Left in the wake of the DMA is a subspace rift with bizarre properties. The rift may offer useful insights which may prove important to understanding the DMA itself, so the Discovery enters the rift in an attempt to investigate its properties. Inside they find they are unable to see or detect anything outside the rift. They launch a DOT and a probe further into it, both of which disintegrate. Whatever disintegrated them is approaching the ship. Attempts to reverse course and leave the rift are unsuccessful because the navigation system is unable to determine which way "out" is. The ship will likely face the same fate as the DOT if they can't figure out how to escape.
"Stormy Weather" is a mysterious, focused, and claustrophobic sci-fi yarn that works pretty well ... up until it doesn't. This is a story about the crew working a single problem on multiple fronts. Meanwhile, the darkness of the rift (reminiscent of Voyager's "The Void" and V'Ger's cloud from ST:TMP) and the unknown of what's coming at the ship and whether the ship can escape, give the episode a tense, atmospheric quality.
Unfortunately, the episode started to fall apart for me once it became clear the path to escaping the rift was going to be charted through the emotional journey of Zora, the ship's conscious (and now emoting) computer. It's been a running joke for a while now that Discovery is all about the characters' feelings. But with "Stormy Weather" it's now even about the ship's feelings. The ship is in crisis because of the negative effects of the rift's strange properties, but it's at even greater risk because Zora is so emotionally compromised that it (she?) can barely carry out core functions. Folks, our starship is a basket case.
It was one thing to watch Data fail to cope with his emotions in Star Trek: Generations. At least Data, one of the most beloved characters, was played by Brent Spiner, an actual actor on the set. It's quite another to have a disembodied voice (Annabelle Wallis), which is in control of all these ship's systems, being afraid because its sensors are indicating the ship is in danger. At a certain point I find myself wanting to say: Can we just not go through this exercise where we have to work through a computer's feelings in order to get through the day? Can't at least the starship just do its damn job?
Sigh. It's kind of a shame, because the singular focus on the sci-fi anomaly shows promise for a long time. Even Gray is allowed something here to do outside of Adira's quarters, and interacts with Zora in a way that gains some crucial insights. But ultimately, the crew must hide in the transporter's pattern buffer to survive the heat effects of the rift, and only Burnham stays on the bridge in an EV suit to see that the ship gets out. There's no one here but Burnham and the voice of Zora, alone together, riding out the storm, comforting each other. Zora sings Burnham a song ("Stormy Weather"); it's a moment meant to be poetic, but I found it to be a little too precious.
After the sphere data permanently merged with Discovery back in season two, it took a very long time for us to finally tell the story about what that merging of infinite knowledge and technology would mean. We reach an inflection point with "Stormy Weather," but it feels like the same old saw about AI's struggling to learn how to deal with human emotions. Given the vastness of the sphere data's knowledge, you'd think it would've had some psychology courses and self-help books in there somewhere.
"Whatever happened to Gary Cooper?":
- There's a subplot here, in which Booker's failed interaction with the spore drive gives him hallucinations of his dead, estranged father, where they have arguments that reference Booker's unknown past. Later, Book and Saru exchange some dialogue about anger that references Saru's still-existing anger toward the Ba'ul. As much as I could do without Zora's feelings, this is a worthwhile end point, although all the in-head arguments with Booker's dad didn't do much for me.
- The origin of the DMA was apparently from outside the galaxy. So that's some news.
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