Star Trek: Discovery: Species Ten-C
March 10, 2022 1:21 PM - Season 4, Episode 12 - Subscribe

Penultimate episode of the season: As the DMA approaches Earth and Ni'Var, Captain Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery attempt to make first contact with the powerful species responsible before it's too late.

Memory Alpha

- The efforts to understand the language of the 10-Cs was reminiscent of the movie Arrival, based on Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life."

- Jett Reno wins the MacGuyver Award, and the subplot with Zora going into analysis pays off.

- Curse Tarka's sudden but inevitable betrayal!

- People whose careers (or at least appearances on the show) may be in jeopardy by the end of next episode: Book, General Ndoye.

- When they started talking about music, I half-expected the five-note riff from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

- 10-C are assessed as a Level II civilization on the Kardashev scale.
posted by Halloween Jack (28 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Book come on the dude has already betrayed you like twice, so why do you not have security restrictions on your ship to prevent him from continuing to betray you

Overall this episode at least felt a lot more like a Star Trek, though watching it back-to-back with the new Picard really threw into sharp relief how much this show consists of hushed speeches and characters kind of trading feelings (now with hydrocarbons!) without those scenes usually actually going anywhere. It also throws into sharp relief how it seems like Picard might actually be a good show this season, maybe? More thoughts on that later, elsewhere. Probably.

I don’t know if I was supposed to feel very “oh hey this is basically Arrival and/or Contact” here, or if that’s just me bringing that personal media-watching history to this. I didn’t dislike it, to be certain, and it’s interesting seeing Star Trek finally depict a truly alien sort of alien, rather than a guy in head loaf. Hoping that this kind of goes somewhere!

I continue to feel mega weird about the ship’s computer being so… wishy-washy? It’s a potentially interesting story concept to work with, but for the most part it just kind of feels like they turned the navigation and life support systems into a Sierra On-Line adventure game. “Captain, the vibes are off, but I don’t have the spoons for a further analysis.” USE BOARD GAME ON COMPUTER

Grumps aside, though, at least we’re finally getting some Star Trek-shaped Star Trek out of this show. I remain just barely shy of “hatewatching,” but also I am kind of feeling more relief than anything that the season is nearly over.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:16 PM on March 10, 2022 [8 favorites]

This episode was GREAT. But as DoctorFedora said above, there's still a lot of hushed whispers in this show that likes to stop everything dead for character exploration. Whereas Picard at least has characters doing stuff while emoting. But otherwise, I guess on a season that's about EMOTIONS, exploring an alien civilisation that actually communicates with emotions is spot on. And they are so alien. And there are a couple of levels of translation to get through to them, which made the whole thing really fascinating - especially after an episode called Rosetta where they really only gained one piece of the puzzle.

(On a side note, I miss when Trek had interesting episode titles. DISCO and PIC really trading on titles with single words or simple phrases which take absolutely no thinking to decipher them.)

After a few episodes that felt like filler or dragged, this one was packed full and I'm not sure how this all gets resolved next week. But the contrast between the action of dealing with Tarka and the inevitable conversation that must happen with the 10-C to resolve that will be fascinating.
posted by crossoverman at 2:28 PM on March 10, 2022

"...a toxic waste dump heading straight for earth..." Oh, please. You are outside the galaxy. The entire galaxy. Straight for earth!
posted by Catblack at 2:40 PM on March 10, 2022

"...a toxic waste dump heading straight for earth..." Oh, please. You are outside the galaxy. The entire galaxy. Straight for earth!

That would be the physical result of destroying the DMA, which is currently about four hours from affecting Earth and Ni'Var, not of anything in the hyperfield.
posted by hanov3r at 3:03 PM on March 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

If they had compressed the previous 3 episodes into one and used the extra 2 for more stuff like this, it would be a much better show.

