the story: Tilly encounters a stowaway.
what it's all about: This is Discovery doing what every other incarnation of Star Trek did on a regular basis. Somewhat appropriately, as with the lone episode from the first season that attempted the same thing ("Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum"), it's a relatively clumsy affair. The best that can be said about it is that it puts the spotlight squarely on Tilly, which strangely never really happened in the first season.
As with "Para Bellum," the writers seem positively ill-equipped to handle this kind of storytelling. Their attempts at shorthand in a short episode (roughly fifteen minutes, but this is called Short Treks) are painfully rough, and come off more as the work of an amateur playwright than professional screenwriter, the same naïve conclusion (experience literally makes Tilly feel better about herself) common to such efforts. What Discovery does far better is breakneck speed storytelling, or letting Michael Burnham ruminate (or torture herself, which was why Ash Tyler was such a good match for her) on problems. That's the complete opposite of what "Runaway" attempts to accomplish.
But again, spending time with Tilly also helps us get to know her better. Knowing at all that she struggles against an overbearing mother (imagine the young Troi!) adds welcome depth. The story also builds on the Mirror Universe experience, where Tilly was a command-track type (to say the least). Having her struggle along that path puts her in the same footsteps as the Doctor, say, or yes, Troi, and that's a nice bit of resonance.
But I really hope further Short Treks are less clumsy.
- franchise - Familiar material for Star Trek fans.
series- Unlike the whole first season (practically), there's nothing of particular significance going on here.
- character - Except some welcome character work for Tilly.
essential- Nope. Not at all, if for no other reason than it doesn't showcase Discovery's storytelling strengths very well.