Star Trek: Discovery's Newest Episode Highlights Old Homes and New Characters
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 3, "People of Earth," now streaming on CBS All Access.
Star Trek: Discovery has spent its first two episodes setting up the 32nd century as a gritty, lawless and dog-eat-dog universe. But up to this point, the action has taken place on new planets. However, in "People of Earth," the CBS All Access series changes things up, bringing the crew back to Earth to truly contextualize how much has changed in a millennium.
Before that point, the show provided a montage of Michael Burnham's (Sonequa Martin-Green) gap year in between her arrival out of the wormhole and her finding the U.S.S. Discovery. Narrated by personal log, she found out that things turned dire for the universe when dilithium supplies dried up 700 years ago. When "The Burn" came, any remaining supplies went inert, destroying all warp-capable ships. Michael has spent her time working as a courier alongside Book (David Ajala), on the hunt for more information as she literally lets her hair down.
Despite Michael's resilience to find Discovery, as time passed, she had to admittedly let go of the prospect of finding them. But all that changed when she received a fateful ping, which allowed her and Book to rescue the ship at the end of last episode. Michael beams onboard for the first time in a year and is tearfully greeted by the crew, including a distant yet satisfied Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).
On the bridge, she briefs everyone on what she's learned, with the last piece of Starfleet communication she has being from twelve years ago from an Admiral Tal. The crew puts a plan in motion to travel to Earth in the hopes of checking in with Starfleet HQ and finding out what happened to him. Before they go, though, there is one matter of order: the captain's chair. Despite it being one of the larger questions going into this season, Michael is all quick to give the role to Saru (Doug Jones). As she says, "I don’t know if it’s ever been me. You brought this ship through time, you carried this crew on your shoulders. You are a captain in the truest sense of the word."
The decision makes sense, considering Michael still has some emotional reconciling to do. She catches up with Tilly (Mary Wiseman), who is finally coming to terms with what she left behind. Despite being saddled with guilt over losing faith in finding them, she remarks that Michael seems lighter than she was when they last saw each other. Saru is less keen to forgive, however, as he tells her in his new room. He accuses her of having her perspective warped in the past year, particularly with trusting Book. Michael goes on to explain that she's adapted, an explanation that appears to have the captain's trust in her slowly rebuilding.
Speaking of Book, the courier beams aboard Discovery and meets Georgiou, acting like a strict parent greeting the new boyfriend (though he says he's anything but). He's come on to receive dilithium in exchange for rescuing the ship, but Michael has an additional favor to ask of him. To avoid being targeted for its dilithium, the ship's supplies are loaded onto Book's ship and cloaked to hide them. He timidly arrives on the bridge, feeling like someone who just stepped back in time.
Discovery warps to Earth, only to get a far-from-warm greeting. A force field is set up outside the planet, and they're immediately hailed by Captain Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole). Despite Saru's cover story of them being descendants of a ship that has spent centuries trying to get back home, Voyager-style, she curtly gives them a cease-and-desist. Suddenly, members of the United Earth Defense Force, the security crew for the planet, beam aboard to inspect the ship for any signs of piracy. As everyone rushes to get into uniform and hide any suspicion, it's clear this is not the Earth the crew remembers.
With UEDF cronies roaming the halls, Ndoye fills Michael and Saru in about Starfleet's recent history. Fearing the Burn was a targeted attack on the Federation, Starfleet HQ was moved off of Earth a century ago to an unknown location. On top of that, Tal allegedly died two years ago, giving Discovery a dead end. Meanwhile, in the engine room, UEDF member Adira (Blu Del Barrio) is being particularly probing with her investigation of the spore cage. The 16-year-old puts Tilly and Stamets (Anthony Rapp) on the defensive, but everyone gets on that level quickly as a red alert goes off.
A series of raider ships, led by the UEDF's enemy Wen (Christopher Heyerdahl), have spotted Discovery. The bug-eyed leader obviously demands dilithium, threatening force if necessary. What's more, something seems to be interfering with transport, meaning the UEDF is now stuck onboard the ship. Ndoye immediately wants to jump into action, but Saru bristles with her as he pushes for non-violence. Stamets and Tilly discover that the beaming frequencies were blocked by an advanced hacking job, and their eyes immediately turn to teenage genius Adira.
As the situation grows increasingly tense, Michael takes matter into her own hands. She and Book fly away with the dilithium onboard, curtly offering it to Wen. Meanwhile, Earth prepares to fire on the raiders, which Saru fervently disagrees with. In fact, he positions the ship in the line of fire, putting Discovery in a critical state as it tanks the hit for the others. Just when things look darkest for the ship, the raiders back down -- and the reason why becomes immediately clear when Michael and Book come back onto the bridge, flanking a captured Wen.
Michael's gambit paid off, as Wen letting down his shields to take the dilithium was enough to get him taken aboard. She and Saru bring the UEDF and the raiders to the table together to talk through their differences. Despite belligerent at the attempts at first, things change when Wen is revealed to be human. He comes from Titan, which was self-sufficient when Earth closed itself off. Since that time, though, a third of their habitats have gone up in smoke, leaving their situation dire. Ndoye suddenly understands the misunderstanding that comes from their isolationism, and the two agree to help each other out to save Titan.
Meanwhile, Stamets finds Adira in a Jefferies tube, and bonds with them over spore drive science. He even reveals he's a time traveler, hoping Adira will open up in turn. It turns out they do, revealing they joined the UEDF in hopes of finding a Starfleet vessel some day. They sabotaged the system to buy more time aboard, in the hopes of eventually joining Discovery and offering the crew some critical information. They know where they can find Admiral Tal, because they are Admiral Tal.
Adira has been joined with a Trill symbiont (which haven't been seen in a large capacity on Star Trek since Deep Space 9), a rare human host for the species. That symbiont was previously in Tal, so in theory, Adira has access to his memories. Unfortunately, as the show welcomes a new crew member, it says goodbye to another, as Book leaves the ship to explore the galaxy once more. Their farewell is quiet but intimate, as he tells her he's happy she finally found her family. The episode closes on the crew exploring San Francisco, reminiscing under the now-massive tree that they all used to study under during their Starfleet Academy days.
In a way, that tree is a great metaphor for "People of Earth." A lot around it seems strange and unfamiliar, much like how the Earth has become isolationist and shrewd during the time jump. But, at the end of the day, it has stood strong and tall, unchanging as time marches forward. And as Discovery plans to find the remnants of Starfleet with Adira's help, they hope to be that tree, branching out across the galaxy while staying rooted in what keeps them loyal to that flag.
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 and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes of Season 3 air on Thursdays.