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Star Trek: Discovery – Michael’s Very Bad Day, S3 Opening Episode Hits Its Mark – Review

Welcome to the brave new world! I’m happy to see you here. Well, happy…. that’s a relative term. Star Trek: Discovery started its third season today with a blockbuster opener – in the wrong place, where the gang’s not all here, but hey, we’ve got a giant worm. And joy juice in a fun new way.

We’ve changed reviewers for this third season of Discovery. Before you get too far, I just want to give you a bit of my background with which you should adjust the lens you read these through. I’ve been a long-time Trek fan – yes, I was alive when TOS aired (but in early grade school). Until recently, I hadn’t seen any of the ’80s/’90s series. I had seen all of the first set of Trek movies. And all the Chris Pine flicks. I did watch S1 and 2 of Discovery as they aired. I wanted to watch and understand Picard, so I spent nearly 40 hours watching selected episodes of TNG and Voyager (and then went back and watched all of TNGVoyager coming up), along with those films, and then LOVED Picard.

So when John, who reviewed Discovery for the first two years, felt that his TIBS schedule was a little overwhelming, with The Outpost and The Mandalorian hitting at the same time as S3, I bravely went where…. um, I stepped up and offered to take it. SO – I may not catch all the references and callbacks to the older series, and I don’t have encyclopedic Trek knowledge. Feel free to correct me in the comments section – feel free to comment even if you’re not correcting something. But I love Star Trek, and perhaps not knowing enough to nitpick starship design or Klingon grammar helps in that. I’m more interested in stories, and characters, and relationships. In general, I think Discovery hits on all nacelles, even if it’s not always cool with canon.

All By Myself – But Not Really

So how did you think this was going to go? MIchael was going to jump, the Discovery would be right behind her, and they’d all figure out how to live happily? No, no no no. Not in Star Trek. We’d never get to the end of 14 episodes without falling asleep. Of course, the ship is somewhere else. So – that’s not the twist for the season. We have some hints – the Federation is gone, Starfleet is gone, warp drive is, apparently, most likely gone. What was The Burn? The Temporal Wars? Are you all teased up yet?

And who did we see in the first minute, waking up every day at 8:00 to that lovely bird hologram, with the restructuring bed and desk? That was a neat entry. Something is wrong, something is strange. But we were given no time, or any other info, to process it, before Michael came screaming into the picture, with a new guy in a new ship who had stolen something – probably alive, probably not ice cream – from someone who wanted it back. And of course, of course! they collide.

Michael Burnham, raised by Vulcans, is one of the most single-minded, determined characters I’ve seen yet in Star Trek. And it took all of that get her up and moving after her high speed crash into the planet. “Get up,” she tells herself, and she immediately does exactly what she had planned to do upon landing – shake off the suit, set in motion the suit’s return to create the 7th signal, and attempt to contact Discovery. I think it was Michael’s single-mindedness, her narrow beam, that turned me off to her the first time I watched Season 1. But rewatching before this episode, knowing the trajectory her life would take, I better understood and appreciated that strength of character and the road she had to travel to become human once again. Once she finds out that yes, there is sentient life in the area, she doesn’t take a moment for a breath,  but she walks to find help.

Cleveland Booker – Not an Open Book

Welcome to Star Trek, Book. I love how David Ajala has now fast talked and double talked his way into the story. Book is going to be a fascinating character, with his ability to communicate with plants and animals, and his unwillingness to communicate with Michael. We learn a lot quickly about this new character. In this episode’s Ready Room, with host Wil Wheaton, Ajala talked about the trust that will have to develop between Book and Michael. It has to do with purpose – Book knows his, and soon learns Michael’s. “I think characters are revealed in their actions. And when I look at the end of the episode, and see how Michael Burnham has found new purpose, her finding purpose ties into very closely with Book’s identity when we meet him. A man who is walking in purpose. A man who has had to find purpose to survive. It doesn’t come from a place of want, it comes from a place of absolute necessity. So when Michael speaks with such conviction, it’s not about the words that she uses, it’s about how her purpose changes her character. And I think the same thing happens for Book. So in terms of him trusting Michael, or aligning with her, I think the revelation of her purpose and how it affects him transcends any preconceived ideas he may have had about her in that moment.”

Michael’s purpose now is to find Discovery. Finding out that the Federation and Starfleet are as antique as her phaser and tricorder is a shock. Of course, it’s 930 years later – nothing lasts forever – but if she’s going to reunite with Saru and Stamets and Tilly, she may have to find out what happened. And knowing Michael, learning the truth won’t be enough – will there be another attempt to go back and change the future? Or will they start where they are and try to make things right? Again, a reunion party isn’t enough to make a story for the season.

