“…But to Connect”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 7 – Debuted Thursday, December 30, 2021
Written by Terri Hughes Burton & Carlos Cisco
Directed by Lee Rose
A somewhat leisurely and cerebral episode explores core Star Trek themes while adeptly setting up things to come for the season arc.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“I’m sorry captain. I will not”
A week after their harrowing journey into a subspace void, the USS Discovery is still being repaired at Starfleet HQ. The brains are busy working the data to find a location for the DMA creators (aka Species 10-C) but after Zora comes up with the 147th possibility, Stamets is starting to lose his patience, leaving it to Adira to suggest the rather obvious cross-referencing with the Sphere Data and presto, Zora has the answer… however, the newly emotional sentient computer decides she doesn’t want to tell anyone, even after the captain politely but firmly tells her to cough it up. Zora is now helicopter starship parenting the crew and is worried the mean old 10-C are going to hurt her charges, so it’s best if they don’t go, and tells Captain Burnham “I can keep you safe.” Adorable… but unacceptable.
Dr. Kovich swoops in to take charge of the recalcitrant machine situation, unceremoniously dismissing Burnham to join President Rillak at a big conference. The captain’s ready room transforms into a form of courtroom with Judge Kovich there to decide Zora’s fate. Stamets is having Control flashbacks and steps in as prosecutor, finding Zora’s superseding of her functions “terrifying,” with Saru, Culber, and Associates coming to the AI’s defense. Kovich sets the stakes by revealing that sentient AI cannot be integrated into Starfleet ships, and he is authorized to yank her out. Zora feels she and the ship are one and suggests a “failsafe,” essentially a kill switch which Stamets kind of likes. But the defense team, now joined by junior associates Adira and Gray, finds it morally dubious. When Stamets narrows in on how Zora is going against her own programming by refusing an order, the ship reveals her new core programming is to “care for the crew of Discovery,” something she decided all on her own. Again, nice… but not exactly practical.
“War or peace?”
Inside HQ, Rillak has assembled delegates from across the galaxy (both Federation and non) to discuss working together to deal with the DMA. Assuming the location of 10-C will soon be revealed, two positions quickly emerge, with General Ndoye from Earth leading the charge for the “attack” option and Ni’Var President T’Rina advocating “communication.” Even though the DMA is clearly destructive, the debate focuses on how hostility may not be the intent of 10-C. Arguments range from “we need to stop it” to “we need not fear the unknown.” As President Rillak presides with Burnham at her side, Ruan Tarka sidles up to Book to heat up his already stewing need for revenge.
The mad scientist then injects himself into the debate, offering up a banned-by-treaty subspace weapon to wipe out the DMA. “Boom!” He dismisses Burnham’s concerns about the dangers of the weapon (which includes halting all warp travel in a sector) and potential blowback to the 10-C as “collateral damage.” Book also jumps in and he and Burnham briefly argue the two sides, with Book clearly on #TeamTarka. The prez lays it out: the assembly will vote to either destroy the DMA with Tarka’s superbomb or approach 10-C with diplomacy.
“Not to destroy… but to connect.”
The spirited debate puts Book and Burnham on opposite sides, and during a recess, he leaves her side to find solace with his new compadre Tarka. The Risian reveals his true agenda: He wants to use the DMA’s giant power source to jump to a new home in a nice peaceful parallel universe. Realizing his brash brand won’t carry the day, Tarka pushes for Book to tug on the assembled alien heartstrings, which the Kwejian is only too happy to do, advocating for his lost planet and all the DMA’s victims in a powerful “on behalf of all who have been lost, please end this now” speech. It is left to a reluctant Michael to make the case for diplomacy, calling on Federation principles and arguing “not to let fear define us in this moment.” Naturally, her side wins the vote.
Back in Kovich’s Court and thanks to some Adira technifying, they discover that sectors of Zora’s system that were spontaneously created are the equivalent of her subconsciousness filled with memories and even dreams. It’s a greatest hits reel of all the good times with the crew, which low-tech Culber identifyies as “connection, love, this is who she is.” Paralleling Michael’s speech, Stamets is warming up to Zora, but tells her trust is a two-way conduit; she has to trust the crew instead of making decisions for them. After giving it some thought, Zora puts her fear aside and reveals the coordinates. Kovich makes his ruling: Zora is a new lifeform and therefore not subject to the AI rules, so she can stay. But Stamets has one final caveat: Zora should make it official and join Starfleet as a specialist, which would subject her to the chain of command—so no more refusing orders. And there was much rejoicing (and hugging, naturally) as Stamets happily destroys the big red kill button.
There are a few bits of personal business to sort out as the episode winds down. Gray is heading back to Trill with Xi to start his Guardian training and Adira will take a short leave and go along for the ride. The found family says some goodbyes with more hugging. Saru seeks out T’Rina to give her a “succulent” plant and she reveals she has “more than a moment” for him. Get a room, you two! Michael returns to the ship to try to reconnect with Book after their day at odds over galactic politics, but all she finds is Grudge and a glowing goodbye note. Cleveland has gone rogue and teamed up with Tarka, who installs a fancy stolen next-gen prototype mini-spore drive on his ship. Good thing he has a spore navigator on his side! Just as Michael arrives, the pair jumps away, presumably to go it alone on the plan to take down the DMA. Cliffhanger!
Discovery follows up one bottle show with another, with somewhat mixed results. “…But to Connect” has the benefit of an expanded roster of guest stars and a bucketful of background aliens, but at times still feels a bit smaller than last week’s episode. Both the main stories tie together nicely with the theme of the season and embrace the core principles of Star Trek including connectedness, family, and the yearning to explore new life.
