Star Trek: Discovery – Season 5 Episode 5

Apr 25, 2024 | Posted by in TV


Star Trek: Discovery continues the search for the clues with a trip to interdimensional space leading to an extended confrontation with Moll and L’ak.

One of the keys to engaging antagonists is putting work into fully fleshing them out as characters. They need clear motivation, challenges that they look to overcome and personal connections that add depth to them. Star Trek has a mixed history with antagonists; some are very impressive like Ricardo Montalban’s Khan, Mark Alaimo’s Gul Dukat or Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge and others leave a lot to be desired like Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan or any number of single episode villains that fail to make an impression.


Love at first fight

Efforts are being put into making Moll and L’ak sympathetic antagonists. The previous episode established that they are motivated by running away together to live free without having to look over their shoulder. The life they lead isn’t sustainable and they don’t want to live it any more. This episode expands on that by further highlighting that they have a Breen bounty on their head and believe that giving them the Progenitor technology will remove that. They don’t actually care about the technology itself as it’s nothing more than a means to an end that helps them achieve their goal. They have also wilfully blinded themselves to the full extent of the consequences of turning the technology over to the Breen. Their motivation is undeniably selfish but also completely understandable as their goal is clear and their tunnel vision commitment to each other is evident. Despite being largely absent from the previous two episodes, there is a strong sense of who these people are and what they want to achieve.

Added to that is Moll’s personal connection with Book. She is the daughter of his mentor which makes her Book’s sister of sorts as Book clearly views his mentor as a father figure judging by taking his name and being part of that lineage. Book tries to offer Moll the chance to turn her life around but she rejects the offer as she’s too bitter to accept it. She is filled with resentment as she feels betrayed and abandoned by her father. Book having a strong connection to him is something she clearly envies as well because he had the relationship that she wanted. It’s easier for her to function if she convinces herself that she hates her father rather than being consumed by the feelings of abandonment. She presents a front of strength that thinly conceals pain and heartache. Eve Harlow plays this brilliantly; her performance constantly charges her scenes with strong emotion.

Her scenes with Book are engaging with a strong suggestion that it is possible to reach her. Book tries to connect with her by focusing on their similarities. Moll and L’ak act as a loose mirror of Book and Burnham in that they are couriers who are also in love. Burnham and Book didn’t take their relationship to the next level until after they stopped being partners as couriers but Book understands the intensity of those feelings when working together in that capacity. He talks to her about understanding depending solely on one person and the kind of connection that can be forged. It’s a great example of Book’s empathy being deployed practically and his calm demeanour when interacting with her shows that he respects her and is genuine in his desire to reach her.


So that’s what the Breen look like

The possibility of reaching Moll is evidenced by her lowering her weapon and agreeing to a tenuous truce. It’s largely situational as they are in a life-threatening time-sensitive situation so it makes sense to work together for now rather than diverting their focus from survival by fighting. The dynamic resets when the crisis is over and Moll and L’ak run away to begin the chase anew. Their next encounter will be informed by what happened in this episode but they remain antagonists and rivals in the pursuit of the clues.

Moll and L’ak’s backstory is fleshed out through flashbacks that chronicle the development of their relationship. The first flashback shows Moll as a courier selling dilithium to the Breen during the Burn and depicts her first meeting with L’ak. It can’t go unremarked that this episode -perhaps unnecessarily- answers the decades-old question – What do the Breen look like under their helmets? The answer is that they look like an actor in alien makeup which was always going to be the case but there’s nothing remarkable or revelatory about finally having this answer. It’s another example of closing off an area of fan speculation and debate by providing an unsatisfying answer to a mystery.

There is the suggestion of a cultural reason for the Breen to wear helmets that the episode doesn’t dig into. Breen have their helmet and then two forms under their helmet. L’ak mentions that Breen deny their true form and therefore half of their true selves which is countered with the notion of choosing solid form is a sign of weakness but there’s no clarification of what that means beyond the superficial statements. On a personal level, it helps to deepen the Moll and L’ak connection as he has cast off the suit and one of the faces which shows his commitment to her as he can truly be himself. The problem is from a mythology perspective where an idea is introduced without actually exploring it but proceeding as if the meaning is clear.


So that’s also what the Breen look like

The growth of Moll and L’ak’s relationship is compelling but also disjointed as a great deal of time takes place between the flashbacks so viewers are only privy to milestones after they have happened. One thing that works really well is the softening of their interactions as the flashbacks progress. The quality of the writing doesn’t deliver the detail of them connecting in a very passionate way but the performances absolutely sell this. It’s engaging to watch Eve Harlow and Elias Toufexis play off one another, making these scenes work far better than they otherwise would.

