Ben’s Breakdown | “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 3 Thoughts
One of the biggest dangers that Star Trek: Discovery had to face was trying to pigeonhole new stories into an already existing canon. This was first attempted by Star Trek: Enterprise that suffered from weak storytelling by trying not to violate its canon. Discovery fell apart by telling strong stories but had canon violations that had every longtime Star Trek fan clutching their pearls. They attempted a course correction with its second season that patched up some ugly holes from their first season, but the show could never be what it was meant to be until it could be freed to create new stories that could add to the canon instead of taking away from it. This was finally accomplished by throwing the ship and crew into the 32nd Century. Now with this reboot, the series had to start rebuilding itself. Let me warn you that there will be spoilers ahead!!!
At the start of this season, we see a group of very disconnected people. Commander Michael Burnham, who has been the central character thus far is all alone and now has to find a way to get back to her crew. Along the way, she makes connections and new friends, especially one Cleveland Booker. Meanwhile, the crew of Discovery makes their way to a different place and a slightly different time, but they’re just as much cut off with everything they know to be home as well as feeling slightly cut off emotionally from each other. Now, as they attempt to find their way home they also try to find those ties that originally bound them together as well as rediscover themselves.
A new approach with this season was the arc within an arc as well as multiple overall story arcs that created an incredible tapestry of storytelling. Along the way, the writers found ways to brilliantly turn the canon on its head, but at no time take anything away from it. This was done by giving us some incredible surprises that called back to the history of this beloved franchise and in some cases delivering double-whammies. In one jaw-dropping episode we are re-introduced to the Guardian Of Forever (previously seen from the Harlan Ellison penned episode “City On The Edge Of Forever”) who then goes into deeper detail regarding a Temporal War (that was told in the first season of Star Trek: Enterprise). We are also introduced to a fleet of Starfleet starships that bore some historically significant names that had fans buzzing for days on social media. It could be argued that some of these were attempts by the writers to say, “Look and see how clever we are!” Then again, what we saw may very well have been efforts to pay homage to this franchise’s history. Regardless of the motive, these moments worked for they not only delighted fans all over, but they helped to add to the canon and universe that is Star Trek.
At the same what we were seeing was about the hope that comes from being a member of Starfleet. Even as the Discovery traveled from place to place, first in their search for Starfleet, and then later as they sought out the cause for this singular event called The Burn, the crew of Discovery left an impression with the people they encountered that inevitably left the idea that there is always a better way to handle the problems they’re forced to deal with. This is an idea that I have no doubt Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry would have greatly appreciated where positive ideals and social justice could and would prevail. It also means that they shouldn’t allow themselves to be rolled over by a dark or dangerous enemy and they would defend themselves to the end to uphold those values that they hold dear. Even as the season came to an end we finally see one journey end for Burnham as she finally starts a new one signifying a new beginning for Starfleet and a rebirth of the United Federation of Planets.
As always the cast for this series has been outstanding, both veterans of this show as well as newcomers, bringing with them new ideas that have social relevance for today. The series broke significant ground by introducing us to our very first same-sex couple in Lt. Cmdr. Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber (both played by out gay actors Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz), and then took it a new level by introducing this year the non-binary character Adira (Blu del Barrio) as a human carrying a Trill symbiont they inherited from their boyfriend Gray Tal (Ian Alexander). From them, we are given a beautiful display of what a true family means as Adira, and even to some interesting degree Gray whom for the most part only Adira has been able to see, become a part of Stamets’s and Culber’s lives.
Even Cmdr. Saru (masterfully played by Doug Jones) finds a new family after meeting Su’Kal (Bill Irwin) and the relationship between Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Booker (David Ajala) takes on a deeper and more significant turn. If there is any complaint that I have to offer it is in something that Martin-Green does in almost every episode that is this need to have to whisper at any given moment. This is not something that we see from anyone else in the cast, but Martin-Green feels the need to do this when it doesn’t feel necessary. Other than that, her contribution to the show has been excellent, and to see her become Captain of the Discovery is a major moment that harkens back to the original series when we saw Nichelle Nichols as a Bridge officer on the Enterprise. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told Nichols that she was now seen as a major player on the bridge of a starship during a very turbulent time where equal treatment and equal rights for people of color was a hot button issue for the day.
Now, we see that representation again only this time we have a woman of color as the captain of a starship. This is the hope for the future that Roddenberry dreamt of and to see that representation helps to further the idea that society does prosper in the presence of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Lastly, the one character who has grown in ways that no one could have expected is that of Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). Her character growth from a shy and nervous officer to someone who is promoted to Number One (a somewhat controversial move since she was still ranked as an Ensign) gave Wiseman the ability to show her range by taking her from that aforementioned nervous officer to someone who knew how to take charge in the face of insurmountable odds. Watching Wiseman play this role has made Tilly one of the most popular characters in the entire series.
This final season has faced plenty of discussion between fans who either loved or hated it. Where the division falls and why it does is something that I’ve not been able to determine, but I will say that I am delighted with how far Star Trek: Discovery has come in its three years on CBS All Access and it pleases me, even more, to say that Star Trek is back!
2 thoughts on “Ben’s Breakdown | “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 3 Thoughts”
“Star Trek is back”: YES. I hope so.
While I’ve enjoyed a lot of the episodes of Disco, I’ve not been happy with the overall storylines of Seasons 1 and 2 (in fact, active dislike is probably more accurate). Throwing the crew forward nearly a millennium was the ultimate reset button.
The constant “impossible situations” and gigantic plot WTHs this season was a distraction, and there were parts of episodes that were fun and exciting. But I liked the story of trying to solve The Burn, even though that story was suborned most of the time.
So I think there was a lot of wasted time this season, but less than the first two seasons. I hope hope hope that Season 4 will finally get back to exploring both some strange new worlds, but also showing where some of our old friends and adversaries have gone in the past 900+ years (where are the Kiingons?). I have also wanted Star Trek to explore some of the species that we only had one encounter with (for example, the Horta).
So, great characters, a good framework that’s a clean story palette, hopefully Season 4 can only go up from here. And Saru, the most compelling character of all of them, had better not be gone long.
I love it! You nailed all my favorite points from the season, and I love the analogy to ENTERPRISE’s unsuccessful attempt to build new canon.
I think one of my favorite examples of how this series has evolved is in the very last episode. Book knows Burnham needs back-up. And he’s with the now-freed Starfleet scientists and officers. So what does he do? He guards their escape, because they’re the best chance Burnham has at getting help. I LOVE THAT. I am so tired of sci-fi where the main male hero is allowed to blunder into every situation simply because he’s a male hero. Or say whatever he wants to say with no consequence. There were real stakes in this episode, and Book made the best choice to help the woman he loved — he gave the lead to someone qualified. And that’s just one echo at how the series gives all its characters a chance to shine. I really think this is one of the most flawlessly execute seasons of sci-fi I’ve seen — it definitely ranks high on my (aging, always aging) list…..