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After a long wait, Star Trek Discovery is back. Michael Burnham has succeeded in saving the universe, but she now has to face the fact that the lift she knew is gone forever, and her friends aboard Discovery are nowhere to be found. Worse than that, she learns that the Federation is all but gone in this distant future. What's a Starfleet officer to do? It turns out, this new century might need Michael just as much as the previous one did.
This is a good solid episode that opens the new season and promises an interesting and satisfying story.
So let's geek out about it.
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Welcome to Nerd Heaven.
I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars.
And I am a nerd.
This is episode 38 of the podcast.
Today, we launch into something new and exciting. We’re covering the first episode of Star Trek Discovery season 3, and we’ll be doing weekly review analysis on each episode until the season is done.
And welcome to my new timeslot. Back when I was covering Star Trek Picard season 1, I’d watch the episode Friday night, then watch it again Saturday morning, taking notes and scripting the podcast. Then I’d record, edit and publish by Saturday afternoon. It got pretty intense. This time, I plan to pace myself a little. I’ll be posted on Mondays, Australian time zone. Probably Monday morning. That just allows me a bit more time to get the episode together and get some other things done on the weekend.
Today’’s episode is called That Hope is You. Part 1.
The description on Memory Alpha reads
Burnham navigates a strange, new galaxy, 930 years in her future, looking for the rest of the Discovery crew. (Season premiere)
The episode was Written by Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet, & Alex Kurtzman
It was Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
And it first aired on the 15th of October 2020
Make it so.
The end of season 2 was a big game changer, liquifying the status quo of the series. Michael Burnhan and the USS Discovery flew into a wormhole taking them into the distant future. Further into Star Trek’s future than we’ve ever seen before.
And that was an exciting prospect.
So now, finally, we get to see what kind of world they emerge into.
This gives the writers of the show the opportunity they’ve wanted all along, to create something brand new. To establish a completely unexplored era in the Star Trek universe. They must have had so much fun brainstorming ideas.
Honestly, Star Trek Discovery should never have been set in the pre-Kirk 23rd century, given the kind of creative freedom they wanted. The writers finally realised this and used the second half of season 2 to set up this change.
So … the very first scene shows us a bird, with a digital clock projected on its side. Okay. That’s different. Evidently, this is some kind of futuristic alarm clock projecting a hologram. I kinda like it. I’d wake up to that.
We see a man wake up and leave his bed, which dissolves into a liquid state and disappear. The whole structure seems to be constructed from nanites. It’s very cool on screen.
He cleans his teeth, and a desk and chair are created by the same nanite technology as his bed. The process repeats, giving us a sense that this man’s life is very very routine and predictable.
He’s searching for signals, and he carries a case that bears a Starfleet logo (Oddly, it’s the early 23rd century logo with the split delta.)
When The Next Generation first came out, they designed a whole new aesthetic for the technology. We got the beloved Okudagrams, often referred to as LCARS, although technically, LCARS is the library computer access retrieval system. Anyway, we all love that look.
But for the 32nd century, they needed to similarly re-define the visual look of the Star Trek Universe. This nanite-based technology is both visually interesting and logical. It’s a believable extension from the replication and hologram technologies.We’ve heard the term “Particle Synthesis” from time to time in Star Trek. Arturis used it to fool the crew of Voyager into thinking his ship was Starfleet. Species 8472 also used it to re-created Starfleet Academy in the Delta Quadrant. I can’t help but wonder, is this an advanced form of particle synthesis? The name seems to fit what we see on screen. Later, we’ll see a control panel on a ship. Instead of okudagrams on a touch screen, we’ll see this same nanite technology creating displays and controls. So for the most part, it seems this has replaced the holographic controls we saw in Star Trek Picard. This technology actually reminds me of the Kryptronian technology in Man of Steel. That was kinda similar and also very cool.
Anyway, you could argue that this doesn’t look like Star Trek, but honestly, it shouldn’t. We’re almost a thousand years beyond the world Burnham left, so I think they’ve done a great job. I like it.
Then we cut to a space battle in orbit of an M-class planet. A spinning ship, maybe inspired by the jelly-fish ship in Star Trek 2009, is pursuing a character we’ll come to know as Cleavland Booker, or Book for short.
It seems Book has stolen something from this rather ugly alien. I don’t recognise his species. But whatever it was, the aliens had stolen it first.
