While the overall story of Star Trek: Discovery, season 3 emerges slowly, I find myself really loving this season so far. Episode 3 takes its time getting to any type of story, but what it did do it did well. Near the beginning I saw one thing that guaranteed this would be a good episode and I was not wrong. I’ll come back to that point later though. Episode 3 above all really drew on the heart of Star Trek in a way no show has in a long time.
The opening recaps Burnham’s year alone, waiting for Discovery to emerge. This touch really adds to Burnham’s personality and choices later on, and the thing I like most about it was that it stayed brief. It summed up all we needed to know in a few minutes. Of course then we come to the Burnham/Discovery reunion. It did a good job making it touching without going overboard, and it really drew on the personalities of the crew. A bond exists between Burnham and Georgiou, but their personalities keep their reunion to a knowing nod from across the deck.
Two other interactions really stood out. The first belonged to the Tilly/Burnham meeting. Tilly of course will be Tilly, which will make any scene adorable, but she and Burnham really forged a sister-like bond. I felt the interaction really drove this home without overdoing things. The second interaction was between Georgiou and Book. I died laughing the whole time. Georgiou not only goes into parental interrogation mode, but she does it with the severity and wit of a father interrogating the boyfriend of his little girl for the first time. Book’s stuttering and stammering to respond came across well, especially when he tripped over the ‘did you two have sex’ implications from Georgiou.
Heart of Trek – Setting the Stage
One thing I really appreciated with this issue I hinted at in my last article. Through the first two episodes, it really felt like writers maneuvered Burnham to be the eventual Captain of Discovery when Pike returned to the Enterprise, but the ending to season 2 really set Saru up as Captain. The harrowing journey through the portal proved he excelled at the job, so who would captain the Discovery when Burnham returned. Writers answered that question quickly and succinctly at the beginning of this episode.
This also set up the next plot point of the show. What is Burnham’s role now? Returning to a Starfleet regulated life after a year of roguish freedom comes hard. The conversation between her and Georgiou amplified this. Georgiou even encouraged the new freedom. If feels like this is some sort of moral victory for Georgiou as she encourages Burnham to become more like her.
The Heart of Trek – The Conflict Emerges
At long last the story of the episode reveals itself. Earth and the Federation are now two completely different entities with Earth no longer even participating in the galactic council. Instead Earth, in the interests of self-preservation in a post cataclysmic world decides to be selfish and care just about itself. While a natural reaction when in survival mode, it comes as a complete contrast to the Discovery’s utopian, Starfleet values.
We get short conflict between Earth and some pirates. It comes late in the episode almost as an afterthought, but it does its job well. The two sides are caught up in a blood lust battle with Discovery in the middle. The story might be forgettable, but the way it uses Burnham’s rogue actions and Saru’s determination to trust her and stick to the ‘Starfleet way of life’ come across brilliantly.
While the action suggest this battle pits Earth against some pirates, the true battle comes through Burnham and especially Saru. Does Discovery stick to its utopian, Starfleet views? Or does it acquiesce to the moment and desires to be home? In the process the end of Episode 3 becomes a statement and testament to the values of Star Trek.
Gene Roddenberry set Star Trek up as a universe that would amplify the best of human nature. Many of the complaints from diehard fans about modern content often criticizes today’s works about being mindless action with little of the Star Trek values Roddenberry set forth. This episode not only focused and returned to those values, but it sang their virtues loudly.
Heart of Trek – Plus One
Then we come to this little oddity, Adira. Adira is a 16 year old, child prodigy. She quickly matches wits with both Stamets and Tilly. So much so both Stamets and Tilly become suspicious of her activities and begin investigating her actions. After realizing Adira’s activities not only led to the problems during the pirate confrontation but led to deeper quandaries, they confront her about her true nature and motivations.
Adira admits to being more than she seems, but viewers can be assured even more lays below the surface. Her transmission led Discovery to Earth in the first place, but she quickly asks to join the crew despite Discovery’s departure from Earth. Discovery may have picked up their most intelligent crewman yet (and that’s saying something), but did they also pick up a world of trouble to boot?
The Heart of Trek – Guaranteed Greatness
I mentioned back in the beginning, one thing popped out that told me this episode would be well done, and that was the name of the director. The first two episodes were very well directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, but this episode went even further. The episode was directed by none other than Star Trek legend Jonathan Frakes (William Riker of TNG).
We may know and love him as Riker, but Jonathan Frakes enjoys jumping behind the camera as much as acting in front of it. Not only that, but when Frakes directs, episodes tend to be stand outs amongst the season and life of a show. Look at your favorite Discovery and Picard episodes. I will almost guarantee Frakes directed them. He also directed the TNG movies First Contact and Insurrection.
Frakes KNOWS Star Trek. He understands its heart and how to get the most out of scenes. Why the hell studio execs don’t just hand him the keys to the movie universe is beyond me. Let him create and control things for awhile and get things moving again. The Star Trek movie world lays in chaos and ruins. Frakes touch WOULD revitalize and relaunch it once more.