Star Trek Discovery S5E68: Labyrinths

Last week’s episode was the first one this season that felt like it had real stakes. Sure, the progenitors’ all-powerful technology is important, but we mostly know that because the characters keep saying so. But a massive Breen warship threatening Federation HQ with war felt a lot more tangible. So it’s natural that “Labyrinths” wants to keep that momentum going. We check in on L’ak’s funeral, which includes some boilerplate bad guy speechifying from the deceased’s uncle, until Moll interrupts. She believes that the Progenitors’ technology, which created most of the life in the galaxy, can also be used to bring her boyfriend back from the dead. 

Is that actually true? Who knows. Does Uncle Ruhn even want L’ak back? Probably not. Will he kill Moll the moment she stops being useful? Of course he will. But for the moment, it keeps all our baddies on the same team, and that’s enough.

But while they plot and sneer, Discovery visits the library. A grandiose, ancient stellar library hidden inside a deadly plasma storm, which holds in its archives the final clue our crew need to find the ancient technology and wrap up the final season’s story arc.

As always, the captain leaves the ship and beams down with her plus one. This week it’s Book’s turn again. He’s one of the last survivors of Kwejian, and the library has one of the last surviving artifacts from his homeworld and invited him to take a look. He’s still mad at Michael for turning Moll over to the Breen (although the alternative would have been a brutal, devastating war), but Burnham’s too focused on the mission to give him more than a brusque non-apology (as well she should be.)

The lowercase-b book that contains the clue is in the library, but it’s not the text that interests Burnham. There’s a metal plate inside with a button, and when she touches it, Book and the librarian return to find Michael unconscious on the floor. She herself wakes up in an empty library. A vision of Book appears and tells her this is all a simulation — a test designed to protect the last clue, and if she doesn’t figure it out, the simulation ends, turning her brain off in the process. And the biggest puzzle is simply figuring out what the puzzle actually is.

She eventually realizes that if she’s trapped inside her own mind, than she herself is the puzzle. Which leads to a lot of Michael talking to herself, working through her insecurities, as fake Book passively looks on. Sonequa Martin-Green tries her best to sell it, but, again, she’s most just talking to herself, and the writing isn’t really up to the task.

And the parts of the episode that work are all too brief. We get a potentially exciting standoff, where the Breen threaten the library, Discovery has to hide in a plasma storm while Stamets, Adira, and Reno try and science their way out of things, and this and every other episode could use more of the three of them, but they only get one scene, and the standoff largely happens in the background.

The episode does at least stick the landing, as Burnham has to outsmart the Breen and Moll has to outsmart Uncle Ruhn in particular, and if there’s one thing Star Trek is all about, it’s smart people cleverly outsmarting other people. As always, Disco’s good enough to keep us watching, and inconsistent enough to wish the whole show lived up to the highlights.

Stray tachyons:
• The Breen were great villains last week, and less great the more we see of them. Uncle Ruhn is a cartoon villain, childishly impatient and angrily threatening everyone around him.

• After spending five seasons as a background character, Rhys finally gets to sit in the captain’s chair because everyone ranked higher than him inexplicably left the ship to go to the library. Surely Rayner could have sent someone else to check on Burnham instead of going himself.