HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
I could have gone my entire life without knowing that the DOTs can scream, but no, Discovery wanted not only for me to know they can but to hear it. Thanks, “Stormy Weather” writers. Aside from that nightmare-fodder scene, “Stormy Weather” is an episode that trades on different types of fear and does it really rather nicely. The crew wrestles with their fear of an unknown threat that’s eating through their shields and hull. Zora wrestles with her first experience of fear while Book wrestles with his doubts and concerns that he may be failing to avenge the loss of his world. Even Owo gets a great moment of panic. The best part of the episode is that the episode hides the source of that fear, leaving our minds to do the heavy lifting for it by creating our own monsters in the darkness. There’s a lot to love about an episode that allows these characters more generalized vulnerability because it not only affords everyone an opportunity to explore new facets of their characters but also lets them shine in their coming together. The only real issue, if one can call it that, is that “Stormy Weather” feels a bit rushed. I wish we’d had a little more time to sit and experience that fear with the crew.
Starfleet concludes that the wisest course of action is to send the Discovery into the subspace rift created by the DMA in order to investigate, which is exactly what they do. After calling all crew to their stations, the ship enters the rift, and once inside, the ship’s sensors detect exactly nothing. Book wants to take his ship out to scout, but Burnham overrules him in favor of using a DOT to investigate. About five thousand meters away from the ship, something starts disintegrating the DOT while it screams, validating Burnham’s prudence. A photonic flare disintegrates even closer to the ship, indicating that whatever is in the rift is coming closer to the Discovery.
They discover that unfortunately, they cannot jump out of the rift due to the strangeness of the mycelial network inside the rift when an attempt by Book to jump them into regular space not only fails but also subjects him to a strange energy surge. That energy surge apparently causes Book to hallucinate an image of his dead father who proceeds to berate him for failing to follow his instincts and avenge Kwejian. Book wrestles with his guilt, and Dr. Culber assures him that the hallucinations will dissipate eventually.
Meanwhile, Gray has been remanded to quarters as he isn’t a member of Starfleet. He begins to play a Trill game with Zora when she confesses to feeling overwhelmed by the information flowing from her ship’s processes. The game allows Zora to focus, and once she calms a bit, she detects something pressing on the outer hull. Gray encourages her to tell Burnham as they continue to play the game together. Zora does inform Burnham minutes before the hull breaches, but Ensign Cortez is unable to reach safety before the emergency forcefield drops.
Cortez’s death rattles everyone, especially Zora, who becomes nearly paralyzed with fear. Gray heads up to the bridge to bring the situation with Zora to Burnham’s attention. With Gray’s encouragement, Zora explains to the bridge crew that she can feel microvariances on the external sensors, and Saru concludes they can use a signal to guide the ship out of the void as Zora could potentially follow it. Zora, however, is too afraid to try. Burnham summons Gray and Zora to her ready room where she explains to Zora that feeling fear is normal and that Zora must overcome that fear.
Dr. Culber summons Burnham to sickbay to discuss Book’s status. Stamets theorizes that the particles that may have caused Book’s intense hallucinations could be the solution to their current dilemma because they originated from outside their galaxy. Burnham transports to the bridge where she discovers that shields will fail in ten minutes. She discusses the particles, and Bryce suggests using sonar to ping off of the particles to find the exit. Implementing his plan, they discover that the shields will fail before Discovery will exit the rift, potentially resulting in more deaths from the high temperatures the ship will experience upon reentering normal space. Burnham orders everyone to transport into the pattern buffers, where they’ll be safest. She opts to remain on the bridge with Zora and dons an EV suit. However, the heat proves too intense.
Burnham eventually wakes up to Dr. Culber’s face, and Saru steps up to explain that everyone made it out of the pattern buffers without issue. The Discovery spends some quality time in a space dock being repaired, while Saru and Book watch. Book observes that his father would want him to do something else, and Saru comments that he still feels rage against the Ba’ul for the culling of his people. He goes on to comment that the battle to overcome our emotions is a worthy endeavor.
Burnham completes her memory tree, and Zora crafts one of her own, featuring memories of the crew.
