We’ve reached the season finale of Star Trek Discovery, so here is the last installment in my ongoing episode by episode reviews of season 3 of Star Trek Discovery. Reviews of previous episodes may be found here.
Warning: Spoilers behind the cut!
“That Hope Is You, Part II” starts where the previous episode, which confusingly was not part I of “That Hope Is You” (though the mystery of the dangling two-parter has now been resolved), left off. The Discovery is still in the hands of Osyra, Michael and Book, who have forced their way aboard, have been apprehended and Admiral Vance has just ordered the rest of Starfleet to open fire upon Discovery.
So we get a pitched battle with Starfleet firing upon Discovery, while Discovery is firing back and also targetting the shield generator. And then a whole fleet from Ne’Var a.k.a. the planet formerly known as Vulcan shows up in response to a distress call Michael sent to her mother who’s living on Ne’Var.
Meanwhile, acting captain Tilly and the bridge crew have broken out from where they were imprisoned and are having phaser battles in the corridors, aided by sphere data which has taken over some repair bots. They’re not doing too badly either, but then Osyra closes the bulkhead doors and turns off the life support in the respective section of the ship, so Tilly and the bridge crew are trapped with rapidly depleting air supplies.
Because everybody loses, when the Discovery gets destroyed, Michael finally offers to ask Starfleet and the Ne’Var fleet to stand down. She also tells Osyra that they will listen to her and that Ne’Var is only here anyway because Michael called them. And so Michael implores Admiral Vance to trust her and let the Discovery and the Veridian go. Vance does let them go, though he does send all of Starfleet and the Ne’Var fleet of in pursuit. Everybody is using their warp drives, because Discovery can no longer jump with Stamets off the ship. Apparently, the dilithium shortage which propelled much of the arc of this entire season is forgotten when it serves the plot.
Osyra wants the dilithium from the mysterious planet inside the Verubin nebula that Discovery found two episodes ago. And since Book unwisely told her that he knows how to get there (to be fair, he was trying to save Ryn’s life at the time), Osyra first orders her pet scientist Aurelio to use his truth serum on Book and when that doesn’t work, she orders Zareh to torture him. Because Book is an empath, the torture will eventually kill him. Aurelio is not at all happy with this – he still believes in Osyra’s good side and besides, he didn’t sign on for torturing people to death – but Osyra threatens him that if he doesn’t shut, she’ll kick him and his family out of the privileged life Aurelio enjoys as an Emerald Chain scientist.
Since Osyra is a sadist, she also makes Michael watch as she tortures the man Michael loves. Eventually, Michael convinces Osyra that she can persuade Book to talk. But once she gets close to him, she activates the quarantine containment field of the sickbay (since Discovery has no dedicated torture chamber, Osyra decided to use the sickbay), locking out Osyra and most of her Regulators. Then Michael and Book make a run for it.
We now get some more Die Hard inspired action, including some thrilling fights in and rides on top of turbolifts (we also get our most in-depth look at how turbolifts work to date, though we’ve seen glimpses before). Because if you’re riffing on Die Hard, you of course have to have an elevator shaft fight. And of course someone – Zareh in this case – gets knocked down an elevator shaft.
Michael also accesses the ship com and sends a coded message to Tilly, telling Tilly and the bridge crew to knock the Discovery out of warp by exploding a bomb that detaches one of the detachable nacelles. Of course, the explosion will likely kill whoever sets off the bomb, but Tilly and the bridge crew are going to die from lack of oxygen anyway. In the end, everybody passes out from lack of oxygen except for Joanne Owosekun who has had deep sea diving training and can control her breath and oxygen intake. Of course, it now seems as if poor Owosekun is doomed, which annoyed me because I like Owosekun a lot. Never mind that killing off a character of colour sends a bad message, as Keith R.A. DeCandido points out in his review at Tor.com. However, the sphere data in the form of a repair bot saves Owosekun and takes her to safety, just before the bomb explodes, detaching the nacelle and knocking the Discovery out of warp. The robot is fatally damaged to the process, but Jett Reno manages to repair it.
We also get a touching reunion and hug between Owosekun and Dettmer, once everybody wakes up again and Dettmer realises that Owosekun is not dead. By the way, am I the only one who gets a “more than just friends” vibe from the interactions of Dettmer and Owosekun? Which I for one would welcome, even if Discovery already is the gayest ship in Starfleet. But then, Discovery has to make up for more than fifty years of no gay people in Star Trek.
