Written PostPart 3 of Josh’s Review of Star Trek: Discovery Season Three!

Part 3 of Josh’s Review of Star Trek: Discovery Season Three!

Click here for my overview of Star Trek: Discovery season 3, and click here for the beginning of my episode-by-episode review.  And now, let’s dive back in and wrap up my analysis of the season!

Episode 7 — Unification III — Well, they had me with the cheeky title (which harks back to TNG’s “Unification” two-parter), and the rest of the episode was pretty solid as well!  I like the idea that Vulcan and Romulus did finally achieve Spock’s dream of unification, and that Vulcan is now known as Ni’Var.  It’s interesting to see this joined Vulcan/Romulan society is on the outs with the Federation (they left the Federation 100 years ago).  It makes sense that Spock’s sister might be a figure of some importance to them.  It’s interesting to see Ethan Peck as Spock again… and of course it was a delightful surprise to see a clip of Leonard Nimoy as Spock (from “Unification II”) — though, of course, that’s also a continuity problem because there’s no way there could have been a recording of Picard’s conversation with Spock on Romulus.  I like the idea that the Qowat Milat (the brutally honest Roman warrior-nuns from Picard) were essential for the Vulcan-Romulus reunification.

I liked seeing Burnham and Book together.  I liked their sweet post-coital conversation early in the episode.  It’s a fun surprise to see Burnham’s mom again, now somehow a Qowat Milat.  I don’t understand the time-travel plot mechanics of how this could be, nor the character reasons of why a time-travel scientist would become a monk on Vulcan, but it’s always great to see The Wire’s Sonja Sohn again.  I like the scenes between Burnham and her mom.

But I HATE when the show has Burnham’s mom wonder how much of who Spock became was because of who his sister was.  This is really insulting and undermining to the character of Spock, and represents an absurd attempt of elevating the importance of Michael Burnham.  I like Burnham!  She’s an interesting character all on her own!  The show doesn’t need to suggest that she’s also responsible for making Spock into the great character he was!  That’s so silly and unnecessary.  It has the reverse effect intended and, for me, totally undermines the Burnham character.  It frustrates me that in this episode, yet again, Michael and her feelings are at the center of an event of galactic import.

Also: why have all of the scientists on Vulcan, who HAD all of the info from the mysterious SB-19 data, thought for a CENTURY that the Burn started on Vulcan… while Burnham discovers in two seconds that that’s not what happened??  That’s so silly!  It makes the Vulcans look dumb and Burnham look ludicrously smart.  Sigh.  Also silly: cadet Tilly is somehow now the FIRST OFFICER on Discovery?  How can that be?  I like Tilly, but this is ludicrous.  There must be fifty higher-ranking officers on the ship who’d be next in line for a promotion.  Wouldn’t ANY member of the bridge crew be ahead of Tilly??

Episode 8 — Sanctuary — We meet the head of the Emerald Chain, Osyraa… and I don’t know whether to be amused or annoyed that she’s sort of the snarky evil twin of sarcastic Tilly.  (Mostly annoyed — Osyraa doesn’t manage to be that threatening, in my opinion.)  It’s funny, the “previously on Discovery” recap indicates that the show has been building up Osyraa for several episodes… and yet I hadn’t noticed.  I’ve complained before that Discovery is edited at far too fast a pace, so that I often find it hard to follow what’s happening.  This is a great example of what I’m talking about.  I am an attentive viewer of this show; if I missed these hints at the existence of a not-yet-seen head villain, I’m sure I’m not alone.

