Star Trek Discovery (DIS) Season 3

Season 1Season 2Season 3

That Hope Is You, Part 1Far From HomePeople of EarthForget Me NotDie TryingScavengersUnification IIIThe Sanctuary

 

That Hope Is You, Part 1

Synopsis

"That Hope Is You, Part 1"

The year 3188: Upon arrival through the wormhole, Michael Burnham collides with a ship. Both crash land on a nearby planet. Burnham sends the Red Angel suit back through the closing wormhole to transmit the final signal to Spock, and also activates its self destruct. She walks to the crash site of the ship where she gets into a fight with the pilot, who will later introduce himself as Cleveland "Book" Booker. They come to terms when Burnham offers Book her ancient tricorder to barter for dilithium. The substance used in all warp drives is scarce since a cataclysm known as "the Burn", which destroyed almost all dilithium in the galaxy and ultimately made the Federation collapse. The two walk to a place called Requiem. Once they have arrived in the city, Book has Burnham confined and takes the rest of her equipment too. Burnham is interrogated and reveals, under the influence of a truth serum, that the man she came with stole his cargo from another courier. As the guards try to apprehend Book, Burnham switches sides. Using a portable transporter, they escape from the city. Burnham gets injured, whereupon Book connects to a plant that releases an anti-inflammatory substance to treat her wound. He also allows her to use his subspace communicator to call the Discovery, but it is in vain. Once they have arrived at his ship, the guards from Requiem materialize and demand his cargo. Book opens his cargo bay with a huge trance worm, an endangered species that is traded as food. The worm attacks the other people and eventually swallows Burnham too. But Book can appease the animal and get it to release her. He is an environmental activist, whose intention is to transfer the worm to a sanctuary. Book takes Burnham to a Starfleet station that was abandoned a long time ago. Here, she is greeted by Aditya Sahil, who acts as a Starfleet liaison, although he was never officially commissioned. The two hope to find the Discovery and to rebuild Starfleet.

Commentary

I have to admit that Star Trek Discovery's first two seasons were exciting. But they were also bumpy because of a writing that indulged itself in intrigues that made no sense, in mysteries that were not solved and in other attention-grabbing stunts, instead of telling a coherent story. It suffered from unlikable characters that we wouldn't want to have as crewmates and from a Starfleet that is sneaky and hypocritical. And last but not least, the series struggled with its own premise. After systematically ignoring established visuals and historical facts in its first season, the second season went on a continuity repair tour that culminated in a big conspiracy initiated by no one else but Spock. The fans would have deserved a series that honors the canon and characters of the franchise from the start and that doesn't require doublethink to accept it as a part of the classic universe. I'm not going to delve deeper into this rant, I just want to recall where Discovery comes from and where I come from regarding my history with the series.

Discovery's third season takes place in the 32nd century. In-universe, this is so far in the future that the AI Control can't acquire the unerasable data stored on the Discovery. In the real world, it is so far in the future that the series can't damage the existing continuity any more than it already did. In other words, it is a setting that was chosen to escape from the self-imposed creative dead end. It is a setting that easily could and should have been chosen from the start. I am willing to let the past go and give Discovery a new chance, but as already mentioned I would expect more than its continuity to change for the better.

"That Hope Is You, Part 1" is a spark of hope indeed that the people in charge of Discovery have learned something. No other crew members except for Michael Burnham appear in the episode, and I'm fine with that decision. The story is all about her first contact with the 32nd century, is told from her perspective in its entirety and accordingly straightforward. Although the new setting naturally requires a good deal of exposition, this is mostly accomplished in a "show, don't tell" fashion. There is no mystery-mongering and no distracting side plot of the kind that only would make sense five episodes later, if at all. "That Hope Is You, Part 1" is a pleasant watching experience of the kind I didn't know yet from Discovery. This may still change as the other characters appear and the story gets more complex, and perhaps once again so complex the writers can't handle it any longer. But let's wait and see.

I hate how the destruction of established planets, organizations and characters is a key element in every single modern incarnation of Star Trek (with the notable exception of Lower Decks). For now, I will give Discovery's third season a chance because this time it might strike the right chord. And even if I don't like the story at all, the future is not yet written. Neither the "Burn" nor the Discovery's involvement is bound to happen; it is just one possible future.

It is a pretentious idea that Michael Burnham, who has just saved the galaxy from Control, would arrive in the 32nd century, only to be up to save the galaxy once again. However, with the exception of the too sentimental flag raising with Aditya Sahil, the lonely Federation liaison, Michael Burnham doesn't have the air of a superhero in "That Hope Is You, Part 1", but rather of a woman who struggles to survive and to find her crewmates in an unknown new galactic environment. That part of the episode, including the chemistry with Booker (David Ajala), works well for me. Sonequa Martin-Green's overacting my not be everyone's cup of tea but somehow it befits this episode. And even the reference to (and reverence for) the once big and noble Starfleet is appropriate, at least if we apply it to the Starfleet of TOS or TNG.

Booker turns out to be the 32nd century equivalent of an environmental activist. I like that idea, especially since environmental protection has never been as a big a topic in Star Trek as it could have been (not even when it started to become a mass movement in the 1980s). Well, the episode becomes a bit preachy considering the double moral lesson to stick together and reunite the Federation, while protecting endangered species. Maybe one of the two themes should have been addressed at a later time.

One of my concerns about the season 3 premise was that the ludicrously advanced technology of the Discovery would surpass that of the 32nd century. Well, Burnham disposes of her almighty time travel suit for that matter, although there would have been good in-universe reasons to keep it. Anyway, the writers and designers had some nice ideas which innovations the future may come up with. The portable transporter is clearly the most notable new technology to date. I only have a problem with its visualization. The transporter converts people to something like shards, which is a similar effect as the deadly weapons. The first time I watched, it took me a while to recognize what was beaming and what was somebody getting killed. Furthermore, most devices of the far future just don't look any more advanced than those from over 900 years ago. The new interfaces and viewscreens are even very clunky, and proof of the dilemma to visualize something that is beyond the "incredibly futuristic" standard of the series.

On a note about the killing, it seems many of the guards get vaporized when something non-deadly, such as ancient phasers on stun or the 32nd century "shockwave weapon" would have been more appropriate. After all, it was no question of life or death, but just a fight for the possession of some cargo. The fact that Booker killed many humanoids to save one worm doesn't sit well with me, even if he can argue he had no choice because they otherwise would have killed him. Similarly, the murdering of Cosmo Traitt just because of his failure is totally disproportionate and reminds me of a bad gangster film.

I am glad that Discovery is done altering the make-ups of species without a good reason. The Lurian we briefly see among the pursuers has a look that is reasonably close to Morn's. And we can also glimpse an unchanged Cardassian. Only the Andorians and the Orions keep their altered appearances from season 1. I don't know why it was done this way, but the members of these two species look particularly odd in this episode, as they were both given a plastic-like glossy skin that makes them look like androids, rather than living people.

