Star Trek Discovery: Finding a Balance

How Discovery Embraces Change while not Forgetting the Past

All things must change. In fact, change is the nature of the universe. Nothing in the physical world is static. Even death is not static. Death and life are symbiotic. I’ll be honest, like many Trekkies out there, I was a little disappointed with the general feel and direction of Star Trek Discovery. However, if Star Trek is going to survive it has to change. When they rebooted the movies and series, I was also disappointed. I didn’t want to look back. I wanted to look forward. I didn’t want to go back to the original Star Trek or anything before that because, honestly, it was a perilous journey to take. Going backward was and still could be a recipe to wreck havoc on history and canon. And, yet, I have been pleasantly surprised.

Discovery made a point of being different and it is working. I won’t lie, I was scared of the general direction it was taking. I’m not gung-ho about Captain Lorca but filling out his character with new background information this episode has helped a bit. Michael Burnham and Saru’s relationship, on the other hand, promised to be intriguing and captivating, and it has delivered. Saru acts like a captain of old. He takes his weaknesses and makes them his strengths.

His take on the Tardigrade was difficult and heart-wrenching. It would have also been immoral and wrong, but as Saru admits the “souls” he has been placed in charge of are his main responsibility in that moment of crises. There is a history of making difficult decisions in Star Trek that might violate Star Trek principles in tough situations. This felt like one of those moments. It was a difficult mission and the information at hand was inconclusive. What Saru did know was that his crew was at risk. He made a hard decision and would accept whatever consequences resulted from his decision.

In the midst of this, Michael Burnham’s character demonstrates sincere growth. Keeping true to her character’s motivations, Michael finally backs off. Burnham gets in a burner, “Captain Saru, I understand that you are upset. You’re in command. It’s a time of crisis. And your culture trains you to be on a heightened lookout for enemies, but I assure you I am not one of them.” However, she accepts her orders and is a better character for it. She is right, as she has been for most of the series thus far, but she puts her stubbornness aside. If there was one defining mark of her character, it is the reason why she was court-martialed, in her pursuit of what she considers to be right she will do whatever it takes to get results. This backfired on her when she betrayed Georgiou to “save [her] life.” This no-holds-bar approach was tempered in “Choose You Pain.” She obeys orders and goes to her quarters. She allows Saru to lead and find a way. Michael demonstrates trust in her companions. She allows others to step in and do the right thing.

Discovery has embraced many of the old Star Trek tropes while finding new ones. It has given us a much darker universe but has sprinkled it with shards of light. Unlike its predecessors, it has embraced serialization and has come out the better for it. It has pushed the frontiers of social agenda by portraying an —already beloved— Asian captain; shown us multi-racial families; embraced LGBT characters. In other words, it has taken the path forward in a changing universe while using elements of what makes Star Trek great to begin with. So, bring on the change, like Janeway once said, “I understand. And I respect the decision you made, even though I disagree with it. What’s important is that in the end, we got through this, together. I don’t ever want that to change.”