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Will Star Trek: Discovery's 10-C Problem Become The Next Kobayashi Maru?

Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery
(Image credit: Paramount+)

Warning! The following contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 episode “Rosetta Stone.” Read at your own risk!

Star Trek: Discovery is one step closer to first contact with Species 10-C, as the latest episode finally revealed a way Starfleet might communicate with the powerful and cryptic species. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unknowns still in how 10-C will react, and even if their attempts at communication will work. It’s not an ideal situation with the fates of Ni’Var and Earth at stake, and it’s making me wonder if the encounter will result in a no-win scenario, not unlike the Kobayashi Maru. 

Fans might remember the Season 4 opener of Star Trek: Discovery was titled “Kobayashi Maru” and came up during a pivotal conversation between Michael Burnham and President Rillak. As Burnham struggled with the fact that her rescue mission resulted in the deaths of a few Starfleet members, Rillak reminded her of the point of the Kobayashi Maru and why it’s used in Starfleet even though the exercise is meant to be unwinnable.

Acceptance. There are things beyond your control. As captain, you mitigate that as much as possible... Leadership is about balance. Knowing what weight is yours to carry, and what isn’t. You just don’t see that yet.

So far, Michael has done a good deal in mitigating as much risk as possible when dealing with Species 10-C. She’s made a point to find a language they might understand, but even then, there are plenty of unknowns. There’s a chance that Discovery fails and Ni’Var and Earth blow up, but there’s also a chance they save the day and successfully clear up any misunderstanding. 

Of course, I’m thinking there’s going to be a third option here, and it’s going to be a callback to Rillak and Burnham’s discussion regarding the Kobayashi Maru. I think there’s a possibility that in the final episodes that the Discovery crew finds itself in a position in which there is no solution, and Michael will need to make a call that does the least amount of damage, from how they see it at the moment. 

The decision could be something as big as negotiations not working and Discovery making the decision to destroy Species 10-C in order to save Ni’Var and Earth if they’re able to. That’s a pretty dark and a downer ending for Season 4, but I’d have to think if it came down to that, Discovery would try and mount an attack rather than see two key planets annihilated. 

Another possibility is that the stakes are smaller, and I’m thinking Michael might need to take out Tarka and Booker in order to ensure negotiations go through and there’s no misunderstanding. Currently, she’s unaware of their presence, as the two are attached to the ship covertly. Should Tarka go rogue – and it seems like there’s a good chance he will, given his goal of traveling across dimensions at any cost – Burnham might be forced to destroy the ship with both Tarka and Booker on board. 

There’s certainly no winning for Michael in that situation, so it’s something I’ll be on the lookout for. In either case, I think an unwinnable scenario is on the horizon, and Star Trek: Discovery fans (who have a lot to look forward to this year) should definitely start brainstorming on what that may be. 

Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ (opens in new tab) on Thursdays. These next few episodes should be a doozy, so be sure to catch up with a Paramount+ subscription, and also check out the exciting premiere of Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard that’s absolutely loaded with surprising moments!

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.