A few months ago, I blew up my little corner of the internet by offering my thoughts on what could improve Star Trek: Discovery for season 4 and beyond. While I received some of the usual “STD SUX” nonsense, I was honestly floored by the number of thoughtful responses and comments, both positive and negative. Those who agreed with me sent some very kind words; those who disagreed certainly gave me things to think about and consider. One of the reasons I made the post in the first place was to get different perspectives, and you all certainly did that. Thank you.
In thinking back though, one big flaw with my post was the fact that, at the time, I had only seen Season 3 once. While relatively fresh in my mind, I certainly didn’t know the beats as well as I did the first two seasons.
I am in the process of rectifying that. My plan is to do a full Season 3 rewatch, and give some thoughts on each episode as I go.
Full disclosure: I am watching these episodes with two friends who have not seen Season 3 yet. One is a Trek fan, the other is relatively new to the franchise. Some of their comments may find their way into these reviews, but I will most likely not call attention to who said what unless it seems especially important for context.
I won’t be writing full-on, lengthy reviews because plenty of people have done that already. I should also say that, while I may comment on the music at times, that will not be the focus of these posts. Instead, I want to give my reaction, and when warranted, make corrections to my previous post on Discovery in general.
That Hope Is You, Part 1
Ok, let’s address this right off the bat. I was rather harsh in my critique about how Michael Burnham is made to the the center of everything, and I certainly received feedback about that. Partly I fear it was due to me not quite writing my post as well as I had wanted—I don’t object to Michael being the driver of the plot, as she is the main character. My comment was intended to talk about how everything in the universe invariably seems to come back to her (as in her parents are the ones who built the time suit; both Georgiou and Lorca are obsessed with her, etc.). I clearly did not express that well, and I was rightly taken to task for it.
I bring this up because Michael is the only main character from the previous two seasons to appear in this episode. And I think that’s great. I love the “lost in a strange land” feel that the entire episode creates as we find ourselves in the completely unfamiliar world of the 32nd Century.
It’s also a very brave choice by the writers to take the approach of The Two Towers by creating two separate story threads right off the bat. Last we saw of our crew, they were heading off into the wormhole; Burnham in the lead and Discovery not far behind. Now, we have no idea what has happened to the ship and crew, which helps set up tension here and in the next episode as well.
It also helps that Sonequa Martin-Green absolutely kills it in this episode. While I’ve always felt she is a superb actor, she is given the opportunity to play an emotional range in this episode that we haven’t really seen before on the show. Her scream of joy when she learns that there is life on the planet where she has crash-landed. Her interactions with Book (David Ajala). And perhaps my favorite acting bit in the episode: her reaction to getting gassed by the Andorian and Orion. We have seen Stoic Michael, Angry Michael, Hurt Michael…this is the first time we get High Michael, and she’s absolutely wonderful. Drug-induced or not, Martin-Green gets to play a whole host of emotions and absolutely nails every one of them.
David Ajala is also quite good here, playing someone who is mysterious and initially somewhat threatening but ultimately someone we feel we can trust. Plus he has an absolutely gigantic cat named Grudge, so that helps too! I confess that I was completely unfamiliar with him prior to his role as Book, and I came away very impressed. He also has a voice that (to me at least) sounds uncannily like Idris Elba, so another plus in his column for me.
As I type this, I’m realizing that one of the hard parts of doing these reviews is ignoring that I’ve seen the show already. Here, we are introduced to Book’s apparent affinity for nature and while we do learn what that means in future episodes, here it remains a mystery and honestly it’s an interesting one that works for me.
What doesn’t work for me though is the business with the trance worm. While I find critiquing “Kurtzman Trek” as a monolith to be incredibly lazy, one aspect that seems to be consistent throughout his era is the occasional presence of weird monsters (think the ice creature in STAR TREK (2009)). It feels like a bit of a deus ex machina solution when the worm eats everyone who is chasing Book and Burnham (yet when it eats Michael she emerges unscathed). That said, I very much appreciate the conservation message represented by the worm and Book’s mission to return it to the sanctuary.
Finally, this episode lays a lot of the groundwork to set up the season, introducing concepts like the Burn and the fact that the Federation is either gone or seriously diminished in its influence. The Federation’s absence is hinted at throughout the episode, and it’s only through the bookend scenes that we actually see any of what has become of them. Or rather, we meet one of the last remnants of the Federation in the person of Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain). Admittedly, we don’t know much about Sahil at this point, but I really enjoy his presence here, and his daily routine of hoping for something…anything…of the Federation absolutely works for me. I will admit that, yes, that scene at the end where he can finally fly the flag because a commissioned officer is there to raise it hit me in the feels.
