This article is part of our ongoing Star Trek Explained series, featuring the insights of our resident Starfleet officer Brad Gullickson. In this edition, we jump to the far future to find the ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ crew tasked with keeping Gene Roddenberry’s vision aflame as Season 3 attempts yet another bold new direction.
Star Trek: Discovery refuses to be any one thing. Season 1 began as a dark confrontation with Starfleet and Federation history, made all the more grim thanks to some nasty interference from the Mirror Universe. The second season seemed to speak directly to the fanbase portion concerned with canon discrepancies and tone by bending over backward to erase the ship from the timeline and Federation records. Propelled nine-hundred and forty years into the future, where no person, especially those doubting cross-armed Trekkies, has gone before, Season 3 aims to finally find space for its characters.
The mission is right there in the title: “That Hope is You Part 1.” Landing in a reality unlike anything previously experienced, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) must adjust quickly to a universe minus the Federation. Apparently, hundreds of years before her arrival from the past, the Dilithium crystals that power starships suddenly exploded. This catastrophic event, called “The Burn,” cost billions of lives, transformed the fuel source into a rare, sought after commodity, and eradicated the Federation.
Just as last year’s Star Trek: Picard centered itself on the mystery of Data and the replicant Martian massacre, Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 ponders the hows and whys of a defunct Starfleet. However, before Burnham can start playing Sherlock Holmes, she has to get her footing and find her shipmates that supposedly followed her through the wormhole. First things first, make nice with the handsome courier — that is, space pirate — Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala).
On a hunt for a comms array that will allow her to contact Discovery, Burnham follows Book to Requiem, a town populated primarily with scum and villainy. He tells her that her antique Starfleet tech should fetch them a pretty penny from the Andorians and Orions who generally hire his services. She goes along with it until he tricks her into walking into a stasis field, where he can rob her blind and score the riches for himself.
Just like Han Solo, whenever a dollar appears, so does another thief to snatch it. Book has an additional space pirate gunning for his coin purse. As Burnham, hopped up on crime syndicate truth serum, attempts to talk her way out of capture, Book ignites a gunfight in Requiem’s streets. Burnham elects to follow the least scuzzy dude in the room and tags along as Book teleports off-world using a handy-dandy personal transporter (future upgrade!).
When it’s not throwing topsy-turvy timeline exposition at you, the Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 premiere jams as much action as possible into its runtime. From shootouts to standoffs to giant henchman-chomping slugs, the series is chasing the energy of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. You could get annoyed if you weren’t beaming from ear to ear. Martin-Green is clearly having an absolute blast, and she’s taking you with her.
While you’re holding your breath and bouncing to the rhythm of BIF BAM POW, you might actually miss that this is the first Star Trek episode not to feature a single caucasian human. Fifty-four years after its launch, Gene Roddenberry achieved the Vulcan IDIC (infinite diversity in infinite combinations). It’s delivered as it should be, as an afterthought.
The CBS All Access Trek era is determined to deflect America’s post-2016 despair. Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery ended with a crew pronouncing itself as the embodiment of Starfleet ideals despite certain members within their ranks expressing the opposite. Star Trek: Picard dragged our favorite captain through the mud, stripped him of his rank, and forced him to stand tall while the Federation corroded under xenophobic fear.
Star Trek is not a uniform or a flag. It’s you and me, fighting for a future brighter than the present. When we get there, the fight continues. Tomorrow can always be better, and if we’re not careful today, tomorrow could be a whole lot worse. This grim frontier is not final; it merely needs a moral mow.
“That Hope is You Part 1” does one better than Star Trek: Picard. The Federation is not broken; it’s shattered, and a distant memory remembered only by old cooks. Star Trek: Discovery does not coddle to the needs of those viewers stubbornly awaiting the return of recognizable Trek. That’s why fan films exist. Get to work.
How strongly do you believe in what you believe? That’s what the new season is asking of its heroes. When everyone around you says, “No,” do you dare to have the strength to say, “Yes?”
As the premiere comes to a close, Burnham is painfully, horridly alone. After the Temporal War (see Star Trek: Enterprise), time travel is no longer a possibility. Burnham destroyed her suit upon the first few seconds of landing in the future. Her ship did not immediately follow her behind. We know the crew will return (we’ve seen the commercials), but for now, Burnham must carry the dream in isolation.
Well, maybe not totally in isolation.
During the episode’s cold open, we meet Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain). Stationed aboard an old Federation relay, the man waits in deafening silence. Every day he wakes up, beams his teeth clean, dresses sharply, and checks the star charts. Like his father and grandfather before him, he carries the torch of the Federation. He believes that all species can come together for the good of all.
Some day. One day. Why not today?
In walks Michael Burnham, an impossible person who shares the same impossible dream. Burnham practically blesses Sahil, commissions him into office, and the two begin their long work together. Book hangs back. Whether he likes it or not, they’ve conscripted the scalawag.
It’s easy to march in an army. To walk alone is to walk in shadow. In Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Burnham is stumbling in a dark she never considered, but she’s bumped into a fellow traveler. Sahil is enough to steer her thoughts away from madness and maybe educate Book in the possibilities of galactic unification.
When her crew eventually spills forth from its wormhole, Book’s cynicism won’t stand a chance. Han Solos can’t deny a rebellion. To fight the power is fun, and there might be some money or credits to be earned.