The story so far is one of success. Certainly, in comparison to the first two seasons. In particular, the woeful first season. Whilst last week’s episode was the weakest of season three, for us, it wasn’t terrible. Every show has the odd doozy. Usually one or two a series. In a run of fifteen or so. Star Trek Discovery Season Three will have thirteen episodes. We’re over the halfway mark. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Saru (Doug Jones) and co. have firmly established themselves as residents of the future which they now inhabit. That was made clear in our article, Finding its Feet in the Future. But now, time for closer look at what’s gone well, what hasn’t and where we’re headed next . . .
Setting the third season the furthest into the future a Star Trek series has ever been set was a smart move. A seriously smart one. Not only was it smart, but necessary. For example, if they’d stayed where they were, there would have been serious problems, probably. As the U.S.S. Enterprise was introduced, as well as Spock (Ethan Peck) and Captain Pike (Anson Mount), the logical conclusion was that in Discovery we would eventually meet Captain Kirk. Perhaps towards the end of the show’s run. Setting things up ten years before the events of TOS did limit things. Also, the story of the U.S.S. Discovery was forever in the shadow of that of the Enterprise.
Another troublesome aspect of that era was that we’d already seen it. Furthermore, we had it referenced, throughout other shows and movies of the franchise. We knew that largely, The Federation was a utopia. Things were ideal. As a result, idealistic. Mostly. The story so far of The Federation was one of success. Following on from events in Star Trek: Enterprise, the future prospered, because of the work of Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew. We saw that in TOS and subsequent shows. Whilst there was room to explore other facets of that era, Discovery didn’t feel right for the job. That’s the job for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (which we have some concerns about, discussed in Cast and Characters in Strange New Worlds.) Anyway, back to what’s gone well so far this season.
A big plot device was needed. Something to shake things up. Since we first learned of “The Burn”, there’s been excitement. Also, many theories have popped up. We wrote about a prominent one, that liked things to events in Star Trek: Voyager. Writing in The Burn – The Burning Question, we explored how likely it was that “The Burn” has origins in Voyager. Though we did liked the theory, we disagreed. Perhaps we’ll be proved wrong yet. That aside, what we should focus on is what implications have stemmed from events of “The Burn”
Currently, Starfleet and The Federation are a shadow of what they were. The simultaneous explosion of many, many ships’ warp cores decimated so much. This means we have a story-world that is far from idyllic. War, hunger and poverty have all returned. Consequently, we have a mission for the Discovery now. One very well suited to it. Furthermore, we have a very intriguing mystery.
The look of Season Three has been stunning. Visuals alone don’t make for a great show. But when they are well considered and tied into the story they can certainly hope to. Consistently, we’ve praised them in our weekly reviews. Examples include the programmable matter, the new weaponry, and other tech. The change to the way people are transported. It just feels like the future, in the future. This is what the show wanted to do in the first two seasons. But because of the timeline it needed to consider ret-con elements. It didn’t. Now, current CGI wizardry can help to build a world that truly looks like no other. In previous Trek, or in any other show on right now.
What’ Not so Hot?
We’re not going to talk about “Tillygate”, any more. At least not specifically. We’ve already given our view in Ensign Tilly – Time for Promotion. Then, we followed things up with Tilly as Number One – Too Much Too Soon? What’s clear is that the show needs to develop its characters. Because it hasn’t, it’s having to try and play catch up. The result is the ways it’s now doing so feels forced. It seems Tilly (Mary Wiseman) was chosen to be “fast tracked” because hardly any other characters had been set up for an arc, earlier.
Unfortunately, there’s not much of a sense of fun in Discovery. Not in the way that Trek has been traditionally. What’s so great about the previous series is that they nailed the humour. Could switch from intense drama to lightheartedness week to week. And it felt natural, too. Discovery has tried to start to do this more. For example Linus (David Benjamin Tomlinson) self-transporting uncontrollably. That was funny. So there’s hope yet. At least the show is doing its serious stuff much better. Maybe the aspect of humour will arrive eventually. That largely ties in with how the relationships of characters is managed. In some ways, they are one and the same issue.
Other aspects that could have been better include the handling of threats to the crew. Or, more specifically, the lack thereof. In fairness, the overarching story line is “The Burn” and the state of The Federation. Starfleet’s great fall. But when they came up against the season’s supposed “big bad”, Osyrra (Janet Kidder) it was a bit of a let down. Hardly Khan Noonien Singh . . . As a serious villain, Osyrra just didn’t really cut it. Especially considering that she was built up a few episodes earlier. Sadly, Osyrra lacked presence, for us.
From here on in we can probably expect more to be revealed by the data they now have about “The Burn”. What happens with the ship transmitting a distress beacon, might alter everything quite dramatically. Another good way to keep us guessing. Intelligent use of suspense. It’s possible that things might relate to the other mystery: that song. It certainly seems possible. Very little has been expanded upon yet. That suggests that it might well be because they are saving it, for the usual all out, ultra explosive, series finale.
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is the show’s central character. At first it seemed like her dynamic with Booker (David Ajala) might well see her drift further from Starfleet. Yet, now it seems Booker “wants in”, as he put it (we’re not sure that Grudge will be allowed to join the ranks, too though. Shame!). At least we can definitely expect him to undergo a full character journey. He’s a strong character and there’s lots of potential there. With things as they are, The Federation will certainly welcome the chance to bolster its allies. That’s going to help them solve the mystery of “The Burn”. That seems very much the central story they’ll stick with.
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. And you can tune into our Podcast too, where we discuss season three’s events.