DISCLAIMER: This recap of Star Trek: Discovery holds enough spoilers to keep Section 31 busy for a decade. Jump to black alert at your peril.

Welcome, Trekkies! As of November 26, Paramount Plus has released the first two episodes of the show’s fourth season internationally. During the second episode of the fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery, “Anomaly,” Captain Burnham and the U.S.S. Discovery crew must explore the anomaly responsible for the destruction of Deep Space Repair Station Beta 6 and Kwejian last week. 

Ready to dive into this week’s recap? Let’s fly!

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The second episode opens with Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) in a trance-like, trauma-induced mind state. He’s looping through the moment when the “anomaly” wiped out his home planet on the viewscreen. Captain Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) walks in to check on him. However, the Kwejian pilot disassociates as he attempts to cope with what happened and barely responds to her touch.

Book was born to a family of “killers” and “poachers” that worked with the Emerald Chain. He left his home planet to become a courier to fund his clandestine animal rescue operations, making his psyche fertile ground for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially after firsthand witnessing his home planet’s destruction.

David Ajala as Book and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham

Pictured: David Ajala as Book and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

A former neighbor recently attacked me, and the experience led to a hospital stay and diagnosis of C-PTSD. It’s described as feeling like a horse kicked me in the head before double-kicking me in the stomach. It meant a lot to see a similar experience so beautifully represented on screen.

I first watched this scene during a trauma-induced hospital stay. I still remember thinking, “What a great visual representation of the experience of my mind rebelling and trapping me in a replay of my trauma.”

Post-traumatic stress disorder is real, and it’s impacting some members of Discovery’s crew. Survivors guilt, a similar condition, is also real, and it occurs in people who have survived a life-threatening situation where others have died. Like Book, who feels guilty about surviving when his family died, others on board feel guilty about living when others weren’t so lucky. These emotions’ core is the misguided belief that they didn’t do enough to save lives.

Highlighting the stories of trauma and loss reveals the episode’s primary theme, and it explores different ways to experience and cope with grief and sadness. One of the most meaningful explorations of dealing with trauma occurs when Burnham tries to comfort Book.

As she offers a helping hand, he tells her, with tears in his eyes, “I need you to go.” It’s common for people to push away loved ones after a traumatic experience, and this tender moment is an excellent exploration of grief. 

Back in her ready room, Burnham greets Saru (Doug Jones), who has made arrangements to serve as a council member in absentia and turned down a captain’s seat on U.S.S. Sojourner since we saw him last week. Instead, he has returned from Kaminar to serve on the U.S.S. Discovery as Burnham’s Number One.

He tells his new captain that their mentor Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), knew the value of another pair of trusted eyes, especially in a time of crisis, and he’s returned to be her other set of eyes.

The old friends immediately launch into an expositional conversation about Book being the only known Kwejian survivor, which causes him to experience trauma, disassociation, and guilt. He hasn’t left his ship for two days, obsessively replaying the moment to look for evidence about what caused the anomaly. 

As Burnham mourns that she cannot reach Book while he’s disassociating, the sage Saru steps in with sound advice, saying, “Well, if loss has taught us anything, it is that each of us must sit with pain in our own way.” 

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Doug Jones as Saru

Pictured: Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Doug Jones as Saru of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Saru’s words ring true throughout the episode as others confront their difficult emotions, and like Book, they resort to ill-fated mental strategies to cope with the trauma.

Burnham obsessively replays the previous episode’s rescue mission to see what she did wrong. Lieutenant Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Adira (Blu del Barrio) deal with Commander Nalas’ (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll) death; each in their way. Other crew members also deal with lingering effects of PTSD. 

Now, at Federation HQ, Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) briefs Federation President Laira Rillak (Chelah Horsdal), Ni’Var’s President T’Rina (Tara Rosling), other quadrant leaders (including a Ferengi delegate) and even Book. Book insists on attending the delegate meeting to discuss the gravitational anomaly’s massive size, destructive power, and unknown nature.

