Star Trek: Discovery, Season 3 Review

3×01 “That Hope Is You, Part 1”

Michael’s cry of joy and relief when her sensors report plentiful organic life is so raw and so beautiful. I think it actually coveys the stakes of last season much better than the peril itself did, and it makes it so believable that Michael and her Discovery family were willing to do what they did.

Michael being hopped up on truth drugs was fucking adorable, and her saying “I am done being reflexively supportive!” while still under their influence is such a fantastic bit of character writing.

The bulk of the episode juggles action and worldbuilding in a way that entertains and informs exceedingly well, and I really do enjoy all of it but besides Michael’s aforementioned cathartic cry of joy, my favorite part of the episode is the ending. It is so, so clear how much the Federation, and Starfleet, mean to Sahil.

The first time I saw this I was a bit guarded when it was clearly positioning Michael to restore hope to the Federation, because I was very worried it was going to do the same kind of exceptional hero, individualistic theming that made the first season feel so un-Star Trek, but rewatching it now that I know where it’s going I was able to relax and really enjoy what it meant to both of them to have that moment.

I love this season so much, I’m so glad the show got here.

(A-Rank)

3×02 “Far from Home”

Saru continues to be freaking amazing as a captain I’m so glad they give it to him this season. He’s such a great leader and he’s come such a long way, I just love it so much. And everyone being so happy to see Michael and her palpable relief after a year on her own is so, so, so good.

(A-Rank)

3×03 “People of Earth”

I kind of hate the whole earth isolationist thing, honestly? It doesn’t really make sense to me in light of earth’s place in the Federation. I get that they wanted to show the Federation being in shambles and having basically none of the major member worlds still in the fold is for sure a way to do that, but I think it would make way more sense for earth to be like “hey we’re still in the Federation in theory but we’re kind of super cut off and it sucks.”

I really love how Michael defused the situation with the “dilithuim bandits” though and I really, really extra appreciate the show not demonizing them and showing that they’re just desperate and trying to survive!! And that they’re projecting strength and ruthlessness not because that’s actually where they are but because they’re hecking scared and don’t think they can let that show. That’s so much more empathetic than it could have been.

I still hate the idea that earth would just stop supporting the rest of the solar system, though. The Burn doesn’t even explain that, because all travel in the solar system would still happen via impulse anyway. The solar system at least should still be supporting each other. I like what they did with it and all, but I kinda hate it conceptually, especially when contrasted with how good of a job the show does with Starfleet in the next episode. Again I think you can do “under siege and desperate” without doing “Earth First.”

Adira though!!!!!!!!!!! Welcome to the show.

(B-Rank)

3×04 “Forget Me Not”

Although it takes a few more episodes for them to come out as nonbinary, Adira Tal is the franchise’s first transgender and first nonbinary character. But they didn’t have to spend too long as the only transgender Star Trek character as they are joined in literally the next episode by their amazing trans boyfriend Gray Tal.

I love these two together so much, I can’t believe I lived long enough to see a franchise that was weirdly resistant to including gay characters have two trans characters who are gay for each other.

Their reunion takes place amid a ritual where Adira communes with their symbiont and all the previous hosts of the Tal symbiont. It’s such a powerful moment of love and triumph and when Adira wakes up and confidently says the names of all of Tal’s previous hosts my heart just swells.

(I will confess to quite a bit of annoyance that we have yet another “that really cool species I love, but make them a human instead” character in this show, but I love Adira so much I’m willing to overlook it.)

Oh and in the B plot Saru tries to help the crew deal with all their trauma or whatever and it kind of blows up in his face but that’s actually a positive development and yeah this show rules.

(S-Rank)

3×05 “Die Trying”

Season 1 broke my trust so much that I was genuinely expecting some kind of stupid twist where Starfleet was eeeeevil in the future or some bullshit like that, but nah. These are just traumatized people that have been beaten down over and over every time they try to make things better. The Federation is still the same ideal it always was, but it’s hard for people to believe it’s going to last when circumstances seem so stacked against that outcome. They’re still trying so hard to do the right thing but they don’t have a big picture hope to inspire them so everything has just become a neverending slog.

