A three-episode arc brings Season Three to a conclusion. Discovery has changed its premise each year, resulting in very distinct seasons. These episodes bring us to a new equilibrium, a new premise, and new uniforms.
Titles: “Su’Kal,” “There is a Tide…” “That Hope is You, Part 2”
Directed by Norma Bailey, Jonathan Frakes, Olatunde Osunsanmi
Written by Anne Cofell Saunders, Kenneth Lin, Michelle Paradise
Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Captain Saru
Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly
David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker
Anthony Rapp as Commander Paul Stamets
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Bill Irwin as Su’Kal
David Benjamin Tomlinson as Young Su’Kal
Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal
Ian Alexander as Gray Tal
Doug Jones as Goshyertall*
Janet Kidder as Osyraa
Jake Weber as Zareh
Oyin Oladejo as Lt. Joann Owosekun
Emily Coutts as Lt. Keyla Detmer
Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance
Noah Averbach-Katz as Ryn
Ache Hernandez as Kyheem
Raven Dauda as Dr. Tracy Pollard
Vanessa Jackson as Lt. Audrey Wiilla
Rachael Ancheril as Cmdr. Nhan
Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Gen Rhys
Sara Mitich as Lt. Nilsson
Hannah Spear as Dr. Issa
Hannah Cheesman as Lt. Cmdr. Airiam
Rekha Sharma as Landry
Tig Notaro as Jet Reno
Kenneth Mitchell as Aurellio
David Cronenberg as Kovich
Andrew Hinkson, Nicole Dickinson, Farhang Ghajar, Alain Chanoine as Regulators
Robert Verlaque as Kelpian Elder
Jinny Jacinto as Monster
Annabelle Wallis as Zora
Lisa Berry as Kanak
Noah Averbach-Katz as Ryn
Danny Waugh, Nelu Handa as Shiny Happy Holos
The Discovery uncovers the source of the Burn, a treasure-trove of dilithium, a confused manchild inhabiting a program, and a confrontation with the Emerald Chain.
Su’Kal’s world can be confusing, but the interactions with him are touching and credible. Actors, writers, and director did a particularly impressive job in his eponymous episode.
Star Trek has always used the deus ex machina and overused handwavium and dubious jargon. “That Hope is You, Part 2”, in particular, overuses that overuse, with such things as Burnham’s improbable escape, Book’s quick recovery from severe torture, and not one, but two successive last-nanosecond escapes by the Discovery at the story’s conclusion.
Originality: 2/6 The conclusion sets up another new premise for Discovery‘s fourth season. I liked that– but the journey that gets us there features nearly every Star Trek trope imaginable.
Acting: 5/6 Uneven, but mitigated by the High Point, and also Jake Weber’s performance of Zareh, a character I loathe but wish had been developed a little further before his dramatic, entirely deserved, derivative, exit.
Effects: 5/6 Given the budget Discovery now commands and the diverse range of effects…
Production: 5/6 …why are these scores not 6/6? The answer will involve some unfair references to other franchises. I’m using these as ways of illustrating my point, rather than saying we should compare space-apples to cosmic oranges.
Look. Anyone with money can do spectacular visuals now, and I’m impressed by what these episodes present onscreen. The turbo-lift scene, for instance, makes a good thrill-ride. However, compare how they use their budget and f/x tech with The Expanse. That show gives us visually inspiring imagery and well-conceived effects and sets that serve the purposes of the story. These episodes, Phantom Menace-like, throw as much imagery as possible at us. Some of it works, certainly. Su’Kal’s decaying cyberworld captures his distraught emotional/psychological state, and images such as the human interactions with the Sphere Data robot and the endangered creature are impressively executed. All too often, however, the show feels like having one’s head forced simultaneously into three different videogames halfway through play. What should be exciting (because we’re invested in the story and don’t know how it will turn out) feels like a confusing attempt to distract us from dubious plot points. Add to that excessive musical cues that overplay their attempts at emotional manipulation, and we have a 5/6, despite the obvious quality of the production and the impressive diversity of the effects.
Emotional Response: 5/6 “Su’Kal” stands out for the emotional quality of the performances, and we have other fine moments.
The conclusion tries too hard to make us feel. Let the story work on its own. The actors are generally good enough. Do not overplay the mood music and then, as a bonus, have a character state the theme in a manner so direct that it would have made even the TOS crew wince.
Overall: 5/6 I took the average of one excellent episode, one passably good episode, and one featuring a lot of sound and fury.
In total, the final three episodes of Star Trek Discovery Season Three receive 31/42
Lingering Questions and a Note
1. We’ve never seen a Kelpian with hair before. Why does the elder suddenly have a beard? Why does Trek need so often to use too-familiar human markers of sex, age, and so forth? We understand that aliens are not us.
2. I wish they had not problematized Osyraa only to reveal that, no, she’s basically just evil. But if they had to take that path, couldn’t we have had her defeat celebrated with the Sphere Data robots singing, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”?
3. So, the source of the Burn was Emotional Traumadilithium x (handwavium + buttpullium)?
*Doug Jones is actually 193 cm or 6 foot 4, which is a fair height, but not gigantic. He wears prosthetic feet that give him a towering appearance.