[[[[Ed. Note: One of the main spoilers ahead for the previous season of Star Trek: Discovery.]
At the end of season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, the crew of the titular science ship traveled 930 years into the future in an effort to stop rogue AI from wiping out all sentient life in the galaxy. It was a bold move for both crew and showrunners to push the series from a slightly nostalgic prequel to the 1960s original. Star Trek run into uncharted territory for Trek’s canon.
Some 750 years after the events of the second season, a mysterious catastrophe known as The Burn destroyed most of the dilithium, the element that powers the warp propulsion systems that make faster-than-light travel possible. The United Federation of Planets fell shortly thereafter and the galaxy is now a smaller, more fragmented place that looks like Firefly or the more gritty aspects of Star Wars closer than it appears anything Gene Roddenberry would have imagined. Starfleet has become a kind of mythical force of law and goodness similar to the Jedi in Star Wars: a new hope, with some true believers attached to their faith that will return to bring them justice or purpose.
Michael’s first encounter is with Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala of Nightflyers is Supergirl), a Han Solo-like character in trouble for stealing a precious cargo. He reluctantly agrees to help her by taking her to Mercantile, a galactic bartering shop that is definitely a miserable den of scum and evil. He also has the mysterious ability to summon healing plants and talk to animals, which he uses to rescue giant mesmerizing worms from poachers. As Michael points out, it is up to him to save them, because without the Federation “there is no one around to enforce the Endangered Species Act”.
The plot and character are a nod to the 1986 film Star Trek: The Voyage Home, mixed with a bit of the mysticism of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His show-stealing Maine Coon Grudge also follows in the footsteps of Data Spot’s house cat Star Trek: The Next Generation. But even with those franchise milestones, having Michael running around with a space druid snapping people’s necks seems like a surprisingly weird twist for the series. The violence is amplified in the first two episodes of season 3, with many disintegrations and a particularly brutal murder that feels a long way from “Set the phasers to stun!”
The disconnect is even greater in the second episode, where Discovery crashes into a planet and tries to get help from the locals. The classic away team / ship gap is downright bizarre when idealistic Starfleet commander Saru (Doug Jones of The shape of water is Pan’s labyrinth) and spirited Ensign engineer Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) are engaged in hostage negotiations with a murderous, mischievous, and spurred warlord in a saloon, while Conspiracy B is in the Star Trek domain far more familiar than the engineers who learn to ask for help with repairs.
Star Trek: Discovery it is far from the first show to make such a dramatic change. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. time-traveled in a post-apocalyptic version of 2091 in season 5 and the final season of Fringe took place in a dystopian 2036. In both shows, the main characters spend the entire season trying to make sure the future doesn’t really happen. But the focus in Discovery season 3 it feels like it’s more about making the most of a bad situation.
In a striking flash of what’s been lost, a Federation loyalist unfolds a version of the organization’s flag in the first episode, and he has only a handful of stars, rather than the crowded stellar landscape that represented interstellar union at his own. apex. As Discovery works to find what remains of Starfleet and continue its mission of peaceful exploration, the third and fourth episodes of the 13-episode season settle into much more familiar territory. DiscoveryThe new season looks like Star Trek: Voyager, but with the ship moving in time rather than running aground on the other side of the galaxy. Both have the effect of making the crew underdog who cannot require powerful support, which forces them to quickly adapt to their strange new environment.
There is certainly a lot of potential in that dynamic. With no support from Starfleet, Saru’s Discovery command is challenged by former Earth Empire emperor and Section 31 agent Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh of Bowed Tiger Hidden Dragon), who believes her moral flexibility is an asset in this darker world. The existence of time travel is widely known in the world of Star Trek, so characters learning the origins of Discovery are not as shocked as they are eager to get their hands on the forbidden technology and rare resources the ship has brought from the past. .
The new setting also leaves showrunners Michelle Paradise and Alex Kurtzman the freedom to do pretty much anything they want with the Star Trek canon, envisioning a host of new possible alliances and crises without having to worry about how they might affect established events. But that freedom is wasted when they try instead to give a Star Trek touch to stories of scarcity and frontier justice that other famous science fiction works have already done better.
The best episode of the four made available to critics is the state of the Trills and their symbionts, who have been used to tell subtly queer stories in past incarnations of the series. DiscoveryShowrunners are now using them to bring the first trans and non-binary characters and actors to the series, with Ian Alexander’s Gray and Blu del Barrio’s Adira continuing the franchise’s constant focus on representation through a powerful storyline about the challenges of finding your own. true self.
It is reasonable for DiscoveryThe writers want to forge their own path, but have left behind a little too much of the characterizations of previous seasons. The relationship conflict between astromycologist Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and medical officer Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) came to an abrupt resolution in the Season 2 finale and has not been addressed since. while Michael has largely abandoned the Vulcan Logic she grew up with and has become a much more general action girl.
The Discovery crew faces an identity crisis in Season 3. Separated from the organization they dedicated their lives to and almost everyone they knew, they struggle to find new purposes and connections. “We are in uncharted territory and they know it,” Hugh tells Saru during the crew’s mental state assessment. “The discovery could disappear tomorrow and it wouldn’t make a ripple. Nobody would lose us or cry.”
Fans have endlessly debated the comparative merits of Star Wars and Star Trek, but the two iconic franchises feel closer now, with parts of this season’s Discovery resembling The Mandalorian. While Discovery Featuring a full crew rather than a lone star and an adorable puppet, both series follow the remnants of a fallen organization that seeks to continue living by a strong moral code as it travels through a broken world. The demise of an evil Galactic Empire and a benevolent Federation of Planets have left power gaps filled by cruel opportunists, giving the heroes plenty of room to really make a difference between all the scrabblers and freeloaders trying to get by.
For both franchises, venturing into uncharted territory away from the heroes and villains that define the story gives writers the freedom to tell new stories. As shocking as it may be, imagining such a new future for the world of Star Trek fits in well with the Starship Enterprise’s original mission: “boldly go where no one has been before”.
Star Trek: Discovery previews on CBS All Access on October 15. New episodes released on Thursday.