Pitting Burnham and Book against each other felt organic for their stories this season and served as an ironic narrative counterpoint to the theme of connectedness, helped along with exceptional and subtle acting by both David Ajala and Sonequa Martin-Green. However, other points being made are sometimes hammered home without the finesse of past Trek episodes like “I, Borg” and “Measure of a Man,” which this episode is trying to evoke.
The laid-back pacing of this entry would work well as part of a binge-watch as this episode ties up the loose Zora ends from the previous entry and sets up the Michael/Book split and hunt for Tarka telegraphed at the end. However, as a weekly show, it feels a bit unfulfilling.
Measure of a computer
The standout storyline is the courtroom drama, helped along with utility player Kovich coming in as judge, jury, and potential executioner of Zora. David Cronenberg gives a strong performance as he guides the heady debate that may not rise to the level of “Measure of a Man” greatness but is still a worthy entry in Trek’s pantheon of exploration of artificial life, with a bit of Asmiov’s Three Laws layered in. This episode firmly establishes Zora as a character on the show, and now a bona fide member of the crew. Also, Zora’s speculation that it was inevitable that she would emerge as sentient once merging with the Disco but the 32nd-century tech accelerated the process feels like it could have implications for that promised connection to “Calypso.”
Anthony Rapp steps up in a big way to play devil’s advocate, voicing Stamets’ many legitimate concerns and keeping the door open for potential future issues as, like Zora herself, this storyline will continue to evolve. However, it wasn’t really necessary to layer Zora’s story of self-actualization into some of the topical themes already being explored with the characters of Adira and Gray.
It’s a small galaxy, after all
With the Zora emergence culminating, this episode opened up the mystery of Tarka in a big way. His hidden agenda has been revealed and it was both surprising and intriguing, albeit a little bit unclear. As telegraphed, his motivation for going after the DMA was indeed personal and related to his time as a prisoner of the Emerald Chain, but we learn now he had a pact with a fellow scientist prisoner to travel to a new parallel universe with no history of The Burn or the Emerald Chain. The talk of this “relentlessly optimistic” scientist is intriguing and opens the door to possible canon cameos, but hopefully this storyline actually embraces Star Trek’s multiverse and points to something new. That said, it’s odd that Tarka needs the enormous power of the DMA for dimensional travel when a transporter and a bit of lightning has done the trick in the past, but he assures us he is super smart so there must be reasons. It’s also clear from their first shared drink in the lounge, Tarka targeted Book (and his spore-drive navigation capability) as part of his plan from the start, and his manipulating is working.
As for the larger assembly, which promised representatives from “all four quadrants” of the galaxy, most Trek fans were probably hoping to see some more familiar faces. While there were a few, the lay of the land in the 32nd century still remains a bit unclear. What’s going on with the Borg, or the Dominion? And even for the assembled aliens, who is in and out of the Federation is still unclear, although we did learn Earth (now united with Titan) is still out, but Rillak wants them back in a bad way. A curious absence: Klingons. Almost ubiquitous with the franchise and a major part of the series from the start, we have not seen one Klingon since jumping into the future, even though the president name-checked the Khitomer Accords and Book even brought up the Klingons in Burnham’s past.
Strong performances and some intriguing sci-fi and moral concepts elevate what would have been an average episode, long on exposition and dialog and short on excitement. “…But to Connect” is a great setup for what is to come, making it all the harder to have to wait until February.
- This episode will serve as a mid-season finale for Discovery, which will return with episode 8 on February 10, 2022.
- This is Lee Rose’s fourth time directing Discovery and her second this season.
- This is the second Discovery writing credit for Terri Hughes Burton, who joined the series as a co-executive producer for season four.
- This is the first Discovery writing credit for staff writer Carlos Cisco, who joined the series as a writer’s assistant in season three.
- The Discovery is shown to have significant damage as a result of “Stormy Weather” with much of the outer ring of the saucer being replaced by Archer Station.
- The USS Voyager-J gets another mention, with Stamets suggesting at one point to use their computer to help analyze the data.
- Dr. Kovich uses the Latin term “experto credite” which is a quote from the epic poem Aenieid and means “trust one who has experience.” The variation “Experto Crede” is the motto of the USAF 89th Airlift Wing which operates Air Force One.
- The Federation currently has 60 member worlds, so the only new member since episode 401 is Ni’Var.
- Book argues with Michael that she has been one to “take on the enemy” and specifically mentions the Klingons, referring to her actions in the series premiere “The Vulcan Hello,” which kicked off a war.
- The ban on isolytic subspace weapons was part of the Second Khitomer Accords, as established in Star Trek: Insurrection.
- Tarka’s isolytic weapon was developed based on the experiment he did on the USS Discovery in episode 405.
- Tarka said one species tried to attack the DMA with 1,600 quantum torpedoes.
- Book refers to himself as a “speaker for the dead,” which is a term from the sci-fi novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card.
- Adira mentions the “All Is Possible” snowglobe given to them by Tilly in “All Is Possible.”
- This is David Cronenberg’s sixth appearance as Kovich and third in season four.
- Phumzile Sitole returns to play (now General) Ndoye of the United Earth Defense Force, last seen in the season three episode “People of Earth.”
- Alex McCooeye returns as Emperor Lee’U of the Alshain (“the butterfly people”) introduced in episode 401.
- Other familiar alien conference attendees include an Andorian, Orion, Lurian, Vulcan, Cardassian, Trill, Shlerm, Osnullus, and Ferengi.
More to come
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