Instead of being trapped in a spiral of prequel detritus, the 32nd century is a bold new setting for Star Trek, the kind of great unknown the series is built on. Finding out what happened to Earth and other Federation strongholds like Trill in the intervening centuries is a genuine thrill, perhaps the first time Discovery could be described that way. Quite simply, the show has found the sense of wonder and courage it never really had before.
How Discovery Season 4 (& Beyond) Can Avoid Repeating Its Problems
Discovery’s producers have strongly suggested the time jump is a permanent situation – there’s no going back to the 23rd century. That’s good, because the easiest way to make the show problematic again would be to marinate it in more stories about Kirk and Spock era Star Trek luminaries.
Perhaps the show’s biggest potential pitfall is one that it has always struggled with, namely Michael Burnham, who remains the most complex main character of any Star Trek series. Burnham arrived in the future a full year before her Discovery crew mates, and she has been deeply affected by her time in a darker, more complicated future. Burnham was promoted to the Discovery’s first officer, but she has admitted to Saru she’s not entirely sure she still belongs in Starfleet, a position reinforced by her brusk, dismissive attitude toward the 32nd century’s iteration of Starfleet Command.
There’s nothing wrong with exploring a character’s doubts, and there’s plenty of precedent for slightly unusual Starfleet officers ignoring orders and taking matters in their own hands for the greater good. But Burnham’s flirtation with a life without Starfleet feels slightly at odds with the show’s new familial tone. It’s a way to make Burnham an outsider again, which has never been an effective use of the character. Burnham works best when she’s the most noble, smartest person in the room, speaking truth to power when it’s most needed.
Star Trek: Discovery is not without its issues even in season three. Pacing can sometimes be a problem, and aspects of this new future feel more like something out of Star Wars. But the building blocks are in place, and for the first time in its young run, Discovery feels like it’s going in the right direction.
Next: Discovery Season 3 Has Learned From Star Trek’s TNG Success