In the fourth episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 5, Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is compelled to reflect on four-plus seasons worth of ch-ch-changes. “Face the Strange” was written by Sean Cochran and directed by Lee Rose.

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Fifteen hours ago,  Moll (Eve Harlow) and L’ak (Elias Toufexis) meet with a sketchy dealer (James Cade). They pass him a bag of latinum. It’s the right amount, but the dealer tries to raise the price. However, he’s interrupted by coughing and becomes disoriented. Moll explains they’d heard he might try to raise the price on them, so they poisoned the latinum. She takes the item from the dying dealer’s pocket.

Moll and L'ak hand a bag to the sketchy dealer in Star Trek: Discovery's "Face the Strange."

Photo Credit: Paramount+

L’ak is uncertain. But Moll assures him they’ll get ahead of the USS Discovery. She continues that once they have the Progenitor’s tech, they’ll be free. She tells him they have to hurry to catch Discovery on Trill. It is revealed that the device obtained from the dealer is the same one planted on Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) in the final moments of the previous episode.

Now, the device activates in Adira’s quarters on Discovery. Adira is distracted by a call with Gray Tal (Ian Alexander). They agree they’re glad they’ve stayed friends and promise to see each other again in a few months. Meanwhile, the device hops off their uniform and scurries across their room. They almost spot the “bug.” But a work request from Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) prompts Adira to leave their room. The bug disappears into a girder.

“Face the Strange”

On the bridge, a report by Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) to Burnham is interrupted by Rayner (Callum Keith Rennie). It’s clear that the rest of the bridge crew, which includes Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson), Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts), R.A. Bryce (Ronnie Rowe Jr.) and Lt. Christopher (Orville Cummings). The bug emerges from and then re-enters a girder. 

Burnham orders Rayner to her ready room. She states that Rayner is not maintaining the safe space Burnham requires to facilitate communication on the bridge. Rayner explains that he disagrees with her command philosophy. He states he wants to be “decisive and disciplined.” Burnham points out that under her command, this crew has repeatedly saved the galaxy. Rayner doesn’t doubt their records. However, he cites the lessons he learned captaining during the Burn.

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Burnham observes he’s in a state of flux. Rayner says to spare him the “I get you” BS. But realizing he went too far, Rayner apologizes. Burnham emphasizes that change is hard for anyone. However, she says the Burn is over and he’s expected to do things her way. He asks, “And if my way is better?”

In his lab, Stamets catches a glimpse of the bug. He observes it disappearing into the wall. In the ready room, the lights flicker. Burnham gets a report from Owo. She’s picking up some odd readings, and something broadcasted a signal from the ship. Burnham and Rayner attempt to beam to the bridge. But rather than beaming, they go nowhere. However, the scenery does change somewhat.

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

The ship is moving. Lights flicker and a klaxon sounds. Rayner asks if they’re under attack. Burnham attempts to contact the bridge. But neither communicators nor transporters seem to be working. Burnham and Rayner head to the bridge on foot. They find Saru (Doug Jones), Tilly and the rest of the crew unconscious and wearing 23rd-century Starfleet uniforms. Rayner observes they’re in a wormhole. Burnham realizes they’ve traveled back in time. Discovery is following Burnham herself through the wormhole to the future (see: “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2”).

Tilly begins awakening. Burnham tells Rayner they can’t be seen. They exit the bridge. But soon they jump through time again. Part of the wall is missing, and the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen beyond. Burnham directs Rayner’s attention to a construction worker (Minh Ly) who is busy constructing the ship. They quickly convince him they’re just there for an inspection.

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Burnham and Rayner assess the situation. They haven’t just traveled back in time, they’re jumping through time. Rayner wonders if it could be in their heads rather than real-time travel. Burnham notes Zora (Annabelle Wallis) didn’t detect any ships in the area before the jumping began. She asks what was happening when this started. Rayner recalls Owo’s communication. But Burnham and Rayner avoided being subjected to the event because they were beaming at the time it began.

Another time jump. They’re back in the ready room. Burnham observes they’ve already returned to this location, where they tried to beam. Outside the window, the battle with Control takes place. Burnham says a time eddy would have been observed, and it doesn’t feel like a neural attack. It must be the ship.

Chronophage

Rayner concludes it must be a “time bug”: a “chronophage.” He explains they’re leftovers from the Temporal War. They disable an enemy vessel by causing it to randomly cycle through time. Worse, they last until the bugs run out of energy. And because they’re designed to keep the crew trapped, they’re prevented from beaming away. Burnham concludes it to be the handiwork of Moll and L’ak (“M’ak”). The broadcast was the bug sending a message to the thieves. This informed them of Discovery’s location and the location of the next clue.

