Season 3 of Star Trek Discovery has hit our screens over the past few days and it seems to have started strong if a little one-sidedly. Of all the incarnations of Star Trek Discovery has suffered the most from fan backlash. I am not an apologist for the show but I am able to overlook some of the issues encountered.
The core problem was its positioning, setting the show in the 2260’s made sense when it was originally discussed as an anthology show with each series exploring a different time period. As soon as they decided to set the whole series there the tight plot necessary for an anthology was lost. We ended up with a series that wanted to be modern and relevant but stuck it in a preestablished past, they essentially tied their hands.
Season 2 tried to revive the show in terms of visual look and feel and did much to elevate the show but much of this was do to the addition of Pike and Spock. However they were still tied creatively. The writers wanted to explore particular themes and ideas but were boxed in by established canon and storytelling. On reflection Seasons 1 and 2 now appear to the premiere story for what Discovery could really be now in season 3. Pushing the story into virgin territory give the writers the canvas they wanted to tell their stories on. They are no longer constrained by canon.
This lack of constraint was felt very deeply on the Season 3 opener, That Hope is You Pt 1. It picks up right after the close of last season and sees Burnham exit the wormhole and crash into a ship and planet. She discovers a universe in turmoil, the Federation is gone and there are new dynamics. We are introduced to a new character, Book, who is to be our guide in this new space and he is a lot of fun, even if he is already looking to be her new love interest.
The episode evoked a new feeling of Star Trek and it felt unfamiliar. As a long term Star Trek fan in the last two seasons I was constantly looking for Easter eggs and many reveals were not a surprise due to my knowledge of the lore. Here the outlook is blank, I still look for tidbits, we are the Andorians and Orions working together? Why did the dilithium burn? But I felt as if I was on this voyage of ‘discovery’ alongside Burnham.
I loved the ecological message of Books role and the alien-ness of the Trans worm (silly name though). I liked the new technology which now seemed more in place in this future. I like the concept of a struggling Federation even if it is a little too like Andromeda (At least that was a Roddenberry IP too).
This season promises much and I think which ever route they take should have a good pay off as long as they do not root it too much in the past. Here is a chance to forge a new story. In effect we could get to see the second founding of the Federation a story which we should have got with Enterprise with the Federations first founding.
My biggest criticism of the episode was the lack of the actual Discovery and the rest of her crew. The show works best as an ensemble piece and it needs to move away from the Burnham show. Burnham is a character that is growing, she is much changed from the Vulcan-esque upright officer of the Vulcan Hello. She is understandably upset about being trapped in the future, but what did the past hold for her, a disgraced officer, an estranged adopted brother (although some reconciliation had occurred) and her adopted parents. Her friends are all on Discovery and I hope we get to see them soon, ideally all of next episode. I want to see Saru decisively in command and stepping up to the plate. I want Tilly to ground herself more although she more than most may miss the past.
I am quietly optimistic about this season, Discovery has a chance now to be itself, unconstrained. There is enough Trek around that different series can appeal to different people and I hope that it finds its place this years and forges new paths ahead.