Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Seasons 1-2 of Star Trek: Discovery, as well as the trailers for Season 3. There are also spoilers for Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Further spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
I was reluctant to cover this when I first saw it a few days ago. The only sources I could find for what people claimed were the “real Discovery Season 3 episode titles” were unofficial at best – and with all the made-up “rumours” that float around the online Star Trek and anti-Star Trek communities I wanted to wait for something more official before I commented! It took a little while, but there has been confirmation that these titles and synopses are legitimate, so I finally feel able to write about them.
Unlike with Picard and Lower Decks, Discovery has given us every episode’s title ahead of the season premiere, including the title of the finale. The first four episodes even have a little synopsis to go with them, so we’ll take a look at all of that in this piece and see what of consequence – if anything – we can determine!
Discovery’s third season is doing something quite unusual for a prime-time show: it’s premiering episodes on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Because of the (roughly) twenty-four hour delay in bringing the show to the rest of the world on Netflix, this means here in the UK we’re going to get episodes on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day! How’s that for a Christmas present? In a way this shows the advantages of streaming – the reason shows would often take a Christmas break from their regular schedule was so folks who were busy with the holidays wouldn’t miss anything; in 2020 with streaming services like CBS All Access and Netflix that’s no longer a concern. Even the busiest Trekkie in the world will be able to find time to watch Discovery sometime during Christmas week!
Depending on how you count the various episodes and films, Discovery Season 3 will contain the 800th Star Trek story. If we count each of the Short Treks, as well as episodes of The Animated Series, and all of the films, we’ll make it to 800 on New Year’s Eve when the twelfth episode of the season premieres. That’s an outstanding accomplishment for the Star Trek franchise! The 700th episode was The Forgotten from Season 3 of Enterprise in 2004, so it’s been a long road… getting from there to here. Sorry, couldn’t resist!
So let’s go through these episode titles and synopses!
The season premiere is titled That Hope Is You, which may sound familiar to you! It was a line spoken by the Federation official (or rather, who I assume to be a Federation official) in the first Season 3 trailer. The full line is: “I watched this office every day, believing that my hope was not in vain. And that hope is you, Commander Burnham.” I didn’t really like the way this line sounded when I first saw the trailer. In short, Discovery has never been at its best when it made Burnham the “chosen one” or the only character who actually does anything of consequence. This line could be interpreted as the beginning of another story where Burnham alone is capable of saving the galaxy… and honestly, I’m not thrilled about that. However, conversely the line could be about the arrival of the USS Discovery, or about some as-yet-unknown event.
The synopsis for the episode only mentions Burnham, saying that she’s looking for the USS Discovery and its crew. To me, the first two synopses imply that the season premiere may not include Saru or any of the rest of the crew in any meaningful way; it may simply focus on Burnham as she arrives in the future. I’m okay with that; Picard earlier in the year worked very well by building up slowly and not introducing too many characters and plot threads all at once, and if that’s the route Discovery will go too then I’m all for it.
Based on the title alone I’m fairly sure we’ll meet the Federation official from the first trailer in this episode. It should also mark the introduction of Booker.
Episode 2 is titled Far From Home – a title it coincidentally shares with the most recent Spider-Man film! The synopsis mentions the USS Discovery being repaired after crash-landing. Assuming that the crash is a result of arriving in the future via the time-wormhole, this seems to suggest the episode will mark the first appearance of Saru and the rest of the familiar crew. The crash sequence (or a large part of it) was shown in the second trailer. It looked fantastic, and reminded me a little of the USS Voyager crashing in the episode Timeless. The shot of Discovery after it crashed, however, was a rare example of a miss in terms of CGI, and I hope this is rectified by the time the episode airs!
The synopsis also mentions that Saru and Tilly will search for Burnham – presumably while the rest of the crew work to repair the ship. We haven’t seen too much interaction between these two characters, and as they’re very different from one another I think there’s scope for a sequence where they’re teamed up to be quite a lot of fun. There was a moment in the first trailer where Saru and Tilly appeared to don some kind of hooded garment, perhaps that’s taken from this episode.
