Discovery Season 3 Reviewed: Die Trying

David Milburn 2

We’re back with our review for episode five of Star Trek: Discovery ‘Die Trying’ in which the Discovery finally makes it back to the Federation.

As we do here at TrekThis our writing team offers their individual thoughts and first up is Vedran who while enjoying the series, is feeling that the writers continue to attribute emotive scenes to under developed characters.

From the moment USS Discovery arrived in the 32nd century, I wanted to see what remained from the Federation and its vaunted exploratory-diplomatic arm – Starfleet. This week’s episode finally solved that mystery. Although, not in the way one would expect. No, I am not talking about the cold reception our crew got upon reaching the (more or less) familiar ground. After all, such a welcome is to be expected. It would be prudent for any organization, which would find itself in such a difficult condition – especially Starfleet – to check the data and corroborate the evidence, before allowing the newcomers to move freely. Not to mention that all the info on Discovery and her crew was erased (with their knowledge and approval) after their one-way trip to the future. All this further complicates the situation and puts Admiral Vance in a difficult position.

Oded Fehri plays the admiral’s role well. His dignified posture and measured speech make him the perfect choice for the leader of the Starfleet, especially in those troubled times. I was also very happy to see no one else than David Cronenberg (!) in the role of whom else but a mysterious investigator (Section 31 perhaps?), and I am hoping to see him more as the season progresses. The mysterious official seems to be a perfect match with the arrogant former Terran empress, who is rightly shocked that her empire is no more. Also, there seems to be more in their short meeting, as not long after, Georgiu is clearly not herself. Something to pay attention to in the following episodes.

The short detour to the “seed vault” Tikhov was a quite decent “ship-of-the-week” mini-adventure. Coupled with emotional bits and some great set designs. It also provided the opportunity for the Discovery crew to prove to the Starfleet and the admiral Vance that they can do the job well. And that they could be a valuable asset in those difficult times. Finally, Dr. Culber got his chance to shine. However, the center of all things is still Burnham, and for some weird reason, it is her who has to convince the Barzan scientist (not Nhan, or Culber), to give the codes.

Which leads me to the biggest issue of the show, the issue that is sadly becoming a feature, not a bug, for the entire show. And that is the constant forcing of emotions into the plot, emotions which are often not earned. At the end of the previous season, we lost Airiam, in what was presented as a heroic sacrifice. I say presented, as I felt almost nothing for a character I barely knew. Everything we knew about Airiam, her tragic past, and her character, we discovered in the very episode, which was her last. Now, something similar happened with Commander Nhan (who in an ironic twist, was the person who accompanied Airiam on her fateful mission). Just when we started to discover more about this interesting Barzan officer, the writers decided to get rid of her. Even if she is not killed, her departure too was followed by the artificial and completely unearned outpouring of emotions and unnecessary drama. Further, I am still confused why Nhan, the security officer, had to stay on the science duty, all alone, instead of Discovery bringing a new crew at the later date…

 “Die Trying” left me with mixed feelings. It started as a very good episode, which finally gave us a glimpse of the state of the Federation and Starfleet. The fleet flyby (with some nice nods to canon, including the mention of late Aaron Eisenberg character Nog from the DS9) was a nice touch. It also introduced us to several interesting characters and reintegrated Discovery into the brave new Starfleet. But it also gave us another dose of unnecessary and unearned feelings, depriving us of one of the promising characters, in a particularly lazy way. I can only hope those beginner mistakes are now behind us, and that from now on, “Discovery” will focus more on worldbuilding and exploration of the new world that is around them.

Although I am usually not nitpicking, due to my historical background I could not help myself but to mention it. I am aware that Renaissance speech was intended to have a hopeful and optimistic tone, but one should be careful when using the “Dark Ages”. It is true that in Western Europe, society and culture experienced a decline during that period. But that cannot be said for the other parts of the continent, or the world, where the empires such as Byzantium or China, or the Islamic Caliphates, were going through their golden ages. Among other things, Star Trek should be boldly deconstructing the obsolete perceptions that we have of history, and this small detail could be avoided with proper research.

Next is Jack. Who thoroughly enjoyed the episode and its Voyager call backs

In the early hours of last night, I could not sleep. It wasn’t just excitement, as normal, but my ribs – which I had injured during the week – felt that it was the perfect time to re knit themselves, meaning I was not only awake until mid-day but I was also able to employ the Discovery mantra of optimism and watch Discovery ‘live’ (well, close to it). But the bigger question: was it worth it?

Spoiler alert but a massive yes. As someone who grew up with Voyager as his gateway to Star Trek, the Voyager J was fan service yes, but such a brilliant little detail until I saw the crown jewel of micro details: Starfleet has a U.S.S. Nog. While I did think it’s unlikely a ship will be dedicated to an officer presumably 8 centuries after their death, I quickly dismissed this as fourth wall breaking but so classy that it is an extremely classy move and good on whoever is responsible for its inclusion.

The episode does keep up the long standing Trek tradition of bad guy Admiralty (between this, Commodore Oh on Picard and the majority of Admirals who aren’t named Owen Paris or William Ross – not to mention dragging its feet on Jean Luc Picard – Starfleet needs a good think about who they promote to HQ). Ohded Fehr is his regular charismatic self in the role and judging from his commentaries on the first two Mummy films, I am quite sure that between takes, he added to the set levity which while welcome in 2019, is sorely needed in 2020. Plus, it’s just excellent on a personal level that a starring actor of two films of my teenage years is now forever a Starfleet Commander in Chief.

