Star Trek Discovery: Episode 3 – Context is For Kings

Episode Three of Star Trek: Discovery is out. As promised, it’s something of a new pilot. Now we start to get a sense of what this show is about. It is very much a character story about Michael Burnham. We see this story, and this world, through her eyes. This is a significant departure for Star Trek. This isn’t a traditional show about the Captain and command staff. We see the Captain and First Officer, and we see the bridge, but the story doesn’t centre around any of this. The opening scene on the prison shuttle shows that this is truly a grittier darker Star Trek. I like that. There is still some lightness, if not humour, mostly from Tilly, but not enough to get in the way.

We meet some new characters in this episode, and we are re-acquainted with Saru, who is now first officer of the Discovery.

First we see Landy, the tough-as-nails security chief on Discovery. She takes her job very seriously and doesn’t seem thrilled to have prisoners on board her ship. Her attitude toward them doesn’t feel very … well … Starfleet. Another sign that this show is spiced with a little of Battlestar Galactica’s spirit. Not heaps, just enough to season it.

Captain Lorca is a man of mysteries. In fact, this whole ship is full of mysteries. These are slowly revealed as Burnham investigates. I like how we’re seeing all this through her eyes. We feel like an outsider on this ship, rather than the fly sitting on the Captain’s shoulder (how’s that for an oddly mixed metaphor?) Burnham learns the mystery of the ship’s research, but Lorca clearly still has a lot hidden away still. Lorca is much more Kirk than Picard. In fact, I think he’s gonna make Kirk look like a by-the-book rule kinda guy. Lorca doesn’t care for protocol,
and he may not even be as dedicated to the values of the Federation as we might expect from a Starfleet captain. He’s a potential rogue element, and I don’t yet trust him.

Stammets is a much more serious character than I expected. He comes across as a little grumpy, and we begin to understand why as the story moves along. He doesn’t want to be here. What we’re seeing here is science co-opted by the military. A consequence of the new war with the Klingons. I’m enjoying the exploration here, of what happens when a people who are dedicated to peaceful exploration and co-existence find themselves at war. This was also explored on Deep Space Nine, but in a very different way.

Cadet Tilly is an interesting character. She’s very unsure of herself in a lot of ways, and yet deep in her core, she has dreams and is determined to see them come to fruition. Some might find her nervous rambling annoying, but there is something I find very endearing about her. She strikes me as the kind of person you’d want to be friends with. I’m really looking forward to the development of her relationship with Burnham.

Essentially, Tilly represents everything that Burnham has lost. She is the wide-eyed cadet who dreams of being a captain some day. She’s the good girl. The star pupil. This makes me feel for Burnham all the more. Yes, I am feeling a lot more sympathy for Burnham than I did in the first two episodes. Through one crazy experience, her life has become completely derailed. She has lost all hope for the future and just wants to serve her time in silence. When I think about the deep regret she’s feeling inside., how much she desperately wishes she could go back and do things differently, it hits me deep.

A couple of little quibbles. This super-advanced drive they’re hoping to perfect. It’s way more advanced than Kirk, or even Picard had. I’ll bet Janeway would have loved one of those to help her get home quicker. Presumably, they’ll never get it working properly. Otherwise, I don’t know how to reconcile it with the rest of Trek. I’m now imagining an off-camera scene on Voyager, where Belanna wants to resurrect Stammet’s research from a century ago, and Janeway refuses, telling her it’s just too dangerous. I just hope this technology doesn’t become the prime timeline’s equivilent of the “Transwarp Beaming” we saw in the Kelvin-verse movies.

That holographic chamber thing that Burnham stood in while Lorca explained everything was a little too close to the holodeck for my comfort. And the mention of Romulans? Starfleet shouldn’t know what Romulus looks like at this point in history. Careful guys. The writers have said in interviews that “Romulan” is a dirty word in the writers’ room. They know we can’t see them until Balance of Terror, so it’s inclusion here seemed very strange.

Episode three was a great continuation of Burnham’s story and introduction to the USS Discovery. It had great moments of mystery, drama and even some monster-horror. Bring on episode 4.

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About Adam David Collings

Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife Linda and his two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.

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