Friday, 16 October 2020

Discovery; S03 E01: That Hope is You, Part I

Warp drive is non-operational, long range communications are no longer capable, time travel is outlawed and the future that Burnham and the Discovery were out to save is not quite as optimistic as might have been hoped. 

Season three dropped onto CBS All Access and Netflix this week, spinning the Star Trek universe on its head in the first part of a two-part opener that focused purely on Michael Burnham.

Even the titles have had their subtle season twist with the inclusion of Book's boomerang ship, a Dot 7 droid army(?) and a 22nd Century phaser morphing into a new style sidearm. Finally we have the hint of the new combadge with the Discovery deltas changing into the new oval badges including the strikethrough and rank notations.

Crashing through time and into Cleveland "Book" Booker's (David Ajala) ship, Burnham has made it to 3188 but there's no sign of NCC-1031. For a season that was tipped to be more optimistic, it's a bit of a kick however we do get a big fluffy cat, Orions, Andorians, a Lurian, wrecked starships and at least some form of understanding of when and how the universe took a "hard left".

Courier/trader/protector Book is set to be our guide to this distant era of the universe that has yet to be explored and provides Discovery with its own, untouched sandbox in which to play and does it well, leaving you really guessing what he's up to right to the end of the episode and one might therefore expect this is only the tip of the Book iceberg.

Martin-Green has a full hour of Discovery to herself - no ship, no Saru, no Tilly, just 100% Burnham trekking barren landscapes and not, as she expected, Terralyseum (from season two's New Eden). Her tech is outdated but valuable given that tritanium, dilithium and trilithium are all extremely rare providing her with a few bartering opportunities once she and Book have worked our their adversarial issues.

The Burn, just to recap, happened 120 years before Michael's arrival and virtually all the dilithium in existence went "boom" leaving starships incapable of warp travel (Book does mention quantum slipstream tech) and the Federation crumbled shortly after becoming a relic of the past seemingly discussed by the mad and over optimistic.

The market place is filled with aliens including Andorians and Orions working together and carrying some nifty new weaponry including something that resembles the Autobot Matrix of Leadership that fires out sonic(?) waves.  Slight issue for me - the Orion and Andorian makeup looks horrible inside the marketplace environment with the green skin paint looking almost neon while the lack of movement in the antennae and a very shiny plastic finish do detract from the look of the episode. Outside they both manage to work well but there's something about them indoors that looks dreadful.

The expected double-crossing and fist-fights are all in here with Book coming off the worst on several occasions but while there is a bleak and at some points empty feel to this season opener, there is still some space for a few lighter-hearted moments including Burnham's reaction to the truth gas while in custody.

While episode one manages to wrap up at least a piece of the story and Book's reason for his mission, it all pales into insignificance for the final scene. Linking back to the opening minutes of the show where we saw a sole human repeatedly waking, prepping a box on a desk and checking for any remaining subspace signals, Book takes Burnham to him to discover he's a Federation liaison.

Aditiya Sahil (Adil Hussein) has been waiting 40 years at a battered Federation relay station; the son of a Starfleet officer he has never been officially sworn in and now has the chance to assist Burnham in finding Discovery although he can only reach out as far as 30 sectors given the restrictions of 32nd Century technology.

The new Federation flag is raised, Sahil is commissioned and the search begins for Michael's ship and crew...but where are they or when are they?

For a season opener, That Hope Is You literally rips up the book (no pun) and throws it away. This is Star Trek stripped back to its bare bones and even more basic than Enterprise. The things that gave Starfleet and all spacefaring organisations and planets an edge are gone and the galaxy - the universe - is a smaller place. Now I said earlier on how bleak this episode felt and that's true to a point. The closing couple of scenes are very very Star Trek and offer a lot of hope and positivity for the season. Chancing the first hour on just one character is a big gamble given that everyone else (cat included) is new to the game but Sonequa Martin-Green copes exceptionally well running through despair, emptiness and joy when she realises that her timejump has been successful only to have to rein it all in again once its apparent that Discovery is not right behind her.

Book is your typical enigmatic character, casually played by David Ajala who at times could be mistaken for being asleep he's that at ease and laid back in the character. I'm looking forward to seeing how he's utilised given that we cover a good deal of his abilities within these 49 minutes.

The mix up of races, the difference in look to a less technologically dependant future is stunning with clear haves and have nots surviving as best they can. The sandbox for Discovery might be a new one but it's potentially going to be a very small one off the back of the information we are told here - and let's keep our fingers crossed that it's not a big cock up like the warp five speed limit which they will need to swiftly forget later in the year.

Discovery has started off year three BIG - expansive landscapes and location shooting, phaser fights, giant cities, transworms, a scattered and broken Federation, new characters - now to see if the rest of the season delivers and maintains this new style of Trek...

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