There is an overlooked irony in Star Trek's history of exploring the unknown with seemingly limitless knowledge of what to do in any given situation and convenient tools with which to do it.
The ambition and brilliance of Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 12 is that Species Ten-C is genuinely alien, completely foreign, an absolute unknown. With the Univeral Translator useless and a ticking timeline to Earth and Ni'Var's demise, necessity has never birthed invention with such urgency.
Thrown into the high-action mix is the quiet revelation that Book inherited his name from his courier mentor, who inherited it himself. So, all along, Book has basically been the Dread Pirate Roberts? Huh.
Book provides his namesake backstory in exchange for Reno's personal parable on how grief blinds people.
Good lord, how I love Jett Reno.
Given the power to crew a ship with only one person programmed into multiple holos à la Rios and La Sirena on Star Trek: Picard, I would fill my ship with smart-talking licorice-chewing, brilliant engineers with surprising insight into the human condition.
Reno: Never knew being kidnapped could be so boring.
Tarka: You're not kidnapped. You're temporarily detained.
Reno: Meh, potato, po-tah-toe.
When Discovery rescued Reno and the Hiawatha crewmates she'd kept alive on Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 1, there was no way to know the prickly commander would become such a vital and entertaining addition.
It wasn't until Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 12, when she admits she's "an engineer, not a poet," that it comes clear that she is the Bones of the crew and, thus, integral to the team.
As a hostage on Book's ship, Reno is a witness, detective, and solution.
With her skills, she's pretty much the worst choice for kidnappee that Tarka could have picked. I mean, she MacGyvered a communication device using replicated licorice. #EPIC
Tell him to show you the math. His equations won't make any sense, but the look on his face will. Like I said, pain makes people blind.Reno
Always bright, she pays close attention to Tarka and Book's activities while drawing little attention to herself.
She's onto Tarka's gray area shenanigans right away and speaks nothing but the truth to Book, knowing that he values that honesty and it'll be effective in contrast to Tarka.
Tarka: I've had two real friends in my life, and you were one of them.
Reno: You have a funny way of showing it.
And while I may have misjudged Tarka's level of meaningful villainy initially, he has proven plenty problematic and not quite sympathetic enough for us to forgive his choices.
On the other hand, Book's intentions have been well-meaning even if his judgment has been clouded.
Unfortunately, if this all goes wrong, but he survives, it'll be with the knowledge that his decision to involve Ndoye and charm her into working with them was crucial in helping Tarka's plan succeed.
Sometimes, getting to the root cause of a feeling is helped by focusing on the feeling itself.Culber
Adjacent to Reno's hostage crisis is Culber analyzing and solving Zora's sense of unease.
Psychoanalyzing a sentient supercomputer is another pivot our good doctor has made this season.
With the responsibilities that he's taken on, it's touching to see how Stamets is looking out for him.
Also, the suggestion they take a vacation afterward is such a charmingly mundane plan in the face of the danger they're facing. It's the best kind of absurd humor.
Saru: It is possible they do not yet see us as sentient beings.
Rillak: We have a spaceship. We warped here. Clearly, we're sentient.
Hirai: Compared to them, our technology's primitive. They've achieved Level 2 on the Kardashev Scale, maybe beyond. It's like comparing a human to a monkey with a rock.
The core element of the narrative is, of course, bridging the communication gap with Ten-C.
The laborious process is a litmus test of the faith and vision of the individual members of the delegation.
While the novelty of wildly guessing at a method of communication lends itself to understandable apprehension, General Ndoye's fear-driven decisions fail the test of leadership.
Whether or not this is a commentary on 32nd-century human short-sightedness, it again illustrates the dangers of being blinded by emotion.
Ndoye's behavior has been deeply contradictive since this mission began.
On Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 11, she stalled Burnham from embarking on the mission to the Ten-C previous homeworld because she felt they weren't moving fast enough to engage Ten-C directly.
It feels like a form of analysis paralysis. By being fixated on a need to confront the threat directly, Ndoye isn't open to more effective but slower methods.
She'd rather run headlong into an encounter with no solution for communicating than take the time to form a plan.
On the other hand, Dr. Hirai is so enchanted by the opportunity to learn a whole new form of language he's almost too wrapped up in the possibilities to be efficacious.
Composing the first equation and then stopping to check he has consensus on "4+5=9" is another moment of absurd humor probably meant to cut the tension.
Ndoye: Is taking on that level of risk really prudent?
Hirai: We won't get a different response without a different input.
I appreciate that he continues to be a blunt speaker.
Unfortunately, his poor "bedside manner" earlier may have been a factor in Ndoye's equally poor decision-making, a domino effect that could mean catastrophe for this first contact.
My favorite (non-Reno) scene in this whole excursion is probably seeing Saru and Burnham share their insecurities and doubts as they prepare to step into the Ten-C pod.
Their relationship has been such a joy to watch as it evolves.
Burnham: I feel like everything is just slipping through my fingers.
Saru: I have also struggled when I feel a lack of control. Yet, it is something with which we must make peace.
Their Tarka-prescribed screaming session would closely follow that if I were ranking scenes.
One does wonder how many takes that took to film.
With the delegation's advances in communication with the Ten-C, Tarka seems like a much greater threat to everyone and everything than even the DMA now.
Reno's message to Burnham is clear. Tarka must be stopped at all costs, including destroying Book's ship with Book and Reno aboard.
I hope that the Ten-C have another orb they can trap the ship in. But that would seem pretty simple and not exactly exciting.
How do you think this will play out?
One episode left. One hour of viewing to go.
Who will still be around when the credits roll on this season?
Hit our comments below with your best thoughts and theories!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lifelong fan of smart sci-fi and fantasy media, an upstanding citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a supporter of AFC Richmond 'til she dies. Her guilty pleasures include female-led procedurals, old-school sitcoms, and Bluey. She teaches, knits, and dreams big. Follow her on Twitter.