****STARBASE-SIZED SPOILERS AHEAD!!****
Forgive the lateness of this column, but unfortunately the horrific events of yesterday’s attempted armed coup at the heart of the United States’ government was very upsetting. It took me a bit longer to lose myself again in a fantasy universe after witnessing such an unsettling reality unfold. However, Star Trek is good therapy for recharging one’s optimism, so here we go with this overview of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season finale, “That Hope is You, Part 2” (the title bookends with the third season opener, “That Hope is You, Part 1,” ).
Written by series producer and showrunner Michelle Paradise, and directed by series director/producer Olatunde Osunsanmi, “That Hope is You, Part 2” wraps up the “Die Hard”-like hijacking of Discovery by the Emerald Chain from “There Is A Tide”, and ends the 125-year long divisive conundrum known as “the Burn.” It also promises a lot of potential changes to the series for next year…
“That Hope Is You, Part 2.”
Opening on the dilithium planet in the radiation-drenched Verubin Nebula, Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Captain Saru (Doug Jones) are still stranded in the holo-world of Su’kal (Bill Irwin), awaiting the arrival of the Discovery which, unbeknownst to them, has been hijacked by the forces of the Emerald Chain. Created by the crashed Kelpien starship Ki’eth for Su’kal’s benefit, the “holo” as its called, renders the landing party as different species; with Culber appearing Bajoran and Saru appearing human (Doug Jones, sans makeup). They are joined by Adira (Blu del Barrio) who smuggled aboard the Nautilus and was dropped off by Booker (David Ajala) before he returned with Michael to Discovery. Adira appears as an unknown alien species when they meet the grateful landing party with much-needed radiation meds. The medications buy Culber, Saru and Adira some time until Discovery can return to beam them back. Another surprise comes in the form of Adira’s dead Trill lover, Gray (Ian Alexander), who has previously appeared to Adira in a form that only Adira could see; but now Gray is visible to Culber and Saru as well. However, instead of appearing as a Trill, Gray has the pointed ears and eyebrows of a Vulcan (Ni’Varan).
Meanwhile, at Federation Headquarters, negotiations between Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) and Osyrra (Janet Kidder) have broken down and hostilities have broken out. The other ships of the fleet contained within the massive cloaked forcefield bubble of the Federation begin firing on the pirated Discovery, trying to stop the ship from taking her unique and valued spore drive back to the Emerald Chain. The spore-drive is inoperable at the moment, since the ship’s sole spore-drive operator Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) has been violently ejected from the ship (over his passionate objection) by Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin Green) to keep his unique skillset out of the Chain’s hands. Stamets is still pissed at Michael for leaving his lover Hugh and their adopted teen Adira on the dilithium planet in the Verubin Nebula. Beamed safely back aboard the Headquarters main base, Stamets pleads with Admiral Vance to return, but the admiral refuses, since Discovery is currently under Osyrra’s control, and the risk of losing the valuable Stamets once again is too great.
With Osyrra’s command ship, the Viridian, pounding the outer forcefield bubble of Federation Headquarters with weapons fire, and Federation ships trading fire with Discovery within, Vance and Kovich (famed director David Cronenberg) are conferring on what to do. The admiral tells Kovich that Discovery may have to be sacrificed, rather than allow the ship’s too-valuable spore drive to fall into the Chain’s hands; it’d be only a matter of time before they could eventually reverse-engineer the near instantaneous jump drive, and have free run of the galaxy.
Note: Once again, we see famed director David Cronenberg (“Scanners”, “The Fly,”) returning for a very brief appearance in this final episode of the season. While his bespectacled character “Kovich” doesn’t have a specific title or obvious role, he seems to be a jack-of-all-trades; psychiatrist, interrogator, and general busybody. It’s still a bit strange to see the famous director take such a small role in the series; like Alfred Hitchcock playing a redshirt in TOS.
On the bridge of Discovery, Osyrra and her ‘regulators’ (soldiers) bring the captured Michael Burnham and Booker to the bridge. Booker refuses to give Osyrra the course back to the dilithium planet. Michael taunts Osyrra, wondering why she can’t simply pull the course from the ship herself. Osyrra then takes great joy in slapping the troublesome Michael hard, but Michael keeps her cool, refusing to take the bait. There is an announcement from Osyrra’s aide Zareh (Jake T. Webber), “Insurrectionists are headed to the bridge.” Michael smiles smugly, “We are Starfleet,” and Osyrra is not pleased; ship’s acting captain Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is leading that team of “insurrectionists,” which includes her fellow bridge officers Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), Detmer (Emily Coutts), Bryce (Ronnie Rowe Jr) and Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) as well as a few hovering DOT-23 maintenance drones containing the ship’s sentient Red Sphere data. Booker is taken to sickbay for torture, where Michael will be forced to watch.