The season 3 opener is an episode with lots of eye candy, exciting action, a credible hero, a mostly credible story and a moral lesson. It is not flawless but avoids many of the mistakes that previous episodes of this series usually suffered from. In many ways, it is like a second pilot episode for Discovery and the fresh start that it urgently needed.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Far From Home

Synopsis

"Far From Home"

The year 3189: The crew of the USS Discovery regains consciousness after passing through the wormhole. The ship crash lands in an ice field on an unknown planet. Main systems including sensors and communication are down, so it is not possible to determine the current location and time. Lt. Detmer does not feel well, but Doctor Pollard registers no injuries and sends her back to duty as there are more serious cases to take care of. Stamets too returns to his work. Acting Captain Saru dismisses Georgiou's requests to tend to the communications with priority and take what they need from a nearby settlement by force. He assigns her to just support the repairs. Saru himself departs for the settlement with Tilly, in the hope to barter assistance for the rare dilithium that the ship still has a supply of. The two arrive in a bar in a Coridan mining colony, whose inhabitants are afraid of someone named Zareh. A man named Kal repairs the damaged transtator with programmable matter. Meanwhile on the Discovery, work is progressing but the ice is parasitic and slowly encompasses the ship. Zareh and his henchmen materialize and enter the bar. He murders Kal and demands to be taken to the Discovery, with the obvious intention to pillage the ship. Saru proposes a deal: dilithium in exchange for their freedom. Then Zareh's henchmen capture Georgiou, who was on the way to the settlement against her orders. She and Saru team up and kill all but Zareh with martial arts. Georgiou intends to shoot Zareh, but Saru interferes and leaves the decision to Os'ir, the bartender, who chooses to spare Zareh's life. On the Discovery, Stamets manages to restore main power despite his injuries, and the ship prepares to lift off. Another ship appears and uses a tractor beam to release the Discovery. The crew prepares for a fight, but then Michael Burnham shows up on the viewscreen. She has been waiting for a year for the Discovery to arrive in her time.

Commentary

"Far From Home" begins much like "That Hope Is You, Part 1", with the Discovery navigating an asteroid field and then crashing down on planet Iceland (even literally this time). In some way, this is a similar story of a first contact with the 32nd century as last week, only told from a different perspective. In most other ways, it isn't.

"That Hope Is You, Part 1" was marked by a wonderful chemistry between Burnham and Booker and by refreshing mood swings of the main character, even if they were overplayed. It all came across as natural as the arrival at an unknown place in an unknown time with unknown people could be. In contrast, "Far From Home" feels heavy-handed, although the episode could have profited from less need for exposition. Much of the character interaction doesn't work because it gets lost in unwieldy dialogues. Many of Saru's and Georgiou's lines consist of phrases, and they sound like they are primarily speaking to themselves (which, in Georgiou's case, doesn't surprise me though). I agree with everything Saru says and does in this episode, but he has too few good lines, and none when arguing with Georgiou. Most of what Stamets and Reno talk sounds like a competition in sarcastic one-liners, rather than something real people would say. Their interaction already worked better in the second season. The writing hits its low when Reno refers to a low-ranking crew member cleaning the blood-covered reaction cube as "Hazmat", in a quite condescending tone. (And yes, I believe that the cleaning guy actually named Gene is a reference to Lower Decks.)

Furthermore, it gets tiresome how everyone keeps reminding everyone else of how shitty the situation is, instead of saying or doing anything encouraging. I just don't feel entertained by how this story is scripted, whether everyone's bad temper is justified or not.

I wouldn't have expected to ever write this in a review, but Tilly somehow guides me through this story. What she does, what she says and what she feels is relatable, including her fear. Tilly still makes awkward inconsiderate comments, but in her case this is in character. Moreover, other than in his stilted disputes with Georgiou, Saru doesn't appear like a jerk when talking to her: "We are introducing ourselves to the future. You, Ensign Tilly, are a wonderful first impression." Also on the positive side, in this episode just as in the series in general, we have the enjoyable interaction of Stamets and Culber, although they too speak too much in phrases this time.

On another note about Stamets, I neglected to count but his weak condition was frequently hinted at in the episode. With everyone including himself saying all the time he shouldn't climb up ladders and shouldn't crawl through Jefferies tubes, I simply don't get why someone else (such as Nilsson, who was standing by, or perhaps a drone) couldn't do the work - other than for the melodramatic impact that only he could save the ship and is still the best choice even when he can hardly move. Such a plot twist should be served in a more decent fashion than by repeatedly foreshadowing it.

Another redeeming quality of the episode is its Starfleet spirit, as it shows when Saru keeps Georgiou from killing Zareh, which apparently impresses Os'ir so much that he too chooses not to pull the trigger. While commonplace in classic Star Trek, this act of mercy and the faith in the good in people is worth mentioning every time it shows up in Discovery. In hindsight it justifies some of Saru's too preachy lines in his conflict with Georgiou because it turns out they were not only lip service. However, just as in the case of the ailing Stamets saving the ship, the foreshadowing is a tad too blatant.

We can only speculate at this time what is up with Keyla Detmer, whose implant may be malfunctioning, which is shown with an ominous "acute hearing loss" effect. I hope that the writers don't pull yet another computer virus infection stunt with her. This is idea is extremely hackneyed after appearing twice already in the second season of Discovery, and recently in Lower Decks. Please, keep Control dead and buried!

After Burnham's visit to Mos Eisley, this week's episode heavily draws on the Western genre. The saloon door and Zareh's look and demeanor are maybe too obvious references, but I like them as they provide some distraction in a story that is otherwise devoid of fun. Also, the location shots of Iceland benefit the episode, although they are not quite as extensive as last week and although the effect of the Discovery engulfed in "parasitic ice" doesn't look very realistic.

I didn't find this episode nearly as enjoyable as last week's season premiere, although the plot is not bad either. I think this is mostly the fault of the dialogues, many of which bored or downright annoyed me. I still like the idea of Discovery having escaped the canon Control to the 32nd century, but the writers should have left behind the abundance of phrases and metaphors just as well.

