Synopsis: An eventful “people” week for Star Trek: Discovery. Following their reunion, Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) fills in the crew about “The Burn”. They meet Booker. As they all approach Earth, they don’t get the reception they expect. As a result tensions rise, as we learn about “future Earth”. Fortunately, Saru’d diplomacy (Doug Jones) offers a typically Starfleet solution . . .
As people (including non-humans, Saru, Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) out of time, the crew adapt remarkably well. A huge part of how this is achieved is due to the bonds of unity between them all. Themes of family have always been prevalent in Star Trek. What people mean to people, and come to mean. Discovery relies on this idea. It’s perhaps the strongest overarching theme of the show. Season three looks set to continue to explore that, and expand upon it further. The reunion, between Burnham and the crew, brings emotionally charged scenes. It’s what happens next that truly shows how much working together can really achieve.
Once Saru gets the U.S.S. Discovery close enough to Earth, he opens communications. Greeting the ship is Captain Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole). More of a warning, really. Earth is now protected by a defense force. One very different from The Federation. This is in keeping with the hostile world of the future they’re in, the new story-world. The ship is boarded and searched for dilithium. Obviously, Ndoye notices the ship’s very old. One of her crew, Adira (Blu Del Barrio) is especially interested in this aspect. To maintain a cover story, Saru claims the crew is the descendants of the original crew. Quick thinking. Ndoye buys it. Burnham and Book (David Ajala) load the dilithium onto Book’s ship. Then things really hot up.
Starfleet’s Best Weapon
A small group of ships approaches the Discovery. Ndoye informs Saru that it’s Wen (Christopher Heyerdahl), who heads up a team of raiders. Real danger. Saru’s ordered to destroy Wen and the other ships. He refuses. Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) agrees. This ties in with events in last week’s episode. It looks like Georgiou will continue to be an agitator. The situation is resolved, by clever thinking by Burnham and Book. They capture Wen, who looks to be an interesting new alien species. What he is is even more interesting and serves to further embed the deep divisions of this future. after he removes his helmet, we see he’s human. Part of the taskforce on Titan, who split from Earth. Saru uses peaceful diplomacy to foster understanding, and soon the two agree terms for peace. A huge moment for Saru, showing he’s ready for the Captain’s chair. Great way to set up such an initiation, tying to the story intelligently.
Shortly before the credits, the crew get to set foot on Earth. These scenes are genuinely tender and connect the crew to Earth plausibly. They are seeking out Admiral Tal, who Burnham received a hail from, regarding the Federation. Turns out Tal is a former host of Adira, who is a trill. A smart twist and welcome return of an established species. A strong blend of action, and drama this week.
The screen belonged to Sonequa Martin-Green, this week. Crucially, it’s for all the right reasons. Michael Burnham as a lead hasn’t worked, for many fans. As a result, this issue’s divided Trek fandom. Green could only do what was asked of her. Martin-Green’s response to her character’s major development was superb this week. Additionally, the timing of this change really mattered. It arrived at a key moment in the show’s evolution. Michael Burnham of the past has been left there. She already seems light-years away.
A massive moment in Star Trek history, this week. Blu Del Barrio’s depiction of Adira was truly impressive. Immediately, the significance of the character was made to matter. The inclusion of they in a key-role shows why Star Trek really is so special a franchise.
Doug Jones shone, again. He’s ready to take the mantle as the first non-human captain of a starship, in a series. The scene with him again asserting himself over Georgiou was a particularly good example of Jones’s skill and on-screen presence in the role.
CGI & Effects
There was a moment in this week’s episode that summed up everything season three has fixed, with the visuals. Ndoye stated the ship still looked new, despite being so old. This small observation has important connotations. Firstly, the obvious discrepancies between past and future get acknowledgment. Secondly, maybe this is a nod and an “apology” for the look of the previous series (specifically season one). The fans have been heard. Finally, the ship being old is exactly what will make it so valuable in the future. As for the spore drive, the “spinning” that Book noticed felt way cooler, than before, and no longer just a plot device.
The format of the episode really worked, this week. Great, self-contained little plot, which managed to ensure the all important fate of The Federation. Without people, there simply isn’t one. Seeing Earth so aggressively defensive worked adeptly. They could have gone for a resurgence of the Terran Empire, or something similar. The method chosen to show an Earth that has lost its way worked by being smart, and not gong for shock value. The writers are learning important lessons from the first two series. That’s often been the case with Trek series (excluding TOS, which was mostly woeful by the last season).
As Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Detmer (Emily Coutts), and the others finally got to set foot on Earth, a big moment arrived. The sheer humanity of the scene emanated potently. The tree from the grounds of Starfleet was a powerful image, so simplistic in its significance. People, rooted by being on their home-world. It also served as a lovely metaphor for The Federation, and a reminder that endurance and survival are what it must now become about, primarily. Lastly, as the camera pans out and we see the Golden Gate Bridge standing, we at least know that humanity has found a way. Now, with the help of the Discovery, it must find a way to rise from the darkness of “The Burn”. The course of the series is set out, and Discovery looks to win over fans who’ve written it off.