Discovery’ Navigates Its Way Through In “Labyrinths” – TrekMovie.com

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“Labyrinths”

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5, Episode 8 – Debuted Thursday, May 16, 2024
Written by Lauren Wilkinson & Eric J. Robbins
Directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour

A taut episode full of action and emotional tension.

Ruhn’s refrigeration chic fell flat at the Met Gala

WARNING: Spoilers below!

RECAP

“Let’s go get that final clue.”

The Breen mourn the loss of L’ak, and Primarch Ruhn sees an opportunity to rally the other Flights behind avenging the Scion with the assistance of Progenitor tech. Moll spots potential in driving a wedge between the would-be emperor and his crew. One step ahead, The Disco arrives at the Badlands and doorstep to the final clue. They are greeted by a jovial archivist Hy’Rell, who provides a fun running commentary as the crew tries to focus on not getting roasted navigating their way through the plasma storms. When they arrive at the oasis around the beautiful Eternal Gallery and Archive, Hy’Rell extends an invitation to the Discovery’s resident Kwejian to see an artifact of that doomed species, so the captain invites Book to come along, making it clear she has no regrets about handing over Moll last week as she was just doing her job. Inside the huge space library, Hy’Rell brushes off concerns about the Breen as she presents the captain with the original Betazed manuscript for Dr. Derex’s Labyrinths of the Mind (title alert!). Burnham leafs through the ancient tome and finds an ornate metal plate that glows when she touches it. Book soon returns after being gifted with that artifact (a cutting of the Kwejian World Root) only to find Michael down, laid out on the carpet. That’s got to be against library rules.

Patrons are advised to not get trapped in mindscapes while in the library.

“Everything is here for a reason.”

Michael wakes and is quickly shushed by Book, now wearing Archivist Robes. She is in a mindscape and he is a program designed by the former Archivist, but the specifics come from her subconscious. This isn’t her first map piece rodeo, so Michael confidently sets off to pass the newest test. Meanwhile, Rayner and Culber arrive in the real world and the doctor works out what’s happening and reports that it’s not safe to interfere: They will need to just see where this goes. Attempting to narrow down her search, Michael figures the clue must be in the history section, thinking like a group of Dominion War-era scientists concerned about the future not repeating mistakes, but she is running out of time, as the Mindbrary is slowing shutting down—and if she doesn’t figure it out, she will get shut down with it… permanently. Adding to the tension, the Breen are closing in and Ruhn doesn’t take Hy’Rell’s “request denied” refusal for entry well. In the mindscape, Michael is getting nowhere and growing frustrated with Avatar Book. Wait. Book? She’s inside a book, specifically “Labyrinths of the Mind”… It’s a maze! Duh! The avatar hands her a bucket of sand so she can math her way out. Things in the real world ratchet up as Rayner orders the Disco to hide in the storm before the Breen show up. Michael finally makes her way to the heart of the maze, only to find that smug avatar and no clue prize. The walls are literally closing in and this guy makes it clear she has yet to pass the real test: Can she be trusted with the awesome power of the Progenitor tech? “I’m running out of time, aren’t I?” Yep. Gulp.

I’m in a book, reading books guided by a Book… going to need to talk to Culber to sort all this out.

“You don’t mess around, do you?”

Exasperated, Michael decries the “psychobabble” of the situation, telling that judgy avatar just where he can stick his virtual opinions. Meanwhile, the Breen arrive, firing a shield tunneling thingie to transport soldiers into the library. The Disco Geek Squad assembles and quickly comes up up with a way to disrupt the big Breen beam, but that will only buy a little time as Rayner and Book take out a few helmet heads and taunt the rest. On the Dreadnaught, Moll uses Ruhn’s lack of concern for his soldiers as she sidles up to his top lieutenant, sowing more seeds of doubt over the Primarch’s devotion to the Scion. Or maybe she just has a thing for Jell-O. After blowing off steam, Michael returns to the last room of the shrinking virtual reality and gets real with Avatar Book. She isn’t afraid of death but admits to her fear of failing the mission, opening the floodgates of her fear of failure, of not being a good enough captain, friend, or partner. She buries the shame of her fear, but in this vulnerable moment, she regrets avoiding telling real Book about how she felt. Wow, being a moment away from being snuffed out of reality can be cathartic. So, by the way, what was Dr. Derex’s test? Surprise! By being honest with herself she proved herself worthy and passed the test, and Avatar Book reveals the location of the last piece of the map in the real library. He also clues her in on one more thing she is going to need to know when she gets to the final destination. Who would have guessed the key to a Betazed test would be about feelings?

