The U.S.S. Discovery’s voyage into the future has given the crew many new gadgets and experiences. Their jump into the 32nd Century has introduced them to programmable matter, individual transporters, nacelles that are not attached to the ships, and much more.
One innovation, the way that Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Alaja) can interface with the ship’s spore drive, is a technology thought of and written by Isaac Asimov in his “Foundation” books. In the book “Foundation’s Edge,” which was the sequel to Asimov’s original “Foundation” series, the character Golan Trevize operated a ship simply by pushing his hand into slots which allowed him to meld with the computer. “Foundation’s Edge” was published in 1982.
It is one thing to borrow technology from another franchise, as the “Foundation” television series borrowed the Romulans’ black-hole powered warp drives from “Star Trek.” It is another to borrow characters. It looks like that is what has happened in “Star Trek: Discovery.”
Introduced in the episode “The Examples,” Ruon Tarka is a genius researcher who is assigned to work with Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) on solving the mystery of the Dark Matter Anomaly (DMA). When Tarka’s name came up, Stamets complained that Tarka never returned messages and was not easy to work with.
“Despite Shawn Doyle giving a markedly different performance in ‘Star Trek: Discovery,’ his character is once again a supposed ally clearly involved in shady background dealings that amount to betraying his home planet,” wrote Elvy in his article. “The subterfuge, the suspicion, and the smarmy nature are as obvious in Tarka as they were in Errinwright, and both characters feel motivated by some imaginary ‘higher’ purpose.”
Tarka is Tony Stark of ‘Star Trek’
Elvy is certainly not wrong with his comparison and makes several excellent points about the two characters. But there’s another, much more famous and popular character that Tarka is acting like — Tony Stark.
From his arrogance and ability to grasp or solve any situation with advanced technology, Tarka acts like the “Star Trek” version of the creator of “Iron Man.” Even when Tarka walks aboard the bridge of the Discovery, the way he acts is very much like how Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) reacts to stepping onto the bridge of the SHIELD Helicarrier in “Avengers.”
When Stark walked onto the bridge, he started commenting about the crew (the man playing Galaga) and the vessel (questioning how Nick Fury could use his computer console with one eye); when Tarka arrived on the Discovery, he started commenting about the crew (Saru’s feet) and the vessel (the age of the Discovery).
Later, when Stamets explained how he’s attempted to track the DMA, Tarka stood and fiddled with his hands, which is much like what Stark did on the Helicarrier, except Stark was eating blueberries and tagging the ship with a tracking device. Tarka even throws holograms of the DMA into Stamets’ face to prove a point, just like Stark does throughout the “Iron Man” and “Avengers” films.
And then there’s the facial hair. From his very first appearance in “Tales to Astonish” back in 1963, Stark has always had a mustache, as the character was partially based on eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. Tarka also has facial hair.
Also, the name “Tarka” is actually just one letter from being “Stark.” His first name “Ruon” is one letter off from being “Iron.” These clues make it seem like the Discovery Writers Room are begging fans to make this connection.
No Shame In Borrowing
While some may cry foul at the writers of Discovery for plucking a character from Marvel to add to their story, it should come as no surprise to anyone who has been a longtime fan of science fiction or comic books. This sort of thing happens all the time.
There are many lists of DC characters copied by Marvel and vice-versa. Trek fans have speculated for years that their franchise borrowed the design from the “Return of the Jedi” character Boushh to come up with the look for the Breen from “Deep Space Nine.”
Stark vs. Tarka
The question that remains is what exactly Tarka is up to. At the end of “The Examples,” Tarka and Book shared a drink together. Tarka gave Book a few ideas of what might come next, and they were dark indeed.
Throughout the “Avengers” films, Stark’s aim was to protect Earth from alien invasion. Though his attempt backfired when he created Ultron, he eventually sacrificed himself to beat Thanos and bring back half of all life in the universe.
Tarka says he wants to beat the DMA, but viewers might learn that he wants something else rather than saving people.