Plot: After following Commander Burnham into the wormhole in the second season finale, Season 3 finds the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery landing in an unknown future far from the home they once knew. Now living in a time filled with uncertainty, the U.S.S. Discovery crew, along with the help of some new friends, must work together to restore hope to the Federation.
Review: CBS All Access had an instant hit when Star Trek: Discovery premiered in 2017. Since then, they have launched both Picard and Lower Decks with several more Trek spin-offs on the horizon. Discovery, which reinvented the Original Series era of Gene Roddenberry‘s iconic franchise, now launches into uncharted territory by sending Michael Burnham and her crewmates into the distant future to tell a season of stories in s Federation-less era nine hundred years after Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise explored the galaxy. By taking this series outside of the comfort zone of references to the classic Trek, Discovery finally feels like the series we have been waiting for it to become. For Season 3 Star Trek Discovery is warming up nicely.
The first season of Discovery tried to find it’s footing in a pre-Kirk era that saw many easter eggs and callbacks to the classic era of the original series. Season two brought Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and Spock into the mix who proved to popular they are getting their own spin-off series, Strange New Worlds. By catapulting Discovery into the 31st century, Alex Kurtzman and his writing staff took a calculated risk. The last time we saw a Trek series that didn’t have the Federation or Starfleet as main players was in Voyager and, to a lesser extent, in prequel series Enterprise. But, this new plot device not only makes the technology of Discovery incrediblty outdated but it also forces the crew to band together with no knowledge of the political and social state of the galaxy.
In the three episodes made available for review, we find the crew of Discovery separated from Michael Burnham. With episodes focused on the way their individual looks at the future before they all reunite to begin their new journey around the stars, we see a more streamlined narrative than in the two prior seasons. Michael Burnham remains our focal point and Sonequa Martin-Green plays the character much more loosely and energetically than before. Burnham spent the first two seasons very wooden but her experiences with new character Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) who brings some much-needed Han Solo vibes to the structure of Starfleet and the Federation. Ajala is easily one of my favorite new characters in the Discovery-era of Star Trek series. We also get more of the great supporting performances from Tig Notaro as Jett Reno and Michelle Yeoh as Phillipa Georgiou, both of whom get much more screen time this season.
Doug Jones also gets a stronger role as Saru, interim captain of the Discovery. Jones has long been an underused character actor and it is great to see him take a more central role. Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, and Wilson Cruz continue to settle into their roles as Stamets, Tilly, and Dr. Hugh Culber respectively. There are also some meatier moments for minor crewmembers like Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts), Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) and more. We also have new characters played by Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander, both of whom made headlines as the first non-binary and trans actors/characters in Star Trek. Neither is presented in a blatant manner and feel naturally built into the story, especially del Barrio’s Adira who plays a significant role in the season.
With episodes directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi and Trek veteran Jonathan Frakes amongst others, this season looks more cinematic than the previous seasons as well. With the 31st century an era of Trek that has never been visualized in detail, we see new technology for transporters and spacecraft as well as what the Earth will look like in ways that are as alien to us as the original Star Trek would have been to audiences when it originally premiered. Composer Jeff Russo makes no major shift in the style of Discovery’s orchestral score which continues to be sweeping, epic, and on par with all other Trek shows. In short, Star Trek Discovery looks and sounds as good as it ever has.
Star Trek Discovery was a show that it took me some time to warm up to. The first season started out fairly generic before distinguishing itself but it still felt like it was not sure the story it wanted to tell. After anchoring itself in the Trek timeline in season two, it now has momentum going and launches into season three by boldly going where Star Trek has never gone before. If you aren’t a fan of small screen Star Trek, this season is an intriguing entry point. The characters don’t know what this future holds and more than we the audience do and that makes this the first season since 1966 that won’t seem familiar or easy to predict. For that alone, Season 3 Star Trek Discovery will live long and prosper as one of the finest put to screen.
Star Trek: Discovery’s third season premieres October 15th on CBS All Access.