To stop the insurrectionists from re-taking the bridge, Osyrra shuts off life-support systems to their current location on Deck 5. Tilly and her group of insurrectionists immediately feel “wind” as life support gases bleed out into space. Thinking quickly, they make their way to a turbolift in the hopes of escaping the slowly depressurizing section. Meanwhile, outside of Federation Headquarters, a fleet of Ni’Varan (Vulcan-Romulan) ships answered Michael’s distress call, and are coming to assist their former allies at Federation Headquarters. The Ni’varan “Razor” ships begin firing on the Viridian, and the formerly lopsided battle is evened up.
Note: We see some of the DOTs easily destroyed in a firefight with Osyrra’s regulators on Deck 5. Good thing the one containing the actual Sphere Data wasn’t taken out. At first I wasn’t sure, but it becomes clear later on that the Sphere Data DOT-23 was saved, and eventually repaired, by Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) and Stamets.
Trying to prevent Booker’s torture and save the lives of Tilly and her team, Michael convinces Osyrra to allow her to hail Admiral Vance. Appearing before the Admiral, Michael pleads to be let go. She begs Vance, with whom she’s not always seen eye-to-eye, to trust her. Reluctant to allow the spore drive from falling into Chain hands, Vance agrees to let Michael go. The Discovery warps away, followed by the Viridian. The Ni’Varan Razors and the USS Voyager-J follow as well, just in case.
Note: The USS Voyager NCC-74656-J is, of course, a direct descendent of the original Delta quadrant-hopping starship from Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001).
Meanwhile, Saru tries to bond with Su’kal, the ‘super-child’ whose mysterious emotional outburst 125 years ago caused “the Burn” in the first place, stranding all dilithium-driven warp powered starships throughout the galaxy. Afraid to trigger Su’kal and unwittingly cause another Burn, Saru has the delicate task of acclimating Su’kal to the ‘real world’ beyond a mysterious doorway—a doorway that Su’kal is terribly afraid to enter. The doorway is also guarded by a mysterious nebulous monster from Kelpien mythology; a mythical creature that Kelpiens are supposed to face in order to overcome adversity. Preparing a home cooked Kelpien meal for Su’kal, Saru begins to reveal incremental truths to the emotionally stunted man-child. When Su’kal asks Saru how a human learned to prepare Kelpien food, Saru goes with the truth…he is also Kelpien. Saru also reveals that he and his friends are sentient as well.
Pressed about why he appears human, Saru tells Su’kal that the holo masks their true appearances in order to make them more relatable. Su’kal confesses that he knows the door leads to the outside world, but is terrified to open it, since it traumatized him as a child. Su’kal was told many years ago that the Federation was supposed to come for him, but they never did. He felt abandoned. With Saru reluctant to explain exactly why he was abandoned, Su’kal shouts an ear-splitting, “TELL MEEEEE!!!” which causes the entire holo to reverberate with his artificially amplified voice. Trying to calm Su’kal, Saru gently tells him that they did come for him—they are here for him now. Gaining Su’kal’s trust, he tells him that the holo was created by his dying mother as a means to raise her radiation-immune child after her passing. In order understand to totality of his world, Su’kal must be brave enough to walk through the doorway.
Note: Once again, the notion of an emotionally stunted being raised by holograms in a fantasy environment has multiple possible meanings for a viewer. The holo could be a metaphor for the internet, social media, or video gaming, where people can easily lose themselves for hours at a time in fantasy environments. Sometimes the artificial environment also acts as a safe space for those who experience real-world trauma, or who suffer from difficulty with real world social interactions. During this time of the COVID pandemic, it’s more easy than ever to lose one’s self in a colorful virtual existence that is much safer than our riskier, sometimes less appealing ‘real’ world. Su’kai also reminds me of TOS’ lonely superpowered teenager Charles Evans, in the Dorothy Fontana-scripted classic “Charlie X.”
