“That Hope Is You, Part 1” finds Star Trek: Discovery as its most fresh and exciting, promising a very different kind of season that might very well be its best yet.
This recap of the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 premiere, “That Hope Is You, Part 1”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous season by clicking these words.
I don’t recall a time in my life when Star Trek has been as active as a franchise as it is right now. And in some ways, whether people want to admit it or not, Discovery is part of the reason why. What began as a prequel series that was also a joint enterprise between CBS All Access in America and Netflix everywhere else was decried as something entirely un-Trek; a more action-packed, adult reinvention with blockbuster gloss and sensibilities. It was widely reviled and also exceedingly popular. And across two seasons it was taken in increasingly interesting directions, not all of them successful, but most leading very resolutely away from established Trek canon into a genuinely new frontier. The Star Trek: Discovery season 3 premiere feels like confirmation that the show has finally arrived there.
“That Hope Is You, Part 1” feels quite strikingly detached from everything that has come before. At the end of the previous season, Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham disappeared through a wormhole wearing the angelic Daedalus suit, so it only makes sense that she’d emerge into a far-flung future almost unrecognizable in its aesthetic, its politics, its culture, and its history. And it’s right on-trend that on the way down, in something of a slapstick-y joke, Burnham would bounce off a ship so she can spend the rest of the episode bouncing off its handsome, charismatic pilot – figuratively, that is. At least for now.
That pilot’s name is Cleveland Booker, aka Book, and he’s the mouthpiece through which “That Hope is You, Part 1” dispenses some status-quo-shattering updates about the current timeline. He’s also a source of unfettered narrative energy injected straight into the show’s veins. After crash-landing on a seemingly barren planet, Burnham sends the Daedalus suit back through time, leaving her stuck with Book and in desperate need of a comms array to contact the Discovery. He’s reluctant to team up with her, but as space rogues tend to be a bit strapped for cash, she’s able to tempt him with a lucrative “antique”, and so they set out together to Requiem, where Book works as a courier of typically clandestine items.
Now, get this. All time-travel technology is banned after a mishap involving the Gorn and the destruction of a significant amount of sub-space, and a galactic calamity cheerily known as “The Burn” saw almost all the dilithium in the galaxy spontaneously combust, killing a virtually uncountable number of people, reducing the Federation to nothing but a particularly questionable reputation, and promoting the scant remaining dilithium to the galaxy’s most precious commodity. All of these things will surely become very important.
In the meantime, though, Burnham and Book arrive at Requiem, which is basically the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars if everyone was on psychedelics, and just to make this comparison stick Book promptly betrays Michael and leaves her to be dosed by the Andorian and Orion overseers, which leads to an extended period of her being high as a kite while dementedly ranting and becoming hysterical at her own jokes. “That Hope Is You, Part 1” keeps Burnham high for an impressively long period of time. She psychoanalyses herself, gives Book away, helps Book fight his way out of a confrontation with an alien named Cosmo which erupts into a full-scale firefight with basically everyone, escapes with Book using his personal transporter while hoarding some dilithium as leverage, and socks Book in the mouth several times, all while high. It’s a delightful sequence, full of energy and humor and stellar visuals. The Star Trek: Discovery season 3 premiere feels as high on Burnham’s supply as she does.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Book is really a super nice guy, but the reveal that he’s a kind of superpowered animal rights activist who uses his innate turbo empathy to protect the endangered species that poachers would rather kill is really well handled all the same. And again, the show doesn’t just dispense this information but lets it inform a briefly horrifying action beat that becomes a sight gag. Sure, it’s a bit of a slap in the face to Burnham that he has been carrying around a comms array the whole time, but she has given him plenty of licks until this point, so fair’s fair.
When contacting the Discovery fails, Book takes Michael to an old Federation relay station where one Aditya Sahil tries to singlehandedly keep Starfleet alive by going to work every day in the hopes someone important will show up. And today’s his lucky day, which you can see so clearly in his face that you almost want to give the dude a hug. This is where the episode, after being an extended action sequence for most of its runtime, begins to thoroughly embody the sense of optimism that Star Trek is known for. Even after Sahil gives Burnham the bad news that he can’t contact the Discovery and that it might not be contactable any time soon or indeed at all, there’s a profoundly uplifting moment when Sahil reveals that, given the Burn and all, he was never able to be commissioned as a Starfleet officer like his father and grandfather before him. So Burnham commissions him as her communications chief. And it’s a great moment.
At this point, it’s impossible to say how many more great moments this season of Discovery has in store for us. But going by first impressions alone, it might be a fair few.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.