Discovery‘s “All In” in Review
Following Book and Tarka’s theft of a prototype spore drive with the intent of blowing up the DMA, Michael is ordered to take Discovery to seek out information on the 10-Cs from the systems nearest to their co-ordinates. At the suggestion of Admiral Vance (playing from the President Rillak Playbook Of Influencing Michael), she figures out that the best source of this information is coincidentally the same disguised distant gambling den as Book will visit in his and Tarka’s search for isolynium, which they need for their DMA-destroying bomb.
While the absence of explosives with which to build the bomb surprises Book (who is annoyed that Tarka somewhat oversold how ready he was to actually do the deed), it’s not that much of a surprise to the audience, and sets up a pretty predictable episode, which will lead to a probably predictable Michael/Book arc for this half of the season. Basically, here they’re in competition for the isolynium, with Michael and Owosekun hustling to get the cash to bid for it, while Book and Tarka try to earn enough on the inside. This leads to a poker game for the isolynium. Book wins the game at the expense of their relationship, which is no doubt going to be all bitey-exesy until they get reconciled in a finale.
So far so obvious, but the episode has good things to make up for it. The lack, however, of Adira, Gray and Grudge should be noted as disappointments, even though Gray is briefly mentioned.
The good stuff includes some of the fan-wanky Easter eggs one might expect. As well as many lines of dialogue (such as the first reference to the Klingons of the 32nd century), they include the appearances of a Changeling – unspecified as to whether it’s a Founder or a Chameloid, but the latter seemed arguably closer – a speedy Tribble, and a possible Xindi-Insectoid (these two being different guises of the changeling). Definitely reappearing here, elsewhere in the casino, are a Lurian (the same species as Morn from DS9), a Ferengi, and an Andorian. Plus, there are some Emerald Chain remnants. Best of all, though, were the characterisations in a couple of subplots.
It was Owosekun’s turn to get some development this week, but she escapes the “development by infodump” that has plagued other characters this season, instead getting to be a badass in the ring, with displayed but unspoken layers of her experience and knowledge below that. Oyin Oladejo is excellent, from accent to physicality to subtlety, and it’s great to see her come out and shine.
Similarly, where Michael’s dealing-with-guilt arc kind of came across at times as being in the vein of Red Dwarf’s Rimmer, Hugh Culber’s is far more affecting and effective, with Wilson Cruz really compelling in this line – and he and Oladejo are by far the best things in this episode. Anthony Rapp, as Stamets, gives Cruz great support to bounce his performance off too, and they’ve developed a great chemistry over the past couple of seasons.
The MMA fight is cool, but the climactic poker game is not that well put together and so doesn’t work well in terms of writing or editing – it’s just too bitty and random. Maybe we were spoiled for screen poker games by Casino Royale!
While Michael and Book’s relationship arc looks to be predictable, the actors themselves do a good job with what they’re given, especially David Ajala, as nowadays we’re seeing a Michael who… (how best to put this?) …seems to kind of know that she’s the star of a fictional show. And by that, I do mean Michael, rather than Sonequa Martin-Green, who obviously is actually the star of the fictional show.
It’s always nice to see Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance, and it’s also nice to learn something more about the true nature of the DMA and the 10-Cs. So, I’m left wanting clarification as to what it means that the DMA is a mining tool, supplying power to a civilisation in a separate bubble of space… or whatever. What are the aliens actually like? Let’s have more of that, next episode.
David A McIntee is a writer and historian who has written for properties such as Doctor Who, Star Wars, Final Destination, and Stargate, as well as having written several adventures in the Star Trek franchise for Pocket Books. He has contributed many pieces to the magazines Star Trek Explorer (née Star Trek Magazine) and Star Trek Communicator, as well as having written nonfiction books about Star Trek: Voyager.