The one thing that we've been saying about this season of 'Star Trek: Discovery' is how it really is going through the tropes of previous incarnations of 'Star Trek'.
We've had the "planet of the week" episode, the "anomaly of the week" episode, they've even brought characters back from the dead in wacky ways - so it's no surprise that this week's episode is one that brings one of the ensemble cast's home planet into view.
After Saru (Doug Jones) survived his race's genetic death spiral and lost his "fear tentacles" in the process, the first officer is now far more ballsier and bolder than ever before. However, when the Red Angel's signal appears over his planet, he demands to be part of the away team that investigates - even though General Order 1 / the Prime Directive forbids both him and any member of Discovery from beaming down.
There's a very weak argument concerning the ramifications, not the least of which points to a convenient loophole in that Saru's people are aware of wider technology, but the Ba'ul keep it to themselves - and want nothing to do with the Federation. Once on the planet, it soon transpires that the relationship between Kelpiens and the Ba'ul is predicated on not only a lie, but one that's wrapped up in religiosity to make it seem more palatable.
Considering how this season has really been about faith and science, and how the two inform and coalesce around one another, it's intriguing to see religion seen as a way of control, rather than something to be respected like in previous episodes or the season at large. When the Ba'ul are eventually revealed after Saru and his sister are captured by them, the aliens are revealed to be eerily similar to the Kelpians - but the dynamic between them was much different.
Namely, the Kelpians were once the predator race of Kaminar, the Ba'ul were hunted by them, and they created their technology to keep them in check. The Great Balance, as the Kelpians refer to, was really just away of ensuring that the Ba'ul weren't hunted to extinction by them. All of which, of course, was expedited along by the sphere planet's information last week's episode.
As episodes go, 'The Sounds Of Thunder' gives a good insight both into Saru's past and what his future aboard the Discovery will be. Whether you enjoy the episode or not depends on how you view the character. Some might seem him as just another Spock / Data analogue, but 'The Sounds Of Thunder' gives him a texture and backstory that's far different from either examples.
Doug Jones, who plays Saru, really is a gifted actor and while most of his roles seem to zero in on his unusual stature and are more physical in nature, here it's the opposite. The nuance and the empathy with which his character exudes is not only heartwarming, but vintage 'Trek'.
Let's talk briefly about the Red Angel, and how it's been slowly revealed as the season moves on. By all accounts, it's not some kind of spiritual, paranormal being - but clearly some alien who has access to time-travel technology, and is using it to right wrongs across the galaxy. That they've finally cleared that up in this episode is no small thing, because it truly was getting tiresome without knowing exactly how it seemed to be so convenient with its appearances.
Still no sign of Hipster Spock, but otherwise, a fine episode. Not one of the best in the season so far, but fine nonetheless.