“That Hope is You, Part 1”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 1 – Debuted Thursday, October 15, 2020
Written by Michelle Paradise & Jenny Lumet & Alex Kurtzman
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Discovery returns in a big way, delivering a different kind of episode, in a different place, but with familiar themes. Even though “That Hope is You, Part 1” is fast-paced and action-packed, it somehow feels more relaxed, settling the series into a new rhythm, especially for its focal character of Michael Burnham. Sonequa Martin-Green steps up to the challenge to carry this episode, ably assisted by new cast member David Ajala.
WARNING: Spoilers below!
“You have reached the year 3188”
After a brief teaser, which we will pick up on later, season three drops us right back into the action of the season two finale. Michael Burnham emerges from the chaos of the battle with Control on one end of a time-traveling wormhole only to find herself in the middle of an exciting quip-laced space chase on the other, slamming her red angel suit smack damn into the chasee ship, flown by one Cleveland “Book”
Solo Booker, sending his freighter and her time suit crashing to the planet below. Welcome to the future, Michael.
After barely surviving the crash landing, the versatile and talkative suit delivers some good news. The mission was successful, the year is 3188 and there are “multiple life signs detected,” so Suity is ordered back through the wormhole to send brother Spock the promised final “red burst” signal in the 23rd century. This bit of business nicely ties up some loose ends from season two and literally puts the Red Angel and all that stuff behind Michael, but also nails down how it was a one-way trip.
After her brief, infectious moment of triumph, Michael finds herself truly alone and it doesn’t look like we’re on the intended target of Terralysium (where mom holed up in the future), but in the magnificent desolation of some other alien planet, beautifully shot on location in Iceland. With Discovery nowhere to be found, all she has to hold on to now is a sparse field kit, and a mantra… name, rank, and Starfleet serial number.
With no better options, she heads to the ship she smacked into, only to run smack into the angry captain who wants nothing to do with her. After some fun flirty fighting, the pair comes to an accord. She needs a way to communicate with the Disco and he needs dilithium to get his ship off the ground but he is space broke—yes he really said: “I’m space broke.” Should we trust this guy? For that reason alone, almost certainly not, but it’s all she can do, so off they head to the space market to trade her space antiques to get him some space rocks.
“You believe in ghosts”
As the pair travel to an impressive alien “Mercantile,” Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala quickly fall into some promising chemistry as Book starts with the exposition we have all been waiting for, delivered impressively by someone new to all this technobabble. Turns out the Federation collapsed about a century before, not long after something called “The Burn.” In the late 31st century most of the dilithium in the galaxy exploded, and thus warp travel became very difficult, but not entirely eliminated.
Now only “true believers” talk of the good old days of the Federation. And that’s all it takes to light the torch in this season’s Michael Burnham. She started a war with the Klingons, which she then ended. She took on and defeated an evil AI hell-bent on wiping out the galaxy. Telling this woman technological and societal collapse has taken down the interstellar institution at the core of her being only gives her a new to-do list.
Oh, and by the way, Book waves his hand over that one-way trip to the future, informing us that all time travel technology was destroyed and outlawed after the “Temporal Wars.” Michael has no time to regret giving up what may be the only hope for ever returning home to the 23rd century, she now has a whole new century to save. It’s convenient, it’s a bit cheesy, but Sonequa Martin-Green sells it. Give us a ticket to the Save the Federation ride.
“I haven’t been shot in a while”
The bulk of the episode plays out as half space buddy cop movie / half space heist movie, with this unlikely pair finagling their way into the high-security market to pull off their trade. To drive home the point that things are different in the 32nd century, this place is run by an alliance of Orions and Andorians, something you wouldn’t find back in the 23rd.
Book is a regular in this nicely detailed future-yet-familiar hologragram-filled auction house, revealing himself to be a courier delivering the goods sold here in return for barely enough dilithium for the next job. And he fits in with all unsavory characters, so to no one’s surprise, Cleveland double-crosses Michael to take all her “antiques,” leaving her under arrest and interrogated by an Andorian/Orion comedy duo-turned tough guys.
This all leads to the funniest and fastest bit of character development Burnham has ever experienced, all thanks to a mind-altering drug they gave her to spill the beans on Book, which she promptly did. She also used this trip to get in some much-needed reflection, with the epiphany, “I’m so supportive! I am overcompensating!” and “I am done being reflexively supportive.” But her bragging “I saved all the things” shows Michael still needs some more time on the space couch. Okay, I’ll stop, but they started it.
