Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 11 – Debuted Thursday, March 3, 2022
Written by Terri Hughes Burton
Directed by Jeff Byrd & Jen McGowan
Discovery rises from its mid-season malaise with a smart, self-contained episode to bring back some of the sci-fi wonder the series was built for, while still building on the character and plot arcs for the season.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“The coming… of death”
The ticking clock gives Captain Burnham 29 hours to stop the DMA before it takes out Earth and Ni’Var. With no way yet to make contact with 10-C, she risks spending precious time exploring the lifeless core of a former gas giant believed to be the original home of the elusive DMA builders in hopes for some “cultural context.” Saru, Culber, and Detmer join her for a slow-mo hero walk, hearing out but ultimately dismissing the concerns of the skittish first contact delegation, especially Earth General Ndoye.
Down on the dusty lifeless planet, all they find are some ominously big—like really big—bones… actually a mass grave of them. Not all the 10-C got out before the planet was destroyed by asteroids a millennia ago. As the landing party heads to the only intact structure, Saru goes all first-season Kelpien with visions of being under attack. By the time they get inside the mysterious structure they are still coming up empty in terms of finding anything useful, and now Culber and Captain Burnham are now crippled to “an exceptional degree” by the same fiery visions. Keyla Detmer is the only one keeping it together… for now.
“What kind of idiot would pull a practical joke in the middle of an existential threat?”
As for Book and Tarka, they are hiding out close by hatching a plan to latch onto the Disco like a remora–sorry a Kwejian nightsprey–to “hitch a ride” into the 10-C hyperfield. The plan requires a crazy daring infiltration of a starship constantly monitored by a sentient supercomputer, but luckily, Tarka is a supergenius who whips up some techno-armbands to hide the pair from Zora, letting them sneak around the Jefferies tubes to do some sabotage, mixed with some light peeping. And it is this prying that gives Book the idea to recruit Ndoye, who is itching for action. The smooth-talking former courier is able to talk her into helping them, as long as they agree to let diplomacy have the first crack at 10-C before they blow anything up.
Tarka busies himself with getting Zora to ignore Book’s ship, but first, he gets to watch a nice moment of Reno giving Adira some wisdom on how no one is as confident as they appear, and how Adira could approach their idol, boy-does-she-have-it-together Detmer. That coffee break inspires the mad scientist to get replicators across the ship to malfunction, distracting Reno long enough for him to install that sensor numbing patch, but not long enough for him not to get spotted hiding under a table upon her return. “Please tell me I just spoiled a surprise party.”
“I’m going to let it in”
On the planet, even in the grips of fear visions, the landing party works the problem like professionals, eventually figuring out the common factor was contact with some blue dust hydrocarbons the fancy 32nd-century EV suits didn’t know how to handle. Keyla reprograms the suits and presto, everyone is fine—and this is the key. The various alien hydrocarbons are somehow able to communicate universally like pheromones, with the point driven home when Michael experiments with some orange dust next to some long-dead incubators, filling her with feelings of love… the rest join in, with Detmer being particularly moved by the experience. “This is what we came for.”
Thanks to the team’s findings, Stamets is able to identify over a dozen different compounds corresponding to different emotional states, reporting “this data changes everything.” Even the acerbic Dr. Hirai—after a glare from Rillak—expresses optimism this can lead to being able to communicate with 10-C, but there is still a nagging worry that it’s quite possible these beings may simply not care what the DMA is doing to the galaxy.
With just a day left for Earth, the course is set for the hyperfield, giving Saru and T’Rina time for a stroll on the holodeck (wink wink), Adira time to rustle up the courage to talk to Detmer, and Burnham an opportunity to have a heart-to-heart with Culber. Book also had the chance to (creepily) see Michael one last time before returning to his ship, now snugly attached to the Disco, only to find Tarka has brought along a surprise guest… Commander Reno. “Nothing like coming home to an unexpected hostage, am I right?” Indeed.