Then the wormhole opens and Burnham emerges, in the red angle suit. No sign of Discovery yet.
So is this planet Terralesium? That’s where Michael was expecting to emerge.
I like the little shot of the CG bugs. I always enjoy seeing alien animals . Michael bounces off Book’s ship, causing them both to crash on this planet.
A shield in the suit protects michael. The suit disengages from her, looking way too advanced for 23rd century tech, as always. She can’t reach Discovery on her communicator. The suit tells her she’s in the year 3188. She asks the computer if there are any signs of life. Her face holds so much emotion in that moment before it answers. Imagine if she’d failed. And finds herself alone, the only living being in a universe devoid of all sentient life. That was basically her mother’s life.
But the computer confirms. There are multiple life signs on this planet.
And she gives this great scream of relief, and victory. It’s a powerful performance from Senqua Martin-Green. It really makes me feel her emotions.
She did it! She saved the universe!.
Now, technically, she should already know she was successful. She emerged in the middle of a space battle between two ships. She knows someone is here, although, I guess those ships could have been AI controlled.
In any case, I forgive it because it’s a wonderful moment.
The wormhole is closing, so she has to send the final red signal back through it, letting Spock and Pike know that she arrived safely and successfully.
The red angel suit flies off, on its last mission. The signal is sent and the suit explodes. This is important because it means Michael no longer has any way of getting back to the 23rd century. Her life, her entire world is gone. She’ll never see it again.
And we get another beautiful outpouring of emotion.
Before she can explore, let alone embrace, her new world, she needs to take a moment to mourn the loss of the old one. It’s really great stuff.
All she has is her badge, a tricorder, phaser and ration pack.
She clings to the one other thing she has. Her identity as a Starfleet officer. She doesn’t yet know just how meaningful and significant that will be.
Now we have a new opening titles to discuss. There are no major changes. I suspected they might do a new arrangement of the music, to make it feel less connected to TOS, but the score is unchanged. As with season 2, some of the visuals have changed to reflect what is happening this season.
The first big difference we notice is a huge collection of DOT-7 robots. Those were the things that popped out of the Enterprise Hull last season during the battle. Basically repair droids. Like R2D2. I Wasn’t a fan of this. Oh, they’re cool, but they felt out of place in Star Trek. That’s more of a Star Wars idea. It felt like they were trying a bit too hard there. Anyway, no idea what they’re showing up here. I guess they’ll have some significance this season.
This captain’s chair from the Enterprise bridge is still present, which surprises me. I’d have thought that no longer relevant.
Then we see a phaser. As usual, it pulls apart, but as it goes back together, it forms into a futuristic, possibly alien sidearm like we’ve never seen before. This shot makes the most sense it ever has.
Then we see Book’s ship (I think). It doesn’t follow the traditional Starfleet design at all. No visible nacelles. But it’s constantly changing shape, like it has moving parts Reminds me of a transformer, actually. I don’t yet have a good sense of this ship.
We see the new oval-shaped com badge. That won’t appear in this episode. And then the three badges on the transporter pad meld into the new shape.
We get some beautiful vistas of this alien planet. They went and shot on location in Iceland for this. I love that. It makes such a difference. We occasionally got location shoots on Star Trek TV shows in the 90s, even in TOS, but I don’t think they ever went to another country just to film. That’s more of a movie-budget thing. Just another sign of the investment they’re making in this show. You can’t deny that CBS takes Star Trek very seriously at the moment.
Anyway, it makes me want to go to Iceland, because this planet is both beautiful and exotic.
Michael has found Book’s ship. And it can turn invisible. Is this just a cloaking device, or some relation to the particle synthesis tech?
Watching this episode the second time, I’m picking up on a lot of foreshadowing of Book’s true nature that I didn’t notice the first time.
Book thinks Michael is here to take his cargo. But he’s fiercely protecting it. It doesn’t belong to her.
She tries to explain herself to him but he’s not interested in what she has to say.
They get into a bit of a fist fight. Nicely done action. But the fight ends when she pulls her antique phaser.
This is where we get our first hint related to the new nature of the universe. Book questions the wisdom of ripping space apart, to create artificial wormholes. He says “It wasn’t enough for you and the Gorn to destroy 2 light-years worth of subspace?”
