In the first episode of the third season of Discovery, I was truly not ready for this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
THIS WAS INCREDIBLE. I’M SO HAPPY. I am also in deep pain because this episode hurt me, but yes. YES. I’m so excited for what this season might be!
So, the question is answered: Did Burnham make it to the future, 930 years later than their departure point, and did their plan work? We find out the truth in a completely disarming and violent way, as a stranger’s ship—Book, who later becomes an integral part of this story—collides with Burnham, and the two tumble down to the planet Hima. From there, the story structure keeps us within Burnham’s point of view (with one exception) so that we make the same discoveries as she does. We know what she does. We experience it all in the moment, and it makes for one hell of a story. “That Hope is You, Part 1” is an urgent, fiery episode about victory leading immediately into chaos. Because right at the start, Burnham pulls herself out of the rubble of her crash and searches for any sign of life. That’s all she needed: confirmation that what they all sacrificed was worth it.
And it was. They saved the future. Sonequa Martin-Green gives an incredible performance throughout this episode, but let’s first acknowledge the ecstatic joy of this exact realization and how she manages to couple it with grief. Because yes, they did it. They saved the future! But the cost is so personal and so immense, and after Burnham sends the suit back through the wormhole, it is permanent. And Martin-Green… holy shit, y’all. She does such a wonderful job taking us through these emotions. Plus, I was fascinated by this in terms of narrative structure. This cathartic moment was meant to provide closure on a story started last season. I could see other shows putting this as the final moment of a season, but I gotta be honest: I think it works way better here. This is an episode entirely about Burnham and her journey, so I’m glad this wasn’t introduced in the finale. It packs a much bigger punch to have wondered what happened, only to find out this is what resulted from the decision to send the Sphere data to the future.
The Pieces Fall Into Place
As victorious and emotional as the moment is, “That Hope Is You, Part 1” doesn’t waste time with Burnham’s discovery: that she isn’t where she thought she’d be, that she’s separated from Discovery, and that she appears to be stranded. It’s through this that Burnham’s and Book’s paths collide once more, though the second time, it is intentional. Burnham heads for the ship she crashed with, and from that moment on, most of this episode is chaos. Again, I can’t get over how talented Sonequa Martin-Green is, since she’s able to handle such wildly disparate emotions on her journey with Book. There’s anger and confusion when he instantly starts fighting her. There’s that crushing fear and sadness we see when her realization that she is truly alone. God, that moment where she has to admit to Book that she has to trust him? I made a comment on video how huge that felt, and I STILL BELIEVE THAT. One of the hardest things for Michael Burnham to do is ask for help, and here she is in a situation in which that’s all she can ask for.
But there’s so much more to this than Burnham merely being lost or being separated from Discovery and her crewmates. I loved how this episode slowly revealed the state of the universe to both us and Burnham. There’s something deeply tragic in the idea that these people saved all life from Control, and here we are, in a universe in which the Federation collapsed. And yes, I’m super into all the worldbuilding done through dialogue, but I also loved this because Burnham didn’t exactly hide that she was a time traveler. I wonder how open she’ll be about this in the future. I absolutely didn’t expect this!!! That’s why I predicted what I did a couple weeks ago. I assumed that the crew would keep time travel a secret and try to integrate into the future, but that assumption was based on the Federation and Starfleet still existing in this time!
So what does she do in the meantime? Well, she has to trust Book, who is very much not a Starfleet member and who is constantly operating under his own agenda. (More on that agenda later, because WHAT A SUBVERSION OF EXPECTATIONS.) He’s chaotic, he doesn’t seem to trust Burnham all that much, and ideologically, he appears fairly opposed toward optimism and hope. INITIALLY, that is. In fact, it becomes a significant quality that he comments on to Burnham. And who can blame him? He lives in a world post-The Burn, an event in which most dilithium in the universe ignited and killed countless people, forever altering space travel and contributing to the disappearance of the Federation. I don’t know what species he is, but it’s also clear that his people have been dealing with something akin to the looting of resources and the destruction of their home planet. I mean… I can only infer that from all the Sanctuary/trance worms stuff? On top of all that, dilithium is such a rare thing that Book is forever locked into this terrible arrangement with those who run Mercantile, the courier outpost in Requiem. As he explains it to Burnham, it means he only gets enough dilithium to complete a job, and any extra is made from bonus jobs he books.
Thus, his motivation is ultimately legible. I get why he worked with Burnham, why he took her to Mercantile, and why he so quickly betrayed her, despite that she obviously intrigued him. If he could earn extra dilithium to make up for what he lost after she collided with his ship, why wouldn’t he hand her over to the authorities?
All of this contributes to the atmosphere of season three, which almost feels like a brand new show. Sure, we see Andorians and Orions, and we know Starfleet and the Federation are in the past, but it’s almost as if Discovery rebooted when the writers sent our protagonists so far into the future. It’s thrilling, though! There’s so much potential here to explore stuff that Star Trek never has, especially since this appears to be the farthest into the future a show has been permanently set. (I genuinely do not believe they’ll ever return to the time they came from.) And with that being said, this episode doesn’t hold back on being utterly different from pretty much everything we’ve seen before! The vibe of it all is of course influenced by Burnham’s fish-out-of-water struggle while she does her best to figure out what the universe is like since she missed 930 thirty years of it. It’s also grittier in a way that isn’t edgy, per se, but necessary for the problem that Burnham now has to deal with: her isolation. Granted, she comes to a wonderful place with Book by the end of the episode, which felt like a fantastic way to loop from her comment about her needing to trust Book, only to have him trust Burnham. Aside from Sahil, she has no Federation or Starfleet, and Discovery is nowhere to be found. Thus, the grittiness is born from the choices she must make. A great example of this: I don’t think Burnham would have so casually shot and killed other lifeforms like she does while trying to escape the clutches of the overseers of the Mercantile. That’s a very new thing, but I also understood that the situation had forced an ethical hand she otherwise would not have been dealt. Plus, since she’s working with Book—who is a futuristic trader/bounty hunter type, even if he’s not actually bounty hunting—it means that the story has a much different feel than we’re used to.
I personally love it, for what it’s worth.
Which brings me to Book. He is presented to us as someone who is deeply talented, highly motivated, and absolutely willing to screw someone over to get what he needs. He’s an archetype we’ve all seen, and then, halfway through “That Hope Is You, Part 1,” the writers completely upend that very idea. As soon as it is revealed that Book’s vital cargo is a trance worm he’s named Molly that he’s transporting home because he’s trying to save the native species of his planet, Book’s whole persona has a new context to it. But it was foreshadowed earlier, wasn’t it??? That scene where he conjured the plant to help disinfect the phaser wound on Burnham’s arm? That moment was deeply empathetic and kind, and I didn’t initially pick up on how important it was. I merely thought it was a moment to show that Book was beginning to trust Burnham. (Which it still is!)
By the time we see Sanctuary, and even more so when Book takes Burnham to see Sahil, Book has transformed before our eyes. He is now one of the most intriguing characters this show has ever given us, and I loved it so much that the show took him to this place. He might be pragmatic, and he might be willing to screw people over, but look what he’s working towards! Look what he’s trying to protect! In the end, Book might make fun of Burnham for her optimism or her decision to cling to hope, but couldn’t you say that Book’s actions show that he, too, has hope for a better life for his people?
Maybe Cleveland “Book” and Michael Burnham aren’t so different after all.
The video for “That Hope Is You, Part 1” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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