If season four has an overriding theme, it’s that community matters, and the community here doesn’t merely refer to working together to achieve a common goal. Rather, season four explores the necessity of providing community to each other in times of crisis. John Donne observed that “No man is an island entire of itself” in Meditation XVII, and the Discovery writers room has taken that concept to heart. We’ve seen how important connection has been for both Book and Culber to work through their respective grief and exhaustion. “The Examples” added a temporal dimension to this connection, emphasizing how important the past is to the present. The Akaali use a memory tree to represent their family histories, which beautifully highlights that each part of the family is part of a much greater whole that reaches back generations.
“Stormy Weather” uses Book to build on that premise through the medium of his hallucination of his father. While the relationship between them as portrayed in the episode is anything but tranquil, Book ultimately concludes that he prefers to think that his father isn’t just a vision conjured up by a mind riddled with extra-galactic particles. If Book can believe some piece of his father remains, that means that something of his other, more well-loved lost family and friends remains as well. Thematically, this echoes the tree metaphor in that when a branch dies, the tree remains. We carry with us something from each of our loved ones and from our forebears, even if we don’t quite know it the same way the leaf carries with it the memory of the tree from which it fell.
Burnham then takes this them and extends it laterally when she orders her crew-members to group together to go into the pattern buffers so that none of them will be alone. If our past is a part of us, then we are a part of our present, touching each person we meet. Tennyson’s Ulysses comments, “I am a part of all that I have met,” and the crew-members nearly literally become part of each other as they link hands as they dissolve together into the pattern buffers, commingling in a profoundly intimate way. I wonder if we’ll see the second half of the season tying the crew to their futures in some sort of literal or metaphorical way. Regardless, this emphasis on community and connection stands in stark contrast to our current, fractured reality. We’ve been severed from each other by COVID, by politics, and by other disagreements, and Star Trek: Discovery has positioned itself as a reminder not only of the importance of these connections to who we are but also that we have an affirmative obligation to maintain them. That’s a heady statement to make in a TV show.
Gray also gets something to do that isn’t in service of Adira’s story in this episode, which makes for a pleasant change, and it feels very delightfully in character for him to reach out to a frightened Zora and help her. Gray understands on a profoundly literal level what it’s like to be non-corporeal, so he’s already more open to interacting with Zora than a regular crew-member might be. Add to that his interest in training as a Guardian to help symbionts, and you get someone perfectly primed to listen to Zora when she doesn’t even know herself what she knows. Plus, they’re both somewhat self-crafted in a way many of the other crew-members are not. Gray chose his name when he transitioned just as Zora chooses hers. That serves as a nice way to discuss Gray’s transness that feels organic and natural, which is even better.
Zora’s own continuing development poses some interesting questions for the Discovery crew. On the one hand, ethical issues abound. If we continue to accept that the sphere data, which has become Zora, cannot be removed from Discovery’s computer core, has Zora had the opportunity to consent to risking her being the way the rest of the crew has? How much autonomy does she have? Should Captain Burnham and by extension Starfleet continue to risk what is effectively the only member of a species without obtaining that consent? I don’t mean to invoke “Measure of a Man” here, but I do hope the series at least attempts to engage with questions like these.
“Stormy Weather” appears to set up some new questions that will likely dominate the back half of season four. While I’d love to see more progress on the DMA front, I don’t think we’re going to get any easy answers at this juncture. I do think “Stormy Weather” resolves a bit too quickly, especially considering that I don’t think anyone really believes that Burnham is in mortal peril at this stage in the season. However, “Stormy Weather” does drive the DMA plot forward a bit, which is momentum that is badly needed for that particular story arc. I’ll be interested to see how Discovery wrangles an extra-galactic threat.
Four Cups of Earl Grey Tea
Stray Thoughts From the Couch:
- I really love these memory trees. Yes, yes, I know we do “family trees,” but it’s nice to see a Trek take on the idea, especially considering how important found family as a concept is to Trek.
- I love that Grudge was Book’s Buffer Buddy. TNG tended to hand-wave Spot into various things, but I like that Discovery is being a touch more careful with their space catte.
- Seriously, I did not appreciate the screaming DOT, y’all.
- Speaking of the DOTS, why have they not come out with a plush DOT? I would absolutely buy that time now.
- I’m really glad that we’re getting more interesting development in our bridge characters, but it would be nice if that character development felt more real. The scripts tend to treat these characters as walking skill trees, possessing random abilities that will serve the plot when necessary. This week we get Bryce’s love of twentieth century technology, which very much fits into that category, and Owo’s awful story about watching her best friend die, which feels a little more natural. I guess any development is better than none, but I can still hope for better.