People of Earth is the title of episode 3, and confirms that Burnham and the rest of the crew will definitely get back together. We saw glimpses of this reunion in both of the trailers, and I assume it may happen toward the end of episode 2 or perhaps at the beginning of episode 3. Interestingly, this episode will see the ship and crew travel to Earth, and this could be where we learn more about the Burn and the history of the galaxy in the years between Picard and Discovery. Of all the episodes so far, this seems the most likely to contain easter eggs and references!
There was a scene shown in the second trailer where the crew visit a large tree and appear to have a strong emotional reaction. I theorised that this tree could be a memorial to the USS Discovery, or perhaps to a character they knew such as Captain Pike. That could explain the strong reaction. As this episode takes place on Earth, it’s my guess for where this scene or sequence may appear.
Episode 4 is titled Forget Me Not, and this will be where we visit the Trill homeworld for the first time since Deep Space Nine. Will we see Dax return, perhaps? The synopsis doesn’t hint at that, but the title might. Forget Me Not is evocative; it could be referring to us – the fans – not forgetting about the character of Dax and the events of past Star Trek shows. Or that could be me clutching at straws!
The other part of the synopsis talks about Saru helping the crew to “reconnect.” I take that to mean they need to reconnect to each other, and forming a close-knit group will be important for the crew in a new and difficult time period. It could also mean that the crew needs to better connect with the world beyond their ship, to reconnect with the galaxy in this new era. Either way, the synopsis says this will lead to “a surprise,” and I have genuinely no idea what that could be, or even if it will be a pleasant or unpleasant surprise!
Now we’ve run out of synopses, but there are still titles for the remaining episodes of the season. I wonder if that means something very significant will happen in episode 4; something so big that it wasn’t possible to summarise the following episodes without spoiling a major plot point or storyline? Time will tell on that one!
Die Trying is the title of episode 5, and the obvious thing to pull from this is the first word. Will a major character die? Or is the title simply saying that someone (or the whole crew) will put their absolute all into some task – to either accomplish it or die trying? The latter seems more likely; I would be surprised if Discovery (or any major series) would telegraph the death of a character in such an obvious way. However, we saw in Picard that some plot points were spoilt ahead of time, particularly by announcing actors in the opening titles. So anything’s possible!
This leads us to episode 6, Scavengers. The second trailer showed two sequences this could refer to – one with a faction leader or warlord who Mirror Georgiou attacks, and another that seemed to be set in a post-apocalyptic markeplace or refugee camp that Burnham visits. Either of these could be the home of a gang of scavengers, and if the Burn is as bad as we assume it is, scavenging could be one way the survivors make a living without the help and protection of the Federation and advanced technology.
Episode 7 is perhaps the most interesting title – at least on the surface. Unification III sounds like it will follow on from The Next Generation’s two-part episode of the same name, which saw Captain Picard team up with Spock on the Romulan homeworld. Spock had been pursuing a potential Vulcan-Romulan reunification, and arguably laid the groundwork for improved Federation-Romulan relations in the 24th Century. Sela attempted to hijack Spock’s mission and conquer Vulcan by force, but was defeated by Picard and co.
So the big question is: what happened next? We saw in 2009’s Star Trek and in Picard that the Romulan homeworld was destroyed by a supernova. Relations between the Federation and Romulans initially seemed to improve; the two powers worked together in the Dominion War and began working together to evacuate Romulus prior to the attack on Mars by the rogue synths. Following the revelation at the end of Picard Season 1 that the Romulans were responsible for that attack – one which killed over 90,000 people and left Mars uninhabitable – we don’t yet know what happened. The path to reconciliation seems impossible as of the end of Picard, let alone full-scale reunification! But the episode title is tantalising, and surely must involve the Romulans in some capacity. My guess is that full reunification didn’t happen, but that perhaps the Vulcans and Romulans are cooperating and working together more regularly, particularly in the face of the Burn. Spock, of course, is Burnham’s adoptive brother, so she may learn more about his life in this episode; it could be a “unification” between the two of them.
