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Explaining Star Trek: Discovery S2 Ep14 (Finale)

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Netflix released the final episode of Star Trek Discovery season 2. And there’s been some criticism about it. But there doesn’t have to be- not with some alterations in the dialogue. So if you have yet to watch it, you should probably do so first, before reading the rest of this analysis piece.


The main plot holes or plot weaknesses apparent are as follows:

  • Only being able to open ‘one’ wormhole, and yet Burnham travels to the past (to close the time loop) and then eventually to the future. Doesn’t that sound like plural amounts of wormholes?
  • How can we have a seventh red flare if a second wormhole wasn’t opened? If a worm hole is indeed like a tunnel, even if Michael shot the flare through the one closing wormhole, it should just reappear at the same site of battle between Control and the Alliance.
  • The semi-realised AI Control is in the nanites of Leland, but couldn’t it also be in other databases simultaneously?
  • Let Michael Burnham, the USS Discovery and the Spore Drive be classified… but doesn’t Michael have the reputation for being the one to start the Klingon war? And wasn’t Discovery a major player as the one that could appear anywhere on the battlefield? How do you hush up the pre-existing information?
  • Speaking of the Spore Drive, shouldn’t the Federation have many, many teams working on it? The possibility of teleporting anywhere is too big to simply let Stamets to be the only person with the knowledge to use it, even under the lens of genetic tampering involved. If anything, they’d want to use the spore drive and figure out a way without genetic manipulation, which means that the information and technology would be replicated in another Starfleet lab that is far more secure than a mobile ship constantly involved in galactic disputes.


We start our alterations in the penultimate episode 13, “Such Sweet Sorrow”.


The crew attempt to delete the data which fails. Then, instead of jumping to “let’s blow up the ship immediately”, we need about three to five minutes, where they try to move the data back onto a smaller device (the size of a box, for aesthetics’ sake) so that the crew can just destroy that instead. But the transfer doesn’t work; the data, now accustomed to a larger framework, doesn’t want to budge off the Discovery, unless, it is to a larger storage device like the frameworks that Control used to occupy (Recall how the Sphere was like a space station/mini-planet in size). Now, we can have the evacuation and attempt to blow the Discovery. But, as in canon, we find:


        BURNHAM: It’s protecting itself. We tried to delete the data. It wouldn’t let us.

        SARU: If the data has merged with Discovery, that would explain its ability to use Discovery’s resources to ensure its survival.


This part is fine, in fact it remains a crucial plot point.


        PIKE: Arm photon torpedos.

        BURNHAM: Stop!...The Sphere’s data has already merged with Discovery. We should have anticipated it would use our ship and our shields to protect itself, like it’s always done.

        SPOCK: You sound rather certain.

        BURNHAM: I am.

        *Dramatic stare conveying the futility in repeating a failed action*

        PIKE: Sigh. How long until Leland gets here?

        NUMBER ONE: An hour. Maybe less.

        PIKE: Options?

        BURNHAM We know we can’t delete the data.

        SARU: Nor does it seem we can destroy Discovery.

        ADMIRAL CORNWELL: Even if you jump away, Control will not stop coming. Eventually Leland or some version of him, will find you.

        SPOCK: Ergo, Discovery’s very existence is the problem.

        BURNHAM: Of course. As long as discovery exists here and now, this will never be over

        SARU: You are proposing we remove Discovery from the galactic equation entirely.

        PIKE: How exactly are we supposed to do that?

        BURNHAM: The crystal. This is why we have it. To take the data out of this time so control can never get it. Discovery has to go to the future.


We can still keep this entire conversation too. This will lay ground work for the upcoming plot twist.


        PIKE: How do we get discovery to the future before Leland catches up to us?

        ADMIRAL CORNWELL: Dr Burnham’s suit was destroyed on Essof IV. That was the only method of time travel we know of.

        SARU: We have the technical designs from section 31. We can attempt to rebuild it

        PIKE: Do it. To my physical specifications please

        STAMETS: that’s not possible, sir. The suit was tailored to dr burnham’s dna.