I make this look good.

“You are in no position to bargain.”

The captain awakes into chaos, time running out before the Breen overrun the place. She quickly finds the last piece of the map and they beam out before getting zapped by gelatinous goons. On the Disco, she orders the ship to reveal itself to give the Breen a new target. Ruhn demands the map or he will keep killing innocent space librarians. She agrees… but only if he will swear to a Tergun—a sacred Breen oath—to not harm the Archive. Tilly quickly puts the map together so they can get the coordinates of the Progenitor tech before sending the map over to the Breen to do the same. Against Moll’s objections, the Primarch starts firing and Captain Burnham uses some sleight of hand with a spore jump and the simultaneous release of debris and plasma, fooling the Breen into thinking Discovery was destroyed. But the Starfleet ship emerges hours from the Progenitor target, severely damaged. Before pursuing, Ruhn decides to destroy the Archive, which happens to include some priceless Breen artifacts. Moll now makes her big political move, rallying the Breen crew behind her cause to resurrect the Scion with Progenitor tech, denouncing Ruhn for going against a Tergun and trying to destroy Breen cultural relics. Lt. Arisar wavers, then faces off with Ruhn. Moll uses the moment to kill the Primarch, announcing “I am the wife of L’ak, Scion and true ruler of the Imperium. We will get him back. Long will he reign.” Arisar backs her play as the throng of bucket-heads joins her rallying cry and we fade to black. Well played. Lady Macbeth can learn a few things from this former courier.

It’s my map now.

ANALYSIS

It’s all in your mind.

“Labyrinths of the Mind” was another tightly wound episode that perfectly balanced sci-fi action with huge emotional drama. The escalation within and without the mindscape was paced well as the drama came to various tipping points. The serenely beautiful library location proved the perfect backdrop for a deep exploration of the series’ focal character with a heart-wrenching and vulnerable performance from Sonequa Martin-Green. Once again, this final season ties into the show’s beginnings by reflecting on Burnham’s past. The mindscape is classic Trek, with a big nod to “The Inner Light” and other episodes about the captain being tested, particularly reminiscent of Voyager‘s “Sacred Ground” and Captain Janeway’s (incorrect) assumptions about the test she had to undergo to save Kes’ life. The Breen confrontation also evoked classics, with elements of “Balance of Terror” and other moments. It was also very Trek to give David Ajala double duty playing Dr. Derex’s avatar, although he made some curious acting choices to differentiate the character as he guided Michael to her epiphany. The episode certainly leans into Discovery’s DNA of an exploration of character feelings, but in this case it all worked as a way to tie into the season plot arc which has also turned into Burnham’s epic journey of self-discovery, all to prove her worthiness.

This was an episode that stands on its own well, with a visit to a unique new location, memorable guest star, and a clear beginning and end, but it also moved the season plot arc along in a big way. Michael’s ultimate test brought with it the culmination of the map, the season’s MacGuffin. However, it again is a bit disappointing that we didn’t meet the final three 24th-century scientists, unless we are to see Book’s mindscape avatar as a version of Dr. Derex. It was a bit of a surprise that immediately after completing the map, Burnham handed it over to the bad guys as a bargaining chip to save the Archive, but that fits with her compassion—and don’t forget, she has key info the Breen don’t. Culber’s season arc of spiritual awakening also got a little nod when the man of science took that leap of faith that this was all part of a plan and Burnham was in good hands, even though she was under the mind control of an old alien tome. Book’s arc may also be set up with the gift of the Kwejian world root, which feels like something that could pay off later, especially with the power of creation promised by the Progenitor tech. And with all this big drama, the episode still found time to lighten the mood, continuing the season’s welcome pivot in tone and style. Elena Juatco was a delight as Hy’Rell, believably delivering a quirky but strict librarian, and it’s just fun to have her as an Efrosian, a memorable but rarely seen Star Trek species. The brief scenes with the Stamets, Reno, and Adira team technobabbling their way through the crisis was very fun Star Trek… and of course Reno used to party with Hysperians.

