Another look at the Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 trailer

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, and we’ll be looking in-depth at shots and scenes from the trailer for Season 3.

First of all, I hope you like the new look of the website’s homepage. It took a little while to get everything configured – and there are still some things to do. If the new logo and header-image look amateurish like they were made in Microsoft Paint, well… that’s because I made them in Paint. I never said I was a Photoshop expert!

When I logged into Facebook this evening, one of the first posts I saw was from the official Star Trek page – and it got me very excited! “The first Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 trailer has arrived”, or so proclaimed the post. The actual trailer – which you can find by clicking or tapping here (warning: leads to an external site) – was simply a repost of the only trailer we’ve seen for the season so far. Cue my disappointment!

The USS Discovery, pictured in the trailer.

While I might be overthinking things, I wonder if this marks the beginning of a social media push leading up to an announcement of the season’s release date – all we know so far is that it’s coming some time this year. I’d hoped to see a release date – or even just a release month – when the finale of Star Trek: Picard was released at the end of March, but ViacomCBS chose not to use that opportunity to plug Discovery. And that’s probably because of the pandemic causing delays to Discovery’s post-production work. Anyway, that’s not why we’re here.

Star Trek’s website and official Facebook page have chosen to republish the trailer, and while it isn’t exactly clear why they’ve done so (or why now), it does present us with a good excuse to take another look and see what we can gleam. The trailer was first published at New York Comic-con in October 2019, which was before I founded this website. While I’ve referred to the trailer a number of times in other articles, this will be my first breakdown of it in its entirety.

If you haven’t seen the trailer and want to head into Season 3 unspoiled, or if you haven’t seen Season 2 yet and want to avoid spoilers, this is your last chance to jump ship!

The very first shot in the trailer depicts Burnham – still in her Red Angel suit from Discovery’s finale – having crash-landed on a planet or moon. Obviously exiting the time-wormhole was not smooth, and while she’s survived the impact, she’s had a rough landing. The next frame shows her opening what looks like an emergency kit, and we see a phaser, a communicator, and a couple of other miscellaneous devices. The main takeaway from the way the trailer opens is that Burnham’s arrival in the future was difficult. I wonder if we’re seeing a hint that something went wrong – maybe this isn’t the full 930 years that she initially expected to travel. While I’ve all but given up on a link-up between Discovery and Picard, I still think keeping the franchise’s timeline as streamlined as possible makes sense. Either way, this crash-landing aftermath must surely be from the first episode of the season.

Burnham’s emergency kit.

“I’ve spent a year searching… for that domino, that tipped over and started all of this.” So says Burnham in a voiceover, as we see a brief progression of her as her hair grows out – a great way to represent the passage of time! The biggest questions I have from this sequence are – where is she? It looked like she was in a shuttlecraft, and while I couldn’t see exactly, the window of the shuttle looked dark, perhaps indicating she was in space? But Burnham arrived with just the Red Angel suit, so whose shuttle is it? Secondly, what is the “domiono” she’s referring to? Obviously we assume it to mean Control – the rogue artificial intelligence from Season 2, whose aggressive pursuit forced her to hide in the future in the first place. And that may absolutely be the case – but it could be a misdirect.

If we look at this sequence, it could be referring to events from later in the trailer – the loss of hope of the Federation official and/or the fighting group of Andorians, Lurians, Cardassians, and others. Burnham seems to have agreed to take on a task, later in the trailer, for the unnamed Federation official, and her remarks in the voiceover could be referring to that and not to Control.

The next shot is very brief, but it shows us a group, seemingly led by an Andorian, using a directed energy weapon of some kind – possibly aboard Discovery, but I couldn’t be 100% sure on that. This is one point I’ve picked on in previous articles – if 930 years have passed, shouldn’t there be better and more powerful weapons? What the Andorians were holding looked like big, chunky phasers, and the directed energy weapon they used sent some kind of shockwave, but it didn’t look like anything 23rd or 24th Century Starfleet couldn’t have had. Perhaps this is related to the broader setting being a kind of stagnant or even post-apocalyptic look at the future.

The Andorians.

We’re introduced to the new character of Booker – played by British actor David Ajala. He and Burnham walk across a landscape, and while we only see a snippet of their conversation, it’s an interesting one! Firstly, I love the location chosen for this trek. The moss-covered rocks look different and otherworldly, as well as being natural and unspoiled. One of the points of criticism you may remember me levelling at Star Trek: Picard was that all of the planets Picard and his crew visited – and indeed all of the different places they went on Earth, like France and Japan – looked exactly like California. Discovery, unlike Picard, is filmed in Toronto, so naturally they have a whole different set of filming locations to use. As someone largely unfamiliar with those locations, seeing them immediately gives the show a different look and avoids that repetitive feeling that built up across Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard.