Annotations

Rating: 3

 

People of Earth

Synopsis

"People of Earth"

After spending a year working as a courier and learning more about the 32nd century, Michael Burnham reunites with the crew of the Discovery. Saru officially takes command of the ship. Using the spore drive, the Discovery heads for Earth, from where a Starfleet admiral named Senna Tal sent a message twelve years ago. Booker hides the Discovery's dilithium on his cloaked ship inside the shuttlebay. Upon their arrival, the Discovery is boarded by the United Earth Defense Force for inspection. Earth has become isolationist, and very protective of its supply of dilithium. An alien named Wen, who is known for frequently trying to raid Earth, appears with five ships, in the hope of finding dilithium on the Discovery. The UE boarding party tries to beam back, but something blocks their personal transporters. Without consulting with Saru, Booker and Burnham take the courier's ship and turn it into a decoy for Wen. United Earth Captain Ndoye says she can't allow Wen to acquire the dilithium and opens fire on Booker's ship, but Saru orders the Discovery to take the hit. Burnham contacts Wen and offers him to beam over the dilithium to his ship but actually kidnaps him once he lowers his shields. On the Discovery, it turns out that Wen is human and comes from the abandoned research colony on Titan. After a previous attempt to ask Earth for support ended in the destruction of the ship, he now tries to get what his people need by force. Ndoye promises to help Titan. In the meantime, Stamets and Tilly have found out that the blocked transporter was sabotage, obviously carried out by 16-year-old Adira, a member of the United Earth forces. Adira reveals that they just wanted to buy themselves more time to investigate the ship. They joined the United Earth forces with the intention to find a Starfleet ship one day. Adira is actually the human host to Admiral Senna Tal, a Trill symbiont. Saru gives his crew time to visit the surface of Earth, and then orders to continue the search for Starfleet Headquarters.

Commentary

It is one of the longest-standing clichés of Star Trek that the gallant Starfleet crew, most of whom are human, comes along and teaches a previously unknown alien planet-of-the-week a fundamental lesson in how to overcome wars and other conflicts. I think the writers of "People of Earth" take a special pleasure in the fact that the planet is Earth this time - and that, although it's Earth, the crew doesn't care as much as they perhaps should and doesn't consider to stay there. This twist works in the new setting of the galaxy in disarray after the Burn. In fact, in the course of the episode it is rather easy to forget the name of the xenophobic planet, and "People of Earth" comes across much like a classic, self-contained Star Trek episode.

Although isolation is not a desirable future, in the context of the Burn it is comforting that Earth wouldn't end up in anarchy like apparently so many other worlds. When I saw the "wall" that was erected around the planet I was concerned that the story may get preachy, but fortunately the analogies to the real world were kept subtle.

Just like last week's episode, "People of Earth" comes with a lot of character interaction. The reunion of the crew is a tad too tearful, but it resonates with me. It is something that could not have been shown like this in the first season, and still not half-way through the second season without being dishonest, since Burnham was not really close to the crew back then. Although the focus is on Burnham and Saru, everyone among the cast has one or two nice scenes. Quite unlike "Far From Home", this episode doesn't get drowned in phrases but has much more natural dialogues, and a good deal of banter. The only exception once again is Georgiou, whose sole purpose is to wait for cues for her to do something drastic or to utter something sarcastic.

I'm not content at all with how the three-way confrontation between Earth, the Discovery and Wen's pirates ensues and is further complicated by Adira's sabotage. After the first viewing and prior to further scrutiny, it leaves way too many open questions and plot holes. The probably biggest issue is how Wen's people on Titan couldn't transmit signals to Earth but could build armed ships (apparently without communication systems?) and credibly pose as aliens that want to raid the planet (by simply wearing silly helmets). And even if there are facts or possible excuses I didn't catch, the whole story ultimately suffers from Burnham and Booker's reckless plan to use a ship full of dilithium as a decoy. It is a stupid idea to start with to present the pirates with exactly what they want and with something the ship urgently needs, although it would have been possible to keep hiding it indefinitely, especially since the situation has been relatively peaceful until this escalation. Furthermore, it is inexcusable not to consult with Saru beforehand, who needs Georgiou's advice to react the right way. Burnham, Booker, the cat and the dilithium survive the totally incalculable stunt only with a huge deal of luck.

The character Adira is played by Blu del Barrio, who is non-binary. According to the announcements by CBS, the same applies to the character. For some reason, however, Adira is consistently referred to as "she" in this episode, rather than "they". It remains to be seen whether this happens in-universe because of mere ignorance or secrecy, and whether Adira will still have a coming out. In addition, Adira is a human host to a Trill symbiont, which further complicates the gender issues. We are already very familiar with Trill symbionts switching to hosts of a different sex. Showing analogies in alien societies is the traditional way that Star Trek addresses present-day social issues, rather than aiming for direct representation as it happens in more recent years. As a result, Adira comes with no less than three layers of gender identity: the nature of the alien symbiont who can switch to hosts of any sex (and species?), the gender identity of the host character and the real-life gender of the actor. I hope for the sake of the credibility of the character that this is not too much of a burden. Maybe the first two aspects are in some way related. We will likely find out later this season. Adira is currently still a bit of a mystery but definitely an interesting one.

The script of this episode indulges in self-irony on several occasions. When Stamets deems the simultaneous destruction of all dilithium impossible, Georgiou remarks that this comes from "a man who jumps a starship through mushroom space", essentially echoing one of the frequent complaints about the show's implausible technology. Saru alludes to the name of his ship, and to the fact that it has not really been on journeys of discovery in the first two seasons. Booker hints at the spinning of the Discovery on spore drive, a silly effect that the series so far tried to deal with seriously, by simply not mentioning it. Although it doesn't help solving the problems by only hinting at them, I like how Discovery lightens up in this regard. Just like Michael Burnham, who appears "lighter" to Saru and who has definitely lost some of her grimness.

As already mentioned, Earth is much like a planet-of-the-week in this episode. Unfortunately this also applies to Earth's whole technology and styling. It is simply unremarkable and could be used for any alien civilization in any era. The United Earth Defense Force uniforms are particularly bland. At the very least, they should have been given a different color than those of the Discovery crew. Considering this is over 900 years in the future, it is almost frightening how little has changed. Even the solar panels on the Golden Gate Bridge are still there.

"People of Earth" does a solid job to establish Adira as a possibly permanent character, to reintroduce us to Earth in the fashion of an alien planet, to solve an unnecessary conflict and to get a moral lesson across on the way. It almost feels like the good old episodic Star Trek in this regard but is only average if we use the old Trek as a yardstick. The episode comes with a light-handed directing by Jonathan Frakes and enjoyable character interaction. The depiction of the various conflicts, on the other hand, is a mess. It leaves me the less satisfied the more I think about it. Last but not least, after the very emotional reunion of the crew, Burnham's breach of Saru's confidence leaves a bitter taste, even more so as it is simply ignored in the end.

