Review

Star Trek: Discovery 509 “Lagrange Point” Review: A Black Hole of Poor Execution

Photo credit: Paramount+

Review: Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 9 “Lagrange Point”

With only two episodes to go, Star Trek: Discovery has a lot of loose ends to tie up. But instead of delivering a satisfying setup for the series finale, “Lagrange Point” is riddled with cliches and wasted potential.

Discovery’s crew knows where the Progenitors’ tech is hidden, and they jump blindly into this location and find themselves awed by two intertwined primordial black holes, an exceedingly rare stellar phenomenon that makes a perfect place to hide something valuable.

After some initial difficulties navigating the gravimetric distortions caused by the twin black holes, Discovery’s crew gets their bearings and scans the area. They find their needle in a haystack – a shuttle-sized duranium container floating at the black holes’ Lagrange point, where the holes’ gravity wells meet and balance their competing pulls. This container, they reason, must be where the Progenitors’ technology is hidden, and the container itself was built by the scientists who studied the Progenitors’ tech 800 years ago.

The bridge crew has just a couple minutes of euphoria, however, before the massive Breen dreadnaught warps in right next to the container and snatches it with a tractor beam, all in the space of three seconds (we counted). Now, Captain Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) mission just became a recovery operation, as she and her crew hatch a plan to sneak aboard the Breen ship and retrieve the container.

Star Trek: Discovery, episode 9, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

During the meeting where Burnham and crew plan their away mission, the captain shares the hint she learned in the mindscape about how to access the Progenitors’ tech. While Moll (Eve Harlow) may indeed have the physical key necessary to unlock the container’s secrets, she doesn’t have the phrase one apparently needs to obtain the tech: “Build the shape of the one between the many.” Burnham doesn’t know what it means, and ultimately we won’t find out until the next episode.

Already, we have some problems with this installment. First, the Breen dreadnaught snatches the scientists’ container way too quickly; the ship warps in, and bam, the container is in their loading bay. Did the vessel, massive as it is, have trouble navigating the black holes’ gravity, as Discovery did? How did they scan the area so quickly and determine the container was what they wanted to bring aboard? It’s as if this show needed a challenge for our crew to overcome right when they were at the cusp of victory, and didn’t put much thought into what that challenge would be.

Moreover, the plot the crew concocts to retrieve the container is equally poorly devised. We’re happy Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) gets another moment to shine as they help plan the away mission. However, leaning into cliches – like the ole’ exhaust port routine, or having characters hack their way into relatively unknown computer systems – is just tiresome. Considering how fearsome the Breen can be, and how little Starfleet knows about their technology, Burnham’s half-baked infiltration strategy is bafflingly ill-planned.  Now isn’t the time to have the let’s-just-hope-the-plan-works attitude.

Using a cloaked shuttle and the convenient exhaust port to sneak through the Breen ship’s shields, the away team, consisting of Burnham and Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) in one pairing, and Adira and Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) in the other, make their way to separate objectives. The former pair aims to plant a transporter lock on the container to secure its transport to Discovery, while the latter pair heads to the bridge to disable the ship’s shields. Aiding their infiltration are replicated Breen environmental suits.

While the crew reasons these disguises and their limited knowledge of the strict hierarchical nature of Breen society will ensure they can walk among other Breen, we also took issue with this part of the plan. It just seems so foolhardy to think faux-Breen outfits and being aggressive toward other Breen will adequately fool the crew of one of the Breen’s most powerful warships, never mind whatever 32nd-century tech the Breen employs.

Rhys and Adira make it to the bridge, and have eyes on Moll, who recently learned the actual nature of the Progenitors container: it’s a portal to… somewhere. After an unlucky Breen soldier gets sucked through the extradimensional aperture, Moll and her crew need extra time to examine the container to learn more about it. This gives our heroes time to execute their plans.

Anthony Rapp as Stamets in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 9, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

On the way to the Breen loading bay, Burnham and Book’s interpersonal drama rears its head. Burnham decides to share with Book the reason why she distanced herself from him lately before they face a risky situation that could be fatal; remember, Burnham figured out in the previous episode why she pulled away from her former lover.

The captain picks a spot in a Breen hallway to tell him, that it’s the worst time to have this drama play out. They are in the middle of an enemy warship, and any unusual behavior or wasted time can spell doom for their mission. We had to roll our eyes at the timing of this continued drama; talk about arresting momentum. For what it’s worth, Book also apologizes for pulling away from Burnham, and it was because he also thought he failed their relationship. Perhaps this conversation is the breakthrough needed for the pair to reconcile.

The captain and the courier make it to the loading bay, but not after a quick and inconsequential skirmish with a couple of Breen. Burnham and Book do indeed find the scientists’ container there and witness a poor Breen grunt swept into it as Moll’s crew tries to ascertain what’s on the other side. Book, who has no knowledge of Breen technology or starship design, makes the remarkable deduction that the quarantine field protecting the container is powered by a nearby innocuous piece of equipment, and the pair set their sights on removing that barrier before planting the transporter lock.

They don’t quite have time to plant the transporter lock on the container before Moll and a few Breen surprise the duo with an out-of-the-blue appearance with guns at our protagonists’ heads. (Seriously, one moment Burnham is clear to plant the transporter, and the next the pair are surrounded by Breen. Was there an editing mix-up here?) With their backs to the wall, Burnham has no choice but to reach out to her nearby cloaked ship for help. Employing a monologue that offers one meaning for Moll and another, veiled meaning for the eaves-dropping Commander Rayner (Callum Keith Rennie), the commander understands what Burnham is asking him to do – and it’s going to lead to the most interesting part of this otherwise substandard episode.