Michael and Saru’s belief that Discovery can rekindle that hope is so much better than the way they tried to make Michael the sole hero in season 1, or Discovery having to stop Starfleet (and Sarek, who has devoted his entire life to peace and diplomacy) from doing a genocide, even though the first time I saw this I was a little on guard because of how much it seemed to rhyme with that old approach. This is how you imperil Starfleet’s ideals to reinforce them. You don’t have to have literally everyone but one officer, and then one ship, walk right up to the precipice of abandoning those principles as soon as it becomes difficult to maintain them.

I know I’m risking sounding like a broken record but this is so much better. In a very substantive way, it’s just kind of not even the same show. The conflict doesn’t come from within Starfleet itself. Instead, Starfleet is confronted with a situation where their ideals don’t seem like they’re enough, but they maintain them anyway, and then someone brilliant comes and shows them the way forward. And they have trouble trusting them at first because they’ve been getting their asses handed to them for literally hundreds of years and they’re starting to lose hope, but in spite of that they have never even entertained the possibility of abandoning who they are. (We will see this even more explicitly later in the season.)

Michael and Discovery inspire them, but they don’t have to browbeat them into being who they are. They’ve been doing it for hundreds of years in spite of morale-crushing circumstances. Everything has become a slog and it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to get better. They have no plan, no way back to how things were. They think it’s hopeless. They think they’re going down. But if they’re going down, they’re going down fighting. They’re going down as who they are, who they’ve always been.

That’s Starfleet. That’s the Federation. And that’s why season 3 of Discovery is quite possibly my favorite season of any Star Trek show.

(A-Rank)

3×06 “Scavengers”

STAMETS BONDING WITH ADIRA AND STARTING THE SUBPLOT WHERE HIM AND HUGH BECOME GAY DADS TO THEM AND GRAY, AAAAA.

The main plot was also pretty great, I guess. Burnham convinces Georgiou to go on an unsanctioned mission to rescue Book (“you had me at ‘unsanctioned mission’”), and she and Book basically lead a slave revolt, and before that we get plenty of Burnham having to pretend to be Georgiou’s servant as well as eye candy in the form of the Orion bully boy who’s in charge of the salvage yard. We also get our first hints of Georgiou’s illness and Michael trying to convince her to get medical help because this isn’t the Terran universe and “vulnerability is not a death sentence.”

I 100% agree with Burnham for going after Book and I 100% agree with Saru for revoking her first officer status because of it and I just have so much empathy for everyone in this situation. Also I really appreciate that Vance takes Burnham saving people’s lives (and freedom) into account in choosing not to punish her. For as grumpy as he always is he’s so good at exemplifying the Federation’s values.

Okay but to circle back around to what really matters: queer chosen family hype, though.

(A-Rank)

3×07 “Unification, Part 3”

This is a silly complaint but I kinda wish this had gotten a “Previously on…” sequence at the beginning featuring scenes from the TNG two-parter like “If Memory Serves” got of “The Cage.”

I love not only that we picked this story thread back up, but that Spock was successful in reuniting the Romulans and Vulcans. In a way I’m a little sad to lose the Romulans as antagonists because they were just so dang good at it, but the 32nd century seems long past time to move on to new things, so I’ll more than happily allow it. And Michael being so, so proud of her brother for achieving this seemingly impossible goal was incredibly moving, I felt so good for both of them in that little moment.

The science fight that makes up the bulk of this episode’s runtime might seem silly conceptually, but they did a great job with it and used it to do a bunch of stuff at once. Character work for Michael, filling in the gaps of what happened with the Burn and the Federation and Ni’Var, and to top it all off the beginnings of reconciliation between the Federation and Ni’Var.

That’s… a lot to get through in a show trial/debate club meet, but the way it gets there makes it feel totally earned? I loved Michael’s mother as a Qowat Milat, and the ways she challenges Michael get her to open up in a way that services all the aforementioned plot and character points. Also also, the character work for Michael is tied into her central conflict this season (questioning her place aboard Discovery and in the Federation writ large), and this season has been really great about having her actually incrementally make progress on that problem and not just leave it sitting on the back burner until she dramatically resolves it in the last episode or something?