Captain, We’ve Discovered Humor

“Stop! I’m not fighting you, you’re fighting me! I’m …” “I don’t want to know.” One thing that was very obvious in this episode was that it was much lighter than the previous two seasons. It felt more like earlier series in tone than the very dark and heavy Discovery of Season 1 and 2 – yes, there were little minutes of levity – Georgiou hating the color orange, Tilly’s motor mouth – but for the most part, it was very serious. That was terrific, but I appreciated the humor this episode had. That’s an advantage and disadvantage to having so few episodes to a season – you have to use every minute to get your story across, and some of the lightness has to be removed. But at the same time, it means that you don’t have some of the oddball one-off weird episodes that come in a 26-show season.

The scene where Michael was gassed with the 33rd century version of laughing gas at the Mercantile was terrific! She realized, on some level, that her behavior just wasn’t right, but she seemed to enjoy it. “I have a friend with red hair, you CAN NOT give her any,” a high as a kite Michael tells the guards. “A day like this doesn’t happen to people. I might be angry about it. I’m supportive. I am so supportive. I am reflexively supportive. I’m overcompensating. And what is that about? I need to talk to someone. Can you sit? It’s a super cool story. In a completely devastating way. We left everything I have ever known, or loved, FOR THE SAKE OF CREATION. Right? If you think about it, let’s be honest, I saved all the things.”

“You guys have a real problem if your couriers are stealing stuff and colliding with 1000 year old women in space! What cargo was he hauling? I don’t know but it was temperature sensitive and really valuable so it was probably ice cream.” Read all that as fast as you can – Michael’s drug-induced motor mouth was charming and honest and more than a little goofy, traits – except for the honesty – that we haven’t seen in her before. The look on her drugged out face when Book killed one of the guards in the Mercantile was great.

I can’t help but wonder if the ice cream reference was a callback to Po, the Queen of Xahia. One thing I’ve learned with Star Trek is that nothing is accidental, and everything is likely to come back again. The discussions about dilithium, and Book telling her it would be helpful to find a dilithium recrystallizer – that’s what Tilly said that Po had invented. Could it somehow be responsible for The Burn – reusing worn out crystals? Could the ice-cream loving Queen come back into play somehow? Or at least her descendants?

Star Trek has also been always been conscious of environmental issues, including them in stories from the very beginning. This season will be no different, it seems, with Book’s abilities to communicate with plant and animal life. It’s set him apart from his family and put him on this path as a courier. “What is it like, to feel everything?” Michael asks him. “Uncomfortable. My family are killers, poachers. Every so often one like me shows up in the gene pool. I don’t know, something to do with balance, I guess.” And their arrival at Sanctuary 4 with the transworm, ready to be united with others of its kind, was sweet and beautiful. “This is what my planet used to be like, before I had to leave it behind,” he tells her.

At the Federation Relay Station

And we circle back to the solitary man. “Hello, welcome to Starfleet. May I help you?” This is all that’s left – at least in this sector. A lonely man, waiting every day for someone to walk through the door, knowing that it’s as unlikely today as it was yesterday, and all of his father’s and grandfather’s yesterdays. But he still waits – and his hope is rewarded. As Michael identifies herself by rank and serial number, ship and need, his long wait  ends, even though they quickly realize that he can’t provide the help she requires. “I watch this office every day as I have for 40 years believing one day that others like me will walk through this door, that my hope was not in vain. Today is that day. And that hope is you, Commander Burnham. I don’t know how much of the Federation still exists, I simply do my part.”

If there’s anyone to put your hope into, it’s Michael. Again, her single-mindedness and laser focus will be required to find her friends and her answers, and I think this is going to be a fun season doing just that.

Season 4 Announcement!

Right as I was finishing up this review, the renewal for Season 4 was made public! Production starts Nov. 2. Here’s a short video with Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones. (Did Sonequa JUST move into that space? Get some books, girl!)

Be sure to watch The Ready Room every week, with new host Wil Wheaton. If they continue to put out Short Treks, I’ll give you mini-reviews of those as well, because if you were like me, and missed them with the first go-round, you sure missed a lot (like where did Po come from??).

Follow @StarTrekLogs on Instagram for “weekly personal log updates from the crew of the USS Discovery as they navigate this strange new future.”

And follow me on Twitter: @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace
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