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Star Trek: Discovery 508 “Labyrinths” Review: The (Inner) Voyage Home

Star Trek: Discovery 508 "Labyrinths" Review: The (Inner) Voyage Home
Photo credit: Paramount+

Review: Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Episode 8 “Labyrinths”

Star Trek: Discovery delivers an intriguing, introspective episode with a thrilling journey to a fantastic new sci-fi setting, all as our protagonists get to the Progenitors’ doorstep.

After discovering the final clue is housed within a roaming space-based library, Discovery travels to the Badlands, an iconic location known to long-time Star Trek fans. Greeting them as they arrive at the grouping of plasma storms and stellar turbulence is Hy’Rell (Elena Juatco), the caretaker of the Eternal Gallery and Archive, a facility that houses the largest collection of historical and cultural artifacts in either the Alpha or Beta Quadrants. Hy’Rell issues instructions on navigating the region’s dangerous storms and offers a cryptic warning about honoring the wishes of the archive’s caretakers, but that’s not something we’ll have to worry about from our heroes. On the other hand, the Breen, who are hot on Discovery’s trail, are another story.

We can confidently say the Eternal Gallery and Archive is the most striking place we’ve visited this season. It’s an ornate, magical, seemingly infinite space that contains countless books – actual physical books. It almost feels like a location found in a fantasy world like Harry Potter, and for our money, it’s a refreshing locale from other science-fiction places we’ve visited in this show.

Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) beam aboard the archive, but they are drawn to different places. Burnham wants to find the original manuscript for Doctor Marina Derex’s book and get the final clue to the Progenitors’ tech, while Book ventures into an examination room to inspect an artifact from his late homeworld, Kwejian, something Hy’Rell thought he’d be interested in.

L-R David Ajala as Book and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 8, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

“Is your name really Book?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“How fun to have a book visit me in the library for a change.”

– Hy’Rell and Book.

The artifact ends up being a cutting from the World Root, the massive, planet-wide network of tree roots formerly found on the ill-fated Kwejian. Book is clearly emotionally impacted by holding a legitimate piece of his culture, especially since there is so little of his culture left after the DMA destroyed his planet in season four. Hy’Rell lends the artifact to Book, on the condition Book reports on his and the artifact’s experiences someday. That’s all we get out of this small subplot in “Labyrinth,” as Book returns to Burnham to find the captain sprawled on the floor, apparently a victim of a mindscape concocted by Derex as a test for anyone who wants to obtain her clue.  

Trapped within her mind, Burnham finds herself once again in the Eternal Gallery and Archive, but one devoid of all characters except a familiar face: Book. But this Book is a manifestation created by Burnham’s mind, which gives Ajala a chance to play around outside his normal character. For what it’s worth, this episode, what with its dual roles for Ajala, is perhaps the best showcase for him this season so far.

What does Burnham need to do in the mindscape? The setting itself is worth pondering first, as Mindscape Book tells Burnham the archive is the most important place in her life because it’s the site of her current mission, and the mission always means the world to her. That’s all well and good, but what next?

Eve Harlow as Moll in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 8, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

The captain first assumes she needs to scour the history section of the library for books about the Dominion War, as Derex lived during the war and wanted whoever found the Progenitors tech to be an agent of peace and learn from past mistakes. This objective proves incorrect, and Burnham’s next reason she needs to find her way out of the maze-like library, given that the name of Derex’s book is Labyrinths of the Mind. But even this objective proves wrong, and Burnham, with time running out until the mindscape shuts down and kills her, finds herself deflated.

With her life soon coming to an end, Burnham becomes introspective and reveals some of her inner thoughts and feelings to her sole friend in the mindscape. She confesses her mind probably picked Book to show up in the mindscape because she wants to mend things with her ex-lover, but that the mission – especially, this mission with the Progenitors – always comes first.

“Maybe I should go even more psychobabble here, and admit that if I don’t complete this mission, then I don’t know who I am.”

– Burnham, in her self-reflective monologue to Mindscape Book.

Burnham’s thoughts about her mission in life, triggered by the potential discovery of why she and everyone other sentient in the galaxy came to be, are illuminated for not only the audience but herself. She confesses she doesn’t fear death, but she fears failing and disappointing those who matter to her. She hates the ever-present fear of not living up to her potential, and it makes her feel “small,” “weak,” and “ashamed.” She admits she should have shared these feelings with the real Book to help him understand why she pulled away from him.

Star Trek: Discovery, episode 8, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

This spontaneous counseling session meets the condition set by Derex for those who pursue her clue: understanding oneself and being truthful about one’s goals and emotions is essential for someone who wants to discover and manipulate the force of life and death in the galaxy. Thus, Burnham passes the final test in the trail to the Progenitors tech, tests that were designed by the tech’s studiers hundreds of years ago to protect it from unworthy discoverers.

