'Star Trek' unburies its gay relationships
With its high-stakes action, intriguing worldbuilding and excellent character work, “Star Trek: Discovery,” which began its second season this past January, continues to bring fresh takes on old Trek formulas.
“Saints of Imperfection” premiered on Thursday, Feb. 14. It begins on the distraught Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), rushing to save her friend Tilly (Mary Wiseman), who was kidnapped in the last episode by an interdimensional being known to them in a human form as “May” (Bahia Watson). She laments in her opening narration that she wants to have hope that Tilly will return but cannot, instead choosing to bury herself in her work.
Said work is the continuing search for her foster brother, Spock, which has encompassed much of the season so far. As Burnham arrives on the bridge, they seem to have tracked his shuttle, but when it is pulled into their shuttle bay, its passenger is not the renegade Vulcan, but rather the Mirror Universe Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), now an agent of the nefarious Section 31. Yeoh’s acting drips with nuance in every scene she is in, as she relishes in Georgiou’s unbridled villainy. Even the act of eating an apple becomes intimidating.
Section 31’s liaison to Discovery is revealed to be Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), a human with memories of a dead Klingon, which doesn’t sit well with Captain Pike (Anson Mount). Michael vouches for him, but she’s still uneasy around Tyler due to his affiliation with Starfleet’s infamous shadow organization.
The episode then returns to Tilly, who has been transported across dimensions by May. Both actresses are top-notch here, with Tilly being understandably angry and May begging her to help fight against a “monster” destroying her home. May’s species, the JahSepp, normally take the form of fungi, decomposing any foreign matter they find. However, the “monster” uses toxic tree bark to kill the JahSepp, wreaking havoc across their world.
Lieutenant Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) cooks up a plan to rescue Tilly, having the ship do a dimensional jump into the dimensional plane itself. He and Michael only have an hour to find Tilly before the Discovery is eaten by the JahSepp, which they do shortly after crossing through. Michael and Tilly’s reunion is cut short, however, by another reunion: that of Stamets and his long-thought-dead husband Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz).
Back in season one, Culber’s death at the hands of Ash Tyler was a sore point for many fans, especially considering he and Stamets were the first gay couple in Star Trek.
However, Cruz told fans that it wasn’t the end for his character and at long last we see that he was right. Of course, this didn’t mean Discovery couldn’t tug at our heartstrings even further by at first making us believe that Culber wouldn’t be able to pass through the dimensional barrier.
Rapp’s emotions are on full display in these scenes – from his touching recollection of his and Culber’s third date to their tear-inducing embrace when they both realize that the other is real to the utter heartbreak when Culber’s hand disintegrates across the barrier.
On Discovery’s side of things, the ship’s integrity is quickly running thin, even after Tyler calls Section 31 for help. Georgiou goes against her boss Leland (Alan van Sprang) to give Discovery three more minutes, which she justifies by blackmailing him for a botched assassination attempt.
They eventually find a way to bring Culber across, but it requires May promising to transport him herself after Tilly, Stamets and Michael go through the barrier without him. She and Tilly pinky-swear and upon their return to our dimension, May keeps her promise. A naked Culber emerges from a cocoon into the engineering room, Stamets grabbing him in loving embrace.
Pike and Leland are met by Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook), who orders them to put aside their differences and work together in investigating the mysterious seven signals that the season is centered around. What lies ahead in the series, besides finally finding Spock, is unknown, but with the return of Culber, things are definitely looking up.