‘Star Trek Discovery’ Season 3 Finale: That Hope Is You, Part 2
Ensign Tilly and Commander Burnham go to drastic measures to take back Discovery, while Captain Saru and the away team finally put the mystery of the Burn to rest.
Here we are at the end of yet another season of Star Trek Discovery. With the recent iterations of Star Trek, the story arcs have been about the allure of the mystery, along with the drive to come to a satisfying conclusion over the course of the season. Season three of Star Trek: Discovery has presented one of the biggest mysteries to date, as the organization at the core of the values and principles behind what defines our characters had been left a shell of its former self — all due to the Burn. While we can argue about the amount of satisfaction gained from the explanation of the Burn, one cannot deny that the explanation holds true to the very nature of Star Trek. But was the drive to get there worth the journey?
Season 3, Episode 12: That Hope Is You, Part 2
We kick off the episode back on the dilithium planet within the Verubin Nebula, and time is running out. The latest temper tantrum from our lone Kelpian Sa’Kul (Bill Irwin), has further damaged the already fragile structure of the ship, leading to radiation levels increasing at a more rapid rate within the holo-construct. While Captain Saru (Doug Jones) and Doctor Culber (Wilson Cruz) attempt to figure out a way to reason with Su’Kal, a surprise visitor, Adira Tal (Blue del Bario), emerges from the shadows; arriving with the radiation medicine needed to survive while waiting on Discovery to return. Adira appears within the holo-construct as Xahean, a callback to Queen Po from season two of Discovery.
Shockingly enough, Adira isn’t the only surprise for Saru and Culber, as the away team somehow is miraculously able to see Gray (Ian Alexander), the Tal symbiote’s former host — and Adira’s former boyfriend. While the reasoning behind why Gray is now physically present within the holo-construct remains unclear, it opens the possibility that we could ‘see’ Gray as a walking-talking member of the crew sometime in the future. I instantly started to ponder on the possibility of using a device similar to the holo-emitter from Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram. Gray, who appeared as Vulcan, also plays a pivotal part in the away mission, as he is able to walk into a radiation-filled portion of the Kelpian ship, to assess the extent of the ship’s damage.
Saru continues to foster his relationship with Su’Kal, eventually gaining the Kelpian’s trust, and in doing so, revealing that Su’Kal’s biggest fear was not the mysterious monster within the holo-construct, but his fear of going outside of the holo-construct itself; which leads to the location he had last seen his mother.
Meanwhile, Doctor Culber suspects Su’Kal is a polyploid, the result of normal chromosomal separation being disrupted in utero, causing one's genes to be affected by its environment — which is actually a ‘real’ condition. In this case, Su’Kal became genetically connected to dilithium’s subspace component from being born on a dilithium planet. Adira further deduces that the Burn emanated from Su’Kal’s scream traveling at the resonant frequency of dilithium’s subspace component. For me, the more I dissect this explanation, the more I like it. My initial dislike of this solution came from the connected emotional component. Ironically enough, it's that emotional grounding that I have grown to love about the origin of the Burn. While not what anyone would have theorized, it is a very trek-like explanation and one that is rooted in both trek-perceivable science and relatable humanity. Later, Su’Kal finally faces his fears, terminating the holo-program. Afterwhich, we see a holo-recording of the moment that caused the Burn; witnessing Su’Kal’s grief-filled scream after the loss of his mother.
Back at Federation headquarters, it’s an all-out assault on Osyraa (Janet Kidder), which includes Federation forces attacking both the U.S.S. Discovery and the Viridian. Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) directs the U.S.S. Voyager to attack the Viridian, while all other vessels are directed to target Discovery. Osyraa once again impresses with her wealth of Federation knowledge, by directing the regulator-controlled Discovery to target the Federation’s shield emitter, which is disguised as a secondary deflector array — allowing Discovery to make its escape.
Also, it would seem as if Michael’s message to momma-Burnham did not go unheard. As Osryaa leaves Federation borders, she is greeted by a Ni’Varian fleet. With forces mounting against her, Osyraa readies her pesticides in what seems like a chemical attack against the Federation and Ni’Varian fleets, but Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) pleads with Osyraa, seemingly in an attempt to save lives. After talking to Vance, Burnham persuades the admiral to hold off all attacks while she works her plan from within.
While the war without rages, the war within is well underway. The bride crew is on a mission to wreak havoc for Osyraa and rid Discovery of her regulators, with a small contingent of DOT-23s at their side. Osyraa quickly grows weary of the endeavor, recalling her regulators and taking life support offline on the lower decks. After receiving a timely message from Michael, First Officer Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and the crew set out to break the magnetic field of one of Discovery’s warp nacelles, which would throw Discovery out of warp. There is a genuine joy in seeing what felt like guerrilla-style warfare from our principal characters; up close, personal, and all in a daring effort to accomplish what could be a one-way mission. The entire effort seems even more hopeless after the lack of life support begins to take its toll.
