'Star Trek: Discovery' season 5 episode 8 'Labyrinths' is a fun, format-following installment

promotional photo for "star trek: discovery" showing a woman with long black braids wearing a red space uniform
The selected location of choice and the nature of the this week's puzzle go a long way to making this good (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Discovery" season 5, episode 8

After the apparent "death" of L'ak (Elias Toufexis) last week, the sense of urgency of this fifth and final season of "Star Trek: Discovery" has certainly been ramped up, but we're still willing to wager that his resurrection via Progenitor tech will be the example to prove how important that MacGuffin actually is. 

And while the last couple of episodes have been pretty good, the season is still following the same cookie-cutter template that the past few seasons have — we're at the stage where an ion storm, giant nebula or even the Galactic Boundary plays havoc with Discovery's mission — this time around is actually a marked improvement on the previous two seasons, for a number of reasons. Sadly, though, because of the past two seasons, the full effect of Third Time Lucky is somewhat watered down, because we've seen it, or at the very least, something very similar before. This time, however, it's better. 

Without a doubt, among the many things that make this episode interesting is the location in which most the action unfolds, a giant, secretly-located repository of all knowledge in the galaxy. And the artificial reality video wall that was pioneered for the production of "The Mandalorian" by several VFX companies, including ILM and Pixomondo, which is sometimes called the "Volume," has to been put to fantastic effect. 

Related:  Watch the bittersweet trailer for 'Star Trek: Discovery's final season (video)

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The Progenitors are a little clichéd even for "Star Trek," but events in this episode could keep it interesting (Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Moreover, the writers and director — in this case, Lauren Wilkinson, Eric J. Robbins and Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour — have finally demonstrated that they are aware of the difference between homage and just plain pilfering. Paying homage or simply tipping one's hat to another great movie or scene is perfectly acceptable, and it can be from the same genre or something completely different. It happens all the time and is almost always clever, subtle, respectful and fun to see. 

For instance, in "The Mandalorian" episode "Chapter 11: The Heiress," director Bryce Dallas Howard — daughter of Oscar-winning director Ron Howard — included a nod to her father's movie "Apollo 13," and even "Toy Story 2" features a brilliant homage to "Jurassic Park," but these add something of value, either a new perspective or an alternative development. The third season of "Star Trek: Discovery" saw an unprecedented number of homages, some subtle and others not so much. But then in "Scavengers" (S03, E06), the writers went way beyond homage and practically lifted a scene directly from the 1987 movie "The Running Man."

And the nod in this week's episode is to "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" and Slartibartfast's answerphone-style welcoming message when Ford, Arthur, Zaphod, Marvin and Trillion, onboard the stolen improbability drive prototype starship Heart of Gold, discover the ancient planet of Magrathea. It's there, it's subtle...and as such, it's brilliant. Bravo

A homage doesn't typically include several similar references to the same movie, it's usually just one.  (Image credit: Universal/Disney)

This whole season-long plot thread of the breadcrumb chase is hardly new, but interesting, the writers have chosen to make the secondary plots significantly smaller and instead maintain the focus on the main story — and the show benefits from that. This time around. Clearly, actor Doug Jones had other commitments, as quite what's happening between Saru and President T'Rina (Tara Rosling) is anyone's guess. Maybe there will be a nice Starfleet wedding in the finale. Ugh.

The USS Discovery also benefits from having an extremely capable third in command, Lt. Cmdr. Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), so there's that. You can also very easily tell that different writers wrote this week's installment compared to last week's, because there's inconsistent profanity. However, if that inconsistency is a constant, so is the acting ability of Sonequa Martin-Green (Capt. Michael Burnham). Green is incredible, there's no questioning that. It's not her fault that the writers, directors, executive producers and showrunners keep giving her lame stories to hack her way through. 

Wouldn't it be great to get a story where Burnham is captured and properly tortured? That might sound somewhat sick and twisted, but severe endurance episodes are often the most simple and also the most effective. "There are four lights!" for example, in the TNG episode "Chain of Command" (S06, E10 & 11) or in the "Stargate SG1" episode "Abyss" (S06, E06), where O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) is captured and tortured by the Goa'uld System Lord Ba'al (Cliff Simon). Or in the "Babylon 5" episode "Intersections in Real Time" (S04, E18) where Capt. John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) is captured and tortured. All these episodes tested the actors involved and the results were some of the best episodes in each respective franchise. The point is, Green could do even more if given better material. 

Related: The best sci-fi movies and TV shows to stream on Netflix in May

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Finally, a source has told Space.com that the Starfleet Academy series is still moving forward at Paramount and that it's going to be set in the 32nd century because Mary Wiseman (Lt. Silvia Tilly) is involved, which actually makes a lot of sense, given the throwaway references earlier in this season. But to be perfectly honest, keeping Trek this far forward in the future is a mistake — there's greater need to use technobabble, and the story becomes less and less believable, or relatable.  So, we're really hoping this turns out to be incorrect. 

The fifth and final season of "Star Trek: Discovery" and every other episode of every "Star Trek" show — with the exception of "Star Trek: Prodigy" — currently streams exclusively on Paramount Plus in the US, while "Prodigy" has found a new home on Netflix. 

Internationally, the shows are available on Paramount Plus in Australia, Latin America, the UK and South Korea, as well as on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. They also stream on Paramount Plus in Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In Canada, they air on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and stream on Crave.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.

  • Mike Crognale
    My favorite line was “you should try one of my seven of limes” I almost fell off my chair laughing.
  • PW Lane
    Unwatchable and not even close to TOS..
    STD failure was a big factor in the collapse of Paramount and CBS..
    Hopefully the new owners will fix Star Trek..
    Maybe Disney will buy it for Seth Macfarlane..