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Part 2 of Josh’s Review of Star Trek: Discovery Season Three!

Yesterday I posted my review of the third season of Star Trek: Discovery.  Today I’m back with a more detailed episode-by-episode analysis.  Let’s dive in!

Episode 1 — That Hope is You, part 1 — For the most part I quite enjoyed this season premiere.  I like the decision to focus solely on Michael Burnham, with no appearances from any other Discovery character.  That’s unusual for Trek, and I like the focus that gave to this episode.  I enjoyed our initial glimpses of this far future into which Michael (and the series) has jumped.  I liked the enigmatic “searching for signals” opening.  I liked the chase through the ruins of starships in orbit of the planet onto which Burnham crashes.  I loved the beautiful vistas of this alien world.  (The location shooting combined with high-quality CGI effects created a very memorable new alien planet.)  I really enjoyed meeting Book (though I hate that his name is a rip-off of a beloved character from Firefly) and his crashed ship was beautifully realized.  I’m glad Burnham sent the time-travel suit away, so she and the show can’t easily return to that magical get-out-of-plot-problems device again.  (Though I’m confused where/when Burnham sent the suit?)  The “Mercantile” trading post looked cool.  I liked seeing Andorians and Orions, and I liked hearing mention of the Gorn.  I loved seeing an alien of the same species as Morn from DS9!

What drags the episode down is the usual Discovery plot problems.  Why can’t the bad-guys track transporters through water??  Why does Book’s ship have enough power to cloak the entire huge vessel but not to beam over to Mercantile?  Also, why does the man seen in the opening have a box with the unqiue-to-Discovery emblem (the split arrowhead design that was never seen before this show) as opposed to the standard Starfleet symbol?  It doesn’t make any sense that this man (who we’ll learn is a Starfleet officer) would have that only-ever-seen-on-Discovery emblem (which, according to this very show, was declared a forever secret by Starfleet in the 23rd century).  It’s laziness by the props department… perhaps combined with an arrogance in declaring that this show’s visual choices should outweigh all previous Trek history.  It’s the same sort of arrogance I saw in Picard, in which we saw, for example, a future Starfleet that didn’t contain a single recognizable starship design — instead, every single ship was a generic Picard redesign.  It’s a missed opportunity.

Episode 2 — Far From Home — After an episode with Burnham, it was fun to step away from Burnham for an entire episode (the first time in the show’s history!) to catch up with the rest of the Discovery crew.  I liked the exciting opening crash sequence (though it was a direct rip-off of the crash sequence from Voyager’s 100th episode, “Timeless”, which was one of the best episodes of that show).  As with the previous episode, I loved the beautiful realization of this alien planet — the gorgeous scenery was wonderful.  The floating rock clusters felt a little bit like a rip-off of Pandora from Avatar, but it was an interesting new look for a Trek planet, so I didn’t mind too much.  I was intrigued by the creepy scenes of a disoriented Detmer.  I liked seeing Saru stand up to Georgiou, and I also liked seeing him use his spurs against the bad guys.  (Though why didn’t Saru do that earlier, to save poor Cal?)  Cal’s death sure was memorably gruesome.  (That was out of the ordinary for Trek, but it was an exciting moment, so it worked OK for me… though it was unusually nihilistic for Trek…)  I liked that the friendly aliens on this planet were from Coridan (a surprisingly deep cut for this show that usually ignores Trek continuity).  There were some nice moments for Tilly.  I liked that Saru repeatedly asserted Trek values — to negotiate, not to kill — and that he chose to open hailing frequencies at the end, rather than to raise shields or fire phasers.

As always, there were some plot problems.  How was Discovery able to crash violently on a rocky planet without a single hull breach?  (Compare this with the Enterprise saucer’s crash in Generations — after which the ship was completely destroyed, which makes sense!)  I can’t possibly believe the Discovery could be spaceworthy just a few hours later.  It seems crazy to me that the big problem on Discovery preventing them from taking off had to do with re-routing power and not about repairing huge hull breaches.  Speaking of which, Stamets’ reckless, selfish behavior was so dumb — he came close to getting everyone on the ship killed, just because he insisted on doing everything himself!  I’d expect better from the ship’s Chief Engineer.  (Is that Stamets’ job??)  And I hate — underline hate — seeing the little droids on Discovery again.  (There are no droids in Star Trek!!  This is not Star Wars!!!)  But over-all this was a solid episode.