In sickbay, Osyrra and her lackey Zareh are going to use a “neural lock” headband to torture Booker, bringing him levels of pain that could be fatal, especially for a naturally empathic Kwejian like Booker. Disabled scientist Auriello (Kenneth Mitchell), whom Osyrra rescued by allowing him to serve her, pleads with her to show Booker the same mercy she once showed him. Auriello says he knows she has a good heart. Osyrra states that Orions like herself have complex hearts, with six valves; their blood flows in all directions.
In a sudden violent move, she grabs the hoverchair-bound scientist by the throat and strangles him into unconsciousness. Zareh applies the neural lock, as Michael pleads for them to stop, but Zareh mansplains to her that this is what is called a “no win” situation. Clenching her teeth, Michael says, “I don’t believe in those!” Booker lets out cries of pure agony as the torturous band is turned up to maximum intensity. Michael begs them to stop, promising them that she will talk to Booker. The guards let her get close to Booker’s bio-bed (dumb move, guys…)
Note: Michael’s line echoes that of Admiral James T. Kirk in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982), who told Lt. Saavik, “I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.” This was in answer to her question about why he reprogrammed the infamous Kobayashi Maru simulator test at Starfleet Academy, where a cadet is placed in a no-win scenario in order to gauge how they deal with stress and loss. Kirk cheated, hence he never faced the no-win scenario. One wonders how Michael, a contemporary of Kirk’s, dealt with the test when she was a cadet.
Once close to him, she activates the emergency containment forcefield around the bio-bed, and grabbed a stunned regulator’s weapon, which she immediately uses to kill him and take a weary Booker out of sickbay. The containment forcefield is strong enough to keep Osyrra’s forces locked out, as Michael uses it as a shield to escape right in front of them. Osyrra growls after the fleeing Michael and Booker in frustration.
Note: While Osyrra was shaping up to be the big bad for this season, Janet Kidder’s performance ranged from campy Batman-TV series villain to genuine menace. Unfortunately, in this episode, with her quasi-British accent and silly growls, she’s back to playing the one dimensional Osyrra we saw earlier in the season. This week marked a step backward for the character, which was a shame, since last week saw her make a genuine stride towards reunification with the Federation. Personally I find it much more interesting to see a ‘villain’ with a genuine grievance to be addressed rather than a shallow, campy Catwoman wannabe. Fortunately, it’s also the last time we’ll see Osyrra since Michael kills her later on…
With the oxygen levels on their deck running low, Tilly and her insurgents try to decide on a course of action. They notice that Owosekun is holding out the best, since she used to hold her breath for up to ten minutes at a time; an ability she learned in her her youth spent diving for abalone off the Ogbunike caves in Nigeria (file this under important info for later). Rhys is unable to crack the Chain coding in the computer, suggesting that the only way to clear it all out would be a hard reboot of the entire computer core, resetting Discovery’s drives to their original operating systems. Over the intercom, they hear an alert from Zareh; immediately Tilly realizes “It’s Michael!” Hacking into the ship’s intercom herself, Michael sends a carefully worded code message specifically for Tilly’s ears, reminding her of her “birthday party,” and how sorry she was they couldn’t have fireworks, because “nothing stops a party like fireworks.” Tilly remembers a birthday she spent hiding in the ship’s nacelle once, where Michael came to visit her and they had drinks. She puts two and two together, and realizing that Michael is telling her to try and decouple one of the ship’s warp nacelles with an improvised explosive, which would drop the ship out of warp and allow Voyager and the Ni’Varan Razors to catch up to them. Unfortunately, the maintenance drones aren’t up to the task, so Tilly realizes they have to do it themselves.
Note: Once again with the “Die Hard” as Bruce Willis’ John McClane would send coded messages via his walkie-talkie. It also reminded me once again of “The Wrath of Khan,” where Spock sent Kirk a coded message of how “hours could seem like days” to fool Khan. How Khan didn’t see through that paper-thin ruse is beyond me; at least Michael’s intercom message was one that only Tilly would possibly understand.
On the dilithium planet, Saru is still trying to convince the traumatized Su’kal to go beyond the door, but with no success. Meanwhile Culber, Adira and Gray realize there is a hole in the destabilizing holo wall nearby. Culber thinks it could lead to the other sections of the Ki’eth, but he can’t approach it without exposing himself to more radiation, which would overtax his dosage of anti-radiation medication. Gray, who is non-corporeal now, volunteers to go. Adira objects, but realizes Gray is right since he can’t be harmed by radiation in his current spectral state. As Gray slowly walks towards the shimmering section of wall, his appearance temporarily reverts back to his true Trill self, spots and all.
