Minor spoilers follow.
The second episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 – ‘Far from Home’ – opens with a crash. It’s all hands on deck as the Discovery bursts into the 32nd Century, onto an icy planet beautifully rendered with large chunks of rock floating in the atmosphere.
And it hits you immediately: Discovery looks amazing. The show is doing Star Wars on a TV budget. Actually, we should be fairer than that: in the stakes of Trek vs Wars, the former is winning the battle with superb storytelling, consistent characters with proper arcs, and stunning aesthetics brought to you weekly via Netflix (or CBS All Access, depending on your country.)
The quality of ‘Far from Home’ is astounding. To demonstrate how much care and thought is put in, you need look no further than the small pick-up shots filmed during the Coronavirus pandemic, for which special motion-capture equipment was sent to the homes of cast members so they could accurately insert them into scenes. In fact, all post-production was carried out remotely.
“It’s an actual actor at their home motion-capture studio, which then gets rendered in the computer as a living thing. It’s a real person,” said co-creator, Alex Kurtzman. “Each of our actors have been scanned, so we can actually impose their faces on a body, which is quite something.”
Editing, scoring, colour grading – it was all done from crews’ homes. But you can’t tell. It’s all done expertly, and surely makes Discovery one of the most well-thought-out series of the streaming era.
This considered approach means ‘Far from Home’ is both the equal and opposite to last week’s episode, ‘That Hope Is You.’ Whereas that story found Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) alone (save for Book, played by David Ajala) ‘Far from Home’ reintroduces the rest of the Discovery. It feels like catching up with old friends, albeit raking through the remains of a party, your gaggle of mates effectively hung over and having to contemplate breakfast.
And there are consequences to their time jump: the ship itself is in a terrible state of disrepair; Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Reno (Tig Notaro) are suffering from severe injuries while having to patch up the NCC-1031; and there’s something very wrong with Detmer (Emily Coutts) – a mystery which will surely play out across the season. The scale of the ship and number of inhabitants feels overwhelming when compared to the stripped-back approach of last week.
Despite the larger cast, however, there’s still a foreboding sense of isolation and loneliness that matches ‘That Hope Is You.’ In fact, ‘Far From Home’ feels more threatening, thanks to its Wild West-like setting, ruthless antagonists, and hostile environment. The episode really finds its feet when splicing scenes set on the Discovery with those making first contact, i.e. Saru (Doug Jones) and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) – arguably the two most likeable characters in a strong roster.
Their pairing shines. There’s clear admiration, respect, and reverence between the two, and Saru’s “You, Ensign Tilly, are a wonderful first impression” leaves a lump in your throat. They are indeed a winning combination – as are Stamets and Reno, the latter of whom I hope we see more of this season. Her dry humour, practicality, and rapport with Stamets undercuts any mawkishness, and elevates Stamets from being… well, not the most magnetic of people.
I’m still not sold on Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). She remains a hanger-on, someone who you’d quite like to shut up for much of the story, but she does at least get stuff done. You can’t really see any of the others doing what she does later on in the episode. The whole point is that she doesn’t fit in, but that doesn’t stop her being irritating.
Similarly niggling is ‘Far from Home’s cliffhanger, which is exactly what you thought it would be. It’s upbeat, but you can’t help but shrug at its inevitability and the disappointing nature of the revelation.
Nonetheless, ‘Far from Home’ is a very impressive second episode, filled with amazing imagery and genius ideas (parasitic ice is a particularly gorgeous notion.) If this is a taste of what’s to come, we might be in for one of the best series of Star Trek ever.
NEXT: Jonathan Frakes directs, as the Discovery crew learn what’s left of Starfleet.
Star Trek Discovery: Starfleet Academy hat – order now from the Lovarzi shop!