Booker refers to Burnham’s Starfleet badge as representing a “ghost”. There are a couple of points to break down from this. Firstly, it’s implied that Starfleet as an organisation either no longer exists, or that no Starfleet vessel has ever been to Booker’s part of the galaxy, leaving him to consider the organisation little more than a legend. However, the good news is that Booker recognises the symbol – even if he’s never seen a Starfleet ship or met a Starfleet officer, the organisation is something he’s at least aware of and vaguely familiar with. Starfleet having been disbanded, or being reduced in size and effectiveness such that many people have never seen it, would tie in with the depressed Federation official that we’ll come to in a moment, as well as what seems to be the overall theme of the season – restoring hope to the people of this era.

The next sequence introduces the Federation official. He seems to be on a space station – that’s my guess, at any rate – and he unfurls a flag that is definitely worth a second look. The Federation emblem that we’ve seen a number of times in previous iterations of the franchise has far more stars than the one seen here. Stars on flags can represent states or regions that are members of the organisation – as we see with the flag of the United States, for example. The loss of many stars from the Federation flag could thus be seen as those worlds having seceded from the Federation. I think seceded seems more likely than them having been conquered by an outside power, because in such a case I’d have expected the Federation to consider those worlds still being its own.

The flag with the “missing” stars.

I didn’t like what the Federation official had to say, at least in part. I’m sure we’ll learn more when the season debuts as to why he’s been at this post, and what he’s been waiting for all this time. That part I have no issue with. But where Discovery has come undone at points in its first two seasons is where it was a show solely about one character – Burnham. Putting her at the centre of stories in which she, and she alone, was capable of saving the ship, crew, and indeed the whole galaxy weren’t the high points of Discovery, at least not for me. Sonequa Martin-Green plays Burnham very well, but as a protagonist Burnham can be very hard to root for at times. She can come across as self-assured to the point of arrogance, and her slavish devotion to her own interpretation of what seems “logical” can overcome her common sense. These are traits embedded in her by her Vulcan upbringing, and while we’ve seen Burnham emotional and suffering setbacks, I don’t feel that the idea of making every season a “Burnham saves the universe” story is a great idea. I would love if Discovery could give its other crew members a chance to shine – we’ve seen Saru and Stamets come close, but several others have barely got a look-in after two full seasons.

In fact, I think that really is my biggest concern headed into Season 3: another story where Burnham is the only one who can help, the only one who can save the Federation, the only one who can bring hope and peace and blah blah blah. If it was Star Trek: Burnham, maybe that would be okay – but even then I’d still argue we needed a central character with better-written, more easily understandable motivations. It isn’t Star Trek: Burnham, though, it’s supposed to be Star Trek: Discovery, and to me that naming scheme implies more of an ensemble show with other characters allowed some degree of agency instead of plodding along behind Burnham in her shadow.

Burnham has been the focus for Discovery’s first two seasons.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like in Burnham’s character and in Discovery in general. I love the show – I even picked it for my favourite television series of the last decade when I wrote a list back in December. I like the dynamic between Burnham and Tilly, for example, and her relationship with Ash Tyler showed how she can be emotional and conflicted. But generally speaking, Burnham hasn’t been my favourite element of the series so far, and after two season-long arcs which largely focused on her, I had hoped for a story that had the potential to bring in other crew members in a bigger way this time around. Who knows, perhaps that will still happen – Burnham’s mission might take place entirely off-screen and for the whole season we’ll hang out with everyone else!

The trailer re-emphasises the “930 years” into the future setting, and at this point it should be said that that looks very likely to be accurate. There’s no reason to be deliberately dishonest, and since the setting looks very much unlike what we saw, for example, in Star Trek: Picard, I think we have to take it as fact for now.

Discovery’s third season setting (probably).

This next part might be my favourite. Deep Space Nine gave us a deeper look at the Trill race, who had been introduced in The Next Generation. Jadzia Dax, and later Ezri Dax, were both Trill main characters, and in case you need a recap, the Trill were a conjoined species with a humanoid and a non-humanoid living together in one body. The non-humanoid symbiont was very long-lived and would be joined with several humanoid Trill over its lifetime. The pool depicted in the trailer looks like one seen in Deep Space Nine on the Trill homeworld, and we also see several Trill characters in the next shot. As far as we know at this stage, no Trill main character has been announced for the show. However, the species will clearly feature in some form. I can’t help but wonder if a return of Dax is on the cards. Trill symbiots could live for centuries – how many centuries is unclear. It’s at least plausible that the Dax symbiont could be alive in this timeframe, and even a cameo appearance would be an incredible callback to Deep Space Nine.

Saru gives an empowering speech in the next sequence. I would guess he’s now captain, or acting captain, unless a new character gets parachuted into that role. Both Capt. Lorca and Capt. Pike were great in their stories in Discovery’s first two seasons, but the lack of a recurring, permanent captain has left the show feeling, at points, somewhat rudderless. If there is to be fourth season – which it seems there will be – getting some continuity at the top is important for the show, I feel. Saru would be a natural fit for the position, as he’d been first officer and he’s a character we’re familiar with. I liked his speech, which was a rallying cry to “make the future bright”.

