Discovery‘s “Species 10-C” in Review
Finally, Booker realises that Tarka is a completely selfish nutcase who has no interest in helping others! All it took was Jett Reno telling him that Tarka’s equations will both destroy the 10-Cs and, with the energy feedback, annihilate Earth and Vulc… er, Ni’Var, as totally as the DMA would. This certainty becomes a “possibility” within the space of five minutes. But by then, Tarka has no more use for Book and imprisons him with her anyway.
This happens nice and early in the episode, at which point the audience has already figured out what the cliffhanger will be. And they’re right. Yep, the episode ends with Ndoye (not knowing that Book is a prisoner) allowing the release of plasma from the warp nacelle, throwing Book’s ship free and making the 10-Cs think they’re under attack, just like we were told at the beginning of the episode. So much for surprises – if the episode won’t protect its own twists, why should anyone else?
We start with our heroes trying to use the sixteen magic emo-hydrocarbons to attract the 10-Cs’ attention for a chat, which works. An Abyss-style tentacle pulls the ship inside the hyperfield, where a live 10-C approaches and begins communicating. The process is slow and requires the 10-Cs to bring Michael, Saru and Rillak into a dimensionally transcendental capsule with a replica of Discovery’s bridge and an isolytic weapon.
Meanwhile, Tarka has set up a means to snatch the DMA power source and use a plasma discharge from Discovery’s nacelles to push Book’s ship out of the hyperfield. Reno, who has been observing Tarka, claims his calculations are all lies and would result in all of them being destroyed, with the feedback destroying the threatened planets.
Book suddenly remembers that he doesn’t actually want to destroy the 10-Cs, because two wrongs don’t make a right, and despite having wanted exactly that until now. He does at least see that there’s an insurmountable difference between himself and Tarka: he wants to prevent further disasters, while Tarka just wants to bugger off and be with his (possibly dead) lover. This realization comes too late, as now Tarka betrays and imprisons him, but at least it gives he and Reno a chance to warn Discovery.
It also finally occurs to T’Rina that maybe the 10-Cs didn’t recognise humanoid populations as lifeforms (like the rest of us conjectured from the start), and indeed this proves the case. It also turns out that they don’t just communicate by hydrocarbons but also by mathematics, so they have a little extra work to do to get a translation going.
Zora has been feeling a bit odd, and with Culber’s help, people begin to wonder where Reno has got to, her commbadge having been left aboard by Tarka to hide her abduction. Stamets, Adira, and Zora discover the truth and the sabotage at the last minute, just as Tarka sets off the plasma discharge. After this apparent attack, the 10-Cs terminate negotiations.
The whole Tarka plot still feels like a mix of padding. He’s simply the result of the writers’ desire to have a villain in the season, but he hasn’t been anything more than a distraction from the intriguing mystery.
It would have been interesting if the DMA and 10-Cs’ hyperfield had been natural, or just a new type of force of nature, like V’Ger. As well as having been kind of riffed upon at the start of the season, there’s a good V’Ger musical riff here, with a distinctive dark note of V’Ger-like theme audible when the ship first goes into the hyperfield. A lovely touch.
As with the previous episode, the development of the mystery about the DMA and the 10-Cs feels like proper Star Trek. It’s handled a little speedily but generally pretty well. All the cast are great, especially Notaro and Cruz again, and it’s nice to see Adira and Zora get good parts to play. Somehow, even Shawn Doyle as Tarka is more useful now that he’s a straightforward villain and can just get on with it, rather than act as a source of padding and inconsistent Bookery.
Overall, episodes eleven and twelve could easily have been a single episode. Both wobble between great bits and not-so-great bits. What’s really difficult to grasp is that we’re already reaching the end of the season, with the next episode being the finale! How did that happen?
For bonus points, Grudge!
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.