For the first time in almost 20 years, there are several new ones Star Trek shows you can see right away. There it is Next generation successor series Picard for those who feel nostalgic; for fans who want to undo a few buttons on their Starfleet uniforms and maybe even drink a beer, there’s the cool animated comedy of Lower deck. But the series I’m most interested in is Star Trek: Discovery, because it boldly goes where no one else Star Trek the series has ever gone before.
I know. High order. But Discovery hits genuine well. Its third season begins with a clean break from the 23rd century ̵
Pair it with a silly but plausible reason to get the cast and their ship deleted from the recorded story and you have a show that is now the franchise vanguard. Discovery went to great lengths to break the bond with his complicated past to tell a whole new story. It’s Simone Biles of narrative gymnastics, and yes, it mainly holds its landings.
But first there are backflips. Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the series’ main character, begins the season as the previous one ended: in a time travel suit that plunged into a wormhole with Discovery and its crew followed her.
In the season premiere, which is currently streaming on CBS All Access, Burnham arrive in a future no. Trek character ever seen. Thanks to the quirks at the space-time continuum, she does not know where (or when) the rest of it is Discovery will arrive. Across the first four episodes made available to critics, Burnham and the rest of the crew unite and have a series of mostly stand-alone adventures that tour a transformed galaxy. Institutions that they took for granted have crumbled and disasters that they never expected have drawn the balance of power between peoples and worlds. It means Discovery always asks difficult questions: how do you hold on to your values when you are the only one holding them? And then: do you know when they are no longer enough?
This is the kind of crazy thing Star Trek is about and it’s exciting to watch Discovery go all-in while also doing a beautiful sci-fi action. (Later episodes deal with Western tribute and trippy metaphysical dilemmas.) It’s a good recalibration, though some conflicts are resolved a little too nicely. Apart from the narrative, Discovery also strives for better representation in the real world – new faces include Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander, the first trans and non-binary actors Star Trek – but the success of these leaps forward largely depends on whether episodes later take new characters in new directions beyond the episodes in which they are introduced.
Nonetheless, Discovery feels good. The show tells stories of indescribable futures and how to meet them, which feels especially important at a time when it feels impossible to make it through the day with dignity intact. We are all enduring a uniquely trying year, and it has never been more appealing to get the hell out of here. With Discovery, you can rocket to another galaxy and time completely and see a diverse group of competent friends and colleagues try to understand the unknown.