Ironically, ‘Scavengers’ – the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season Three – is played largely by the book. Let’s pick over the pieces.
This series is doing things no other Trek show has done, namely throwing the crew further into the future than ever before (which is an odd phrase, now that I come to think of it) and stranding them there without their families – or indeed, friends beyond their fellow Discovery crewmembers.
The Federation is severely depleted after a mysterious event known as The Burn, and Michael Burnham, one of the central cast members since Season One, had been left in this strange new universe for a year before the rest of her peers arrived. Michael’s changed a lot in that time, largely due to meeting Book, a trader who, this week, has got himself in a heap of trouble after locating the black box Michael has been searching for.
And yet ‘Scavengers’ goes basically how you’d expect it to. Michael wants to help Book. Starfleet refuses help, arguing that the Discovery could be needed to resolve a developing situation elsewhere. Michael goes rogue and leaves anyway, abandoning her friends in favour of Philippa Georgiou, the only one willing to risk such a mission.
Nonetheless, ‘Scavengers’ is a hugely enjoyable, engrossing, and emotional ride.
Let’s tackle clichés because they extend to storytelling too. We’re told they’re bad. Certainly thinking “outside the box” (a cliché in itself) is encouraged. Lest we forget that they’re clichés for a reason: they work! They’re not always something to be feared. The audience recognises situations, characters, narratives, and accepts them, by and large. It’s all about the execution. If you can take a familiar idea and do something interesting with it, you’re taking the right approach.
Star Trek Discovery is putting character front and centre, and that in itself is interesting to watch. The growing rift between Michael and her fellow crewmembers (but most specifically Saru and Tilly) is making Season Three absorbing.
Similarly interesting is that there was conflict between Michael and the others in Season Two; this time, it feels different. Why? Perhaps because she feels like a very different person now, further detached from her Vulcan upbringing. Maybe because in the previous episodes, you could gather she’d win them around and become one of the gang once more. This season, her life away from Starfleet is more extensive, her feelings for Book obviously pulling her in another direction. Can the Federation forgive her for her disobeying guidelines? By the end of ‘Scavengers,’ Michael and Saru both acknowledge that they’re both right in their actions, but the gap has still widened considerably.
You can see why Michael is drawn to this life. The Federation seems so stuffy compared to the thrills she has with Book – who makes a welcome return and livens up this episode. He’s smart, intuitive, and owns a cat who he claims is royalty. Plus David Ajala’s been in Doctor Who, so we’re pretty sure everyone likes Book at this point.
Elsewhere in ‘Scavengers,’ Stamets has heart-to-hearts with Adira and Hugh, discussing death with both but nevertheless being a positive beacon in a very Trek way. He’s warmed up considerably this time too, and it helps that he has great chemistry with Adira. Grey still feels a bit cringeworthy and sappy, but hopefully his curious relationship with Adira will develop into something more intriguing. Fingers crossed they don’t just repeat Hugh’s resurrection plotline; it’d be nice to see Adira dealing with her grief, devoid of Grey but with his memories torturing her, courtesy of the symbiont. We’ll see.
There are a lot of plot strands to pick up, and, with Season Four confirmed, not all will necessarily be concluded by the end of this run.
And next week, it seems that Discovery is picking on a thread from The Next Generation…
What did you think of ‘Scavengers’? Let us know in the comments.
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