Season 2, Episode 6: ‘The Sounds of Thunder’

Evolution can come in many forms. Physical. Emotional. Mental. Societal. Saru brings it all in the latest episode “Star Trek: Discovery,” a self-contained, efficient and compelling chapter of an uneven season.

It’s not a coincidence that once again, Doug Jones is at the center of several of the show’s best scenes. In “The Sounds of Thunder,” Saru is compassionate, angry, confident, defiant and reflective. What he is not: fearful, because he has survived vahar’ai. And Jones rises to the occasion. Much as Brent Spiner did with Data’s quest to become more human on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” he shows us that evolution comes with bumps.

We learn that the red signals have appeared over Kaminar, the home planet of the Kelpiens and the Ba’ul. The Ba’ul have, essentially, maintained control over Saru’s people for many years because the Kelpiens used to be the predator species, and the Ba’ul fear that an evolved Kelpien is a malicious one.

The Discovery goes to investigate, and Saru visibly and uncharacteristically shows anger at Pike for amenably communicating with the Ba’ul and not initially sending him to the planet. (There is also an amusingly passive-aggressive moment early in the episode when Saru forgets to get up from the captain’s chair when Pike enters the bridge.)

Saru goes to the planet and reunites with Siranna (excellent work here by Hannah Spear), who is both overjoyed to see her brother and fearful, as Kelpiens typically are, that Saru’s presence will upset the Great Balance. Saru, of course, knows the Great Balance is a fraud and a ploy to keep Kelpiens subjugated. But Siranna knows nothing of the outside world and thought Saru had been dead all these years.

Eventually, Saru beams over to a Ba’ul ship, where he is once again on death’s door. He hulks up and becomes Super Saru, then breaks out of his chains to save a suddenly imperiled Siranna; meanwhile, the entirety of the Kelpien race goes through vahar’ai to lose their fears.

What I am a little unclear about: Are the Ba’ul a bunch of people? Are they the, uh, blob-type thing we see threatening Saru, which looks like Venom from “Spider Man”?

Of course, the evolution of the Kelpiens is problematic for the Ba’ul, so they try to pull off a bit of genocide for self-preservation. It doesn’t work. The biggest plot twist of the episode comes when the Red Angel shows up to do … something.

The big reveal is that the Red Angel, whatever or whoever it is, might be a benevolent force. One thing is for sure, as the Discovery finds out. These sightings aren’t random. Spock, Burnham and now Saru have come into contact with it. In all three situations, the Red Angel has been used to save lives. Even still, the Federation believes it is a dangerous force, whatever it is, as Tyler from Section 31 makes clear at the end of the episode.

The episode worked for me. It was ambitious and tightly-written, and it showcased a character that has been deserving of the spotlight.

Odds and Ends:

• We’re six episodes in, and we still don’t have any idea what’s going on with Spock. Even though I really enjoyed this episode, we are pretty far-off track from the mystery that was introduced in the first two episodes — two of the best of the series so far.

• Trouble in paradise for Culber and Stamets? Culber seems to blanch a bit when Stamets touches him early in the episode.

• Captain Pike is, by far, the most tolerant and patient captain we’ve seen at the center of a “Star Trek” series. He consistently listens to his subordinates, is an advocate for his crew and doesn’t make rash decisions. You can see why he eventually (at least according to traditional Trek canon) becomes an admiral.

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