This Star Trek: Discovery review contains spoilers.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 2
Star Trek: Discovery season three continues to take its time in the second episode, which acts as a satisfying parallel to the season premiere. Last week, we followed Michael in her first day in this strange, new frontier. This week, we’re doing the same with the rest of the Discovery crew. Like Michael, their introduction to this new time begins with a traumatic, dizzying fall from space. Unlike Michael, they have one another to lean on, not to mention an entire starship to keep them safe. With sloppy writing, this kind of retread of the “stranger in a strange land” plot could have been redundant and boring, but Discovery nails it for the second week in a row, giving us further insight into how the values and the experiences of these 23rd century characters fit and don’t in this new world.
There’s something deeply unnatural about seeing a starship on the ground. Usually built in space and equipped with shuttlecrafts for away missions, a starship could conceivably live out its whole life without ever touching the surface of a planet. Because of this, if a starship is on the ground, something has probably gone terribly wrong, for example: the starship has jumped 930 years into the future and come out in the middle of an asteroid field with many of its systems straight-up not responding. Or something like that.
Like Michael in the premiere, Discovery’s first experience in this new time is crash landing onto a planet. A planet that the crew quickly realizes is not their intended destination of Terralysium (aka Burnham’s mom’s home base). Where are they? Doesn’t matter! Discovery can’t fly and can’t communicate, and Saru makes it clear to his crew that fixing these problems needs to be the priority, even if there is a shiny new future out there to explore. (Shiny new futures are like cat nip for these Federation types.) The crew goes about fixing the plasma manifold rupture, which means finding and fixing all of the EPS conduits that went boom.
But, really, where are they? OK, fine. The planet doesn’t really have a name; the few people who live in the man-made pockets of breathable atmosphere simply call their home “The Colony,” and that no-name status tells you pretty much everything you need to know about this place. It’s a backwater that no one cares about, especially, presumably, now that its mining colonies have been sabotaged. If this were a western, a genre the episode mades several explicit references to, then this would the mostly-abandoned frontier town way down on its luck.
The Colony may be a dusty frontier town, but it’s still 930 years ahead of the Discovery when it comes to tech, which is good news for the battered ship. While the crew works diligently to make the repairs necessary to get Discovery flying again before the planet’s parasitic ice crushes the hull and everyone in it (did I not mention there is parasitic, hull-crushing ice?), Saru and Tilly travel to one of the settlements in search of a repair for a broken transtator. As with any good western, they find a saloon filled with trigger-happy locals (well, two trigger happy locals). But even future folk can’t resist the one-two punch of Sar and Tilly’s earnest likability. They agree to help.
It helps that one of the miners, Kal, believes in the Federation. Like Mr. Sahil in last week’s episode, Kal is a true believer, someone who hopes for the Federation long after there is evidence to inspire or support that hope. Unlike Mr. Sahil, Kal has bigger problems than keeping his teeth clean and. his bird alarm clock set. The Colony is under the thumb of local bully Zareh, a violent courier who uses his position to exploit the remote community. When Zareh shows up on the saloon scene, the situation quickly takes a violent turn. Kal is killed, and Zareh plans to send Tilly out into the parasitic winter to retrieve the dilithium Saru has promised in exchange for their safe release.
But Saru and Tilly aren’t in the same situation as Michael: they have backup, even when they don’t ask for it. Emperor Georgiou, highly critical of Saru’s plans to simply ask the locals nicely for their help, has followed Tilly and Saru. She saunters in and turns the situation on its head, quickly taking Zareh and his henchmen out. The backup definitely saves Tilly’s life and probably saves Saru’s too, and presents an uncomfortable truth: Saru might not like Georgiou’s methods, but it’s hard to deny that she is a useful ally in this lawless future. Still, Saru won’t let Georgiou kill Zareh, after he has been safely apprehended, giving the choice of justice to the remaining miner instead. Georgiou goes along with it when Saru pulls rank, but it’s not clear how long that will work. Right now, Georgiou is of value to the crew and willing to, more or less, follow the rules of Discovery, but it’s not hard to imagine that there will come a day when this is not the case anymore. When that day comes, Saru will have some hard choices to make.