        BURNHAM: which makes my mRNA the closest genetic match. I’ll do it.

        *Cue everyone’s reactions to this*

        BURNHAM: My mother started this. I’m going to finish it

        STAMETS: Even if we could adapt the code to your biology, the exoskeleton is made from a composite alloy that we can’t synthesise.

        BURNHAM: Well, the alloy is tritanium based. It might be possible to melt down part of a cargo bulkhead to cast a mold.

        NUMBER ONE: not to sweat the details, but do you even know how to fly the thing?

        BURNHAM: I learnt the basics from the logs. I’m sure there will be some trial and error, opening the wormhole.

        SARU: If Discovery were on autopilot, it could follow you through.

        ADMIRAL CORNWELL: How will you find your way back?

        *Tense music*

        PIKE: everything we know about the signals suggest they’re indicative of a design. I’m willing to trust that.

        GEORGIOU: Are you saying you believe that another signal will just reveal itself because we need it to?

        SPOCK: These signals can only be set by an individual with a time suit with knowledge of our specific circumstances. We believed you mother was the only red angel. However, the bio-neural signature identified another, you. Her efforts were focused entirely on our sphere data. She stated that she did not set the signals. Therefore, you did.


Ok, then. This is around the time where we need to start feeding in some new information about the nature of time travel, so that episode 14 will make sense (with its jump to the past several times, then jump to the future, but it’s a sacrifice because we don’t expect anyone to be able to come back from the future- seriously, it sounds like you made a lot of jumps already. What’s one more?).


THEORY 1: When someone time travels and they ‘open a worm hole’, is that like opening a tunnel, where you have from time-space point A on one side, you fall through the tunnel, to emerge into time-space point B on the other side? This is conventional layperson thinking of wormholes, because from what the name suggests, it really should resemble a ‘worm-like’ hole.


BUT, we can start laying down some practical things, like: the bigger the wormhole, the more time-crystal power used. Then, we have a case of where it’s conceivable that Dr Burnham’s suit has been making about ~300 or more time jumps for the relevantly sized crystal, but those wormholes only needed to fit one individual through. Since Discovery is a spaceship that comfortably has a crew of a couple of hundred people, it is at least that much bigger in size, than one individual person. So to open a wormhole that can fit that through, the required power level it should at least reflect that kind of magnitude. If Michael opens a wormhole that big for Discovery to slip through, then it is like condensing every last jump her suits could possibly be capable of, so if she opens the wormhole, her time crystal breaks from the intensity of too high power outage, and she cannot come back.


This means, that it might be okay, for Michael to close the time loop and travel to several points in the past, because her suit is capable of multiple wormholes for the size of one short person. But after the massive wormhole, the crystal is going to break. The seventh flare will be essentially, the people on Discovery, retrieving Michael in the dead-suit, finding the largest shard that is still intact, eventually repowering it and reworking the temporal calculations of its new size for however many months they need, and then they manage to open one last tiny wormhole, big enough for a red flare grenade and maybe even a small black box containing videos and updated last messages of the Discovery crew to the families they will never see again.


THEORY 2: Perhaps wormholes are not tunnel-like, but cheese-like. We need a scene where someone can catchphrase that opening a wormhole is like manifesting an expanding temporal cheese, where there are simultaneously, a lot of holes you can choose to go through, and the power of the time crystal is needed to essentially expand the cheese to be so big people / spaceships can fit through the holes, and the cheese will naturally shrink in size, until it’s essentially non-existent. If you imagine it like an elastic band, then you can link this theory back to the “Dr Burnham is tethered to the future” idea.