Burnham concludes they must find and deactivate the bug. Rayner postulates that it’s in engineering. Burnham begins tracking the jumps to isolate a pattern. She says they must find Stamets. Thanks to his tardigrade DNA, he lives outside of time. While he’ll be subjected to the time jumps, he’ll be aware of them. But during the battle of Control, Stamets is in the sick bay. He attempts to inform Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) about the bug situation. But Culber mistakes his warning as delirium.

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Another time jump. Burnham isn’t sure when they are. However, she observes that the last cycle lasted twice as long as the one before it. They’ll travel to engineering to find Stamets. But they’ll take the long way, in accordance with the Temporal Prime Directive. Rayner points out the computer could ID them. Burnham enters her override code and compliments him on his good thinking.

Reno after saving Rayner's life.

Photo Credit: Paramount+

Burnham realizes it’s the day Osyraa attacks. Soon they’re fighting Orion pirates. Rayner is nearly taken out. But he’s rescued by Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) with a phaser rifle. Rayner lies to maintain the timeline. 

“Que Sera, Sera”

Burnham attempts to use a computer, but its on the fritz.

Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

Another time jump. Now it looks like the room’s been abandoned for years. No stardate can be gleaned from the damaged computer. They hear music. On the bridge, “Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)” is playing. 

Zora asks if Burnham is really there, or if this is another dream. She says Burnham and the crew died decades earlier. It’s nearly 30 years in the future. Zora says the progenitor’s tech fell into the wrong hands and everyone died. Burnham orders Zora to open the ship’s main viewscreen. A destroyed Federation HQ is revealed. Zora explains the chronophage was eventually deactivated. However, M’ak had gotten too far ahead in the search. Somehow the Breen subsequently got a hold of the tech and attacked.

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Burnham tells Rayner that her first time on the bridge, she wanted to turn and run. She felt that her actions disqualified her from being worthy of Starfleet. Rayner says she must be the only captain in Starfleet to command a vessel she first boarded as a prisoner. He asks how she did it. Burnham says she never gave up.

Burnham and Rayner stand beside the Discovery's captain's chair.

Photo Credit: Grossman /Paramount+

Burnham says tracking the time cycles isn’t enough. Zora suggests more data. She recommends variables: the ship’s location, distance and speed. Burnham hones in on speed, as they are traveling through not just time but also space. By factoring in Discovery’s speed to the time cycle lengths and considering additional dimensions, a pattern is found. It’s a conical wave. Another time jump begins, demonstrating the pattern they found was accurate. Rayner hopes they end up in an era where Stamets is alive.

Doctor Truffles

Alive but lost in time, Stamets is in his lab faking his way through a conversation with Reno. Stamets helps Reno with her problem. Then he tries to pass off his current time-jumping “predicament” as a hypothetical in order to get Reno’s take on it. After exchanging technobabble, Reno asks if Stamets is stuck in a time loop. Stamets unconvincingly feigns ignorance. Reno leaves.

Reno and Stamets discuss time loops in the spore lab.

Photo Credit: Paramount+

Burnham appears and calls for Stamets’ attention. He fakes a spore leak to empty the lab. Stamets is overjoyed to see Burnham. Also, Rayner is there. Stamets reveals he’s already aware of the chronophage and its location. Rayner moves to yank it out. But Stamets stops him. Careless removal could cause cataclysmic damage. Stamets says they need to nullify its effects. Burnham reveals they’ve already assessed the situation and determined the pattern.

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With the data Stamets can build a chronoton stabilizer and calibrate it to fix things. But this cycle ends in ten seconds. Burnham arranges a meeting point on Deck 13. This timeline has everything Stamets needs for his solution. But it requires a material found in the holodeck in Burnham’s quarters. Because these are biometrically protected, Burnham will have to retrieve it. 

In her quarters, Queen Grudge (Leeu and Durban) is purring on Burnham’s bed. Burnham retrieves the material. Naturally, that’s when Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) returns from the gym. Burnham awkwardly excuses herself as Book undresses. But Book stops her. He tells her to trust her instincts, as she was made for this. Burnham says change can be hard. Book says, “It’s also the only way anything meaningful can happen.” Burnham asks to delay the conversation. But Book kisses her and says he loves her before she can leave.

