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Star Trek Discovery: Coming Home

'Some people never find their purpose in life, you know? I'm grateful I found mine.'

By nature I love brevity: I certainly wouldn't call this episode 'bad', and there wasn't that much that was wrong with it, but it really didn't take a lot of risks with its storytelling. It just wrapped up the threads and then got right out of the way. None of those threads wrapped up in a way that surprised me at all, but there were only a couple of turns that bothered me, so... that's a win, I guess?

I mean, let's be clear. Discovery's history with finales is... not strong. Even probably the best of them, the S2 finale 'Such Sweet Sorrow, Part II', was bogged down by a few moments of sheer lunacy. (Never forget Admiral Cornwell and the torpedo. Never forget.) A lot of times all the interesting ideas they've been debating about the whole season long get tossed out the window so we can all punch the bad guys real hard. So it was really nice to see a finale that wasn't a big dumb space battle for a change.

At the end of the day, this season was primarily about Burnham and Book. What I really needed from this finale was a strong wrap-up to their storyline. And I must say, although I haven't always been the biggest fan of Sonequa Martin-Green's emotional acting, the scenes when she thought Book was dead really got me. Sure, part of it was the context of their prior relationship and how that's developed over the course of the season, but watching her slowly overcome her emotion with resolve, but still carry it in little subtleties of movement in everything she did? That sold me that we were witnessing a great performance. David Ajala, as usual, is effortlessly terrific. The whole cast really nailed this one, and I love it when that happens.

As I mentioned last episode, the stakes were finally properly balanced for a finale, too. Sure, nobody really thought they were going to destroy Earth and Ni'Var and kill off the entire cast, but it really did feel like Earth could be gone, and it's certainly never outside the realm of possibility that one of our cast might die. In the end, it was only Tarka, which was slightly disappointing given the number of 'mortal danger' moments they gave us. At the least, I expected to also lose Ndoye, although I'm not especially sad she's sticking around.

I loved the evacuation B plot, featuring the return of Tilly. I've liked what the show has done since she made her half-exit, and I still maintain that there are too many characters for the show's own good, but I won't deny she has been missed. Mary Wiseman does a really excellent job with the role, too, and her scenes with Oded Fehr's Admiral Vance were touching. Vance has been such a great relief given Star Trek's history with Admirals, and the pairing of the two of them was strange but inspired.

The resolution of the main thrust of the season, of course, was front and center here, and sadly, the reason I haven't mentioned it yet is because I wanted to say all the good things I had to say first. It's not that the scenes of Burnham and Rillak and Book giving impassioned speeches to the 10C were bad, it's just that they basically ignored the whole problem that Species 10C presented in the first place. I mean, last episode, in order to communicate with Species 10C, our heroes had to have an extended debate about how to express the concept of 'us' using a mathematical formula. The message they received back was 'sadness', and that's the last time the two species communicated last episode. This episode, the very next message received from Species 10C was 'We now understand your request to leave the orb. You are not one. How many are you?' This was accompanied by a request to join them and a promise to send transport, same as before. Call me crazy, but exactly how was a paragraph consisting of multiple sentence types communicated through math? And I'm pretty sure they needed a light pattern to interpret the 10C's messages previously. How did they receive that when traveling at warp?

This might seem unimportant, but it's frustrating because the single biggest problem they faced up until this episode was that Species 10C was completely alien, more alien than anything they had ever encountered before, and that to communicate with them was almost impossible. The highlight of last episode was the process by which they figured out communication and puzzled together their messages back and forth. Here the writers just decided that was too hard, so they completely disregarded that obstacle without so much as a line telling us they'd figured out some new way to communicate. It's lazy and it's underwhelming, and it bothers me even more because it was going so well up until then.

The last thing I'll talk about is a final-scene turn that I've frankly been hesitant to write about. But it's a key part of the episode, and I think it needs to be addressed. We finally met, after several references, the President of Earth. The big reveal, of course, is that she is played by real-life politician and activist Stacey Abrams. Now, in the interests of full disclosure of my biases, I do not agree with Stacey Abrams about many of her political positions. But I really don't think that's affecting my opinion on her appearance here.

Star Trek has had a long history of getting famous people and celebrities from outside the entertainment industry to appear on the show if they're big Trekkies. From Stephen Hawking playing himself to real-life astronaut Mae Jemison appearing as a transporter operator, it's a tradition for the show to have guests from the real world. Even inherently political figures have not been out of bounds in the past, like when the King of Jordan was an Ensign on Voyager.

Star Trek has also always been political, just like all art inevitably is. This show was political from the moment Gene Roddenberry put an African-American woman and an Asian man on the bridge of his spaceship, gave them important jobs and big responsibilities, and never even acknowledged in the show that this might be at all strange. If you have a problem with movies and tv being political or having messages about real world topics, maybe movies and tv aren't for you. Art is about ideas, and some of those ideas are going to be controversial and sometimes political.