Oh, and to all the whiners out there complaining about the changes to the UFP flag, all I have to say to you is this: UESPA.
Additional Temporal Diaspora
- Regardless of whether any of the actors behind the makeup fall into this category, it’s refreshing and quite overdue to watch an entire episode of Star Trek without seeing a single white male face.
- Non-Trek Fan Friend absolutely loved Sahil’s bird alarm clock. I agree.
- One thing that did bug me a little was the body count racked up by Burnham and Book. Was there no stun setting? I get that they are being chased throughout, but this amount of killing feels more Star Wars to me.
Far From Home
And now we know…the rest of the story.
Ok, maybe making a Paul Harvey reference is going to reveal my age, but I don’t care. Because I really do enjoy the way the opening of this season was broken down. Above, I likened these opening two episodes to the way J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Two Towers, where the reader follows one group of characters from beginning to end only to rewind the clock in the second part and follow an entirely separate group. In this case, we now get the story of “Everyone but Michael Burnham” as Discovery and crew emerge from the wormhole.
And as with Michael, it turns out that Discovery’s introduction to the 32nd Century is no less violent as the ship immediately crash lands on an ice planet. Thankfully, the crew, led by Acting Captain Saru, is up to the task in surviving the crash. What’s immediately clear, however, is that they are not unscathed.
I devoted a good chunk of my last Discovery post criticizing how the writers handled Detmer’s psychological trauma. While I am looking forward to seeing how that critique holds up on repeat viewing, the setup we see in this episode is quite well done thanks in no small part to Emily Coutts’s performance.
In particular, I am thinking of the sequence where she stumbles into sick bay, receives about 15 seconds of attention from Dr. Pollard and is released after being told that she doesn’t have a concussion. Her look of stunned confusion through the sequence conveys everything we need to know.
Also effective is the confidence Doug Jones imbues in Saru during this time of crisis. Nowhere to be seen is Season 1 Acting Captain Saru, so unsure of himself that he is asking the computer to provide feedback on his performance. Here, Jones acts with complete assuredness, showing how his experience undergoing vahar’ai has completely changed him, making him much better suited to command.
This confidence serves him well through the meat of the episode, as he and Tilly leave the ship in search of repair parts. I’m a sucker for the “Western in Space” subgenre, and I absolutely love the “space saloon” that serves as a setting for much of the episode.
Here we meet Kal and a couple other Coridans (a nice callback to Enterprise and TOS) who are willing to help out Saru and Tilly because of their connection to the Federation and to Starfleet. We also encounter Zareh (a wonderfully understated Jake Weber), playing a version of the archetypical “jerk in town working for a mysterious stranger.” I honestly enjoyed all of these scenes, though watching Kal be executed is a bit tragic and hard to watch.
Less successful for me are the scenes back on Discovery. I’m a big Tig Notaro fan, and I love what she has brought to the show, but having her simply sit around and throw one-liners at Stamets seems like a waste of the character. Particularly when we also have Georgiou around to also be snarky. Though of course we also get to see Michelle Yeoh do Michelle Yeoh things towards the end of the episode, which are glorious.
Ultimately, we see Discovery rescued at the last moment by a mysterious ship (in a really neat call back to how Lorca rescues Burnham in “Context is for Kings”) that turns out to be Burnham and Book. We find out that Burnham has been in this timeline for a year already. While this means that the crew has been reunited again, Burnham has the benefit (or perhaps the added weight) of an additional year in this future that no one expected.
As I’ve said a few times already, I appreciate how the writers decided to split up the crew and tell two separate stories. In a way, these two episodes feel a lot like the two-episode prequel in season 1. You get the feeling that, while there will be repercussions stemming from these two episodes, the season’s story is truly only about to begin in episode 3. And I look forward to reliving how that unfolds…
Additional Temporal Diaspora
- I absolutely fall on the side of parasitic ice being silly. That doesn’t really affect my ability to enjoy the episode.
- At one point, Zarah refers to the “V’draysh” which is a nice callback to the Short Trek “Calypso”
- I was sad to see Captain Pike’s conference table destroyed. I would love to have that in my non-existent dining room
- Yes, the feel of the saloon has a definite Firefly feel. No, that doesn’t bother me at all.