the story: In which we learn more about Airiam...that robotic character...right before we say goodbye.
review: "Project Daedalus" reverts back to Discovery's penchant for viewing traditional Star Trek through a warped lens. The ostensible central element of the episode, the character and destiny of Airium, never fully claims the spotlight, instead serving as an echo for things the season has already done, and better.
Airiam herself is fascinating. She's one of several background characters in the tradition of the original series, which if you look closely featured characters like this, and the diehards...care? But in the grand scheme, their repeated presence doesn't really amount to much. (There were characters like this in other series as well; Voyager in particular. What separates Discovery's use is mostly the endless emphasis on them.) Let's call it the Detmer Effect. Detmer is a character who, like Burnham and Saru, hails from the Shinzou, the original Georgiou's ship at the beginning of the series. She mostly serves as a point of continuity, and the lingering repair job that left an implant on her face, a funky hairstyle, and a replacement eye. You'd know her if you saw her. You might even know her name. But she really doesn't amount to anything except her image. Discovery has made no effort except continually showing her to make Detmer anything actually important. Even Mayweather, a main character in Enterprise who was featured much in this manner for most of his appearances, had a ton more to do in sporadic spotlight material. Airiam, even in finally getting her story told, is not a Mayweather. Even her spotlight episode is full of things other people are doing.
But at least one of these background characters gets a story. We learn that Airiam isn't a robot or an android, but a person who survived a horrific crash, that among other things claimed the love of her life. But the story doesn't even allow her to dwell on that, the most significant parallel of her story (see: Spock, Culber, even Tyler). Instead she becomes another pawn in the Section 31 power struggle.
So anyway, what's most worth remembering about the episode is once again Spock and Burnham, still trying to sort out their relationship, this time over a game of 3D chess. Spock proves cruel in his efforts to force Burnham to face her past. This is a Spock who is feeling less of his typical Vulcan restraint than we're accustomed to, who is a lot more like the Spock famously known as "frenemies" with Bones McCoy. Except this Spock is interacting with someone he knows a lot better than Bones, someone he literally grew up with, who knows as much about him as he does them. As much as Burnham is trying to use her knowledge of Spock, Spock is protecting himself, as he has been all season, as best he can. Burnham just happens to represent everything he thought he'd mastered already, but still challenges him. This is Motion Picture territory, when even Kirk couldn't get through to a Spock who again had tried to perfect himself, but found a giant obstacle in his way.
franchise- This is the sort of episode that might prove uncomfortable for established fans, who will naturally seek a more comforting, familiar vision of Spock.
- series - And yet it's a Spock who fits in perfectly in the Discovery model.
- character - And as such, that chess sequence is the highlight of the episode.
essential- It also completely overpowers the Airiam elements, which undercuts the whole episode.
Ethan Peck (Spock)