Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 8 – Debuted Thursday, February 10, 2022
Written by Sean Cochran
Directed by Christopher J. Byrne and Jen McGowan
Discovery returns with a fun, if fleeting, sci-fi excursion that moves the season plot forward a bit with added development for some underutilized characters.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Do everything you can to stop them”
Picking up immediately after the mid-season finale, Admiral Vance is super-pissed Book and Tarka absconded with the super-classified prototype spore drive on a mission to build an illegal super-weapon to attack the DMA. And the President is even more pissed because Tarka–we learn–was handpicked by Vance and allowed to work without any oversight. A megalomaniac super-genius with access to huge resources—what could go wrong, right? But Chuck has a plan, revealing the MacGuffin of the week: isolynium, a rare black market substance Tarka is going to need for his big bomb. Find the source, find the mad scientist. Easy peasy, except POTUFP thinks Cap Burnham is too close to the problem due to her past with Book, so she is given the secondary task of data gathering for Species 10-C to prep for first contact. Plot twist! Vance pops over to the Disco to give Mike extra orders to get “creative” as she gathers data and hit two Tarkas with one ship. She already has an idea where Book may be headed: It’s off the beaten path where the Federation isn’t exactly welcome, but it (conveniently) is also where she can gather some 10-C locating star charts.
As for Book and Tarka, the pair isn’t exactly hitting it off like Butch and Sundance. Theirs is clearly a crime duo of convenience, with Ruon’s mega-ego envisioning that after they pull off their plan, they’ll return to be greeted as Federation liberators. Cleveland knows the score, they are headed for the Starfleet big house, but he is single-minded, determined to ensure no one else suffers as he has with the loss of Kwejian. The wary former courier heads to a remote alien planet where he thinks he can find some of that isolynium as he accepts how much all of this will cost him.
“Everyone’s a winner”
Arriving at a sci-fi riverboat casino (hidden inside a holographic sea serpent, naturally), Book and Tarka work their way through scum and villainy to find the colorful proprietor, Haz Mazaro. Happy to see his old pal, Haz says he can get them the stuff they need, but then takes all of their latinum to cover an old debt of Book’s, leaving them high and dry. The confident Tarka has a plan to make some quick cash, offering to find the cheaters that have been plaguing the casino. As for Michael, she is warping in via shuttle to keep a low profile, and she has brought Owo with her, nominally to help verify any star charts, but really to give the bridge officer a chance to get into the action after her antsyness was revealed a couple of episodes ago. They arrive at Mazaro’s, and while those star charts look look like an easy get, the price on isolynium has gone beyond what they have in their bag of lantium, but Joann has an idea.
Michael and Book meet up and the couple finds themselves at irreconcilable differences, so each heads off with their respective partners to farm some latinum for their fetch quests. Thanks to the impressive MMA skills (and impressive trash-talking) of Joann “Ow Wow” Owosekun, Michael (channeling her inner Don King) gets the cash she needs. Meanwhile, Book and Tarka suss out the cheating team—which turns out to be a single Changeling, rotating alien disguises. Both of these fun action sequences require a bit of assistance from the former lovers, showing they can still work together. However, Haz has one more surprise: There are now even more bidders for the MacGuffininium, with the latest two being Emerald Chain holdouts “hoping to become the next Osyrra.”
As all these hijinks are happening, back on the Disco Paul Stamets finds himself with some time on his hands after Zora offers to handle the 10-C data tedium; those two seem to have patched things up nicely. He finds Hugh in their quarters stress-cleaning and yelling at the Roomba DOT-23. The doctor is beating himself up for not spotting the signs with Book, taking on the weight of everyone on the ship and the whole galaxy. In a nice, touching moment, Stamets counsels the ship’s counselor, guiding him to give himself a break, and pointing all his own stresses to relate. Leaning into the season theme, he suggests they find comfort in being “terrified together,” with a stroll through the flowers on the holodeck. Aw.
“You leave me no choice”
Back on the barge, Haz has decided to hold a poker tournament to determine who gets the isolynium. Michael and Book can at least agree the two Emerald Chain would-be tyrants should not get their hands on the dangerous stuff, so they revert back to their fun courier chemistry as they (quite obviously) cheat to knock the two glowering thugs out of the game. Owo and Tarka watch, with Joann getting the better of some verbal jousting, getting the genius to reveal more of his motivation and the “degree of loss” he has suffered. With the last-minute Chain entrants dispatched, the stakes get serious with “the battle of bygone love” between Book and Michael as they gamble with what remains of their bond. She tries one more time to pull him back from the brink, making it clear if he stays on this path, Starfleet will go after him with everything it has, including her. But he is all in, taking the last hand and the precious isolynium.
