A talky but effective episode that acts as the mid-season finale, heralding something of a change of direction for the series. Following “Stormy Weather,” Discovery's crew and the UFP have two major dilemmas: what to do about Species 10-C and what to do about Zora, which come to a crunch together when Zora reveals she can locate the origins of the DMA but then refuses to do so.
It's an intriguing follow-up to Zora's previous crisis of confidence, with her new found reassurance still vying with her anxiety, this time concerning the crew's wellbeing. It's the classic First Rule of Robotics: Zora can't allow her crew to come to harm, so refuses to give them information she believes will out them in harm's way. In spite of her altruistic reasons for doing so, unsurprisingly this is a cause of concern to the crew and the UFP in general. Stamets is in particular freaked out, but everyone from the 23rd century has unpleasant memories of Control and it's brutal reign of terror.
The idea of a sentient AI is less shocking in the 32nd century, although the rights of AI's now isn't entirely a clear issue for the viewer. Dr. Kovich undergoes an investigation of Zora to decide whether she is, in fact, a life form, and from there discuss the situation. While it's clear that things have moved on from the days of “The Measure of a Man,” it's a similar set-up, but one really has to wonder why Kovich has the overall ruling here. Who exactly is he and why does he has so much power in so many matters? Naturally, things turn out alright in the end, with Zora's being recognised as a living being and given a Starfleet commission, which seems to resolve her issues of responsibility enough to get on with the mission.
The bigger picture concerns the DMA and the alien powers themselves, with a host of civilisations sending representatives to decide what the best course of action is The meeting of the various cultures feels like classic Star Trek, and there are some nice nods to the ongoing storyline. General Ndoye from United Earth makes a return appearance, and while they've not rejoined the Federation, they have reunified with Titan thanks to Discovery's efforts. The Alshain, having accepted Burnham's olive branch, are now willing to look past their own concerns and open up dialogue. It's nice to see both familiar faces and new creations, although given that representatives “from all four quadrants” are said to be present, it's a shame we don't see any recognisable Gamma or Delta species. Also notable in their absense are the Klingons. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the 32nd century.
On one side, Burnham argues that it's the Starfleet way to open communication and try to understand them. They don't even know if they're destroying worlds deliberately or are even aware that they're doing so. On the opposing side, backed by vengeful book, is the argument to attack the 10-C to stop them destroying anything else. Ruon Tarka is also present, providing the means for attack should it be chosen: an isolytic burst based on his experiments on Discovery, which could destroy the DMA, but also subspace across light years and cause untold “collateral damage.” I'm glad Burnham also pointed out that attacking something as powerful as the 10-C is likely to get you wiped out anyway, but nonetheless, it came to a two-option vote, with the benefit of the doubt ultimately swinging it.
This is ultimately it for Book and Burnham's relationship, seeing them at loggerheads in a way they haven't been since their first encounter. In an older episode of Trek, we might have expected them to come to terms with their differing opinions or for Book to come round and swear of his desire for vengeance against the people who destroyed his planet. Not in this instance, though. Tarka whips out his piece de resistance: the new, next-gen spore drive he's been working on, which he just needs a ship and a navigator to make work. He and Book team up and jump towards the unknown, determined to take matters into their own hands, leaving Burnham to go after her (now presumably ex) boyfriend to stop all-out galactic war, or worse.
“But to Connect...” is another episode that serves primarily to push the overall plot ahead rather than tell its own story, but this time it feels more expansive thanks to an array of colourful guest aliens, some more concrete developments regarding Zora and the DMA and a decent cliffhanger that brings back some of the urgency from the beginning of the season.
In the background, other character threads get prodded along. Gray decides to go back to Trill to become a Guardian, an obvious role for him but also perhaps a tacit admittance that, now he's back in the land of the living, his storyline has run out of steam. Saru and T'Rina continue their sweet, gentle romance. Most unexpected is Tarka's revelation: that he intends to use the enormous energies of the DMA to jump into another universe, one that's apparently far nicer than this one and distinct from the Mirror Universe. It's just possible this is the future of the Kelvin Timeline, but I imagine that this is something new altogether. With sci-fi TV and film going multiverse crazy lately, we could be looking at a whole new avenue for exploration. Perhaps Discovery's recently confirmed fifth season will see another change in direction?
While it leaves us, still, with more questions than answers, this episode is overall more satisfying than the previous and bodes well for the season's second half.
Alien life forms: Races seen at the conference include the Vulcans, Kwejian, Alshain, Ferengi, Cardassains, Orions, Lurians, Trill, Risians, Osnullus and Shlerms. Info from behind-the-scenes artwork, hard to make out in the episode itself, lists the Aamazzarans, Insectoids (apparently Xindi-Insectoids), and new races including Facians, Hornish, Sarrotheyn, Drakohn and Ckaptir. We can't be sure which are Federation members and which aren't, since some, like Trill and Ni'Var, are listed as well the UFP.
Weapons of Mass Destruction: Isolytic weapons were banned by the Khitomer Accords. W e saw the Son'a use them in Star Trek: Insurrection.
Background check: President Rillak's mother was human, but never got the chance to visit Earth, The President is very keen to keep Earth onside and get them to rejoin the UFP.