Perhaps, had the show handled Tarka’s evolution to this point differently and, say, showed us some (or, you know, any) of this guilt and torment he’s supposedly been carrying around for years prior to this moment or possibly indicated that he was capable of emotionally bonding with or caring about another sentient being. Instead, we’ve had multiple episodes of him being a completely selfish jerk who has been completely out for his own ends, and now we’re supposed to feel bad for him because his lone friend has disappeared? Or has possibly built a functional interdimensional transporter to another supposedly heaven-like universe neither of them is even sure exists?
Cry me a river, is what I’m saying. But, of course, empathetic Book finds this all very moving, because he’s been a prisoner of the Emerald Chain himself and the shared memories of torture seem to, if not bond the two men, at least convince him that he shouldn’t kick Tarka off his ship immediately. A move I am sure that Book in no way will come to deeply regret later on.
Meanwhile, over on the Discovery, there’s some fun Stamets Science to save the day, which involves Heisenberg, spatial cells, and negative energy particles, which all somehow manage to allow the ship to travel through the Galactic Barrier and create a cool effect that visually desaturates the screen for a bit. And, naturally, there’s a also new potentially world ending crisis, as the second DMA, the one which replaced the version Tarka destroyed last week, has like twice the power of its predecessor (great job, guys!) and is capable of mining at a much more rapid rate. End result: It’s already moved to a new harvesting site, a whole lot sooner than the week that was initially predicted.
And, of course, it’s now in the Alpha Quadrant, meaning that its deadly gravitational waves will put Earth, Ni’Var, Titan, and most of the major planets our crew calls home at risk of Kweijan-like destruction. Rillak and Burnham’s subsequent fast and furious debate about whether or not to tell the crew the truth about the threat Earth is facing is…well, on paper it’s the kind of discussion I’m glad to know that Star Trek still considers an important thing to highlight its stories, but haven’t we seen these two women have some variation of this same conversation like four times now? No matter how much I love debating how best to balance the philosophical and political realities of the Federation, surely there must be a better way to cover this ground? (Sidebar: I did love Michael’s quiet “you’re my president too” to Rillak. Their entire relationship is simultaneously so weird and strangely interesting. )
Thankfully, as seems to be the norm for the second half of this season, the episode is saved (for me at least) by pretty much everything involving Saru and T’Rina. From Saru’s decision to awkwardly confess his feelings for her just in case he happens to die on this mission to the Galactic Barrier to Hugh Culber’s status as the most adorable wingman in Starfleet, well. Let’s just say this all feels like fanfic written specifically for me. And I want more of it.
Because come on, T’Rina asking Saru (and his “comforting presence”) to sit with her while she mentally and emotionally processes the possibility of Ni’Var’s destruction, that’s practically as good as a date, right? Not traditional, but what about this relationship is? It’s such a sweet moment that I’m not even mad that so many high-ranking political figures are somehow on this first contact mission despite the fact that the odds are decent they’ll all die on it. (Seriously Rillak *and* T’Rina? I know, I know the designated Ni’Var delegate couldn’t make it for whatever reason, but still.)