Star Trek Discovery Perpetual Infinity review

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Star Trek: Discovery has delivered yet another stellar episode. This level of amazing writing happens each week, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now. But in this week’s episode, “Perpetual Infinity,” we got something even better than another impressive script – we got a possible origin story of the Borg.

Here’s what we learned.

Control Needs A Body

The first thing we need to process is that Control, Section 31’s A.I., needs a host body in order to complete its mission of universal destruction. It realizes that it can’t do what it needs to do just in holographic form, so it captured Leland and, in true body horror style, infiltrated itself into his body.

Now, Leland as we knew him is essentially dead. Or rather, he’s been reborn as a Patient Zero – possibly the first Borg. Case in point: Control said “struggle is pointless,” which is dangerously close to the patented Borg phrase, “Resistance is futile.”

Control Needs Information

While the Borg “love” assimilation, what they desire above all is power. And since they deem themselves to be the most advanced and perfect lifeforms of all, they feel they alone should exist within the universe.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, we saw this desire play out repeatedly as Picard and the crew battled against the Borg’s plans to capture and infect sentient life. It seems that we’re now seeing the origins of this epic battle as Borg Leland does his best to capture the information of the only being greater than him: the sphere. With the sphere’s knowledge, Borg Leland will be able to assume the role of the most powerful being and, with Starfleet’s unwitting help, decimate every form of sentient life in the universe.

Thankfully, the Discovery crew and those in Section 31 aren’t willing to give up without a fight. Georgiou and Ash are the first to realize that Leland is off, mostly because Leland is making logical sense for once. Even though they suspect something’s amiss, Ash and Georgiou play it cool until they realize their missions no longer add up. Why would they be A) trying to kill Michael’s time-jumping mom, Dr. Burnham, and B) download the sphere data unless it was all for some scheme up Leland’s sleeve? And if that’s the case, what could it be?

Georgiou was busy assessing these questions until Borg Leland played on her jealousy. Now that Dr. Burnham is back, Georgiou feared she could be replaced. Those fears were amplified by Borg Leland shining a light on her insecurities. Fortunately, Georgiou comes back to her senses after talking with Dr. Burnham herself and hearing the same awkward phrasing about being a threat to “the larger mission” that Borg Leland said himself. She then realized her ego wasn’t important; saving the universe from Borg Leland was.

Control is Emotionless and Short-Sighted

Control has admitted its one failing: not being able to capture human nuance. It assumed it needed a human body to accomplish this, but what it still doesn’t understand is that it needs to be human in order to understand humanity.

The lack of emotion is one of the reasons Georgiou and Ash can suss Borg Leland out. Original Leland was a good leader overall, but he could be tactless and rely too much on needless subterfuge. Borg Leland, of course, is lacking in the emotional department. He also failed to understand how human differences, some which have been perceived as impediments, are actually keys to a brighter future.

The best example of that in this episode is when we finally see why Dr. Burnham contacted Spock. Turns out everything Spock viewed as his drawbacks – human emotions and dyslexia – were the factors that allowed him to understand Dr. Burnham’s message and her atemporal dysplasia. He’s the only one who has been able to understand Dr. Burnham in years.

I gush over Spock a lot, both in these reviews and in my own personal life. But once again, I feel like Spock is teaching me about myself. I don’t have dyslexia, but I have often trouble making peace with my highly-sensitive emotions. I’ve often wrongly viewed being “sensitive” as a personal failing, leading me to beat myself up over nothing. But what if being a highly-sensitive individual is a good thing? What if it provides me with keys to change my community, if not the world? Maybe I’m more powerful than I give myself credit for.

I feel like this scene might make a lot of people reassess how they speak to themselves about their perceived failings. Perhaps we should ask ourselves why we don’t like certain personal attributes. Is it because of something within us, or because of something someone’s told us about ourselves? I’m willing to bet it’s the latter – I didn’t know some people viewed crying as negative until an elementary school nurse scolded me for it. Similarly, Spock didn’t know emotions and dyslexia were perceived as negative until his Vulcan culture shamed him and his mother for allowing themselves to interact with their “irrational” sides. In short, we can not let others’ dim view of life change how we feel about ourselves and our potential. We must figure out how to unlearn that damage and take hold of our own personal power.

Control is Relentless

Keeping the Borg at bay takes a lot of willpower. Picard gave so much of himself to these various missions that he nearly caved in emotionally from the trauma. If Picard had to endure so much with a less powerful version of the Borg, you can imagine how much willpower it’ll take to destroy Control, who I believe is arguably more powerful than the Borg are when we meet them in TNG.

The battle against Borg Leland demanded a lot from the crew –  especially Michael, who had to lose her mother again. However, instead of being dead, Dr. Burnham is lost to time itself. Even worse, the mission to send the sphere’s data into perpetual infinity with the Red Angel suit failed. On top of that, Control managed to get over half of the sphere’s data.

Plotting-wise, we’re in the third act of our story, and things seem bleak. Even our hero Michael feels like all hope is lost if there’s no time crystal, no suit, and no mother. But thankfully Spock is there to steer her back into reality. He’s right when he says that the past is gone and the future is not yet written. Regardless of the dire situation Dr. Burnham has seen in her time jumps, none of that means that time is unchangeable. She herself realized this when she transported Earthlings to Terralysium. She figured out that if she was able to save them from nuclear destruction, she was able to change time, leading her to try to save the universe.

Spock’s continues his logic when he says that if time can be changed, then they still have a chance to change it for the better. “Now matters,” he says, adding that an action in the present can alter the future in unimaginable ways. I think this is a message we can use for our own world right now.

Control is a Metaphor

Maybe I’m reading too much into Borg Leland, but I figure the (assumed) Borg origin story can be an allegory for our own society right now. We are at the hands of a Borg-like leader, who believes himself to be all-powerful. He has Borg-like cronies who do whatever he says and want to wrestle the rest of us into submission. Their alt-right message essentially boils down to “resistance is futile.” They want us to believe that hope is lost.

Even our ecological standing seems to suggest there’s nothing to hope for. With so many scientists giving scary warnings about the future of our planet, it seems like there’s literally nothing to fight for. Again, it feels like resistance is futile.

But is resistance really that illogical? Is it illogical to fight for a better future? Is it illogical to keep standing after getting knocked down? Is it illogical to take the power out of negativity for the sake of keeping strong in a brighter, more just tomorrow? Personally, I don’t think so.

A lot of folks realize resistance isn’t futile. But we need more. We need everyone on board who hasn’t been swallowed up by the real-life Borg to stand for the power of resisting. We need folks who are ready to give their all for a better future for the generations to come. If you take the sci-fi elements out of it, that’s all Michael, Spock, and the Discovery crew are doing: safeguarding the future by acting today. Hope only gets stronger the more folks wake up, believe in their own power, and say “I resist.”

I don’t always want to get political in these reviews, but I listen to the news, even when I’m not trying to. If you want to take this message outside of the political realm, then think about this: there are plenty of Borg-like entities in our own life, whether that’s at work, in our families, or toxic friend groups. We must find the ability to wake up from the collective and stand for ourselves, even if that means standing alone. Once we do that, we can find others who will stand beside us. It’ll be a different collective; one that values the abilities of the individual. That’s something we should all strive to achieve in our communities, large and small.

I think that does it for my TED Talk, as well as this week’s review. What did you think of this week’s episode?

Correction: An earlier version of this piece indicated that Spock had epilepsy instead of dyslexia. The piece has been updated with the correct information.

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