While Saru, Tilly, and Georgiou secure a messy victory on the planet, the crew of Discovery manages to secure a last-minute victory repairing the ship’s systems, with a huge assist from a very injured Stamets. (Yeah, his medically-induced coma has been cut short.) We often speak about Star Trek, at least in its initial incarnations, as a utopian show and, for me, I understand that utopia as directly related to workplace. Star Trek: The Next Generation especially is a show about the best office ever, one where everyone is excited to be there, is good at their jobs, and will show up for their colleagues’ poetry readings. It’s a depiction of a workplace that is so healthy and functional that the near non-existence of everyone’s domestic lives is depicted as not a problem. Past Season 1, the Discovery has had more of this happy workplace vibe—that being said, this ship has a serious problem with employees working while sick and/or wounded (a very American work culture flaw). In this episode, we see both Detmer and Stamets work through their serious injuries. While it works out for now, especially in Stamets’ instance, it’s a dangerous game and one that, at least in my workplace utopia, is sad to see. While this is a lesson I need to internalize myself, addressing any and all medical concerns and listening to your doctor’s advice (as is demonstrated in this episode by Reno) is necessary for a healthy and efficient workplace. (But, seriously, someone needs to check on Detmer.)
The episode ends with a hell of a plot twist that, while many viewers may have seen coming, still packs a punch. A mysterious ship shows up to help haul Discovery out of the ice. It’s Burnham, and she has finally found Discovery… after a year of searching. Frankly, she looks great, and is probably overjoyed that she didn’t have to wait longer for Discovery to appear in this time. (In last week’s episode, she and Mr. Sahil agreed that it could be days or it could be centuries.) We’ll have to wait until next week to see what Michael has been up to, but, now that the Discovery crew has been properly reunited, this future feels one step closer to restoring the Federation.
It’s a very broad title, but it makes me laugh that this episode has the same name as the last Spider-Man movie.
Is there anything scarier than having your helm yell “Brace!” because there is nothing else they can do?
Having the bridge crew cheer Detmer after that crash landing was a nice touch. I love this group.
The sickbay needs to step up its game. Dr. Pollard, right now I’m looking specifically at you. (But, again, Detmer, you got to speak up about those symptoms, friend!)
“Um, you have some Leland on your shoes.”
Stamets’ “Worse than me?” upon being awoken from his coma so that someone else can have his bed is a real metric of the situation. I am still unclear what the capacity of this medbay is. How many beds does it have? It always seem to have a skeleton crew of doctors.
“OK, what the f-?!” Tilly snaps at Georgiou in a highly relatable way.
Different incarnations of Trek have had different policies and patterns when it came to how often the captain would go on away missions. Thoughts on Saru, the captain, leaving the ship during this crucial moment?
“We are introducing ourselves to the future. You, Ensign Tilly, make a wonderful first impression.” I love that Saru (and this show) recognizes this quality as the skill that it is.
We get some great Saru as captain moments in this episode. He is kind and clear-eyed, communicative and firm, smart and calm under pressure, and he also kicks some ass when it is called for.
“What an unbelievably shitty decision.” Georgiou’s thoughts on Nhan’s choice to ditch the Enterprise in favor of Discovery. I mean… I kind of get where she is coming from on this.
“Bureaucracy is where fun goes to die.” Emperor Georgiou, not a fan of Section 31 or, most likely, Starfleet.
“We’re odd and strange.” “Not to each other.”
Do you think we will see Zareh again? I kind of hope not.
Gene is credited as “Ensign Hazmat,” which is a nice touch. I hope we see him again.
Like the season premiere, this episode was also directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi, and it was beautiful.
While I am excited to see Michael and the Discovery crew reunited, it would have been interesting to spend a good chunk of the season alternating episodes between these two groups, a la Farscape Season 3, and only having them reunite well into the season. But I am cool with this too.
What did you think of “Far From Home”? Let us know in the comments below.