Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 12 – Debuted Thursday, March 10, 2022
Written by Kyle Jarrow
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
The penultimate episode of the season is mixed with smart sci-fi themes and not-so-smart choices, ending up as just the first half of an exciting two-part finale.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“Something is coming”
After finally arriving at the 10-C hyperfield, none of the standard forms of communication are working. “It’s like they don’t even know we are here.” Rude. Time for Plan B, spraying “peacefulness” gas on the field. Sure, why not? And it works! In a form of reply, the ship gets sucked in via a cool CGI snake, encased like sausage, and served up to one of three identical gas giants on the inside of the stellar megastructure. Surrounded by hundreds of life forms, everyone starts scanning everyone but still no dialogue between the Disco and 10-C, while time runs out for Earth, the ticking clock set to 15 hours.
Pushing through the First Contact Committee’s debates, Michael remembers standard dinner party Federation Diplomatic Corps etiquette and suggests offering up a gift in the form of some boronite. That works too… the 10-C just love molecules! Something approaches the shuttle bay door, and we never get a good look at the nebulous glowing lifeform, but it sure is big, and Dr. Hirai can tell it has—in a fashion—eyes, ears, and even a nose… let’s call him Cloudy. So Cloudy starts spraying out all those hydrocarbons identified last week and flashing a bunch of lights, but without context, it’s all Space-Greek to this collection of the Galaxy’s finest xeno-talkers.
“What you are doing is wrong”
Unbeknownst to all (but one) of the crew, Book’s ship has latched on for a ride like an evil cloaked barnacle. Ndoye is feeding Book and Tarka updates while prisoner Reno snaps licorice and snarks lines from her makeshift cell. “I never knew being kidnapped could be so boring,” she complains. Tarka has found the DMA source and has a plan to get to it, but he’d better hurry up now that Zora has checked herself into therapy with Dr. Culber; the sentient supercomputer knows there is something off, but she can’t quite put her isolinear finger on it. Reno, who senses Cleveland has issues with a guy who is “a couple of cherries short of a sundae, ” really gets all the best lines this week, making up for lost time. But Mr. Booker also opens up about why he is working with the mad scientist, and even the origin of his name, which apparently is more of a brand, like the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Reno sees an opening, telling Book how she coped (poorly) with the death of her wife to find common ground and to point out people make “dubious choices” when in pain, but he is in too deep to see it. Speaking of not seeing, people are JUST noticing Reno is nowhere to be found on the Discovery, but no need to worry, right? Jett has been keeping an eye on Tarka’s work and has sorted out his plan is just a tad genocidal, potentially wiping out the 10-C system and Earth too. Shocking? Not really. But this info does get Book to finally start asking questions until Tarka admits it, justifying that maybe some people will survive. Not reassuring. Book takes action after finally realizing he has made a deal with a Risan devil but Tarka was ready for the fight and planned ahead by setting up a nifty personal forcefield. So, now Book is locked up along with Reno, with nothing to stop “Psycho-pants.”
“They have sent us a greater-than symbol and a sadness hydrocarbon”
The First Contact Committee calls up for some help from the bridge crew, who tag team communication science with some old-fashioned common sense, leading to the “Eureka moment” of combining the light patterns and molecule projections into complete expressions… which turn out to be equations. Yes, it was the power of math… we miss you, Tilly. Finally able to respond, Cloudy seems pleased, sending over an orb with a welcoming door and a message of peace. The prez decides to head in with Michael, Saru, and T’Rina, with Ndoye (not suspiciously at all) choosing to sit this one out. Dr. Hirai isn’t happy about being left behind too, but they need him as a backup in case things go awry. While they wait for Stamets to build them a translation box thing, Saru and T’Rina exchange some awkward moments and Michael takes her first officer aside to admit she is feeling out of control. The longtime friends are able to help each other, hug/yell it out, and get back on mission. They enter the mysterious orb, just as the search for Reno gets serious, heating up when they find her badge still sending out biometric data… but without her attached. Is it suspicious yet?
Inside the orb, 10-C shows a polite understanding of production budgets, recreating the USS Discovery bridge for their floating embassy. Using Stamets’ translator and some sharp thinking they are able to relay their most important message: DMA + Us = Terror, and the 10-C respond with empathy. Now we’re finally getting somewhere! Unfortunately, this is the moment Ndoye blindly follows a text message from Tarka to sabotage the ship, blowing a hole in the shell around Discovery and freeing Book’s ship. What’s the combination of molecules and light for “WTF”? Cloudy closes down the embassy, sending the team back to the shuttle bay just as Reno is finally able to get a message out via a hidden licorice-sticky communicator, briefing Captain Burnham on Tarka’s plan. “You have to stop us, whatever it takes!” Cliffhanger!
A whole new level
“Species 10-C” has much promise, starting with the episode name itself. And indeed, we do finally get to say hello to this elusive mysterious force that has been behind everything this season. Discovery is delivering on the stated goal of creating something unique and exploring how difficult it would be to communicate with a truly alien species. The concept of being able to pull up to a planet, hop down and talk to people who more or less look human via magical devices helps keep the various Star Trek series running, but taking a moment to show how alien an alien can be is fascinatingly scrutinized here, evoking thoughtful science fiction literature and films like Contact, Arrival, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Introducing concepts like Kardashev Scale with Species 10-C speculated to be a Level 2 Civilization is compelling and fits with this season’s theme of uncertainty.
Aren’t you forgetting something?
All of the characters involved in this effort showed smarts, giving even the bridge crew another chance to shine. This is why it is so frustrating that otherwise, the characters have some combination of amnesia or willful ignorance when it comes to the threat of Tarka, a threat that has been apparent since the character was introduced early in the season. There can be some fun in letting the audience be a little ahead of your characters to create dramatic tension, but not to the extent that you want to start throwing things at your screen.
Because two episodes of Star Trek are being released this week, one cannot help but contrast how the Picard characters never fall into this trope to keep up the drama in “Penance.” And while both shows are highly serialized, that other entry was still able to feel like more of a complete story, instead of just the first half of a two-part finale for Discovery, and without the “Part 1” moniker to give you a heads up.
All that said, “Species 10-C” was entertaining, elevated by strong performances, especially from Tig Notaro and David Ajala, who both added more layers to their characters. While the guest stars have been just as strong, the dominating presence of Rillak, Tarka, and even T’Rina and Hirai has meant that some of our regulars, like Stamets and Adira, are relegated to the background, popping in to tech some tech but kept away from most of the action. Character frustrations are mostly overshadowed by the thoughtful science fiction and building excitement to the season finale.
- This is the second Discovery writing credit for Kyle Jarrow, who joined the series as a co-executive producer for season four.
- Executive producer Olatunde Osunsanmi continues to have the most Discovery directing credits with his eleventh time behind the camera. He has been the producing director for the series since season one.
- For the first time, we see Stamets’ Lab has a large airlock in the ceiling, allowing for the DOT-23 robots to easily exit after being loaded up.
- They keep calling Stamets’ SCIENCE Lab “Engineering,” so maybe it has changed since the refit (and season four extensive repair)… or maybe they just don’t want to build another set.
- Dr. Hirai continues to be seen snacking in each episode.
- Burnham mentions how METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) speculated the mathematical language Lincos could be used for alien communication. Anson Mount (Captain Pike of Discovery and Strange New Worlds) is on the board of directors of METI.
More to come
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