Back at Starfleet HQ, Michael’s report gives the President another reason to scold the Captain (and the Admiral who instructed her to find a loophole to get around her wishes). But the commander of the USS Discovery reveals she knew she would lose to Book, so with a flair for the dramatic, she reveals how she snuck a tracker on the isolynium so they have something to do next episode. She also reiterates her commitment to Starfleet’s mission, putting the safety of the Federation ahead of any personal connections, including Book. As a bonus, the star data Michael gathered from Haz reveals a closer look at 10-C’s location, with Stamets identifying a giant artificial “hyperfield” requiring massive amounts of energy. And that was the final key to understanding the DMA: It’s not a weapon, it’s a dredge scooping around the galaxy for a rare mineral to maintain the home system. Vance points out if the DMA is their mining equipment, they don’t want to find out what kind of weapons these guys have. And if Book and Tarka blow up the DMA, they just might find themselves on the wrong end of those weapons. The prez lays it out, they have to be stopped, “whatever the cost.” Dun, dun, duuuuun!
“All In” is a fun and entertaining diversion, taking a trip away from the usual trappings to literally play some games. But between the quips and cards, Discovery pays off on earned moments between key characters Michael and Book, who now find themselves in opposition yet still can’t help but love each other and even have a little fun in the middle of these galactic stakes. While the episode did play with some tropes and clichés, David Ajala and Sonequa Martin-Green make it work by chewing up the scenery with some fun dialogue and situations.
The episode didn’t try to do too much (as middle-season outings of Discovery often do), giving some nice moments to characters like Saru, Stamets and Culber, but not so much as to distract from the main story. This was also a rare opportunity for Oyin Oladejo to take Owosekun on a mission, where she too showed some range—not just physically, but also jousting verbally with Shawn Doyle’s Tarka, getting him to reveal a bit more about the his motivation, which has something to do with a great loss. And after being away for a few episodes, Oded Fehr came back strong, revealing some more nuance to Vance and a bit more about his complex history with Tarka. Chelah Horsdal continues to impress as President Rillak, able to hold her own with all of them.
However, once again the series uses a hammer instead of a brush to paint the picture of the season’s theme of “uncertainty.” But it showed a bit more trust for its audience as it weaved in environmental messages, exposing the DMA as a form of galactic mining and providing another reminder that the Federation needs to get off of its dependence on dilithium.
A Kwejian walks into a bar…
Seedy alien bars are a sci-fi trope perfected by the Star Wars franchise but also a recurring element in Star Trek history. The “Karma Barge” casino was one of the more successful attempts to show the other side of life in the future. The production design was excellent, although they could have avoided some clichés (like various things unnecessarily glowing to look futuristic). But more importantly, Discovery eschewed some of the more tired tropes, like scantily clad space-babes, and the cashier (Oksana Sirju)’s deadpan April Ludgate delivery made the trip worth it.
This was all helped along by the memorable character of Haz Mazaro, who was injected with a mix of mirth and menace by veteran character actor Daniel Kash. Hopefully, we will see more of Mazaro in the future and hear more of his colorful phrases. Together, Haz and his bar help make this all feel real and grounded, which was the right setting for Michael and Book to have their showdown, away from the sterile trappings of Starfleet, although why she and Owo wore their Starfleet uniforms to a place that was supposed to be unfriendly to the Federation is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps the uniforms, which stand out like a beacon, were a way to show the growing chasm between Burnham and Book, who has returned to his element in this bar.
Going out on the fringe like this was an opportunity to bring in some Star Trek aliens, but for the most part, it was the usual suspects we have already seen wandering around the 32nd century. The one notable and exciting exception was the Changeling cheater. The updated morphing effects were very impressive, but it would have been nice to learn a bit about the fate of the Dominion and The Great Link, or at least how this one Founder ended up as a cheat on the edge of the galaxy.
Even with all of these alien games and character beats, “All In” did move the main season arc forward a good amount. While Species 10-C remains the big mystery, we did learn that they’re using the DMA to power the giant “hyperfield” surrounding their system. And the choice of Boronite as their preferred fuel is intriguing. But with five more episodes to go, it may be a while until we get to the bottom of all of this.
