Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery Reveals a Shockingly Different Earth

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 3, "People of Earth," now streaming on CBS All Access.

So far, Star Trek: Discovery's third season has made an effort to show how different things are in the 3100s following the massive time jump at the end of Season 2. And the most recent episode of the CBS All Access series finally turns its attention to Earth, which is no longer a welcoming and galactic hub planet in the absence of Starfleet.

"People of Earth" sees a reunited crew of the U.S.S. Discovery traveling to Earth to see if they can find a trace of Starfleet, which has all but disappeared in this time period. Upon arriving at the familiar planet, they are greeted by something unfamiliar: A sobering force field. They are then immediately hailed by Captain Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole) of the "United Earth Defense Force," who curtly gives the ship an order to leave. Simply put, "You're not welcome here."

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As the UEDF inspects Discovery for any traces of suspicious activity, Ndoye fills in Captain Saru (Doug Jones) and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) about how the planet got to this point. Unsurprisingly, it all goes back to "The Burn," a century-old event that saw all warp-capable ships destroyed in an instant when dilithium supplies went inert. Fearing it was a targeted attack on Starfleet, the Federation chose to moves its headquarters, which was previously in San Francisco.

Without Starfleet, Earth rebuilt itself to be self-sustainable. After "The Burn," the planet was constantly besieged by raiders aiming to rob the dilithium they had left. Growing increasingly fearful of what lurked outside their planet's atmosphere, Earth struck out on its own. The UEDF was built in Starfleet's place, with strict protocols to greet any suspicious parties with hostility and an array of quantum torpedoes.

Despite living a century with this philosophy, the crew of Discovery makes Ndoye realize the folly of the UEDF's policies. They get the captain in the same room as Wen (Christopher Heyerdahl), the towering buglike leader of the dilithium raiders. Except Wen's persona is all a facade, as he turns out to actually be human. He comes from a colony on Titan, which has become near-unlivable after Earth closed its borders. They had previously tried to come back to their home planet to ask for assistance, only to be fired upon.

The encounter is a sobering one for Ndoye, as she quickly realizes the ugly side of isolationism and putting up walls: That you block out those who may need your help. After being a beacon of diplomacy and assistance for so long, Starfleet's absence turned Earth into a planet that feasts and lets others starve. It's a meaningful reminder to the crew and fans of Discovery that they're certainly not in Kansas anymore.

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.