Author’s Note: Greetings! As we begin reviewing DISCO’s 3rd season, I’d like to take an opportunity to introduce a new voice as we embark on this journey. If you’ve been following up with our ‘Lower Decks’ reviews, you’re already familiar with my tone! If not, I look forward to stepping into the 32nd century with you!
Previously in season two: After receiving a wealth of knowledge from an entity known as the Sphere and uncovering the mystery behind the elusive Red Angel, Cmmdr. Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the USS Discovery set off to rid the known universe of the malevolent threat assessment system, ‘Control.’
In a refreshing wake-up montage, we watch a lone Starfleet official go through his daily routine. It’s made apparent that he’s been at this for a while, diligently monitoring the comm on a sleek, almost clinical-looking station.
Elsewhere, amidst thick debris, a rapid-fire chase occurs between two ships. After an exchange between the pilots, we learn that Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) has stolen something from a new-to-us alien named Cosmo (David Benjamin Tomlinson). As Book attempts to make a run for it, Burnham’s wormhole opens up and she collides with his ship, sending them both crashing to the surface of a nearby planet.
Because Michael is unstoppable, she survives the crash. After literally crawling out of the flaming ashes of her landing, she learns from the suit’s computer that she’s reached the year 3188 and that life exists. She does a quick search for DISCO, sends the suit back into the wormhole, and gathering her wits, sets off towards the smoking wreckage of Book’s ship in the distance.
As she reaches the crash site, Burnham is attacked by Book from behind. The two of them duke it out and ultimately reach a draw. In giving her a strict talking-to, Book also reveals a few expository gems, like the fact that her titanium alloy time suit was “old” technology, and that the Gorn have destroyed a chunk of subspace. Michael eventually appeals to his good graces with her humanity, and he allows her on his ship.
On the bridge, Michael is dazzled by new tech while Book consoles his enormous cat, Grudge. He reveals that his dilithium recrystalizer was damaged in their collision, and when Michael asks if there’s a place where she could attempt to contact DISCO, he suggests the mercantile, a commerce hub called Requiem. She offers her tricorder as a method of payment for taking her there, and together they set off on foot.
Michael confronts Book about his cargo along the way, deducing that he stole it. He retorts by criticizing her badge, insinuating that the ideals attached to it are long gone. He breaks the devastating news that the Federation has collapsed, most likely due to ‘The Burn’, a galaxy-wide dilithium explosion that occurred 100-120 years prior, all of which resulted in the destruction of thousands of ships and the deaths of millions. When Michael insists that the Federation is a set of ideals and not a fleet of ships, Book humors her, but suggests she cover her badge before they get to their destination.
The mercantile is a looming neon marketplace, hovering over a large, bustling city. At the entrance, Michael is shocked that the Orions and Andorians are working together to manage the facility. Book finagles their way past a team of Andorian guards, and explains how business works while Michael is dazzled by more new tech like a personal transporter.
Book guides her into a trap, leading her to the vault and not the subspace array like he’d promised. She swears vengeance, but Book has heard it all before. Making off with her ‘antique’ gear, he leaves Michael to take the heat.
Under arrest, Michael is interrogated by Ithor (Jake Michaels) and Ithyk (Brandon McGibbon), an Orion and Andorian buddy cop pairing that we never knew we needed. When she resists, they spray her with gas that induces honesty, forcing a surge of emotions that no amount of Vulcan education could hope to conquer. Back on the sales floor, Book tries to convince an Orion trader to give him dilithium in exchange for Michael’s gear. She turns him down abruptly, just in time for Cosmo to catch up to him. Michael tells Ithor and Ithyk everything about DISCO’s mission, going so far as to mention her collision with Book and his mysterious cargo.
Meanwhile, Book is getting smacked around by Cosmo, still livid about the cargo. Michael and the authorities arrive just as Cosmo says some terrible things about Grudge. She lands one good punch before snatching back her gear, keeping the promise she made earlier. As the authorities and Cosmo bicker, Michael and Book take one look at each other and go to work, fighting guards, snatching arm cannons, and taking cover when the return fire gets heavy.
Thanks to that truth gas, we see an impressive range of emotions from Michael, showing us just how much she’s been holding back. Under fire, she recklessly crosses the fray to an unguarded tray of raw dilithium, scooping it into her pack. Book follows and demands that she hand it over, but Michael insists that he take her to the subspace array. Narrowly escaping, Book transports them out of the city, giving Michael enough time to punch him again before they’re once again pursued. They manage to stay just out of harm’s way, transporting from one location to the next as they return fire. In a last ditch effort, Book hurls himself and Michael off of a nearby cliff, transporting them both into the water below to throw off their trail. When they climb to the shore, Michael understandably punches him one more time for good measure.
As they gather their wits, Michael laments about being shot at. Book reveals an ability to communicate with other lifeforms, summoning one from the water with a healing, gel-like secretion. He gently dresses her wound and offers his communicator, leaving Michael justifiably annoyed for having it the whole time. She tries to raise DISCO on subspace, and steels her reserve when she gets no response. Book figures out that Michael is a time traveller, and goes on to note that all time travel technology was destroyed or outlawed following the Temporal Wars.
At the shore near Book’s ship, they are intercepted before they can board. Making light work of Cosmo, Ithor demands the passcode to open the cargo bay. As the hatch opens, Book instructs Michael to close her eyes. Ithyk fires into the bay and the creature slowly slithers to the ground, mesmerizing everyone who stares at it. The beast commences to eating entire people, and after the rest transport away, it sets its sights on Michael. Book tries to stop it, but the creature swallows Michael whole as if she hasn’t been through enough. He communicates with it, convincing it to spit her out in one piece.
Safely on board and all cleaned up, Book opens up about his conservation efforts. He also reveals a bit about his murderous family background before they arrive at the wildlife sanctuary. As the transworm frolics with its kind, Michael confesses that her 930 year-long mission was to ensure a future where life existed, in all its forms. She laments about needing to find her crew, and Book takes her to just the right person.
We return full circle to the solitary station, and Book explains that it acts as a courier waypoint although it was originally a Federation relay station. Once aboard, Michael comes face to face with Federation Liaison Aneet Sayal (Adil Hussain), who’s about as thrilled to see her as she is to see him. Together they search for Discovery, and when they find nothing, Aneet admits that the sensors’ range is limited.
Michael is aghast at the state of things. Aneet gently explains just how scant the Federation’s influence is in the galaxy, and after taking a seat, Michael admits to being from the past. Aneet reveals his dream to carry on the family tradition and be a Starfleet officer, if for nothing else than to hang the flag of the Federation once more. Michael makes him an honorary officer, and offers him the position of acting communications chief to monitor comm traffic for DISCO. Book watches on as Michael sets the tone for the rest of the season, declaring that she’ll find her crew and raise the flag everywhere she looks.
The Federation imperialism of this episode does get a bit heavy-handed at times, almost bordering on a cultish devotion. But now that Starfleet has taken such a heavy loss, can it be restored? Will Michael ever find DISCO? If she does, will they be able to resurrect a now-archaic ideology, or will they have to adjust to life in the 32nd century?
“Our numbers are few, our spirit is undiminished.”
-Aneet Sayal, Acting Communications Chief