But this is different than having celebrities appear on the show, and this is different than making a statement about political ideas. Stacey Abrams is a current, active political figure, not to mention the fact that she is currently running for office to be the governor of Georgia. And she isn't appearing on the show as a background character, like pretty much every celebrity that's been given the chance to appear on Star Trek. They cast her as the President of Earth. They cast a politician that is currently campaigning for public office as the President of Earth and had her say things like 'there's a lot of work to do.' Star Trek has always been political, but even when Lorca was yelling about Making the Mirror Universe Great Again, Star Trek has never before told me who to vote for. It could still be argued that Lorca's speech was a political statement about a movement. It was still about ideas. This is not. For the last three minutes of the episode, the show became almost literally a campaign advertisement for a specific, current candidate for office. Again, I have no problem with art being political. But as an aspiring filmmaker myself, it upsets me that the medium of narrative filmmaking – in such a mainstream, prominent setting, no less – would be used to boost a person's bid for public office. It's not the right place or time.

Strange New Worlds:

This episode featured a visit to the current homeworld of Species 10C, which bore a striking resemblance to the Nether realm from the video game Minecraft, complete with massive floating creatures with tentacles drooping from their bodies. I sort of doubt that gas giant planets have those sorts of rocky, stable surfaces to stand on, but what do I know? I've certainly never been to a gas giant.

All we're missing is the zombie warthog

New Life and New Civilizations:

Speaking of Ghasts Species 10C, we finally got a design for them, just as I was hoping! It may not be the most creative design, but I asked for an alien, and I got an alien. How can I complain?


-Apparently Federation Headquarters can go to warp, which is pretty darn cool, and it can separate into individual sections, which can also individually go to warp. Which is even more darn cool.

-President T'Rina was able to mind-meld with Species 10C, continuing a trend where Vulcans are sometimes able to mind-meld without touching the being they are melding with. She also described their combined consciousness as being more like the Founders than the Borg, a reference to a key race from Deep Space Nine.

-For a minute there I wondered if Discovery was going to go full Voyager for a season and have their cast stranded a long way from home. I think it's better that they didn't, though.

-In the show's tradition of naming ships in homage to Trek actors that have passed on, Admiral Vance name-dropped the U.S.S. Yelchin in this episode, a reference to Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond actor Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the alternate timeline.

-It was a little weird that Burnham decided that everybody on the bridge needed to be there for the first contact moment. Why exactly did random Ensign 3 need to be there?

-For all that the speeches were too easy to translate, I did like Rillak's speech, Burnham's speech, and finally Book's speech.

-There was a line cross in Burnham and Rillak's final conversation that took me out of it a little. The characters didn't switch positions, but the camera was definitely on the other side of Rillak's shoulder all of a sudden.

-Book's 'punishment' was fitting and it's the right choice for his character. Looking forward to seeing him again in a season or so.

Not bad, but a few big flaws that brought it down too much. Still a great season overall. 4 out of 6 rocky, molten gas giants.

CoramDeo in flames will hardly serve my aims.


  1. CoramDeo, congratulations on finishing reviews for season four!

    I'll admit I was a bit underwhelmed, too. The Species 10C thing was really cool, and then they wrapped it up a bit too quickly for me. And even though I'm very much a progressive, I thought the Stacey Abrams thing was heavy-handed.

    Much agreement that David Ayala is terrific. I thought they did a good job with Book and Burnham on opposite sides of a crucial issue. I liked what they did with Saru and T'Rina this season.

    And I have also missed Tilly.

  2. Hmm I never even caught on that it was Stacey Abrams and got no vibe that they were telling me who to vote for or that it was presenting an overly politiical viewpoint. I do follow politics more closely than most people so I find it surprising i didnt notice that.

  3. I thought Stacey Abrams was invited to appear because she’s a huge fan of Discovery and when I read that the whole scene made me smile because I love when ‘famous’ people like the sci-fi stuff I like. I lean left but never had any issue with Fred Thompson, a sitting Republican Senator at the time, showed up in my shows and movies. But I do see your point and maybe it’s just not the right time these days in such politically charged times to have politicians in these roles.

  4. It has been a while since I watched this finale, so I can't remember all the details, but you addressed two things I definitely remember, as well as how I felt about them. First, as someone who has always had an interest in languages, I loved watching them finally figure out in the previous episode how to communicate with the 10C. What confused and highly irritated me in this episode was that they went from simple constructs to all of a sudden easily communicating complex thoughts and ideas. That was totally unbelievable to me. The other thing I clearly remember is that the appearance of Stacey Abrams completely took me out of the show, and I'm speaking as someone who *does* agree with most of her politics. I discussed this with a friend of mine who is equally progressive and why her appearance bothered me where other appearances or political references did not. I think it comes down to her high visibility in current politics, which are more divisive than ever. And finally, I'm going to make what I suspect is my most controversial statement in this post, and that is that I have grown more and more annoyed by Tilly's character with each season. I loved her at first - now, not so much. I'm not sure how I felt about the season overall. I know I don't want to see yet another season long quest to solve a mystery that affects the whole galaxy. I'd probably have more to say if I re-watched the finale, but this is enough for now.


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