't we establish last season that Grudge is freaked out by holograms, because she can't smell them?)

This reminds us how good Burnham and Booker are together when not in a motorcycle chase. Star Trek has been notoriously bad with couples, pairing up characters with no chemistry for reasons that elude even the writers and stars. But actors Sonequa Martin-Green and David Adjala have so much chemistry that it feels wrong that they're not together. They're not so much a will-they-won't-they, as a why-on-Earth-aren't-they? Every single interaction between them foreshadows that they won't be exes for long.

We're seeing a different side of Captain Burnham on this new season of Discovery, and though Sonequa Martin-Green is having fun with it, she's having trouble adapting. She's a born action star, and in many ways this is the role she was born to play, but her comic instincts could use a little developing. Despite the easy chemistry with Booker, she's still not comfortable landing a joke.

Apparently this season wasn't initially written as the final season, and reshoots were ordered when they announced that Discovery was coming to an end, to retcon it into a send-off. We start to see that with this episode, as characters have impromptu heart-to-hearts with each other about how much they'll miss each other. This feels a little forced, but it's certainly effective. And of course Tilly and Adira bond over being super awkward; how had this not happened until now? I just hope the Tilly/Adira bonding doesn't crowd out the Adira/Stamets/Culber queer found family.

Meanwhile, Burnham and Saru are on a planet that the Romulan diary they found last week has lead them to, looking for the next piece in the puzzle. But there's an electromagnetic field that prevents transporters from working in the area where they're looking. Hiking to the site gives them an excuse for their own heart-to-heart. Their conversation is a handy reminder of some of the crazier stuff that's happened on Discovery. We're reminded that Saru can shoot darts from the back of his head, that Burnham first came on board as a prisoner after attempting a mutiny that got her captain and mother figure Captain Georgiou killed, and that Tin Natoro's Commander Jett Reno exists!

As much as Discovery needs to embrace being Star Trek, it's great to see that it's not trying to pretend its crazy digressions never happened. This conversation feels like a homage to those crazy digressions. Plus, the head darts thing is about to come in handy.

That's when they're set upon by drones that were part of the ancient security system, built by a long-dead civilization who considered this sacred ground. They can't be beamed out, so Tilly and Adira start frantically brainstorming a plan to get them out, but they're getting nowhere until Rayner appears as a hologram and tells them that to understand an ancient alien security system, they must think like an ancient alien. Somehow this is actually helpful, and they're able to disable the system's power source. But the Rayner hologram mysteriously disappears before the action is over like the big mysterious jerk that he is.

Booker has worked up a psychological profile on Mickey and Mallory and posts something on the galactic dark web designed to get their attention. They promptly call him up via holographic phone while Stamets does the old thriller trope where he has to keep them on the phone long enough for the call to be traced. But unfortunately they were using a wormhole as a VPN and they can't be traced. After talking wistfully about how he understands the baddies because they're young risk takers and in love, Booker leaves in a huff. Gee, I wonder if he's perhaps missing being in love...but it turns out there's something else going on there as well.

The mystery is beginning to take shape as Burnham and Saru return with a thing that fits into a 3D-printed version of a thing that was scrawled into the Romulan's diary. There was also a Romulan nursery rhyme with directions to the next clue. I think we're going to have to acknowledge the debt Discovery season 5 owes to The Da Vinci Code, as our heroes realise that the chase will take them to Westminster Abby and the Louvre...I mean Betazed and Trill.

The show ends with Booker revealing that Mallory is his fourth cousin thrice removed, or something. This reveal doesn't feel terribly significant; they didn't sell it well. Mallory is Booker's only family after his planet was destroyed last season. Could this strain his loyalty to Burnham and Starfleet, mirroring last season's arc? This would add some tension to their relationship. Their flirtations are far more compelling if their reconciliation isn't so inevitable.

This reveal makes Mickey and Mallory more compelling. Two bandits in way over their heads didn't seem like much of a match for Starfleet. But if their role is to provide emotional turmoil, then all of a sudden they make a lot more sense.

Finally, with Saru quitting to marry T'rina, Burnham appoints Rayner as her new first officer after Admiral Vance tells her that he's losing it. What could possibly go wrong with having a short-tempered jerk with poor judgement and nothing to lose on the bridge? She says she's giving him a second chance like Saru gave her. While Burnham is often annoyingly competent, being a poor judge of character when sentiment is involved has been her one consistent flaw. Along with the funner faster story, we're seeing a looser, more relaxed Burnham. Could we also be seeing a repeatably fallible Burnham whose poor choice for first officer dooms the mission?

dark. Next. star trek discovery 501. Star Trek: Discovery review: Season 5 Episode 1, "Red Directive"

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