Minor spoilers follow.
Star Trek Discovery Season 3 picks up seconds after Season 2 concluded. Or some 900 years later, depending on your point of view.
Discovery has always had an exciting conceit that cuts to Trek‘s core: the need to discover. You’d think the spore drive would facilitate this, allowing the NCC-1031 to jump into unknown sectors. But that was rarely used in the first two seasons.
With Star Trek Discovery Season 3, we venture farther forwards than ever before, abandoning the notion that Discovery is a prequel to The Original Series, to the year 3188. Some have argued that this temporal leap means the programme has found its niche, but that’s unfair to the previous seasons which, although starting unevenly, gave us some superb stories including the reintroduction of Harry Mudd, exploration of the Mirror Universe and a shocking revelation which undermined all we knew of the USS Discovery, and the addition of Captain Pike, Spock, Number One, and the Red Angel. Star Trek Discovery has been consistently strong.
Nonetheless, this really is unchartered territory – and feels it. The Federation is, effectively, no more, its ships having exploded some time ago thanks to unstable dilithium. Star Trek Voyager had its crew stranded but they could still get in touch with Starfleet occasionally. In Discovery, the safety net is completely removed. It’s gone. This is it: Star Trek in freefall. And that’s very exciting.
This first episode of Star Trek Discovery Season 3 also leaves most of the ship’s crew out of the equation. Instead, we find Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) on an unknown planet, battered about by the whims of those she meets and customs she’s unaware of. The first person she meets is Book, played by David Ajala (who Doctor Who fans will recognise from The Beast Below), but can she trust him? The answer is yes. Then no. Then yes. Maybe? She has no choice but to go along with him, leading to a trippy, dangerous, and Star Wars-esque trip to a market / auction house run by an alliance of Orions and Andorians, two classic Trek species. (It’s a good move to have these aliens here, re-establishing the connection to previous shows but not boding too much on them, in contrast to the tedious obsession Season 1 had with the Klingons.)
Here, Burnham is essentially drugged; the camera work and Martin-Green’s performance are dialled up to eleven. It’s impressively done, but straddles the line between funny and cringeworthy, taking its cues from Guardians of the Galaxy and a similar episode of Agents of SHIELD, but less successfully. It at least means we get to see another side of Burnham, with an intriguing bit of character introspection. Fortunately, it’s not long before phasers are set to disintegrate, and the action-packed set-piece of the narrative spirals into a beautifully executed chase scene across this rocky landscape, as characters teleport in and out of the battle.
The highlight of Star Trek Discovery Season 3‘s opening episode, though, is the end sequence, which is affecting, sincere, and inspiring. It also underlines the core concept of the season: that anything could really happen. We’re left just as in the dark as Burnham as to where events will lead; we’ve a general direction, but heaps of uncertainty.
You certainly miss the rest of the crew in Star Trek Discovery Season 3’s debut episode, but their absence once more demonstrates the shaky ground on which this season builds. You can broadly guess how the next episode will play out, but where this 13-episode run will ultimately go is unknown and promising. Appropriately, episode one explores a void in the Star Trek mythos, and fills it with one important thing: hope.
Did you enjoy the first episode of Star Trek Discovery Season 3? Are you looking forward to the rest of the series? Let us know in the comments below.
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