As we get into December we have an episode titled The Sanctuary. This may refer to the futuristic space station, spacecraft, or facility glimpsed in the second trailer, which may be a Starfleet base. There was a black-uniformed woman who may be a Starfleet officer, and this could be her base of operations. Of all the locations we saw across the two trailers, this is the only one I’d describe as anything close to a “sanctuary” from the chaos in the galaxy. But it’s a vague title and I could be way off-base!
Next up is a two-parter: Terra Firma. This could refer to Earth, but as the ship and crew have already visited in episode 3 I’m not so sure. “Terra firma” is Latin, and basically means “solid ground.” That could be a metaphor; it’s a fairly common expression that travellers use upon reaching a destination, particularly after a long voyage at sea. Could the crew of the USS Discovery have been on a very long voyage and finally arrived back? That’s one possibility. It could also be a metaphor for stability; perhaps the crew have been able to partially restore the Federation by this point, and Starfleet is finally on solid ground.
The second trailer also hinted at coronal mass ejections – which are one possible explanation for the Burn. If CMEs are going to be a big part of the story, perhaps evading one and reaching a safe place is going to be a storyline seen in these two episodes. There’s one other possibility: that there’s some connection to the human-supremacist group Terra Prime, who were seen in the fourth season of Enterprise. Catastrophic situations have historically given rise to extremist groups, and if the Burn is as bad as we assume it is, part of the fractured Federation could have turned to a human-centric group in search of strength and stability.
Christmas Eve will bring us an episode titled The Citadel. Like The Sanctuary, this could refer to the possible Starfleet base. “The Citadel” could be the new name given to Starfleet HQ or to a major Starbase, and this could be a story set there. A citadel is also a kind of castle or strong fortification, so this could be a metaphor for hunkering down and preparing for something.
As mentioned, New Year’s Eve will bring us the 800th Star Trek story: an episode titled The Good of the People. There are a couple of ways to read into this – the first is that Burnham and the crew will do something big or perhaps make a sacrifice believing what they’re doing will benefit the people of the Federation and/or the galaxy. The second is that the title refers to good people among a wider population; perhaps people who rise up against a dictator or who fight for a righteous cause.
The season finale, airing in the first week of 2021, is titled Outside. This is a very simple title, and one which could be read into in many ways. Perhaps Burnham or someone else in the crew finds themselves in the minority; their idea or opinion on where to go next is not accepted, leaving them on “the outside.” Perhaps the crew, having successfully restored the Federation, now consider themselves outsiders in a new world.
If the ultimate reason for the Burn turns out to be connected to time travel, perhaps the season will end with Burnham and the crew undoing it, effectively wiping out this timeline in the process. If that happens, Burnham and/or the crew may exist “outside” of normal spacetime during the episode.
So those are my thoughts on the episode titles and synopses that we got. I have no doubt I’m utterly wrong in many cases, but for me, speculating and theory-crafting is all part of the fun.
Now that Lower Decks has concluded (my review of the season finale is coming soon, don’t worry!) we’re less than a week out from Discovery’s return. It’s been eighteen months since Season 2 ended, so if you need a refresh, I recommend my article titled The Road to Season 3, which you can find by clicking or tapping here. There I give a synopsis of the first two seasons from both the production and in-universe sides. You can find the rest of my Star Trek: Discovery articles on my dedicated Discovery page, which you can find by clicking or tapping here, or by using the menu above. I hope you’ll join me when the season debuts for reviews, theories, and more.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 will premiere on the 15th of October on CBS All Access in the United States, and on the 16th of October on Netflix in the United Kingdom and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Discovery – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. Stock images courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.