Annotations

Rating: 4

 

Forget Me Not

Synopsis

"Forget Me Not"

The crew of the Discovery continue their search for the Federation Headquarters. Adira's symbiont Tal may have the decisive information, but Adira can neither communicate with Tal nor access their own memories. Therefore the ship jumps to Trill, in the hope of finding support with this issue. Burnham accompanies Adira to the surface where they talk with Leader Pav, Commissioner Vos and Guardian Xi. The planet has been hit hard by the Burn, which decimated its population. There are only few viable hosts left. Whereas Vos is appalled by the idea of an alien carrying a Trill symbiont and demands Tal to be extracted from Adira, Xi is willing to allow them into the sacred Caves of Mak'ala so they can reconnect. Pav can't resolve the conflict and rules that Adira has to leave Trill. On their way to the shuttle, Vos tries to kidnap Adira, but Burnham disables him and his guards. Xi appears and leads them to the caves. On the ship, Saru invites his senior officers for dinner, in order to thank and encourage them. The event, however, ends prematurely with a quarrel between Detmer and Stamets. In the caves on Trill, Adira enters the pool to connect with their symbiont. But after a while they sink to the bottom. Burnham is worried and follows Adira. The two establish a telepathic link. Burnham encourages Adira to allow the symbiont to connect with them, even though the memories are painful. Tal was previously joined with Gray, Adira's boyfriend. The two were on a generation ship on the way to the Federation Headquarters. Gray was fatally wounded after an asteroid collision, and the medical drones could only save Tal by implanting the symbiont into Adira. Following the successful reconnection with the previous hosts, including Senna Tal, Adira turns down the offer to stay on Trill and returns to the Discovery. After the failure to boost the team spirit with the dinner, Saru arranges a slapstick movie event in the shuttlebay at the suggestion of the ship's computer, which is a success. Back on the ship, it turns out that Gray is still present in some fashion, and Adira can talk to him.

Commentary

All episodes of season 3 so far are meaningful. They show key events, key places and key characters. They do so without much sidetracking and they answer more questions than they raise. After two seasons of mystery-mongering and dangling threads, this is a pleasant new way of storytelling in the series. It is a bit like a quest now, rather than a maze run. "Forget Me Not" overall continues this positive development. The episode revisits another familiar planet, adds further pieces to the puzzle of the Burn and solves the mystery of Adira's past for the most part, an outcome that leaves me content.

I'm not so fond of the B-plot, which comes across as very contrived. The episode starts with Hugh Culber's log. It sets the tone for the things to come as the doctor observes that the crew slowly recognize they have hardly anything to cling to and feel lost, although many (and notably Detmer) wouldn't seek help. His assessment of the psychic condition of the crew may defy the "show, don't tell" principle, but it leads over nicely to Detmer's refusal to talk about her trouble. This is still the best part of the plot thread. Everything that follows doesn't work for me.

One of my gripes is how some of the crew act like it's season 1 again. Saru seeks advice on the basics of leaderships much like he did in "Choose Your Pain". He suddenly can't tell from experience what his crew needs, and he doesn't have anyone but the computer to ask for advice. In much the same vain, Stamets' ego clashes with Tilly, who dares to suggest something to the Master of the Spores, and later with Detmer. The last time he reacted like that was in season 1. I just don't think that temporarily reverting character development is a good idea, only to demonstrate that something is wrong with the morale on the ship. I am relieved that Detmer is not possessed by an alien consciousness or even by Control but supposedly suffers from emotional emptiness (and perhaps PTSD). Yet, her conduct at the dining table, when she tries to phrase a haiku with the words "Stamets' blood" is simply awkward - probably intentionally so but I don't buy into it, especially since she never had any business with Stamets. She too has a relapse to generic unwarranted season 1 animosities, rather than this being anything that could be interpreted as a feeling of being disconnected.

Stamets' and Detmer's bad temper vanishes as quickly as it appeared, just because they make up their minds and because a movie night is uplifting, whereas a dinner with the captain, where he expresses his high esteem of the crew, obviously isn't. I am sorry for Saru, who doesn't deserve to be let down like that when he does everything in his power to encourage his people. But the whole plot is just too contrived to resonate with me.

The episode solves the probably biggest part of the mystery about Adira and elegantly combines this with a visit to a popular alien species, whose planet we last saw on DS9, more than 20 years ago. Like Earth in "People From Earth", Trill too has to cope with the aftermath of the Burn, which has left only few viable hosts (rather than symbionts, although we may infer from the statements of how precious Tal is that they too were decimated). Like Earth, Trill is a bit xenophobic, although the idea that a human may serve as a host might have been offensive as soon as at the time of DS9 (if we disregard the pre-reboot events of TNG: "The Host"). It feels a bit formulaic how in both episodes the leaders of an important planet learn from Burnham's example and eventually admit they were stubborn. Still, I like the new old Trek spirit that pervades this season, so I have no objection if this persists.

On a note about the telepathic connection of Burnham and Adira inside the pool, this is a new and bizarre aspect of the Trill, but the zhian'tara in DS9: "Facets" was arguably more unrealistic, so I wouldn't have a reason to complain. Yet, while I like the visualization with the threads that represent the attempts of the symbiont to connect with Adira, the idea of an illusory realm where people can walk around and talk with each other is trite by now, considering that we already know it from many occasions, most notably from the Prophets and only recently from the spore network.

It comes as a surprise that Gray (Ian Alexander) is already dead and initially only appears in flashbacks, considering that the Trill was announced as a regular character prior to the launch of season 3. Immediately killing off Star Trek's first transgender character seems like a very counterproductive decision. Yet, in a second surprise, Gray returns in person at the end of the episode as if he were still alive. So Gray will stay a series regular as some sort of ghost. A trans ghost? Sounds like a stretch to me. Future episodes will show if this works out, but just like with Adira's non-binary nature that is overshadowed by them hosting a "squid", it may have had more of an impact if the character was simply trans, without a caveat.

The one part of the episode that doesn't sit well with me at all is how Culber makes up reasons for Michael Burnham to join Adira on her visit to Trill. Why Burnham? She had no interaction with Adira so far. Why not Stamets? Or Culber himself? Why does it have to be Burnham every time? Culber tries hard to get it across but he absolutely fails to convince me. The reasoning that Burnham arrived in the 32nd century and, unlike everyone else, already gathered some experiences and that this would somehow give Adira more confidence is bullshit - especially since this comes from a doctor who might want to be present in case there are problems with whatever procedure Adira undergoes on Trill. It is too obviously a shameless attempt to ascribe a special qualification to her and to give Burnham the usual special significance she actually shouldn't have. It would have been a great opportunity for her to take a back seat and leave the action to someone else this time. And even with Burnham eventually making the shuttle trip with Adira anyway, it isn't worth making such a fuss about it, for like five minutes. Simply saying that she is the first officer after all would have been more than sufficient to justify her presence on the planet.

