UK TV review: Star Trek: Discovery: Season 4, Episode 7
Zora’s future decided8
Tarka vs Michael8
Ian Winterton | On 05, Jan 2022
Season 4 is premiering weekly on Pluto TV on Fridays at 9pm, and repeated on Saturday and Sunday at the same time. Read our guide to how to watch here and follow our weekly reviews here. Warning: This review contains spoilers.
After a two-episode slump, Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 gets some of its mojo back, as Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and crew are forced to confront the less-than-ideal reality of having a fully sentient ship’s computer. After analysing data picked up in last episode’s otherwise dull adventure, AI Zora pinpoints the likely origin for the Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA) but announces she’s decided to keep the information to herself as, logic dictates, the crew will put themselves in danger by responding to her findings.
It’s a neat premise through which to explore artificial intelligence, and it means we’re treated to another wonderfully laconic performance from David Cronenberg as Kovich, there to deliberate on Zora’s fate: it’s against Starfleet law for an AI to be integrated into a starship’s system. As you’d expect, touchy-feely guardian-in-training Gray (Ian Alexander) is very much in favour of Zora’s continuing independence – and, inhabiting a synth body himself, he’s particularly sympathetic to Zora’s assertion that the Discovery is her body, and that to transfer her consciousness to an artificial form would be wrong.
On the side of rational science we have Stamets (Anthony Rapp) who, understandably, is concerned that Zora’s burgeoning consciousness will put the crew of Discovery in harm’s way. Zora’s suggested solution is a self-destruct button that will terminate her entirely should she ever show signs of becoming dangerous. Everyone is appalled by this suggestion, especially as Kovich comes to the conclusion that Zora is not an AI but a new life-form, and so the Starfleet law no longer applies. And Zora – handing over the DMA source location – is officially made a “specialist” crew member. The self-destruct device is dismantled and both Zora, Stamets and the rest of the crew are left to operate on Federation/Starfleet bedrock: trust.
Trust is, obviously, the theme of the episode, and it’s the driver for the secondary plot that sees Michael and Book attending a conference of Federation and non-Federation planets in order to discuss the DMA. Less-than-trustworthy genius Ruon Tarka (Shawn Doyle) puts the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons when he announces he’s created an “isolytic” bomb that, if detonated in the heart of the DMA, will destroy it. But isolytic weapons were banned in the Khitomer Accords (first mentioned in 1991 movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) because of the permanent damage they can inflict on sub-space. And worse: using such a weapon may be seen by Unknown Race 10-C as an act of war – and we’ll discover the DMA was but a minor part of their arsenal.
Michael, of course, urges caution – they should seek a diplomatic solution first. This eminently sensible argument is voted through, much to the ire of Book, who’s becoming ever more consumed by the need to avenge his people. And this is where the episode steps up a gear, with a great plot development.
“Politicians are like Gorathian sulfur slugs. Small-brained meat sacks filled with hot gas, but they can provide a means to an end.” So says Tarka, admitting to Book that he’s more interested in using the power of the isolytic bomb to get himself home – he is, he casually reveals, from another universe. And Book, when the vote goes against them, throws his lot in with Tarka, the episode ends with the two of them stealing the spore drive (is there any security on Discovery?) and installing it into Book’s ship.
With the show not back until February, it’s a perfect mid-season cliffhanger. Everything is set-up for a tense second half of Season 4, with Book and Tarka seeming on the verge of sparking an intergalactic war. Finally, Discovery’s writers have found a season arc that revolves around something more interesting than yet another galactic-eating threat – which hopefully will see the season lift Discovery out of the storytelling doldrums it’s fallen into. Also: Saru and T’Rina definitely fancy one another!