Star Trek: Discovery: ...But to Connect
December 30, 2021 7:22 PM - Season 4, Episode 7 - Subscribe

Tensions rise as representatives from across the galaxy gather to confront the threat of the Dark Matter Anomaly. Zora's new sentience raises difficult questions.

That's Specialist Memory Alpha to you, mister:

- The series is going on hiatus until February 10th. Star Trek: Prodigy returns next week; S2 of PIC is also scheduled for February, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for sometime after that.

- There was a line about "all four quadrants" being represented at the summit, but I didn't see any species recognizable as any Delta Quadrant species (i.e. the Borg) or the Dominion there.

- Thought I saw a Ferengi bartender on Discovery.

- AFAIK, this is the first acknowledgement of other parallel universes besides the Mirror Universe, other than the brief glimpses that we saw in TNG's "Parallels" and various alternate futures.

- The 2nd-gen spore drive that Aurellio was working on seems to have worked. Seems.

- The episode clarifies that AIs are legal as long as they're not integrated into ships; that would allow for both Soong-type androids (and Gray) and for hologram-type AIs.
posted by Halloween Jack (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When characters discussed using isolytic weapons against the DMA, as if on reflex I blurted out to my wife “but those are banned!”* A few lines of dialog later, a character explained they are banned by the Khitomer Accords. I don’t know my blood type but I know my Trek.

* the Son’a fired an isolytic weapon at the Enterprise-E in Star Trek Insurrection where it tore a hole in subspace.
posted by Servo5678 at 7:43 PM on December 30, 2021 [10 favorites]

Ripping a hole in subspace in a wormhole mouth doesn't feel like a consequence free idea. Just feel harder instead.

Aside from some silliness, I liked this episode much more than recent ones. Though 10-C seems an odd designation.
posted by Marticus at 1:14 AM on December 31, 2021

Last season, when Mirror Georgio was going to disintegrate, there was a mention of someone from the Kelvin timeline who died horribly when the Prime universe rejected him. Presumably Tarka came from a "nearby" universe at roughly the same "time," otherwise he'd have a similar problem.
posted by Spike Glee at 6:45 AM on December 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

I, too, liked this episode (the last two episodes, really) better than the rest of the season up to now.

I'm sad if we won't be seeing more of Grey on the regular, but I guess they couldn't figure out what to do with him... BTW I'm unsure at this point whether the Tal symbiont is in Adira or Grey. Surely Tal had to remain in Adira, since you can't separate hosts and symbionts without killing the host (can you?)

My understanding was that Tarka is from this timeline, but wants to emigrate to this other timeline that he and fellow scientist discovered. That's assuming you think Tarka really told Book the truth now. Though, if he was really intent on conning Book in particular into his plan (and he needed either Stamets or Book, since the plan needs a spore drive to work), he could instead of leaned onto the idea that planet Kwejian would be intact in this other timeline...

I do take issue with this little speech:
Tartan voles consume Denobulan blood worms by the millions at the start of their reproductive cycle.

Caterpillars from the polyphemus moth have been known to devour entire crops, leaving farmers with nothing. Yet we do not ascribe malice to either species. We cannot judge their motives based on our own cultural contexts.
We need not ascribe malice to these creatures to justify undertaking control measures against them, when they harm sentients. Of course, what we know about a moth is that it has no capacity for reason, no capacity to choose whether to devour entire crops. Of course, crop-destroying moths don't build artifacts of the size and complexity of the DMA. Not that we know enough about the DMA-builders to say whether they're "just mindless moths" who are still somehow able to construct the DMA; it seems unlikely.

I wonder how far the Dilithium Burn radius was. Is this the first probe/weapon reaching us from an adjacent galaxy, here to destroy whatever struck them and wrecked all their warp ships a century or so ago? Uninterested in talking, since whoever attacked them clearly was not...?
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:34 AM on December 31, 2021 [4 favorites]

Servo5678: As soon as the word "Isolytic" was uttered, I yelled out "They're illegal!" and I'm glad the writers remembered that, when it happened, and why.

This is a really good place for a cliffhanger, and a classic Trek storyline of talking and hashing out ideas, rather than going shooty bang-bang against the threat. (Not that the occasional bit of shooty bang-bang isn't enjoyable, but that's not the core of the franchise.)

I really hope Michael finds a way to slap some sense into Book, and if that process also involves shooting Tarka out of an airlock, I wouldn't complain.
posted by SansPoint at 10:47 AM on December 31, 2021 [5 favorites]

since you can't separate hosts and symbionts without killing the host (can you?)

