Star Trek: Discovery S4E12 — “Species 10-C” Finally Makes First Contact
the the following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery S4E12, “Species 10-C” (written by Kyle Jarrow and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi)
Star Trek: Discovery S4E12, “Species 10-C” is basically two episodes of star trek stuck together into one. The first, the story of Captains Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Saru (Doug Jones), and Presidents Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) and T’Rina (Tara Rosling) making first contact with Species 10-C is among the best and most interesting in the four seasons of the series so far. The other plot brings to light all the paths Discovery can sometimes go off the rails. We’ve raised the stakes unnaturally with the impending destruction of Earth, the out-of-character betrayal of General Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole), and the continued absurdity of everything Book (David Ajala) and Tarka (Shawn Doyle) are planning.
Every aspect of this first plot works though. 10-Cs have already been recognized as some of the most exotic species we have ever seen on star trek. (Although, despite the franchise’s reputation for having incredibly humanoid aliens, there have been some notable exceptions before.) Star Trek: Discovery S4E12 goes one step further. The size and differences such as having them floating in the atmosphere of the gas giants makes the 10-C species feel truly alien even before the episode begins to tackle the communication difficulty.
The time and care given to the science of crafting language is fascinating to watch. We’ve seen aspects of this previously – in particular, the ingenious ways they’re able to figure out how to communicate are reminiscent of the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Darmok”. star trek is at his best with these types of stories. Communication is necessary, but it seems like it will be impossible until, by virtue of these nerds and their love for science and thinking outside the box, the solutions are found. Especially with Olatunde Osunsanmi’s stellar direction, the way the crew members revel in the thrill of discovery is as thrilling as any massive action set.
It takes a coordinated effort from most of the crew and diplomats to translate the message, but they are able to do it. At first, the real Eggheads are at a loss – they’re all too tied to what they know about language to think outside the box in the ways necessary to understand Species 10-C. But situations like this are where Burnham excels. She realizes that it took different experiences and ways of thinking to figure out the mystery of the substance on the planet, so she calls most of the bridge crew to give their perspective. Commander Nilsson (Sara Mitich), Lieutenant Christopher (Orville Cummings), Lieutenant Commander Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), and Lieutenant Commander Detmer (Emily Coutts) all join the team to offer new perspectives.
It works. With the crew adding personal depth and emotional resonance to the science, they are able to figure out how to interpret the 10-C’s messages. Plus, Dr. Hirai (Hiro Kanagawa) is finally starting to justify his role in all of this. Hirai is the one who synthesizes the information others give and the joy he feels at the accomplishment stands in stark contrast to the grumpy recluse he has been thus far. Hirai is the kind of scientist who star trek has shown so often – and inspired in real life – and this moment invigorates him. The message of the 10-C is, as complicated as it may seem, their attempt to communicate in a simplified language that humanoids can understand.
This leads to a lot of linguistic history, to scientific discussion of how to communicate with new species, and the nature of the relative sensitivity. The team has several great discussions on how and why to communicate back and it’s all engaging. The 10-C accepts the message and creates space to communicate even more, so Burnham, Saru, T’Rina and Rillack travel deep into the atmosphere and seem to be on the verge of solving all the problems when they suddenly find themselves out of return. on the Discovery. It turns out that the 10-Cs no longer trust them as the plot of the other, terrible, part of the episode has finally come to a head.
At the end of “Rosetta” with Book and Tarka about to enact their plan to hide on the hull of the Discovery, Tarka was discovered by Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) and decided to kidnap her. The creators seem to think next week’s finale must have been an action game and have taken that storyline with Book and Tarka to the limit since its introduction. The stakes keep rising: first there was the destructive presence of the DMA, then it became Earth and all the other Federation core worlds that were at stake, now the stakes are raised again to endanger not only all of these worlds, but also all of 10-C, the Discovery, and much of the universe. But none of that flows naturally from the characters and with the other plot of Star Trek: Discovery S4E12 being so strong, it feels particularly infuriating here.
The only upside to this storyline is that we get to spend an amazing time with the amazing Jett Reno, although the idea that humans wouldn’t miss her on the Discovery like she’s been missing for hours is ridiculous. Kyle Jarrow’s script seems to have acknowledged some of the impossibilities and goes to great lengths to explain why none of Zora’s internal systems realized Reno was no longer on the ship, but it does a terrible job of explaining how a senior engineer could be missing for so long and not be noticed by his peers.
Stamets (Anthony Rapp) even tells Culber he was looking for Reno to help with their problem – because of course he should be looking for her – but there’s no explanation he wouldn’t have had any concerns about. about his disappearance. Even the scene where he, Culber and Adira (Blue Del Barrio) finally start to worry is edited in such a strange way that it seems like several minutes of the show are ticking by at once, they should have instantly sound the alarm that Reno was missing. It’s all so distracting that it would have been a problem even if Book and Tarka’s plot hadn’t been so frustrating.
But it was frustrating. For two-thirds of Star Trek: Discovery S4E12, Reno, who we all must remember was kidnapped by Tarka, calmly tries to explain to Book why he needs to stop trusting his “friend”. She eventually joins him when she explains that Tarka’s scheme will actually destroy DMA, 10-C, Discovery, and Earth and Tarka don’t care. So Book finally tries to stop Tarka and ends up imprisoned, because of course Tarka was planning on Book trying to stop him. Tarka doesn’t care about anyone or anything other than his plan to find Oros, which made him fearsome, but not interesting.
So Tarka sends a message to General Ndoye and she helps him enact the plan while Reno and Book watch. Reno, who is great to the end, is able to get a message across to Discovery to warn them of the danger and tell them that they must stop Tarka no matter what, even if it means destroying Book’s ship. And with that Star Trek: Discovery S4E12 takes us into the finale and ultimate showdown with Tarka and away from First Contact with the 10-C, which happens to be the story we hold dear.