The more I think about it, the more I dislike the fabricated Burnham personality cult and the awkward B-plot. Still, "Forget Me Not" is an overall solid episode that I enjoyed a bit more than "People of Earth" with its overall comparable theme and tone.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

Die Trying

Synopsis

"Die Trying"

Using the information obtained from Adira Tal, the Discovery finds its way to the combined Federation and Starfleet Headquarters. Saru, Burnham and Adira are beamed over and are greeted by Commander-in-Chief Charles Vance and Chief of Security Lt. Willa. Vance is mistrustful about the ship from the distant past. He says that the Discovery is going to be refitted, and the crew to be reassigned. A medical crisis ensues as Kili refugees are brought in, who suffer from a failure of their nervous system because of mutated proteins. Saru and Burnham see a chance for their crew to prove themselves and ask for the travel roster of the Kili. Among the planets they visited is Urna, which is deserted but used to be heavily industrialized and has a mutated plant life. The Kili can only be cured with the help of healthy plants from that planet, the seeds of which are stored on an a ship called Tikhov in a remote region of space. When Vance disapproves of Saru's proposal to take the Discovery there with the spore drive, Saru agrees to staying behind and letting a Starfleet security team with Willa join the mission. The Tikhov is caught in an ion storm, and there is initially no sign of the crew, a Barzan family. Culber and Nhan find three members of the family in cryostasis pods, the mother and her two daughters, but they are dead. Only Attis, the father, is still alive. Reno muses that when a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit the ship, he was just in a transporter beam and survived, but is out of phase since that event. The crew cuts power on the Tikhov and uses the transporter to put Attis into phase again. With his pass code, Burnham accesses the plant vault. Attis doesn't want to leave, a decision that Nhan understands. When Burnham says that they wouldn't leave Attis behind, Nhan decides to stay. Back at Federation Headquarters, the Kili can be cured. Burnham is puzzled by a melody that Adira played, that she heard on the Tikhov and that everyone in this otherwise disconnected galaxy seems to be familiar with. Also, Georgiou appears to be mentally absent after her debriefing with a Federation official.

Commentary

The crew of the Discovery are on a very clear quest since they arrived in the 32nd century. Finding the Federation Headquarters and rejoining Starfleet is the next logical step on their journey. The arrival at the headquarters becomes an awe-inspiring moment for the crew, superficially because of the sheer amount of unknown technology but probably also because of the anticipation. Is Starfleet still the same at its heart after over 900 years? It seems so. Although coming home and taking time to let old wounds heal seems like a desirable goal, it becomes clear that at least Burnham is up to something far greater. She is not content with just being in Starfleet again but wants to solve the mystery of the Burn and ultimately to reunite the Federation.

The Discovery crew are honest about what brought them to the 32nd century and about all the crazy details. I think that they wouldn't have had another choice, considering that the goal is to continue to use the secret spore drive for Starfleet's benefit and that the existence of the Sphere data may come to light rather sooner than later. Likewise, Georgiou's true identity is not concealed any longer. So sincerity and transparency, as we would normally expect it from a Starfleet crew anyway, seems to pervade the story now. On the other hand, Saru says that "everything we have ever done was in accordance with the ideals of the Federation", which leaves me speechless because the violations of rules and principles in the first two seasons are too many to count. Saru may not agree with everything bad that was going on. But he, and to lesser extent his crew, is at least partially responsible for it.

The act set on the "jungle ship" is contrived. It was too clearly designed to add creepiness and danger to an otherwise relaxed story, without making much sense. I like how Nhan defends the views of her people a couple of times, which gives her a feeling of coming home and foreshadows that she would eventually stay on the Tikhov. Yet, I don't like the fabricated dichotomy that she would have to give up her career if she stayed behind. Also, while it is understandable that Airiam's sacrifice had an impact on Nhan as she already said in "Far From Home", I don't think that Burnham inspired her a lot. But for some reason, everyone is always immensely grateful for everything that Burnham did personally for them.

The perhaps biggest surprise about "Die Trying" is that Terran Emperor Philippa Georgiou can be an interesting character, for the very first time in the whole series as I think. She finally finds an equal opponent in the still unnamed interrogator with the glasses, played by David Cronenberg, who is both amusing and frightening. He is the probably best secret agent in Star Trek since Sloan. Georgiou's debriefing with this guy gives her the opportunity to say more than just the usual one-liners to people who either are afraid of her or wouldn't listen anyway. Their dialogues are very entertaining and among the highlights of the episode. And the fact that Georgiou is apparently weakened in some fashion at the end of the episode seems to point to her very first character development. Even though it is obvious that the interrogator belongs to Section 31 and may serve to kick off a new series that I don't want to see, there is a chance that the people in charge have reconsidered their idea that Star Trek needs mustache-twirling villains in monstrous starships to be exciting.

It is a bit disappointing that Adira more or less vanishes in the course of the episode, although their being the host to the Tal symbiont should give them a special significance. I may read too much into it, but the fact that Vance brushes them aside, saying something along the lines that he knows Senna Tal and that Adira still has to earn his trust, points to a possible conflict.

"Die Trying" is the Discovery episode that so far most definitely connects the chaotic 32nd century with the glorious past of the Federation. As already mentioned, there are countless spoken or visual references that point to things that are still the same and traditions that still exist despite all the hardships. In a way, it is also the episode with the most definite ties between this reboot series and the classic Star Trek. Even if we may see it as mere fan service in the first place, ship names such as USS Voyager and USS Nog, as well as other factoids, indicate that the timeline is supposed to be the same and that this 32nd century is the very future of the universe we known from Enterprise, TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager. Although we shouldn't forget Discovery's past of downright ignoring the canon, we might say that the series finally acts like it is a part of the family - a bit like the Discovery crew is eager to rejoin Starfleet.

The story about the Discovery arriving at Federation Headquarters, with the initial enthusiasm, the exasperating debriefing and the persisting mistrust is a bit of a no-brainer, maybe predictable but accordingly convincing. I was worried about how the Discovery crew possibly wanted to outperform 32nd century medical technology and help the Kili refugees but this plot thread too is resolved to my satisfaction, although much about it is contrived. We still have to wait what Georgiou is up to in the 32nd century, but for the first time I care a bit for her character. "Die Trying" is a comfortable episode that makes us feel at home in the 32nd century, albeit with some unnecessary fan service. This may be the so far best outing of the season.

Annotations

Rating: 7

 

Scavengers

Synopsis

"Scavengers"

The USS Discovery NCC-1031-A has been retrofitted with 32nd century technology, including detached warp nacelles, programmable matter interfaces and personal transporter badges for the crew. As the ship is waiting to be dispatched to Argeth, where it may be needed to resolve a crisis, Booker's ship arrives at the cloaking field perimeter, with just his cat Grudge aboard. A pre-recorded message from three weeks ago says that he was going to a salvage yard of the Emerald Chain on the planet Hunhau, to retrieve a black box from a ship that was destroyed in the Burn. Michael Burnham is eager to retrieve this third box to triangulate the origin of the Burn. Against Saru's direct order, Burnham and Georgiou take Booker's ship and set a course for his last known coordinates. When they arrive at the salvage yard, they pretend to be traders and are welcomed by Tolor, a nephew of Emerald Chain leader Osyraa. Burnham spots Book among Tolor's workers and is waiting for an opportunity to talk to him. A system that kills anyone who is accordingly tagged and crosses the perimeter assures that the inmates wouldn't escape, which Tolor demonstrates on a Bajoran inmate who is caught stealing. Meanwhile on the Discovery, Adira has upgraded the spore drive interface and also offers Stamets to improve his implants. They reveal that Gray is still present in their mind although he was killed, which sounds familiar to Stamets. On Hunhau, Burnham and Book use a moment of distraction, in which Book says that he has the black box and that the shift change in 43 minutes may be an opportunity to escape. Burnham tells Tolor she would need more time to examine the merchandise. Having waited long enough, she sets off an alert and is apprehended by Tolor, together with Georgiou. As Tolor and his guards are investigating Book's ship, the prisoners, led by Book and an Andorian called Ryn, use the shift change for their revolt. Ryn is wounded when he takes a shot meant for Book. Burnham tries to profit from the distraction and to overwhelm Tolor, as the prisoners are waiting for someone to deactivate the perimeter pylons. But Georgiou experiences a flashback and passes out. When she regains consciousness, she grabs the control unit and takes the fence down just before Tolor manages to beam away. Burnham and Georgiou take Book's ship to help the prisoners and attack the guards. They beam up Book and Ryn, while the rest can escape in a transport. Back at Federation Headquarters, Saru relieves Burnham of duty as his first officer.

