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Star Trek: Discovery is back with an explosive third season
I am crying.
There's really no other reaction to have at the end of such an emotional episode. It was so wonderfully full of the heart that characterizes the Star Trek franchise and has been a staple of Star Trek: Discovery, in particular. This show is gorgeous in its earnestness, righteous but never cheesy, and "That Hope Is You, Part 1" brought the best of all of that to the forefront.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the third season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery.
The episode opened right where we left off, with Burnham going through the wormhole, heading 900 years into the future in order to ensure that there will be a future for organic life. She emerges alone, without any idea where Discovery might be, and crashes hard into a planet. Her Red Angel suit is in tatters and barely functioning, but she receives confirmation that there is, in fact, life detected here. That means that her sacrifice — Discovery's sacrifice — was worth it, and the mission was a success. The expression of pure joy that comes over Michael's face, and the laugh that escapes, are a thing of wonder and delight. In these moments, you remember exactly why you love Star Trek: Discovery, and you know this is going to be a great season.
After she programs the suit to take back off, send the final red signal to Spock, and self-destruct, Burnham begins to head toward the ship she crashed into on the way down. She meets Book (played by David Ajala), a courier who has valuable cargo to deliver. There's just one problem: He's out of dilithium. As they make their way toward the Mercantile, where Burnham may be able to make contact with Discovery, she gets a crash course (quite literally in some cases) of what she's missed over the last 900 years.
As far as Book knows, The Federation and Starfleet are gone. Only idealistic "true believers" think they might still exist. After "The Burn," which occurred a century ago, when the bulk of the dilithium in the galaxy (the fuel for warp technology) destabilized, the Federation was no longer able to keep the peace. At this point, we don't know what happened (though season trailers give us hints that the Federation does still exist, just in a diminished form).
As Michael and Book traverse this planet (the scenery is gorgeous, the episode was filmed in Iceland and it shows), they learn more about each other and it dawns on Michael just what a strange new world the future is (the Andorians and the Orions working together, what?). The things she believed in are gone, or are they? After all, Starfleet was all about faith in herself, and in those around her. She chooses to put that faith in Book, and after a rough start, they begin to see eye to eye. (Also, I would be remiss if I didn't note that the chemistry between these two actors is off the charts. Whew!)
Here, it becomes clear just how the USS Discovery, whenever and wherever Burnham finds her, will fit into this new future. The spore drive means that the ship isn't reliant on dilithium to travel. It may just be the first Federation ship that is able to carry out the organization's mission in over a century.
But for now, Michael must find her crew and make contact with what is left of Starfleet. After seeing Book's true colors, and realizing he is someone she can trust, she confides in him her story (though he did figure out the bulk of it on his own). After showing her the sanctuary planet that he helps by saving endangered species (is he perfect? He might be perfect?? He has a GIANT CAT!) and revealing his ability to commune with plants and animals, he takes her to an old Federation outpost, one that's been mostly destroyed.
There, she meets Aditya Sahil (Alex Kurtzman apparently saw my tweets asking for more South Asian representation on Star Trek, woo!), who has been maintaining the systems and scanning for Federation ships for 40 years, hoping that one day, a Starfleet officer might just walk through his door and ask for help. Today, his wish comes true. He tells Burnham that he can only find two Federation ships within his scanning range, which is pretty limited. Apparently, that's likely the case for all true believers still maintaining what Federation outposts are left. They're fractured with no real way to find one another and keep in touch.
While Aditya might not have the news that Burnham wants to hear, this scene was one of the most gorgeous and poignant I've seen in recent memory. I don't really have the words to talk about it in anything but the most basic terms because it's not about what was on the screen but how it made me feel. It felt like someone finally acknowledged the hope I've been searching for, that need I've had for years for meaning. It had me crying actual tears, reminding me, in these times, what it means to believe in something greater than yourself, and how meaningful it is to find a kindred spirit in the darkness. Star Trek reminds us that we aren't alone, even in the darkest times. If we can find one another, we can make a difference.
This premiere episode sets the tone for a powerful third season, in which all bets are off. The show is no longer constrained by canon or technology or the history we know. Instead, it's charting its own course, and there are a lot of questions to answer. In the immediate future, where is Discovery? Where is the Federation, and what role do they play in the galaxy? And further into the season, what exactly happened during the Burn, and is there any coming back from it? I'm excited to find out.