We also see Burnham reunited with the rest of the crew. It seems that this didn’t happen right away upon arriving in the future, and that may be tied to her “waited for a year” comment from earlier in the trailer. The reunion was nice, though, and seeing everyone happily back together felt good – something I hope translates to the full episode!

We see various members of Discovery’s crew, confirming that they all survived the trip through the time-wormhole. I wasn’t expecting any casualties as of the end of Season 2, but Burnham’s rough landing could have meant that the ship suffered a similar fate. Luckily this seems to have not been the case.

Dr Culber – and the rest of Discovery’s crew – seem to have survived their time-wormhole journey.

We see a couple of shots of Discovery being repaired – whether this is damage from the time-wormhole or from fighting a faction in the future is unclear. Interspersed with those shots we also see fighting between Discovery’s crew and what looks like the Andorian-led faction. Among the races seemingly working together in this group are Cardassians, Lurians (i.e. Morn’s species), and humans. Up next is confirmation that former Empress Georgiou made the trip with the rest of Discovery’s crew. Michelle Yeoh, who plays the character, is scheduled to headline the upcoming Section 31 series, which as far as we know is supposed to be set in the 23rd Century. How that circle will be squared is anyone’s guess at this point, but presumably she will have to travel back in time before the end of the season if that is to happen.

The trailer ends with Burnham telling the Federation official that she will go “wherever the answers are”. The obvious question this poses is: answers to what? It’s possible, in this scene, that Burnham is searching for the USS Discovery – that it has somehow become lost and she needs to locate it. However, it’s equally possible that it’s referring to something else entirely, something that may be connected to the Federation’s decline or demise in this time period. It could even be something related to the Control AI.

I’ve written previously why I don’t think a post-apocalyptic setting is a good fit for Star Trek, and I stand by that. The underlying premise of Star Trek, going right back to The Original Series and remaining consistent ever since, is that humanity had beaten the odds, overcome innumerable obstacles, and built a great future for ourselves and others. The tension and drama in Star Trek stories could come from external threats to the future we’d built, but never from that future not existing or having already been torn down. Changing that premise changes Star Trek at a fundamental level, and I’m not sold – at least, not yet – on that being a positive change. However, despite how the trailer feels overall, Discovery’s third season may not have a truly post-apocalyptic setting, and I think that’s something I’m hoping for.

Learning more about this renegade or rebel faction does absolutely interest me. I hope they have an interesting leader and genuinely understandable motivations for being opposed to Burnham and Discovery – and aren’t just “evil for the sake of it” villains. The reintroduction of the Cardassians and Andorians was fantastic – we haven’t seen the Cardassians since Deep Space Nine went off the air. Hopefully they’ll have named characters and won’t just be making cameos in the background. I’d love to know more about what happened to Cardassia after the Dominion War – but given that the season purports to be 800+ years in the future from that event, it probably won’t be discussed, at least not in detail.

A Cardassian (second from the left) can be seen briefly, along with a human, a Lurian, and an Andorian.

Otherwise, the trailer was interesting in parts, potentially concerning in others. Season 2 was definitely the better of Discovery’s offerings so far, and I hope that the show can build on what it’s already accomplished, while giving some of its other characters a chance to be centre-stage. Despite my complaints, Burnham is okay. I don’t hate her as a character and she can be genuinely interesting. But another story where she’s the only one who can save the galaxy, and where everyone else is just along for another ride on the Burnham Express isn’t something I’m particularly excited about. Star Trek works best when a diverse cast of characters work together, and when each of them gets a turn to be the focus of a story and to have some degree of agency. Saru got a couple of episodes in the first two seasons – Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum in Season 1 and The Sound of Thunder in Season 2 looked at him and his people. Stamets and Culber have had moments across both seasons too, and Tilly got a sub-plot in Season 2 focusing on a race that lives in the mycelial network. But largely the show has been about Burnham, and the biggest stories put her firmly at the centre. Shaking that formula up, even a little, would be great in my opinion.

Overall I’m really looking forward to Discovery’s third season – even if a couple of points make me nervous! Revisiting the Trill and Cardassians definitely piqued my interest, and I’m curious to see whether the 930-year time jump is actually completed. If Burnham and the crew end up in the far future, I hope the show will take time to slow down and give us a recap of some of the big events that have taken place in the galaxy since we last saw it.

So I’m still a little confused as to why the official Star Trek website and Facebook page republished the trailer. Perhaps there will be more details to come, or even a new trailer or release date, in the coming days. If I spot anything new, you can be sure we’ll discuss it here!

The trailer for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 may be found on the official Star Trek website and Facebook page. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Discovery – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.