Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Star Trek: Discovery” season 4, episode 11
The first episode of “Star Trek: Picard” dropped on Paramount Plus this week, in an interesting move from the television studio. Perhaps they were hoping “Discovery” would benefit from the enormous publicity campaign that’s being adopted for the second season starring Patrick Stewart, otherwise it’s entirely possible one might steal more than it’s fair share of social media thunder from the other. We’ll just have to wait and see.
It’s hard to compare the successes and failures in the streaming age as Paramount doesn’t release figures for individual shows. What they’re interested in is subscriber numbers, generally speaking — and they’re increasing. But the fan reaction has been mixed. “Discovery” has a 36% Average Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, “Lower Decks” has a 66% and “Picard” boasts a 54% score. Of course, Rotten Tomatoes is not the most accurate way to gauge fan reaction as it’s vulnerable to disgruntled fans, just like practically every online user-review system is, but it has attempted to resolve that issue in recent years.
Related: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 4, Episode 10 provides Tarka’s backstory
That said, according to Paramount’s earnings presentation “Clifford” drove more subscriptions than “Star Trek” last year. If you need to catch up on “Discovery” so far, check out our Star Trek: Discovery streaming guide or our overall Star Trek streaming guide for the full franchise.)
But with its long overdue expansion into Europe, the streaming network plans to be in 48 markets by the end of 2022, including the UK, Ireland, Italy and France, together with South Korea and the Caribbean. The service is also projected to expand into Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in 2023. Frankly, as long as we have “Star Trek” on our screens, we’re happy. We can talk about the high and lows of the story writing for ages afterwards.
So with all that in mind, let’s get to “Star Trek: Discovery” season 4, episode 11 “Rosetta.”
So, it turns out species 10-C may have lived on the now-dead, rocky core of what was once a gas giant. However, the star that this planet orbits is surrounded by “Dyson rings” made from the same rare material as the DMA controller.
Related: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Episode 9 begins setting up the big season finale
Dyson rings are a variation of what’s called a Dyson sphere; in essence it is a massive megastructure that can only be built by an advanced alien race. It’s a concept that offers an explanation as to how a spacefaring civilization would meet its energy requirements once those requirements exceeded what could be generated from the home planet’s resources alone. It is an entire structure that encircles a star and would enable a civilization to collect far more energy than would otherwise reaches the surface of any orbiting planet. The concept was popularized by Freeman Dyson in his paper “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation” published in 1960 and has appeared before in “Star Trek” in “The Next Generation” episode “Relics” (S06, E04).
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Saru (Doug Jones), Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Lt. Cmdr. Detmer (Emily Coutts) head down to the planet to see if they can find any evidence of species 10-C. What will they find? Instructions on how to build a weapon? Ancient ruins of some kind? It’s a thrilling pre-credit build up and the dialogue is good. Meanwhile, Tarka (Shawn Doyle) and Book (David Ajala) are hot on the heels of the Discovery and have made it safely through the Galactic Barrier and all its
bubbles space cells without any incident and even without a mention.
Related: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 4, Episode 8: A not-awful installment
One consistent element of this episode is the use of cause and effect interplay throughout and it’s extremely effective. Dr. Hirai (Hiro Kanagawa) is used on more than occasion, interacting with both General Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole) and President Laira Rillak (Chelah Horsdal). It’s an example of how the smaller details in this show are improving, it’s just still being let down by the bigger details.
Upon landing on the desolate planet, the away team find themselves having a hallucinogenic affair as they suffer from inadvertently interacting with unknown hydrocarbon micro particles. But as they progress further, they all become impaired, with the exception of Lt. Cmdr. Detmer who has a rare moment in the spotlight in this episode and is able to find a solution at the last minute. Proceeding further on the planet and into an ancient alien structure, they find evidence that species 10-C cares for its young and therefore demonstrates emotion and empathy. The planet looks and feels extremely alien as it should and the Discovery environment suits are gorgeous.
Like last season, this one feels like two distinctly different halves rather than a seamless, single season of television. The thing with seasonal story arcs is that the characters haven’t noticeably changed very much at the end. In “Star Trek” every character seems to accumulate more emotional baggage and very little else, that way at the beginning of next season, everyone is more or less exactly how we left them, just the way the studio seems to like it. The setting has changed once or twice, but it’s not like…say, an individual character going through a radical transformation for some reason. Burnham didn’t really change after her whole year spent as a courier before the Discovery arrived and Book’s grief for his destroyed homeworld will probably all but disappear by the time Season 5 arrives.
Related: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Episode 7 sets up a mid-season cliffhanger
Unless…the crew of the USS Discovery travels to a new dimension after Tarka connects his interdimensional transporter to the bionic-subsonic-positronic-plasma-field-actuator. Now, that could be interesting.
It’s also a wonder how anyone is able to remain so calm during this terrifying crisis, but then we’re reminded of that bar aboard the Discovery. With it’s warm, orange-colored, low-level lighting and huge, roaring open fire. It feels safe, secure and snug, like it’s separated from everything going on. Who wouldn’t spend all day every day in there, sipping one whiskey sour after another, watching the stars fly by through one of the many large portholes?
Tarka and Book embark on a mission to…er, beam aboard the Discovery undetected and plant sensor-blocking devices in Engineering that will allow Book’s ship to travel, cloaked alongside the Federation starship, enabling them to destroy the DMA control device as soon as they’re close enough. It’s a ridiculous idea, but it’s actually executed quite well. And finally, Cmdr. Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) is used to good effect when she finds Tarka hiding behind a bulkhead. She later uses Tarka to capture Book as well, so their plan has effectively ended. And now Burnham has some common ground – a Rosetta Stone, if you will — to facilitate at least an attempt to communicate with species 10-C.
Related: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 4, Episode 6 keeps the tempo up
We’ve talked before how very “template”-based the last two, even three seasons of “Star Trek: Discovery” have felt and in Tilly’s absence Adira (Blu del Barrio) has, to all intents and purposes, stepped directly into the same role, thus replacing Mary Wiseman. Why does Alex Kurtzman/Paramount Plus/the Discovery writer’s room [delete as appropriate] feel the need to have the same stencil for each season?
After all the excitement has died down a bit and everyone is either safely back on the bridge or in the brig, Dr. Culber admits to Burnham how he’s struggling. Quite why she doesn’t suggest he order cocktail and spend some time in Discovery’s
ski lodge bar is unknown, but I’m willing to wager that would cure it. I’m also willing to wager that the DMA is somehow operating automatically by a civilization in hibernation, or something, and the whole thing is put down to a misunderstanding.
The first 11 episodes of Season 4 of “Star Trek: Discovery” are available to watch now on Paramount+ in the US and CTV Sci-Fi or Crave TV in Canada. Countries outside of North America can watch on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. The first episode of Season 2 of “Star Trek: Picard” is also available and the premiere season of “Strange New Worlds” begins on May 5.