At least as of the 24th century, you couldn't (DS9: Invasive Procedures, where Verad removes the Dax symbiont from Jadzia, and we're told she would survive only a few hours unless Dax was returned). But in any case, yes, the Tal symbiont is still in Adira. It was a surprise to the Trill that a symbiont could survive long term in a human host; I imagine integration into a synth body would be more difficult still.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:32 AM on December 31, 2021

I love the idea of Booker and Tarka going rogue. One of the fun things about the beginning of the last season was Michael + Book getting up to hijinx. Star Trek has always needed more Han Solo types. Booker's pretty great, there's something in his writing and acting that brings more to this role than usual. Maybe his empathy; he's a rogue who cares about what other people think.

David Cronenberg sure is doing a lot of acting isn't he? I like him, even if he seems sort of stiff and on the nose. Kind of works for the character.
posted by Nelson at 8:12 PM on December 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

I did not have “Book turns out to be a nazi” on my bingo card.

Just like Tig Notaro, I’m very glad that Cronenberg seems to have been upgraded to a recurring character. If anything, his character is arguably the “most Trek-y” thing about DSC right now.
posted by schmod at 9:05 PM on December 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

I did not have “Book turns out to be a nazi” on my bingo card.

Damn, I swapped out my card a couple weeks back when Book was giving grief to Michael for allowing that murderer to choose to fufil his sentence. I guess no one really does expect the Spanish Inquisition.
posted by fairmettle at 12:47 AM on January 1, 2022

Okay, this week's episode (and much of last week's episode) is redeeming this season for me. A lot of the character conflict here is driven by emotion but so much of the plot revolved around logic and strategy; though of course the cliffhanger has a bit of both, which makes for good drama.

And I'm annoyed we have to wait six weeks for more episodes.
posted by crossoverman at 1:42 AM on January 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Woah woah woah in no way is Book, nor the eliminate-the-threat faction, a Nazi. There's a highly destructive incommunicative thing wandering around the galaxy. They have a plan to protect themselves from it by destroying it. Yes, there is a potential of blowback that might harm the folks who sent it. If that happens perhaps they could hold an apology ceremony on Kwejian.

I'm sure you didn't mean badly but "Nazi" is a real historical thing with real meaning and I'd encourage you not to overuse the term for rhetorical effect. But assuming you just meant "bad people committing large act of violence" it's not even that. It's in no way intentional genocide, nor even an invasion of another country. It's self-defense trying to head off another incidence of actual genocide, a whole planet being destroyed.

I think the diplomacy side is right, because I believe in Starfleet's values and because it seems wisest to try to have a chat first. Michael's speech about possible unintended consequences is absolutely right. And Book and Tarka are wrong to go rogue, doubly so given Tarka's selfish motives. But I think their position is morally defensible.
posted by Nelson at 7:04 AM on January 1, 2022 [10 favorites]

My only frustration with this episode is that, after establishing that Zora won't give them the coordinates for species 10C because she knows what species it is and knows they're too powerful and she's freaked out about what might happen to the crew, once they finally do get the coordinates from Zora there was apparently no urgency to revisit that question whatsoever and find out which species was so damn scary. Like, I get it, the writers are saving that to be next week's problem (or February's, apparently) but maybe find a way to make that fact less obvious, cuz once again we're in the position of sitting around talking about feelings while there's a time-sensitive galaxy-spanning massively destructive problem and just like....none of you seem to be even curious about what's causing it?

On the other hand I thought the rest of the episode was very solid; this felt like the payoff to a bunch of kind of miscellaneous unconnected strands of things that they'd set up in the first half of the season. But it all felt pretty well-earned and true to the characters. Book and Burnham ending up on opposing sides really needed the groundwork to be carefully laid, otherwise it would've felt just like "oh this person is being stupid just for the sake of conflict/plot" but they managed to avoid that.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2022

mstokes650: We don't know that Zora knows anything about Species 10-C, she just is anxious and worried that something bad will happen to the crew.
posted by SansPoint at 10:34 AM on January 1, 2022 [7 favorites]

We can take the derail elsewhere, but I meant what I said. Book's speech very much fits into the banality-of-evil hypothesis.

It felt like the first of many cuts that could lead to totalitarianism and genocide. Book isn't evil, but he's been wronged, and some actually-evil people are going to use that to their advantage, because they know that Book can be very persuasive.
posted by schmod at 6:13 PM on January 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Star Trek has always needed more Han Solo types.

