Star Trek: Discovery S4E6 — “Stormy Weather” Flies Into Darkness

Saru, Culber, and Book look down at Burnham who is lying on a bed in SickBay
Photo: Paramount +

The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery, S4E6, “Stormy Weather” (written by Anne Caufell Saunders & Brandon Schultz and directed by Jonathan Frakes)

Star Trek: Discovery is at its best when it leans back and lets the cast work together and drive the story, and when it embraces the fundamental elements of the franchise, and Star Trek: Discovery S4E6 is the perfect example of both. The ship heads into the void left behind by the Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA), only to encounter incredible dangers and push the crew to be the best that they can be. The focus of “Stormy Weather” is completely on science and the crew itself, without random phaser fights, prisoner’s dilemmas, or external threats. As so often seems to be the case, a lot of interesting development is set up with some aspects working much better than others.

Jonathan Frakes directs for the first time in Season 4 and his steady hand and clear grasp of the universe and how it works is evident throughout. There is no one who regularly works on a Trek series who has as much of a grasp on the feeling and meaning behind it all as Frakes, and he makes a lot of really interesting directorial choices that really help to ground the story and raise the stakes in what could have been an overly slow or cerebral episode. Early on Captain Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) calls the full crew to their stations and Frakes does an Ocean’s Eleven style montage to show them to us as they comply, complete with split screens and kinetic movement that is reminiscent of Steven Soderbergh’s style in that film.

“Stormy Weather” is a classic Star Trek “ship in peril” episode. The call to arms is because the ship is going on a dangerous mission, into the DMA itself in yet another attempt to collect data for Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and the scientists. This, of course, goes completely awry. After the Discovery flies into the rift caused by the DMA everything around them goes dark, including the super sensitive sensors for things like subspace communication. The crew members try to gather data and it becomes evident that the darkness surrounding them is also incredibly dangerous.

Grudge lies on Book's bed
Photo: Paramount +

One of the robotic “dots” that help keep the ship running is horribly destroyed, consumed by the darkness; along with a chilling scream. This sets the Discovery to work trying to figure out both what is happening, how it connects to the DMA, and how to get the ship out of the danger, which leads to a ship centric, slightly slower paced episode that can really highlight the themes of interconnectivity and pushing through your fears. Star Trek: Discovery S4E6 has the full bridge crew together and it actually uses all of them to ensure that the ship is able to escape safely.

Each of the main crew gets a moment to participate and help save the ship. Due to COVID restrictions there have been a lot of odd combinations of cast members, but Detmer (Emily Coutts), Bryce (Ronnie Rowe), Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), and Nillson (Sara Mitich) are all there for Star Trek: Discovery S4E6. Only Lt. Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) is not with them, instead spending the entire episode getting quality reptilian time with his hot lamps, which allows Ensign Adira Tal to helm the science officer station on the bridge. All of which really makes “Stormy Weather” feel like one of the first episodes of Discovery to feature what will likely be the “main” bridge crew going forward.

They each get to contribute to the ship’s ultimate survival by using their skills and positions, which seems like an odd thing to be emphasizing, but showing the crew doing their jobs is sometimes an issue for Discovery. Mr. Saru (Doug Jones) and Owosekun (Odin Oladejo) have a short subplot where she wants to be reckless and he has to order her not to be, which was a great moment for the characters, but ultimately reminds me that the last person to directly contradict Saru is now his superior officer.

There is a great focus on Grudge and Book’s (David Ajala) relationship. Lots of scenes include the two of them on his ship and emphasize their connection, especially at the end when Book goes into the transporter buffer with her. It is a nice continued emphasis on how Book has important empathetic connectivity. Which also causes him great pain when, in an attempt to jump the ship out of the rift, he gets hit with a blast because the Mycelial network can’t be accessed due to the issues.

Book and his father standing on Book's ship, looking toward the camera
Photo: Paramount +

While Book is trying to recover, his father (Rotherford Gray) appears as a hallucination and it is clear why Book did not want anything to do with the guy while he was alive. The hallucination continues to push Book to turn away from Burnham, which is a trite storyline that I love that Book has avoided so far, but that I fear will be a key focus at the end of the season. In a better aspect of this storyline, Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Stamets are able to use the energy left behind in Book’s brain to finally make some progress regarding the DMA and come to the interesting conclusion that it did not originate in our galaxy.

Star Trek has long established that there is a basically unpassable “galactic barrier” around the galaxy, which may have been set there by the Foundational civilization to keep outside threats out. It is possible that going outside the galaxy will open the show up to new possibilities, but the case could be made that it is at its best with smaller stories so I hope this development doesn’t stop them from spending time on quieter episodes, or actually spending time on the characters. Because the show has really developed a tight and interesting group that it would be nice not to have them disappear for weeks at a time.

Grey (Ian Alexander) holding a grey orb in the Discovery bar
Photo: Paramount +

One of the characters that has taken a back seat for much of Season 4 so far is Grey (Ian Alexander). Even his return to corporeal form was framed much more a story about Adira (Blu del Barrio) than about Grey himself. Since then he has been around the Discovery but, not even being a member of the crew, he has very little to do. Star Trek: Discovery S4E6 makes the great move of turning this into a character development opportunity. Grey reveals to the computer, Zora (Annabelle Wallis), that he does not feel connected to the others and needs to do something meaningful, which causes her to reveal she has been feeling the same way.

The fact that the computer has been experiencing moments of consciousness has been sprinkled throughout the last two seasons. The seeds really go all the way back to the Short Treks episode “Calypso” which was set 1000 years in the future of that timeline, or roughly the time period in which we are currently set, tying together the idea of sentient ships as a thing that may soon take over entirely. So far, Burnham has expressed some slight apprehension about this, but this has also been on the backburner to other more pressing matters. There are ultimately only a couple ways that a machine developing consciousness can go in science fiction and while we can’t be sure it seems so far that Discovery wants to set up Zora as a benevolent being, though it seems certain that others will not be so quick to accept her.

Close up of Captain Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) in her safety suit, looking determined
Photo: Paramount +

In the end it is Captain Burnham and Zora together who save the day. As happens often, Burnham is the space hero, refusing to go into the transportation buffer and instead either hoping to guide the ship out of the rift, or die trying. It is unclear how or why she survives, but she does and sees the crew at the end. Everyone happily ready to move forward, possibly to previously unexplored, but incredibly dangerous, areas outside of the known galaxy.

Written by Clay Dockery

Clay Dockery is an actor, author, and impresario extraordinaire. They are the co-editor of Why I Geek: An Anthology of Fandom Origin Stories and was the co-head organizer and creative director of MISTI-Con, Coal Hill Con, and The West Wing Weekend fandom conventions. They live in New York City with their girlfriend and their two chonky cats.

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