Michael finally makes it to the data core, where she intends to use her authorisation as (former) first officer to reset the Discovery computer and lock out Osyra and her people. However, Osyra is already waiting for her and so we get a hand to hand fight between Osyra and Michael or rather her stunt double, since Sonequa Martin-Green is already visibly pregnant at this point. Osyra pushes Michael into some programmable matter, but Michael emerges again, kills Osyra, resets the computer, beams all Regulators off the ship and saves Tilly and the others.
I have to admit that Osyra’s demise was a little too quick for my taste, especially since the character reverted to the one note villain she was in her first appearance after acquiring more nuance last episode. In fact, I feel that Osyra was shortchanged, considering that she was supposed to be the main villain of the season. Because Osyra isn’t even mentioned until halfway through the season and only appears in four episodes. Not to mention that the run-up to the season finale was interrupted by the largely superfluous “Terra Firma” two-parter. In fact, I would have preferred it, if Osyra had escaped to vamp and villainise another day.
But even though Osyra is gone and Discovery back under the control of her crew, they are not out of the woods yet. For once Discovery was knocked out of warp, Osyra ordered the much larger Veridian to pull her in, so Discovery now sits in Veridian‘s cargo hold with some very pissed off regulators firing at her.
Luckily, Michael has a cunning plan. Overloading the warp core and eject it to blow up Veridian. Never mind that overloading and blowing up your warp core in a universe with a dilithium shortage is a huge waste, there is another problem. Without Stamets, Discovery can’t use the spore drive to jump away. However, Aurelio – who is now fully on the side of the Discovery crew – has figured out that since Book’s empathic abilities allow him to communicate with all sorts of species, he should be able to communicate with the mycelium network as well and operate the spore drive. Coincidentally, does this mean that the show is keeping Aurelio around? Cause while I wasn’t particularly interested in the character himself, I do welcome giving disabled actors roles and support.
Not that I mind that people other than Stamets can operate the spore drive or that this opens up the possibility to having more ships with spore drives. But nonetheless, the solution is a little too tidy. Not to mention that Book has to make a complicated jump on his first try, without ever having done anything like this before. Meanwhile, Stamets had serious issues with making complicated jumps and even passed out at times.
Though I have to commend Discovery for firing all of the various Chekhov’s (Anton, not Pavel) phasers deposited around the ship in the finale. The sphere data gaining sentience, the detachable nacelles, the repair bots, Book’s empathy, etc… all play a crucial role in bringing about the solution.
Meanwhile, Saru and Culber are still trapped on the nameless dilithium planet with deadly radiation and the terrified Su’Kal. Luckily, Adira shows up with some of the much needed anti-radiation drugs, which they hid in their mouth, so the holo program would not make the drugs vanish, when it alters Adira into a species with impressive face markings. However, the holo program does even more. It also makes Gray visible to everybody – and turns him into a Vulcan. There is a touching scene as Culber meets his son-in-law (sort of) for the first time and hugs him and Adira. I have to say that I really love the little found rainbow family of Stamets and Culber, their non-binary adopted kid and their trans boyfriend (though I don’t think it’s been established whether Gray the character is trans or just the actor who plays him) with Jett Reno as the grumpy lesbian aunt. I really hope that we will see more of this found rainbow family in season 4.
But even though Adira bought Culber and Saru time, the situation on the planet is rapidly deteriorating. The holo program is failing, while the crashed spaceship is about to break apart. Meanwhile, Saru does his best to comfort Su’Kal and bond with him to get him to switch off the holo program and also face whatever it was that terrified him badly enough to cause the Burn. Eventually, Saru succeeds and Su’Kal finally agrees to enter the locked room. Here, they find the decomposed corpses of the ship’s Kelpian crew, including Su’Kal’s mother. Cause what freaked out a young Su’Kal enough to burn up all dilithium supplies in the galaxy and destroy the Federation was witnessing the death of his mother, a convenient log recording reveals. There is also a recorded message from Su’Kal’s mother thanking the rescuers and asking them to take Su’Kal to her family on Kaminar.
As solutions to mysteries go, this one wasn’t all that surprising. However, Doug Jones as Saru and Bill Irwin as Su’Kal give a great performance, as Saru is trying to bond with a 125-year-old child that is Su’Kal. Coincidentally, both Saru and Stamets and Culber have now thrown their hat in the ring for the 2021 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award, though the competition will likely be steep. And indeed, it seems as if depictions of parenthood in popular culture are moving away from awful parents (and indeed the only reason there is a Darth Vader Parenthood Award at all is because awful parents are such a commoncliché in popular culture) towards portraying more loving and supportive parents. I for one welcome this change, if only because I think we need more positive depictions of parenthood.