Commentary

Cleveland Booker is the Running Man! I have a soft spot for classic Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and I don't mind that this Discovery episode takes some cues from the prison escape from "The Running Man" (1987). It works for me that the obligatory scene in which the villain demonstrates the efficiency of his perimeter fence is unusually graphic for Star Trek. And it comes as a positive surprise that Ryn, the usual tragic character, survives after catching the phaser beam meant for Book. Overall, this part of the story of "Scavengers" is a solid action thriller, a bit clichéd but quite entertaining and visually impressive. There is also a pattern of sorts in the so far six season 3 episodes that whenever Book shows up, things don't go by the book, and we are in for a lot more action.

One detail I don't like about the prison escape is that Burnham gives Book a cue about something they did on Iso VII. As already a similar reference in "People of Earth", this serves to establish a plan without revealing anything about it while insinuating a familiarity of the characters that exactly know what the other one is talking of. It is a lame excuse for not wasting time to explain things and shouldn't be used repeatedly.

"Die Trying" already foreshadowed that Burnham's mission is not fulfilled by finding Starfleet, and that she, apparently unlike anyone else, is determined to find out what caused the Burn. A third black box salvaged from a destroyed ship may be a decisive clue on her quest because each explosion happened at a slightly different time, which may allow to pinpoint the origin of the Burn via triangulation. This is a pleasantly realistic scientific concept after all the crap that pervaded the first two seasons of the series, especially when compared to the mess about the timing of the Red Angel signals that never made any sense.

Regarding Burnham's insubordination when she leaves the ship against her orders, Saru really seems to have ignored or forgotten what happened in "People of Earth", as I already mused in the review of that episode. While not acting against a direct order, her conduct back then was reckless; it endangered everyone on the ship and the whole mission. But it remained without any consequences. Other than continuing to ignore that, the story of "Scavengers" becomes both more complex and more consequential in this regard than we may have hoped for.

Book's disappearance gives Burnham an additional personal motivation to set out and find him and the black box. As Admiral Vance points out, he may have agreed to the mission, had he been asked in advance. Still, it is understandable that Burnham would rather act without authorization, as have many other Trek characters before her in similar situations, perhaps most notably Captain Kirk's crew in "Star Trek III". It also stands to reason that Saru would seek someone's advice in this matter, although Tilly, as a junior officer and as Burnham's closest friend, doesn't exactly seem the best choice. But Tilly unexpectedly recommends Saru to report Burnham instead of trying to cover up her absence. While I still don't think that he should have asked Tilly of all people for advice, what better confirmation could Saru find for his course of action? That is why this part of the story works for me. It was obvious that this time neither Vance nor Saru would simply forget what happened, and I acknowledged with a certain satisfaction how Burnham lost her position as the first officer. Sometimes you do the right thing, and yet you are penalized for it. It happens to many of us at some time in our lives and shouldn't be glossed over in a TV series either. While I am glad she accepts the decision, I only wish that Burnham could have done it without crying. This is becoming just too much. My impression is that since season 2 she bursts out in tears every time she experiences a strong emotion, be it pain, guilt, desperation, happiness or anything else.

As for Georgiou's role in the episode, it makes sense for her to join Burnham's mission because she has nothing to lose and she can be useful when dealing with thugs. I am also delighted that, a bit like in last week's interrogation, Georgiou does more than react sarcastically to cues. I think it may be the first time in the series she has a no-nonsense conversation with someone of the crew. At some point, it even seems like Burnham likes her and confides in her. On the other hand, this looks like a further steps in Georgiou's unwarranted redemption that I already criticized in my season 2 reviews. We must not forget that she was Space-Hitler! And just like Hitler was not a nice guy because he loved dogs, Georgiou does not become a better person as Burnham or we get to know her, or as we feel with her with regard to her obvious suppressed trauma.

In a small B-plot, Adira impresses Stamets with their engineering knowledge, and reveals that Gray, the dead former host of the Tal symbiont, is still present in their mind. Although what happens is rather predictable (knowing that Stamets of all people has experience with not-so-dead lovers) and not very conclusive either, I like this little diversion in an overall suspenseful story. And regarding the continued existence of Gray, it is overall a lot more credible in comparison with what happened to Hugh Culber.

Regarding the detached nacelles, I can't say I'm a fan of the idea to give up physical connections between parts of the ship. The necessary forcefields to keep the programmable matter in place expend energy for something that duranium would provide for free. But more importantly, the free-floating nacelles just don't look good.

I enjoyed "Scavengers", and especially its action-loaded parts. The episode confirms that Discovery is on a good course in its third season, with character-focused stories that make sense and have consequences, without excessive sidetracking and with a decent amount of action. None of the episodes so far really stood out, but the improvement since the deplorable seasons 1 and 2 is considerable.

Annotations

Rating: 6

 

Unification III

Synopsis

"Unification III"

The data from the three black boxes is not sufficient to triangulate the origin of the Burn in three-dimensional space. But it looks to Michael Burnham like SB-19, a research project that Admiral Vance so far assumed to have caused the disaster, cannot be responsible. Vance sends the Discovery on a mission to Ni'Var, formerly known as Vulcan. The Vulcans had reunited with the Romulans, as a result of Spock's diplomatic initiative. When dilithium became scarce, Ni'Var built SB-19 to investigate new forms of space travel. They decided it was too dangerous, but the Federation urged them to carry on regardless. The planet eventually left the Federation. In orbit of Ni'Var, President T'Rina refuses to share the data about SB-19. Burnham invokes the T'Kal-in-ket, a traditional scientific discourse based on pure logic, to discuss her new theory about the Burn, which would require Ni'Var to release the data once her theory is taken into consideration. The Vulcan leader arrives on the Discovery with a quorum consisting of N'Raj, a Romulan elder, V'Kir, a Vulcan purist and Shira, a representative of the Romulo-Vulcans. The shalankkai or sha-set, Michael Burnham's advocate, turns out to be no one else but her mother, who has joined the Qovat Milat after arriving in the 32rd century. During the T'Kal-in-ket, particularly V'Kir is opposed to Michael's theory, although she attempts to reason with as much logic as possible. The meeting is quickly adjourned because of the obvious lack of progress. Gabrielle Burnham notices that her daughter is not honest about her motives. When the T'Kal-in-ket resumes, she calls out Michael's lack of openness, ostensibly acting against her. The discourse gains momentum up to a point when N'Raj is ready to share the SB-19 data, against V'Kir's vehement objections. In order not to endanger the peace on Ni'Var, Michael decides to retract her request. Back in her quarters, her mother reveals that her plan was to win over T'Rina, rather than the three members of the quorum. She hands Michael the requested data. In the meantime, Saru has offered Tilly the position as his first officer, which she accepts after consulting with her higher-ranking crewmates.

