Story Pile: Star Trek Discovery, Season 3

Star Trek Discovery wrapped its third season a few days ago, and thanks to properly licensing the thing, here in Australia I was able to watch it nearly on schedule, waiting only a day or two to legally watch it on the legal service I legally pay for, which

is nice

for a change.

I don’t typically tend to talk about seasons of shows like this? Mostly when I look at a TV series, the series has been over for a while. There’s a sort of binginess, look at the whole thing at once, maybe see how well some early plot points are held out, maybe consider the way that the show is affected by the process of making it, you know, all that jazz. In the case of Discovery, I’ve just been watching it, as each episode comes out, and not doing recaps or summaries, like some kind of pleb.

I liked the first season, as a surprise ‘oh hey, Star Trek is cool’ thing. Then I watched a bunch more, and the second season, which I also liked, and thought that was cool. And now here I am at the end of the third season, and once again, I’m going: hey, that was cool.

I understand there’s meant to be something more profound, but for me, there really isn’t.

I liked Star Trek Discovery and I liked it because I felt tense when it wanted me to feel tense, and satisfied when it wanted me to feel satisfied. There were things I felt it could do better, and there were things I felt it did well. There isn’t a robust vocabulary for praising adequacy in this critical space; works are either sublime or supine, they either fly or they fail.

This series had some stuff I wish it could do a better job of. The bridge crew could have benefitted from more time and exposure, which would be nice. It’d have been great if there was a little extra time with Charles Vance, if the time skipped early in the series had been explored a little more, and if there’d just been more stuff with the dot bots, because they’re cute.

At the same time, as I often say when criticising media like this, ‘the show would have been better if they’d done a better job.’ Execution is always hard, and for almost all projects except the smallest, tightest, and most carefully managed ones that aren’t being made during global pandemics. Some actors can have scenes built around them easily, some demands are made of other actors, and the stories have to move around these pieces, because the stories are ultimately, human made entities. Real, in that they are made by the real work of real people to create an image on the screen, their being fictional does not divorce them from, for example, everyone involved needing to breathe.

And so, I feel, rather than a critical examination of every single scene, bit by bit, with elaborate histories to anchor them in a greater continuity, with all the hat-tips and references and cute ideas that the story is built around, it just feels a little easier to look at the kind of things that wind up being important in this story. What are the things the story repeats, or presents as important then returns to?

There’s this theme with Book, where his ability to care about people is important to his ability to function in the world. That’s something I enjoy a lot – we get lots of work where men are a particularly grouchy way, and Book even tries to be careful about admitting it, but he’s pretty consistently shown to help people through caring about them. This comes up in the finale in a way I really loved. And he’s like, a nature Jedi! And he was in The Bill and by the sound of it, they just let him use his native accent, making outer space feel a bit different. There’s also a culminating point about his cat Grudge that didn’t work out the way I thought it would, but I really enjoyed.

Adira and Gray are really sweet, and cute characters, and it’s really nice to see them together. Their romance is very shy and sweet, and built around romantic things like playing instruments and soothing each others’ anxieties. I already like Trill, I like hybrids, and I like the interesting ways to examine things like legacy and enduring emotional bonds, so I was already going to be in on Adira’s story – but to see a nonbinary and trans actor pair get to put a relationship in focus like that that was also just very sweet and cute was charming! Ask someone else about The Genders on that one, because as someone outside that experience I think it’s best to just appreciate it as what it was: Something nice and charming and very cute.

I thought the finale was very cool? There were these big tactical problems, and they were also metaphorisations of the tiny personal problems. There’s this big question of how you grapple with the worst thing you’ve done, and what you can do with your life around that. They reiterate on this a few times, and they do a few mini-arcs with it.There’s also this wonderful, recurrent theme of not accepting binaries. There’s even a point where a character flat-out says they don’t believe in simple choices, and then proves it. Friendship saves the day in some cases, listening to one another, apologising, those things are important, and rebuilding matters as much as building does.

I like these things. And I like that the series seems to like them to.

I can understand entirely why someone might not like Star Trek Discovery, because we all engage with media in lots of interesting different ways. The reasons I hate She-Ra and Undertale are entirely my reasons to dislike them, for example. There’s this thing in media and critique and commentary that we generally call discourse, where there’s a conversation around it, and we throw our voices into the air and people react to what they hear, or, more dreadfully, more often, do not react, because they do not hear, or because they do not care. Nonetheless, there is sometimes a way to talk about these things where it is much like picking a lock, where if we can just make the right rhetorical points in the right order and in the right positions, then we can unlock some sort of difficulty stage and win the discourse, that we can do the best at talking about Star Trek, a series that has rumplestiltskin and an interdimensional god called Carl.

Star Trek is a science fiction TV Show, made by a bunch of people, made in a difficult circumstance. An actress had to be written out for other commitments. A character had to be written out because her actress couldn’t handle the makeup regimen, and yet, the actress hadn’t been written out, which made something weird happen. Popular characters got a bit more attention, less popular ones didn’t get that many chances to shine.

But I liked it.

And that’s all I can really share with you about it. I liked it, and here are the reasons why.

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