Star Trek Discovery: That Hope is You, Part One

Burnham: 'If you think about it, let's be honest, I saved all the things.'

By nature I love brevity: A fine premiere that sets the tone for the season and establishes the world this show will inhabit for the time being. I'm not as excited by this premiere as I was by the previous season's, but this may be a better episode overall.

In case you forgot, this is Michael Burnham's show. It's about her and she's the central character. This episode makes that abundantly clear if somehow the past two seasons did not. In many ways, 'That Hope is You, Part One' has stripped the show down to make it very clear what really matters to the producers. Those two core elements (trust me, I tried to stretch it to three) are the character of Michael Burnham and Star Trek/Federation values, in that order.

So this is the future. Farther than we've ever seen in Trek, farther (and stay with me here) than anyone has gone before. This is the territory I always thought Discovery should have covered, given the inconsistencies that are inherent to any prequel series. But the world we see in this episode is far from the Federation we know and love. Visually, too, it's far from the Trek aesthetic we're used to. Instead, the Galaxy looks straight out of Star Wars or Blade Runner. Absent the stabilizing central authority of the Federation, it makes sense that everything would be left to countless independent elements all working for their own benefit.

I think this may well be good for the series. Discovery has always shown a desire to take the franchise to new places and break unbroken ground, shedding aesthetics and sensibilities of the past. And while that's in some ways an admirable goal, it has never made any sense because of the show's prequel status. Now they can rid themselves of familiar mainstays without raising continuity concerns. The issue is that the world they're in now, as far as we've seen, is just too familiar. Of course, it's nigh-impossible to create a completely original sci-fi world nowadays, but you can usually tell when it's coming from a place of inspiration. While this looks gorgeous, it feels like more of the same, at least so far.

As we all know, the world of a television show is only half of what makes it great. The other half is the characters, and we've had a good look at two who are likely to populate this season. These are Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) - 'Book' for short - and Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain). Book is the first person Burnham meets in the future, and he's our guide to the new world she and the audience are exploring for the first time. In this function and as a mysterious figure, Book works well. But he didn’t really register for me as a character very much. In fact, Sahil made a bigger impression on me in his two scenes than Book did in the whole episode. Hussain's performance is small, so I don't know that I have a sense for his acting ability, but he absolutely sold the final scene of the episode and his conversation with Burnham. David Ajala, like his character, didn't really give me anything to latch on to, but he also didn't drop the ball in any particular way, so I'll reserve judgment.

Director Olatunde Osunsamni delivers probably his most reserved work so far. His flashy visual style is still evident, but here it comes second to the story and characters. The cinematography and production value, of course, remains as high caliber as always.

I like this episode. It's pretty good. But it doesn't elicit the excited reaction that the last two premieres have. The first season premiere was the first new episode of Star Trek on television in over a decade. The second season premiere introduced exciting classic elements and featured the first appearance of the terrific Anson Mount as Captain Pike. This season should in theory be just as exciting. The show is headed for strange new worlds and strange new times. But I'm just not as enthused. I hope this season can turn that feeling around for me, but it hasn't so far.

Strange New Worlds:

The bulk of this episode takes place on the planet Hima. In orbit around Hima is the wreckage of many starships, at least one of which was a Starfleet vessel.

New Life and New Civilizations:

The creature in Book's hold is called a trance worm. They have been hunted almost to extinction, much like the humpback whale, as we learned in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This episode also sees the return of some old life and civilizations, most notably the Orions and Andorians, as well as a Lurian at one point. The best-known Lurian, of course, is the talkative and adventurous Morn from DS9.

Pensees:

-While Sahil's holographic bird alarm clock was neat, I would hate to have that thing waking me up every morning.

-Burnham is now in the year 3188. The only other episodes that took place near this time were set in the 31st century, in the ENT episode 'Shockwave' and the VOY episode 'Living Witness'. Both presented alternate timeline versions of the future, and cannot be relied on.

-The dilithium crystals that float through space in the opening title sequence are now red. In the episode, we see red dilithium crystals, as a way of showing that these are different in nature from the regular green or white dilithium crystals we have seen in previous Trek. Apparently all of that dilithium just kind of blew up, which strikes me as a bit of a strange plot point.

-Book's ship uses quantum slipstream drive, which was introduced in the VOY episode 'Hope and Fear'. He also talks about using solar sails to get around, which were introduced in the DS9 episode 'Explorers'.

Quotes:

Burnham: 'I am not fighting you. You're fighting me.'
*proceeds to fight*

Burnham, while drugged: 'I have a friend with red hair. You cannot give this to her.'

Sahil: 'Hope is a powerful thing.'
Burnham: 'Sometimes it's the only thing.'

We'll see how this shakes out. For now, 4 out of 6 'sticky' codes.


CoramDeo's not 100% sure he agrees with ya on yer police work there.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Got a bit of the same feeling. Was not disgusted with what I saw, but I wasn't enthused either.

I have quite the same problem as with the last SW trilogy: everything went to hell, so really, everything that happened before, TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, etc, was for nothing. Not a good way to start.

However, I understand why they had to do it here, to press the gigantic reset button and free themselves from canon so they can make those stories. SW had no excuse.

But this is not the right place to discuss that, so I'll leave it at that.

Mark Greig said...

Anonymous, not sure I agree that this new status quo means everything that happened in previous series was for nothing. This is not like the new SW trilogy where a new Empire rose up only a few decades after the old one because the filmmakers wanted to take things back to how they were in the original trilogy. The Federation still lasted for centuries after the events of TNG, DS9 and VOY. Just because it collapsed over half a millennia later doesn't mean that everyone was just wasting their time building it or fighting to protect it.

Heather1 said...

I loved this! I was really moved at the end with the raising of the flag. For many Star Trek series, there was always the debate and issue about straying from Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future. It almost started to feel like his vision was archaic. This gave it resonance again. We are reminded of why the Federation and Starfleet are so important. It could be very exciting to see it all happen once more. Star Trek's version of Return of the Jedi.

Uxbridge said...

To be true, "Living Witness" was NOT set in an alternate universe: although it did present an alternate version of the Yoyager crew, this was because it was a wrong historical reconstruction by the Kyrians.

Actually, since the episode was set in the late 31st Century and a copy of the Holographic Doctor then stayed with the Kyrians and the Vaskans for a few years before leaving to return to Earth - and he has not a olimited lifespan anyay - he might still be around by the time Burham and the Discovery crew arrive, and in theory they could meet him

Billie Doux said...

I really enjoyed this premiere. Yes, some of it was familiar, but I'm okay with that. The best part of it was the clear signal that they're going to relax Burnham quite a bit. I really enjoyed seeing her drunk. I liked Book. (Tribute to Firefly?) I liked his extremely large cat. And I really, really liked the ending with Sahil's long vigil and the Federation flag.

So I'm definitely onboard. And I still get to look forward to Strange New Worlds, and not fret about missing Pike and Spock.

Patryk said...

I was really distracted by the fact that Manchester Black is now called Cleveland Booker. :)