But ‘you’ I assume he means Starfleet. So something has happened to subspace, and it appears that both STarfleet and the Gorn were somehow responsible.
We’ll talk more about this in a little bit.
When Michael asks if this is Teralysium, he says, it’s “Hima.”
So, is that just a new name for Teralysium, or a different planet? From evidence so far, I think it’s a different planet.
But right now, Michael doesn’t know what sector, even what quadrant she’s in.
I assume she’s somewhere in the alpha quadrant because of the races we meet here. Andorians, Orions, Tellarites, Lurians, and of course, humans.
Anyway, she makes an impassioned plea. I’m all alone in the universe. I have to trust someone, and for better or worse, that’s you.
We get a look at the interior of this ship. We see the particle control panels. Michael is as taken by them as I am.
The dilithium re-crystaliser on his ship was damaged during impact. He can’t fly using quantum slipstream (another technology that Voyager toyed with on their quest to get home) without Benamite, which is apparently very rare. Tachyon solar cells are too slow. It seems there are a bunch of methods of interstellar travel in this time, but not many of them will work, due to lack of resources. What Book needs is dilithium for his warp drive. By now we can already tell this is not the super-advanced utopia we’ve glimpsed in the 29th century, nor the time-travel-obsessed 31st century. This is a time of shortage and challenge.
And that’s when we meet Grudge, the cut. She’s sure to become a fan favourite.
Michael points out she’s a very large cat. And Book replies that she has a thyroid condition.
This is kinda weird.
My wife tells me Grudge is a Mancoon, which are naturally a very large breed of cat.
So …. What put this thyroid line in there. I wonder if that’s going to become significant at some point during the season.
Michael hopes she can trade her antique equipment for dilithium. If she helps him get off the planet, maybe he’ll help her try to contact Discovery.
Then some more gorgeous location shots of a waterfall and moss-encrusted rocks. So good.
Time for some exposition, so Michael, and the viewers, can learn a little about the state of the galaxy.
We learn that the Federation is gone, which is shocking news to Michael. How can the Federation be gone? What is the Star Trek universe without the Federation?
Apparently, there are some true believers out there that still believe in its ideals.
But not Book. He’s a courier. Out for himself. At this point in the episode, he seems like a bit of a Han Solo type. But we may challenge that assumption later on.
Book doesn’t know all the details, but the Federation collapsed a long time ago, after the burn. The burn was the day the galaxy took a hard left.
Everyone has been doing a lot of speculating, since this line was revealed in the trailer.
The most popular theory, by far, is that it was caused by an explosion of Omega Particles.
Omega PArticles disrupt subspace. If one goes off, a large area around it will become so damaged that warp drive is impossible in that region.
Fans surmised that omega explosions have made warp drive impossible, in this time. So everyone is cut off from everyone else. This made a lot of sense, and explained why Discovery’s spore drive would come in so handy.
What Book says is “Dilithium. One day most of it just went boom. Dilithium is the heart of every warp-capable ship
The Federation weren’t sure what happened or why,but after a while they just weren’t around anymore.
So what we’re seeing doesn’t quite seem to fit the omega particle theory.
Warp drive is still possible, and we’ll see it used later this episode. The problem is that Dilithium is very very rare (but not so rare that Book can’t get his hands on some before the episode is done.)
But he did mention damage to subspace in a 2-lightyear radius. And THAT sounds like omega. We’ll also learn later that people in this region of space cannot scan very far out.
This all seems a bit muddy at the moment. We don’t get a full picture of what the real state of things is in this episode. But I’m starting to worry that they’ve taken the concept of the omega particle, but complicated it way more than was necessary. Kind alike what they did with Voq in season 1. The idea of surgically altering someone to look like another species is a very common Star Trek Trop, as far back as the original series. But the show complicated the whole thing with Voq so much that to this day, fans are still trying to get their heads around exactly what happened. They made it more complex than it needed to be.
Hopefully this won’t be a similar thing.
Sonequa is doing a lot of really good face acting in this episode. She portrays so much emotion without saying a word. It’s awesome.
They arrive at a city. A massive city.
