Thursday, October 15, 2020

REVIEW: 'Star Trek: Discovery' - Michael Burnham Remains Hopeful After Landing in a Bold New Future in 'That Hope Is You'

CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery - Episode 3.01 "That Hope Is You"

Arriving 930 years in the future, Burnham navigates a galaxy she no longer recognizes while searching for the rest of the U.S.S. Discovery crew.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery.

"That Hope Is You" was written by Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet & Alex Kurtzman and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi

This drama opted to blow up its entire premise at the end of its second season. The only way to save the universe was to travel far ahead into the future. It brings these characters further in the timeline than any previous Star Trek series or film. That's notable because it means the show is no longer beholden to what has already been established. It felt burdened by the responsibility to feature canonical nods and references throughout its first two seasons. Michael's presence as Spock's sister had to be forced. The Enterprise came along to add a jolt of excitement. Captain Pike helped guide the Discovery crew through its new mission. And yet, these new characters never really had the responsibility of headlining the show by themselves. Emotional beats still worked effectively. However, it was always clear that the action was a play for nostalgia instead of doing something new for the overall franchise. And now, the show essentially gets to do whatever it wants. So in its third season, it has opted to eliminate Starfleet entirely. That's a bold move. That has been such a grounding element for all of the Star Trek projects. It has brought clarity to the guiding principles of so many of the main characters. Michael lands in a strange new time period untethered to everything she has previously known. She is lost without her crew. She doesn't know if the Discovery landed safely. She doesn't know how long she'll be without Saru, Tilly, Stamets and company. She has to survive. But it's only mere seconds after landing in this time that she gets pulled into some drama. It's a way to reassure the world that messages of hope and unity can survive even when so many systems seemingly fail or are destroyed. Michael is in disbelief that the Federation could ever fall. It brought peace and prosperity to the galaxy. And now, the quadrants are essentially cut off from one another. Each little section of this universe is in charge of monitoring themselves. That leaves them open to corruption and people willing to break all the rules in order to get ahead. Book is introduced as a smuggler and a thief. He distrusts Michael because she damaged his ship. He views her as yet another rogue for hire who is after what is currently in his possession. She is simply lost though. She needs to get her bearings. She celebrates upon realizing that her efforts saved the future. Human civilization was allowed to have a future. It wasn't forever corrupted by Control. The sacrifices the crew of the Discovery made were worth it in the end. And now, they are set to embark on a new mission. They are essentially tasked with saving the Federation. Hope was never lost entirely. True believers are still out there. They are still at their posts ready to uphold the ideals of Starfleet. Michael's presence serves as a boost of confidence. She is once again a guiding signal for a better future. They can hang the flag with pride and honor with her support. Michael could be here for years before the Discovery lands though. She will monitor the stars just like Spock did after she left. He eventually received that clarity that his sister arrived safely. That was the end of their relationship. Now, their stories will take them onto different paths. Michael is fighting for an institution that disappeared a long time ago. It could come together again with enough devotion and adherence to a cause. There is no guarantee in that mission though. Moreover, this premiere serves to introduce Book as a new foil for Michael. He guides her through this time while never completely trusting her. He surmises that she is a time traveler eventually. He knows that she isn't going to like some of the actions he takes to save their lives. And yet, the show also has more fun in this premiere. Michael celebrates her victory with an infectious scream. Michael is drugged and has a blast detailing her incredible journey while also fighting alongside Book to safety. All of this is greatly appreciated and allows the audience to trust in what the creative team is doing. This is a bold, new future for the franchise. One that isn't grounded in what has always been. It's exciting and scary. This new path could create something great. Or it could highlight the many ways in which this franchise plays as an action piece instead of as a meaningful allegory to societal issues of today. It's unlikely that Michael and the Discovery crew will be separated for too long. This premiere centers on Michael in a way that always the drama to establish itself in a new place in time with this core character. However, that one person can't be the whole structure and focal point of the series. Yes, Michael is important. And sure, only a few personalities on the Discovery have actually popped and are interesting. But the ensemble work is still needed to create a nuanced narrative with many different perspectives to this strange, new reality.