It's tried, and not always been great with them. Stuff like "The Outrageous Okona" ends up being two parts Captain Sexyboots-type wish fulfillment and one part retroactive justification for a cad. Trek has arguably done better in deconstructing the archetype, with Harry Mudd just being kind of sleazy, and Michael Eddington being a feckless romantic who does more harm to his chosen cause than good. Star Trek: Insurrection kind of flirted with it, but it ultimately came down to one Badmiral teaming up with the Truly Awful Facelift Aliens. Maybe the closest/best thing we've yet seen to true Solotude has been Rios in PIC.

And WRT the N@z! thing: I agree with both of you, since on the one hand Trek has had actual Nazis (or aliens adopting not just the politics and philosophy but also the iconography), but on the other hand, there is that sort of end-justifies-the-means argument that has been used much closer in time, space, and reality, for example, with "Pearl Harbor justifies nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki", or, in this very series, "The Battle of the Binary Stars justifies destroying Kronos." If it's not exactly following in the footsteps of History's Greatest Monster, it ain't good, either.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:44 PM on January 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

I don't see how the banality of evil would apply to Booker. That phrase is coined by Hannah Arendt in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem to describe her theory on Adolph Eichmann's work orchestrating the Holocaust. The core idea is that Eichmann himself didn't have an evil affect or even much evil convictions, that he was a neutral bureaucrat doing his job. This description isn't mean to excuse Eichmann, Arendt's point is how frightening and terrible it is that great evil can be done in such a dispassionate way. (This theory is by no means consensus on Eichmann and his motivations.)

That doesn't describe Booker at all. First, he's intensely passionate. He has intense grief for the loss of his home planet, his family, his people. And hatred and a desire for vengeance against whatever killed Kwejian. And he doesn't just have the normal passions a human would; he's an empath who operates frequently in an emotional sphere.

Second, Booker in this moment is a speech giving leader, an architect of this plan to destroy the DMA. Part of Eichmann's defense was he was just doing his job, his banal ordinary job. Booker is the opposite of that. He's out there leading the fight, literally going rogue in order to achieve his goals.

Third, no one considering destroying the DMA thinks this is some everyday bureaucratic operation. Everyone who expressed an opinion was clear about the violence and magnitude of the attack.

Finally we as outside observers can judge the moral weight of the destruction plan. And it seems legitimate to me. There's a wrecking ball out there destroying planets. Stopping it makes a lot of sense. I still think the "communicate with the aliens first" is the better plan myself, and I'm just betting in the Star Trek universe that will end up working out happily for them. But taking military action to defend yourself certainly seems reasonable too, in the wake of the rubble of Kwejian. I also appreciated how it was the Earthers leading the military charge. After centuries on their own after the Burn perhaps they have little patience for the Starfleet soft touch.

It felt like the first of many cuts that could lead to totalitarianism and genocide.

I do agree that's a risk with the DMA destruction plan that it would be an escalation of Starfleet to a darker, more violent future. But it's got nothing to do with our Nazi history. There are other kinds of evil.

The big clue about the moral risk is the way they need an isolytic weapon, some MacGuffin that reads to me like nuclear weapons in our world. Worth noting the main risk they're worried about is environmental, damaging subspace in the region. It's not a Borg-destroying virus or something. Also they're a little worried about collateral damage from destroying the DMA leaking through subspace. Anyway this whole risk is in no way analagous to Nazi genocide or the banality of evil idea, it's something different.

The really morally culpable person in all this is Tarka. He clearly has stated he has a personal selfish agenda. Not just his enormous ego but also wanting to reunite with his lost love. One read on this is he's exploiting Booker, someone who is vulnerable now in his grief and anger at the personal tragedy he's suffered. I think Booker has more agency than that but he's also clearly affected by his emotions; how could he not be?

(This comment is too long, but to Halloween Jack's point "the ends justify the means" is not how the Nazis thought about genocide. Part of their crime was believing the means were entirely appropriate and fine because they did not see their victims as equal humans. I think you're right that the nuclear attack on the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is probably a better analogy. But I wouldn't want to press that historical parallel too far.)
posted by Nelson at 7:35 AM on January 2, 2022 [6 favorites]

It's also worth noting that, while the vote for first contact won, the count seems to be a mere 30 to 20 in favor. Granted, it's not necessarily all 20 who would have voted instead for the isolytic weapon attack, but it seems that the general feeling in the room was that people could continue to work together no matter which side of this debate they were on.

What makes Book's position less tenable is that it seemed to be hearing about Tarka's secret motives that finally motivates him to speak in favor of the attack. Well, that, and then actively participating in an unsanctioned deployment of the forbidden tech against the DMA.

