“… But to connect” serves as a sort of midseason finale as Discovery will be on hiatus until February 10, and the episode is almost painfully self-aware. It ends with an unsurprisingly cliffhanger ending, but despite its obviousness, what’s interesting about “… But to connect” is what it has to say about the larger thematic arc of the game. community of the season and how those ties affect the way the Federation handles a crisis. In this sense, the episode not only sets up the main plot challenge, but also reinforces the main metaphor of the season – DMA as a replacement for the pandemic. I suspect resolution will be everything Trek, but the growing rift between Book and Burnham troubles me. Will we see Burnham lose Book because of his need for revenge? Will she be able to persuade him to understand the Federation’s position? At this point, only time will tell, but judging by the social media divide over the past couple of years, I’m not sure I have any hope.
“… But To Connect” challenges our characters to explore what it really means to be a community, and it does so by juxtaposing the Federation conference with Kovich’s investigation into Zora’s sensitivity. . Interestingly, the authors chose to pit the macropolitics against the intimately personal, but the final conclusions here are mostly the same.
Diplomacy and DMA
While the Discovery is undergoing repairs following the events in the Subspace Rift, President Rillak has appealed to heads of state across the quadrant to come to Federation headquarters to discuss what to do do about DMA. She tempts them with the tantalizing information that the Federation has the coordinates of extra-galactic origin for DMA, and most of the necessary parties agree to participate. Rillak also asks Burnham to be there to represent what Rillak’s really best interests are since she has to remain impartial for political reasons.
The usual suspects make the usual arguments. Earth united with Titan under a single government organization after the events of last season, but their newfound peace did not dampen Earth’s paranoia at all. Earth is arguing for the creation of an armada to combat what is clearly a hostile threat. Ni’Var President T’Rina argues for a diplomatic approach given that no one really knows what DMA really is. She argues that it is entirely possible that Species 10C did not create DMA to be a weapon, and even if so, there is no guarantee that their technology would place the races in the Alpha quadrant advanced enough to pose a real threat to a species that has created a deadly anomaly.
As talks continue, Ruon Tarka walks up to a book bubbling with rage that delegates seem to be considering diplomacy and reminds him to pick the right time to try and convince them otherwise. When the assembly meets again, Tarka listens for a few moments and then proposes his own solution. Tarka explains that he has a way to destroy DMA, but that method requires the use of an isolytic burst, which is a type of artillery prohibited by the Khitomer accords due to the damage it causes to the sub -space. Tarka shrugs his shoulders in characteristic boredom and Burnham expresses his horror.
Rillak requests a break during which Book chats with Tarka who reveals that he wants the DMA power source in order to jump into universes to join a friend from his Emerald Chain lab. Tarka reminds Book that he has emotional capital he could spend to change some hearts. Book takes up the suggestion, and once recess is over, he begs them as the last survivor of Kwejian to destroy the DMA. However, Burnham’s counter-argument turns out to be more effective and the assembly votes in favor of attempting peaceful first contact with 10C species.
Zora and Stamets
A board Discovery, Kovich is investigating Zora’s sensitivity. As Adira and Gray plead with her to stay aboard the ship, Stamets reacts with deep suspicion, citing her experiences with Control. He explains that he cannot trust Zora not to put his interests above those of the crew. He stresses his refusal to give up the original contact details as proof. Zora offers a compromise and creates a fail-safe device that will effectively kill her in the event the switch is flipped. Everyone in the room but Stamets reacts with almost visceral disgust. Stamets seems ready to accept his offer, but Culber tells him that he cannot hold the life of another sentient being above them for cooperation.
Stamets talks to Zora, explains her fears to her, and between them they decide that trust will be needed. However, this trust must be extended to each other, so Stamets destroys the safety net. Zora reveals the contact details and agrees to join Starfleet and abide by the same hierarchy that governs everyone on the ship. Stamets asks Kovich what he would have done if Stamets hadn’t overcome his fears. Kovich shrugs and tells him that he would have transferred Stamets out of Discovery, and Stamets agrees that would have been the right choice.