It’s not too long until everyone is pointing cool guns at each other, including that Cosmo guy from that chase scene. Turns out Book stole Cosmo’s cargo, which he stole from someone else, so that makes it okay then, right? After some more fun subtle chemistry, Ajala and Martin-Green adroitly switch to action mode, taking out lots of thugs and pulling off a dilithium heist while they are at it, escaping with fancy 32nd-century personal transporters. Oops, bad guys have those too, so we get an extended fight-transport-fight again sequence masterfully shot by director Osunsanmi through a sequence of breathtaking locations.
Eventually, the gaggle of alien goons catch up with our heroes and demand the cargo be returned, which turns out to be a giant “trance worm” that begins to mesmerize and eat its way through the bad guys. It even swallows Burnham until Book shows he speaks worm and convinces it to spit her out. She is just having the weirdest day… and it’s a lot of fun watching it all happen to her.
“That hope is you, Commander Burnham.”
So this Book fella isn’t just a roguish freighter pilot. He’s got history; he’s an exile from a planet of poachers. He has some embedded tech and also some kind of genetic makeup that gives him special abilities, including being able to commune with plants and animals. Oh, and he has a big, fat cat named Grudge, who he says is “a queen.”
And with all the running and shooting together, this pair has finally bonded. Without the Federation around to protect those in need, Book’s brand of saving the space worms will do in a pinch. He also wins some points for recognizing all she has given up to save the future, the future he lives in. He first takes her to Sanctuary 4, a sort of refuge for trance worms and like-minded alien animal lovers. So we can see there are still people out there, ready for a new Federation.
Speaking of which, it’s time to return to that brief teaser where we saw a sole figure dutifully manning some kind of facility like a lonely Maytag repairman of what’s left of Federation. Turns out Book knows about this abandoned relay station and they visit to meet Federation Liaison Aditya Sahil, where the feels well up as he greets them with “Welcome to Starfleet, may I help you?” and she can only choke out her mantra: name, rank, and serial number.
Veteran Indian actor Adil Hussain really kills it as this tragic and yet delightful man tells his story of waiting decades for someone from Starfleet to finally come to this station he was born on, protecting a Federation flag handed down from generation to generation. We learn that communications and sensor range is limited, with only two Federation ships detected within a 600 light-year radius, and neither is the Discovery. And the realization that the Disco may be too far away to detect, or even worse, may not arrive for years—maybe centuries—is a gut punch.
Clearly, Michael and Book and the Discovery crew (who are bound to show up at some point) are going to have their work cut out for them, so it’s a good thing she nabbed all that dilithium. There’s not a dry eye in the house as Burnham commissions Sahil into Starfleet to join their cause—her little band of true believers. Buoyed by a powerful score, this episode has earned it as the newly-minted acting Communications Chief declares, “Our numbers are few, our spirit is undiminished.”
Risk is the business
Like any good Star Trek show, Discovery is all about the family. Yet after waiting for over a year, showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise decided to limit us to just one member of the Disco clan, leaving fans of Saru, Tilly, Stamets, Linus, and the rest wanting. This was a bold strategy, but for the most part, it paid off. Yes, Michael Burnham is the lead character of Discovery, but setting up an episode as a two-person movie set in an entirely alien locale works to reset the show, with none of the trappings to ground us in the familiar. We are not in Kansas anymore; in fact, we aren’t even sure there IS a Kansas anymore.
This plan only worked because Sonequa Martin-Green can carry an episode almost entirely on her own. She continues to show great range, and Burnham also appears to evolve and is even starting to have a little fun, something sorely lacking in this Vulcan-raised guilt-ridden science officer. Maybe she needs to get high more often. And David Ajala showed he is as good as advertised, keeping up with her along the way and quickly developing good chemistry that is going to be critical for season three to even work. Jason Isaacs and Anson Mount may have left big shoes to fill, but Ajala is doing just fine wearing his own boots.