But even after Saru has persuaded Su’Kal to face his fear, the away team are still stuck on a rapidly disintegrating crashed spaceship with Discovery and the rest of Starfleet occupied elsewhere. And indeed, when Stamets begs Admiral Vance to send a ship to the nebula to rescue Culber, Adira and Saru, he is rebuffed with, “Sorry, but no. Michael made the right decision.” However, in the end, Discovery arrives in the nick of time after all to rescue Saru, Culber, Adira and Su’Kal. Gray is back to being a ghost again or whatever he is, but Culber promises him to find a way that Gray can become permanently visible to everybody aboard Discovery, not just Adira. I suspect a mobile holo emitter like the one used by Voyager‘s doctor might be the solution they’re looking for. James Whitbrook makes the same point in his review at io9.
We now get something of an epilogue, wherein Michael explains that the Emerald Chain collapsed after the death of Osyra, which I for one find illogical, because when the leader of a criminal syndicate or whatever the Emerald Chain was supposed to be falls, there’s always at least one, usually more would-be successors waiting in the wings. So there might be infighting, but there wouldn’t be collapse, unless the entire leadership of the Emerald Chain happened to be aboard Veridian, when it blew up. In fact, The Mandalorian handled this aspect much better in the epilogue to its own recent season finale.
The Federation has found a way to mine the dilithium on the nameless planet inside the Verubin nebula, which again seems a little too tidy, considering that Discovery was barely able to get close enough to the planet to beam down an away team, which was subsequently almost killed by the intense radiation there. And now the planet is suddenly open for mining? What is this, another prison mine? And even if the planet mainly consists of dilithium, is that dilithium really enough to rebuild the Federation? It seems so, since both the Trill and Ne’Var are about to rejoin (nice cameos from their respective leaders). And even the lone Starfleet officer manning a deep space relay station from the season premiere is back for a brief cameo, which made me happy, because I feared that the poor fellow had been forgotten, while still remaining steadfastly at his post.
Since Discovery can jump anywhere in the galaxy, it has been tasked with transporting dilithium to the worlds disconnected from the Federation. However, Saru has taken a leave of absence to take Su’Kal back to Kaminar. And in his absence, Michael is promoted to captain by Admiral Vance (who basically tells her that she’s awesome, even though she’s a maverick who thinks orders are merely suggestions). The season ends with a grinning Michael, now clad in the grey uniform of 32nd century starfleet (which also happen to be cut a bit more loosely to accomodate body fat and baby bumps) , sitting down in the captain’s chair. Cue a Gene Roddenberry quote about the importance of connection and the credits, which are accompanied by the classic end title music of the original Star Trek.
Now Discovery changes captains as often as it changes security chiefs (and I note that this position still hasn’t been filled since Commander Nhan left to hang out aboard the seed vault ship) and Michael certainly deserves the position. As for anybody who complains that Michael is too much of a maverick to be captain material, being a maverick never harmed the careers of Kirk, Spock, Picard, Riker, Archer, Sisko, Janeway, Pike or even Lorca (or Commander MacLane for that matter) in the slightest. If you don’t have any problems with either of those characters, but have issues with Michael, ask yourself why.
That said, I’m not really happy with this development. Not because I don’t want to see Michael as captain, but because I’d hate to lose Saru. I initially didn’t much care for the character, but Saru has grown on me a lot and is now one of my favourite characters. He also was a very good captain, even if he was a different kind of captain than the usual Star Trek captain. And I really hope that Saru will be back in season 4, maybe with Su’Kal in tow. Or was “Bring your family along” an innovation confined to the Next Generation era?
Most other reviewers feel similarly. The AV-Club‘s Zack Handlen, who is not a Michael fan, isn’t happy about her being promoted. Keith R.A. DeCandido, James Whitbrook and Camestros Felapton don’t mind Michael getting promoted, but would all hate to loose Saru over this.
All in all, season 3 was the strongest season of Star Trek Discovery to date, even if it was not without its share of flaws. It seems that the show has finally found its feet, which is a very good thing. I also enjoyed how Discovery alternated between very classic Star Trek storylines given a fresh spin and exploring space opera and science fiction tropes that Star Trek has rarely tackled to date. It’s nice that the bridge crew was finally given more to do and Book, Adira, Gray, Aurelio, Admiral Vance, Su’Kal and of course Grudge (“She is a queen”, a furious Book tells Zareh at one point) are all welcome additions to the cast. And even if Osyra and the Emerald Chain were dispatched of a little too easily, rebuilding the Federation offers plenty of storytelling possibilities.
So bring on season 4.