You know for librarians, you wear surprisingly loud outfits. 

It’s not easy being Breen.

This was another episode that revealed more about the inner workings of Breen society and technology, as well as the cool open-plan interior design of their massive ship. The killing of the Primarch was a bit of a surprise, although he won’t necessarily be missed as Ruhn was a fairly one-note villain. Moll’s Lady Macbeth manipulation of the Primarch’s second-in-command shows a new level of cunning and sets her up as the real big bad of the season. The motivation of Breen is still a bit mysterious, so we will have to take it on faith that Moll was able to use what she learned from L’ak to be able to manipulate Arisar into backing her coup. There were subtle hints this was coming throughout the episode, and Arisar was introduced in the previous to set up this confrontation, but the fact that all the helmeted Breen look the same makes this thread hard to follow. Arisar’s uniform did have some tiny differences, but they should have been more pronounced to differentiate the character who became so pivotal to Moll’s plot.

The episode also continued the season’s welcome trend of finely weaving in elements of Trek lore without going over the top. Putting the Archive inside the Badlands was a nice touch, giving us a 21st century VFX update to the classic dangerous location featured previously in DS9 and Voyager. Referencing a nucleonic beam was the only overt nod to the Kataan probe of “The Inner Light.” You don’t need to namedrop Captain Picard to evoke the vibe of that classic TNG episode. And the nods didn’t stop there with plenty of classic technobabble and even that Lower Decks reference from Reno, whose backstory continues to get filled in with delightful new details.

What? You can’t tell us all apart? That’s kind of racist.

Final thoughts

Season 5 of Discovery continues to be a welcome change as it ramps up nicely towards what has been described as a big 2-episode finale. Can’t wait for next week’s first part, directed by Jonathan Frakes.

Arisar tries to impress Moll with his air piano routine. 

BITS

  • This is the Star Trek debut for director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, who recently directed for Shogun.
  • This is the fifth episode in a row without Doug Jones, but he has confirmed Saru will return.
  • The episode included a new bridge crew officer: Cmdr. Lorna Jemison (Zahra Bentham), likely named in honor of NASA astronaut Mae Jemison who once played a member of the Enterprise crew in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The Discovery couldn’t cloak due to Cherenkov radiation, which is a real thing (the radiation, not cloaking).
  • The world root cuttings came in a box made of Tuli wood, the same wood Book used to decorate his old ship.
  • Dr. Derex’s reading list included A Comprehensive Guide to Talaxian HairstylesHupyrian Folk Tales, and Euclidean Geometry… two Trek things and one real thing.
  • The Laybryths of the Mind manuscript may be our first view of Betazed written language.
  • Disrupting the Breen shield tunneling weapon is the latest use Star Trek has found for positron beams.
  • Ejecting debris as they did in “Balance of Terror” was often used in World War II movies like Run Silent, Run Deep, and it is based on real Naval doctrine of the time.
  • Breen coding is “dodeca” or base-12.
  • The Eternal Archive was filmed at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

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More to come

Every Friday, the TrekMovie.com All Access Star Trek Podcast covers the latest news in the Star Trek Universe and discusses the latest episode. The podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPocket CastsStitcher and is part of the TrekMovie Podcast Network.

The fifth and final season of Discovery debuted with two episodes on Thursday, April 4 exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the UK, Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and Austria. Discovery will also premiere on April 4 on Paramount+ in Canada and will be broadcast on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada. The rest of the 10-episode final season will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. Season 5 debuts on SkyShowtime in select European countries on April 5.


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