Kobayashi Marie continues its adventure into the third season of Star Trek Discovery with Episode 3 – People of Earth
Have you heard the one about the unstoppable force that met an immovable object?
An emotional opening and a sentimental ending sandwich episode 3 of this third season of Star Trek Discovery, directed by Jonathan Frakes. And there’s a lot packed in between, but only some of it seems to be relevant on first viewing.
In traditional Star Trek voice-over style, Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) personal log explains what she’s been up to and what she’s learned in the year she’s been waiting for Discovery to turn up. There’s a very quick explanation of The Burn that we’ve heard so much about, which happened 700 years after they left their own time point. Burnham then expertly skips over the finer details of the inert dilithium issue, thus leaving quite a lot of wriggle room for them and us to find out what happened in more detail in a future episode. The fact that it was 700 years after they jumped through the wormhole should lead us to believe that events were unconnected with their actions – but I have a niggling feeling that we’re going to find out something which links everything together, pointing to them being the source of the problem all along.
What we do observe though is that the voice-over is accompanied by a montage of Burnham staring hopefully into space, willing her communicator into action, with ever-lengthening hair. We’ve all just been through lockdown, so we know exactly what that’s all about.
Her log is interrupted by an intensely emotional reunion on board Discovery, which again makes me hopeful of reuniting with distant family and friends in the flesh once all ‘this’ is over. The moment was emotional for the crew, but I think it touched a spot for a lot of viewers too who have not been able to hug their loved ones for quite a while. Apart from Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) of course. Georgiou would never be weak enough to admit she wants to hug anyone, and Burnham knows this too. Looking over Lt Detmer’s (Emily Coutts) shoulder, Michael nods tearfully at Georgiou, who pauses for a moment before walking away. It’s enough for both of them.
Saru (Doug Jones) and Burnham have a little catch up – and both express surprise that Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) is not from Earth yet has an Earth-sounding name. “There has to be a story there, right?” says Michael – are we going to get this story, asks Kobayashi Marie?
At this point I’ll also say there’s a strange dynamic between Burnham and Book this episode. Clearly over the past year they have become good friends, but just how good? This episode can’t quite make its mind up about whether they are definitely attracted to each other, are just very good friends, or whether the realisation that they are about to part ways has caused a shift in their feelings. To get all of that in one episode felt a little inconsistent – and the shot of a topless Book was completely gratuitous. To be quite honest, I don’t care about the tease of the personal relationship, I’m more interested in seeing the work dynamic between them.
Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is of course the heart of the episode. If there was going to be one person who would take a moment to remember the dead and to recall what they have all lost by jumping into the future, it would be Tilly. She’s also the one who puts her finger on what is different about Burnham – and it’s not just her hair. I was just thinking to myself that I don’t think I’d seen Burnham smile as much, let alone laugh, when Tilly says “you do seem lighter”. I wonder if the friends are still rooming together?
This is the episode in which Discovery finally gets her new captain – and it is Saru. He has definitely earned it, and it’s much better for the show that it isn’t Burnham anyway. She’s more interesting if she doesn’t have to worry about rules and regulations so this is the best solution. In previous Star Trek series, the main captain has been human, so by my reckoning this makes Saru the first alien to lead permanently from the captain’s chair.
Our new character this week is Adira (Blu del Barrio), tween menace/genius. A human joined with a Trill symbiont, she seems to have struck up a nice relationship with Stamets (Anthony Rapp) after a rocky start. The pronoun ‘she’ was deliberate, because that is how the character is addressed consistently during this episode. It’s been widely mentioned in the media that Adira is a non-binary character, but it would appear that they haven’t discussed that openly with crew members yet, and that is yet to come. It will be interesting to hear more about the Trill symbiont too.
I might have missed something, but the storyline about Wen and the United Earth Defense Force seemed to be far too simplistic and resolved itself way too easily – my view is that it was essentially a way to get Adira on board Discovery. It didn’t offer very much more in the way of explaining what happened to the Federation, as even Captain Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole) couldn’t offer any information. In fact, it all felt a bit Brexit-y when she declared that Earth was no longer part of the Federation – “we can take care of ourselves”.
So it would be sensible to assume that Adira and Tal become the focus point next week, trying to uncover the information they already possess that might shed light on why the Federation and Starfleet are no longer in existence. But in the meantime I’m sitting under that huge elm tree at Starfleet Academy, wondering about the stories on Detmer, Book and The Burn. With a piece of cake. Because cake is eternal.