Star Trek: Discovery has finally become the show it wanted to be all along. Season 3 episode 1 begins by stripping away the last vestiges of Star Trek left in the series and going full Star Wars with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) alone, bumping around in strange alien environments and shooting things with her blaster. She even takes off her Starfleet Delta shield. Anyone tuning in to the show without watching the credits would never know this is Star Trek at all.
As a new Star Wars show set in a far distant future, Star Trek: Discovery season 3 episode 1 is excellent. It puts together a coherent, easy to under narrative (something Discovery has never managed to do before) and sets our hero Michael Burnham on a clear path which should lead to numerous exciting adventures. I’m looking forward to it. Still, it would be nice if there was a live-action Star Trek series out there that fans of Star Trek could actually watch. I guess we’ll have to make due with the animated excellence of Lower Decks.
Star Trek: Discovery is also no longer divided between focusing on Michael Burnham and fleshing out a starship crew ensemble. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 episode 1 jettisons the Discovery and her crew out a narrative airlock. They don’t appear at all here, instead they’re a future goal for Burnham, the reason for the journey she’s about to go on. Presumably they’ll show up at some point in the season, but Disco seems in no hurry to get them involved in what’s going on.
As a viewer, I hope Star Trek: Discovery takes its time about bringing Saru and his crew back into the story. As a rule I like Saru (Doug Jones), Stahmets (Anthony Rapp) and the crew of the Discovery far more than I like Michael Burnham, but I like good writing and coherent narratives even more than I like those characters. Without them involved to make things complicated, this episode is the best piece of television the show has produced so far. It’s not Star Trek, (it’s not even something that resembles Star Trek) but it’s solid adventure television and that’s more than I can say for anything foisted upon us in the show’s previous uneven, plot hole riddled seasons.
It helps that the new character introduced by the show, an environmentalist Han Solo type named Book (David Ajala), balances Michael Burnham out a little. Where she’s an idealistic fountain of technobabble dialogue, he’s calm and practical and not that interested in most of what she’s telling him. Their dynamic works, it works in a way Michael Burnham has never worked as a character on her own.
In the opening moments Discovery makes it clear that what they’re doing here is no accident. Michael Burnham’s first act on arriving in the future is to blow up her time travel suit and flush it down a wormhole. It’s a signal to the audience that everything this show has done before, most of which made no sense, is now gone. They’re in the future now, a future where Star Trek: Discovery will have actual writers who write actual stories that make actual sense. At least that’s what this season 3 seems to be promising. Here’s hoping they deliver.
For once, I’m confident that Star Trek: Discovery may actually have found it’s sweet spot. My hope is that they’ve given up on being half Star Wars half Star Trek, and are simply going full Star Wars and moving on. My hope is that they’ll abandon this weird pretense of being an ensemble show and simply make everything totally about Michael Burnham. Because Michael Burnham is what this show has always wanted to be about. The rest is just a sad attempt to keep Star Trek fans happy while also servicing their own commitment to going full Burnham for some unknown reason. The result of those half measures has been a mess. Now those half-measures are gone and suddenly Star Trek: Discovery is no longer a mess. It’s not the show anyone wanted, but now it’s committed to being the show it actually is.
I still want an actual Star Trek show, but Discovery wasn’t doing anyone any favors by giving the idea of Star Trek a half-commitment. By jumping into the future for season 3, they have an opportunity to be something else. And apparently that something else is a Star Wars styled ripoff of the Kevin Sorbo series Andromeda. So far, they’re doing a pretty good job of it. Carry on Michael Burnham, carry on.