With everything seemingly resolved, Burnham goes in search of Book but finds Grudge in his quarters with a note from Book. Book left with Tarka to destroy DMA, betraying Burnham. He asks her to take care of his daughter.
“… But to connect” is a lot, but it is not subtle. At one point, the episode cuts between Burnham and Stamets making their respective arguments, almost finishing each other’s sentences. This is really the heart of the episode; the assembled delegates as well as Stamets and Zora agree to move forward together in peaceful cooperation. Because it is Star trek, we know this is the right choice for everyone involved, but Discovery does not allow this choice to be inconsequential. Burnham makes his point knowing that Book won’t agree with her, but she always does so in the hopes that he will understand. Book, however, isn’t sure they can ever overcome this particular difference of opinion, and the episode leaves them in very different places, literally and metaphorically.
Burnham insists on adhering to the principles of the Federation, but more importantly, she reminds delegates that these ideals encourage them to be the best version of themselves. In this case, that means not acting out of fear and lashing out just because they have been injured by DMA. It means trusting diplomacy and science to help them get through this crisis. The book sits on the opposite end of the spectrum. He is crushed under his grief and guilt, and the destruction of the DMA not only means that he will avenge his losses as culturally appropriate, but also that no one else will suffer the same devastating losses as him. Therefore, for him, the decision to destroy the DMA, to hell with the consequences, is an easy decision. Additionally, the episode means for us not only to understand why he makes the choice he makes, but also to empathize with his impulse while remaining aware that it is still the wrong choice.
I mentioned above that this season is treating DMA as a metaphor for COVID, and “… But to connect” really doubles the comparison. We know that AMD is deadly, unpredictable and devastating. It arises out of nowhere and affects a large number of beings and accumulates an obscene number of deaths in its wake. The parallels to the virus spell out on their own, but for the first time, we’re really starting to see the characters break down into all-too-familiar lines. Burnham and the Federation want to pursue an information-based community strategy to deal with AMD in which everyone is doing their part. Book and Tarka reject this approach and prefer to act on their own instincts and information.
Trek as a franchise has a long, long history of using the metaphor to explore not only current events but difficult moral topics as well. From “A Private Little War,” which commented on the Vietnam War, to “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” describing the self-defeating nature of racism, to “Past Tense,” which served as a scathing commentary not only on racism, but also the criminalization of homelessness. Discovery follows in an august, albeit imperfect, tradition in using allegory to explore such a sensitive subject. While so far the allegory has been mostly painted with a wide brush, the writers really want to leave the audience something to think about during the hiatus, and I think they’ve succeeded. Plus, I especially like that they have skillfully woven into the thematic fabric of the season the tools with which the characters can address DMA, and those tools are firmly intertwined with Trekcommunity focus and DiscoverySeason four emphasizes connection.
Three cups full of Earl Gray tea, a saucer and a refill
Stray thoughts from the sofa
- You all. Book left Grudge with Burnham. He has no plans to return after destroying the DMA. On the one hand, it’s really, really stupid, but on the other hand, I appreciate that even though he doesn’t know where their relationship is at, he loves her enough to leave Grudge with her.
- A note on Tarka, his motives are as selfish as expected. Of course, I think for him that the Emerald Chain probably killed his boyfriend, so he wants to escape his universe and all its evils. There is just something so inherently weak about jumping into a universe in order to avoid dealing with its issues.
- Stamets shows remarkable personal growth here, and I love that he understands how to trust Zora. I like it even more that they conclude that Zora is less of an AI and more of a whole new life form. I also really liked that she didn’t turn out to be Skynet but instead created her own guidelines to look after her family. It’s a nice way to flip the trope on his ear.
- I also loved how the episode brought back a lot of familiar faces, not just from this season but the last. General Ndoye was a nice touch, even though she was as hawkish as one might expect.
- T’Rina continues to be the best. That’s all.