Ben’s Breakdown | “Star Trek: Discovery” – Season 3:Three Episode Thoughts
In an attempt to escape the malevolent intelligence known as “Control”, Commander Michael Burnham is going to take vital information into the far future (900 years to be precise) and out of loyalty, the crew of the USS Discovery will be following her with the full knowledge that they will be leaving their friends and family behind in the 23rdCentury.
If there is one thing that I cannot abide by it is a reboot. This is where either a new series is introduced based on the existence of a prior one, or a current series is put in the position of radically changing direction and tone moving forward. While the former has been fairly common over the last several years, the latter can be the most dangerous to attempt. Many series have “jumped the shark” by attempting a reboot in the hopes of rejuvenating the show and gaining a new audience. Not many manage to pull it off. Luckily, Star Trek: Discovery did just that.
One of the problems that this series had was to launch it during a time where Star Trek canon was mostly pretty well established and after a disastrous first season where the show’s canon was all but jettisoned out of the nearest air-lock, the series attempted a serious course-correction that improved on the storytelling of each episode, but still dealt with some nagging questions regarding the show’s canon. Make no mistake, the episodes in season 2 were a massively huge improvement that brought about new fans as well as making old Trek fans excited again to see what each new episode would bring. Then came this sudden move to throw the series into the 32nd Century, establishing it further into the future than any previous Trek installment ever went. This managed to put the series into a world without too many constraints and would allow for the establishment of new elements that could be added to the current book of canon. All that was now left is, how would these episodes be told? What would our characters do in this new frontier, and would it even be recognizable as Star Trek? The answer is a simple, but enthusiastic YES!
From the moment each of our primary characters entered into this new century they have been challenged by the chaos and lawlessness that permeates everywhere they go, and yet they abide by the principles of what it means to be in Starfleet. The organization, along with the Federation, may no longer exist as they knew it, but that doesn’t stop them from living by higher standards and setting examples to those they meet of what it means to be Starfleet. From the ending of the first episode where Burnham meets a non-commissioned communications operator, we see what Starfleet means to both her and this person she meets. After granting him a field promotion (which she can do since she is the senior officer present) they both raise the UFP flag in a moment of pure triumph signifying that the ideals of the Federation are not dead. They may be scattered, but not dead. Later, when Saru and Ensign Tilly help some locals from the tyranny of a criminal they continue to remind the people there of what it means to adhere to the values of Starfleet. Finally, when a reunited crew travel to Earth (their spore-drive is still active) they find themselves in the middle of a conflict between an Earth military/police group and some raiders from the Saturn moon of Titan. After Burnham manages a face-to-face meeting it is learned that those Titan raiders are people of Earth who have been abandoned and forgotten, thus opening up an actual dialogue in the hopes of achieving peace. The result makes quite an impression on the Captain of the military/police force, once again reminding others that the ideals of Starfleet continue to resonate and have value.
While past series from the Star Trek franchise has succeeded despite existing firmly in the universe we know as The Federation, namely Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, placing the heart of the story outside of that world has not always been successful. Star Trek (the original series) did exist (and obviously succeeded) in that world, but this was a series that was in the process of world-building, establishing the universe with each new episode that would become the foundation for the entire franchise. Other shows sort of stumbled at first. With Star Trek: Voyager we saw our heroes dropped in an area of space as far away from home as they could imagine. This forced them to travel back and meet alien species and worlds that were outside of their experience. While the writers did their best to help these characters maintain their principles, by placing them so far away from home, as well as making the crew of the ship rather small compared to the different crews of the varying Enterprises we have seen, the Voyager crew was forced to improvise in ways that may not have been deemed appropriate by those in charge of Starfleet. As enjoyable as Voyager may have been, there were far too many compromises. This then leaves the series Enterprise where there were no rules as there was no Federation. Instead, we saw humans blunder about and make a myriad of mistakes as they tried to establish a presence in interstellar space. With Discovery we see something significantly different. With each of these first three episodes we see Burnham, along with the crew of the Discovery, continually remind themselves and those around them that the Starfleet principles have value no matter where and when they are. These are the values that build and reinforce hope for a better world and a better tomorrow. On the surface it might come off as “preachy,” but the positive message is nonetheless received. From its very beginning, Star Trek was always a show that spoke to our better natures. It taught us that we could elevate ourselves and become better people. In a time that we currently live in where hopelessness and hatred are abundant, hearing such messages in a TV show is a reminder that utopia has to be earned and achieved, and that is the message that these first three episodes delivered to the world that Burnham and Discovery found themselves in, as well as to those in our world today who have the eyes to see and ears to hear it.
After going three for three with this third season I will continue to see, with great excitement, what new adventures await the crew of Star Trek: Discovery.