Star Trek: Discovery – Season 4 Episode 11

Mar 3, 2022 | Posted by in TV


Star Trek: Discovery prepares for contact with Species 10-C with a visit to an uninhabited planet that may provide information to form the basis of communication.

The recent run of episodes have frustratingly lost a great deal of momentum. Dialogue constantly references urgency and doom being just on the horizon but the actual pace of the storytelling fails to reflect that. With a few tweaks this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem as the focus could be on preparing to encounter the unknown and the associated difficulties that come with planning for it. Instead there’s an awkward disconnect between those preparations and the imminent apocalyptic threat.


Gearing up

As the episode begins there are 29 hours remaining until the DMA starts chewing through Earth, Ni’Var and other familiar locations. There are many unknowns to puzzle through in that time so Burnham’s idea is to visit an uninhabited planet close to the Hyperfield to hopefully find some clues that will help first contact with Species 10-C. There are markers pointing to it being a planet they perhaps once called home so it’s a reasonable place to start.

The preparations for First Contact draw on Burnham’s background as a xenoanthropologist. At one point in her life understanding other cultures was top of her priority list and now her focus is on stopping a destructive force from wiping out billions of lives. Despite that her curiosity and excitement -however tempered- remains intact because encountering something truly unknown is the dream of most who join Starfleet. She is also understandably terrified as the potential exists for Species 10-C to be hostile and if that’s the case there’s nothing they could do to combat them.

There are three main plots at play in the episode. Burnham’s team on the planet, Book and Tarka figuring out a way to follow Discovery undetected and a minor engineering based subplot. Connecting the three plots is the theme of communication and understanding. The main plot on the planet is most explicit in exploring this theme as the characters have to use context clues and analysis to begin to understand what they’re dealing with. A disaster necessitated evacuation but skeletal remains indicate that it was impossible for everyone to be safely evacuated. The remains are huge so it appears that Species 10-C are very large and evolved be native to gas giants. Based on this they are significantly different to the bipedal air breathing model that makes up the majority of aliens in this franchise. The mystery surrounding what will face the characters when they encounter Species 10-C is effective and the clues delivered through the remains being found only enhance this. Regardless of it being drawn out for too long the incremental reveals successfully build anticipation for something unlike anything encountered before in this franchise.


Less than welcoming

Much of the focus of the planetary plot is on the emotional impact of simply being there. Hydrocarbon dust affects the characters in various ways with the dust found in different locations producing a different emotional state. This starts with Saru experiencing fear and sensing the coming of death; two things he hasn’t felt in a long time. The sensation is overwhelming and feeds into an idea that is explored through all involved in this mission. Different dust deposits produce different emotional states and force the characters to think about experiences over the course of their lives. Detmer thinks about her family life and a loss she experienced growing up that contributed to the way she lives her life. Earlier in the episode it is pointed out that she is less affected by what surrounds them than anyone else and she points out that she has become adept at compartmentalising her feelings so that she can focus on an immediate problem. It’s not something she always excels at as evidenced by her mental struggles in the previous season but boxing up her feelings is something she can do and it helps her function.

She relates to Saru once she relives a painful memory as they are both overwhelmed by discomfort. Saru makes the point that all experiences make up who we are whether they be positive or negative. All are important and all help define who a person becomes. Suffering a loss at a young age has shaped Detmer into someone who hides from and denies her feelings as a coping mechanism for example or the hardships faced by Burnham shaped her into someone who feels compelled to save everyone and doesn’t accept defeat. Saru’s point is obvious but poignant and the associated examples allow this aspect of the episode to be far more than plot driven.

Another notable aspect of this plot is that Burnham isn’t the focus. She is in charge and moves things forward but from a characterisation point of view she performs a support role. Saru, Detmer and Culber receive more attention and carry the emotional weight of these scenes. This is a refreshing development for a show that typically forces Burnham into the limelight to the detriment of others. Her personal history would have made her ideally suited to an intense emotional reaction to the surrounding situation but it worked better to have her keep a cool head in the face of overwhelming emotion. It made her important but didn’t overshadow the other characters.


We’re gonna need a bigger boat

The two biggest takeaways from this mission are the dust and learning that Species 10-C value life. It’s identified that the dust will be used to enable communication whether that be in an abstract way or something far more simple so the episode is geared around gaining that particular piece of the puzzle. Species 10-C valuing life provides a potential commonality to use as the basis of First Contact thought the knowledge acts as a double edged sword as it’s possible that they only value their own life which means that they don’t care about anything beyond themselves. It’s a terrifying prospect and one that should have occurred long before this point but at least it is finally being addressed. There is a very strong possibility that Species 10-C will be an insular race who don’t recognise life outside of themselves. Once again the allegory for climate change comes into play with a destructive force laying waste to their surroundings without any consideration of the long term damage. Species 10-C as an idea represent the Human race as they are now though that may change dramatically once they are introduced.

Postulating that Species 10-C don’t care about the damage they are doing leaves the crew shaken. Burnham is hopeful but uncertain and deeply concerned that they won’t be able to plead their case to ears -if they have them- that are willing to even listen. Added to this is Culber finally admitting to Burnham and himself that he is struggling. His conversation with Burnham about empathy is particularly strong because it’s a very real account of the toll it takes to carry the weight of other people’s emotional problems. Culber is shouldering a lot and finally admitting that he isn’t up to the task on the scale that he has been doing it. He talks poignantly about empathy being uncomfortable at times but also the only way to truly connect with others which may become significant once First Contact is made.

