Discovery‘s “Rubicon” in Review
Having planted a tracker on the isolinium, Michael persuades Admiral Vance to let her lead the mission to stop Book and Tarka from destroying the DMA. Amazingly, despite her wildly conflicted interests, they agree, but send along an observer to keep an eye on her and to take over and give the orders to them if Michael’s personal involvement makes her slide into hesitant incompetence yet again. Or incompetent hesitation, whichever. Did any records about how she started the first Klingon War survive to the 32nd century?
Anyway, this gives us the chance to welcome back a familiar Lieutenant – now Commander – Nhan, last seen taking on the duty of looking after a Federation seed ship on behalf of the Barzan people last season, in the episode “Die Trying”. Having finished her tour, she returned home, then quickly left to do something more interesting by joining back up with Federation Security. It’s nice to see Nhan again, and hopefully she’ll be around a bit more in future episodes, though we don’t really get that much into her head, or into her relationship with Michael and the crew.
Discovery quickly jumps to where Book and Tarka are building their bomb, and in the process we find that Michael and Book have been communicating all along as – despite their final, definite, no-comebacks, “we’re done”, last week – they’re obviously not. So, all that predictable drama last week predictably means bugger all, ongoing.
Tarka, meanwhile, who has been wearing a big neon “I will betray Book’s childlike trust at the first chance I get and let him take all the blame” sign on his forehead since his debut scene… does exactly that, first by not mentioning that he applied a shuttle-eating coat of nanobots to Book’s ship as a surprise for Michael. He then, of course, claims he never meant to hurt anyone, and helps Book deactivate it, but by this point he’s established as so two-faced that it’s hard to tell whether the writers are actually trying for complexity in how far he’ll go, or just making Book look like a total moron by being blind to his staggeringly obvious (and yes, again, predictable) two-facedness.
Next, both ships jump to the DMA, in search of the control unit that Tarka and Book want to destroy. The visuals inside the DMA are much more impressive than we’ve seen before, becoming more nebula-like (probably due to the clouds of minerals it’s harvesting) and thus putting us in a ship duel meant to echo the Enterprise vs Reliant in Wrath Of Khan. There’s a nice game of jumping into each others’ path, which is a highlight of the episode, while Stamets and company try to figure out how long the DMA will stay where it is – it turns out it won’t move for a week, and Book agrees to wait that time for a first contact mission to try peace. First, however, Book and Tarka try shooting at Discovery, and blowing up hydrogen clouds around it (which apparently explode only in a two-dimensional plane that can be ducked under).
Despite being fired upon repeatedly, Michael still doesn’t give up on Book, and refuses to fulfil the mission. That’s exactly what Nhan’s there for, thankfully – to take over when Michael folds because of her conflict of interest, and so she… agrees to wait a little bit longer for Michael to get it together, and does bugger all. Well, thank heavens there’s no risk of blowing up the ship or starting a war with a superpowered alien race, or… oh, wait! What was the purpose of Nhan actually being in the episode, then?
And then what do you predict happens? Book, driven to the logical extreme by grief, has lied to Michael and fires the bomb into the DMA controller in a shocking, character-building twist? Or Tarka the “two-faced arrogance is my one character trait” shoots at Discovery “accidentally” and transports the bomb into the controller just like you’d expect, removing agency from and undermining the character development drama of Book? If you guessed Option A, clearly you’re watching a different show, and I’d love to know what it is, so I can catch it.
Yep, several episodes’ worth of forced tension just got cancelled out by the predicted easy choice, so that Book can get some reconciliation with Michael later and more easily. And the DMA? Just got instantly replaced by another one – with no mention yet of whether it’s programmed differently, or even whether the 10-Cs noticed the controller was destroyed deliberately – or just figured something went dud. We don’t know yet whether the blast went through to the other side and is starting a war. Tarka didn’t even get to grab the power source, because it turned out to be powered from the other side. No surprise there either!
Long story short, nice to see Nhan, great visuals and music, most of the cast are on form, though I get the feeling some know it’s all padding, and the best bit was Saru getting relationship advice from Hugh. Yeah, I totally ship Saru and T’Rina.
I mean, I wanted to love this, I did enjoy it as a general weekly entertainment, but it just copped out of every potentially dramatic risk and went with the predictable and predicted, and it undercut Book’s character arc in the process. Really, the last three episodes could have been done in one, because the cliffhanger reappearance of a new DMA would have made a better mid-season cliffhanger than the one we got. This was a disappointing undoing, not a thrilling climax.
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.