The structure of the episode makes me want to draw a parallel between Book and Zora: Both are in emotional turmoil that stems from an impulse to care for others and is leading them to act against the usual social and/or legal framework (chain of command, outcome of a vote). Zora, who gets the benefit of time and all sorts of emotional support, is able to integrate into the chain of command. Book, from whom emotional support is withheld, is forced to make an irrevocable split-second decision, and acts outside of it.

That makes me consider a road not taken: The vote completes as we saw earlier. Zora, who has been monitoring the progress of the deliberations all during her interview with Dr. Kovich, transports the whole crew out to Starfleet HQ and beams Book and the isolytic weapon on board. She announces that the only way she can protect the crew from Species 10-C is to deploy the weapon herself, and emotionally manipulates Book into running the spore drive for her. (Doesn't Book want to keep Burnham safe? Doesn't he want to prevent another genocide by DMA?)

Burnham and the rest can only look out through a (huge and perfectly polished) window as Discovery flippy-flops into the mycelium network. Tarka may/may not be onboard too. Mid-season cliffhanger, baby.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 9:05 AM on January 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't think Book had emotional support withheld, as much as has refused most emotional support. On top of that, he's being manipulated by Tarka, who knows how to tell people what they want to hear. I would not be surprised if Tarka is actually full of shit about trying to get to a parallel universe to find his partner. He's clearly not above manipulation to get what he wants out of people, as shown during the mini-DMA experiment. Book is looking for the easy answer: the Kwejian healing ritual (which he can't do properly and must do with programmable matter), the Vulcan Mind Meld, and blowing up the DMA. Truly dealing with trauma is long, hard work, and he's refusing to do it.
posted by SansPoint at 9:33 AM on January 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I would not be surprised if Tarka is actually full of shit about trying to get to a parallel universe to find his partner.

It's a pretty terrible story, isn't it? I mean "lost lovers across parallel universes" is ridiculous enough. And while I appreciate my LGBT representation it felt a little odds-defying that he's part of the proverbial one-in-ten too. But mostly it's the implausibility that for all his science expertise and all his fame and access to things, the only way he can get the power supply he needs is to steal it from a galaxy-sized anomaly weapon?
posted by Nelson at 10:12 AM on January 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

How does Tarka blow up the power unit and use it to get to wherever he's going? Or, how does the power unit survive the enormous BOOM?
posted by riverlife at 10:22 AM on January 2, 2022

And while I appreciate my LGBT representation it felt a little odds-defying that he's part of the proverbial one-in-ten too.

I'm hoping the future has evolved to the point where it's at least 50/50. Although it seems they are all still struggling with the gender binary, so maybe not.
posted by crossoverman at 9:43 PM on January 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have to say that I'm really struggling with this season. Lots of interesting bits:
  • Yay some more interesting gender identity bits
  • (Artificial)* sentience as personhood
  • Acknowledging that the Federation as envisioned in the 60s might not be as utopic as intended
  • Some difficult personal relationships that might have to be *gasp* worked on/with
What I struggle with is caring about any of it as the writing has failed to, y'know, actually address anything interesting beyond representation. "I just wanted to feel seen" is, apparently, as far as we're willing to go:
"But I am not going to do the thing everyone knows I should do"
"Why not, you're killing is/them/you?!?!"
"Well it's hard y'know? "
"Ok, lemme lay it down for you - when I was a kid $bad_thing_x happened to me so I tooootally know what you're going through and can tell you that it's all going to be ok if you just do the thing the narrative calls for"
[audience -- wait, how is there time for this monologuing at all? Weren't they just rushing to avoid terminal deathitis?]
"Well, it sure is good to feel seen, I guess I can get behind this plan now"
[everything explodes/melts/vaporizes but the principles are safe and have shown growth! Yay!]
I want to like this so much. There are little bits that are so (potentially) amazing. But they're just sitting there suspended in the aspic-of -soap-opera and watching them just sit there jiggling isn't particularly fun.
posted by mce at 10:46 AM on January 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

this episode was definitely better than the trend line for the season so far, to the point where I'm at least probably still going to keep watching when it comes back in February, but it does still have the problem where the characters talk pretty much entirely in very important speeches, or are just mouthpieces for the writers to talk directly to us, the audience

What reason do we have to believe that Space Elon Musk Except Smart is actually telling Book the truth at all, rather than just lying to get what he wants? Honestly given his characterization so far I would be genuinely shocked if any part of his story were actually true.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:48 PM on January 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

We're about ready to start the second half of S4, and Out Magazine has published several stories covering DISCO's queer cast:

Culber and Stamets
Detmer (whose character arc is pretty much my favorite)
Jett Reno
and Gray and Adira
posted by hanov3r at 1:51 PM on February 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

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