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Star Trek: Discovery - Species 10-C & Coming Home - Review

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This season of Star Trek: Discovery, now that it’s reached its end, has been a season that’s best viewed better as a collective whole – it works clearly as a serialised arc, and with the pieces being put together now before our eyes; we can easily see that this season was essentially a feature length episode of The Next Generation’s Darmok, where Picard was stuck on a planet with an alien without a universal translator and had to figure out how to collaborate. It’s a slowed down, less flashier pace than previous seasons but a more impactful one – those complaining about the lack of action aren’t Star Trek fans – it’s never been a show of action. The empathetic approach has gone superbly well – it’s made every character feel more rounded and human. Taking cues from Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival too, Discovery even gives us beings not unlike the ones present there in the form of the 10-C, who do their best to open communications with Discovery – and things are going swimmingly with the deadline of Earth’s destruction at play.

However; Tarka’s presence leaves a mark. Able to use Ndoye’s fear of Earth’s destruction the manipulator has been lying to Book about the true extent of the damage that the weapon could cause to Earth – Book was keen to use this as a last resort, but Tarka wants to press ahead regardless of any casualties – he believes that Discovery will have enough time to jump away, maybe even the 10-C too, but Book and Reno isn’t convinced. Injecting a level headed figure into play with Reno helps – able to bring sensibilities to the grief and destruction that is driving Book and Tarka, and even Book – before finding out the truth about Tarka, admits that his relatives would not approve of Tarka but would understand of him. This season’s biggest strength has been its understanding of the Tarka/Book dynamic – and Tarka mentioning that Book was his friend really felt earnt. Book’s position away from Michael to Tarka has been the driving force of much of this season’s storyline for him - and it’s tested both characters to their limits on a personal level.

The pep-talks throughout this season has been a good way of building character – next season, a little less of them would help – but spending a season establishing Zora’s dynamic goes some way into letting us know where we stand next time out. The game with Culber was cool – and a highlight – Culber being an ever-present background character this season interacting with the crew has always been a delight. I do feel Zora should have been at least aware that Ndoye was communicating with Tarka, though. In terms of supporting characters Dr. Hirari was also a clear favourite.

Star Trek: Discovery has gone some way to making an alien presence feel truly alien – the “mad scientist ruining everything” plot has been a hallmark of multiple Trek episodes in the past and everything felt earned here as a result of the build-up and care that this season has taken. There wasn’t anything here that felt deus-ex-machina or hand-wavey, the ability to establish a breakthrough with the 10-C through maths and reasoning is Star Trek at its absolute core. The 10-C may well end up being one of the most unique aliens that Trek has faced – alien, distant and new – and for a show that has spent so much time invested in telling a prequel; fresh from its constraints, this is the direction that Discovery should have taken all along.

This was the best episode of the season so far – Season 4 now quickly showing that it’s better than three – and at least on par with two as my favourite of the bunch.

And then, Coming Home came along, which wrapped up the finale on a suitably satisfying note – only confirming that – giving a resolution to the arc that felt befitting of the Ten-C – a peaceful solution that still had the highest of high-stakes, initiating first contact in a successful way that was oh-so-very Trek.

Reno getting some screen-time in these last few episodes was used to perfection, the banter with anyone was delivered naturally – coming up with a novel nickname for Stamets and bonding with Tarka about the death of her wife and coming to accept her loss. Everybody on Book’s ship had lost someone; and Book and Reno were able to get through to Tarka in the end: the mad scientist undone, with Tarka breaking down mourning that his only other friend was no longer there to tell him that he was going too far. As a collective whole – this season works so much better than the sum of its individual parts, each episode flows consistently more so than any Discovery season in the past and gives a triumphant send-off, working at once as a closed-loop series finale, and at once a gateway to brand-new adventures.

Ndoye comes clean about her involvement with Tarka and gets her heroic redemption in stopping Book’s ship from reaching this destination but I did love how much of this episode was devoted about recognising why the characters made the call to do what they did – nobody was a clear-cut villain; even Tarka – the 10-C stood down their device when they were shown the damage that they were causing. Discovery felt truly capable of turning yet-another-endgame level threat that it’s often been criticised of for doing too much of too often into something that takes a whole different spin on the subject in the most Trek-possible way yet.

The season at the core of it all has been Book – and Book’s eventual reunion with Michael. The fakeout death annoyed me – it would have been a good send-off for the character; but I’m in no hurry to say goodbye to yet another regular. How great was it to see Tilly again, though – aiding the evacuation effort with Vance? Leading her cadets from earlier in the season was a real closed loop moment – just a shame we didn’t get one more appearance from Gray. The 10-C intercepting Book’s transportation and beaming him back to the surface was emotional – the reunion between Michael and Book a high point; as was the consequences of his actions – justifiable given his reasons, and Book felt he was doing the right thing.

Earth joining the Federation was kind of a big moment considering how little Earth has been involved in this season of Discovery but Stacey Abrams showing up was a nice little inspiring moment. To those who have been complaining that this is Trek picking a “side” – what franchise have you been watching? Trek has always been progressive since it aired in the ‘60s. The scene was a high point – and the show recognised how comparatively ancient the crew of the Discovery are to everyone around them. Chances are they have no relatives left alive on Earth to go back to for those who come from there – but they’re eager to return to nonetheless.

The little touches paid off the relationships across the board leaving each of the crew members in a better place from when they started the episode – the payoff was rewarding, the change of all of the ship’s bridge crew getting to face the 10-C rather than just Michael and a few others was a welcome moment – and shows the direction that the series has been heading as one that includes its supporting cast all the more. It’s hard to imagine what someone like Lorca would have done here – or even Pike – Michael becoming ‘ready’ for her captaincy job was overall a big payoff too in an episode full of them, ending the season on a satisfactory note that wrapped up everything superbly. This was a season that ended in a stronger place than it began – and was all the better for it.

I wonder if we’ll return to the 10-C in the future, they feel like the perfect one-and-done aliens – but I’d love to see more of them. I’d love to see Discovery stick with this anthology approach too – almost akin to that of Fuller’s original aim for the series back in the day. Now we’re in completely new ground and I can’t wait to see what Discovery does next – let Picard deal with the familiar threats – I’m here for a show that treads new ground with new aliens, new monsters – and pushes Trek in a direction further forward in a way that remains as entertaining as the franchise’s heyday.

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