Penultimate Season 3 Star Trek: Discovery Episode Is A Battle For Peace
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Penultimate Season 3 Star Trek: Discovery Episode Features A Battle…For Peace?

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BY April 26, 2021

This has been a breakout season for Star Trek: Discovery, specifically that it broke out of the shadow of the Trek that came before it. In the season premiere, the series adopted a much more hopeful tone (especially about the Federation). Yet, it did so because the future they arrived in was very bleak. In a way, the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is a metaphor for the show and its place in the Star Trek universe. Inside the walls of Discovery, a battle rages for control of the ship. Outside its walls, however, the Federation and even their enemies work for peace.

The two stories work well in tandem, providing an interesting tension during the episode. The more ground the crew of Discovery gains, the less likely a peaceable solution can be found. It’s one of the series’ most political episodes to date. Specifically, it is the episode most focused on actual space-politics, an important part of both Star Trek and Star Wars. In this far-flung future of the Trek universe, the Federation is diminished and a new political force, the Emerald Chain, has dominance (in their territories, at least). All season long, a battle between the Chain and the Federation seemed inevitable.

While the results of this episode don’t necessarily change that, we do get a better understanding of how the Chain operates. Thus far they’ve been depicted as mostly a criminal syndicate with real power, akin to the Hutts in Star Wars. Yet, in the political negotiations between the Chain and the Federation, a different picture emerges. And the potential this larger storyline has could change Discovery, again likely for the better.

Spoilers for Discovery and Picard to follow.

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Another Great Episode of Star Trek: Discovery Making Season 3 Near-Perfect

Star Trek: Discovery Penultimate Episode Season 3 “There Is A Tide...” — Ep#312 — Pictured: Janet Kidder as Osyraa of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive

The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is another high point for the show. Each week, this season delivered great stories that hit that indeterminate bar of “feeling” like Star Trek. Now set in the future, there were no limitations on technology or continuity to worry about. It also presented the storytellers with an opportunity to examine politics in a way that better speaks to modern audiences.

Crucial in this episode are the negotiations between Janet Kidder’s Osyraa and Oded Fehr’s Admiral Vance. Osyraa recognizes that the only way for them to survive in a post-warp galactic culture is to join forces. In order to make this deal more appealing, she convinced the ruling body of the Emerald Chain to give up most of its problematic practices from slavery to planetary occupation. It seems as if an agreement between the two is a foregone conclusion. We’ve seen the Federation at peace with troubling political factions before, but never working in concert with them. It is a concept I hope they get to explore next season, and one very relevant to the US and the world beyond.

However, the sticking point in the negotiations comes when the individual in charge is asked for accountability. Vance says that the only way the Emerald Chain and the Federation can work together is if Osyraa faces trial. Throughout the negotiations, Osyraa seemed ready to acquiesce to any demand (though she assumed she stacked the deck sufficiently). Yet, when forced to face justice or destroy everything, she chose the latter. Again, a political theme very relevant to modern US politics from the age of Nixon up until now.

So, while the battle for the Discovery seemed like a threat to the peace, its outcome is now the last hope for it.

The Battle for the Bridge and Giving Peace A Chance

Star Trek: Discovery Penultimate Episode Season 3 “There Is A Tide...” — Ep#312 — Pictured: Anthony Rapp as Lt. Stamets of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive

Left in command for the first time, Mary Wiseman’s Ensign Tilly is tested throughout the episode. Her feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt are made evident via the performance. However, in her words, Tilly seems like every bit the proper Starfleet captain. She surrenders the ship, and then works out a plan to take it back. David Ajala’s Cleveland Booker and Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham infiltrate the ship, attacking the Chain’s forces from two fronts.

It’s a great group of scenes that evoked, for me at least, the original series with how small the altercations were. This was no big, computer-generated space battle, but rather a smooth progression of smaller conflicts with successes and failures. We won’t spoil it here, because it’s worth watching and full of great tension.

Anthony Rapp’s performance as Paul Stamets being sent off Discovery is fantastic. He desperately wants to stay to save the crew we last saw in the pervious episode. This party includes not just Doug Jones’ Saru, but also his pseudo-sibling Blu Del Barrio’s Adira and Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Culber, his husband. He must leave the ship, because he’s the only person who can make the spore drive work. Yet, in doing so, he’s all but dooming his entire family to die horrible deaths in the Nebula in which they left them. He’s completely irrational in this moment, and he says some hurtful, personal things to Michael. Martin-Green’s performance in this moment is amazing, too. At the end of the scene, she allows herself a second to break down but quickly recovers. Then she’s captured.

The Penultimate Episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Just Introduced Droids

Star Trek: Discovery Penultimate Episode Season 3 Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive

The end of the penultimate episode sets up the season 3 finale nicely, with both a full-on Star Trek political crisis and the fate of the Discovery uncertain. Yet, the storytellers added an interesting wrinkle. The reason the Discovery needed to flee to the future was because of data collected from an alien sphere that observed the universe for 10,000 years. It is heavily implied that this collection of data is, somewhat like V’Ger before it, sentient.

When the Emerald Chain took over, they purged data. My thoughts immediately went to the Sphere Data, which hasn’t played much of a role this season. Yet, we learn what happened to it. As Tilly and her band of crewmembers raid a ship armory, they encounter a trio of new Star Trek cuties. These Not-Droids (for legal reasons) were programmable ship mechanics now seemingly granted sentience as they house the Sphere Data. They offer their assistance to “take back the ship” in the last moments.

This is not the first time sentient artificial life appeared in Star Trek. Hell, at the end of the first season of Picard, Patrick Stewart’s iconic character is himself an artificial life form. However, these little robot sweeties are both unique and our first proper droids in Star Trek. (All due respect to Exocomps.) It’s unclear if this will be a permanent change or if, once the danger passes, the data will go back into the ship. Either way, it’s a controversial choice and has implications beyond just the next episode.

Star Trek: Discovery airs on Thursdays on CBS All Access.

What did you think of the penultimate episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 3? Do you think peace or war awaits the Federation next season? Share your thoughts below!

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Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.

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