This is functionally similar to Michael serving as Defender of the Faith for the Federation over and over in season 1, but it feels so much more honest and earned, and it doesn’t leave everyone else looking like an absolute stooge.

I get why the people of Ni’Var are reluctant to trust the Federation, and seeing them begin to overcome that is so much more rewarding when you really do empathize with them. I get why Michael is so determined to fix everything herself, and seeing her accept that that’s what she’s doing and let it go is so much more rewarding when you really do empathize with her.

Although this rightly takes up the majority of the episode’s runtime, believe it or not there is other stuff going on? Saru builds a rapport with President T’Rina of Ni’Var quite organically, and with T’Rina encouraged by the examples of Saru and Burnham, they part on hopeful terms. Furthermore, Ensign Tilly has been unexpectedly offered the position of acting first officer, and most of the crew gets together to tell her to say yes, and I’m not crying you’re crying, and Burnham gets there late and breaks the tension by saying “oh shoot, did I miss the cool ‘say yes’ part?” And I am just super, super okay with this show establishing a tradition of having the entire crew assemble to tell one of them that they’re awesome and they love them and making me cry, that’s a good tradition let’s keep doing that one.

(S-Rank)

3×08 “The Sanctuary”

ADIRA COMING OUT AS ENBY HYYYYYYYPE.

Stamets and Culber continue to be the absolute best gay space dads, I love it so, so much, I cannot believe I actually lived long enough to see a Star Trek series showing queer chosen families!!

The subplot about Georgiou’s condition has been a slow burn all season long, but this episode starts shifting it to the forefront so it can be the main plot of the subsequent two-parter. And despite everything going on with her, despite literally thinking she’s dying, when Discovery goes to red alert, Georgiou’s attention immediately shifts and she says, “Michael!” out loud before being intercepted by Dr. Culber before she can go do something stupid to protect her sub/daughter.

It was really cool seeing Book’s homeworld. I’m still definitely more interested in what’s going on with my Starfleet characters, but this is absolutely the way to do a Book-centric story.

Oh and not only is Osyraa an uncomfortably sexy/femdommy big bad for the rest of the season, she literally feeds one of her subordinates to a hypnovorey monster. I hate everything Osyraa stands for, but fuck I want her to step on me.

(A-Rank)

3×09 “Terra Firma, Part 1”

This is mostly setup for Part 2, but it’s fantastic setup. Saru and the others seeing Georgiou off was surprisingly affecting, especially the unexpected respect Georgiou and Saru exchanged. We finally get to see Captain Killy and Mirror Burnham. The former is just absolutely joyful to watch, honestly? But as much as the episode allows us to enjoy some of the more indulgent aspects of the Mirror Universe, it also lets us feel their horror, and Georgiou’s near-inability to conceal her discomfort really shows how far she’s come.

Again, the real payoff is coming in Part 2, but this is a great Part 1, and in a great two-parter you really do hope that most of the fireworks happen in Part 2. That’s kind of how it’s supposed to work!

(A-Rank)

3×10 “Terra Firma, Part 2”

The ending of this episode left me a sobbing wreck for a second time, so, yeah. Like, I was ugly crying and couldn’t stop until well after the episode was over. It just came in waves and there was nothing I could do about it.

Mirror Georgiou really gets to shine over the course of these two episodes, which are designed to show us how incredibly far she’s come thanks to her time aboard the Discovery, and with Prime Michael. Her interactions with Mirror Saru are incredible. It’s heartbreaking seeing her attempts to sway Mirror Michael to her side fail, but it’s wonderful seeing the attempt. It’s wonderful seeing her try to make things better. It’s the most like Prime Georgiou she’s ever been.

Her asking the Guardian if Michael can come with her is gutting. Their goodbye absolutely destroys me. This is just incredible television. And it’s worthy of the relationship between these two incredible women. It acknowledges what they are to each other, out loud, and it makes me feel all the feelings.

