This is the first real episode of Star Trek: Discovery. The massacre at the end of the opening two-parter, the time jump between the 2nd and 3rd episode, and the introduction of the actual ship Discovery all confirm that the opening two were basically an extended prequel. This episode was another exercise in exposition, but without most of the opening’s theatrics.
Now that Michael’s set up, we get to meet the other characters. None of their names are hammered home in this episode, but we’ll probably know them before too long. Their appearances and character traits are all diverse enough to easily and quickly establish them. Scared alien first officer who knows and respects Michael. Anxious but ambitious roommate slowly coming to like and respect Michael. Mysterious, conniving captain with plans for Michael and the Discovery. Abrasive and arrogant science officer assigned to guide Michael. That’s a strong solid group of 5 characters. They all fit into Star Trek roles without being cliches or archetypes. The only clunky exposition actually pertains to Michael, with multiple tedious references to her fame and mutiny. (Related side note: Why do we need a Previously On segment for a modern show on a streaming platform? Minor nitpick, but it made for an awkward opening)
The other big task of this episode is establishing the Discovery and its mission. This plot had some real body horror. Faces were mangled, limbs were snapped off, and blood was on the walls. Gore isn’t traditionally a part of Star Trek, but if they’re doing it, at least they’re doing it right. The scenes on the away mission were properly intense. It’s a shame they played that Klingon’s death for laughs because there was a real possibility for insight and cooperation there. The Federation workers and the Klingons were both equal in the monster’s eyes. Still, I did laugh so I can’t really fault them.
This was a welcome change of pace from the opener. It had a lot less cheesy/cringey moments, like the Federation emblem in the sand or the overuse of Klingon in a serif font. As Michael Burnham settles in to the Discovery, the viewers are too. I look forward to finding out the Captain’s plan and seeing how Michael figures into it. I’m also curious to see if his character and storyline is the plot for season one or the entire series. I do wonder how long the series will go before giving us a ‘regular’ Star Trek episode. Not in terms of quality, but something that mulls over one idea or conflict, separate from the overarching plot. It feels good to have new Star Trek each week and this definitely feels like a show worth talking about. I’ve already been recommending it to my geek friends, so good job CBS. 3 episodes in and I’m still pleasantly surprised.
I’ll be back next Monday covering the next episode. I should be back later this week with a comics post about 1961 and early Legion of Superheroes. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter, like Gutter Space on Facebook, and go enjoy some science fiction.