Trekathon 799: That Hope is You (DIS)

Discovery is back. And to the future. Spoilers.

This episode had to accomplish a lot. With the soft reboot of travelling forward to the 32nd century the show is now on a completely different footing. So this episode needs to not just set up the arc of the season, but an entire new setting that hasn’t been seen in Star Trek before. Oh, and there’s also a new character (Book) to establish.

It mostly succeeds. It’s a bit of a slow start, and I think the first ten minutes or so would have a lot more resonance if you were coming into this immediately after watching the previous episodes of Season 2, rather than just a previously on. Burnham’s emotional arc through the episode is very well acted, but it relies on you having an appreciation of the starting point. But, unlike the previous season, we’ve got an immediate problem (where’s Discovery) that we care about and understand, plus a background mystery in ‘The Burn’ that will almost certainly drive the later part of the season.

The introduction of Book is a bit more uneven. He’s an interesting character, but setting him so strongly in conflict with Burnham from the first minute just got a bit repetitive. It’s reasonably well earned in terms of the interactions and back story, it just felt a bit hackneyed to me. An example of knowing too much about the show (that Book would be a recurring main character this season) affecting the way I watched it I think.

The final task was to set up a new background setting, and I was actually failing the episode on this until the last scene. The Requiem trading base was something we’ve seen before (as recently as Stardust City in Picard), and not enough was done to sell this as the norm rather than the fringe. But this turned around for me in the final scene.

Starfleet is hope. Maybe I’m a sucker for the emotional manipulation, but the final scene of the episode succeeded in bringing a tear to my eye. It’s actually one of the best ways I’ve seen in some time of underlining the hopefulness inherent in Star Trek, and the values of Star Fleet. And by underlining its absence it made a clear case for the different background of the season, while still grounding it in the history of Trek.

Overall a strong and enjoyable start to the season, with a lot of promise.

Quick hits:

– The cold open was a beuatifully framed scene. Almost poetic,.

– I like that they didn’t spell out Burnham’s scream of joy. It was there for people who paid attention to the stakes of the previous season, and just how big a victory it was that there was still life, any life.

– Obviously Discovery is going to turn up. We know that. But fortunately not too much time is spent on ‘if’, more on ‘when’.

– Ooh, the robot from the Ephraim and Dot short is in the main credits.

– This is one of the most beautifully shot episodes of Star Trek in a long time. I suspect a lot of green screen is being used, but it’s still really enjoyable to watch. I was actually inspired to look up the director – previously directed the Calypso short. Hope they do more.

– There’s an evolution in design and approach that creates a subliminal feeling of this not being the same setting as the previous season.

– OMG, Grudge. All hail Queen Grudge.

– “The Burn” – hello season-spanning mystery. But it’s an interesting thought experiment in terms of undermining a central element of the technology.

– Michael Burnham on truth serum skated the line between funny and cringe. It worked for me, but only just.

– Ooh, a Lurian. Haven’t seen one of those in a while.

799 down.