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REVIEW – Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 4 “Face the Strange”

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Last week’s Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 episode was a quieter affair. However, Discovery Season 5 Episode 4 “Face the Strange”, turns it to 11. On their way to the next piece of The Progenitor’s map in Tzenkethi space, the ship is sabotaged by a mysterious weapon. This leaves Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Rayner (Callum Keith Rennie) and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) as the only ones who can save the ship. The episode was written by Sean Cochran and directed by Lee Rose.

As revealed in the episode’s teaser, a bug propels the ship through a time loop. Will this episode be a gratuitous cameo city? Will Rayner soften up a little after seeing Discovery‘s past? Can the characters break free of the time loop and prevent the Progenitor tech from falling into the wrong hands? As a big fan of Star Trek and time travel, I can’t wait to dive into the latest episode, “Face the Strange.”

WARNING – This review contains all the spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 4 “Face the Strange”.

The Time Bug

At the end of last week’s episode, Adira (Blu del Barrio) had a device planted on them by Moll (Eve Harlow). In my review of “Jinaal” I assumed that this was a tracking device, helping the antagonists trail the USS Discovery. The real truth however was something far more sinister. She really came prepared, bringing out a Krenim Chronophage. In simple terms, Time Bug, a weapon from the Temporal Wars employed by the Krenim Imperium. They’re designed to paralyse a ship, by cycling them through time.

This is the catalyst of the episode’s events, which sees the ship going through events we’ve seen in past seasons. Everything from the Control battle, the Emerald Chain attack, the ship being built in dock. If you’re a longtime fan of the series, this is a real blast from the series’ past. There’s even a preview into a devastating future, where the Progenitor tech fell into the wrong hands. Seeing the ship and Federation HQ in such disarray was a great way to demonstrate the gravity of their situation.

Interestingly, the episode starts with a warning about flashing lights and effects. While unusual for a Star Trek episode, the intensity of the visual effects and battle-damaged flashing lighting, it definitely earns this moniker. It was, to be frank, a visual delight. Thankfully, Stamets is immune thanks to his connection the Tardigrade and Spore Network. Through a bit of a hand wave and technobabble, Burnham and Rayner remember everything too. While a little contrived, they were the best characters to stop this mess.

Callum Keith Rennie as Rayner and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 4, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Paramount+

Time Loop Antics

Let’s just get it out of the way, the episode does not contain an appearance from Lorca (Jason Isaacs). Given the return to the Season 1 era of the show, this feels like something of a missed opportunity. I’m holding out hope he’ll appear later on, but it doesn’t feel particularly likely. Namedropping him was appropriate, but it would’ve been interesting to see present-day Burnham run into him knowing exactly what he’s up to.

However, the fight between present-day Burnham and mutineer Burnham in that era was one of the most impressive parts of the episode. So nice to see how far she’s come as a character since the first season, and her path to the Captain’s Chair. It was also very well choreographed and shot, being an absolute joy to watch. Her interaction with Book (David Ajala) in her quarters, which is presumably set around the start of Season 4, was really touching. I love seeing them as a couple, and hope they end up happily ever after.

In the horrid future, that hopefully doesn’t come to pass, the show also mentions the Breen. They’ve been mentioned in every episode so far this season. Their appearance later in the season is now certain. In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we revealed that L’ak (Elias Toufexis) was a Breen himself. Those helmets in the first episode would be a brilliant Breen design upgrade. Can’t wait to get a better look at the Breen in the future episodes of the season.

Relativity

Their attempt to defeat the bug using the warp bubble, had a lot of talk about time bubbles. Pure Treknobabble to the absolute extreme. Just simple enough that I could follow it, but far more intensive than it should’ve been. Thankfully, the series immediately lightened up with the appearance of Linus (Benjamin David Tomlinson) for a solid bit of distracting comic relief. It’s the massive supporting that absolutely make Discovery the show that it is, and I’m glad that even in Season 5 they’ve not forgotten that.

Instead of big, fancy science, the episode’s climax was Burnham talking to the crew from Season 1. Convincing them she’s from the future, with a heartbreaking scene involving Airiam (Hannah Cheesman), who I really didn’t expect to see. Also on the interesting cameo list was Lieutenant Bryce (Ronnie Rowe Jr.). It was really sweet that the final season of the show paid such loving homage to the show’s early years, especially in the way it included characters who had long since died or left the ship’s crew.

Booting the Time Bug from the ship was a rather intense sequence. The fast music and the injuries that Rayner sustains made for an effective bit of action. Seeing them beat the weapon from the Temporal Wars with the technology of Discovery’s past was also kind of badass. The immediate return to form after, the past unchanged, with the ship only losing out on 6 hours, made for a nice conclusion to the episode’s events. Although they go right back into it, now chasing the tail of Moll and L’ak.

Callum Keith Rennie as Rayner in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 4, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Paramount+

Closeness as a Strength

Rayner starts out the episode determined to do things his way. His demotion has had a massive impact on his wellbeing. It’s also pretty safe to say that talking to each of the crew last week didn’t do all that much to change his attitude. However, this episode kind of puts a bookend to his stubbornness. Approaching the halfway mark, it’s nice to see him integrate into the ship more. For a character with only a season’s worth of appearances, it’s cool that he’s being developed into this very three-dimensional character.

Despite the Discovery fan service through the episode, in seeing the ship’s and crew’s past, he’s able to understand them better. Him talking to Season 1 Burnham, as she holds him at gunpoint, felt like the real culmination of this arc. Although him standing comfortably on the Bridge and genuinely congratulating the crew on their hard work was a real treat as well. Looking ahead at next week’s synopsis, it looks like he’ll briefly be in command of the ship. Having seen him settle in like this, I’m sure he’ll do great in the chair.

As for our close lovebird antagonists, Moll and L’ak are now ahead of the crew. We also learned there’s a bounty on their heads, and that the Progenitor technology can fix that somehow. We also got another peek into Moll’s past as she poisons a dodgy merchant, her people were massacred by the Emerald Chain. This could be her motivation for being evil, but we still don’t know these characters well enough. They still feel like a generic, evil force. I wish we can spend more time getting to understand them going forward.

Eve Harlow as Moll and Elias Toufexis as L’ak in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 4, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Paramount+

Conclusion

This is easily a new favourite episode of Discovery as a whole. Discovery Season 5 Episode 4 was a real love letter to the series, its characters, and just how far it’s come since 2017. This was especially the case with Burnham, seeing her past self when she was a mutineer. It also didn’t waste the opportunity to flesh out Rayner’s character, with him seeing the crew’s past bringing him closer into the fold. Time loop antics aside, Rayner’s character moments here really made the episode.

The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 is called “Mirrors”. Recent trailers have shown Terran Empire symbols adorning walls, and even an old Constitution Class ship floating through space. Could we be about to see the ISS Enterprise next week? After the time travel antics this week, this is definitely an enticing prospect. One last interaction with the Mirror Universe could be a nice way to help close out the series.

Star Trek: Discovery streams via Paramount+ in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Latin America, France, Germany, Brazil, South Korea (via Tving), France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. It is also available on CTV Scifi / Crave in Canada and TVNZ in New Zealand. The show is also available on SkyShowtime in the Nordics, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and Central and Eastern Europe.


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Connor Schwigtenberg
Connor Schwigtenberg
All round science fiction geek and a passionate Star Trek enthusiast. Can reliably be found nerding out online. Currently exploring the expanded media. A writer at heart, look out for deep dives, reviews, and feature articles.

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