Steps forward are definitely made in this episode but as with the recent output the progress is glacial. A couple of episodes worth of plot are being stretched across far more and it shows in the lack of momentum the show currently has. Each episode currently consists of small puzzle pieces being picked up and there’s a real risk of the potentially interesting content around this new species being rushed.


All pragmatists together

The second main plot focuses on Tarka and Book working to hitch a ride with Discovery without being detected. This involves them sneaking aboard Discovery to plant something that will fool their sensors. It’s very by the numbers stuff in terms of the mechanics of what they’re doing and it stands out how empty Discovery is while also being devoid of security. It is believable that Book and Tarka are good at evading security measures but the lack of people seen on the ship is glaring. This does facilitate an interesting conversation between Book and Ndoye where Book tries to get her on side as a mole for them. It proves to be more complex than expected as Ndoye would rather adopt a more pragmatic approach. She is willing to try diplomacy until just before the point where Earth will be destroyed. When that moment is reached she will be in full support of Tarka and Book’s plan as a last resort. Hoping for the best while preparing for the worst is a reasonable approach and one Book subscribes to. Him being in agreement with Ndoye reinforces his innate decency and the general sense that he feels he has no choice but to continue with his plan.

Book’s current role is an interesting one. He is a fugitive but is far less extreme than Tarka is so often embodies the voice of reason in their interactions. In this case he’s reluctant to board Discovery because he sees it as a betrayal of those he has become close to but he also recognises the need to do it if they are going to succeed in shutting down the DMA controller. As before he is driven by grief and a desire for revenge but it has get to consume him which makes him a great foil for Tarka who has only one goal in mind and very little he won’t do to achieve it.

The third plot is far less prominent but no less important. It has to do with Adira admiring Detmer specifically because they perceive her to have unwavering confidence in the face of danger. Adira doesn’t feel nearly as confident and envies Detmer because it seems that she does. Reno is there to point out that Detmer is a person with her own anxieties and insecurities like everyone else and appearing to be brave or confident doesn’t actually make that the case. She references Detmer’s mental issues in the previous season and urges Adira to get to know her in order to understand how she manages to project the aura of confidence when she may be anything but. This admiration comes out of nowhere as Adira could easily use Burnham or even Stamets as their inspiration for courage in the face of overwhelming danger. This works to an extent because it delivers some insight into Adira’s mental state at this time and allows for more focus on Detmer who is the best developed supporting character. The messaging around the most confident people likely being anything but is crowbarred in but effectively delivered and the prospect of an Adira/Detmer friendship receiving some attention from time to time is engaging.


New friends


A good episode that adds more compelling detail to the Species 10-C mystery and appropriately heightens the anxieties of many of the characters. As with previous episodes there is very little momentum to this one despite the noted urgency. There is an awkward disconnect between preparing to encounter the unknown and the imminent apocalyptic threat. The Burnham, Saru, Detmer and Culber plot offers more details around Species 10-C such as the suggestion that they are large and evolved to survive in a gas giant. This makes it likely they are very different to the usual bipedal air breathers which further sets up something truly alien to be introduced. The hydrocarbons/dust are an important discovery as they form the basis for communication while allowing for recognition of universal emotional states. Saru becomes overwhelmed by experiencing fear and sensing the coming of death; two things he hasn’t experienced in a long time. Detmer relates to him after reliving painful memories of loss that ultimately helped define her. Saru makes the obvious point about positive and negative experiences shaping who people are. It’s effectively delivered and focusing on the other characters while Burnham occupies a leadership role was a strong choice. Learning that Species 10-C value life is important because it allows a potential inroad for communication though it also comes with the possibility of them not valuing any life beyond their own which is a horrifying prospect. This possibility should have been raised long before now but at least it is being addressed. Culber’s admission of his own difficulties coping with shouldering the emotional weight of the crew brings up a poignant statement about empathy being uncomfortable but also the only way to truly connect with others.

Book and Tarka infiltrating Discovery is oddly by the numbers in a mechanical sense and it stands out how empty Discovery is. Book’s conversation with Ndoye where they are on the same page when it comes to taking a more pragmatic approach is engaging and highlights Book’s decency. He is driven by grief and a desire for revenge but still has lines he won’t cross. This makes him an effective foil for Tarka who doesn’t share those limitations. The third plot is less prominent but no less important. Adira perceives Detmer as being confident in the face of danger and envies that. Reno is there to point out that everyone has their anxieties and insecurities but some are better at hiding theirs than others. She points out Detmer’s difficulties in the previous season and urges Adira to get to know her. This mostly come out of nowhere and it’s odd that Adira would choose Detmer in particular but it works to an extent because it provides insight into Adira’s mental state while giving Detmer more to do in future.

  • 7/10
    Rosetta - 7/10


Kneel Before…

  • compelling details around Species 10-C that successfully develop the intrigue
  • emotionally driven reactions in the planetary plot that further the characters involved while drawing on their histories
  • keeping Burnham in a leadership role and concentrating on the other involved characters
  • Saru and Detmer relating to one another over difficult events in their past
  • Saru’s obvious yet compelling point about positive and negative experiences shaping people
  • finally addressing the possibility of Species 10-C not caring about the damage being caused
  • Culber’s poignant point about empathy
  • further highlighting Book’s innate decency though him agreeing a pragmatic approach with Ndoye
  • reinforcing Book as a strong foil for Tarka
  • Reno pointing out how people project confidence while still having their own anxieties and insecurities
  • the prospect of an Adira/Detmer friendship


Rise Against…

  • very little plot movement once again
  • no urgency or momentum to the overall storytelling
  • Discovery being noticeably empty as Book and Tarka infiltrate it
  • Adira’s admiration of Detmer coming from nowhere


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User Review
3/10 (1 vote)

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