Note: Strictly a cosmetic observation, but actor Ian Alexander makes a very interesting Vulcan. His features lend themselves particularly well to that Star Trek race. Now that Gray is seemingly back in Adira’s life (with Culber promising to make him ‘visible’ again outside of the holo), I hope we’ll see more of Star Trek’s first openly trans-male actor in the next season.
Alone with his ‘adopted child’ as Gray investigates, Culber tells Adira that he suspects Su’kal is a polypoid; a being adapted in-vitro to their surrounding environment, which allows them a better chance of survival after birth. Since dilithium has a natural subspace component, it’s reasonable that the polypoid Su’kal uses it unwittingly to amplify his own emotional states throughout subspace as well–the very source of the Burn 125 years ago; an uncontrolled emotional outburst from Su’kal that somehow spread across subspace, destroying the dilithium crystals operating in space vehicles which were actively using their warp drives. Culber states that whatever scared Su’kal as a child all those years ago must’ve been infinitely terrifying.
Gray returns shortly with bad news; the hole does indeed reach other parts of the Ki’eth, but the ship is rapidly falling apart, which is causing the current defragmentation of their holo environment. As the holo begins to collapse as well, the various characters within disappear, including the Kelpien elder with whom Saru was conversing earlier. The only creature remaining is the wispy, smoky creature from Kelpien mythology which seemed to be preventing Su’kal from entering the doorway to the outside. Based on Saru’s conversations with the Elder, he deduces that the creature is actually challenging Su’kal to overcome his fears and step through it. Saru urges Su’kal to “take us to that world.”
As Tilly’s bridge officers-turned-commandos make their way towards the nacelles, the ever-thinning oxygen levels from the deactivated life-support are wearing them out. Realizing that their remaining canister of oxygen isn’t enough for all of them to complete the sabotage mission, Tilly gives Owosekun the canister, telling her she has to complete the mission by herself. Detmer, Rhys and Tilly all collapse to the deck, gasping their last breaths. Owosekun takes the canister, says a heartfelt goodbye to her asphyxiating friends, and leaves.
Note: As much as I appreciated Owosekun’s need for heartfelt farewells, I really don’t think stopping to say goodbye (even for a few seconds) while her friends are gasping for air was such a good idea, but this is television. We watch for the drama, right?
Meanwhile, Booker and Michael find themselves pinned down in a corridor by enemy fire while attempting to access a turbolift. Michael says she needs “two minutes,” but an overwhelmed Booker talks her down to 15 seconds as he fires into the regulators at the other end of the corridor. Michael manages to gain access to the turbolifts, overriding the Chain code, and they beat a hasty retreat.
Realizing that she needs to reach Discovery’s computer core post haste, Michael opens the top of the turbolift car and leaps onto one going in the right direction (I know, I know…physics say that jump should’ve killed her, but movie/TV physics prevail). Jumping into the car she quickly overpowers a regulator riding inside. She once again overrides the Chain code in order to reach the computer core.
Note: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; the design of the ship’s turbolift system makes NO logistical sense whatsoever. The reimagined turbolift network (seen from outside the cars) seems infinitely huge and labyrinthine for a ship of such finite interior size. Discovery’s hulls are also much too flattened to contain this humongous system, which is more like something out of Doctor Who’s Time Lord technology than Star Trek.
An escaping Booker enters another turbolift car, carrying Zareh and a regulator, with whom he gets into a nasty fight (the regulator somehow choosing not to fire on him for some reason…?). The regulator is overpowered when the open-doored car is forced to a sudden stop by Booker. Zareh makes the fatal mistake about making a fat joke regarding Booker’s beloved cat, Grudge, wondering how big a splatter the animal would make if it fell from their current altitude. Booker gets a surge of anger-fueled adrenaline (a running joke) and kicks Zareh out of the car, watching him fall to his death down the infinite turbolift network, proudly proclaiming, “She’s a queen!!”
Note: Once again, people fall to their deaths down seemingly infinite turbolift shafts on finite-sized starships (see: the Viceroy’s death in 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis”). Seriously, just how BIG is this damn ship? Really now?