When they try to enter the mercantile, some kind of market, they scan Book and Michael. IT seems everyone in this time has some kind of technology embedded in their forearm. Reminds me a lot of the omni-tool in Mass Effect, actually. Because Michael isn’t from this time, she doesn’t have one, so they won’t let her in. I guess it’s like trying to enter a country without a passport, or trying to get a job without a social security number, or as we have in Australia, a Tax File Number.
But whoever runs this place is convinced that what Michael carries could be valuable.
Michael sees people using a site-to-site transporter, or as she calls it, a portable transporter. This technology existed, but was rare in the time of Voyager. It’ll be just like a toothbrush in this time.
And that’s when Book betrays Michael. He frames her as a bank robber and steals her equipment. Seems he’ll need more than just the tricorder to afford the dilithium he needs.
The Andorian and Orion security officers drug Michael to make her talk. It really does feel like the wild west out here. It’s funny, but the current creative team behind Star Trek really do want to make Star Trek feel more wild west. Emphasis on the wild.
Star Trek Picard took us out of the safe comfortable Federation worlds into dingy places where morals were lower and danger lurked around every corner. Places where the peace is kept by Fenris Rangers because there’s nobody else to do it. It all felt a bit more Star Wars-ish to me. That’s feeling like a trend.
Anyway, it makes a lot more sense here, because a world without the Federation or Starfleet is basically gonna be like the wild west of Star Wars.
Michael’s reaction to the drug is mildly amusing.
I do love the line when she says “I have a friend with red hair. You cannot give this to her.”
It’s funny. This drug basically turns Michael into Tilly. So imagine what it would turn Tilly into.
The new round phasers are kinda cool. Michael certainly likes them, her appreciation enhanced in her drugged state.
As much as I don’t endorse the use of drugs in any way, it’s kind of nice to see a more playful side of Burnham. She’s really letting her hair down, so to speak. I’m realising now, just how much of her vulcan conditioning she still clings to most of the time.
In the end, Michael has to steal the dilithium because Book can’t buy it.
And then we learn that Book has a site-to-site transporter. And so begins a game of cat and mouse and they beam away, and are quickly followed by the guards, only to beam somewhere else again. It’s a great way to show off more of this wonderful location.
And we notice that not all the guards are Andorian and Orion. There’s a Lurian among them. You know, one of Morn’s mates.
The lurian is bald, just like Morn, which is interesting, because we learned, in Deep Space Nine, that most Lurians have hair. Morn lost all of his because he was storing liquid latinum in his second stomach. I think this is a case of “it would be more correct for this lurian to have hair, but who wants to see that? We want to see the familiar bald look because it gives us nostalgia for Deep Space Nine, and Morn in particular.
So I’m okay with it. Afterall, who says other Lurians can’t lose their hair? There are plenty of bald humans in the world.
Then we’re introduced to Book’s super power. He speaks in an alien language, that sounds somewhat like Hebrew, a glyph glows on his forehead, and a plant grows out of the water. The plant produces a substance that can heal Michael’s wounds. Book says that what he was doing was “something like” praying.
He seems to have a connection to nature. We’ll see him use it to command an animal later on.
Book has figured out that Michael is a time traveller. He doesn’t know how she got her hands on what brought her here, but we learn that all temporal technology was destroyed and outlawed after the temporal wars. Nice to get some closure of that temporal cold war thing from Enterprise. Because we are further forward into the future than the time Agent Daniels came from.
This is important because if time-travel was still prevalent, then our heroes could return home. But this was always meant to be a one-way trip for the sake of the story.
They get back to the ship but the guards have tracked them down again.
When the Andorian says “What good is a courier who lets his cargo get stolen” and the dodgy bloke says “I’m the best runner in the galaxy”, it sounded very reminiscent of Han Solo. But then he gets shot.
These guards want Book’s cargo. Book relenets and opens his cargo hold.
There’s an animal in the3re. A giant slug thing,
When they let it out, it eats the guards.
What exactly were they thinking? Why would you come here to take possession of a dangerous animal, but have no way to contain it?
Anyway, after eating the guards, it swallows Michael. But Book uses his magic powers again and convinces the slug, which he calls Molly, to vomit her back out.
I don’t really have any opinion on Book’s powers yet, because I just don’t know enough about them.
Anway, Molly seems very friendly now.
So they’re now flying through space at warp speed. We’ve come to realise the truth of Book’s mission. He’s not just a courier. He’s an environmentalist. He’s rescuing these animals, endangered species, and returning them to their homeworld.