We also get to meet Book’s brother, which was fun (though I was confused — is Kyheem not actually Book’s brother by family??  Once again the show moved too fast for me to follow the quick explanation of the backstory here)… and we learn that his first name is Cleveland!  I love the look of the beautiful blue floating locust-creatures on Book’s home planet Kwejian.  I laughed at Tilly’s “uh uh” shut-down of the Andorian Ryn when he’s rude to Saru.  However, on the other hand, Saru and Tilly’s debating what his catch phrase should be might have been funnier had Lower Decks not already done that joke.  Also, explain to me how the music everyone was hearing was connected to the distress call from across the galaxy…??  I’ll wait…

I like the Stamets-Adira relationship.  However, I didn’t love the scene in which Adira frustratedly asks Stamets to refer her as “they” not “he” or “she”.  On the one hand, I love that Trek is featuring a nonbinary character, and it’s great for the show to make a point of referring to Adira as “they”.  However, it doesn’t work for me that Adira, who has grown up in the 32nd century, would be hung up on this… nor that Stamets, who grew up in the 23rd century, would not know to use the correct pronouns.  I know that 21st century people are working on these things — but it doesn’t make sense in the Star Trek universe that more-evolved characters living centuries in the future would make these mistakes.  Once again, this feels like a failure of writing and a failure of imagination on the part of the people making this show.  They’re writing this show like it takes place today (see: Adira calling Stamets “the bomb”) but not like it’s taking place in the utopian future of the Star Trek universe!!  That’s a huge failing of this show, in my opinion.

Episode 9 — Terra Firma Part 1 — This episode kicks off a fun romp of a two-parter!  I was pleased to see the running story of Georgiou’s mysterious ailment coming to a head.  I like Admiral Vance’s rationale for helping Georgiou — it’s always important to save a drowning crew-member.  As always, the Georgiou-Burnham scenes are fun.  I like the mystyery of the old man and the door.  It’s weird and intriguing, and that’s fun for me!  I love Paul Guilfoyle, who plays the old man, Carl.  I love the concept of Georgiou’s return to the Mirror Universe, giving her a chance to change history and not kill Mirror Burnham.  This is a fun, juicy story.  I love the Georgiou-Mirror Burnham battle of wills!  It’s fun to see Rekha Sharma (Tory from Battlestar Galactica) back on the show as Mirror Landry (her prime universe character was killed off far too early in season one), and I liked hearing mention of Lorca, though I was bummed we didn’t actually see Jason Isaacs back on the show.  (I guess Lorca is already over in the prime universe during the events of this episode?)

Episode 10 — Terra Firma Part 2 — Georgiou’s Mirror Universe adventures come to a satisfying end.  This was a fun two-parter and a nice send-off for Georgiou.  (I assume she’s off to star in the long-rumored Section 31 show… I love Michelle Yeoh, but Discovery season 2 completely bungled Section 31, so I am not eager for Alex Kurtzman & co. to create a Section 31 show…)  I never thought Mirror Geogriou belonged on Discovery, but I always liked Michelle Yeoh’s work as the character, so I must admit I was a little sad to see her go.

I liked the idea of an alternate version of the show’s usual opening credits, though Enterprise did this FAR better two decades ago, in the awesome Mirror Universe version of their opening credits in the “In a Mirror, Darkly” two-parter.  The sequence in which Mirror Burnham gets tortured is rough!  I wasn’t sure who I was rooting for, as this sequence unfolded — did I want Georgiou to successfully break Burnham, using torture and pain?  (I will say that I liked the cool modern version of the classic Mirror Universe “agonizer”.)  I was bummed to see Rekha Sharma’s Mirror Landry get killed off.  On the other hand, it was entertainingly brutal watching Mirror Burnham murder Mirror Detmer.  I liked the growing friendship between Georgiou and Mirror Saru, a Kelpian slave.  It was fun seeing the Discovery crew all murder one another in the big fight at the end.  Mirror Burnham’s death was particularly gruesome.  I was surprised that’s where the show went!

I enjoyed the revelation that Carl and his door are, in fact, the Guardian of Forever.  It was fun to hear the classic Guardian voice from the Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.”  On the one hand, I don’t love that once again Discovery has decided to completely reinvent a classic Trek character/concept.  On the other hand, this reinvention works OK for me.  The Guardian was always a mysterious entity, and I can buy that there is much about the Guardian that we don’t know, and that potentially it has more sentience and personality than we’d glimpsed before.  It also makes sense that the Guardian hid itself during the Temporal Cold War… this explains why Starfleet and others haven’t constantly been visiting the Guardian to attempt to change the past whenever anything goes wrong for them.

