Star Trek: Discovery 3.03 People of Earth
The third episode of Star Trek: Discovery's soft reboot continued to explore the strange new post-Burn galaxy of the future. It was an episode packed with a fond reunion between Michael and the crew of Discovery and a trip to a very different Earth. Minor spoilers contained...
The opening sequences were some of the episode's best. The hugs on the transporter pad. Michael's respectful nod to a distant Georgiou. The official confirmation of Saru as the ship's captain. These warm character-driven beats, forged by two years of dramatic experiences, were well-earned and served to form part of the closure to the aftermath of season two. Best of all was the encounter between Tilly and Michael and the phrase "cake is eternal." It certainly is!
I was surprised that we made a jump to Earth so quickly, though perhaps without continuity to hold it back, the Discovery can now jump around the galaxy without restraint. It certainly gives them the edge to explore without the restriction of dilithium, particularly as the episode how much of a target they would be in this new world. At thirteen episodes and a whole new chapter of Star Trek to explore, storytelling is a premium. A quick trip to Earth to establish how much has changed - and in some ways how much hasn't - felt like the closing chapter of season three's opener. Earth is now isolated, self-sufficient and no longer part of the rag tag remnants of the Federation Michael and the crew of Discovery are so ready to reconnect with.
At the same time, the shot of San Francisco and the familiar Golden Gate Bridge were lovely and comforting, particularly the crew uniting under the tree they had spent their days studying under in Starfleet Academy, more than nine hundred years ago. It offered hope that Earth might return to the Federation once again, particularly after the events surrounding the conflict with the raiders that formed the episode's central action narrative. The idea that fear and isolation has divided even the humans of the same solar system, shows just how terrible the consequences of the Burn were. At the same time, Michael and Saru were able to bring some of that good old fashioned Federation optimism and diplomacy to forge open communication and peace.
Once again, it was the characters that drove the episode; in this respects it feels like Star Trek: Discovery continues to rely on the emotional gravitas of the likes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rather than the techno-babble-driven storytelling of Star Trek: Voyager. In this futuristic galaxy, the show could so easily loose itself in a reliance on futuristic technology to explain the narrative. Star Trek: Discovery doesn't do that. It has grounded the narrative in Michael's struggle to find herself a year after she was separated from the crew, in Saru's first official actions as captain and his unease over Michael's distance, in Tilly's sense of loss at all those friends and family they left behind. While the mystery of what caused the Burn remains a substantial hook for season three, the show is far more interested in how the new future impacts the crew - and in turn, how they can help change an embittered galaxy that has lost all hope.
People of Earth continued to build on the chemistry of Cleveland and Michael's relationship. There is a deep connection between them - they have helped each other - and if there was time, I would have quite happily watched those year-long adventures between them. I hope he continues to be part of the show moving forward, as David Ajala and Sonequa Martin-Green bounce off each other well, certainly offering a lighter side to Michael's character.
Also joining the cast is Blu del Barrio, who has had a lot of publicity as the show's first ever non-binary character Adira. I'm not sure the script quite nailed this aspect; she was referred to as 'she' at least once. However, Adira herself is an interesting new addition; like Cleveland Booker, she is a main character with knowledge of the future. But there's also a twist, and a clever one at that. A human joined with a Trill is a fascinating concept and an interesting exploration of the themes addressed in both Jadzia and Ezri Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I particularly didn't see the character 'twist' coming.
People of Earth continues to present a Star Trek: Discovery unbound from continuity and telling a rich and fascinating story in a post-Federation future. There were plenty of wonderful character moments and a sense of progress too. The search for Starfleet and the attempts to reunite the Federation has taken an interesting new path.