Star Trek: Discovery continues moving the plot and the lives of the characters forward with its latest episode.
While it didn’t quite live up to the hype set up by the preceding episode, “The Sanctuary” is still an enjoyable and emotional episode, even containing a coming-out scene unlike most seen on television. The episode deserves its merits just for Adira’s admission to Stamets. Star Trek has always pushed boundaries and while the first two that come to mind are kisses (I will never get over Jadzia’s kiss with Lenara), this scene presents Adira’s nonbinary gender identity as something natural and normal, diverging from its past groundbreaking moments.
However, this review and recap is written by someone who is cisgender, so if you want to read a deeper examination into the theme of gender identity within Star Trek, I would suggest seeking out transgender and nonbinary voices, like Jessie Gender, within the fandom.
Now as Saru says it best — Execute!
“The Sanctuary” takes us deeper into Book’s past, and while Book is a fun character, maybe it would have served him better if this episode came later in the season, or even in the following one (assuming he makes it that far).
Book returns home, as The Emerald Chain and Osyraa rear its head as the big bad once more. The Orion was able to take over Book’s home, Kwejian. It’s almost ironic how the events of The Burn affected the nature that some of its natives could communicate with.
Book has a spat with his brother-who-is-not-his-brother, deception, and deceit manifests between the two as Book’s brother almost gives him up, but in the end they come together to save their planet as Discovery drives Osyraa away. You know. Star Trek.
What’s most poignant is the final moment of this arc when the two brothers come and implore the sea locusts to please leave. This isn’t due to the actual action, which is portrayed beautifully, but more because of how Book grows from that experience.
Book can now accept Kyheem calling him by his given name, and he can accept Kwejian as home, but it’s not where he needs to be. It’s this acceptance and peace that he’s found with his roots which allows him to grow. In “Unification III,” Book didn’t know where he belonged, even as Michael was reassured of her place. He knew that he loved her, but life is a lot more complicated than that.
But after seeing how Starfleet impacted his planet and helped him and Kyheem save it — he now knows. Which, good. It was getting to be a bit awkward watching Michael’s lover just loiter around her workplace.
While Burnham and Book deal with Osyraa emotionally, the U.S.S. Discovery must take her on physically. This mission is only possible in the first place due to the amount of time it will take to pinpoint whether the ship trapped in The Burn has sent a message, but this mission sure does a lot to showcase several members of the Discovery.
Saru continues to shine this season, taking a back seat when it comes to any major arcs. However, this role still does him well as he’s had plenty of opportunities to show how qualified he is for the role. Saru’s maturation when it comes to his biology speeds his growth along while still maintaining the Saru we know and love.
Saru is only complemented by his choice of Tilly as his number one. She works extremely well with him as seen throughout the episode. She’s a great executive, but she’s also creative enough to solve a problem in ways which they can get away with on paper.
In this circumstance, it leads to a great sequence as Detmer pilots Book’s ship, damaging The Emerald Chain’s ship enough to push it to retreat, allowing not only for Kwejian to not be mercilessly attacked but for it also to heal.
Even though it may have seemed liked Detmer’s plot that played out in first few episodes of season three ran its course, her words to Ryn and continued screentime indicate that something is still not quite right with her. This is intriguing as well as the fact that it may seem like Discovery is playing with and building on the chemistry that Detmer shares with Owosekun, and if so — no complaints here.
And while these characters adapt and thrive, Georgiou has a harder time adapting, and not to the future, perhaps to this universe. Another likely scenario is Starfleet, who is bound to know of her. There is still so much unknown about this time in the prime universe and the technology and ideologies it holds.
After all, there is something dark going on within The Federation. Enough hints have been coyly dropped. With The Federation’s reputation, at least two of the four founding members no longer a part of it, and Star Trek’s storytelling style, we can assume that they may make the Cardassians look like the good guys now.
Although “The Sanctuary” left the question of what was going on with Georgiou (other than her seemingly getting caught between dimensions), it could potentially be big — she still needs to get away from Discovery and to her own show somehow.
However, the most poignant part of this episode by miles was when Adira came out as nonbinary to Stamets.
Stamets assumed a mentor-like role for Adira, and their similarities have created an open bond. While Stamets fixating on Adira continues his trend of doing anything to avoid self-care, the more important person in this story is clearly Adira.
The most noteworthy aspect about this scene is Stamets easy acceptance of Adira’s gender identity, and how naturally he dealt with the news. Or maybe it was the fact that he didn’t deal with the news because for Stamets, it wasn’t something that he had to deal with.
Stamets obviously feels a close connection with Adira, and perhaps the normalcy he provides them in light of what Adira shared with him can help further feel more comfortable within their identity. After all, being sixteen and figuring out themselves along with a whole bunch of other past lives can’t be easy.
But there is still so much that media needs to do for the transgender and nonbinary communities. And Star Trek has made its misdeeds, even Adira’s backstory with Grey has drawn some criticism from these communities. And one two-minute scene won’t fix this, but it seems like Discovery is head in the right direction.
But again, the voices that should be loudest regarding Adira should be the voices of fans who have gone through similar experiences as Adira. Readers should keep that in consideration when forming their opinions and seeking what content to read in response to this story arc.
While “The Sanctuary” wasn’t as exciting or emotional as the previous episode, it remains a strong episode with plenty of action, funny moments, and meaningful conversations. This episode perhaps came too early in some aspects, which could have led to a heightened impact if aired at a later point, but it still does a solid job showing how these relationships impacted Book and how adding Michael and Discovery into the mix pushes him to his full potential.
This episode helps to do the legwork required for both the overarching plot and emotional payoff as Discovery jumps once again — this time to the second half of its season.
Star Trek: Discovery airs on CBS All Access on Thursdays.