Episode 11 — Su’Kal — There’s an interesting idea at the heart of this episode, of a child left along for decades in a holo-program designed to protect him.  And Su’Kal’s holographic environment was beautifully visualized, yet another example of the strong visual effects on this show, which give it a vaster canvas than any previous Trek show.

But, unfortunately, I felt this season-ending three-parter was a mess, and the anticlimactic, disappointing ending to the season-long mystery of the Burn dragged down the entire season for me.  The galaxy-wide disruption was caused by one developmentally-delayed Kelpian?  Come on.

There was some fun at the end with Osyraa’s capture of the Discovery.  Unfortunately, the typical Discovery lack of attention to plot coherency was present in abundance in this episode.  While it was fun to see Doug Jones out of his usual make-up and prosthetics as Saru, it doesn’t make any sense that the hologram would change his and the other characters’ appearances.  The explanation given was that was done to prevent the new arrivals from appearing strange to Su’Kal.  But Su’Kal would have known Kelpians and humans!!  Also: why would Saru and Culber/Burnham’s radiation burns/sores appear on their holographic forms?  That doesn’t make sense.  Also: didn’t the Burn happen 150 years ago??  So Su’Kal is 150 years old???  How long do Kelpians live??  Su’Kal’s age seems like a HUGE plot hole to me…

Episode 12 — There is a Tide… — There were a few intriguing moments when I thought the episode was taking an interesting turn, when Osyraa seemed to legitimately want to forge a peace agreement with the Federation.  That would have been a fun twist, and could have led to many juicy storylines in future seasons had this show depicted the Federation joining forces with a criminal organization.  That would have been wild!  But sadly the show doesn’t follow through.  Admiral Vance acts like a total idiot.  How could he believe Osyraa would EVER allow herself to be put on trial??  That’s ludicrous.  And Osyraa — who for a few minutes suddenly looked like a far more complex character than I’d thought — winds up reverting (particularly in the season finale) into a one-dimensional dumb baddie thug.  Sigh.  (It’s a shame, because  I loved the idea that what Osyraa wanted was for the Federation to admit that capitalism was happening.  I thought for a second the show might be about to reckon with the contradiction that has often run through Star Trek over the years, between the idea of a currency-free Federation, and a wider galaxy that does still appear to use money and trade.)

I liked the character of Aurellio, Osyraa’s wheelchair-bound scientist and friend.  (And lover?)  But here was another missed opportunity for nuance.  I was intrigued when Aurellio said that the galaxy was a better place with Osyraa in it, and suggested that the Federation was hoarding dilithium in an unfair way.  But this fell apart because Osyraa turned out to be so one-dimensionally evil.

I liked hearing them mention the (unseen) Federation President, so I guess the writers remembered that Starfleet and the Federation are not the same thing.  But it feels weird to me that we haven’t met the Federation President at any point this season.

More plot problems: How are Burnham and Book able to travel from the hidden dilithium planet to Starfleet HQ in just a minute or two, almost as fast as Discovery did with its spore drive?  (They mention a transwarp network, I think, but that still wouldn’t mean near-instantaneous travel.)  Why doesn’t Osyraa on Discovery blast Book’s ship out of the sky as they approach to land in Disco’s hangar bay?

Stamets’ begging doesn’t befit a Starfleet officer.  I understand he’d be distraught at the thought of Culber dying (again), but Stamets is a senior Starfleet officer.  The show did his character a disservice here.  (Though I did like seeing Burnham use the Vulcan nerve pinch on him.)  Also: the Sphere Data is now residing in the little Discovery droids??  UGH.