So now, even if charging the crystal by non-supernova means, changes its state such that it will only ever be able to open one wormhole, episode 14 will show Michael utilising that one wormhole to absolute efficiency. She performs the calculations on the five precise time-space points to resolve the time loop, and she whips in and out of them, all while the cheese-wormhole is still trying to expand to a size that can accommodate the Discovery to go through it. Michael then needs to guide Discovery to the correct exit hole of the many exit holes, sending up that sixth red flare. And the seventh flare occurs once Discovery successfully arrives in the future, and Michael zips back to a rapidly shrinking cheese-like wormhole, and shoots that last flare into it as it encloses, with an approximate calculation near-ish but after that final battle.


But, the plot could still be tighter.


        SARU: Captain the Enterprise will arrive in 57 minutes. Control is only 10 minutes behind them.

        PIKE: Alright. This is what you trained for. Eyes up for commander Burnham.

        BURNHAM: I wish there was more time. There isn’t. I love you. All of you thank you for the greatest moments of my life

        PIKE: Thank you all. Let’s get that crystal charged and get to work.


Now then, here we’re going to adjust something, so that Michael isn’t always going to be the chosen one. She will pilot the time-suit, as that is most compatible with her mRNA. But, this farewell, is also going to be an official farewell to a skeleton crew that will pilot Discovery after Burnham into the wormhole. Why is this needed? Because Discovery cannot entirely empty and running on a programmed autopilot when they expect they will be battling an AI program, known to be invasive. Instead, we are going to acknowledge that realistically, Discovery needs to be able to be manually piloted, capable of adopting shields and managing weapons, and that requires a crew onboard.


This is finalise the idea that this will be a one way trip for people. Because if it was only Michael and an empty space ship, there is always a question, ‘but surely, there might be some energy left so that Michael can make the trip home. She has the resources of the ship that made her suit, and also the Sphere data itself of what appeared to be a millennia of observing other civilisations’.


 If we introduce the fact that will now be many people going to the future, then it now becomes much harder to get all of them back, as they don’t fit in her suit. It will take time to make suits compatible to them, let alone source new time crystals, or even some time to expand Michael’s suit so it fits two people (one behind the other, like a skydiving instructor and pupil) and by stage years may have passed for the Discovery while they are in the future. That remains a possibility though, but we will fix that plot hole later as well.


        [OPTIONAL: If you really wanted to, you can have a scene where people still believe that an autopiloted Discovery will be feasible, before you cut that off. Tension would be created for that case, because you emphasise how the time-jumps are lonely and risky, as Michael has never operated the suit before. How long did it take before her mother was able to navigate it intentionally and precisely? It feels like over hundred jumps before some semblance of control. And that took her over a decade of real time. There is no guarantee that Michael will be able to figure how to jump back without spending years in isolation, which can drive any person mad, especially someone who loves communicating with others. There’s a chance she’ll eventually be back, but who knows how much older. And that is assuming if the eventual jump destination has inhabitable shelter, food, water etc. She will need a home base, but if we purposely change the present, then we can’t trust that Michael’s mum’s haven of 930 years into the future will still be inhabitable and safe. Michael can heroically declare that those odds aren’t zero, and she’ll take those odds.]



        BURNHAM: Our goodbye needed to be-

        TILLY, interrupting: -Non-existent. That’s not who we are, Michael. That’s not who any of us are.

        *Tilly leads Burnham to an intersection in the corridor here the main cast are waiting*

        TILLY: Some of us are still working. Po’s designing siege weapons which I can’t even- anyway, we’re staying with you

        BURNHAM: no. <overcome with emotion> I can’t let you do this

        CHIEF ENGINEER RENO: We’re not asking for permission.

        BURNHAM: this is impossible you have lives. You have people who love you. Families who love you. You’ll never see them again.

        PIKE, when addressing each of the crew: Spock… there are no words. Commander Nhan has requested permission to stay on Discovery.

        NHAN: If I could be of any help that is.

        SARU: I would be our privilege to have you, commander.


This scene is still touching, because up until now, we don’t know who the skeleton crew was. They could have been pulled out of a hat, for fairness. But these people are Michael’s comrades and are with her to the end, and they volunteered for this mission they will never return from.


The episode can still end with “Attention all vessels, Leland’s fleet has arrived.”