The following contains Star Trek: Discovery spoilers.
Star Trek Discovery Season 4 Episode 10
Star Trek: Discovery goes where few have gone before in “The Galactic Barrier,” taking us out of the Milky Way and into extra-galactic space, a moment of awe that is quietly lovely in a way that little else in the episode is. (How often do we get to see Star Trek show us these kinds of big, humanity-shifting moments? Not enough!) Yet, the hour stops well short of giving us any real answers about the mysterious Uknown Species 10-C or even providing a glimpse of what they or their galaxy might look like. And I can’t be the only person who’s starting to feel like this most recent group of episodes has turned out to be little more than stealth filler to pad the fact they’re not planning to get to the meat of this story until the season’s about to end. [Insert long put upon sign here]
Sure, there have been plenty of great moments in these recent episodes: Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala have been selling the heck out of the philosophical and emotional conflict between Burnham and Book, and the show itself has largely been presenting different ideas about how to proceed with the issue of the DMA with a surprising amount of nuance and thoughtfulness. The addition of President Rillak has led to some useful and interesting debates about what the Federation as an institution is supposed to be in a post-Burn world. And apparently, I am willing to sit through literally anything for the slightest chance that Mr. Saru and President T’Rina might exchange weird plants again or have tea for five minutes.
But at this point, if they’re going to keep dragging out this whole Species 10-C reveal, Discovery has got to give us a better secondary story than what we got this week. I mean, apologies if you were among the possible dozen people who were dying to see a sappy Ruon Tarka backstory episode about his time being held prisoner by the Emerald Chain, but I truly cannot fathom why the show thinks we are—or even should be—so invested in this character. And his sappy backstory isn’t even that good!
Perhaps, had the show handled Tarka’s evolution to this point differently and, say, showed us some (or, you know, any) of this guilt and torment he’s supposedly been carrying around for years prior to this moment or possibly indicated that he was capable of emotionally bonding with or caring about another sentient being. Instead, we’ve had multiple episodes of him being a completely selfish jerk who has been completely out for his own ends, and now we’re supposed to feel bad for him because his lone friend has disappeared? Or has possibly built a functional interdimensional transporter to another supposedly heaven-like universe neither of them is even sure exists?
Cry me a river, is what I’m saying. But, of course, empathetic Book finds this all very moving, because he’s been a prisoner of the Emerald Chain himself and the shared memories of torture seem to, if not bond the two men, at least convince him that he shouldn’t kick Tarka off his ship immediately. A move I am sure that Book in no way will come to deeply regret later on.
Meanwhile, over on the Discovery, there’s some fun Stamets Science to save the day, which involves Heisenberg, spatial cells, and negative energy particles, which all somehow manage to allow the ship to travel through the Galactic Barrier and create a cool effect that visually desaturates the screen for a bit. And, naturally, there’s a also new potentially world ending crisis, as the second DMA, the one which replaced the version Tarka destroyed last week, has like twice the power of its predecessor (great job, guys!) and is capable of mining at a much more rapid rate. End result: It’s already moved to a new harvesting site, a whole lot sooner than the week that was initially predicted.
And, of course, it’s now in the Alpha Quadrant, meaning that its deadly gravitational waves will put Earth, Ni’Var, Titan, and most of the major planets our crew calls home at risk of Kweijan-like destruction. Rillak and Burnham’s subsequent fast and furious debate about whether or not to tell the crew the truth about the threat Earth is facing is…well, on paper it’s the kind of discussion I’m glad to know that Star Trek still considers an important thing to highlight its stories, but haven’t we seen these two women have some variation of this same conversation like four times now? No matter how much I love debating how best to balance the philosophical and political realities of the Federation, surely there must be a better way to cover this ground? (Sidebar: I did love Michael’s quiet “you’re my president too” to Rillak. Their entire relationship is simultaneously so weird and strangely interesting. )
Thankfully, as seems to be the norm for the second half of this season, the episode is saved (for me at least) by pretty much everything involving Saru and T’Rina. From Saru’s decision to awkwardly confess his feelings for her just in case he happens to die on this mission to the Galactic Barrier to Hugh Culber’s status as the most adorable wingman in Starfleet, well. Let’s just say this all feels like fanfic written specifically for me. And I want more of it.
Because come on, T’Rina asking Saru (and his “comforting presence”) to sit with her while she mentally and emotionally processes the possibility of Ni’Var’s destruction, that’s practically as good as a date, right? Not traditional, but what about this relationship is? It’s such a sweet moment that I’m not even mad that so many high-ranking political figures are somehow on this first contact mission despite the fact that the odds are decent they’ll all die on it. (Seriously Rillak *and* T’Rina? I know, I know the designated Ni’Var delegate couldn’t make it for whatever reason, but still.)
Maybe next week we’ll finally see the mysterious Species 10-C? Please? At this point, I’m about to give up hope they’re even real.