With the rest of the bridge crew suffering from oxygen deprivation, it’s up to Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), whom we are told has to advanced lung development because of her upbringing as a diver in her village, to complete the mission. Owo is just narrowly able to reach the inner nacelle to set the charge and is narrowly saved from the resulting explosion by one of the entity-controlled DOT-23s. The warp nacelle explosion knocks Discovery out of warp, and Osyraa orders the Viridian haul Discovery within its massive shuttle bay.
Back on the bridge, Osyraa is moving to plan-b, which is to get information from Booker (David Ajala) on the whereabouts of the dilithium planet within the Verubin Nebula. Osyraa orders Zarah (Jake Weber) and Aurelio (Kenneth Mitchell) to take Book and Burnham down to sickbay to coerce the information from Book, forcing Burnham to watch. Aurelio pleads for the two, telling Osyraa this is not the way, an opinion that Osyraa rejects outright, even choking out Aurelio in his defiance. Somehow Michael is able to outsmart Osyraa and Zareh by raising a force field, allowing her and Book to make a narrow escape.
“What we have here is a no-win situation.” — Zareh
“I don’t believe in those.” — Burnham
Next, there are the infamous turbo-lift scenes. Infamous, due to the amount of debate and ire they have spurred among the Trek community. In what feels like another nod to the 1987 action-flick, Die Hard, we get an extensive action-packed turbo-lift sequence. The scene starts with both Burnham and Book entering a turbo lift while fleeing from Zareh and a few regulators. Burnham forces open the rear turbo-lift door, after which we are privy to the interworking of the ship. Burnham quickly jumps out of the turbo-lift and onto another, while Book is left to fend off Zareh and the regulators as Burnham heads towards Discovery’s data core. What so many have complained about from this scene is the sheer amount of open space within the ship. I mean, there is a lot of open space. Due to the ship’s 32nd-century upgrades, the turbo-lift rails have been replaced by programmable matter that seemingly materializes on demand; leading to the appearance that the turbo-left can now move about the ship much more freely.
Speaking of the turbo-lift, the issue arises from the degree of open space that is present in the background and surrounding areas. It almost looks as if the area could be a city unto itself; a topic of debate that I’m sure will continue as we move into next season, even as trek-geeks around the world break out their ship schematics to determine the believability of these scenes. Having gone back to watch these scenes several times, it does feel like a bit of a stretch on the part of the showrunners, but I also feel like we’ve received a few hints of their interpretation of the interworking of starships in both episodes from last season and the Short Treks. Of course, I’m waiting with bated breath for the detailed technical manuals. In the meantime, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for the sheer bombastic nature of this beautifully choreographed action sequence. Let’s be real. We believe that traveling on mushrooms is a thing that happens on the show, so this isn’t too much of a stretch.
Eventually, Cleveland Booker is able to fend off the regulators, with Zareh finding his demise at the bottom of the turbo-shaft. Meanwhile, Burnham makes her way to the data core, where she is unsurprisingly greeted by Osyraa. Leading to an action-packed showdown in front of a beautifully imagined set-piece. I’m not quite sure if we’ve seen the data core in previous iterations of Trek, but even so, what they created for this scene we excellently executed on every level of detail. If I were to imagine a 32nd-century data center, it would probably look something like this.
Then there’s the fight itself. I remain impressed by the choreography of the fight scenes in Discovery. While I do feel like it was a bit cliche to have another “girl fight”, I loved the execution. Sonequa Martin-Green always impresses when it comes to these scenes, and it’s one aspect of the show that I hope continues to be good, even after the great Michelle Yeoh has left the series.
As an aside, I remain puzzled by Osyraa’s true intentions with the Federation. Was her attempt to unify the two organizations an earnest one? Osyraa feels she has made an honest. While Osyraa’s attempt at diplomacy could have been genuine, it's more likely that the Emerald Chain was just truly on its last leg, and that more dilithium was absolutely paramount for the organization's continued survival.
It almost seems as if Osyraa would win the fight after pushing Burnham deep into a wall of programmable matter. Feeling she had won, Osyraa turns and walks away, only for Burnham to emerge with some well-placed disrupter fire — killing Osyraa. Burnham immediately resets Discovery’s operating system, purging it of the Emerald Chain re-write. She then beams all regulators off Discovery and restores life support to the lower decks, instructing everyone to meet her on the bridge.
Michael Burnham and the crew are not quite out of the woods yet. Discovery is still trapped inside the Viridian hanger bay, and time is running out for the away team within the Verubin Nebula. Aurelio, Osyraa’s top scientist, is still aboard Discovery and has seemingly become sympathetic to the Federation after seeing Osyraa’s true colors revealed. He concludes that the Kwejian people, due to their unique empathic abilities, may be able to navigate the spore drive much like that of a tardigrade and the genetically engineered Stamets. Michael recommends the overload and ejection of the warp core to destroy the Viridian, hinging on Aurelio’s information that Cleveland Booker should be able to successfully operate the spore drive. Sufficient to say, things go as planned, and the crew is able to both escape the Viridian and save the away team before the radiation on the planet becomes lethal.
