October 22, 2020

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Discovery Season 3 Reviewed: That Hope Is You, Part 1

Welcome to the first of a weekly series of new reviews for Star Trek: Discovery’s long-awaited third season. We’re taking a slightly different approach in that each member of the TrekThis team will cast their opinions in the one review. You may find spoilers throughout…

Let’s start with Jack’s initial thoughts, for which he had to set his alarm and wants to say sorry to Anthony Rapp.

Last year, I was lucky enough to attend Destination Star Trek in Birmingham. While I do love the various creative costumes people wear there, due to my disability I value comfort, so was wearing my very loose Boston Red Sox shirt over an NFL t-shirt.

Amazed to see that Anthony Rapp had no queue, I made my way to meet him and have him sign my prized Eaglemoss USS Discovery. He was very nice, firmly shaking my hand. I doubt firm handshakes will be a thing for a little bit now. He happily signed it next to Engineering, too, saying he was about to do pick-ups on Season 3 the next week. Having studied Film and TV Production at University, I understood that the episodes just had a bit of post-production still to do.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know he is a keen Chicago Cubs fan, seeing a Cubs flag behind his table. I’m incredibly sorry to him! Even though I have adored Star Trek almost all my life, I made a mental note I must watch Discovery Season 3 to make up for the faux pas. So, on the night of 15 October 2020, I set an alarm for 8am the next morning.

Well, I am happy to report that I need not have worried (although my feeling of self-loathing for the mistake with Rapp will haunt me for life). I have loved watching Discovery since day one and this new series already lives up to it in spades. Now it’s set in the 32nd century, it is slowly (but with firm rapidity) establishing itself apart from all of the rest of the franchise.

There’s long been a theory that all Star Trek shows have a sharp uptick in quality around their respective third seasons. While I’ll never describe Discovery, Picard or Lower Decks so far as ‘bad’, this is evident here. After an hour, I was only desperate to see more.

I’m keenly aware that there isn’t a great fondness for Trek which doesn’t go into space within the first episode. I lost count of reading ‘fans’ moaning about how Picard didn’t go into space travel until the fourth episode. I guess a great story isn’t enough for them: it’s just the space in Star Trek that’s important apparently. The quality here on all fronts though is unquestionable and, like all good episodes, even though it’s all on ample numbers, it still left me wanting more. I therefore fully recommend it.

Also, a thought occurs to me: seeing as this seems to be a new start for Discovery, this might also be a good jumping on point for new fans. The thought of getting through nearly 800 episodes and 13 films is quite and understandably intimidating.

On a personal note, as the master of many cats (most are fat, too), I must mention the addition of Grudge. So far my favourite character has been Sylvia Tilly, partially because I enjoy Mary Wiseman’s performance immensely but, while doing so is never a good idea, no Trek character has so far made this jaded 32-year old say, ‘awwww…so cute.’ I therefore might need to put Tilly into a close second place, but that I feel is no disservice to this amazing show and think it’s a solid bet that between this and the rest of the active franchise, Trek fans are in for a hell of a year. All I can say is:

ENGAGE!

Elliot, while not setting his alarm, did manage to squeeze the episode in before tackling another writing assignment. Here’s what he had to say:

I’ve always thought Michael Burnham needs to chill out more. She always looks like she has gas or has a problem with the universe in general. For me, she’s never been the most engaging lead character in any series, let alone Trek, because of her aloofness. She makes Riker’s stolid gait look like a glide. I know she was raised on Vulcan, thereby explaining her attitudes and interactions, but Tilly and Saru have always caught my attention. That’s simply because they are more natural in their reactions. Thank goodness then, for Book and that rather invasive ‘truth spray’.

Essentially a two-hander episode for the most part, Season 3 opens with questions. It gives few answers, and that’s all the better for it. I had figured by the set-up that we perhaps wouldn’t be seeing the USS Discovery herself. It was a testament to Sonequa Martin-Green’s far-livelier performance that she carried the opening chapter on her own so brilliantly.

This season, Burnham is alone, scared. Her banter with rogue-ish charmer/courier Book (played with obvious glee by David Ajala) is a delight. Yes, she was her usual self to start with, but gradually, over the hour, she melted that pseudo-logical exterior. She sparked off against Book’s less-than trusting companionship. I hope this relationship flourishes. Whatever and whoever Book truly is will, I think, lead to some devastating revelations. It will be test for Burnham to trust anyone ever again. While Book isn’t Ash, we’re given the signs that the two new acquaintances will have more screen time together. Like Ash, Book probably does have a secret or two.

He also has a cat that I don’t think is a cat at all. But I’m either a) looking for things that aren’t there or b) am on the right path. And clearly this season will fictionally span across months or perhaps even years. Burnham’s hair is short now but the promo images show she has a far longer, beautiful braided style.

