“Rosetta” gives the Discovery crew a key to communication.
There’s a whole lot of creeping going on—as well as some that isn’t—in this week’s episode of Star Trek Discovery. One moral of the story? If your house has Jefferies tubes, keep a close eye on them! You never know who may be listening, what they’ll hear, or what they’ll do as a result.
Not since Uhura and Chekov snuck around the aircraft carrier Enterprise in Star Trek IV has a plot hung so heavily on skulking. To make it into the hyperfield surrounding the new DMA, Book and Tarka plan to attach Book’s cloaked ship to Discovery’s hull. To achieve that goal, Tarka must manually install a patch that will prevent Zora, Discovery’s sentient AI, from noticing the ship’s presence.
Tarka and Book beam aboard Discovery and creep around, eavesdropping on several key conversations. They learn United Earth General Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole) has deep and strong reservations about the away mission Burnham is currently leading to the dead planet near the hyperfield. Burnham hopes the planet yields information that will facilitate first contact with Species 10-C. Ndoye thinks the alliance should be going ahead and communicating. As she told Burnham, she thinks the away mission is “quite the gamble for so much uncertainty.”
In a secret meeting with Ndoye, Book tells her he and Tarka want to locate and stop the DMA’s controller. “I can’t let the lives of billions of people hang on a hope that [Species 10-C will] be sympathetic” he asks her. “Can you?” Ndoye agrees to help Tarka and Book, but only as a last resort. Book gives his word that, if Species 10-C stands down with time to spare, so will he and Tarka.
For his part, Tarka has been sneaking around like Ben Kenobi on the Death Star, sabotaging the Discovery’s replicators. Commander Reno discovers him hiding in Engineering—but ends up “an unexpected hostage” aboard Book’s ship. (Whether Tarka captured her or she went, for some as yet unknown reason, willingly, we must wait to find out.)
Meanwhile, on the planet, Burnham, Saru, Culber, and Detmer discover hydrocarbons that evoke frightening hallucinations for everyone on the away team except Detmer. “PTSD therapy came in handy,” she says, a reference to her character arc last season. “Plus, the way I grew up. I’m sort of the queen of putting things in boxes.” But when they all experience safety, peace, and love in what was Species 10-C’s “nursery” for its young, the away team realizes the hydrocarbons are pheromones. The away team ultimately brings back 16 varieties of pheromones—16 varieties of feeling—they hope can provide the emotional context and common ground needed to communicate with Species 10-C.
“Rosetta” lets Reno and Detmer shine
If you can get past the fact that a whole lot of plot in “Rosetta” depends on Book, Tarka, or both of them conveniently overhearing things while skulking around Discovery, you’ll find it an enjoyable and largely satisfying episode. I accepted the eavesdropping as narratively expedient and also appreciated how it provided artful segues from one subplot to another.
But the creeping I mentioned earlier that doesn’t happen in “Rosetta” is even more satisfying because Jett Reno is the one who wonderfully keeps it from happening. After her character was woefully underused in “The Examples,” Tig Notaro is back in fine form as Reno, wisely telling Adira that admiring Detmer is one thing, but only admiring her from afar is another. She encourages Adira to actually talk to Detmer, adding, “Pro-tip… Don’t start with “I want to be you.” It’s kind of creepy.”
Notaro is also enjoyable in her scenes with Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) as she urges him to fix the malfunctioning replicators: “If we lose replicators out here, we starve to death. No pressure.” Writer Terri Hughes Burton gives Reno some first-rate material, and Notaro plays it well. Hopefully, her unwilling hostage status plays a large part in this season’s final two episodes.
But Emily Coutts is the true MVP of “Rosetta.” Coutts turns in her strongest performance as Keyla Detmer to date. It’s not hard to see why Adira admires this woman. Detmer has grown considerably stronger and more confident since the Discovery crew arrived in the 32nd century, but her admission the pheromones in the Species 10-C nursery reopen old wounds from her youth reminds us that she still needs healing (as we all, in some way, do).
In “Rosetta,” Star Trek Discovery once again dramatizes a truth Star Trek has long affirmed. Navigating interstellar space is actually simpler than navigating our often turbulent emotions—but the potential rewards of communication and connection make the risky voyage worth taking.