It was a little clunky using the 'hydrocarbons' as both symbols in one part and then the emotion in another, but other than that, it was a great way of showing attempted communication.
posted by Marticus at 4:07 PM on March 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

yeah I feel like the pacing this season has been brutal, like we should have been where we are now three or four episodes ago instead
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:57 PM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

wow, fanfare really does need those hatewatch threads
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 5:12 PM on March 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

This episode was great and this whole half of the season has been good. I love that they went full Big Scifi for the 10-C. It's not some goofy conceit (Tarka's lost love), it's a big fucking really alien thing they can't talk to. And while the Close Encounters / Arrival homage was a bit on the nose it worked.

I also liked the payoff on Feelings Trek. Yes, the 10-C communicates with pheremones hydrocarbons. But it's not some vague abstract emotion. It's a highly specific coded language that can express precise mathematical concepts. That's a pretty clever conceit and it worked.

Even liked Zora, the broken ship's computer. Partly because they briefly acknowledged how unreliable she is ("let's not bring her on this pod with us.."). Partly because hey, her new found intuition actually paid off in a reasonably believable way. I still think everything about her character is reckless but at least it worked.

Tarka's descended to mustache-twirling villain, so that I don't much like. But then Reno makes up for it and then some. Chewing gum radio badge!

(And yes, of course Reno too is LGBT. At this point it's Michael/Book that look like the deviants.)
posted by Nelson at 8:06 PM on March 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

Regardless of anything else, I really like Reno/ Notaro being allowed to soften up and being human. I could have benefited at times from that kind of true talk she gave Book.

Saru giving a "primal scream"/ YAWP was cute.

Yeah, the hydrocarbons/ pheromones - a limitation of using physical chemicals is that it's slow, it needs to reach the sensor/ receptor for them through diffusion or being "shot at" the target.

The shortcut here is that there are "sensors" that can reach the substances (and return to be analyzed) at near lightspeed. Passive spectroscopy probably wouldn't be enough, I guess they must be beaming "exotic" particles at it and reading the reflection/ emissions to figure out the molecular formula/ molecular structure. Of a mixture of complex molecules. Who knows what concentration they're supposed to be. The "order" thing is dumb and the writers should feel bad.


"Hydrocarbon" this "Hydrocarbon" blah "Hydrocarbon" but "Hydrocarbon" duh "Hydrocarbon" "Hydrocarbon" "Hydrocarbon"


Though the 10-C understanding Federation style of starship interior doors and using that on the blob as an invitation was cool.
posted by porpoise at 8:57 PM on March 10, 2022

captain, the 10-C has sent a hydrocarbon that is 41% pleasure, 11% boredom, and 48% zjierbness
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:14 PM on March 10, 2022 [6 favorites]

I am really enjoying the ride that is currently Discovery and I found the first episode of Picard (season 2) turgid and frustrating.

Seems I am in the minority ?

I liked the roaring therapy. It was a nice moment of levity in an otherwise high stakes tense episode.

I have an interest (but no concrete knowledge) in linguistics and the first contact bits were very good Trek to me.

Tarka is the poster boy for doing the wrong things for the right reasons (?). Booker was left holding the idot ball there, and it's sad to see.

Reno is the MVP and I hope she survives. I wholeheartedly love the character.
posted by Faintdreams at 2:37 AM on March 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Burnham and Saru's relationship is fast entering the pantheon of truly great, well-realized, real-feeling Trek pairings. This ep may have clinched it, in fact.

I also loved Ten-C turning out to be immense and alien. Stream Trek seems to be deliberately atoning for the decades of Forehead-Appliance Trek.

Thirding the pacing problems. Better pacing would've served the Book/Tarka story better in particular.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:36 AM on March 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Reno mentioned her wife back in either season 2 or 3. It's not a new development.
posted by Spike Glee at 6:37 AM on March 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

So, it sounds as if this season maybe made a turnaround, and moved away from some of the cringiness of the early episodes? I was a big fan of previous seasons but couldn't make it past ep 3 this season.
For those who have persevered, and have maybe, indeed, been hate-watching (bless you), is there a point where i could safely rejoin and enjoy?
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:52 AM on March 11, 2022

I also loved Ten-C turning out to be immense and alien. Stream Trek seems to be deliberately atoning for the decades of Forehead-Appliance Trek.