Owosekun gasping for air herself, after a long climb, finally enters the starboard nacelle. She manages to complete her mission by the help of the DOT-23 maintenance drone carrying the sentient Red Sphere data. The power flow to the nacelle is interrupted. Owosekun, however, can’t go on. Even her near-superhuman to hold her breath has reached its limit. Her guardian angel arrives in the form of the faithful DOT drone, which (somehow) manages to pull the exhausted Owosekun out of the warp nacelle. Discovery’s forcefield connection to the warp nacelle (part of her 32nd century upgrade) fails, and the ship promptly drops out of warp…
Note: The visual effects of this episode are feature film quality; from the cavernous warp nacelle interior (recalling Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Eye of the Beholder”) to the shots of Discovery’s starboard nacelle falling away. While I realize this show has its detractors (each branch of the Star Trek franchise has its fans and non-fans), one area that is unassailable is the consistent quality of both the visuals and production design of the series. Star Trek has never looked better.
Reaching the computer core, Michael quickly takes out a couple of regulators with a few well-placed shots. She’s waiting for more danger, and sure enough, it comes; Osyrra is waiting for her and the two are about to go at it, when Osyrra receives a warning message warning that the starboard warp nacelle is detached and that the ship is no longer at warp. Before the ship can be rescued by the pursuing USS Voyager and the Ni’Var fleet, Osyrra orders her massive warship Viridian to haul the ship into its immense hangar bay. “We are not losing this ship!” she seethes.
After successfully towing the Discovery and her detached warp nacelle into the Viridian, Michael and Osyrra get into it. Still smarting over both her rejected truce offer to the Federation, the green with envy Osyrra (sorry; had to go there) turns her rage and venom onto her troublesome insurgent, Michael. Throttling Michael’s throat in the same way she’d previously choked Auriello, she forced the overpowered Michael into a wall of flexible computer chips (?), shoving the Starfleet officer completely into the sea of computer memory. Michael disappears.
The computer core room is silent for a moment as Osyrra cocks her green head in triumph—just before she’s shot by one of her own Chain rifles. She collapses. Michael emerges, rifle in hand, still spitting a few computer chips from her mouth, as she states triumphantly, “I never quit!” With Osyrra out of the equation, Michael begins preparing the computer core for the hard reboot by reinstalling the computer components, guessing which slots in which the last two belong. The lights dim, and the still-active computer voice transitions from the Emerald Chain’s male voice back to the Starfleet standard female voice. Like the proverbial genie, the restored computer is awaiting Michael Burnham’s further commands, and she begins giving the system a series of orders: “Restore life support systems, beam the regulators off the ship, and restore the shields!” A triumphant Michael then opens a ship-wide channel to “any crew who can hear me, report to the bridge!”
With life-support restored, Tilly and her merry band of bridge officers slowly awaken to fresh oxygen, realizing that their comrade Owosekun was somehow pulled from the nacelle by the tiny DOT-23, which tells Owosekun that rescuing her was “an honor,” right before collapsing dead itself, its power cells exhausted. We then cut to the bridge officers arriving on the bridge, where they see Michael, who beams in gratitude at the sight of her shipmates. She warns helm officer Detmer that she ship’s computer has been restored to its pre-32nd century operating system, which suits stick-‘n-rudder pilot Detmer just fine! Michael begins giving orders, and then stops—realizing that Ensign Tilly is still the acting captain, but a grateful Tilly gladly relinquishes command to her friend. Tilly tells Michael that if it makes her feel better, consider it an order.
Note: So ends Saru’s interesting experiment of leaving Tilly in command while he was away. Turns out she is able to make some hard choices, such as sending Owosekun into the nacelle by herself to complete the sabotage mission, realizing she’d hold out better than the rest of them. Arguably, she also lost her ship to Osyrra’s forces with very little effort, but so what? That is the same thing that has happened to literally every Starfleet captain in every Star Trek series. Having her ship rapidly boarded and captured is not a failure on Tilly’s part, any more than Kirk’s USS Enterprise being overrun by Kelvans, Klingons, tribbles or space hippies.
Michael takes the center seat, and orders them to prepare to eject the warp core, the explosion of which will blow up Osyrra’s ship, allowing them to escape. She opens a channel to warn the pursuing USS Voyager and Ni’Varan Razors to safe-distance themselves. Without their warp drive, the ship’s primary propulsion will be its spore-drive system. But with Stamets off of the ship, who will operate it? The consensus is that the naturally empathic Kwejian Booker is the man for the job. Lacking Stamets’ tardigrade DNA, Booker’s affinity for communicating with living things makes him the only one who can reach across the mycelium network. His lover Michael orders Booker beamed directly into the spore drive chamber, where he places his hands into the gelatinous hand controls, trying to get a feel for them.