Even though Burnham is taking on the weight of the galaxy yet again, they’re dialing back the inclination to turn her into a superhero, which was done to excess in the season two opener. In fact, in this episode she’s mostly doing her best to hang on for the ride, with Book doing all the clever parts. However, while the episode was good at reaching for the hopeful ideals of Star Trek as a goal, it did lean too heavily on finding violent ends for most of the obstacles put in their path.
Giving us a whole new episode set on a strange new world—two strange new worlds actually—definitely upped the Star Trek quotient. This was enhanced by taking full advantage of the location shooting in Iceland, something classic Trek shows could only dream of doing. What we have seen so far of the 32nd century is unique and intriguing, with some curious technology and curiouser people. The props, costumes, effects, makeup, and production design teams are all in top form. CBS (and Netflix) are still sparing no expense for Discovery, and it shows.
With Control and the seven red signals behind us, the big mystery of season three is The Burn, the cataclysm that led to the collapse of the Federation. For those keeping score, TrekMovie theorized The Burn was related to warp travel and communications being wiped out due to the destruction of subspace via an Omega explosion. So we were in the ballpark, sort of… although Book also made mention of the Gorn destroying a bit of subspace, so there is that.
Warp travel has been dramatically reduced, due to the severely limited availability of dilithium. And apparently there are only a few subspace channels of communication available. While it would have been nice to see something tied into Trek history at the core of this mystery, perhaps there is a theme here related to the scarcity of this precious commodity.
There are many questions remaining to be answered throughout the season, starting with why most dilithium suddenly exploded over a century prior to Michael’s arrival. There was a tiny bit of handwaving (that will hopefully not be the extent of explaining) why other forms of faster-than-light travel are also not stepping in to replace dilithium-fueled warp drives. The biggest thing will be the search for a way to undo The Burn. This will likely lead to finding out who was behind it, as they will almost certainly try to stop Burnham and the Discovery on their quest to restore the Federation.
There is also the issue with time travel. As we noted recently, temporal tech was common in the 31st century. Book made mention of this tech being destroyed and outlawed after the “Temporal Wars,” which likely refers to Enterprise’s Temporal Cold War, which may have flared up again in the 31st century. Hopefully, we get a bit more detail beyond that. And even if the tech doesn’t exist, shouldn’t the fundamental science still work? If going home is just a slingshot around the sun away (in a ship without sphere data onboard), hopefully, the answer to the question as to why the Discovery crew stays in the 32nd will be satisfactorily answered at some point.
And now there are a number of intriguing new mysteries to unravel, like what exactly is the deal with Book and his glowing forehead? And what’s up with his cat?
Let’s get this party restarted
This return of Star Trek: Discovery should come as a delight and relief for fans of the show, who have been waiting for eighteen months. Even though this was a “Part 1,” with next week’s episode promising us a look in on how Saru and the gang are doing, it delivered a solid self-contained story. You can almost feel the weight of the 23rd century lift off the writers’ room as Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet, and Alex Kurtzman have a little fun penning this outing, as well as indulging in some cheesy dialog. And director Olatunde Osunsanmi also relaxes a bit, settling in to bring us a nicely-paced episode that finds time for some quiet moments. Even with all the action, he tones down some of the extraneous frenzy (and crazy camera moves) seen in season two.
And kudos to composer Jeff Russo, his musicians, and especially his engineers, who put together an impressive score for a different kind of episode. And they did it all without ever leaving their homes, which is even more impressive.
Star Trek: Discovery is in a whole new place right now, in many ways. Last season also started with a promising opener, only to see mixed results as season two progressed, so there are no guarantees. But season three has all the right components to be the best one yet. It will be the first with the same showrunners throughout. It is set in its own unique era, with “fresh snow” to plow. It is now part of a larger family of Star Trek shows, taking some of the pressure off of carrying the franchise on its own. For now, it is a time for optimism. “Hope is a powerful thing”… indeed.
- Runtime is 51:16 (without promo)
- The planet Burnham lands on initially is called Hima
- Cosmo was a Betelgeusian (a species invented for Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and he was played by David Benjamin Tomlinson (Linus)
- The Andorian makeup has been unnecessarily updated with some extraneous bits
- The thugs employed by the Andorians and Orions included a Tellarite and a Lurian (like Morn), and some cool new aliens
- Programmable matter is going to be a big thing this season, so get used to that ‘forming’ effect
- Tilly should never be given that truth drug
- Grudge is a queen
More to come
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