Commentary

Let me preface this review with a midterm evaluation. Although Discovery's third season is set in an entirely unclaimed era where everything would be possible to happen, it so far has the air of a "Star Trek's Greatest Hits" album, featuring new recordings of the Orion Syndicate, Earth, Trill, Starfleet, and now Vulcans and Romulans. As much as they all have changed, as much they stay the same. It seems that every planet, every species and every concept that mattered in the past gets revisited. And that they all have the same significance 930 years later, despite the dramatic paradigm shifts because of the Burn and despite anything else that may have happened during this very long time. The album comes with remixes for that matter, but there are no new songs. There are neither fundamentally new perspectives nor previously unknown threats in this universe, whose ships have whimsical detached warp nacelles but can hardly go to warp at all. Everyone in the 32nd century seems to be look backing, only waiting for Michael Burnham, a person from the distant past, to bring dilithium and lift the spirits. I never would have thought I'd say this, but Discovery plays safe and plays nice in its third season. This is not to the disadvantage of the series, as it finally has a clear direction and respects the canon. But I would expect more from it. More of a vision of the future instead of one of the past, and just as well more obstacles or even setbacks on that way. I appreciate how Saru and Burnham are trying to put the band back together, but I am still waiting for the big rewarding moment.

"Unification III" continues the trend of going where no one has been in a long time, 790 years in the case of the Vulcans and Romulans. As soon as I spotted the episode title a few weeks ago, I was apprehensive because this blatantly direct reference to the classic TNG episode with Leonard Nimoy as Spock feels presumptuous. Yet, I think that the references are apt and don't insult or damage the original. Overall, Discovery has never before been so deeply rooted in Trek lore, but that doesn't mean it is automatically great Star Trek.

I didn't really expect Michael Burnham to become less important in season 3 and I don't even think it would have been desirable. But I would have hoped for her to excel as a Starfleet officer and to grow as a human being, instead of always having a sui generis status. Unfortunately, Discovery is The Michael Burnham Show all over again, maybe even more clearly than ever before. Since "People of Earth", Burnham keeps musing about how much she has changed since her arrival in the 32nd century and how she is uncertain that the Discovery is still her home. For me, this raises the question if she has ever been an integral part of the crew and if anything about her has changed at all (besides her hairstyle). In season 1, Michael Burnham was an outsider, a "specialist" who for some reason knew and did everything and was crucial for every single mission of the ship. In season 2, she had regained her rank but still acted like a renegade on many occasions because she felt like she had to save the galaxy single-handedly. The Michael Burnham of season 3 isn't different in these regards. Her alleged change and the doubts about where she belongs are unwarranted sidetracking in hindsight, and there is currently no sign she could actually become a more modest and more relatable character.

We are told that no one but Michael Burnham could possibly lead the diplomatic talks with the Vulcans. It makes sense in the story, but that is because the whole plot was constructed in the first place with her as the pivotal point. And even if we accept her invariable role as a very special person that everything in the series is subordinated to, it would have been a lot more agreeable without it being mentioned repeatedly. In "Unification III", this culminates in several statements along the lines of "Michael Burnham saved the whole galaxy" or "Without her, Spock would never have become such a great man". Book's ironic remark of her (and subsequently Spock) being "chronic over-achievers" doesn't really help to make the melodramatic character worshipping more acceptable.

This story tries to show the downside of being awesome too. In fact, many uncomfortable truths about Michael Burnham are spoken out, by her mother, by Saru, by Tilly, by Booker and by herself. She is not honest about what she really wants, neither to herself nor to others. She tries to fill the emotional void in her with taking responsibility for each and everything. She doesn't recognize that life consists of duty and joy that complement each other. I agree with everything that is said about her. On second thought, however, it doesn't fit together to a bigger picture. Everyone just states the obvious. We know she was always like that, it was repeatedly mentioned in the past and it most likely won't change in the future. Also, it doesn't help to explain why Burnham would have doubts about her being on the Discovery in the first place, and why she would suddenly make up her mind. It only works well regarding Gabrielle Burnham's unexpected ad hominem arguments against her daughter in the T'Kal-in-ket.

Well, the T'Kal-in-ket isn't exactly the occasion where Michael Burnham's emotional state should have a bearing anyway. The Vulcans (at least the ones before the time of the reunification) simply wouldn't care about her motivation when the goal is to find out the truth. It should have been more about facts and less about candor. Likewise, on the side of the quorum from Ni'Var it should have been less about politics and more about science. Other than that, the T'Kal-in-ket is a welcome addition to the Vulcan lore. Discovery was marked by haphazard decisions and actions in its first two seasons, and whenever an issue was seriously discussed, it lacked profoundness and felt like squeezed in more like a filler. This has changed in the third season, and the battle of words with the quorum from Ni'Var is the best proof so far, although it is not quite as meaningful as it perhaps could be.

Saru's decision to appoint Tilly to his first officer only makes sense if we take into account that Discovery has no ensemble cast and that the ensign is the only available character. It would have been more realistic for Saru to ask Nilsson, Owosekun, Detmer, Rhys or Bryce, but they are just not meant to have bigger roles.

The only completely satisfying aspect of the episode is to see Saru as a skilled diplomat. I take it that his unassumingness, respectfulness and astuteness made just the same or even more of an impact on T'Rina as Burnham's "being special".

As already hinted at in the introduction, "Unification III" is a remix on the "Star Trek's Greatest Hits" album. Unfortunately the reunification of the Vulcans and the Romulans is rather gratuitous so far, and doesn't have a further significance, except perhaps boosting Burnham's ego. The episode definitely could have been better, had it not been conceived as a tearful melodrama about Michael Burnham. Also, it is a pity that the great premise was turned into a bottle show that takes place on the Discovery, instead of showing us more of the Vulcan-Romulan alliance. Still, I enjoyed it, and I appreciate that Discovery can be Star Trek and can honor its rich history.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 

The Sanctuary

Synopsis

"The Sanctuary"

