There was a certain thrill when it came to the idea of the USS Discovery crossing the Galactic Barrier first seen in the classic Trek episode, “Where No Man has Gone Before,” because in this case, Discovery was really going where no man (or woman or other) has gone before. The mystery of what lies beyond the barrier, in the dark between galaxies is something that we haven’t seen Trek do in a very long time: Explore the unknown. I like it. I love it. I want some more of it.
Serving as the lead up to the season finale, “The Galactic Barrier” does its job and does it well. The situation, with the shifting of the DMA to a new and more devastating location, is made very clear and the urgency is palpable as is the moral and ethical implications of informing the crew of the threat in a crisis situation. Discovery has stumbled a few times in its run, but one thing that it has consistently nailed is character interactions and relationships, the welcome inclusion of President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) only adds to the winning formula as she has been the best addition to the Discovery cast this season. The character’s no-nonsense approach, candor, and political savvy has made her a character who is not only an excellent foil to the more idealistic leanings of Burnham and her crew, but also a breath of fresh air in general as we’ve never really seen a Star Trek politician like this before. Horsdal plays the part so well, I kind of hope that a politically based Star Trek series featuring Rillak might be in our future. Star Trek: Federation One – boldly politicking where none have politicked before.
Oh, lord… can you imagine the shrieking of the “StAr TrAcK haZ nEvUr BeEn ‘BoUt PoLuHtIcKs!” crowd over that one? That just makes me want it more.
The urgency of Discovery’s journey through the Galactic Barrier is interspersed with Tarka revealing his backstory of why he’s been the soaking douchenozzle he’s been all season and why he endangered the entire galaxy for his own benefit. Was it a backstory that was needed? Indeed. Was it a good backstory? Not really… in actuality, the talk of another universe and paradise and thoughtlessly following someone there didn’t make Tarka more sympathetic in my eyes, it made him a cultist. If you think that’s harsh, he literally endangered the entire galaxy just to get to this universe that some alien guy he fell in love with convinced him was real. That’s some real cult energy.
And, you know, if they had gone with the zealotry angle for Tarka, I wouldn’t have minded, but I don’t even think that the writers thought that far ahead. I believe that they wrote what they thought was a tragic story of friendship/love to soften the guy up, but here’s the problem… he LITERALLY endangered the entire galaxy for his own benefit based on nothing but the word of someone he was in love with.
Who knows, perhaps if this tidbit of information had been revealed earlier and we knew the internal conflict he was going through, maybe it would have made Tarka more of an understandable character, but he’s not understandable, he’s not sympathetic… he’s the villain. Whether motivated by conquest, greed, or yes, even love, he is the villain of the season and the character was already painted into that corner by the time that the writers could finally be arsed to ask why he is the pulsating sack of targ vomit that he is.
While I give “The Galactic Barrier” major kudos for making the expedition outside of the galaxy exciting and terrifying at the same time, but when half of the episode is devoted to lazily redeeming an irredeemable character and it comes off as every bit the waste it sounds like.
Too little and way too late.