Before being pulled out of the mindscape, Mindscape Book shares where the last puzzle clue resides within the Eternal Gallery and Archive, as well as a hint about how to access the tech’s final destination – although we the audience aren’t privy to that information. Interestingly, Burnham later admits that while Primarch Ruhn (Tony Nappo) probably wouldn’t figure out how to access the tech’s location, she signals Moll (Eve Harlow) might. What could this barrier to the final tech be?

Exiting the mindscape, Burnham finds the situation deteriorating quickly at the archive and its surrounding space. The Breen have shown up at the oasis in the Badlands and are aiming to steal the clue from Starfleet, whatever the cost. Moll, recently widowed by her and L’ak’s botched escape plan in the previous episode, is helping the Breen reach the Progenitors tech – but her influence on the masked antagonists proves more impactful than Primarch Ruhn would prefer. More on that in a hot second.

As the Breen attack the library, the Discovery dances across the Badlands trying to evade capture until Burnham, Book, and Doctor Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), who was called on site after Burnham’s incapacitation, are ready to flee the library. Competent commanding by Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) means the away team is rescued in the nick of time, ready to stop the Breen from continuing its attack on the innocent Eternal Gallery and Archive.

Burnham has a tough choice: give the Breen the clues she has procured up until now or leave the library at the mercy of the massive Breen dreadnaught. The captain quickly makes a copy of the now-complete map leading to the tech’s destination, and beams the original map clues aboard the Breen vessel.

Elena Juatco as Hy’Rell in Star Trek: Discovery, episode 8, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

Then, in a bit of tricky quick thinking, the Discovery spore-jumps out of the Badlands and leaves a brief explosion of warp plasma and debris behind, leaving the Breen to assume the ship was destroyed. (This was a neat trick in theory, and a pretty cool sight in practice, but wouldn’t the Breen notice the inconsistent amount of debris left from the warp plasma explosion and a vented shuttle bay compared to the mass of an entire Crossfield­-class ship?) In any case, Discovery jumps 22 light years away from their goal, so it seems there’s a bit of a journey left – and the Breen are only six hours away.

The Breen ship is soon subject to a staffing change – one implemented by Moll at the tip of a Breen weapon. Using Ruhn’s ferocity and blinding focus against him, Moll persuades his Breen crew, including Lieutenant Arisar (Dorian Grey), who we assume will be important because he is name-dropped in this episode, to turn on the primarch. Landing the killing blow on Ruhn herself, Moll asserts herself as the new de facto leader of the Breen ship, with the goal of getting her new crew to the Progenitors tech first – tech that could potentially bring back their scion, L’ak. Even with a head start on the last part of the trail, Discovery will soon have to contend with a desperate Moll out for revenge, backed by one chonker of a battleship.

We were quite fond of “Labyrinths,” as the episode’s heart shown through brightly amid an awesome new location and striking plot beats. Returning to the Badlands now realized in all its modern-era VFX glory, was a neat bit of fan service. That, combined with a charming, stunning library that serves an important mission within the Star Trek universe, meant this episode was frequently eye-catching. But the lesson from this episode – that self-knowledge requires examining one’s feelings and motives – is timeless, and fits perfectly with this season’s mission to illustrate how to be as good a person as possible. After all, only a person of utmost value will control the ability to create life and possibly reverse death.

Two episodes are all we have to wrap up this season… and let’s not forget this show. In episodes nine and ten, we are super-curious if Discovery was able to plan well enough after its cancelation announcement to give these characters the sendoff they deserve, never mind being able to juggle a satisfying ending to a fascinating season-long plot. It’s going to be a tough landing to stick, but if “Labyrinth” is any indication, this show is in competent hands heading to the end.

Stray Thoughts:

  • How did Hy’Rell “see Discovery coming” to the Badlands if the ship spore-jumped there from its previous location?

  • Hy’Rell notes the archive has been in the Badlands for almost a century, but earlier Tilly asserted the archive changes location about every 50 years.

  • Who else forgot Discovery had a cloaking device? That upgrade was part of the vessel’s refit after getting to the future.

  • How long before Star Trek Online adds the Breen dreadnought, with an ability called Shield Tunnelling?

  • Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) mentions she used to repair comm buoys for Hysperians. Hysperians were seen in Lower Decks’ “Where Pleasant Fountains Lie.”

New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery stream Thursdays on Paramount+, this season stars Sonequa Martin-Green (Captain Michael Burnham), Doug Jones (Saru), Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), David Ajala (Cleveland “Book” Booker), Blu del Barrio (Adira) and Callum Keith Rennie (Rayner). Season five also features recurring guest stars Elias Toufexis (L’ak) and Eve Harlow (Moll).


Stay tuned to TrekNews.net for all the latest news on Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and more.

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Written By

Kyle Hadyniak has been a lifelong Star Trek fan, and isn't ashamed to admit that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Nemesis are his favorite Star Trek movies. You can follow Kyle on Twitter @khady93.

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