I like the red trees on the transworm planet. It’s a simple thing but it makes a place look suitably alien.
Now that his job is done, Book knows somebody who might be able to help Michael find her ship.
He takes her to see that guy from the very beginning of the episode. Remember him?
He lives on an old Federation relay station.
The guy’s name is Sahil.
Michael is excited to meet him, but he’s in awe to meet her.
He can’t find Discovery. But we learn there are two Federation ships out there. So not all is completely gone.
But Sahil can’t scan beyond several sectors. Long range sensors failed decades ago.
On first viewing, I thought this was a widespread problem in the universe, but now, I Think it’s just because the long range sensors on this space station are damaged. So maybe this is not related to the burn after all.
But he says he imagines it is the same for all others, so who knows.
It seems Discovery either landed somewhere a long way away, or it hasn’t arrived yet. IT could arrive tomorrow, or in a thousand years.
Sahil explains that he’s not a commissioned officer. Several generations of his family have run this facility, but when Sahil took over, there was nobody left to swear him in.
But what about the two other ships out there? Couldn't he ask them?
Anyway, for 40 years, he’s been waiting for a genuine Starfleet office to come.
Michael is that hope.
Sahil doesn't know how much of the federation still exists, but he does his own little part to keep the dream of it alive.
And that’s when Michael hangs the flag for him. Only a commissioned officer may raise it.
This episode seems to be using the terms Federation and Starfleet interchangeably. But they’re not the same thing. Very closely related, of course, but Starfleet and The Federation are two distinct things.
The Federation is a political alliance of worlds.
Starfleet is their scientific, exploration and military service.
So, while she hasn’t yet found her friends, Michael has a new purpose. She commissions Sahil. Together, they will seek out others and help to rebuild the dream of the Federation.
So let’s examine this new world we find ourselves in.
The utopia of the Federation is gone. In its place we now have a somewhat dystopian future.
It seems they like to do that a lot. Discovery Season 1 plunged us into war with the Klingons. Our characters had to fight to get their utopia back. Then Picard season 1 turned Starfleert somewhat dystopian by having them be corrupt, due to certain influences. And now Discovery season 3 and yet again given us a Star Trek dystopia.
It’s starting to feel like alex Kurtzman and his team really like dystopia, and are not actually that enamoured with the traditional utopian view of Star Trek.
Deep Space Nine actually pushed back against the utopia a bit, and in my opinion did it more effectively than anything else has since.
There are those out there who are not fans of this trend. I can understand that. I’m not particularly bothered, but I’m definitely noticing a trend.
One question people like to ask is “What would Gene Roddenberry think?
I’m convinced he wouldn’t have liked Star Trek Picard. He was always against Starfleet being portrayed in a negative light. I believe he didn’t even like what they did in Star Trek VI.
But you know what, I suspect he’d have liked this. Why? Because of another show he created called Andromeda. It followed a similar plot to this. An officer from a great utopian alliance was thrust into the future where his government no longer existed. He strove to re-build it.
And that’s the essence of what we’re seeing here. A determination to re-build the ideals of the Federation. There’s a whole lot of optimism to it.
And that concludes the first episode of season 3.
I enjoyed it. There’s a lot we still don’t know. But I’m excited that our heroes have a whole new Star Trek universe to explore, and I’m looking forward to exploring it with them. I suspect this is going to be a good season. It’s the first one that has been produced without massive disruption behind the scenes in the writers’ room, so that alone is promising.
I like Book. He’s a cool character and I’m looking forward to seeing his arc across the season.
Don’t forget, I have a book series out called Jewel of The Stars. It follows the passengers and crew of a cruise ship in space, boldly travelling through unexplored space, after Earth fell to an alien occupation. Just like the crew of Discovery, they’re all on their own.
You can read the first book completely free on Wattpad, or get it wherever eBooks are sold for 99 cents. It’s also in paperback. I’m working on edits to book 3, but I’ve been a bit delayed because my day job has really been kicking my butt lately. But hopefully that’s mostly over, and I can get on with life again.
I’ll see you again next week, when we discuss the second episode of Discovery season 3, which strangely enough, is not called That Hope is You Part 2, it’s called Far From Home.
Catch you then.
Live long and prosper.
Make it so.