Then we have the 32nd century itself. Visually in places, it’s more like The Mandalorian that Star Trek. I did think to myself that if I’d nodded off midway through the episode (unlikely… I was hooked) and had woken up again, I would have probably assumed I’d switched to Disney+ by mistake. But off-world, on the abandoned Federation outpost, it was clinical, sterile and generations away from the warm carpets of the Enterprise-D. The notion that a Starfleet officer is now appointed by inheritance is a stark reminder that we’re not in the 23rd, 24th or 25th centuries anymore.

This is a time of a shattered Federation, a lawless galaxy. Starfleet is almost a memory now, warping through the cosmos in a mere handful of ships. What was the Burn that caused the dilithium accidents? How did a light years-spanning unified body fall to its knees so easily? As Burnham noted, the Federation isn’t just about warp speed.

We are presented with a huge mystery for Burnham and her companions to solve. This year, the story is big, bigger than anything we’ve been presented with so far in Trek. The repercussions of the Federation collapsing has far reaching consequences, from Earth to its most far-flung outposts and starbases. The writers have given themselves a monumental task to tell such a massive story. To have a conclusion in a few weeks’ time that isn’t a disappointment will be a challenge. And with what I’ve seen so far in episode 1 alone, I think we’re onto a winner.

And finally, our commander-in-chief, Dave, before shouting at his TV screen over the Merseyside Derby, gave us his view point:

In this difficult time, the return of Star Trek: Discovery is welcome escape from the harrows of real life as Covid-19 is forcing us back into another lockdown situation. Star Trek has always been my way of escaping from the stresses of real life and it feels like its been a long 18 month since the escapades of Season 2 came to an end, although we have had the joys of Lower Decks in between.

I have enjoyed the marketing campaign done by both Startrek.com and CBS in the buildup and the revelation that Starfleet and the Federation could be no more did come a shock to me. I have been so keen to see how this has happened. In recent weeks it was revealed that an incident called the Burn was to blame. We learn that Dilithium crystals became unstable and caused galaxy wide devastation resulting in the power source becoming more of a commodity with only tiny red fragments (which nods to the change of color of the crystals in the new opening credits sequence) are left to be traded, ensuring that warp capable vessels are now something of a rarity. In the episode it is noted that the Gorn destroyed a 2-light year wide section of subspace. One of the many theories that have been discussed and shared online is that the Omega Molecule. First introduced in the Star Trek: Voyager episode ‘The Omega Directive’, it’s a highly unstable substance that might be the reason for the Burn. Does this throwaway comment by Book hint towards that? The Omega Molecule can destroy subspace which in turn renders warp travel impossible.

Have the Gorn been conducting experiments on the molecule which ultimately had some impact on Dilithium as well? This is the strongest hint yet that the Omega Molecule might be the reason, or it could just be a red herring? What caused the Burn is a mystery and rightly so not revealed in the first episode. In a recently released ‘Coming up in this season of Discovery…’ trailer we learn that solving this mystery will be the main driving force and overriding story arc for season 3 and maybe not so much preventing it.

Another aspect that I was surprised about was the destruction of the Red Angel suit. Book says that time travel has also been destroyed after “The Temporal Wars”. Is this a reference to the Temporal Cold war seen in Star Trek: Enterprise? And how will they get Philippa Georgiou back to the 23rd century? As we know she is due to appear in the yet-to-film Star Trek: Section 31 series.

Before seeing this episode, my theory was the Red Angel suit would be used somehow. Either its technology being reverse engineered or a plot point for the series being the need to find a new power source. This of course is now no longer an option. I must admit I liked my theories being debunked so early on, allowing me to go into the rest of the series with my curiosity renewed.

The introduction of Book (and his cat Grudge) is a welcome one, if the episode did follow a bit of clichéd path. Book is shown to us as a possible rogue and villain who does not trust Burnham and inevitably betrays her. Over the course of the episode their relationship develops and the full foe-to-friend playbook is utilized including the working together to fight a common threat. Although this was predicable, it was necessary: it allows Book to fully introduce us to this new future, its new technologies and its new sociological structures.

Actor David Ajala stated that Book would act as our guide to the 32nd Century. This has certainly been the case as everything we learn and see is through him and his actions. By the end Book is revealed as an ally. Already we can see a chemistry starting to build between Martin- Green and Ajala and the first hints that the relationship might grow beyond that of mere friendship.

New additions David Ajala and Aditya Sahil are welcome additions and I look forward to seeing their characters develop over the next season.

For me, ‘That Hope is You’ is a beautifully shot introduction to this new future. We are eased into this world and its new technology and left with anticipation for what is to come. Answers are of course are still needed to many of our questions and as all good first episodes do; we end up with more. The cinematography, the incredible Icelandic visuals and high-quality special effects prove once again that Discovery can rival anything that can be seen on cinema. This continues to justify the argument that Trek is better on TV.

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