So many thoughts about the aftermath of this episode. First off, we have to talk about Stamets. I didn’t mention it earlier, but while Vance was hard at work to recapture Discovery, Stamets makes a plea to Vance to cease fire and force their way onto Discovery, a notion that Vance quickly dispels. Vance iterates that Burnham made the right decision by sending Stamets off of Discovery, and orders Stamet’s to a civilian transport that is headed away from the battle. As you would guess, Stamet’s is not happy with Michael, a sentiment seen in the closing minutes of this episode, and one that I’m sure we will see play out in season four. I’m certain we have not seen the last of the Stamets stank eye (#StametsStankEye).
Next, there are the DOT-23s. When determining the best method of destabilizing the warp nacelle, Ensign Tilly makes a statement that sending a DOT-23 to destroy the magnetic field in the warp nacelle could destroy the DOT-23 bots before they could even set the bomb, making it paramount that team-Tilly reach the nacelle to make sure the mission is accomplished. I’m quite fine and well with this explanation, but having a DOT-23 save Owosekun in the end, kinds of negates that entire point. But don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they saved her because she’s awesome, but still felts like a bit of a hole in the logic if there are no real consequences.
Then there is the fact that Ni’Var has joined the Federation in the fight against the Emerald Chain at momma-Burnham’s behest. So much of this season has been about restoring the Federation to its former glory, and the connection Burnham makes while pleading for the SB-19 research data has obviously made an impact on the Ni’Varian stance on their relationship with the organization they had once been an intricate part of. My hope is that we’ll see Ni’Var once again join the Federation, as we have seen Trill in the aftermath of these events. I’m so excited to see these relationships re-forged as the galaxy once again becomes a smaller place.
We also learn that Saru has opted to remain on Kaminar in order to commune with his people and help Su’Kal adapt to life among living-breathing kelpians. While I’m not entirely shocked that Saru would want to help his people, I am a bit shocked that he would leave his post as captain of Discovery. To Saru’s defense, the development of his people has grown so much over the course of the last two seasons, and that is in large part due to the work he and the crew of Discovery have done along the way. By liberating his people from the hands of the Ba’ul, along with the revelation that Vahar’ai is not the end but only the beginning, he initiated a trajectory that has seen his people excel into an important part of the 32-century and integral member of the Federation. Saru deems it his responsibility to once again restore that path, especially after his people were found to be at the heart of the Burn.
With news of Saru taking a leave of absence on Kaminar, there was no question on who would be the captain of Discovery, a journey that Burnham has been on well before becoming a mutineer in season one. There is certainly something to be said about Michael Burnham making the voyage from rock bottom to now being the captain in the very organization she had once betrayed. While it is glaringly obvious that Michael made a mistake, one that left her mentor Captain Georgiou dead and even possibly incited the Federation-Klingon War, I never questioned that Burham thought she was doing the right thing. There is solace in knowing that one can come back from such a horrible mistake — that redemption can truly be had. By the end of season two, Burnham has become a much better officer, but after arriving in 3188, the need to find ‘hope’ led her along a path to take more risks; leaving me to question if the growth of season two been all for naught; now embracing the cowboy mentality she needed to survive as a courier.
Ultimately Michael was committed to doing whatever it took to restore hope for the Federation, driving us to the core of the Burn, along with fostering many relationships that had been torn apart by the catastrophic event. Capitalized by the beautiful bookend of seeing Lieutenant Aditya Sahil (Adil Hussain) meet Burnham at Federation headquarters.
With so many threads of mystery presented in this season, I’m pretty satisfied with the journey the showrunners were able to present onscreen. In a year where there has been so much negativity and hatefulness spread about the world, which was capitalized by a pandemic that has threatened our very existence, the message of hope conveyed throughout this season was not only welcomed, it was needed. Conveying the message that a better future is out there waiting, as long as we are willing to fight for it — as long as there is hope.
“In a very real sense, we are all aliens on a strange planet. We spend most of our lives reaching out and trying to communicate. If during our whole lifetime, we could reach out and really communicate with just two people, we are indeed very fortunate.” — Gene Roddenberry
Who knows what new adventures ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ will present in the next season. While I’m sure there will be some over-arching mystery that will be the driving force of the season, it may also be an opportunity for the show to take a step back, and to see how it can manage the self-contained stories of Trek’s past. Regardless, the U.S.S. Discovery and her crew can now forge ahead and continue to build an optimistic future of altruism, diplomacy, and exploration under the Federation banner. And if that ain’t what Star Trek is all about, I’m not sure what is. Let’s fly!