As the second season of Star Trek: Discovery warps to its conclusion in the next two weeks, the latest episode — “Through the Valley of Shadows” — tackles a huge part of Captain Pike’s future while introducing a wrinkle into the Klingon culture at the same time. There have been a lot of “big” episodes in this season of Discovery, but in many ways “Through the Valley of Shadows” feels like the most pivotal. Written by Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, this episode fundamentally changes what we know about a beloved Star Trek character, with a twist that boldly goes in a direction fans couldn’t have seen coming.
SYFY WIRE caught up with the Kim and Lippoldt to get a sense of how they crafted this chapter of Star Trek lore, and what it all means for the future, not only for Captain Pike but for the Federation and Klingon Empire, too.
**SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 12, “Through the Valley of Shadows.”**
Without a doubt, the biggest twist in the new episode is all about revealing Captain Pike’s tragic future and forcing him to live with it. In the original series, Pike was heroic in “The Cage” but tragically disfigured and kept on life support in “The Menagerie.” Prior to Discovery, fans didn’t really see how this happened to Pike, but no one assumed that he saw it coming. But now all of that has changed. In order to get the raw time crystal from the Klingons on Boreth, Pike not only has to experience his own tragic future, but has to accept it. It’s a deal with the devil, only in this case the devil is Pike deciding he’s cool with ending up a vegetable in order to save the entire galaxy. Back when Season 2 launched, Anson Mount told SYFY WIRE that the idea was for Pike’s story to end in “a victory and not a tragedy.” And it looks like this is what he meant.
“Ever since the decision was made for Captain Pike to join Discovery in Season 2, we knew that we wanted to touch on his eventual fate, which fans of TOS would be all too aware of,” Kim and Lippoldt tell SYFY WIRE. “With the unfolding of the seven signals/Red Angel mystery, we wanted Pike's involvement in the mission to not just be additive, but crucial. Pike became the perfect candidate to be faced with a life-changing trial. Having him not only witness his accident, but have to make the choice to accept that fate for the greater good, is a sign of his character: noble, brave, selfless. Anson Mount brought that roller coaster of an emotional journey to life with a heartbreaking performance.”
By accepting his fate, Captain Pike also now knows that although he’ll end up in pretty bad shape, he will survive whatever the next couple of years throw at him. So does Pike think he’s kind of invincible? At least for a little while?
“Pike doesn’t believe he’s immortal. On the contrary, he feels like a man on borrowed time,” Kim and Lippoldt explain. “Yes, there will be moments where, if the circumstances don’t line up, he might assume he is ‘safe.’ But despite being shown that he is destined to a certain, tragic accident on a Starfleet vessel — something that would drive anyone else far away from Starfleet — he chooses to stay on this path and continue to serve the Federation.”
Pike not only becomes crazily more heroic and selfless than anyone previously imagined in this scene, but he also gains the respect of the Klingon Time Keeper. Pike could have walked away from this future, but then he wouldn’t be able to take the crystal with him. The Klingon Time Keeper — who turns out to be L’Rell and Tyler’s son in the future — is taken aback by Pike’s acceptance of his fate, and says, “I honor you, Captain.”
It’s a great scene, but it’s also added a new layer to the Klingon monastery on Boreth. In The Next Generation, Worf visited Boreth on a religious quest in the episode "Rightful Heir." Obviously, at that time (over 100 years in Discovery’s future) none of those Klingons mentioned anything about time crystals. Did the Klingons use them all up sometime before The Next Generation? Does Worf know about the crystals?
“Boreth has always been carefully established as a sacred place for the Klingons — and that’s not something we wanted to muck up,” Kim and Lippoldt reveal. “Instead, we wanted to EXPAND on existing canon and the functionality of Boreth by introducing a hidden sect of monks who have dedicated their lives to guarding the time crystals. We loved the notion that this otherwise fierce warrior race has learned not to mess with something as dangerous and volatile as time.”
As far as Worf is concerned, the writers say that “Worf would not have been granted access to the part of Boreth’s monastery that housed the crystals,” because “that’s not why Worf was there.” The writing pair also note that to say anything more about the time crystals would “be spoiling the finale episodes.”
The episode ends with Captain Pike seriously considering destroying the USS Discovery on purpose, and evacuating everyone on board to the USS Enterprise. It feels grim and thrilling. But Kim and Lippoldt want fans to know that, if you think about it, it’s not all bad news for Captain Pike. After all, in “The Menagerie,” he is reunited with Vina.
“We believe Captain Pike has a fulfilling life that ends in a version of a happy ending on Talos.”
The final two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 air on CBS All Access over the next two Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET.