After spawning a new era of the franchise, and countless announcements of new series in the works, it’s easy to forget about Star Trek: Discovery. Now that Picard is over and Lower Decks has begun to air, the enjoyable but frustratingly subpar Discovery has powered through Coronavirus production delays and finally has a release date of October 15th. The distant second season finale seemed to open up a whole new direction for the series, as the crew of the titular ship jumped 900 years into the future – the furthest the franchise has ever gone – to flee canon constraints and chart a new course for greener space pastures. The show seems set to reinvent itself. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
The series is now brimming with potential and they need to capitalise on it; to take full advantage of the reboot the time jump offers. Ever since the show first entered production it’s been a hand-me-down. Bryan Fuller’s vision for the series left with him and the show has been passed down from one showrunner to another, finally landing in the hands of Michelle Paradise, the writer of the second season’s best episode. The series has jumped as far away from its past problems as possible and hopefully can be reinvented by the current writers for a very different season with a clear direction. What’s past is prologue and the 32nd century can usher in a new beginning, shaped by writers passionate about their own ideas rather than fumbling with plot threads left by long gone creatives. As with The Next Generation and the underrated Enterprise before it, the third season will hopefully prove to be a major turning point for Discovery.
Despite the huge leap in time to a better setting, there’s one aspect of Discovery – one character – still attached to the past like a piece of elastic, slowly stretching before pinging back to its origin, hopefully not bringing the ship back with it. Of course, I’m talking about Georgiou. The former Mirror Universe dictator and Section 31 agent is set to star in her own series about the secretive organisation that bafflingly gave her a job, and all evidence seems to indicate that it’s set in the 23rd century. And yet, last we saw her, she was travelling to the 32nd century with Discovery. I want the show and its characters to accept the new setting and fully embrace their new mission, but the question of Georgiou severely hinders this.
Obviously, she’ll return to the past somehow, and I hope this doesn’t mean that the season’s plot with be a conflict between characters about whether or not to go back. That’s a necessary debate to have but it should be settled in the first couple of episodes, not after all 13. I wish Georgiou had never gone to the future with everybody else because now the series has to waste time, and some of its new potential, coming up with a way to send her back. I strongly dislike the character and the bizarre kooky comedy they’re trying to get out of her so I’ll be glad to see her off the show, but hopefully it’s just a subplot that doesn’t damage the rest of the season. It’d be great if Discovery could siphon all of its problematic aspects into the new Section 31 series by the end of the season.
But with Georgiou currently still on Discovery – both the ship and show – I worry I’ve foreseen the plot they have inline for her. The captain’s chair in the show is treated like the ‘Defence against the Dark Arts’ teacher in Harry Potter, with a new character taking the mantle in each instalment. After Pike’s brilliant turn as captain last season, I hope Saru gets to hold on to the position, but something is telling me that Georgiou will take the chair as her new throne. What else is there left for her to do in the show? I can already see the drama of Georgiou taking command, but hopefully Saru learns to stand up to her and, if he isn’t captain at the beginning of the season, he is by the end. Saru is by far the best character on the show and becoming captain for more than just one mission would be the perfect next step in his arc of overcoming his fearful tendencies and stepping out of Michael Burnham’s shadow.
Stepping out of Burnham’s shadow shouldn’t just be Saru’s objective, but the rest of the crew’s too. Discovery is the first Star Trek series with a true protagonist and I feel that format reached breaking point last season. Burnham was at the centre of the entire plot and the other characters often felt like distant satellites orbiting her. At one-point Spock even brings up Burnham’s messiah complex in a way that felt a little meta – as if the writers had become aware of their propensity for making everything about her. It’s not enough to just be aware of the fact, but to change it going forward. I liked Burnham well enough in the first season and she can still be the show’s most prominent figure, but the roles of other characters need to expand. Even if she’s still the lead, hopefully her screen time is less about being the core of the show’s heavy bombardment of constant plot and instead delves into her character. She melodramatically cries in most episodes and yet she was raised as an emotionless Vulcan. This disconnect and her outbursts of humanity are fascinating and I want the show to explore it. All the pieces are there, Discovery just needs to put the effort in and fit them together.
The season should embrace the ensemble. The characters need to work together and have identifiable roles, rather than Burnham taking the lead on every task. And I don’t mean them just standing in a circle debating whose idea to pursue while the camera makes progressively faster and dizzying loops around them, but actual teamwork. We don’t see much of the crew in the trailer which is slightly worrying; I fear the opening episodes will have them working together, but with the aim of finding Michael, once again putting her in the spotlight. Now that they are separated from Starfleet and everyone they ever knew, the crew needs to rely on each other and start feeling like a family. The series would benefit greatly by having a ‘Lower Decks’ style episode (the TNG episode not the animated series) that focuses on characters like Keyla, Bryce and Rhys so we can grow attached to them. At the moment the show ignores these characters until they die and suddenly it acts as if they were beloved and fan favourites, like with Airiam last season.
So far Discovery has concerned itself with huge galaxy-wide threats, but the third season seems to be doing something different. While details are hazy, it doesn’t seem like the crew will be fending off the apocalypse, but rather will be dealing with the aftermath. The Federation, somehow, is gone and the crew will have to rebuild the organisation and what it once stood for. At least, that’s what I think is happening. And, as long as they don’t reset the failed Federation through time travel, I hope this is the ship’s directive going forward. A mission of hope, occasionally dashed dramatically, rather than impending doom. A post-apocalyptic setting maybe isn’t synonymous with a fun time, but the crew and ship can be that Roddenberry spirit in the darkness – even if the crew is far from the former creator’s ideals.
Catapulting the action to the 32nd century clearly wasn’t the series’ initial plan but hopefully the third season reboots the show in an exciting new direction. One where the past is learned from rather than repeated. I hope that Discovery’s upcoming episodes feel like the first season of a great new show rather than the third season of an okay one.
What are your hopes for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3? Should the series use the potential of its new setting to redefine itself, or do you like the show how it is? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.