Once more, with feelings
With “Rosetta,” Discovery finally feels like it is moving again after spinning its wheels for a couple of episodes. Visiting an alien planet full of danger and mystery is pure Star Trek and done well here with a story that could have stood on its own even if it wasn’t—finally—making progress on the season’s big story arc. And what could be more on-brand for this show than finding a scientific solution tied to emotion and empathy? The visual effects on the planet were stunning and showed how the production team is getting more adept in the use of the new AR Wall virtual set technology.
Doug Jones was the MVP of this story, digging back into his earlier portrayal of a fearful Saru and showing more range as he went from a Kelpien crippled by visions on the planet, to inspiring leader with Detmer, to flirtatious boyfriend with T’Rina. Emily Coutts also deserves praise for helping fill out more dimensions of Detmer, as we learn more about her (of course tragic) backstory, with some earned emotional displays. All of this helped sell the overall theme of the importance of feelings, which now seems a key part of the 10-C plot.
The Tarka and Book B-story was not as strong, mostly giving the pair something to do as they waited for the Starfleet crew to make their discoveries. David Ajala and Shawn Doyle did the best with what they were given, even when it bordered on stalking. But their skulking around the ship did allow us to peer in on some fun moments with Adira, Linus, and the always fun Reno, with a welcome return of Tig Notaro. As for the whole logic of how Zora could be so easily tricked and not notice Reno leaving the ship, it’s best not to dwell. But adding her to the Book/Tarka mix promises to be delightful.
Strange new world
“Rosetta” filled in a lot of blanks on the mystery of the 10-C, revealing they could be the genuinely unique species they have been promised to be. Huge floating gas giant dwellers that communicate via hydrocarbons is intriguing, again something good Star Trek should strive for. And now we know they built their hyperfield after a planetary disaster 1000 years ago, so who knows how much more advanced they have become?
Much still remains to be sorted out in the two episodes remaining, most notably 10-C’s true motivation and awareness of the impact their DMA is having on the Milky Way. And speaking of motivation, here’s hoping Book isn’t again ignoring Tarka’s, because the scientist obsessed with getting the DMA power source may not care about the deal struck with Ndoye.
Discovery is now back on course as we head to the penultimate episode. “Rosetta” entertained while reigniting the imagination, getting the audience engaged again in the big story and big themes for the season.
- The titular Rosetta Stone is a 2nd-century slab found in Egypt in 1799 with a decree in both ancient Egyptian and ancient Greek, currently on display at the British Museum.
- This is the third Discovery writing credit for Terri Hughes Burton, who joined the series as a co-executive producer for season four.
- For the second time this season, two directors share credit, with veteran television director Jeff Byrd’s first time with the franchise and relative newcomer Jen McGowan’s second for the season.
- The episode starts on Stardate 865783.7
- To distract Reno, replicators were programmed to make “steamed bananas,” a nod to the series premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks and a repeated “banana, hot” replicator malfunction.
- The original 10-C system included Dyson Rings, theoretical stellar megastructures similar to Larry Niven’s eponymous Ringworld. A Dyson Sphere was seen in the TNG episode “Relics.”
- The team used shuttle DSC09 to get to the planet, with Detmer using “Disco Zero Nine” as a callsign.
- For the second week in a row, the Ferengi delegate says nothing, and Dr. Hirai continues to snack.
- Rillak guessed Dr. Hirai’s holographic crossword puzzle was Altonian, like the Altonian Brain Teaser puzzle Jadzia Dax played in Deep Space Nine.
- The EV suits have color-coded accents to denote division.
- Michael and Saru refer to his Vahar’ai in season two, where he was able to let go of his innate Kelpien fear (and his threat ganglia).
- During the war with the Klingons, Commander Reno learned to enjoy the Klingon beverage Raktajino.
- The Plim of Asp 27 communicate via changing the scent in their breath.
- Burnham replicates maví, a tree bark-based beverage from Puerto Rico, to give Culber a taste of home.
More to come
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