Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Premiere Reveals a Hopeless Future
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 1, "That Hope is You," now streaming on CBS All Access.
Almost a year and a half after the Season 2 finale, Star Trek: Discovery has arrived in undiscovered territory, leaping almost 1000 years into the future. And the Season 3 premiere shrinks things down to explore the new universe, choosing to only focus on a couple of cast members and instead set up everything familiar and unfamiliar with life in the 32nd century.
The season starts with the unfamiliar, as a holographic alarm clock of a tropical bird wakes up a man (Adil Hussain). He goes through the same routine every day, searching for signals across the galaxy. He's also accompanied by an advanced form of technology that can apparently appear and disappear with the wave of a hand.
That same technology also appears at the ship's helm of one Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala). Book is escaping chase from an irate alien named Cosmo, who is accusing him of stealing his cargo. Their banter is interrupted, though, by a wormhole opening and a person colliding with his ship. That person is Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who careens towards a planet while frantically trying to reboot her ship's systems.
Michael succeeds at the last second, coming to in one of many dirt mounds on the planet. Michael gets out of her Red Angel suit to find out that her mission was successful; she had jumped to the year 3188, and the existence of life signs means the A.I. Control was not able to wipe out all sentient life in the universe. After a primal scream of celebration, she gets back to business. She programs the suit to go back into the wormhole before it closes, sending a signal back to the 2200s, which Spock saw in the last shot of the Season 2 finale. And though she may be physically bruised, her spirit is not broken. She takes her emergency supplies and begins the walk to Book's crashed ship, which is smoking in the distance.
After the credits -- which have been updated this season to include an assembly line of worker robots, Book's ship, and the new Starfleet logo -- Michael arrives at the shore. There, she's ambushed by Book, who accuses her of trying to steal his ship. The two immediately engage in a war of words and fists before a tense phaser/knife stand-off breaks things up. Michael tries to volunteer information, but Book refuses to listen, telling her to go back where she came from. But Michael is resolute in finding her crew, and begs him to help her try to communicate with Discovery.
It appears her sell works on Book, as he takes her inside his impressively outfitted ship. He shows off his adorable cat Grudge (named that because "she's heavy and all mine") and tells Michael she broke his dilithium recrystalizer. To get a new one, they'll need to travel to the Mercantile marketplace, a bustling structure hovering above a city.
On the way there, Book reveals that he is a courier, tasked with carrying objects between holo-buyers and holo-sellers. But more importantly, he tells Michael that the combadge she's wearing is a relic of the past, as the Federation collapsed more than a century ago. Back then, an event called "The Burn" caused dilithium supplies around the universe to self-destruct, destroying all warp-capable ships and the people on them. After that, Starfleet disappeared, leaving the world we see today.
Stunned into silence by Book's story, Michael denies the collapse of the Federation. "The Federation isn’t just about ships and warp drives," she says. "It’s about a vision and all who believe in that vision." But if there was any of Starfleet left, it's clear its rule does not extend to the Mercantile. Run by a surprise partnership between the Andorians and Orions, it's a dingy yet bustling hub, a place where clearly anything goes for the right price.
That includes trickery, as we see when Book traps Michael in a stasis beam. He nicks all of her supplies, wanting to pawn it off to get a hefty supply of dilithium, which has become currency in the 3100s. An Orion and Andorian capture and interrogate Michael, spraying her with a truth serum. But they get more than answers out of her, as Michael becomes a trippy, giggly mess speaking at warp nine.
Meanwhile, Book's big move doesn't pay off, as he runs afoul of Cosmo. Michael leads the other couriers to him, getting a punch in for good measure. But when everyone turns on her, the two are forced to work together, keeping the rogues at bay before they transport away. However, the advent of personal transporters lets the fight span multiple locations, until Book shakes them by putting them in the middle of the water.
Book continues to surprise as the two dry off. He begins to chant rhythmically and his head glows, as a plant from the water rises up to provide a type of aloe for Michael's wounds. Just as he's lost the guards, so has he lost his own guard, and Michael finally opens up to him about her situation. He lets her try to contact the Discovery in exchange, but receives no response.
There is quite a response, however, when they get back to Book's ship. The couriers are waiting for them and force Book to decloak and open up his ship. Here, Star Trek: Discovery reveals his stolen cargo: A giant bioluminescent worm known as a transworm. And it's evidently hungry, as it draws the couriers into a trance before devouring them. But when facing Book, it gently touches his hand.
It turns out that Book has a power that allows him to connect with all life around him. It's a natural balance to his family of poachers, who disowned him for not having a taste for blood. Instead, we see what Book's efforts merit, in a beautiful scene of transworms swimming to their heart's content. By the end of his first episode, we finally get a sense of who Book is: A hard-shelled man who's two parts Robin Hood and one part Dr. Doolittle.
Grateful to Michael for helping him, Book takes her to a courier waypoint that used to be a Federation relay station. But the station is far from abandoned, as it turns out to be the home of the man we saw in the opening scene. The liaison searches for the Discovery, only to find it hasn't come yet, and its window of arrival could span the next 1000 years. Michael is devastated, but hearing the liaison talk so fondly of the Starfleet of yore keeps her flame kindled. She asks for his help in continuing to search for her crew, and as they unfurl the Federation flag, she vows to not only keep hope alive, but find others who will do the same.
In keeping its story (and cast) small, Star Trek: Discovery's opening episode threads the delicate needle of putting familiar characters in an unfamiliar setting. Sonequa Martin-Green put in her most expressive performance yet, equal parts gut-busting and heartbreaking. And she's already showing chemistry with David Ajala, building the way for a possible romance on the horizon. Several big questions have yet to be answered, like the location of Discovery and its crew, but like a transworm, it's sure to bring something beautiful with at least a little bite.
Streaming on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, David Ajala as Cleveland "Book" Booker, Blu del Barrio as Adira, Ian Alexander as Grey, Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno, Ethan Peck as Spock and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes of Season 3 air on Thursdays.