L-R Zahra Bentham as CMDR Jemison, David Ajala as Book and Callum Keith Rennie as Rayner in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 9, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

“Respectively, the pacing… you’re making everybody nervous. You can sit in the captain’s chair, you know.”

“If I felt like it, I would.”

“Captain Burnham trusts you to lead us. We all do. It’s been a road to get there, but we really do.”

– Tilly and Rayner.

Discovery needs to get the container into open space to capture it, and the away team also needs a distraction to escape the Breen vessel, so Rayner steps up in a big way. Informing his captain that he knows a way to distract the Breen from immediately discovering the infiltrators aboard the ship, we like how Burnham has come to implicitly trust Rayner so much that she doesn’t request an explanation of his plan to help the away team, but rather just make it so.

It’s no secret Rayner’s been afraid to sit in the center chair, but the time has come to hop back on the horse and charge into battle. Rayner orders Discovery to attack the Breen ship and head right for its loading bay. The Crossfield-class, which we were led to assume wouldn’t last for two minutes in an assault on the dreadnaught, manages to fly its way through the Breen weapons fire and penetrate the loading bay. It’s a remarkable VFX sequence.

A starship flying into another ship causes all sorts of pretty destruction, and in an act of desperation, Moll, who is in possession of the late L’ak’s pattern in a mobile transporter buffer, throws herself through the green portal. Remember, Moll is hoping the Progenitors’ technology can bring life from death, so this really is a do-or-die situation for the former courier. Burnham, seeing only one chance to tail Moll and discover what’s within the container, follows soon after a parting look to her former lover. The container floats briefly through space before exploding into a larger portal. The episode ends with Rayner issuing a heroic rallying cry to his crew: their captain and the tech are in that portal, and they need to get her back.

Outside the adventures at the twin black holes, Saru (Doug Jones) makes a long-awaited reappearance in this season. Returning from his diplomatic mission, his fiancé, T’Rina (Tara Rosling) informs him of the pickle his former crew is in. And it’s about to get worse: there’s a Breen fleet, led by Tahal – the same Breen who occupied Rayner’s homeworld – heading to confront Discovery and Moll’s co-opted ship. Tahal is hoping to claim the late Ruhn’s crew for herself to bolster her forces. How could Starfleet help Discovery at least delay the incoming Breen reinforcements?

“It would be illogical to ask that you promise to return. So instead, I only ask that you’ll try.”

– T’Rina to Saru, about his upcoming risky foray to the Breen fleet.

President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) reasons an in-person diplomatic overture to the Breen fleet would buy Discovery some time; Saru offers himself as the best candidate to attempt such a risky mission. The Kelpien needs to go alone in a pathway drive-equipped shuttle, lest the Breen interpret Starfleet capital ships as a military overture. Before Saru leaves on this urgent quest, Discovery pulls another awkwardly timed dramatic scene as the engaged lovers share their concerns about Saru heading into the thick of the action.

We’ll admit we appreciate the parallels of T’Rina doubting Saru’s ability to complete the mission considering their upcoming wedding, as compared to early in the season when Saru doubted T’Rina’s political acumen just because they were engaged. But again, with the stakes piled so high for our heroes, engaging in low-intensity melodrama only arrests valuable momentum this show has spent a season trying to build. We’ll have to see next week if Saru can pull off this mission and how Tahal complicates Discovery’s rescue of Burnham and the tech.

“Lagrange Point” is disappointing because it lacks creativity. At this moment in the series, being uncreative makes disappointment more palpable. From the dreadnaught’s easy arrival and capture of the Progenitors tech to the half-baked scheme to retrieve the box, to the oddly timed speedbumps of melodrama, we expected a more engaging penultimate episode.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. Rayner’s renewed command presence is a monumental moment for the character and a great sequence for Rennie. We also liked how Discovery’s “rescue” of the away team is an exciting sequence that gives us some great looks at the 32nd-century ship (notice how those nacelles folded in when the ship goes into the Breen loading bay?) The substandard “Lagrange Point” just means the series finale will have plenty of heavy lifting to do to sufficiently wrap up five years’ worth of character-building – but we’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

Stray Thoughts:

  • This episode is Jonathan Frakes’ 31st directorial credit in the Star Trek franchise.

  • Why did T’Rina choose to wait to tell Saru about Discovery’s misadventures until he arrived at Federation HQ, especially since she ropes him into the meeting with President Rillak immediately upon his arrival?

  • Discovery is still mighty visible to the naked eye when its cloaked….

  • Why does the Breen dreadnaught stick around the binary black holes after getting the container onboard? Why not jump away from the dangerous system and explore the tech elsewhere?

  • Did the Breen not detect the destruction of a Starfleet shuttle near their ship, even if it was in the plume of the exhaust port?

  • The graphic design of this show’s various terminals and displays is so great. When Stamets is explaining how Discovery can penetrate the dreadnaught’s shuttle bay shield, we can see something like handwritten math on Stamets’ display. He then asserts to a worried Doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz) that “math doesn’t lie.” Damn right, it doesn’t.

  • Rhys kind of jumps the gun on engaging the incoming Breen in a hand-to-hand fight, doesn’t he? At least try to explain away why the shields suddenly failed before exposing you and your co-infiltrator.

New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery stream Thursdays on Paramount+, this season stars Sonequa Martin-Green (Captain Michael Burnham), Doug Jones (Saru), Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), David Ajala (Cleveland “Book” Booker), Blu del Barrio (Adira) and Callum Keith Rennie (Rayner). Season five also features recurring guest stars Elias Toufexis (L’ak) and Eve Harlow (Moll).


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