It was a disappointment that we didn’t get to spend more time with Blu Del Bario’s Adira, however much like Detmer’s condition, I can’t imagine that a storyline as important as theirs is going to suddenly disappear. I remain optimistic we will see their acting chops many more times as the various faces of the Tal symbiont and more and more inclusiveness, the very central heartbeat of Trek since the first episode back in 1966.

I did feel tempted to dock points for being the second episode in a row not to have the greatest character in Trek history (Grudge of course, she’s sublime on twitter too). In all seriousness I must say that while still broadly drawn, it seems that the Bridge Crew are getting a bit more defined. While I never found the broadly drawn bridge crew (minus the main cast) to any strong detriment, I’m glad to see this starting, especially if this 32nd century background is to last for a seeming long time, it will be nice to have an even larger cast to draw upon for the foreseeable future.

Overall, I will not only recommend this episode highly (due to it starting to broad strokes fill in what happened in the intervening centuries and starting to detail the beige regulars) but without wanting to jinx it, I am beginning to take the season as a whole (something which I can’t complete until the season is in the rear view mirror) and so far, it looks like it’ll be the level of quality that currently is only in the rarefied air of Star Trek: Voyager season 5. A strong 4.5 out of 5 and given how this episode continues the trend towards Michael being a complete bad ass (this was the first time we’ve seen her in command since the Shenzou), I think we are on a path for more of this too and all I can say is: bring it on.

Finally we have Dave who thought it was a strong episode which benefited from some strong world building in the lead up.

So, Discovery finally finds Starfleet. It has taken them 5 episodes to do so and during that time we have had some excellent world building. The 32nd Century is not only strange new territory for the crew but of course for us, the viewer, as well. The future is a broken place, full of mistrust, unlawfulness, greed, violence, and isolation. The Burn has had such a profound effect on the future and in each episode, we have seen the impact. From rogue traders, exploitation of miners, Earth now a planet cut off from the rest of the universe and the Trill society itself on the brink of destruction. However, there has been a common thread throughout the season so far. The values of the Federation. A lot of reviews I have seen and comments online on Discovery and its third season make a point on how it is finally starting to feel more like a Star Trek show. In this dystopian future, the values, morals, and traditions of the Federation that have been reintroduced via the USS Discovery, brings fresh hope to the galaxy, a hope that people are longing for. Kal (Jonathan Koensgen), the Coridanite from episode two elaborating this point by saying “I knew you would come”. This episode reminded of the Marvel film ‘Age of Ultron’ in which Shield returns to help the people of Zakovia and Quicksilver asks the questions “is this Shield?” and Captain America replies “This is what Shield is supposed to be”. The Federation of the future is a very different beast that what we have seen in the past, and Discovery is here to show remind them what Starfleet is supposed to be. The Federation of the future has lost the very essence of what it was but wants to find it again.

There are several great scenes in this episode. When Discovery finally arrives at the co-ordinates we get a docking sequence that is filled with fan service including seeing the latest incarnation of the USS Voyager (J) and the fantastic tribute to Aron Eisenberg in the shape of the USS Nog. The nod to Voyager didn’t end with seeing the ship made famous by the exploits of Captain Janeway, in one sequence the camera pans past a holographic map and we see locations from the Delta Quadrant and alien species encountered on Voyagers journey home. They include the Ocampa, the Kazon, and Nelix’s home world of Talax. The scene with Philippa Georgiou and David Cronenberg’s cameo role of Kovich offered a great back and forth discussion that updated us on the state of the Mirror Universe much to Georgiou’s surprise. We later see Georgiou back on the Discovery and she has clearly been affected by this interaction, how and why we do not know yet but I bet this won’t ne Cronenberg’s only appearance and I also suspect he has something to do with a futuristic version of Section 31.  

The side mission the crew undertook in order to prove themselves to Starfleet was enjoyable and gave Dr Culber more screen time. However, during this sequence we have to say goodbye (for now?) to a member of the Discovery crew as Nhan decides to stay behind on the USS Tikhov to ensure it completes its mission. What this does for Discovery other than another emotional goodbye, is offer more evidence that the crew are Federation through and through. It also offers us another insight into the relationship between Captain Saru and Commander Burnham. Not for the first time this season have they clashed, and it cropped up again here. Burnham frustrated by the Commander in Chiefs refusal to share information until Discovery has been fully vetted, suggests taking what they need in order to prove themselves. Surely if Saru had gone with this suggestion it would have proved counter productive and just shown Burnham and co to be untrustworthy. Thankfully Saru shoots her down and rightly so. It would appear that the year Burnham spent with Book will have continuous consequences as she is left irritated by Federation protocol. I fear there will be a point in an upcoming episode in which Burnham will return to form and disobey an order or take matters into her own hands once again.

 The slight frustration for me on this very strong episode is that we again get nothing in relation to the Burn. All that is stated is that Starfleet has more theories than they do ships but don’t offer any. I understand that the Burn is the main story in this season but still, some details would have been nice. The one clue we did get was some music. Music that was played by Adira in the previous episode and listened to by the Barzan family flying the USS Tikhov. When Burnham shares this detail with new character Security Chief Willa, it is quickly dismissed. I think in future episodes it will be prudent to keep an ear open in case this tune is played again in the background.   


Additional

Watch Episode 5 of The Ready Room with Wil Wheaton who interview Rachel Ancheril who plays Nhan and check out some of the VFX wizardry involved in making that impressive opening sequence. There is also some BTS scenes goodness and an exclusive clip from next weeks episode. Click the banner.

Bonus behind the scenes clip


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