Tuesday, 3 November 2020

People of Earth: Discovery S03 E03

Week three of the new season and Discovery slips into a somewhat more emotional but at the same time slower gear as the team are reunited.

Let’s cover off the quick points first. FINALLY Saru gets a fourth pip on his badge and makes captain with the backing of the whole crew it appears and monumentally for the first time in Discovery, we take a trip to Earth...but it’s not what we expect.

Utilising the spore drive and making out that they are a generational ship returning after centuries away, things have certainly changed. A message Burham had managed to acquire during her year waiting and hoping for Discovery’s arrival indicated that there was a Starfleet presence on Earth but a decidedly cold welcome reveals that the Federation no longer resides there nor is there any sign of Starfleet. In fact, Earth is now looking after itself, seemingly protected by the militaristic Earth Defence Force.

Bringing back memories of the spot searches Voyager underwent during Counterpoint, this indicates a suspicious and closed planet withdrawn from the rest of the galaxy although they are combatting one repeat offender called Wenh who keeps returning to secure dilithium and now he's spotted that the Discovery is a rather rich source...

The reunion of Burnham and the Discovery crew initially looks to be a joyous and emotional one particularly for Michael who has been out looking for clue as to what caused The Burn and why it seemed to affect the Federation more than anyone else. Stick around for the rest of the episode and it’s more apparent that her return to the ship is more tumultuous. She had become accustomed to the trader lifestyle perhaps away from the rules and regulations and while there are likely to be some challenges we will have ironed out along the way she does eventually see that working as Saru’s first officer will produce mor effective results.

This is a Michael Burnham who is beginning to sway more towards decidedly human, emotional characteristics rather than the stoic Vulcan attitudes that were evident in the first season especially. The distance in time and space from her past has closed a chapter and the further into this season we are heading, the clearer it becomes that Michael is a changed person seeing the universe in not such a black and white manner.

The Discovery does feel once more as though they are becoming The A-Team, riding into town and sorting out some form of dispute before heading out as the heroes for another adventure. I understand that they are there to head in and have some form of adventure because it’s the premise of the show but each week we’ve had a very similar scenario and there needs to be some variation please. The reveal at the end of this thread isn’t heart stopping and you might even work it out fairly early on but it’s another key piece that redefines our expectations of Earth from our knowledge of it in the 23rd and 24th Centuries.

I suspect that will be forthcoming next week thanks to the introduction of Blu Del Barrio’s Adira. What a breath of fresh air and one of the most faceted characters Discovery has introduced, potentially being as exciting as Pike was for season two. The backstory reveal here is brilliant and sets them up as a key element to the rest of the season and maybe even the answer to the questions of The Burn. Del Barrio is understated, quiet, refined and very much at the start of their journey in People of Earth and at least one of the locations we saw in the trailer makes a lot more sense. Her relationship with Stamets looks to be the strongest one here with him and Tilly quickly ascertaining that there is more to the 16 year old with an impressive knowledge of 900 year old starship technology than meets the eye.

Of course the background bridge crew do get a chance to set foot on Earth in close proximity to what used to be Starfleet Academy just across from the Golden Gate Bridge still lined, as it was in Picard, with solar panels and there seems to be a serenity to the city that we have never seen in all the times we’ve visited. The removal of the Federation and Starfleet - maybe this was the producers intent - has made it more tranquil; less frenetic if you will and you have to consider if this year is going to make us all reconsider whether or not the Federation is as good a thing as we have been led to believe in other series (Picard definitely didn’t back that horse...).

For the third week in a row, everything we’ve ever known about Star Trek has been turned upside down. Everything we’ve come to expect has been inverted and, it has to be asked, is this Star Trek anymore? People of Earth takes us back to the origins of the Federation yet makes Earth the most alien environment that we have experienced in three years of Discovery. The chasm between this series and even Picard is immense - in fact it’s just as Michael describes her return to the ship - familiar but y’know it just feels strangely different, distant. For a series where the crew of Discovery were, initially, a mystery to us, they now become our security blanket and our anchor to the heart of the franchise. 

People of Earth ends a chapter of Discovery. A crew reunited, Book off on his travels (yeah, we’ll see him again I’m sure) and the reality that they are now firmly 900 years in the future settling in. The mystery now is what a supposedly dead admiral, a Trill and The Burn have in common and precisely what the point of this season is going to be...?

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ALSO check out our full set of season one reviews from Lower Decks HERE!

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