Phasers may vary.
I will never not be impressed at how easily the setting, tone, and feel of Star Trek: Discovery changes at a moments notice. Its first two seasons showed that the show loves to throw in a twist here and there, and more often than not use that to completely alter the course of the story. By interweaving a selection of small adventures dotted with hints of main plot, the series has always strived to stand out amongst the variety of movies and tv series to come out of the Star Trek franchise; and it's a task its more than accomplished. For better or worse, season three carries on the legacy of its predecessors in its distinctiveness, world building and seasonal focus.
Season three picks up straight after the events of season two, with the crew of the starship Discovery thrust far into the future where they are met with a strange and unfamiliar galaxy. Not only do they need to find their place in this new world, but they must also embark on a mission to find the source of a cataclysmic event that happened in their absence.
The new frontier of a strange future makes a great setting for the series, and offers an exciting look into what the future of the series may look like. The show takes the franchise the furthest into the future its ever been, meaning the crew of Discovery must adapt to the more advanced technology of the time, alterations in galactic relations, and a galaxy now let loose. The first few episodes showed how the galaxy had become somewhat like the wild west, lawless and barren, and honestly I wish there was more episodes leaning into this aesthetic. As the series progresses however, the familiar style of seasons past come to the fore, with several B-plots coming into effect, unique stories per episode, and enough starship and laser blasting battles to satisfy that sci-fi action itch. Yet despite the season hitting most of the right notes, it never really feels as impactful as its previous seasons, or at least not as memorable. The season feels often contained and restricted, with little ventured and seen beyond a few planets and ships. As entertaining as the season is, I can't help but feel the series could've done more with the new era it's inadvertently created, and the bountiful opportunities it provides for the series going forward.
By the time the final credits roll, you begin to realize that maybe the setting felt restricted on purpose. The final episode is concluded with a monologue about the importance of connection, and even a powerful quote from Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry about connection. Looking back over the seasons main plot and multiple story arcs, it becomes blatantly obvious that nearly every aspect of the season was based on this theme of connection, and more importantly, that it was executed extremely well. The season itself is about reconnecting a fractured galaxy, with characters who all struggle with connection, whether that be in accepting difference, ending a sibling rivalry, or even dealing with the idea of being connected to someone at all time. When you dissect the season piece by piece, you can't help but applaud how well the series' theme has been integrated into every fibre of the show, and I'd be lying if I said the season finale wasn't even a little moving. Season three tries to be a love letter to the vision of Star Treks creator, using his words as a foundation for the season as a whole, and while it might not seem evident at first, it makes for some touching moments throughout.
Yet even though it implements a sense of connection well in the season, it often fails to breed a sense of meaningful connection between it and the audience. While some new characters are introduced, returning characters are also given a touch of the spotlight they haven't really seen. Main characters such as protagonist Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Discovery captain Saru (Doug Jones) remain integral parts of the show despite minimal character development, while the show also tries to flesh out some of its less relevant characters. Commendable as it is that the show is trying to build up its side characters, it still fails at making them feel any more interesting than they were before. The crew members of Discovery in particular are given more screen time and development, yet I can't help but feel it's more of a last minute or small addition that was written in without much thought. Sure, we're given bits of exposition that reveals more of their character traits and personalities, but it ultimately feels inconsequential to the point where I hardly remember anything about them other than who they are from seasons prior.
On the other hand, new additions to the show, with notables like Book (David Ajala), Adira (Blu Del Barrio), and main antagonist Osyrra (Janet Kidder), are more than welcome, with enough personality and depth to make them impactful and memorable characters. Book adds a healthy dose of fun into the series, whether it be with his wisecracking personality or his love for his fat cat, while also filling the role as a bold, charming and capable space desperado wanting to do the right thing. Adira is perhaps the most interesting addition to the series, firstly by being the series' first non-binary character and also by being the first character with a trans partner. At times it feels as though these aspects of Adira's character are over emphasized, making them feel like a novelty to make the show a bit more progressive. Yet as a whole, Adira is a standout character most of the time they're on screen, as a smart young talent that is constantly battling with themselves while also going above and beyond to prove their worth. Antagonist Osyraa even turned out to be far more interesting than I expected, despite the little screen time she has. When she inevitably makes her appearance, she demonstrates how formidable she is in both her cunning and cruelty, and quickly becomes a character you love to hate. When it comes to season three's character development, its newest additions trump the old in more ways than one, despite attempts to make returning characters more relevant.
As entertaining as it is, season three of Star Trek: Discovery comes up a little short in comparison to previous seasons. While it does a great job at introducing new characters, creating an interesting setting, and maintaining elements of the show that make it so great, it fails in creating an impactful story that is as engaging as its predecessors, focusing more on its themes than making use of the new world its created. It's a fun watch for fans of sci-fi and the series in general, I only wish there was more to it.