I think that’s relatively unfair. Trek always did what it could with the budget and technology available to it.
posted by rhymedirective at 2:38 PM on March 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

I also enjoyed this episode a lot more than the previous ones. I think maybe the downside of a serial structure is that if the story arc isn’t enough to fill the number of episodes it can be a slog. They go for a lot of emotional character moments, but I think maybe the cast is too big for that to really work for me. I could love an episode of Better Call Saul where nothing happens because I am really invested in those four characters, but it is really hard to even know if a moment rings true since we don’t know most of the Discovery characters well enough.
posted by snofoam at 4:43 PM on March 11, 2022

yeah there is a reason why I have joked about characters in this show only getting backstory when they are about to die
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:05 PM on March 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Reno mentioned her wife back in either season 2 or 3. It's not a new development.

Season 2, episode 12, “Through the Valley of Shadows.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:00 PM on March 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

is there a point where i could safely rejoin and enjoy?

Yeah, it's this right here. The previously-on does a fine job, and this episode fires on all cylinders.
posted by 4th number at 12:03 AM on March 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oh no.

Stamets and Culber are planning a long vacation together after the current mission..

Oh No..
posted by Faintdreams at 1:40 AM on March 12, 2022 [9 favorites]

I really enjoyed this episode and I'm looking forward to next week's conclusion.

Also agree on the very cool 10C aliens. I like they're huge and live on gas giant planets. Might be hard to have them as Starfleet crew.

Reno is one of my favorite characters. I'm liking General Ndoye less and less. I'm afraid for Booker. How will Taka meet his demise?
posted by shoesietart at 8:26 AM on March 12, 2022

Oh no.

Stamets and Culber are planning a long vacation together after the current mission..

Oh No..

Given they already buried one of these gays, and caught ALL THE BACKLASH, I doubt they'll try burying either of them again in a hurry.
posted by coriolisdave at 4:23 AM on March 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

Earlier seasons: "Everyone on this ship needs therapy."

The writers: "Everyone on the ship? Hold my beer."

This show continues to somehow be the best Trek and the worst Trek at the same time. I love it.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 6:28 PM on March 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

Wasn't boronite a big part of the Omega molecule? 10C are just trying to make a new universe with their dead babies!
posted by Kyol at 11:15 AM on March 14, 2022

This show continues to somehow be the best Trek and the worst Trek at the same time. I love it.

Definitely an improvement on when it was the worst Trek.

(I was re-reading comments I made here and elsewhere about S1 and it reminded me that I had mixed feelings about it then - there were some good episodes - and I was much more critical of S2 when everything revolved around Michael. Anyway, I'm glad this season is giving me the kind of Trek I like, even if it also gives me "let's stop and have a character moment" instead of actually putting that stuff into the story.)
posted by crossoverman at 3:51 PM on March 14, 2022

I have never bought that a wily trader like Book would fall hook line and sinker for Tarka's BS. I also feel like I missed the part where smart as a tack Jett Reno suddenly becomes a hostage. Senseless plot points aside, at least this episode mostly felt like Trek.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:55 PM on March 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Like booker being angry and vengeful for a good long while would have made plenty of sense. I'm resentful that they tried to humanize Tarka in the way they did. Sometimes an asshole is just an asshole.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:57 PM on March 17, 2022

Shawn Doyle is one of my favorite Canadian character actors and I like seeing him in this. I think Tarka and Erinwright (his character in The Expanse) would get along.

Hiro Tamagawa is being criminally underused but I'm getting a kick out of the fat that he just. won't. stop. eating. He was also criminally underused in this season of Upload - there was apparently a whole plot with him they had to cut due to COVID destroying their shooting schedule.
posted by rednikki at 7:06 PM on June 26, 2022

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