Season 1 of “Star Trek: Discovery” was good — allowing for some growing pains. When Season 2 got rolling, it turned out great.
“We feel like we hit that groove in terms of tone, in terms of the adventure, the fun, the sci-fi, the character moments, the emotion, the action,” said showrunner Michelle Paradise. “As we move forward, that’s where we live.”
Season 3 (finally) starts streaming Thursday on CBS All Access, a year and a half after the end of Season 2. The story picks up right where it left off and centuries later. When last we saw Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), she was in the Red Angel suit, leading the U.S.S. Discovery through a rift in time — and when Season 3 begins, they’ve jumped from the year 2259 to 3188.
That really is somewhere (some time?) “Star Trek” has never gone before, several decades beyond a future briefly glimpsed in “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
No spoilers here for Season 3, but 930 years in the future the Federation has all but completely collapsed. That’s an unsettling state of affairs for Trekkers, not to mention the crew of the Discovery. And there’s no quick fix. Unlike the dozens of time-travel episodes in other “Trek” series, they won’t return to their starting point and they’re not going to fix what’s wrong with the galaxy in an episode or two.
“Discovery” is not like any previous “Trek” series. It doesn’t have stand-alone episodes. While others — “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” “Enterprise” — included ongoing story arcs, none were as serialized as this.
Each season is a very long movie with a beginning, a middle and an end. And it includes spectacular, theatrical-quality special effects. Just wait till you see what happens in Episode 2!
Most movies require some set-up in the first couple of acts. Given that “Discovery” jumps forward almost a millennium, there’s a lot of that required.
I know Trekkers will completely ignore this advice, but I’d suggest waiting until Thursday, Oct. 22, to stream Episodes 1 and 2 at the same time. Episode 1 alone will leave you feeling at least vaguely disappointed, but be patient. After screening the first four (of 13), I’m cautiously optimistic. The best news is that we’re getting more character development for the supporting players — which hasn’t been done enough in the first two seasons.
At the same time, I’m really looking forward to “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” which will feature Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Number One (Rebecca Romijn) and a young Spock (Ethan Peck) — seen in Season 2 of “Discovery” — in a prequel to the original series. Scheduled to go into production in early 2021, it will feature stand-alone episodes aboard the pre-Kirk U.S.S. Enterprise. That’s the sort of “Star Trek” we’ve loved for more than half a century.
But there’s room in the “Trek” universe for “Discovery,” too. And for “Picard,” which followed the “Discovery” template.
Not every idea pans out — the almost unwatchable “Lower Decks” proves that — but “Discovery” has found a way to repackage the original “Star Trek” spirit.
“It started with Spock and Kirk and all of these wonderful characters,” Paradise said. "With the diversity on that show and the acceptance and the underlying optimism and the feeling that whatever challenge we encounter, we can overcome it together because we’re a family and we’re Starfleet. We’re the Federation. There’s magic in that.
“And we try on this show to continue honoring that in every story we tell.”