Showing the beginnings of Moll and L’ak’s relationship and the circumstances that resulted in a bounty being on their heads adds weight to the present-day scenes. L’ak’s request to not be separated from Moll if they agree to go into Federation custody has greater meaning because the history of their relationship is depicted and their commitment to one another is clear. A couple not wanting to be separated is obvious but a defined emotional connection is created by fleshing out the background that led to them feeling like they could only depend on each other.

The latest example of fan service delivered is finding the I.S.S. Enterprise in Interdimensional Space. The Mirror Universe counterpart of the Enterprise serves little purpose beyond being a location for the story to take place in so it could have been any ship and most of what this episode contained wouldn’t change. Using the Mirror Universe version of a hero ship like the Enterprise should be significant but it isn’t. There’s some mention of the Enterprise acting as a refugee ship for people fleeing the Mirror Universe looking for a better life in the Prime Universe and being led by Saru’s Mirror Universe counterpart but it’s detail delivered in dialogue with no impact on the plot of the episode. The refugees aren’t represented in any way so it’s impossible to connect with them. Of course, it’s positive that most of them escaped and found new lives but it’s nothing more than empty exposition.


Skeleton crew

It’s easy to see why the I.S.S. Enterprise was used from a budget point of view. It’s likely easier to redress the Strange New Worlds sets to look run down and add some Terran Empire branding to create a filming location rather than design and build the interior of a new ship. Similarly, the CGI model of the Enterprise used on Strange New Worlds can probably be repurposed more easily than creating a CGI model of a new ship. Star Trek is a franchise famous for finding creative ways to save money and this would be no different but it’s also a franchise famous for delivering excellence amid those budget limitations which is fundamentally not the case here. The I.S.S. Enterprise was likely used as a familiar touchstone for fans who like the design of the Enterprise in the hope that it would improve their opinion of the episode. Empty fanservice is frustrating and this is an egregious example.

This episode is the first time Rayner is in formal command of Discovery and it’s another opportunity wasted. There is little time to showcase his command style as Discovery is waiting for Book and Burnham’s return. There’s a scene where he hurries Stamets along when explaining something which indicates he isn’t interested in hearing the theory behind a solution and only wants to know if a solution exists. Later in the episode, he allows the crew to brainstorm to solve the problem and even encourages them with the offer of drinks. It’s certainly engaging to see Rayner settling into a dynamic with the crew and getting caught up in the excitement of problem-solving but Rayner’s first command would have been better served by a separate mission that involved taking Discovery elsewhere so there was more to chew on than simply waiting for the Captain to return. The episode delivered two strong scenes but the concept was largely wasted.

Culber’s crisis of faith is further explored in a conversation with Tilly late in the episode. He talks about feeling a strong sense of uncertainty since being inhabited by Jinaal and reflecting on all that has happened to him. Coming back from the dead is specifically referenced as contributing to his current mindset as it’s part of a collection of things that he can’t fully explain. The search for answers is something that everyone can relate to and everyone explores them in their own way. Culber mentions that he can’t go to Stamets with this because his outlook is purely scientific so probably won’t entirely understand where he’s coming from. Tilly picks up on the spiritual nature of what Culber is saying very quickly and is there to listen to him as he ponders the bigger questions. It’s an interesting exchange and handles the notion of faith not being dismissed by science delicately.

The main contribution to the season plot is Burnham and Book discussing the clues they have uncovered so far. Burnham comments that there is a lesson attached to each of them such as respecting cultural context and valuing life forms other than your own. The I.S.S. Enterprise being a refugee ship provides a lesson about hope and shaping your own future. They’re very obvious high-level moral statements but it’s clear that the technology will come with a personal reckoning for anyone who encounters it. Burnham’s excitement about their mission and the quest is a nice touch as it highlights how fulfilling exploration and learning can be. It’s a quick yet effective reinforcement of Starfleet and Federation values.


A souvenir


An uneven episode that provides excellent development of Moll and L’ak’s relationship but is dragged down by confusing and empty fanservice.

  • 6/10
    "Mirrors" - 6/10


Kneel Before…

  • detailing the origin of the Moll and L’ak relationship
  • the material being elevated by Eve Harlow and Elias Toufexis’ performances
  • complexity in Moll and Book’s dynamic
  • Rayner settling into a dynamic with the Discovery crew
  • the exploration of Culber’s crisis of faith


Rise Against…

  • not digging into the two face mythology of the Breen
  • the inclusion of the I.S.S. Enterprise being nothing more than empty fanservice
  • Rayner’s first formal command of Discovery not giving him much to do
  • the Moll/L’ak flashbacks being disjointed


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