WARNING: This review contain spoilers from the Season 3 premiere.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY returned today on CBS All Access for a third round. Picking up right where the previous season ended, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) has successfully traveled 930 years into the future in her Red Angel suit. Unfortunately, the U.S.S. Discovery is not right behind her as she thought it would be. Now, she must travel an almost unrecognizable galaxy to find them again.
The episode, entitled “That Hope Is You, Part 1,” is essentially a two-person story. As Michael emerges from the wormhole, she smacks into a small spaceship owned by a man named Book (David Ajala, Supergirl), and they both crash on the planet below. Book is on a mission, which Michael has disrupted and does not figure into. She tries to endear herself to him so that he may help her, while he focuses on what he needs to get done. The story is of them coming to learn about and trust one another.
A lot of this STAR TREK: DISCOVERY premiere feels like Star Wars to me, and that’s not such a good thing. There are broad, alien landscapes (beautiful as they may be), strange creatures, lots of aliens, a vast, futuristic station that we only glimpse a small part of, and an extended chase-and-shoot season in which the bad guys can’t manage to seriously hit our heroes no matter how close they are and how many times they fire. Book is a trader who deals with shady people and seems pretty selfish himself. It’s much more action than most Trek, and appears to be lack the depth one expects from the scifi franchise.
But bit by bit, the Trek elements creep in. The aliens running things are Orions and Andorians, and we see Tellarites and Lurians in the background. These are familiar touch-points in a sea of less familiar races. We also begin to hear things about this future, mainly that a huge, catastrophic event called The Burn wiped out much of Starfleet and the Federation has largely disappeared. So we can start to see why the galaxy looks the way it does. Then, of course, there’s the big Book twist where we learn that he’s basically Newt Scarmander, and things immediately lighten up.
The pinnacle of the episode is when Michael and Book go to a Starfleet base where they meet Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain, Life of Pi), a man glimpsed briefly at the start of the episode, who runs the empty station on behalf of Starfleet, but has never been commissioned an officer in the service. This man believes as deeply in the mission of the United Federation of Planets as Michael does, and he is the kindred beacon in the darkness. Never mind the lingering question as to why he has been left alone by the less savory aliens that are nearby. This scene is when the episode finally reveals itself to be fully Trek and gives viewers hope for the rest of the season.
There’s a lot about the STAR TREK: DISCOVERY premiere I didn’t like. The things I mention above, along with the total absence of the rest of the Discovery crew, whom I miss and desperately want to see again. Michael is not my favorite character on the show, and as soon as I realized this hour would be all about her, I groaned. Though, I admit, this was a solid episode for her and Martin Green gave a great performance.
Yet, the genuine excitement sparked at the end almost made the whole thing worth it. There’s a cool mystery here, and a new mission. STAR TREK: DISCOVERY was a prequel to other Star Trek, and now with a goal of rebuilding the broken Federation, it’s almost a prequel set in the future as to how Starfleet came to be. This is a cool twist, maintaining a key element the show had before the jump, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season plays out. As long as the rest of the crew gets here soon.
STAR TREK: DISCOVERY releases new episodes every Thursday, only on CBS All Access.