Episode 3 — People of Earth — I’m glad that Saru is officially the Captain of Discovery.  He deserves it!  (And Burnham doesn’t.)  I’ve really grown to love Saru.  He gets a lot of great moments in this episode.  He’s great standing up to both Gerogiou and the EDF Captain.  I like that he insists that Starfleet doesn’t fire first, and that he’s willing to take the hit from the Earth vessels to protect Burnham.  And in the end, he succeeds in getting the EDF and the raiders to talk!  I like the look of the alien raiders, and I like the very sweet, classic Trek type of reveal that the raiders are humans after all.  I love Saru’s suggestion that “perhaps it is time to stop making assumptions — and to start listening.”  Burnham and Book are cute together.  I like the moment when she zips him up in a uniform.  (And I laughed when she reminded him that it’s just “one aye” — “we’re not pirates!”)  It’s interesting to learn that Earth is no longer the center of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet.  (It’s about time!)  I liked hearing that the Federation hasn’t been on Earth in a hundred years.  The shield around Earth stretched my credulity.  (It works in Star Wars, but less so in the more science-based Star Trek.  The power needed to shield an entire planet is staggering.  But since we are now a millennium in the future, I can go with this.)  I liked the final shot of an idyllic futuristic Earth, and the Golden Gate Bridge, while the Trek fanfare plays.

It’s nice to meet Adira, Star Trek’s first non-binary main character.  But I have all sorts of questions (that the show never satisfactorily answered for me, even in the episodes that followed).  If the Federation and Earth have been separated for a century, how did the Federation Admiral Tal wind up on Earth in the first place?  How did the human Adira survive having a Trill symbiont joined with her?  (That almost killed Riker back in “The Host”.)  I like that Stamets is able to make a connection to Adira.

Episode 4 — Forget Me Not — I liked the opening montage in which we see that the crew is depressed, and feeling the effects of their journey through time.  It’s fun to see the Trill in this episode.  It’s interesting (and logical) to learn that the Trill population was decimated when so many symbionts were killed in the Burn.  The planet Trill was beautifully realized.  I loved the fish/birds.  I loved the scene where the Trill leaders ask Adira her SECOND name.  (That makes perfect sense for the joined Trill.)  I liked both the intense Trill governor, Vos, and the also-intense Trill Guardian, Xi.  I liked seeing the depiction of the symbiont caves, brought to life in a cooler, far more expansive way than we were ever able to see on DS9.  I loved hearing someone talk about isoboramine levels!!!  (That was a common piece of Trill-related technobabble from DS9).  I liked Adira’s weird vision while in the symbiont pools, and I liked seeing all of her former hosts.  But I’m weirded out that Adira’s former boyfriend Grey is now a part of her.  The ending that I think was supposed to be sweet seemed creepy and disturbing to me.

This was the best Dr. Culber episode yet.  I liked this interactions with Detmer.  I loved the dramatic staging of their final scene in the episode, in the doorway between light and dark.  I liked Detmer’s sleek and cool Starfleet jumpsuit.  I liked Dr. Culber’s spinning medical tricorder.  I liked the business with Saru’s attempt to cheer up the Discovery crew… though it seemed weird to me that Saru was throwing a dinner party while Burnham and Adira were out of contact and potentially in danger down on the planet.  I’m intrigued that the Sphere Data seems to be controlling the Discovery computer.  Are we slowly catching up to the events of “Calypso”?

