Equipped with knowledge about the emotion-laden hydrocarbons they found on Species 10-C’s decimated homeworld, the U.S.S. Discovery-A’s crew approaches the Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA) creators’ new refuge, a massive, Dyson Sphere-like hyperfield measuring approximately 1.5 Astronomical Units (1 AU = the distance between Sol and Earth) in size. Less than 15 hours are left before the DMA begins wreaking havoc on United Earth and Ni’Var, and all hails have gone unanswered.
Captain Burnham enacts the First Contact team’s contingency plan: dispatching DOTs equipped with the “peaceful” hydrocarbon to apply the chemical compound to the hyperfield’s surface. The barrier reacts and reaches out with a liquified appendage that resembles Odo’s gelatinous Changeling form, first absorbing the DOTs and then swallowing Discovery itself.
Now in the hyperfield and trapped within some type of orb, Discovery deals with critical systems failures and detects a solar system consisting of three identical gas giants, information which corroborates Burnham’s theory that the former gas giant they visited in “Rosetta” used to be the 10-C’s home. Unable to resist the orb’s pull, Discovery is brought to one of the planets and surrounded by a large number of unseen lifeforms.
Unbeknownst to the Discovery’s crew, Book’s ship remains under cloak and attached to the Federation vessel’s hull. Having recruited General Ndoye to slip them intel and “accidentally” kidnapping Jett Reno in the process, Cleveland “Book” Booker” and Ruon Tarka plot their strategy to turn off the DMA’s power source. Established in Season 3, Reno’s love of snacks (particularly black licorice) gives the engineer the strength to notice an inconsistency in Tarka’s calculations.
Despite Book and Tarka’s efforts to conceal themselves, Zora feels that something is “off” with her sensors and consults with Doctor Culber. The ship’s physician pushes aside concerns for his own well-being, opting to talk with Zora as they play the Trill game that Gray employed to calm the supercomputer’s overwhelming emotions in “Stormy Weather.”
Back on Book’s ship, Reno chats privately with the courier, who fulfills a promise he made to Michael at the end of Season 3 by explaining the origin of his moniker, Cleveland Booker. The name was passed down through generations of trusted couriers, and our Book became the fifth person to bear the name when his mentor retired. Reno cites her experience caring for a wounded patient back on the U.S.S. Hiawatha during the Klingon War. Believing she tried to save the crewman because he reminded her of her deceased wife, Reno recognizes the same desperate devotion emanating from Tarka.
Still attempting to initiate a discussion with the 10-C, the First Contact team offers them a small supply of boronite, the same substance mined by the DMA, as a gift. This effort prompts a member of Species 10-C to emerge from the planet’s gaseous layers near the shuttlebay. The massive lifeform lurks in the clouds, emitting organic molecules composed of hydrocarbons and displaying a pattern of lights.
As Doctor Hirai and Zora try to make sense of the correspondence, Ndoye covertly briefs Book and Tarka. The Risan scientist requests Ndoye’s help: he needs her to hack one of Discovery’s nacelles and release a plasma stream that will open a hole in the orb and allow Book’s ship to head for the DMA’s power source. Ndoye reluctantly agrees, demonstrating that her faith in Michael has begun to dim.
With assistance from the bridge crew, the First Contact group compares the hydrocarbon compounds to music, theorizing that each one is a symbol or a word. Since the molecules are composed of the hydrocarbons, they must be entire messages. The team realizes that the 10-C’s light pattern indicates the order in which the hydrocarbons should be read. Cooperating in a manner that would make the Federation’s founders proud, they deduce that the 10-C are trying to teach them a mathematical language to bridge the disconnect between their species.
Meanwhile, Reno reveals her suspicions about Tarka’s calculations to Book. Pulling the power source while the DMA is operating will cause the hyperfield to implode, wiping out the 10-C. Additionally, a subspace rift would form in the DMA’s current location and result in cataclysmic damage to Earth. Book confronts Tarka, who argues that Earth will have time to evacuate. Tarka imprisons Book alongside Reno and admits that, other than Oros, the courier is the only real friend he’s ever had.
In the shuttlebay, a rudimentary method of communication prevails. President Rillak, Burnham, Saru, and T’Rina enter a small orb sent over by the 10-C, finding a recreation of Discovery’s bridge inside. They manage to convey that the DMA brings them terror, to which the 10-C express great sadness. Just as mutual empathy is reached, Tarka initiates his plan and speeds off toward the power source in Book’s ship. Utilizing a communicator chip she had stashed in her sleeve, Reno hails Discovery and informs them of the destruction that Tarka’s efforts would cause for both the 10-C and Earth.
Although Star Trek has demonstrated the difficulties associated with finding common ground in previous episodes (the exchanges with the Sheliak in “The Ensigns of Command” and the Tamarians in “Darmok” spring to mind), “Species 10-C'' explores the concept of First Contact like never before. While preventing a catastrophe rightfully takes center stage, Discovery once again juxtaposes the large-scale dilemma with the desire for individuals to connect. From Zora and Culber’s counseling session to Saru and T’Rina’s relationship, the needs of the few are wisely given the same prestige as the needs of the many. With Tarka on the loose and only four hours to go until the DMA impacts United Earth and Ni’Var, we are in for one incredible season finale. Stay tuned as we continue to boldly go…
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer and consultant who has contributed articles to StarTrek.com, Star Trek Explorer, and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and StarWars.com. Jay serves as a BoldlyGo Campaign Ambassador for The Roddenberry Foundation. Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Discovery currently streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. Internationally, the series is available on Paramount+ in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics, and on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Discovery is distributed by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.