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.
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.
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.