It’s, ahem, been a long road getting from there to here for the crew of the Discovery, but Captain Saru (Doug Jones) and First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) have now led their friends to the 32nd century’s version of home for Starfleet and the Federation.
And it kind of sucks.
Star Trek: Discovery – Season 3 Photos: “Die Trying”
Is Star Trek: Discovery heading to a “You can’t go home again” place this season? I don’t think it’s quite that, as such a stance would ultimately betray the very notion of Star Trek’s theme of always striving for a better tomorrow. But could this version of Starfleet be heading in the wrong direction? Certainly it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Burnham and co. might wind up having to point the way for the floundering Federation by season’s end. And the Starfleet that the team does find in “Die Trying” isn’t exactly all that welcoming.
But first, what a terrific cold open we get here as the Disco finally arrives at HQ. The excitement, relief and joy of the crew is overwhelming as the ship flies through the distortion field and a fleet of futuristic starships (and Easter Eggs — more on that below) is revealed, all culminating in that classic Star Trek theme music.After the credits, the first thing we see are Saru, Burnham and Adira (Blu del Barrio) as they enter Starfleet headquarters, and the way director Maja Vrvilo shoots this moment makes our characters look like strange, unnatural shapes as they arrive… until the camera pulls focus to sharpen in on them. They are, indeed, strange and unnatural in this futuristic world, and Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr), Commander in Chief of Starfleet, doesn’t exactly make them feel at home. The first thing he tells the trio is that they “picked a hell of a day for a homecoming.” It’s like when you show up for the first day at a new job and nobody can be bothered to even act like they’re happy you’re there.
Of course, Vance does have his hands full, what with trying to keep the Federation together post-Burn, and as he informs his new underlings, Starfleet spent most of the 30th century fighting a temporal war, which basically means the Discovery crew are criminals. (That the writers of this show insert bits like this into their scripts — this is a Star Trek: Enterprise plot thread that is all but forgotten even by most Trekkies these days — is a reminder that this show pays attention to its Trek history.) Fehr is an instant great addition to the show as Vance, the kind of Starfleet hard-ass who is good at his job, even when that job is to crack down on our main characters as much as he can. He’s got no time for Burnham’s interruptions, or any nonsense about Sphere Data (who does?) or Red Angels, and he’s got no problem saying it.So while Vance’s threat looms of disbanding the crew and requisitioning the Discovery, Burnham pushes Saru to essentially go rogue to help find a cure for some sick aliens who Vance’s team are trying to save. She wants to disobey Vance and get ahold of the information needed to find said cure, but Saru chides her even as he quotes her, “Get. Our. Hands. On?” It’s as if Burnham’s year alone in the future has returned her to that place that made her disobey Captain Georgiou all the way back in the series’ pilot. Like Starfleet and the Federation, she has regressed.
Of course, the admiral winds up allowing Burnham to take the ship on that very mission (in search of a “seed vault” starship which holds the key to a cure) because the Disco is still the centerpiece of this show. But first there’s a fun sequence where the crew are being debriefed (“All this is after I got my hair blown out and became a Terran captain slash dominatrix”) that also leads to former Emperor Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) having a run in with… David Cronenberg of all people.
How and why the famed filmmaker wound up in an episode of Star Trek is unclear, but his mysterious character’s interactions with Georgiou help ground the Terran some. She’s often felt over the top and annoying this season, but the writers may have found an in here to give Georgiou more to do than just quip and roll her eyes. Cronenberg’s dry, detached take on his bespectacled interrogator is the rare player who can actually rattle Georgiou, and by the end of the episode we see that whatever went down between the two, the Terran has been deeply affected by the exchange. More on this next week.
Back over in the A story, Rachael Ancheril’s character Nhan seemingly concludes her strange trip on Star Trek: Discovery. Having first appeared last season as a member of Captain Pike’s Enterprise crew who transferred over to the Discovery, the character hasn’t ever really been giving that much to do, and yet Ancheril was granted main cast status this year. But here her run would seem to have come to an end, as she takes over custodial duties of the seed vault. Ancheril gets a nice turn in this segment as we learn more about how she left her family behind forever in order to join Starfleet, but it all winds up feeling like there were bigger plans for the character at some point but things just went in a different direction.
That Nhan’s predecessor on the seed vault, who lost his family in an accident, must be urged by Burnham to accept that he cannot change what has happened also stands as a lesson that Burnham herself might still need to learn. The Burn was the The Burn. It happened. And sure, it’s important to figure out who or what was behind it, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t need to accept the world that the Disco crew now finds itself in. Maybe you can’t go home again, but you do have to figure out how to live where you are now.
Questions and Notes from the Q Continuum:
- I know it’s the far-off future and all, but why would you have a ship that’s composed of holographic containment walls? What happens if the power goes out? Swoosh!
- Some other nerdy 32nd century starship factoids and Easter Eggs: There’s a new Constitution class (Captain Kirk’s Enterprise was Constitution class); some ships are not connected to their warp nacelles; neutronium alloy fibers are in use, but used to be theoretical (and neutronium has been mentioned many times on previous Star Treks); one ship is basically a “flying rainforest,” as Tilly exclaims; there’s still a USS Voyager… the Voyager-J, the eleventh starship to bear that name; and there’s a USS Nog, named after the first Ferengi to join Starfleet, while also serving of course as a tribute to the late actor who played the character on Deep Space Nine, Aron Eisenberg, who sadly passed away last year.
- There are only 38 known member worlds left in the Federation, down from 350 at its peak.
- The Terran Empire fell centuries ago, and the distance between that universe and the main Trek universe has been expanding for centuries. Apparently as a result, there hasn’t been a crossing in over 500 years. (I don’t know how the distance between universes can expand, but dammit Jim, I’m a writer, not a physicist!)
- Gonna hazard a guess here: David Cronenberg’s character is drafting Georgiou to work for the 32nd century’s version of Section 31.
- Guys, no more five-year missions!
- Everyone knows that lullaby that Adira was playing last episode? Is this an “All Along the Watchtower” thing like on Battlestar Galactica?