Synopsis: Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green) arrives in the future, as Star Trek: Discovery season three finally arrives. The U.S.S. Discovery isn’t just behind. That was her hope. Instead, Burnham must rely on the secretive “Book” (David Ajala). The two form a tense alliance. Soon, Burnham begins to learn the terrible truth about the fate of The Federation, and Starfleet . . .
A holographic alarm clock goes off, and we see a figure get out of bed. We later learn it’s Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain), the last of Starfleet. This short montage worked well to start the show, as it was somewhat unexpected. The slow pace allowed for a good glimpse of the new story-world the series will take place in. Additionally, the element of mystery was well employed, as it was unclear who this was.
The main action picks up almost exactly where they left off. Burnham has just arrived through the wormhole. The dramatic entry into the future made for a good sequence. This also allowed for the impact with Book, and was a good way to introduce the tying in of the two character’s fates. Book’s hostility to show the future shows a good awareness by the writers. he’s a “runner” trying to survive, so the “go-to” behavior is aggression. It’s a short, sharp welcome for Burnham, who must adapt almost as she learns, just to survive.
Once the two establish neither wants to harm the other, Burnham learns of “The Burn” (a subject discussed here). The details are sparse. Around 120 years before Burnham’s arrival, the majority of dilithium exploded. The upshot is that there’s minimal warp capability, now, as dilithium makes the process possible. That’s what Book needs. Burnham agrees to trade the now antique kit she has with her, if Book will take her to the local markets, where there’s a subspace array, to contact the Discovery and reunite. There, Book can barter for the all-important substance. Book double-crosses Burnham, but the two are soon forced to unite after Book is swooped on by Cosmo (David Benjamin Tomlinson), an enemy runner. Typical action stuff, that feels quite Star Wars, at times. Not necessarily a bad thing.
After the pair narrowly escape, Book working out that Burnham is a time-traveler. He begins to grudgingly respect the way Burnham holds onto the idea of The Federation. Book takes Burnham to Aditya Sahil, who is attempting to single-handedly operate a makeshift federation. He tells Burnham’s she’s the only hope, now, and unveils an old Federation flag, which they unfurl and drape.
With the rest of the cast not yet appearing, this was very much a Michael Burnham episode. Crucially, Martin-Green showed more of a range of skills, here. Evident, when the laughing powder allowed this. The result was great to see. Some more of Burnham’s humanity, exploring the irrational side. However, the stoic aspect to the personality of the character continues to dominate. It’s apparent that Martin-Green knows Burnham’s character truly, by now. Survival was key, and Martin Green depicted Burnham doing so with a combination of physical prowess and mental agility.
Ajala managed to make a strong impact, as a new character. The lone wolf act was different than it is usually. There was an unspoken sadness to the character. The show of strength and willingness to act first in a fight felt realistic. Ajala latched onto the more psychological aspects of the character and didn’t rely on tired gung ho macho nonsense. Notably, Ajala managed to develop the character, too, even over the space of a single episode. A good establishing of a brand new character for Star Trek Discovery.
Credit must also go to Adil Hussain, for his role as Aditya Sahil. Hussain made Sahil appeared tired and utterly alone in his mission. Such traits as these are subtle, yet crucial, and need expressing with care. They came through, thanks to Hussain’s studiousness.
CGI & Effects
Finally, this felt like the show CBS wanted to make. In terms of visuals, that is. Things didn’t seem so computer-generated. Perhaps that’s due to the future setting, which was more suited to the show’s graphics style. Equally, it may just be that they’ve looked back and smoothed things out. That will only really be known when we see the ship again. The spectacular landscapes may have helped to give Star Trek Discovery a much-needed antidote to the usual glare of the visual aspect.
Tech-wise, the stuff we saw was very cool, indeed. Book’s ship’s navigation control looked wonderful. Sleek and ergonomic. There were so many more moving parts, which gave the effect of a “biological computer”, somewhat. This, coupled with the near-instant cloaking device absolutely looked the part. Other advances were pleasing to the eye, too. The weapons were particularly smart. Those red hand cannons looked like they belonged in the far future. Ways that energy was manipulated looked fresh. Even the way that Cosmo got disintegrated was like nothing yet seen. It was a refreshing experience to see the story match the world.
As a basic premise, Star Trek has always depicted a future utopia. Humanity has made it. Yes, there were problems, but generally, they weren’t socio-political. The utopia of the Federation was based on idealism’s victory. Here, that’s turned on its head. The catalyst for such dire upheaval is “The Burn”. This concept shows that maybe the so-called lynch-pins that held everything in place were never unshakable foundations. More, temporary solutions assumed as permanent fixtures. It’s the job of science fiction to ask questions. Star Trek always has and done so well. The show’s managed to reflect the tone, atmosphere and spirit of the day’s culture, exploring moral issues. But, forget about the current world health pandemic. Star Trek Discovery isn’t analyzing that. What’s on trial are attitudes of ignorance and the possible consequences. The impact of “The Burn” seems to be a metaphor, for potentially catastrophic climate change.
As an opening to a much-awaited third season, this episode delivered what it needed to. Though it won’t have pleased everyone, Star Trek Discovery may well have reclaimed some detractors, by the events here. Solid acting, great visuals, and an important new direction. The use of the future as a setting has allowed for a sort of soft reboot, within the series itself. As mentioned, it feels more relevant to see a world on the brink, as a viewer. Once Burnham is reunited with the rest of the crew, there’ll surely be much “unity in adversity”, riffed on. There will those who refuse to like it, and those who simply still don’t for their own reasons. By the looks of things, this season of Star Trek Discovery promises to be the one the world needs, right now. Let’s hope it is.