Discovery: Doug Jones as the human Saru in Su'Kal

Su’Kal – Star Trek: Discovery S3, Ep 11 review

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Su’Kal foregrounds the story which percolated in the background of the last few episodes; the fate of an ancient Kelpian ship. Trapped in the heart of the Verubin Nebula, it was apparently the source of the ‘The Burn’; the cataclysmic event which destroyed interstellar travel.

When a life sign on board is discovered, Captain Saru is spurred into action. The scientist onboard was pregnant and her child could still be alive.

Lonely Among Us

Arriving on the downed ship, Saru, Burnham and Dr Culber found themselves integrated into a holo-programme, something they’ve all presumably boned up on since arriving in the 32nd century. Locating the survivor meant working their way through a world of nightmares; holo-programmes designed to function as educator and mentor. Meanwhile, the away team also has to contend with holo-provided changes of species!

Despite locating Su’Kal, a 125-year-old Kelpian man-child, there was a mountain still to climb. He does not believe in a world outside his own. He also needed to be handled with kid gloves, as he holds the innate power to cause another Burn. A dilithium planet with an emotionally vulnerable living trigger — certainly not the answer to the series-long puzzler we expected! Su’Kal clearly raises more questions than it answers.

Suddenly Human

Recasting the three regulars as different species was fun, if superfluous; Burnham became a Trill and Culber a Bajoran. Most surprising was the human Saru, as it was interesting to see actor Doug Jones in the flesh (although it did remind us of an old Red Dwarf episode).

With a greater ability to emote sans prosthetics, we loved seeing Saru’s wide-eyed wonder as Kaminar joined the Federation, and at the elbow of a Kelpian Elder. We were also treated to a few flashbacks to his life before Star Fleet, with scenes from the Short Trek The Brightest Star. 

The Ensign of Command

Back onboard Discovery, Sylvia Tilly enjoyed her first taste of command (in this universe, at least). Despite being buoyed up by a Burnham pep-talk, she had a thoroughly bad day at the office!

With the Emerald Chain moving in for the kill, it appears the Federation were easily played, swallowing the idea that Kaminar was under threat. Perhaps the recently departed Georgiou might have been a little less naive? Regardless, we loved seeing Tilly trade barbed bon mots with the devilish Ossyra (Janet Kidder) from the captain’s chair.

With two-episodes to go, Discovery seemingly has the future of the Federation in the balance… but not if Acting Captain Tilly has anything to do with it!

3 1/2 stars

Star Trek: Discovery Series 3 is available in the UK on Netflix