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Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 9 Review: A Goal Line Stand

The Star Trek: Discovery episode "Rubicon" has all the makings of a cliffhanger season finale, but there are still four episodes to go. It continues the arc of Starfleet trying to engage first contact with Unknown Species 10-C, who's responsible for the dark matter anomaly (DMA) that's become a continuous threat in Federation space and beyond. On the other side is Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) and Federation scientist Ruon Tarka (Shawn Doyle), who are trying to do everything they can to neutralize the cause of the DMA forgoing communication with 10-C. Tasked to stop them and trying to create first contact is the U.S.S. Discovery led by Capt. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who previously placed a tracking device on Book's ship and can spontaneously arrive near their location with their spore drive. There are some minor spoilers for the episode.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 9 Review: A Goal Line Stand
Pictured: Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Joining them for the mission to act upon the Federation's behalf since the figure hasn't developed the relationship to Book as the rest of the crew is the retuning Commander Nhan (Rachael Ancheril), who left the crew in the previous season to help her people, but remained on retention by Starfleet as security. As acting liaison, she could override Burnham and Capt. Saru (Doug Jones) for the potential hard decision to kill Book and Tarka via remote kill switch blowing up their ship. The bulk of the episode consists of Burnham and Book in a cerebral chess match with their vessels. The wildcards become Nhan and Tarka as their detachments to the people involved created itchy trigger fingers.

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Pictured: Shawn Doyle as Ruon Tarka and David Ajala as Book of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Generally within Star Trek canon, when crew or friends act upon one another, most times it's under an external influence. In the case of Book, he's still operating under tremendous grief of losing his homeworld Kwejian, while vengeful and desperate enough to go all-in on Tarka. As there are plenty of episodes to go, it doesn't take much of an educated guess about the twist of the episode. Directed by Andi Armaganian and written by Alan McElroy, we're left in a position of rare helplessness that Martin-Green's Burnham is in since it predicates trust and faith that's quickly fleeting. The benefit of the doubt doesn't seem to go as far as it used to, but there is genuine internal tension that risks tearing the moral fiber of the crew from within. As much as Discovery is defined by internal drama and emotions (sometimes a little too much so), "Rubicon" felt like the fourth season was getting ahead of itself by shifting back to square one.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Episode 9: Rubicon

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Review by Tom Chang

The bulk of the attention in the Star Trek: Discovery episode "Rubicon" comes from stars Sonequa Martin-Green, David Ajala, and guest stars Shawn Doyle and Rachael Ancheril in the Star Trek version of Crimson Tide, playing to their characters' strengths to offset their respective dilemmas. Director Andi Armaganian and writer Alan McElroy definitely steered one of the better episodes of the season, one that's hopefully a sign of even better things to come.

Andi Armaganian

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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