Talking to Dr. Culber, Georgiou is very reluctant but eventually agrees to a complete scan of her body to get to the bottom of her neurological disorder. She hacks into the scan results and it looks like she is dying. Book receives a message from his homeworld Kwejian that Osyraa, the Emerald Chain leader, threatens the planet with destruction. He requests the Discovery to interfere, but Admiral Vance only approves of an observer mission. On the Discovery, Stamets and Adira combine the already known data about the Burn with the new one obtained from Ni'Var, tracing the origin to the Verubin nebula. They also discover an audio signal that is being sent from there, which manifests itself as music but is heavily distorted. After filtering out natural sounds from a neutron star, it all boils down to a Federation distress signal. Adira sets out to also decode the embedded message. Burnham beams down to Kwejian with Booker where they meet Kyheem, his old friend. Unlike Book, Kyheem maintains an old deal with the Emerald Chain that provides the planet with a repellant against sea locusts that would eat the harvest, in exchange for the valued tranceworms. After killing her nephew for his failure on Hunhau, Osyraa sets a course for Kwejian. When her heavily armed cruiser shows up in orbit, she demands the extradition of the Andorian Ryn, the former Emerald Chain member, who is still aboard the Discovery. Saru refuses. In order to emphasize her demands, she fires photon torpedoes at the protective shields of the Sanctuary on Kwejian, which begin to weaken. In order not to cause a diplomatic incident, Tilly comes up with the idea that a "rogue Federation officer" could attack the cruiser with Book's ship and target the vulnerable spots that Ryn knows of, a task that falls to Detmer. On the planet, Kyheem gets into a fight with Book over the question of Ryn, but they eventually agree to work together. Osyraa has to retreat after her ship has taken damage. Book and Kyheem establish a telepathic link with the sea locusts, which is boosted with help from the Discovery to drive the creatures back into the sea. Back on the Discovery, Book tells Burnham that he considers to stay on the ship.

Commentary

Like every previous episode of season 3, "The Sanctuary" further fleshes out topics that have been addressed before, Book's homeworld and the Emerald Chain in this case, while continuing the search for the origin of the Burn. I appreciate that the series remains on track. However, we have to consider that the Discovery is now a Starfleet ship on standby for missions that Admiral Vance should have to decide about (and a bit like a precious battleship confined to the harbor because the sea is swarming with enemy gunboats). Yet, for the fourth week in a row he has to recognize that this ship and crew operates outside the chain of command. This doesn't have to be bad, but it is becoming formulaic how the Discovery crew always overrule the good admiral and turn out to be right after all. He, like the rest of Starfleet, is reduced to a mere bystander.

I appreciate how Michael Burnham's role is cut down to a normal Starfleet officer this week, who is capable and responsible. Even more than the mere fact of her being a VIP by virtue of her skills and her history, it has become exasperating how everyone isn't getting tired to mention just that. In "The Sanctuary", she prudently leaves most of the talking and of the action to Booker, which makes a lot of sense because it is his home planet and his old friend after all. I would even go as far as saying that Burnham initially follows Book into this adventure a bit like a teenage girl in love, who finds everything related to her boy just awesome and who only steps out of his shadow as his old gang gets him into trouble.

Adira's coming out as non-binary to Stamets at this point of the season may seem contrived. It may have been better to simply establish Adira as a "they" from the start. Is LGBTQ still a thing in the 32nd century, so much that they could only confide in a fellow "marginalized" person? Well, but I don't mind if they break the fourth wall. Rather than that, I am relieved that Adira really is non-binary and that in the press releases the actor and the role weren't mixed up in a way that would have given certain people a reason to attack the series for not keeping promises.

It doesn't come as a surprise that Georgiou's brain dysfunction is not just a temporary trauma. Whether the guy with the glasses infected her with a deadly disease or whether it has to do with the interdimensional thing, Discovery returns to the old tradition of mystery-mongering in this regard. Unfortunately, the tradition of Georgiou's hackneyed supervillain speak is back as well. After a couple of episodes in which she sounded half-way like a human being, Georgiou is a cruel and overbearing cartoon Nazi all over again: "If I had time, I'd poison your children." Culber endures all this with his professional tenaciousness when she is his patient. For anyone else on either side of the TV screen it is a needless pain to listen to Georgiou. And the perhaps biggest mystery is why Michael Burnham should feel attached to a person who frequently threatens to kill her friends - and might just do that for all we know! While it is very annoying, at least I am glad for the reminder of who Georgiou really is.

Regarding mysteries about characters, I am grateful that there seemingly isn't one about Detmer any longer. I think now that she has shown what she can do in terms of piloting, her PTSD will likely not be an issue any longer. This is unrealistic but it is how TV series always used to work.

I enjoyed the action sequence with Detmer and Ryn on Book's ship against Osyraa's cruiser and how it is visualized. However, it comes with the four probably biggest space battle clichés:

  1. You take a tiny ship into the fight you have never piloted before.
  2. Your big mean enemy ship has exactly one weak spot, and there is exactly one person who knows about it.
  3. You fly close to the enemy ship's hull because it has no close-range defense.
  4. You switch to manual control because automatic stuff is too slow or unreliable (and not enough fun).

Speaking of clichés, the planet on which everyone and everything is connected and is in balance is nothing new. We've already had a similar story along the lines of "Avatar" in the first-season episode "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum". Fortunately the idea is not wasted this time but is an essential part of Book's backstory that was established in "That Hope is You, Part I" and that will hopefully be further explored in future episodes. It may not have been clearly established, but I take it that Book is an alien and not human as I initially thought.

One general point of criticism is that the technology of the 32nd century is selectively limited. Sure, there are nifty devices such as the personal transporter, and we may buy into the reasoning that interstellar travel without dilithium is impossible. But Kwejian is another example of a planet that just doesn't seem to use its resources. They do have the technology to erect an impermeable shield to protect their wildlife, but driving away the sea locusts from their crops or finding an alternative that they wouldn't eat isn't possible for some reason. The Emerald Chain may not want their planets to become too independent, but then they would care more and wouldn't have allowed Kwejian to build the protective shield in the first place. The organization has formidable ships, but rather than building industries (or controlling the ones on their planets) they engage in small-scale bartering and only seem to be interested in scrap metal, memorabilia and livestock.

It is obvious that we will see her again, but Osyraa is an underwhelming villain so far. It is clichéd how she gruesomely kills her nephew for his failure just as in about every cheap gangster flick. And despite her big ship she poses a relatively mild threat to Kwejian and to the Discovery. Maybe there is more to Ryn than his secret(!?) knowledge about the Emerald Chain running out of dilithium. But for now, it doesn't make sense that Osyraa would bother to apprehend and kill him.

Lower Decks unexpectedly beat Discovery to the idea of a captain pondering about a catchphrase like Pike has one with "Hit it!" I take it that Discovery, originally set to air first, was meant to be the serious version. I don't really notice a difference though.

Overall, "The Sanctuary" is an enjoyable episode with a decent amount of action and of science fiction themes, but not a great one. While Burnham is pleasantly humble this time, Georgiou becomes a major nuisance all over again. There is some progress regarding the mystery of the Burn, but the "one step at a time" approach in B-plots isn't very rewarding. We learn more about Book's homeworld and about the Emerald Chain, but nothing really exciting or unexpected.

Annotations

Rating: 5

 


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