We learn more about the far-flung future of the show’s new setting, as the Discovery crew adjust to their new surroundings.
So now that we’ve caught up with how Michael Burnham’s (Sonequa Martin-Green) faring in this new 31st-century world, how about everyone else? Star Trek: Discovery is smartly easing us into its new status quo, both by focusing on a slight reinvention of its main character and some much-needed focus on the supporting cast that, frankly, we’re all here for in the first place. And so it goes that “Far From Home” catches us up with the crew of the USS Discovery, and their even-rockier introduction to the post-Federation world we’re stuck in.
The Discovery exits the wormhole Michael created with the Red Angel suit pretty worse for wear — making a barely-controlled descent toward an icy planet in an admittedly-spectacular crash sequence that tests the VFX crew (and the cast’s ability to flex the ubiquitous Star Trek muscles of “spouting technobabble” and “leaning in one direction as the ship turns”) for all they’re worth.
The land securely on the planet, but their problems don’t end there — the planet they’re on is not their intended destination of Terralysium, and the ice flats they’ve landed on turn out to be ‘parasitic ice,’ which will swallow their ship if they don’t get it repaired. They’ve also got to lick their physical and emotional wounds, from Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) stunted recovery from his injuries in last season’s finale to the realization that they’ll never see home again.
It’s a tall order for any captain to deal with, but luckily, ‘tall’ is something Commander Saru (Doug Jones) can deliver. The episode (written by Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet and Alex Kurtzman) isn’t shy about giving Saru all manner of Sappy Speeches about Friendship and Camaraderie this episode, a move which ventures on the deeply corny (drink every time he says the words “belief” or “together”). But Jones, as always, acquits himself nicely in the role, and it’s refreshing to see the show give him the second-lead status he’s deserved since the beginning.
Of course, the Discovery has a stowaway on board — Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), whose Section 31 spinoff is either not happening after all or will require her to do some dramatic time travel shenanigans later in the season. She spars capably with Saru over
It wouldn’t be a ship-in-crisis episode without a MacGuffin whatsit to find or repair, and in this case, it’s a transtator that will allow them to reach out and contact Michael or Starfleet. The only hope for one is a nearby mining colony that has the equipment they need, which Saru and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) venture out to recover. It’s here that they get the same primer on the post-Burn future they’ve jumped into: a Wild West of terrified townspeople and unscrupulous warlords raiding dilithium from wherever they can. (The saloon where Saru and Tilly find help even has those li’l doors.)
Turns out the Federation is more than a hopeful myth for last week’s lonely Starfleet liaison Sahil; the universe also speaks of Starfleet in hushed, reverent tones, as Saru and Tilly ingratiate themselves with a pair of helpful aliens at the colony whose eyes light up at the prospect of a new Starfleet ship with dilithium and everything. It’s not long, though, before they’re intercepted by warlord Zareh (Jake Weber, having a grand old time with a black leather jacket and space mullet), who’s as puzzled by the Discovery‘s presence as he is avaricious toward their ancient tech.
It’s these scenes, an extended standoff/negotiation with Zareh, Saru and Tilly, that feel like they’ll offer a portent for the season to come. The galaxy has crumbled into violence and disunity, with the strong preying on the weak, and it’ll take the sunny idealism of the Discovery (and a few well-placed roundhouse kicks from Georgiou, who shows up to save the day of course) to repair it. And as they make it back to Discovery in the nick of time to try to take off, they’re saved by Burnham and Book (David Njala), who pull them out of the ice in his
Millennium Falconcourier ship. That’s not the only big news: turns out last week’s episode took place a year ago — Burnham’s got dreads and a new lease on life. We’ll have to find out next week how that time apart will affect her standing with her crew (and, crucially for the writers, give them an opportunity to tweak the character to make her more appealing).
The first two episodes of the season have all been groundwork, acclimating the characters (and us) to the show’s new context. Now, we’ll have to see where they go from here. Discovery started as a more cynical show about the conflicting missions of Starfleet’s mandate; now, it’s turned its crew into a shining beacon of Star Trek‘s humanistic ideals, with a mission to restore those ideals to a divided universe.
- If you recall a different byline for our Discovery recap last week, that’s because fellow Trek-spert Andrew Bloom and I are pulling double duty this season! Look out for our alternating recaps, and a joint recap of the season finale.
- What’s going on with Lt. Detmer (Emily Coutts)? She took a nasty hit in the initial crash, which is leaving her occasionally dazed, while ominous music occasionally plays when we cut back to her. Is something up with her implant? Guess we’ll find out in future episodes.
- “It’s good to have you back,” Stamets says to Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) early in the episode, and as someone who quickly grew tired of the manufactured drama of Culber’s post-resurrection doldrums, I can’t say I disagree.
- Speaking of characters with lovely chemistry, I’m looking forward to the Stamets-Jet Reno (Tig Notaro) Power Hour this season.
- Unfortunately, the biggest problem of the previous season came with them to the future — everyone’s too damn sassy. I get the need to lighten up the tone and ingratiate us to these characters, but when everyone quips and smarms the way you’d expect of The Orville, it gets tiring real fast.
- I’m still very confused as to how Zareh’s beam-gun works — sometimes it stuns, sometimes it bores a hole through a man, sometimes it just gives Georgiou a few ouchies (“what you call pain, I call foreplay”).
- Zareh calls them “V’draysh,” which is how the Federation was referred to in the Short Treks episode “Calypso,” confirming that that short definitely takes place in this timeline. So the question is: when are we going to leave the Discovery abandoned for enough years that the ship’s AI will grow self-aware?