[REVIEW] Star Trek: Discovery 205 “Saints of Imperfection”: Paging Dr. Culber

Star Trek: Discovery 205 “Saints of Imperfection” Review

Picking up where last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery “An Obol for Charon” left off, “Saints of Imperfection” finally delivers the long-awaited return of Hugh Culber after his demise at the hands of Voq in season one. Meanwhile, the Discovery (or half of it, at least) visits the mycelial network in an effort to rescue Tilly.

One thing this episode has going for it: it’s all mired in some pretty funky but fascinating science – science that uses equal parts real-world knowledge and sci-fi extrapolation. Credit to the writers for giving us a believable reason why Culber is now back among the living, while at the same time filling in a vital scene between Hugh and Paul from season one. In this case, it’s how Culber was able to “survive” his death thanks to Stamets, who at the time was in his network-induced daze. It’s always a sign of excellent writing when you ask yourself, “just how long have they been planning that?” And on that note, this episode provided Anthony Rapp the chance to stretch his acting muscles, as he really hasn’t been given much to do this season in regard to his character’s relationship to Culber besides mourn. A key scene expertly played by Rapp is when he is forced to potentially lose his partner for the second time. Rapp delivers a powerful emotional performance in a way we haven’t seen before. Alas, everything seems to work out, doesn’t it?

Anthony Rapp as Lt. Paul Stamets
Anthony Rapp as Lt. Paul Stamets (CBS)

Also in the mycelial network, Tilly is transported from her organic transporter in the spore drive engineering room to the network, and once again we see Mary Wiseman pull her weight with a dual comedic/dramatic performance as she learns of the “monster” ravaging the network. Acting opposite to Tilly is Bahia Watson as May, who brings a ferociousness to her character we haven’t seen before; she is trying to save her existence, after all, so it’s appropriate that she gets the chance to explore that motivation a bit more in this episode.

As good as the acting is, what’s especially striking is the saturated and bloomy look of the network itself. It’s appropriately other-worldly, but perhaps a bit too CGI-heavy. Discovery ran into this problem with the various network and spore room scenes in the first season, and the CGI effect can be a bit distracting, especially when the rest of the season’s visuals are so different. The visual effect of the network is further explored with the Discovery half submerged in it, and this action offers viewers a unique, ocean-esque look at the transition between the human world and the network.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou and Anson Mount as Christopher Pike
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou and Anson Mount as Christopher Pike (CBS)

This episode will likely be remembered as the setup for the upcoming Section 31 series starring Michelle Yeoh. At the end of this episode, Admiral Cornwell shows up (literally out of nowhere, in what feels like a shoe-horned appearance) and talks with both Captain Pike and Leland, the head of Section 31, about the differences and similarities between the black ops organization and Starfleet. As she is addressing the two men, one can’t help but see this as a pitch to viewers for the validity of such a black ops-orientated show in the otherwise idealistic Star Trek universe. Cornwell notes how the two organizations are on the same team, even if one has to use more usual methods to get the job done, an idea that naturally meets some resistance from Pike. As she notes, “Section 31 may not be the shining beacon of righteous conduct you want it to be…nation-building is never pretty. That is the unappetizing truth and you know it.” Cornwell’s monologue gives a good reason for skeptics to have a little faith in the folks behind the upcoming series. It’s an interesting way to get in front of potential backlash – even though fans should really withhold judgment anyway until they see the new show, whenever it premieres.

Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber (CBS)

Taken together, “Saints of Imperfection” offers an excellent outing in an already excellent season. It’s an episode anchored by strong performances from Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, and relative newcomer Bahia Watson, and offers fans the return of a fan-favorite from season one.  The mystery surrounding the mycelial network is further explored by several characters actually visiting the network. It’s a great way to explore the new canonical material Discovery is offering the decades-old franchise. And while this episode teased it, we still are no closer to finding Spock. It’s a tease that has dragged on for too long now. The longer they wait, the bigger chance the eventual reveal could not live up to the hype.

Stray thoughts:

  • Two planets are mentioned in this episode: Cestus III, which would later suffer the Gorn attack in The Original Series; and Deneva, a popular planet in Star Trek lore that is seen or referenced in Enterprise and TOS.
  • Super nitpicky, but what is the scientific reasoning behind Culber coming back to Discovery clean-shaven, while he was quite hairy in the network?
  • This episode has the first canonical appearance of the TNG-style comm badge. Apparently, it was Section 31 technology first.
  • “Saints of Imperfection” was written by Kristen Beyer, who is no stranger to the Star Trek universe. She is responsible for many Voyager novels, as well as the season one episode “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” Beyer is also working on the upcoming Picard series.
  • David Barrett served as director here. He previously directed the Enterprise episode “Divergence” – an episode that also involved Section 31.

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