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However, to explain the unknowable, Discovery’s science team has the hypothesis to explain the anomaly, a roving binary black hole. Although astronomy isn’t my thing, a rare roving black hole the size of Jupiter was once discovered, and binary black holes happen when galaxies collide. Tilly tells the Federation delegates that a binary black hole merger could create massive gravitational waves to destroy worlds.

Thanks, Tilly; learning about black holes is the most science has intrigued me since I was held back in the subject merely because of my gender, which they had wrong anyway. But hopefully, the science officer’s passion does something similar for girls considering STEM.

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Maybe he doesn’t look like Quark, but he sure looks like Grand Negus Zek. Photo: Paramount+

In a shocking turn of events (at least in the context of our troubled relationship with science today), Rillak listens to Discovery’s science team and decides to warn and evacuate the worlds at risk. Even Ni’Var, despite a strained Federation relationship, offers the Ni’Var Science Institute’s services. Galaxy-wide crises require everyone to contribute, no matter their political alignments.

As Discovery prepares to leave Federation HQ to study the anomaly, Tilly and Saru have a heart to heart about the Lieutenant’s survivor’s guilt after watching Nalas die when she tried so hard to save him, demonstrating the rippling ramifications of trauma and loss experienced by the crew. 

Arriving on the bridge, Saru takes his place as Number One. He asks Burnham to call him “Mr. Saru,” a nice nod to Burnham’s brother, Mr. Spock, before the crew flies off to face a threat unlike any the galaxy has faced before.

Now at the possible binary black hole location, Lieutenant Junior Grade Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) notes that the anomaly isn’t emitting predicted patterns. “It’s very odd,” she says. Agreeing with the rest of her bridge crew, Burnham adds that two black holes should be appearing on their view screen, not one. 

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Pictured: Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham with the bridge crew of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Further complicating matters, Discovery’s scanners can’t penetrate the outer edge of the anomaly’s accretion cloud without moving closer, which could put the ship at serious risk. After ruling out all of Starfleet’s options, Book volunteers to pilot his ship into the anomaly because it can change shape, making navigating through the accretion cloud easier, at least in theory.

At first, Burnham says no, deciding to send Lieutenant Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts), Discovery’s pilot, instead. But Book, who is desperate to fly the mission, has other ideas about who should pilot his ship, saying, “I don’t need your permission, and I’m not Starfleet. Technically, I’m not even under your command.”

But the former courier’s mental state still concerns Burnham. She is having trouble separating her personal life from her professional duties. She consults with Saru in the captain’s quarters. As he enters her room, viewers get a glimpse of one of the ways Burnham copes with stress. She has a holo getaway atop the Cliffs of Saruk, a Vulcan location from Burnham’s childhood: the peaceful place that helped her deal with the loss of her parents as a child.

After some time to think and her conversation with Saru, Burnham agrees to let Book fly the mission only if she can (1) send a Stamets holo for data collection, (2) tether Book’s ship to help it maintain proximity to Discovery and (3) have Doctor Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) monitor comms to make sure everything is going as smoothly as possible.

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Pictured: Blu del Barrio as Adira, Wilson Cruz as Culber and Ian Alexander as Gray. Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

In sickbay, Gray (Ian Alexander) admires his synthetic body, crafted with the Soong Method (a reference to Star Trek: Picard), and thinks about all of the possibilities available to him after his incorporation. This scene is impactful for two reasons. First, it shows his incorporation is separate from his transition. Second, it shows that we must seek happiness even in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

Next, Holo-Stamets arrives on Book’s ship. Their pairing proves interesting since the astromycologist is seriously awkward around the Kwejian pilot. After bumbling through some failed conversation starters, Stamets tries to pet Grudge. But, Book rudely tells him to stop talking and touching Grudge because holos freak her out.

