Now that Book (David Ajala) and Ruon Tarka (Shawn Doyle from The Expanse and House of Cards) have destroyed the DMA controller and it shockingly reappeared, Starfleet leadership is gathered at Starfleet command to plan First Contact with Species 10C. Dr. Kovich (David Cronenberg) sardonically warns Starfleet that whatever they have in mind for First Contact, the experience will be different. As Discovery prepares to leave, President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) informs Admiral Vance that she is handing over her authority to the Vice President as she is going to head the diplomatic mission for First Contact with Species 10C.
Hit Me With It
Book and Tarka, having survived the explosion, are together planning their next move. Book is livid that Tarka unilaterally decided to destroy the DMA Controller, endangering Discovery. Tarka tells Book that he knows how to upgrade their shields to help them push through the Galactic Barrier; he just needs to get his hands on some programmable anti-matter and knows exactly where to get it.
Discovery prepares for the arduous journey. They won’t have as much time and they need to reinforce the ship to ensure it makes it through the Galactic Barrier to Species 10C. Mr. Saru runs into President T’Rina (Tara Rosling) and musters the courage to express his feelings for her. While she doesn’t quite rebuff him, she steps away with no response (ouch!). Prior to departure, Michael and the President iron out their roles with one another. Discovery jumps to the Galactic Barrier.
Frontiers are Always Cool
Book and Tarka arrive on a new planet that Book quickly identifies as an Emerald Chain work camp. It turns out this is where Tarka was held prisoner by the Emerald Chain nearly 10 years earlier. We now start a series of flashbacks to Tarka’s time under the Chain. We see Tarka thrown in to work with another engineer, Oros, who clearly resents having a new working partner. Tarka tells Book that after a year, they became friends.
Discovery arrives at the Galactic Barrier and the crew is in awe at what they see: the edge of the Galaxy. Discovery scans and prepares to pass through the Galactic Barrier (it will be bumpy) in pursuit of Species 10C. President Rillak storms on the bridge telling Michael that she needs to speak with her; she’s gotten an encrypted message marked “urgent.” They step into the ready room and listen to the message which is from Admiral Vance, who informs them that the DMA harvester is now in the Alpha Quadrant where it will destroy Ni’var and Earth within 71 hours. Michael wants to tell the crew, but President Rillak wants to hold off to prevent panic. But there’s no time, they still need to make it safely through the barrier.
The Worst Kind of A**hole
Back on the planet, Tarka explains to a worried Book that he knows that the planet is no longer in use as he comes back every year. We then get another flashback of Tarka and Oros together. Tarka comforts Oros as an alarm goes off, clearly triggering PTSD. Oros asks Tarka why he helped him and he responds that he’s “never had a real friend before.” Oros then confesses to Tarka that the equations he’s been working on are a plan to escape the Emerald Chain through inter-dimensional travel, but it will take an immense amount of power. Oros says he would flee to Kyalisse, “home,” a place beyond suffering and that he will take Tarka with him.
Book and Tarka are now going through the base in search of programmable anti-matter and Tarka is clearly struggling emotionally. We have another flashback. He and Oros have completed their transporter and are preparing to use it. Unfortunately, there was not enough power and it fails. They are then surrounded by Emerald Chain guards. It turns out that Tarka was informing Oros all along to barter for his freedom.
Tarka over-powers the guards and frees him and Oros, apologizing profusely to Oros for the betrayal. They need to escape before more guards can come, but Oros is too injured. He tells Tarka he forgives him and to go. He promises that he will find another way to fix the transporter and they will go to Kyalisse together. Tarka then explains to Book that he hid in the caves for weeks, then there was a massive power surge, and the base was abandoned. When he went to investigate, he found a symbol carved on the wall that he was convinced was a message; Oros made it to Kyalisse and now he is trying to find a way to join him.
What I am Right Now, is Angry
As the crew passes through the Galactic Barrier (worried the ship will tear apart), they start to comfort one another by sharing what they will do when they make it home: surfing in Hawaii, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, all of these activities on Earth. They arrive safely outside of the Barrier. The President and Michael step aside to debate whether or not to inform the crew. The President admits to Michael that she has loved ones on Earth. They agree to share the news with the crew. The President announces to the crew that Earth and Ni’Var are in danger. The crew is visibly shocked; President T’Rina, in an un-Vulcan-like manner, is clearly distressed and asks Saru to sit with her for comfort. The crew then sets a course to meet Species 10C
I continue to be disappointed in this season of Discovery. This episode feels overly long and the character development falls flat. Ruon Tarka has the potential to be a fascinating character. He’s a Risian engineer who is brutally direct (to say the least). While we get a little more insight into his past, I struggled to…care. Why did he connect so much with Oros? As someone who reportedly shuns pleasure (odd as he is from the pleasure planet) but is seeking a way to get to Paradise. I also struggle to understand his relationship with Oros. Is Oros simply a friend? Or something more? They did such a poor job of developing that relationship even in the flashbacks.
The mystery of Species 10C (perhaps the worst name ever) is somewhat boring. Other than being powerful and living beyond their Galaxy, we have no insight into this Species. And why did they choose to call them Species 10C? Season 1 of Discovery taught us the “Vulcan Hello.” When the Vulcans first encountered the Klingons, they sent them a friendly greeting of peace. The Klingons responded with violence. After that initial event, the Vulcans always greeted Klingon ships with weapons fire as a sign of strength. Why do they not go to meet Species 10C without so much as a thought they could be hostile? Or simply ambivalent to the planets they are destroying?
The evolution of Discovery, sorry Zora, is also a problematic story element. At times, Zora is sentient and downright chatty, at other times, I completely forget that the ship is sentient. What is the relevance of a sentient ship in this storyline? Why is she not more helpful? Or more problematic? It just feels like the writers don’t quite know what to do with her.
Why Is Discovery Wasting Their Best Characters?
Also, I cannot say this enough, where the heck is Tig Notaro? How do you have Tig Notaro on your show and not use her all the time?
On the positive side, I still appreciate that Discovery delves more into the lives of the crew than any other series. I enjoy the nuances of Saru’s awkward dating life. Also, Stamets struggles to have a good relationship with his father so he is overcorrecting a bit with his own child (Tal), and Doctor Colburn was shy and awkward when he first met Stamets. I still applaud the diversity of the casting; its evolution is truly an extension of Robenberry’s original vision. The new characters such as President T’Rina, President Rillak, and especially Dr. Kovich (please, please, please explore that character more) have real potential.
I do hope that Discovery writers can pull this series back on track. They did such an amazing job world-building this show that it’s a shame this season has been so disappointing. The bricks are there, they just need to build it more effectively.