Star Trek: Discovery 3.06 Scavengers
Star Trek: Discovery's third season continues to defy expectations. Last week's episode suggested that we would see the vessel completing weekly missions on behalf of Starfleet. We certainly got to see the debut of the future tech - detachable warp nacelles, com badges-meet tricorders, personal computers and transporters and new intuitive consoles, plus a new registry (NCC-1031-A) as part of the Discovery's upgrade. But Scavengers was focused instead on a mix of personal character development and a fun team up for Michael Burnham and Phillipa Georgiou in the rough and ready outskirts of space.
The appearances of the world's biggest pet cat, Grudge, on the view screen, as Booker's ship arrived at Starfleet headquarters sans Booker, certainly took the episode in a new direction. Booker's message propels Michael to go rogue to rescue him and retrieve a black box that will allow her to triangulate the origins of the Burn. Cue Georgiou getting to be her usual entertaining self as she goes up against the Orion / Andorian syndicate known as the Emerald Chain.
Michael and Georgiou always make a great team, both dealing with their traumas of their connections with their alternative versions and navigating a world outside of Starfleet's rigid rules. It's interesting that Michael repeats her usual patterns of fighting for Starfleet ideals, only to go rogue whenever they don't suit her. It's a decision that makes for an awkward dilemma for Saru as he is left behind. Georgiou, meanwhile, continues to feel the effects of her interrogation last week, flashing back to her time as Empress in the Mirror Universe and at one point passing out. I'm fascinated to see where this story lines goes. “Let me just say, there’s no head injuries…” she tells Michael. Is this the set-up for her Section 31 spin-off series?
We saw more of the bleak, ruthless galaxy presented in the opening two episodes; there was nothing inviting about the scrap yard planet where Booker was being forced into slave labour and Noah Averbach-Katz's arrogant Orion Ryn was clearly out of his depth running the operation for his aunt Osira (a potential villain for future episodes). It contrasted nicely with the swish, glossy environment of the Federation head quarters. The sense of decay, particularly in the grim star ship graveyard floating above the planet, really gives a sense of the desolation the Burn has created.
The rescue mission was blindingly obvious; it was only Ryn's over compensation as the man running the operation that prevented him from seeing what Georgiou and Michael were really up to. He's a toothless bully. As Georgiou points out, they always crumble when faced with an ever bigger bully, while also reminding us that as fun as she might be, she is not a good character. The final jail break and fire fight was thrilling, particularly the cool shot of Booker's ship flying through the buildings at the last minute to save Booker and the rest of the fleeing prisoners.
As fun as the main mission was, the best bits of the episode were reserved for the characters Michael left behind. Saru grappled with the betrayal of Michael's actions; the best moment of the episode was his scene with Tilly. Both love Michael, might even do the same thing if they were in her position, but couldn't deny that she was going against everything they held dear. It shows great growth in Tilly that she didn't try and defend her best friend; in fact she told Saru to tell Admiral Vance.
All of which brings us to that final scene. Saru is clearing still trying to find his feet as captain, receiving something of a dressing down from Vance himself for not bringing Michael's intel to him first. Make the decision to demote Michael from first officer was not an easy decision, showing the consequence of Michael's actions in a way that other Star Trek shows rarely did. How many times did the crew disregard Picard or Janeway or Sisko's actions and get little more than a stern talking to? Michael ultimately is something of a wild card, particularly now that she has her opened up to her emotions and lived her experiences in the future. Saru cannot trust her to have his back. That's a bold statement to make about your leading character.
There were some other genuinely lovely moments. Adira and Stamets connecting over the loss and resurrection of their loved ones was incredibly endearing. Both characters are warming around the edges. Adira's 'relationship' with Grey might be unexplainable, but it exists. The every day nature of Stamets and Culber's discussion was nice to see; moments of character relationships without the heightened drama of the big events unfolding around them.
Talking of relationships, Michael finally admitted her feelings for Booker - after some pointed goading from Georgiou. I'm glad that David Ajala continues to remain part of the season; he has great chemistry with Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael. And how wonderful was their interrupted kiss as Linus accidentally transported himself into the turbolift? The sub plot of Linus flitting across the ship was a fun addition to the episode.
Scavengers continued the high standard set by season three. The rescue mission might have been frivolous, but it was fun to see Georgiou let loose, having been largely relegated to a supporting role in previous episodes. There was also plenty of engaging character moments at the heart of the episode too; even against the big mysteries of the Burn, the future of Starfleet and now Georgiou's condition, the story continues to be driven by characters and not plot. And that's a great thing.