Double Aces

Burnham, Rayner and Stamets in the spore lab in Star Trek: Discovery season 5's "Face the Strange."

Photo Credit: Paramount+

Burnham returns to Stamets’ lab with the material. He completes the device and gives it to Burnham to use on the chronophage. But the chronophage activates a temporal shield. They need a way to get past it. Another time jump. Stamets reports that time within the shield will age to dust before it can reach the chronophage. They can’t deactivate the shield, but they can deactivate its effects long enough to get in. This can be achieved by the relativistic effects that occur when taking the ship to maximum warp then breaking the warp bubble.

Burnham points out this could cause major timeline changes. But Stamets says if they destroy the chronophage in any given time cycle, the effects of that time cycle will be negated. Burnham concludes it’s a risk they must take. Since this is a 14-minute long cycle, it’s an ideal opportunity. She asks who is on the bridge. The list includes Airiam (Hannah Cheesman). 

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Burnham tells Rayner that Airiam was a fellow crew member who didn’t make it to the future with them. She prepares to head to the bridge. Rayner points out that she isn’t their captain, she’s a mutineer. They won’t listen to her. She says she’ll have to find a way. Stamets will work on reducing damage to the ship and Rayner will stick his hand in the temporal shield.

On the turbolift, Burnham encounters Linus. He compliments her uniform. But next, a young Burnham (“YB”) enters. Burnham attempts to connect with her younger self. She explains the situation. YB doesn’t believe a mutineer could never achieve the rank of captain. They begin fighting.

“Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything”

After some symmetrical violence, Burnham incapacitates YB with a Vulcan nerve pinch. Burnham tells the unconscious YB that she had forgotten just how hopeless this time had felt. She continues that it will be a long road, but tells YB not to give up. 

Elsewhere, Stamets clears his lab by citing a bad mood. But soon he’s chiding Rayner for his “gruff candor routine.” Rayner says he thought Stamets was the “brilliant scientist that everything’s hanging on.” Stamets says things change. He states that not every problem can be solved solo. And he points out that even if they do make it back, the Progenitor tech is “different,” and bigger than anything he’s done before. Rayner assures Stamets he’s not in any of it alone. He asks what he can do to help now. Stamets directs him accordingly. Then Rayner uses an Earth phrase to encourage Stamets.

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On the bridge, Airiam, Tilly and the rest of the crew are confused at Burnham’s arrival and appearance. Burnham explains that she’s from the future, and undertaking an important mission for the future Discovery. The computer confirms there are two Burnhams aboard. Burnham demonstrates her personal knowledge of several crew members.

Everyone remains skeptical of Burnham’s claims. Burnham says she will convince Airiam, and everyone will trust her judgment. Then she apologizes in advance. Burnham says she saw Airiam die. Burnham quickly recounts the climax of “Project Daedalus.” Airiam is convinced and convinces the rest of the crew. She asks what Burnham needs from them. In the lab, Stamets and Rayner prepare to tackle the temporal shield. But they’re interrupted by YB and Rhys, both holding phasers.

Popping the Warp Bubble

Discovery reaches maximum speed. Burnham checks with Rayner. YB is ordering Stamets to shut down the warp core. Rayner suggests Burnham come down, but there’s no time. Burnham urges Rayner to handle it. Rayner convinces Rhys they’re from the future with the knowledge he learned during interviews in the previous episode. But YB is still skeptical.

Rayner in Star Trek: Discovery's "Face the Strange."

Photo Credit: Grossman /Paramount+

Rayner uses the story about Burnham arriving on the bridge and not feeling like she belongs. He tells YB she does deserve to be there. Further, he tells her to trust her instincts, which he knows are currently telling her to stand down. YB is convinced. Discovery’s warp bubble is broken. Rayner puts the device on the chronophage. Another jump occurs. They’re back to the present, which is intact.

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Burnham directs Rayner to Culber for his hand injury. Rayner says it isn’t lost on him that what made them successful was their closeness with the crew. He admits he can be stubborn like Burnham used to be. She says she still is, “just in a different way.” Burnham concludes they made a good team.

The rest of the crew is caught up on the chronophage. In the six hours since the jumps began, the DOTs have found a warp signature that matches M’ak’s ship. Rayner compliments Rhys on his accurate theory. However, M’ak’s trail disappears. Burnham orders the bridge crew to get to solving the mystery. 

The first four episodes of  Star Trek: Discovery are currently available to stream on Paramount+. New episodes air on Thursdays.

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