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Home Reviews Discovery REVIEW – Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 6 “Whistlespeak”

REVIEW – Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 6 “Whistlespeak”

Following last week’s encounter with the ISS Enterprise, the crew of the USS Discovery find themselves chasing after the next clue to the Progenitor’s technology in Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 6. Captain Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) track the clue to a pre-warp civilisation this week. To find it, she is forced to consider breaking the Prime Directive. Meanwhile, Culber’s (Wilson Cruz) spiritual crisis continues, and Adira (Blu del Barrio) steps up on the bridge.

This episode, entitled “Whistlepeak” was written by Kenneth Lin and Brandon A. Schultz and was directed by Chris Byrne. But how will Burnham find the clue on a pre-warp world? How is Culber coping with the spiritual crisis he got from Ji’naal? Will Rayner (Callum Keith Rennie) be able to get the best out of the crew? Find out in this review of the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery.

Warning – Spoilers below for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 6, “Whistlespeak”.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 6, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo credit: Paramount+


The episode opens with the crew trying to decode the clue. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) has gone through over a hundred tests on a vial of water. It’s a pretty cool sequence with some rapidly flashing coloured lights. Not an expensive effect, but a nice one to open the episode on. Given the nature, I’m surprised there wasn’t a light warning on this episode like there was the last two. Still, a mysterious way to open up an episode full of wonder, the unfamiliar and the unknown.

It turns out that the clue wasn’t inside the water, it really is just water. Thankfully one of my favourite characters in the show comes in to save the day. Kovich (David Cronenberg) pulls Burnham into the Infinity Room again. In it, he’s got a nice futuristic-looking desk, and a pad of paper that cost no more than a couple of dollars. I do respect budget saving, but something about a list of names written down on a piece of paper felt so hilariously out of place for a Star Trek. It was a little jarring, but I did enjoy Cronenberg’s delivery.

He hands Burnham a list of all of the scientists who worked on the Progenitor’s project, including a previously-unknown Denobulan. A small but sweet connection to Enterprise, too. This scientist worked on weather control systems, finding one planet in the area he worked where that water could’ve come from. It’s called Halem’no, a planet with a small patch of green among a planet-wide devastating dust storm. This is just the beginning of the crew’s problems, though, because Halem’no is a pre-warp civilisation.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 6, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo credit: Paramount+

The Race

Beaming down to Halem’no is Burnham and Tilly, with some tech implants and disguises straight out of Enterprise‘s “Civilization”. Honestly, the set design on Halem’no is gorgeous. With a lot of interior settings over the past few episodes, it’s nice to be back down on a planet. The whistling that they use to communicate is navigated around pretty quickly with the translator, but it’s a cute idea. For something the episode was named after, I wish that it was relevant after the first act.

The night scenes at the start were divine. It was a refreshing slow-paced walk after so many episodes of frantic running and shooting. Seeing all of the people on Halem’no looking after one another, letting Burnham and Tilly into their community so easily. They might be a pre-warp civilisation, not having much in the way of technology, but their hearts are in exactly the right place.

Burnham and Tilly aren’t here to examine a pre-warp civilisation, though. They’re here to find the clue. They believe it’s at the tribe’s summit, an area they consider to be a holy temple that nobody can enter. Thus, Burnham and Tilly enter into a race where they can become worthy to enter the temple. It’s a strange obstacle to put in their way, but it’s nice to see them push themselves to their physical limits rather than opening fire at the nearest threat.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 6, season 5, streaming on Paramont+, 2023. Photo credit: Paramount+


Burnham drops out of the race early, a deliberate tactic to allow her to wander off and find the access panel to the tower. It’s nothing too special, just a generic Star Trek panel in the middle of the forest. The problem is, it’s not working. The tower, the only thing keeping the people on Halem’no alive, is on the verge of total collapse. It’s a nice extra bit of stakes for the episode’s B-plot, which involves Adira communicating with Burnham trying to fix it.

It decisively puts Rayner in command of the Discovery. I’d be very surprised if this season doesn’t end with him taking up another command, maybe even of the Discovery itself. He knows these officers, and the way he talks Adira up to completing the task is just brilliant. I love the way he’s grown to become not just a part of the crew, but their leader. For a final season addition, Rayner remains an absolutely inspired choice. I’m really enjoying his character.

After the access panel is fixed, the safety of Halem’no is assured. But there’s a catch, they don’t know how to use the technology. Everyone who wins these races, which now includes Tilly, is sacrificed to the “gods” by being placed in the vacuum of the weather machine to make rain. This is where the biggest moral dilemma of the episode comes in, where Burnham was forced to break the Prime Directive to save her friend. It’s very in character for her, but nothing particularly special.

Mary Wiseman as Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 6, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo credit: Paramount+

Spiritual Crisis

I did appreciate the inclusion of a spiritual angle to the people of Halem’no. Sacrifices to please gods that don’t exist have been done to death in science-fiction. I don’t think this episode exactly broke new ground in that department, but it was a comforting, entertaining piece of television. Burnham trying to explain how the technology works, how it doesn’t negate their beliefs, was very nice.

It wasn’t just a spiritual crisis on Halem’no, though. There was a nicer introduction to Dr Culber’s existential crisis following the events of episode 3. He’s frantically searching through his brain, trying to find any psychological changes following the brief Trill joining. Turns out, there’s nothing. Perhaps this search for the Progenitors and him gaining a broader perspective through Ji’naal just opened his mind. I really like the angle that they took with that, as he tries to explain it to Stamets.

Randomly, his story concludes with Book, who otherwise wasn’t in this episode. It was kind of random, but also whatever. Stamets brought Book food, talked about how he’d created a holo-program of his grandmother trying to talk through all the spiritual stuff. This is the sort of new dimension I wanted from the start, and it’s a shame it took three episodes to get to any sort of real elaboration. It leaves a very interesting place for the season to go with the remaining episodes, especially as they get closer to the Progenitors.

Wilson Cruz as Culber and Anthony Rapp as Stamets in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 6, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo credit: Paramount+


“Whistlespeak” was an interesting affair. It’s much slower in comparison to the last few weeks, taking the time to really get the most of every bit of scenery, every guest star. After the last two episodes in particular, a time travel epic and an interaction with the Mirror Universe, this is a welcome diversion. A slow run through an alien forest and well-trodden Prime Directive dilemma was just what the series needed. Everything was absolutely gorgeous, and I had a very nice time with Discovery Season 5 Episode 6.

While mostly inconsequential, with a complete absence of our season’s villains, it was a beautiful affair. The best part of the episode was the spiritual element. I’m glad that as the Discovery get closer to the Progenitors’ technology, Culber’s arc is getting deeper. I’d love for it to become a much more prominent part of an episode later on. I look forward to next week’s episode “Erigah”, named after a Breen blood bounty. This has real potential to be some real exciting stuff!

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 5 “Mirrors” 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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