Note: While I see their reasoning for the Dr. Doolittle-esque Booker being the ideal man for interfacing with the spore-drive’s mycelium network, isn’t there a lot more to it than just feeling the ‘shrooms? From what Stamets has said, it’s also about being able to visualize the spatial coordinates in your head and all of that. Oh well. It works well enough in a pinch, but I wonder how Stamets will react to Michael’s boyfriend getting the keys to his spore drive after he was blasted off the ship? Stamets is still deeply pissed at Michael for wrapping him up in a forcefield and blowing him out of a bulkhead into a vacuum, so I don’t think he’ll take too kindly to the idea. Just saying.
The ship is ordered to ‘black alert.’ The familiar klaxon goes off. The warp core is ejected, and will detonate shortly. Michael orders Booker to jump the ship. There is a pause, as Booker tries to insinuate himself into the network…and it takes a while; a while that they don’t have. But just as the core is free of the ship and begins to glow white-hot, Discovery jumps away. The core then detonates, taking the massive Viridian with it in a blue-white mini supernova. Discovery’s first stop will be the dilithium planet in the Verubin Nebula, where they hope to rescue Captain Saru, Dr. Culber and Adira… and perhaps one more passenger.
As Saru tries to reassure the apprehensive Su’kal to go through the door, Culber appears at the Kelpien’s side to reassure him, “You’re okay, Su’kal. It’s okay to be afraid.” With their own confidence bolstering his own, Su’kal begins to open the door. Suddenly Gray is worried that his current holo visage will disappear as well, and he will no longer he seen or felt by anyone else. Culber does double duty, assuring Gray that they will do everything they can to make him visible when this is over. Adira assures Gray that they will always be there for him as well. Slowly entering the familiar space, Su’kal, surrounded by friends, walks up to a glowing console in the middle of the chamber. He sees a Kelpien-shaped hand control, which has been waiting for him these past 125 years. He places his hand upon it and says, “End program” in his native language. The room changes into more familiar-looking starship bulkheads, as the holo environment disappears.
The floor of the sterile-looking chamber has several body bags on it. Clearly the dead were covered to prevent Su’kal from entering and seeing exposed corpses on the floor. Thnking more clear-headedly now, Su’kal orders the ship to play the last recorded images before the Burn; a hologram of his dying mother, Dr. Issa (Hannah Spear), activates, her face bearing the scars of radiation poisoning. She says her goodbyes to her child. The image of Su’kal as a child screams—that same brain-piercing scream that Saru heard earlier. The enormity of it finally hits the adult Su’kal; his traumatic grief as a child over his mother’s death is what caused the Burn. Su’kal’s rage was transmitted unwittingly into the subspace domain, where it ruptured all active dilithium-fueled warp drives in the galaxy. One child’s rage, one child’s unfathomable sorrow, caused pain and division across an entire galaxy. From behind him, Saru tells Su’kal that he is no longer alone. Su’kal turns to see Saru’s true Kelpien appearance for the first time. The two embrace; they are the first living Kelpiens each has seen in a very long time. The hologram of Dr. Issa asks that her son be returned to Kaminar. Saru assures him, as he assures them, “We are together.” Just then, Discovery arrives and they all beam up. After they leave, the crumbling starship Ki’eth finally collapses on itself.
Note: Once again, the idea of a child in grief causing such unintentional harm has been seen in multiple Star Treks; “Charlie X,” “Miri,” “And the Children Shall Lead,” “Imaginary Friend,” etc. It’s a very Twilight Zone-like twist to have an entire galaxy cut off and isolated over a child’s grief for a dead parent. I really enjoyed this classic-feeling sci-fi twist; there’s an almost Ray Bradbury poignancy to it. Kudos to writer/producer/showrunner Michelle Paradise, who also wrote “That Hope Is You, Part 1.”