Why is Tilly still obsessed with Dark Matter?  Wasn’t it a weird dereliction of Dr. Culber’s duties for him to insist that Burnham accompany Adira instead of him?  (No other chief medical officer on any previous Trek show would have ever let anyone else care for their patient.  It’s only on Discovery, where Michael Burnham is apparently more competent than any other character, where this would happen.  It’s also super-weird for Culber to first accuse Burnham of being a “responsibility hoarder” — which is accurate!! — and THEN ask her to accompany Adira instead of him!)  How did Adira get from a damaged “generational ship” that we see herein flashback to Earth where she was in last week’s episode?  And what was she doing on a generational ship in the first place?

I quite liked that, in the end, this episode was all about connection — in the Trill storyline and also that of the Discovery crew.  This is a great Star Trek value.

Episode 5 — Die Trying — I’m glad the show didn’t drag things out too long before Discovery was able to connect with the Federation.  I enjoyed seeing the futuristic Starfleet HQ in this episode.  (Though the episode seems to conflate Starfleet with the Federation, which feels to me like a mistake.)  I liked seeing the futuristic starships, and of course I smiled to see the Voyager-J and the U.S.S. Nog (a lovely DS9 reference and tribute to the lost-too-soon actor Aaron Eisenberg).  I liked hearing mention of the Temporal Accords (the “Temporal Cold War” was a major storyline in Enterprise) and also of the Kazon (from Voyager).  I loved seeing a 30th century version of a holographic doctor (and I loved that he was still annoying!).  The crew Q&As were hilarious.  I also really enjoyed the scenes between Georgiou and a mysterious interrogator, Kovich, played by David Cronenberg (!!!).  Mr. Cronenberg was TERRIFIC and Michelle Yeoh really sparkled as Georgiou!  Those scenes were great.  I’m intrigued by the suggestion that the distance between the two universes has been growing, and that there’s been no crossing into the Mirror Universe for 500 years.

However: how does Georgiou, from the 23rd century Mirror Universe, possibly know how to disrupt a 30th century hologram??  That’s ludicrous.  This is a total misuse of Georgiou — her superiority should be in her psychological mastery of others (which she used to take and hold the rulership of the Terran Empire) and not her mastery of technology!!

Saying that the Federation had 350 member worlds at its height feels like a low number to me.  I liked the look of the “seed vault”, though I don’t buy that a 23rd century ship that Burnham knew about was still around almost a millennia later.

I was sad to see Nhan written off the show.  I liked her ending here, but I feel this potentially-interesting character never quite got her due on this show.

Episode 6 — Scavengers — I enjoyed seeing the “refit” Discovery, now with programmable matter and detached nacelles.  (But why are nacelles needed since ships don’t have warp capability after the Burn?  Or is it that some ships do still have warp capability, but only a few because of the scarcity of dilithium?)  I like the new badges, that are also tricorders and personal communicators.  The upgrades to the Discovery consoles look cool, but that sort of 3-D tech look already feels old hat to me, since we saw Tony Stark use that type of snazzy 3-D holographic tech interfaces back in 2008’s Iron Man.  (I wish Discovery was far more creative and inventive in giving us wild new tech that we’d never before seen.)

We’re introduced to a new group of villains, the Emerald Chain, an alliance between the Andorians and the Orion Syndicate.  They’re mildly menacing here, and they work well enough for this episode.  But it’s a disappointment to me this season that the Chain never developed into a compelling or fully-fleshed out threat to our heroes.  They just sort of seemed like cliche, generic sci-fi baddies.

Burnham is incredibly immature in immediately disobeying orders to rush off after Book.  But I loved Georgiou’s line “You had me at unsanctioned mission.”  I really love Michelle Yeoh as Georgiou, even though there’s really no reason for this character (the former Empress of the Mirror Universe) to be hanging out on the U.S.S. Discovery.  (As I’ve commented before, one of the show’s biggest missed opportunities was in killing off the original Georgiou back at the very beginning.)

I liked seeing Book’s ship appear sideways during the prison break, and it was cool to see how the “programmable matter” allowed his ship to constantly shape-shift and reassemble itself while in action.

 

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow for the conclusion of my look back at Star Trek: Discovery season three… and then back here on Monday for the start of my look back at my favorite TV shows, movies, and more from 2020!

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