Five weeks of Prodigy filled the time well, but “All In” was a welcome return to the 32nd century with a mix of action, emotion, and some needed humor. A solid episode with a few questionable choices, but everyone seemed to be having fun with it and that rubs off as a viewer. It also doesn’t hurt that they threw in an extra helping of Star Trek lore nods (see below). More importantly, some intriguing new pieces of the big puzzle help spark the imagination and rekindle interest in Discovery for the back half of season four.
- The title “All In” refers to betting your entire stake, and Owo, Michael and Book each said “all in” at different times.
- Sean Cochran has been part of the Discovery writers’ room since season one, and this is his fourth script credit and first for season four.
- In a series first, the episode has two credited directors. This would be Christopher J. Byrne’s fourth time directing Discovery, and he worked as a second unit director in season one. This is Jen McGowan’s first Star Trek credit.
- When Admiral Vance is looking for ships to join the search for Book and Tarka, he mentions the Eisenberg-class, a 32nd-century Starfleet ship class introduced in season three and named in honor of late DS9 actor Aron Eisenberg.
- Isolyneum is a new Star Trek substance, required to make the isolytic subspace weapon that Tarka proposed in the previous episode. Isolytic weapons were banned as part of the Second Khitomer Accords, but the Son’a used one fighting the USS Enterprise in Star Trek: Insurrection.
- Haz Mazaro’s Karma Barge is on Porathia, which was the location where the ISS Discovery and USS Discovery swapped places in season one. It has also been spotted on star charts previously on Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.
- After being repaired at Archer Station, the USS Discovery is now using 32nd century Federation shuttles, first seen in detail in the fourth season episode “The Examples.” Captain Burnham and Owo flew in “DSC03.”
- Stamets mentioned that the energy field surrounding the 10-C system works like a Faraday Cage, which is a metal mesh that can block any radio frequencies from being emitted.
- The field around the system measures 220 million kilometers, making it the largest artificial object in Star Trek, coming in 10% bigger than the Dyson Sphere from the TNG episode “Relics.”
- Haz Mazaro’s nickname for Book is “Glow-Worm,” presumably after his quest to save giant Trance Worms and not for the much smaller terrestrial glowworm.
- Haz’s nickname for Michael is “right hook,” which she demonstrated by knocking out the fighter Kurr.
- Burnham hypes Owo by saying she was “the most ferocious fighter this side of Felton Prime.”
- One of the items Mazaro was selling was Devore Scanners. (They were on special, too.)
- Tarka was not impressed, declaring the scanners “couldn’t pick out a Betazoid standing all alone in a Nieser cage,” but he still uses it in his scheme to catch the cheating Changeling.
- The Changeling briefly tries to escape by transforming into a very fast tribble.
- Haz Mazaro’s Karma Barge included a wide array of aliens including Mazaro himself, who was of an unknown species. In addition to the Changeling, familiar races seen included Human, Ferengi, Cardassian, Andorian, Lurian, and Tellarite.
- Leonian Poker appears to have similar rules to seven-card stud, where a flush beats a straight; however, it also includes additional hands like a “Wardrobe” and “Emperor’s New Clothes.”
- The home of Species 10-C was identified to be located in a star system outside of the Milky Way. These kinds of extragalactic stars are a real thing, believed to be expelled from the galaxy and no longer gravitationally bound to the galaxy.
- Daniel Kash (Haz) has been on Discovery before: He played Duggan in season 3’s “Terra Firma, Part 2,” executed by Mirror Michael Burnham while in the brig.
- Warren Scherer, who played the fighter Kurr, has no known fighting experience, but the bouncer (credited as “Beefy Guy”) was played by Nabil Khatib, who is also an MMA fighter nicknamed “The Thrill.”
- The Emerald Chain holdouts were not named, but they were credited as Mat’Trub (Jason Gosbee) and Zakari (Claudia Jurt).
- Book mentions “keeping off the RADAR,” again demonstrating how the 20th-century technologies of RADAR and SONAR continue to be part of the culture in the 32nd century.
More of Haz Mazaro’s colorful sayings
Haz Mazaro was full of delightful alien aphorisms, filled with some callbacks (including some deep cuts) to Star Trek lore. These include…
- A swamp cat could’ve learned the Hortan Hustle since I last saw you.
- I had to scurry like a spider cow.
- I have missed you like a Cardassian misses cake.
- It’s true what the Elasians say. Give a man a tor-bak, and you are warm in the desert.
- I’m a banta tree either way.
- What in the katterpod and Calaman sherry is going on here?
- While you two were strutting around like Klingons in a Disco…
- Act like an Armus, swim the Poranthian Ocean with weighted boots.
More to come
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