Star Trek Guide

Discovery Brings Back A Big Star Trek Element In Season 3

Star Trek: Discovery promises to bring back a major element of the Star Trek franchise — its social commentary. The best science-fiction films and TV series have always acted as something of a mirror to society. Sometimes they challenge viewers with a compelling vision of the future humankind wants to build; at other times, they disturb audiences with a nightmarish dystopia that one would be wise to avert. Star Trek — as one of the best and longest-running science-fiction franchises — has always had a message.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was both a humanist and an optimist at heart. "I believe in humanity," he famously observed in one interview. "We are an incredible species. We're still just a child creature; we're still being nasty to each other. And all children go through those phases. We're growing up, we're moving into adolescence now. When we grow up — man, we're going to be something!" Roddenberry crusaded against prejudice and bigotry, and in his view the idea of the Federation - of various races working together while celebrating difference — was the kind of glorious future he hoped humanity could aspire to.

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Modern Star Trek has often felt as though it has lost its optimistic heartbeat, and it is the poorer for it. There's still been an element of social commentary, but it has often seemed pessimistic rather than hopeful. Fortunately, there are signs this mistake will be corrected in Star Trek: Discovery season 3.

Star Trek: Discovery Will Reveal A Brave New World

The crew of the USS Discovery have been blasted into the future — further forward than has ever been explored before in the Star Trek timeline. They have arrived in the year 3188, some 931 years from their date of departure. And they have arrived in a galaxy where the once-mighty Federation has fallen into decline after some sort of catastrophic event called "The Burn." It's unclear what this event was, but the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 trailer described it as "the day the galaxy took a hard left and the Federation mostly collapsed." The Federation still exists, but only a handful of members remain; the new flag shows just six stars, suggesting the humans of Earth, the Vulcans, the Andorians, the Trills, the Bolians, and perhaps even an evolved form of Kelpiens from Commander Saru's (Doug Jones) homeworld of Kaminar remain as members of this dwindling power.

At first glance, this hardly seems optimistic; and yet, the trailer seemed like a direct response to fan complaints at the franchise's pessimism. It was filled with moments of hope and joy, with Burnham screaming in delight as she detected life-signs, with Saru delivering a stirring speech to the time-lost crew of the USS Discovery. What's more, the trailer also suggested an important theme; the idea you can choose the future you build, even after tragedy has struck.

Star Trek: Discovery - The Fight For The Future Begins

The poster for Star Trek: Discovery season 3 says it all. It shows the show's stars standing beneath the tattered flag of the Federation, looking up at it as though pledging their allegiance to it. In other words, the crew of this ship won't merely be exploring this quasi-dystopian future — they will be seeking to transform it. The men and women of the USS Discovery have been tested like few other crews in the history of Starfleet; their faith in the Federation and its ideals was shaken by Gabriel Lorca, but in the end they recommitted themselves to those ideals, and they refused to allow the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS to be destroyed by a Federation in danger of losing its way. In the second season, they were led by Captain Pike, Starfleet's best, and he buoyed their hope in these ideals. Now the crew have arrived in this future, and they are clearly going to have to make a decision; what will they stand for, in this broken galaxy? Will they just stand by, or will they work to restore the ideals of the Federation?

No doubt this will not be easy. "Their fight begins," the trailer declares, suggesting the resurgent Federation will be opposed. One villain may well be Empress Georgiou, who originates from an alternate dimension and is dedicated only to herself. Indeed, this point was stressed in John Jackson Miller's recent novel Die Standing, which is considered part of Star Trek canon. It starred Georgiou, and reminded readers she is no hero, but rather is utterly self-interested. Georgiou will likely look at this dystopian future as a galaxy she can shape, a place she can transform into a new empire. If this is the case, Star Trek: Discovery season 3 (and beyond) will be about the collision of competing visions of the future.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Is Well-Timed

Star Trek: Discovery season 3 looks set to have a tremendously well-timed message, one that modern society desperately needs to hear. In the wake of galactic tragedy, the crew of the USS Discovery must decide what kind of future they wish to build. In exactly the same way, the modern world has been shaken — both by major geopolitical changes and, now, by a global pandemic. The newspapers talk excitedly (or fearfully) of the "new normal" that will arise once the pandemic has come to an end, but they frequently omit one simple fact; that "new normal" will be shaped by the decisions we make today.

The trailer for Star Trek: Discovery season 3 suggests the franchise is regaining its edge of social commentary. The men and women of the USS Discovery will raise the flag of the Federation over their broken future, inviting audiences to do the same in our troubled world. The choices they make will build the future of the galaxy, just as the choices current society makes shapes the future. It's likely the showrunners chose this kind of messaging because they knew 2020 would be the year of a contentious election, and they believed Star Trek had a responsibility to speak into this troubled time. They had no idea their message would become far more powerful, and infinitely more important.

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