Star Trek Discovery lets us see how the other half lived. S3E02 – Far From Home Review

*SPOILERS*

There’s no ‘Previously on Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda Star Trek Discovery’ because this week, “Star Trek Discovery” is giving airtime to the other characters as we’re plunged straight into learning how the other half lived through the Red Angel’s time tunnel to the world of tomorrow and ended up so “Far From Home”.

Emerging from the trans-temporal wormhole, the USS Discovery emerges into an asteroid field. With systems barely functioning, Saru and the crew are helpless to prevent the ship from crashing into (and through) a nearby planet although some skilful piloting from Lt Detmer keeps the ship in one piece. Marooned, the crew needs specific minerals to effect repairs and – fortuitously – there’s a mining settlement within reach.

Although the focus has shifted away from Discovery’s albatross of having a single main character, Michael Burnham is still very much the ‘Poochie’ of “Star Trek: Discovery” and, for the early scenes at least, while she’s not on screen all the other characters seem to be asking “where’s Burnham?”

Tilly tilly, still quite silly

Luckily, acting Captain Saru is on hand to cut through this nonsense and get everyone focussed on fixing up the ship. The repair activity gives us a handy (and surprisingly organic) reminder of who’s on board, and it even manages to continue the small tentative steps to fleshing out those minor characters. The absence of Burnham actually becomes an asset to the episode, not only because without her hogging the limelight the other characters get more room to breathe but also because it adds an air of urgency and mystery to their predicament. In many ways, “Far From Home” would have made a better and, for this series, a braver season opener. “That Hope Is You” could then have followed on with barely any structural storytelling changes being made.

The episode feels authentically “Star Trek” in its set up and execution. The crew are presented with problems to solve and there are even discussions and debates on how to solve them. From the missing minerals to the need to repair the ship before the ‘parasitic ice’ crushes the hull (parasitic ice is such a vague yet potent “Star Trek” trope – it’s delightful) to the various bumps and bruises suffered by various crew members, the episode covers a lot of ground and manages to make nearly all of it satisfying. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Reno (Tig Notaro) continue to be a wonderful pairing and there’s time enough for another appearance from Linus (who piques Georgiou’s interest). There’s some terrific sound design at play, too, helping to imbue the aftermath of the crash with a palpable sense of disorientation and distress.

Discovery on ice

Once again, the location shoot in Iceland pays off handsomely and the episode looks fantastic – possibly even better than last week where the locations occasionally felt intrusive and overpowering. Here it feels more natural within the story and even the “Avatar”-style floating rocks fit with the implied physics of the world the crew find themselves stranded on. The scenery’s so spectacular, it goes some way to explaining why Saru (Doug Jones) and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) decide to hike to the nearby settlement instead of taking a shuttlecraft from one of Discovery’s many, many shuttle bays.

Once they arrive at the nearby settlement, Saru and Tilly get the chance to prove just how strong the principles of the Federation are as they help defend the locals from the villainous thuggery of Zareh – the outer space ‘Tiger King’. It’s an important sequence demonstrating why the Federation and Starfleet were valuable and still have a role to play in this lawless future. It also drops the first hints that Discovery will be technologically obsolete in this era, as it should be given the vessel is the equivalent of a Viking longship arriving to participate in a naval battle today.

Star Trek Discovery Zareh - intergalactic Tiger King

Georgiou’s arrival at a crucial moment is as predictable as it is welcome, and Michelle Yeoh continues to gleefully chew the scenery and have enormous fun with her character. It’s an early sign of how they plan to use this darker character: she’s this series’ Worf, quick to advocate force, ruthless in its execution. Here’s hoping she’s allowed to be like the Worf of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and not nerfed into bumbling comic relief like the Worf of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

Discovery gets rescued by a dea ex machina

It ends, of course, with Burnham literally being a dea ex machina as she arrives in a halo of light to save the Discovery from the clutches of the ice. Her confirmation that she’s been around for a year already in this future raises the potential for the series to indulge in a little bit of parallel storytelling so it’ll be interesting to see where we go from here, especially given some of the small character threads this story leaves dangling to be picked up in future episodes.

8/10

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