Burnham's ta'al

“Coming Home:” Kwakoni Yiquan

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

Discovery wraps its fourth season up with a neat bow, but in the process, the series promises us widely new frontiers. The Federation emerges stronger by far than the rag-tag alliance of planets we found at the beginning of season three, and with Earth coming back into the fold, Discovery is freed from the task of rebuilding what was. I’m looking forward to seeing what this future Alpha Quadrant offers us, but before we can get there, we must first address the issue of Species 10C and the DMA. “Coming Home” does a wonderful job of that and stays true to the season-long themes. Not everything or everyone ends well, and there are definite bittersweet moments. “Coming Home” as an episode is an ending, but it’s an ending that looks forward to new beginnings, which makes for a satisfying season finale.

Plot Ahoy!

Considering how long it’s been since the episode came out, I will refer you to Memory Alpha’s incredibly detailed summary. In broad strokes, however, the major points are that just as the DMA’s first waves begin to cause major damage to both Earth and Ni’Var, Discovery is trapped in a bubble while Tarka sends Book’s ship hurtling toward the energy source, consequences be damned. Discovery’s crew can’t seem to convince 10C that they aren’t allied with Tarka, so Burnham realizes that she must do whatever is necessary to break through the bubble in order to prevent Tarka from annihilating everyone.

She orders Stamets to use the spore drive to try and break free, knowing that they will burn out the spore drive in the process. The energy from the drive shatters the bubble, and Discovery moves to intercept. Aboard Book’s ship, Book uses Grudge’s collar to create a disruption in the forcefield, and he goes and punches Tarka. Unfortunately, Reno discovers that Tarka locked them out of the controls, so Book has her use his combadge to beam back aboard the Discovery. Frustrated with her options, Burnham consults General Ndoye at Rillak’s request. The general suggests sending a shuttle on a collision course with the ship, and she volunteers to pilot the shuttle herself.

Back aboard Book’s ship, Book convinces Tarka that Oros would not have wanted this, and Tarka breaks down, confessing that he agrees. Tarka also tells Book that there’s no way he can break the encryption in time, and the two watch as General Ndoye’s shuttle crashes into their ship, sending it careening toward the hyperfield that will destroy it. Tarka is lucid enough to beam Book to Discovery with the little power that remains, and he seems to resign himself to his fate. Aboard Discovery, Owosekun fails to capture Book’s signal.

Captain Burnham visibly grieves, but she pulls herself together and sends the ship back into the orb to talk to 10C, which has?have? discovered that the beings aboard Discovery are not linked the way the 10C are. The 10C invite them to talk in person, and Burnham orders almost everyone to go down and talk. They talk to 10C about the devastation the DMA has wrought both to planets and to Burnham personally. The 10C reveal that they captured Book’s signal, and they return him to her. Book then takes up the conversation and convinces the 10C not only to stop mining boronite using the DMA but also to repair the damage the DMA leaves behind it. The 10C agree.

Back in the alpha quadrant, Federation HQ has warped to defend and evacuate Earth and Ni’Var. They do what they can before Earth’s planetary shields start to fail after being pummeled by the DMA’s lethal debris field, but both Vance and Tilly know they’ll never be able to rescue enough survivors. Debris knocks out HQ’s propulsion and weapons systems, leaving HQ stranded. Tilly and Vance remain aboard, having opted to remain at HQ in order to provide as much covering fire as they could. They toast their fate with some Risian whiskey Tarka had given Vance just as 10C shuts down the DMA.

The 10C send Discovery home via the DMA’s wormhole, and they greet Tilly and Vance aboard Federation HQ. Earth’s president greets Burnham and informs her that Earth stands ready to rejoin the Federation and that they all have much work to do. Burnham agrees. Book’s sentence is basically community service, helping those displaced by the DMA. While they do not know when they’ll see each other next, they remain secure in their love for on another.

Analysis

Over the last four seasons, Discovery’s pacing has settled into a set pattern. The first part of the season slowly develops until three episodes from the end, the pacing rushes to the finale and breakneck speed. Season Four is not the exception that proves the rule. However, even despite moments of frenetic activity, there are moments when the episode seems to drag, making for a strangely uneven feel.

However, despite the pacing issue, there’s a lot to love about “Coming Home.” Most importantly, the episode doubles down on the themes of community and connection that we’ve seen from the very first episode. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve seen a Star Trek season so committed to thematic consistency. Burnham reaches out to 10C, emphasizing communication over violence, and that’s what works. Book reminds 10C of their membership in the greater community of a universe, and therefore they must make amends for their actions, not only by stopping the DMA but also by repairing subspace. Book himself rejoins Discovery’s community briefly before being sent out to make amends for his own actions by serving, you guessed it, the greater community.

Culber and Stamets reaffirm their connection to one another and to their adopted child. Adira, themself, begins to form connections with other members of the crew in ways they have never done before. Saru and T’Rina finally, finally come together, recognizing that some connections are worth the effort. Tilly forged a connection between her students Gorev and Harral. Over and over, Discovery has prioritized understanding and community over solitary action this season, and “Coming Home” is heavily steeped in those themes. Star Trek’s overall emphasis on collective action and problem-solving has generally set it apart from other science fiction franchises. In Trek, it’s not so much a question of a rag-tag group of fellows banding together in pursuit of a common goal. Rather, Trek envisions an entire culture of collaboration, and Discovery has embraced that vision with a vengeance.

The point it’s trying to make here is as unsubtle as it is necessary; we do better and are better when we act in concert with others. Tarka loses sight of this in his single-minded pursuit of Oros. His tragedy, if he has one, is that he’s willing to sacrifice each new opportunity to experience that kind of connection to pursue one that he lost. He remains blind to it until the moment he decides to prioritize Book’s life over his own. The 10C cause irreparable harm in their pursuit to remain isolated within their hyperfield. They destroy lives in their quest for boronite to fuel what amounts to a giant shield that protects them but also isolates them.

“Coming Home” seeks to teach a lesson about what kind of world we could have if we focus on connecting with each other rather than reacting with fear and distrust while also demonstrating how damaging fear and mistrust can be. It’s a deeply Trek philosophy, and one that bears remembering. Sure, “Coming Home” has its fair share of awkwardly paced sequences and overly emotional writing, but those flaws, coupled with its themes, are so typically Trek that I found myself swept up in the episode. I agree with Burnham that we all need understanding and connection just as much as I agree with the President of Earth that we have a lot of work left to do.

So, let’s get to it.

Rating:

Three and a half cups of Earl Grey Tea

Stray Thoughts From the Couch:

  1. I LOVED that they case Stacey Abrams as the President. They’re not even trying to be subtle, and I am here for it.
  2. This episode asked a great deal of Shawn Doyle, and he delivered. However, I still can’t entirely convince myself to grieve Tarka. We are, to paraphrase, sometimes masters of our fates, and Tarka’s choices overwhelmingly demonstrated a complete disinterest in the fates of millions. A brief moment of realization is not going to make up for that. I have to say, he’s going up there with Louise Fletcher’s Winn Adami for me.
  3. The design for Federation HQ is fantastic. I loved that it was warp-capable because that makes so much sense.
  4. Y’all, Grudge’s distaste for holograms saved entire worlds. She remains our space catte queen.

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