Star Trek Discovery: That Hope is You, Part 1

Michael Burnham has landed safely in the 32nd century, in a galaxy that is very different to the one she left behind. With no sign of Discovery, Burnham teams up with freelance courier Cleveland “Book” Booker, in the hopes of making contact with her crew.

Star Trek Discovery is back, and it’s time for a whole new chapter in the show’s story. Where the first two seasons gave us a TOS prequel filled with dubious levels of retconning, season three is all about taking the action forward a whopping 900 years, to a galaxy where the Federation is long gone.

On the one hand, this frees up Discovery to be its own show, freed from the restraints of existing continuity – restraints it admittedly largely ignored. On the other, this seems to be an invitation to make Discovery more like every other sci-fi show out there.

Discovery and the bulk of her crew are MIA in this episode, meaning that action focuses solely on the exploits of the freshly-landed Michael Burnham, and new series regular Book. Book is played by David Ajala, who immediately comes across as the kind of talented actor you feel you should have seen pretty much everywhere. In fact, a quick scan through IMDB reveals that I’ve actually only seen him in one-off roles in Doctor Who, Black Mirror, Jupiter Ascending and the David Tennant/Patrick Stewart version of Hamlet. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he both looks good shirtless, and has a massive, fluffy Maine Coon cat. Hopefully there’ll be an interstellar emergency in a later episode caused by excess cat hair in an intake valve.

Anyway, one episode in, and Book is clearly being portrayed as the “outlaw with a heart of gold” – at first glance, a self-interested plunderer, but in fact a sensitive soul with a mystical connection to nature and a desire to rescue endangered species. I guess giving the black British guy mystical nature powers is much less racist than giving them to a Native American, but let’s just hope this doesn’t veer off into a tired trope.

Having failed to notice his own name in the opening credits, Book wants nothing to do with Burnham or he adventure, preferring instead to focus on his life in the lawless 32nd century. For indeed, having ditched the relative order and stability of the Federation, the 32nd century has lapsed into typical sci-fi “wild frontier” status. When Book and Burnham venture to a local trading market, it is everything we’ve seen before – unusual-looking aliens, shady dealers, and all the trimmings. We’ve seen it before, in everything from Star Wars to the recently-aired first season of Picard. Those of us who’ve been around a while will also be put in mind of Andromeda – the posthumously-developed Gene Roddenberry series in which a “Systems Commonwealth” (read: Federation) captain awakens hundreds of years after the fall of his civilisation, and decides to begin a mission to restore it. Will Discovery go the same way, with the 23rd century crew reuniting the remnants of Starfleet and recreating the long-lost Federation? I really hope the writers have something more imaginative planned than retreading that ground.

Other Notes

  • According to Book, the changed state of the galaxy is down to ‘The Burn’, an event in the 31st century where most of the galaxy’s dilithium mysteriously exploded. Since dilithium is crucil to warp drive, this ultimately led to the fall of the Federation.
  • Burnham states that all warp drive requires dilithium, but what about the mini-singularity used in Romulan ships? Of course, it’s unlikely that Burnham would know about this, but surely Book would.
  • One replacement for warp drive is the “quantum slipstream”, as seen previously in Voyager.
  • Book mentions the “temporal wars” – does this include the Temporal Cold War seen in Enterprise?
  • Although this episode is called “That Hope is You, Pat 1”, there is no episode called “That Hope is You, Part 2” this season.

Summary – That Hope is You, Part 1: If only Book was travelling the galaxy rescuing cats.

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