With Osyrra dead, the Emerald Chain fractured, and is no longer an imminent threat. The Federation is going to begin the slow process of rebuilding. The planet Trill is the first to rejoin the 32-planet member Federation, and we also see the Vulcan president of Ni’Var arriving at Federation Headquarters to begin negotiations for her planet’s return to the very Federation they cofounded over a thousand years earlier. We also see engineer Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) repairing the brave DOT-23 maintenance drone which saved Owosekun’s life, presumably saving the sentient Sphere data within. As the rest of Federation Headquarters welcomes the returning Michael Burnham as a hero, she glances over at Stamets, who quickly averts her gaze in anger. Clearly there won’t be an easy reconciliation between these two, despite the fact that her tough calls saved him as well as his nascent family (Culber and Adira). Saru is back on a more urbane and developed 32nd century Kaminar, helping the lonely, traumatized Su’kal ease into life on a world teeming with their own kind. Neither of them are alone anymore. Saru is on a leave of absence from Starfleet, though he might just stay.
Note: My jaw dropped when I heard Saru might be leaving the series. Saru is one of my favorite characters on the show, and I’ve been a fan of Doug Jones’ work for decades. Here’s hoping he at least comes back for the occasional guest appearance.
Meanwhile, at Starfleet Headquarters, Michael runs into the lone ‘Starfleet officer’ she encountered after her flight into the 32nd century; the non-commissioned sentinel of a rundown starbase, Lt. Sahil (Adil Hussain), whom Michael officially commissioned herself. Both have come a long way since they found each other at the beginning of the season. A smiling Lt. Sahil notes, “You found your way home.” He is now wearing the familiar gray uniform of current Starfleet personnel. Michael is then called into a meeting with Admiral Vance, who tells her that she reminds him of his own daughter, who used to do math problems by drawing pictures instead of using numbers. This always frustrated Vance, but he admitted that her system worked, too. Michael’s methods may be unconventional, but he admits that she does get things done. With that, he makes her an offer; command of the USS Discovery, NCC-1031-A. At first, she wants to wait for Saru’s return, but Vance tells her that time is of the essence, as the long-dormant Federation reawakens. She accepts.
Stepping onto the bridge in her new gray and red command uniform, Michael sees the senior officers lined up to greet her, as well as civilians Booker and Auriello, both of whom will be working with Starfleet, even if they aren’t Starfleet officers. Everyone is now wearing their gray uniforms as well (which already look much more comfortable than the skintight blue jumpsuits). They crew are beaming with unabashed pride and affection for their new captain, save for Stamets, who’s holding an even bigger grudge than Booker’s cat.
Note: It’s unclear whether Ensign Tilly will remain as First Officer, but given her cool-thinking during the retaking of the ship, it’s hard to imagine why not.
Settling into her chair, Captain Michael Burnham asks for a status report. (Presumed) First Officer Tilly reports that the mining ship Coloma has returned from the dilithium planet; the first deliveries are scheduled for two Federation worlds, five non-Federation worlds, and one grateful starbase, that promises to thank the crew with their prized gelato. Eager to get underway, Michael gives the order to get underway, “Let’s fly!”
“In a very real sense, we are all aliens on a strange planet. We spend most of our lives reaching out and trying to communicate. If during our whole lifetime, we could reach out and really communicate with just two people, we are indeed very fortunate.”
We hear a faithful new version of Alexander Courage’s TOS Star Trek theme from 1966 playing over the end credits.
“Change is the essential process of all existence.”
The above words are from Michael’s own adoptive brother Spock (“Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”), and the ending of Star Trek: Discovery’s third season brought a lot of changes. Much of the 32nd century disorientation we saw in the first few episodes of the season has faded now (save for Detmer’s preference of the old operating system–I can relate), and the crew have more or less assimilated into the 32nd century. Of course, the more things change, the more they can remain the same; the Federation is coming back together (slowly, and no doubt painfully) after 125 years apart, with Trill jumping aboard, and Ni’Var (the new name of the rejoined Vulcan/Romulan homeworld) in talks to do the same. The band is getting back together, dude!
Like Captain Kirk, Michael does things her way, and she doesn’t believe in “no-win scenarios.” She is also now captain of the USS Discovery, with the confidence of Admiral Vance, with whom she’d butted heads most of the season; he doesn’t agree with Michael’s methods, but he can’t argue with the results. I would argue Michael’s recklessness and impulsiveness are really no different than what we saw from Kirk; in fact, this episode subtly reinforces that comparative vibe by having Alexander Courage’s original series’ theme playing over the end credits.
Is Michael a Kirk-clone? Absolutely not. For one thing, she’s currently in a committed relationship (something only Captain Sisko had in previous Star Trek lore, with his late wife and later with Kassidy Yates). In TOS, we largely saw Kirk as a finished product of command training, but in Discovery, we saw Michael’s evolution, from the beginning of season 1, where he was still reconnecting with her human heritage, to the end of season 3, where she was taken down a peg and climbed back to the top (not unlike Kirk’s too-brief demotion in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” but with more time to learn from her mistakes).
