The Discovery returns Saru to his home planet, where he reconnects with his people and tries to move the Ba’ul.

Titles: “Sound of Thunder”

Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski
Written by Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt

Cast
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike
Doug Jones as Commander Saru
Hannah Spear as Siranna
Anthony Rapp as Commander Paul Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly
Shazad Latif as Ash Tyler
Hannah Cheesman as Lt. Cmdr. Airiam
Wilson Cruzas Dr. Hugh Culber
Emily Coutts as Lt. Keyla Detmer
Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Gen Rhys
Oyin Oladejo as Lt. Joann Owosekun
Ronnie Rowe as Lt. R.A. Bryce
Raven Dauda as Dr. Tracy Pollard
Javier Botet and Mark Pellington as Ba’ul
David Benjamin Tomlinson as Kelpian Villager (double-casting for the “Linus” actor)
Julianne Grossman as Discovery Computer

Premise:

The Red Angel leads the Discovery to Saru’s home planet, where he confronts the Ba’ul about their manipulation of Kelpian culture and history.

High Point:

The Original Series often used SF to examine real-world issues and themes– and NextGen’s first season faltered most when it tried to do the same thing. Times had changed, and it needed a new approach. Various Trek series have had varying levels of success with finding contemporary approaches to this trope. I would say this episode of Discovery does very well with its approach. It clearly examines a long-standing, historical reality: people with power use superstition, religion, and other elements of culture to restrain those who lack power. At the same time, it addresses other matters, keeps the preaching and cheese to a comparative minimum, and keeps the characters and plot central.

Low Point:

I’ll accept a certain amount of problematic behavior from the characters, like keeping Saru on active duty, despite not knowing what his transformation entails and before they learn they’re going to need him for this mission.

But having him walk an alien by a highly visible surveillance device and then loudly discuss details related to their mission? I’m pretty sure those matters should have been addressed before they ever stepped foot on the planet, and that they should have behaved in a stealthier manner.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Aliens have manipulated religion and culture in science-fiction for decades, even in Star Trek, but this take feels original, especially for the franchise.

Effects: 6/6 The Ba’ul effects looks good, as does the Kelpian make-up. Of course, it means that we can only see a few Kelpians and one Ba’ul, but that’s the nature of a TV budget, when you’re not Game of Thrones.

Acting: 5/6 Both Saru and Culber wonder about change and identity, and the actors do a fine job.

Production: 6/6

Story: 5/6 I suppose skirting the prime directive and changing the entire history of a planet in the course of one episode is pretty much standard for Trek.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, “The Sound of Thunder” receives 35/42

Lingering Questions

I was half-hoping that the popular fan theory suggesting that the Kelpians were the adolescent form of the Ba’ul, but the actual explanation makes more sense, even if it’s less interesting.

What’s your favorite explanation, original or otherwise, for the final identity of the Red Angel? Especially since we have reason to believe it is some form of humanoid?

And will you be really disappointed if, against logic, it turns out to be Spock? Or more so if it turns out to be a time traveler?

In the process of developing, do the Ba’ul eventually dump Armus on Vagra II?