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With a tether made of programmable matter attached, Book’s ship launches. Once inside the anomaly, the ship is immediately hit by chunks of rock from the destruction of Kwejian. As reminder after reminder of his loss appears on the ship’s view screen, Book’s grief proves too hard for his unconscious mind to control. He’s warped into the memory of his loss. He sees dead birds hit their window instead of debris until Stamets awakens the pilot from his trance.

Suddenly, the first subspace gravitational wave hits Discovery, sending the bridge officers into the air. Although zero-gravity training is pretty fun, it causes significant damage to the ship and injuries to the crew. 

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Pictured: Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham with the bridge crew of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

As Book’s ship loses navigational capabilities, Burnham tries to convince him to pull out. But when Stamets intervenes, Discovery pulls back and releases the tether to give the scientist more time to scan the anomaly.

Luckily for the away mission team, Tilly and Adira are on the case, and they devise an algorithm to predict when the gravitational wave will next hit Discovery. A second one hits as they figure out a predictive model for the gravitational waves, severely injuring even more crew members. Hence, they release the tether to Book’s ship to allow him to collect more data on the anomaly while keeping Discovery safe.

As Burnham and Stamets discuss how much more time he needs to collect the data, Book disappears into another flashback of his nephew Leto running through the forest. 

Episode 402

Pictured: Coverage of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Unfortunately, Book isn’t the only one navigating trauma in this scene. In what feels like a just-before-death confession but isn’t, Stamets reveals that he’s kept his distance from Book because the Kwejian pilot reminds him of how close he got to losing everything and how helpless he felt to save his family. “I hate that feeling,” he tells Book.

Because Book flies blind and his engines are about the fail, the crew must work together to navigate him out of the anomaly, especially since the collected data is stored in the databanks of his ship. Thanks to Tilly and Adira’s exceptional minds and Communications Officer Ronald A. Bryce’s (Ronnie Rowe Jr.) experience kitesurfing on Manark IV, the bridge crew can use the principles of Newtonian Mechanics to help Book accelerate into the distortion and ride the gravitational waves out of the anomaly. 

For all the Trekkies out there, Manark IV is a deep cut from the days of Captain Kirk. He had a star chart with the planet’s location in his captain’s quarters.

Without navigational abilities, it’s hard for Book to hit the wave at the right angle to carry his ship out. Burnham asks Tilly and Adira to program the holo rendering into the programmable matter so that the captain can tell her lover exactly when to launch.

After missing the first wave, Book laments how alone he feels in this crucial moment before another flashback of his nephew takes him into an unresponsive trance. At Saru’s suggestion, Burnham returns to her role as Book’s partner to help him navigate his trauma. She grounds him and reminds him he couldn’t have saved his family or the planet. This grounding allows him to return to the present moment and successfully pilot the ship out of the anomaly.

And for Stamets and Book, the experience creates a new bond of friendship.

Anthony Rapp as Stamets and David Ajala as Book

Pictured: Anthony Rapp as Stamets and David Ajala as Book of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Now that the crew has a moment of downtime, Tilly, who has been under a lot of pressure, takes the opportunity to ask Dr. Culber for professional talk therapy sessions. She hopes they will help her understand why she no longer feels the same as she used to. Adira goes to their quarters to talk to Gray about the experience of getting to see his body. Then, Burnham and Book have a heart-to-heart about Book’s loss and trauma in the captain’s quarters. How they manifest as flashbacks of his nephew running because he thinks his nephew didn’t know he loved him.

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As the episode comes to a close, Tilly tells Saru that she discovered the reason the distortions got worse is that the anomaly changed direction, which is theoretically impossible according to the Lieutenant’s understanding of astrophysics. Importantly, this means that Discovery’s science team cannot predict its path.

New Star Trek: Discovery episodes are available to stream every Thursday on Paramount Plus. Check out our Star Trek: Discovery recaps here!

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