It’s still gutting that Michael won’t ever have either version of her mommy domme in her life again, but it is probably the best goodbye Star Trek has ever done. The sweetest sorrow, if you will.

(S-Rank)

3×11 “Su’Kal”

Acting. Captain. Tilly.

I know Osyraa takes the ship from her (and is pretty hot in the process, ngl), but the way she holds her own in their first few confrontations was pretty badass. And I love, love, loved Michael’s pep talk to her and everyone being so completely behind her.

This episode starts a three-episode arc that wraps up all of the season’s plot lines in a satisfying way while also just being an extremely well-structured story as its own entity. Saru, Michael, and Culber go on a rather unique away team mission with a ticking clock. By the end of the episode, the away team is actually Saru, Culber, and Adira after Book swoops in to bring Michael back to Discovery and Adira stows away because they’re a badass.

This episode is definitely more about setting the stage for the last two episodes of the season, whereas those episodes are more about all kinds of shit happening omg, but it still manages to be a damn good episode in its own right.

(A-Rank)

3×12 “There Is a Tide…”

Michael Burnham IN Space Die Hard.

Also, Admiral Vance and Osyraa’s negotiations are badass. The conflict between the Emerald Chain and the Federation is made explicit when Osyraa actually says the word “capitalism” out loud. Vance and the Federation are actually totally interested in peace with the Chain as long as Osyraa steps down and faces justice for her many, many crimes.

Acting Captain Tilly really, really shines when her crew stages a jailbreak. She’s just totally on top of everything, and issuing orders like she’s been doing it her whole life.

But, yeah. Space Die Hard starring Michael Burnham is the main attraction here, and it totally works. And it’s fully justified by the narrative.

You guys, season 3 managed to do the same basic idea that drove me crazy in season 1 (Michael Burnham vs. the world), and make it actually good??? This is how you do an individual hero story. By making her part of something more, and not having that thing be an abstract idea that everyone around her should theoretically agree with. Instead, you make her part of a family, and have her explicitly fighting for them.

Even the heart-wrenching bit of storytelling where she sends an unwilling Stamets off the ship for his own protection and he explicitly describes this as a betrayal while begging her not to contributes to this. It explicitly morally imperils Burnham by attaching the stakes to her family.

It also shows her making a difficult command decision. The kind we’re told over and over, including by Michael herself, that a Captain needs to be able to make. Hmmm.

(S-Rank)

3×13 “That Hope Is You, Part 2”

Captain Michael Burnham.

In a way, this was always where this was going. This whole show, I mean. It still surprised me the first time I saw it, I had just kind of come to accept the status quo of her being the central character of the story without being the captain. But looking back over the series as a whole leading up to this point… what else could it have been leading to?

The idea of Michael having a command of her own is introduced in the very first episode of the series. It’s explicitly what Phillipa was preparing her for. And this season has been all about Michael’s growth, getting her to the point where she was really, truly ready for the center seat.

The moment when Acting Captain Tilly insists on Michael taking command is perfect. “You need to lead us. You. But, um, if it helps, that’s an order.” And then Admiral Vance asks her to take command officially and it just feels so completely right. My favorite part of this being the Admiral explicitly saying that Michael has been waiting too long, that she deserves this.

But to make this okay, we need something for Saru that’s more important than the center seat. And he finds that in Su’Kal, the lonely, traumatized Kelpian boy who caused the Burn. It’s very sweet seeing Saru patiently establish trust with him. Despite the urgency of their situation, he knows not to push too hard too fast. It makes their bond feel extremely earned.

Also also also, Gray gets a (temporary, holographic) body!! And gets to meet Hugh and they’re such a great family and Hugh explicitly promises that they’ll find a way to bring Gray back permanently and aaaaaaa.

So, uh, yeah. That wraps up… maybe the best single season of any Star Trek show… ever? It’s hard to say, because we’re talking about over 40 seasons. But… yeah. Regardless, this one really stood out.

I’m so grateful this show eventually became this.

(S-Rank)

S-Rank: 5
A-Rank: 7
B-Rank: 1
C-Rank: 0
D-Rank: 0
Average: 4.31 (A-Rank)

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