On a fashion note, the crew look really snazzy in their gray 32nd century Starfleet uniforms, which look more like something we’d see in the Kelvinverse Star Trek movies (2009-2016). In fact, when I first saw Admiral Vance and company’s uniforms earlier in the reason I was struck by their similarity to the uniforms worn at Starbase Yorktown by Commodore Paris (Shohreh Aghdashloo, of “The Expanse”). At any rate, I like ’em. They look a bit more like traditional Starfleet uniforms than the painfully tight, dark blue numbers worn by the crew these past few years. The new dominance of gray perhaps reflects the morally grayer universe of this brave new 32nd century, as opposed to the mostly black stylings worn by Starfleet crews in the “pre-Burn” universe, where morality might have seemed a bit more black and white. We Trek fans all know that Starfleet is a clothes-horse organization; they are changing uniform stylings all the time (even TOS’ simple tunics changed fabrics between the second and third seasons), so the crew getting new duds follows a time honored tradition of Starfleet change.
Note: The only series of Star Trek to maintain the same uniforms through their runs were Voyager and Enterprise.
The biggest and most unexpected change for me was the decision for Saru to remain on Kaminar to help Su’kal rediscover his Kelpien roots. Story-wise, this choice of Saru’s makes perfect sense, but to fans of Doug Jones such as myself? I do hope he will pop in every now and then for guest appearances, or even rejoin the series at some future date. However, after a career spent under heavy makeups and prosthetics, perhaps Jones just needs a breather. The door is always open. If Saru returns, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a departed character returned to the show (Tasha Yar, Beverly Crusher, Kes, etc). Having met Jones a few times at various conventions, I can vouch that he is a wonderful man, and I personally wish him all the best in whatever career choices he makes.
Another welcome change, which was much more pronounced this season, was the spotlighting of the secondary bridge characters. After a frustrating lack of development in the first two seasons, bridge officers Detmer (Emily Coutts), Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), Bryce (Ronnie Rowe Jr.) and Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) finally emerged as full characters, not just faces. We’ve seen Detmer dealing with PTSD, and we’ve learned other personal details, such as Owosekun’s near-superhuman ability to hold her breath for ten minutes (from abalone diving in her youth). Nice to see Discovery’s crew emerging as a real family after their arrival in this brave new century. I’m also glad that actor Kenneth Mitchell’s scientist “Auriello” is a permanent part of that family as well (following the actor’s recent ALS diagnosis). I just wish we had more moments like these for Sulu (George Takei) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) back in TOS.
After three years of darker, ‘edgier’ Star Trek, it appears that the old optimism of past Star Trek is roaring back with a vengeance. The great estrangement of Federation planets following the Burn appears to be slowly healing, with envoys arriving from planets such as Trill and Ni’Var (the renamed Vulcan/Romulan home planet). The crew are in brighter uniforms, Discovery is fully integrated with 32nd century tech, and dilithium is being mined from a planet made of almost nothing but. That said, I was kind of hoping the 32nd century might adopt the renewable ‘green energy’ of Discovery’s spore drive, but perhaps that’s an issue for next season…?
The spore drive causes a lot of envy among others, such as the Emerald Chain syndicate (which is dissolving now that dilithium scarcity is no longer an issue), so I’d assume replicating that system would be a top priority, lest Discovery remain a juicy target for future hijackings. However, leaving Discovery as the only spore-drive vessel in the fleet also ensures the ship’s uniqueness, and perhaps that uniqueness is more important than story needs for the moment. We’ll see where season 4 takes us. Let’s fly.
Star Trek: Discovery (and most of Star Trek) is available for streaming on CBS All Access right now in the United States, and Netflix in overseas markets. To my readers, I once again wish you and all of your loved ones good health and strength during the current coronavirus pandemic. The current number of COVID-19 related deaths in the United States are over 360,000 as of this writing and that number is increasing by thousands daily. The newly-developed vaccines are slowly working their way into the general population, so for the time being, so please continue to practice social safe-distancing wherever possible, wear masks in public (even if you are vaccinated; the vaccine’s immunity isn’t permanent), and avoid crowded outings as much as possible. Let’s all try to keep any get-togethers safe-distanced, outdoors (weather permitting) and in small numbers, please!
Live long and prosper!