Star Trek: Discovery was the start of the future of the franchise. It looked bleak. Yes, we’re going to be bashing the first couple of seasons. Again. Seasons one mostly. We’re not apologizing, as it’s necessary. That said, things have worked out just fine. Because of where we are now, we’re even ready to admit that the early car-crashes were necessary. Even season one, at its worst . . . If you don’t believe that we’ve changed our tune, and that we’re loving season three, check out last week’s episode review.
During season one, we were introduced to Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green). The show’s central protagonist. That said, Saru (Doug Jones) also featured heavily. His background and story was an important arc. In Saru: Alien Territory, we explored the significance of the character. Back to berating season one (yes, we love it!). Essentially, the new “big change” didn’t pay off. Them having a “dual” protagonist. At least it didn’t immediately. Additionally, the main character not being a Captain hadn’t been done before. That felt odd, understandably. But that wasn’t what didn’t work to the point it riled fans. Mostly, it was the show’s setting, and where it fit into the Trek timeline. Specifically, at least how that was managed. Discovery season one and two were set around ten years before TOS. So, the show was always going to be scrutinized heavily, as it was potentially tinkering with established events.
Star Trek is beloved. Indeed, it has been a massive part of popular culture for over fifty years now. As a consequence, few fandoms are like that of Star Trek. Discovery season one seemed to forget the loyal fans. The canon didn’t seem important. Fans weren’t easily forgiving. We weren’t.
There was anger as so much of the technology looked too advanced, for the established timeline. The Klingons looked terrible. None of it felt like we’ve come to expect what Star Trek should feel like. What it always has. It was like a computer game, and not a very well written one, either. The storylines were boring, too. There were too many threads, and it all just felt tangled. Fortunately. it did buck up in season two.
It’s unlikely that the show-runners listened to the fans. At least not to the point of them changing the writing as a result. But luckily, they had a plan. Introducing Ethan Peck as Spock was crucial. For many, Spock is Star Trek. Of course, anyone who ever plays the most famous Vulcan ever will always be compared to the late, great Leonard Nimoy. Only logical. Peck did a fine job. As did Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike. We had good depictions of canonical characters. All we’d had so far was James Frain as Sarek in season one. He was great in the part, but that alone didn’t save the show. It felt important having Pike and Spck, as it was so hard to buy into the current crew, just yet. It also turned out to be important for another reason. Both will star in upcoming show, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Along with Rebecca Romijn as Number One (initially played by Trek royalty Majel Barrett in the original pilot)
The central plot device of season two was the real key to success. The “Red Angel” suit. There were real motivations mapped out. Mystery and a sense of adventure. Credit where credit’s due. Things were still far from perfect, though. With the exception of TOS, which couldn’t possibly have done so, every incarnation of Star Trek has referenced the other shows. Events had a place within The Federation and Starfleet, as organizations. Even the most recent “Kelvin Time Line” movies did, as Spock Prime crossed over. Discovery still didn’t seem to be relevant in the larger picture. It didn’t seem to matter. Without that, the show would never win a place in the hearts of the hardcore fans. It would take a very big move to make that happen . . .
Future Feet Forward
Following the events of the end of season two, season three took a serious leap, indeed. Into the future. In fact, the furthest into the future any Trek show has been set. Yes, there are episodes that have seen characters go to the future. But none have stayed there to explore it. Crucially, Discovery has. As a result fans get to see the future of Starfleet. Through the eyes of the characters. In that sense, there’s a sort of “meta” narrative going on. We are seeing the future of the show, as the characters see the future of Starfleet and The Federation. That helps to make the dynamic of exploring new territory. What matters more than that though, is how it’s managed to get the show where it needed to be. This season really was make or break. The point that many traditional fans would have either left it for good, or stuck with it. We’re delighted that the show’s found ways to make things feel like a proper Star Trek show. Let’s have a look at how it’s managed to do that. Also, let’s have a quick think about how it can continue going from strength to strength.
The Federation of the Future
In the events of “That Hope is You”, the debut episode of season three, we learned of “The Burn”. Soon after a fan theory emerged that connected Star Trek: Voyager to “The Burn”. We offered our view, in our article, The Burning Question. Whether that turns out to be the case or not remains to be seen. Regardless, “The Burn” is a great plot device. It really puts an interesting spin on everything. Back to basics, almost. The lack of dilithium creates serious issues. Not only do ships need to limit their use of it, as it’s in such short supply, there are inevitably conflicts because of the scarcity. The less there is, the more valuable it becomes. Basic supply and demand economics apply, even this far in the future. More than this though, “The Burn” really helps to give the U.S. S. Discovery its relevance.
As it happens, Discovery being in the far future happens to mean at least one ship can hop around the galaxy freely. The spore drive, of course, doesn’t require dilithium to get where it needs to be quickly. And back again. But the crew being so far from home is really what matters. Everything else is an as well as. The new setting is crucial, for many reasons. For instance, we’ve a “Michael Burnham mark two”, that we highlighted in Burnham and The Burn. Some major development, and in our view, much needed. That’s not all. The show has struggled with introducing new characters, previously. It’s done so in ways that seem forced. Now, neither Booker (David Ajala) or Adira (Blue Del Barrio) do. Both fit, brilliantly, into the story. And with the latter, we see a return of The Trills. Sure to please traditional fans. But most all, because of the state of The Federation, Discovery and its crew looks to be becoming a huge part of the Star Trek canon. We’re so pleased that the future of Star Trek looks like it’s heading in the right direction.
Star Trek: Discovery airs weekly. Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. Fridays on Netflix in the U.K. and Europe. Read your weekly review and associated features here at SciFiPulse.