UK TV review: Star Trek: Discovery: Season 4 Episode 8
More squandered set-ups4
A decent twist7
Ian Winterton | On 20, Feb 2022
Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Sad to say, after getting some of its mojo back with its mid-season finale, Discovery returns from its break with another lacklustre outing. If this was just a case of a run-of-the-mill placeholder episode then that would be one thing, but the fact Season 4’s writers have – yet again – squandered a great set-up makes it worse.
We left the story with the enticing prospect of Book (David Ajala) going rogue with Tarka (Shawn Doyle) – all set to blow up the Dark Matter Anomaly (aka the Notorious DMA) and risk taking the Federation into war with an unknown but godlike species. And Michael (Sonequa Martin-Green), of course, is on the side of giving peace a chance – even if this does mean getting used to the often devious world of politics as represented by her bosses Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) of Starfleet and Federation president Rillak (Chelah Horsdal).
Sadly, after a cold open that’s as promising as the end of the previous episode, this episode’s adventure almost immediately brings the story’s potential crashing down with a thud. Michael is given covert permission to track Book and Tarka down and sets out, accompanied by Lt Cmdr Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo). Knowing Book and Tarka need to purchase some isolynium to construct their bomb, Michael’s first port of call is the Karma Barge, a floating casino she and Book used to frequent back in their courier days. And you’ll never guess who’s also decided to board the Karma Barge? Yes, in a thuddingly disappointing story choice, Book and Tarka.
As well as blowing what could have been weeks of tense cat-and-mouse, the meat of the episode is so damn dull in its own right. Crime-boss and walking cliché Haz Mazaro (Daniel Kash) announces he’ll sell the isolynium to whichever party can pay the most latinum, thus prompting both teams to engage in a tedious race to raise the cash. Tarka and Book take to spotting card-counters in the casino, while Owosekun enters an Ultimate Fighting-style competition and what could be a chance to develop a character rarely seen away from Discovery’s bridge is eschewed for a series of uninspiring punch-ups.
And the race is unimportant, really, as Mazaro then decides to make it all about a game of poker. With bad guys from the Emerald Chain sitting in – also keen to get their hands on the isolynium – Michael and Book decide to secretly team up – falling back on a code they once used to cheat back in the day. And then, all other players eliminated, it comes down to Book and Michael. They’re both chatty and amiable – which seems bizarre considering Book is set on endangering all life in the galaxy.
The writers do redeem themselves a little by the episode’s close, with Michael revealing that she assumed Book would win, and so planted a tracker on the isolynium. Next episode, when Michael inevitably follows Book and Tarak to wherever they are, let’s hope the adventure is less like this yawn-fest and more like the Discovery of old.