Episode 13 — The Hope is You Part 2 — We get some fun action, but as usual for Discovery, it’s poorly staged and doesn’t make much sense.  Starfleet surrounds Discovery, a ship that is a millennia old.  Even with Disco’s refit, she should have been destroyed in seconds.  (This reminds me of the Discovery season 2 finale, in which the Discovery and the Enterprise were also surrounded by a fleet of other ships, who fired on them at point blank range, and yet both ships made it out just fine.)  Conversely, ONE Emerald Chain ship can take down Starfleet HQ’s shields??  That doesn’t make sense to me.

I liked the idea of the drama with Gray made visible at last… but I don’t understand how Su’Kal’s ship could have recognized Gray’s existence.  Frankly, nothing about the idea of Gray’s existing within Adira makes any sense to me.  I wish the show had explained this right from the beginning.  Playing this as a mystery all season long (and apparently into season 4) is just annoying to me.  Because I don’t understand what’s going on, I’m not buying into what’s supposed to be the drama of these characters’ stories.

How did Owo get into the nacelle, since the show has repeatedly made a huge deal of how on the refit Discovery the nacelles are not actually attached to the ship?  How did the bridge crew survive being without oxygen for an extended period of time?  (They all ridiculously pop right up when the oxygen is turned back on — but they should all have been dead, or at minimum seriously injured!!)  What was the crazy Superman III-like computer-tech-wall into which Osyraa pushes Burnham?  And why would Osyraa think that would kill Burnham?  Why can’t the Veridian easily destroy Discovery (which should have been very damaged after being attacked by EVERY Starfleet vessel at the start of the episode)?  Who was the new woman (Lt. Einya) who has popped up on the bridge crew for the past few episodes, and what happened to the blonde officer (played by the actress who had played the now-dead Airam)?  (It feels like they replaced the blonde with this other character… but then the blonde does appear for one shot at the end of the episode.  Was that actress just not available for the previous few episodes?  It’s weird!!)  In all of Saru’s scenes with Su’Kal, helping him to face his fears, why was their no mention or sight of Su’Kal’s Kelpian fear-reactive tendrils??

I already commented about the ludicrous turbolift fight inside the insanely vast empty space that somehow exists within Discovery.  This is madness and utter ridiculousness.  It makes me so angry.  This sequence literally ruined my enjoyment of this entire season.  How can I have any appreciation for this show when it seems to me made by people with no understanding of how Star Trek, with no desire to respect Star Trek’s long history of existing in a world with a basis in science and reality??  Forget the writers’ caring about Trek history, they don’t even seem to care about any sort of reality or consistency within their own show.  To watch and enjoy this show, I need to be able to suspend my disbelief and buy into the idea that Discovery is a real ship, with real people living on it and going on these adventures.  But when the show creates a sequence showing us with an insanely huge open space that somehow exists within Discovery — a total and complete impossibility — it destroys any pretense of a reality.  That no one making Discovery knows or cares that this is a problem just kills me.

The ending was fine.  I’m glad they decided not to end this season on a cliffhanger.  (Though certainly there are stories still to be resolved — such as who is the mysterious man played by David Cronenberg, and what’s the story with Gray and Adira.)  It makes sense that the Disco crew would start wearing the 32nd century Starfleet uniforms, though, whoof, I did not care for those uniforms.  (I don’t like the standard Disco uniforms either.  This show has not done a good job with Starfleet uniform designs!!)  I loved Saru as a Captain and I hate to see him apparently stepping out of that role at the end.  But it also makes sense that Michael is finally a captain.  The original premise of Discovery was that, for the first time, it would be about a lower-ranking starship officer.  But right from the beginning the show abandoned that premise.  Burnham was always right in the middle of things, and she was always far more competent than anyone else on the Discovery crew.  So it makes sense for this show that she’s now the captain.

So, that’s the end of my lengthy dissection of Discovery season 3.  This was by far the best season of the show, though the end of the season and the failure of the season-long Burn story-arc really hurt the show for me.  Can Discovery ever turn things around (the way both TNG and DS9 did after mediocre early seasons)??  I continue to hope…

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