Star Trek Discovery (DIS) Season 3
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 finally 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.
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 facts 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. 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 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.
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 perhaps too sentimental flag raising with Aditya Sahil, the lonely Federation liaison, Sonequa Martin-Green as 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. 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.
I was a bit worried that the ridiculously advanced technology of the Discovery would surpass that of the 32nd century, but 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 the 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.
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 Disocvery 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 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.
- Two statements in the episode refer to events in the 31st century, the time of Crewman Daniels and of the "Temporal (Cold) War" from Enterprise. The first is that the Burn took place 100 to 120 years before the episode. The second is Book's mention of "Temporal Wars", after which time travel technology was outlawed, but without giving an exact date. It appears that the Burn took place at a time when the Temporal Wars were already over, rather than being the incentive.
- After "Such Sweet Sorrow II", there was a mystery when and from where Michael Burnham would send the seventh signal that she promised to Spock (besides the even bigger riddle how this one could appear simultaneously with all six others as soon as in "Brother"). Spock would pick up the signal 124 days later, and from a planet on the other side of the galaxy. So is Hima, the crash site, on the other side of the galaxy? It seems so. And the 124 days? Well, perhaps this is an uncertainty caused by the wormhole.
- Nitpicking: Burnham doesn't end up at Terralysium as intended, but close to another Class-M planet. What are the odds? She crashes into a ship that is just flying by. What are the odds?
- Remarkable dialogues:
- "You guys have a real problem if your couriers are stealing stuff and then colliding with thousand-year-old women in space!" - "What cargo was he hauling?" - "I don't know, but it was temperature-sensitive, and really valuable, so it's probably ice cream." (Burnham and Orion guard)
- "I may have broken your nose earlier. I apologize." - "Are you saying that in case we die?" - "Yep." (Burnham and Booker)
- Remarkable quotes:
- "Commander Burnham, now I'll tell you a secret. I'm not a commissioned officer. You see, my father was. His father before him. But unlike them, I was never officially sworn in. There has been no one to do it. Yet I watch this office every day, as I have for forty years, believing... one day others like me would walk through that door, that my hope was not in vain. Today is that day. And that hope... is you, Commander Burnham." (Aditya Sahil)
- "I don't know how much of the Federation still exists, I simply do my part to keep it alive." (Aditya Sahil)
- Remarkable scene: Aditya Sahil begins every day with classical music, gets up from his holographic bed, brushes his teeth with a holographic beam, takes place at his holographic desk and scans in vain for signals.
- Remarkable scenery: The exterior shots of the planet Hima were filmed in Iceland. It gives this episode a scenic dimension that probably no other Trek episode had before.
- Remarkable technology: The future comes with tactile interfaces, portable transporters and non-lethal weapons that create a shockwave. Quantum slipstream drive appears to be a standard (provided there is dilithium).
- Remarkable species: Cosmo Trait, the man Booker stole the trance worm from, is meant to be a Betelgeusian, a species that was created for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" but was barely visible in the film. We also see a Lurian, Morn's race, among the guards. And a Cardassian.
- Remarkable facts:
- The Burn took place some 100 to 120 years prior to 3188.
- All time travel technology was outlawed after the Temporal Wars.
- The Gorn recently destroyed two light-years of subspace.
- Aditya Sahil assumed his position 40 years prior. His sensors are capable of scanning a radius of 600 light-years. The long-range sensors of the station failed decades earlier.