Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery, as well as for Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 got off to a slow but decent start. That Hope Is You focused exclusively on Michael Burnham and new character Book as Burnham arrived in the 32nd Century and learned of the Federation’s collapse. But Burnham did not travel to the future alone, and this week we got to see the USS Discovery’s arrival in the future. Things didn’t exactly go to plan for Saru and the crew!
After the aforementioned solid start last week, I was hoping for something at least as good this time around – and I wasn’t left disappointed. Far From Home was on par with the season premiere, and in many ways was a co-equal half of the season premiere, continuing the world-building begun last week. We didn’t get any closer to answers about the Federation, the Burn, or any of the season’s other mysteries, but we did get more background to frame those questions. We also marked the welcome return of the USS Discovery and the rest of her crew, who had of course been absent last week. As in many Star Trek episodes, it wasn’t possible for every character to have a major impact on the story, but everyone got some amount of screen time and the chance to make their debut in the 32nd Century.
Usually I’d skip over the recap of the “story so far” at the beginning of the episode, but there’s something about the end of Discovery Season 2 that’s bugged me for the last eighteen months, and it happened to be included so it’s a good time to talk about it. The whole reason for taking the ship into the future was to keep the Sphere data from falling into the hands of Control. But when Control was trapped in the spore cube and incapacitated, that seemed to bring the battle to a halt. Even if that wasn’t the end of Control altogether, and the AI was still operating on one of the ships or at its home base, surely that at the very least warranted a pause from Pike, Saru, Burnham, and the rest of the crew. Maybe, if Control was fully dead, there was no need to leave the 23rd Century behind. Wouldn’t that be a cruel twist of fate for the crew? …Or a plot hole.
Anyway, with the Control storyline definitely brought to a somewhat squelchy end, I doubt the issue will be revisited. So on to Far From Home. The episode begins with the USS Discovery exiting the time-wormhole. Unlike Burnham, who was presumably offered greater protection from the time-wormhole thanks to the Red Angel suit, the crew of Discovery are all rendered unconscious and injured by the transit. They awaken as the ship is rapidly drifting to an asteroid field, and with damage sustained in transit are unable to keep control. The ship plummets to the surface of a nearby planet – perhaps the same one Burnham landed on, though that was not clear – and crashes on a glacier.
The whole crash sequence was visually impressive, and reminded me of the USS Voyager crashing in the fifth season episode Timeless (perhaps because both sequences saw the ships crashing on ice). When we saw the shot of the ship after its crash-landing in the second trailer, I felt it looked pretty crappy compared to a lot of the other CGI work. I was pleased to see that this sequence looked a lot better. Whether that’s to do with touch-up work done in the last few weeks or just because the trailer was on YouTube, which is somewhat notorious for its video compression, I can’t say. But the sequence looked fantastic, and was accompanied by a great score to make it tense and exciting.
One thing I think is interesting about the way both Burnham and the ship arrived in the future is that it was difficult. Star Trek has by no means been consistent in its portrayal of the rules surrounding time travel, but one thread of similarity tying together many time travel stories is that it isn’t particularly difficult, and this is especially true when we look to The Original Series. Episodes like City on the Edge of Forever and Assignment: Earth show time travel being a relatively painless experience for the ship and crew.
After Discovery crashes we get the opening titles, and I have just one thing to ask: is that a DOT-type robot? As seen in the Short Treks episode Ephraim and Dot? Because it sure looks that way!
The crash saw Lieutenant Detmer – the cyborg-eyed helm officer – thrown from her seat. She appears to be concussed and is sent by Saru to sickbay. And this storyline seemed to go nowhere after that. It was implied that Detmer is suffering some kind of implant-related injury, especially after the doctor couldn’t find anything physically wrong with her. But by the end of the episode, Detmer is back at the helm and seems to snap out of her “concussed” state when she sees – spoiler – Burnham appear in the episode’s closing scene. So… what was the point of that, exactly? We didn’t spend a ton of time focusing on Detmer, but there were enough scenes interspersed through the episode to hint that she was injured, or perhaps even dying, only for it to seemingly come to naught. It’s possible that the Detmer storyline will pick up next time, in which case what we got this week will be the start, but those closing moments in particular seemed to put the storyline to bed, and I’m curious to see if anything more will come. Killing off a character we’ve been with since the premiere would be a bold move – but perhaps one Discovery should make at some point this season as part of its reinvention. Have we seen the first hints of who might not make it?
Despite the fact that the ship has literally just crashed and the damage means they have no propulsion, the bridge crew seem a little too focused on their inability to contact Burnham in the next sequence, and if I were to have one point of criticism at all for this episode it would be that. The ship has crashed on an unknown world in an unknown time and, at several points, the topic of discussion is Burnham. Anxiousness about what happened to her makes sense, but perhaps not this much of it under the circumstances. I have a specific complaint about Georgiou in this regard that we’ll come to as well.
Saru gives a great speech about needing to focus on repairs to the ship before they can accomplish anything else, and the crew puts a plan in place to use tricorders in place of the non-functional internal sensors to find and replace damaged EPS relays. Saru has done a good job stepping up to be acting captain after the losses of both Lorca and Pike, and it’s a role I hope he’s able to continue in from this point in the series on. Discovery has seen two commanding officers come and go across its first two seasons, and it’s time to get some consistency in the captain’s chair. At this point it can only be Saru, so here’s hoping the position will become his on a permanent basis.
Mirror Georgiou makes her reappearance in the next scene, interrupting Tilly and Saru while they investigate the damage to the ship. As mentioned above, I have a bit of a complaint about the way she seems obsessed with Burnham. We saw this in the Season 2 episode The Red Angel, and for the second time Mirror Georgiou acts completely out-of-character when it comes to Burnham. Remember that this is not the Georgiou who was Burnham’s friend, mentor, and quasi-mother figure we met in the Season 1 premiere. This is the hardened ex-Empress of the Terran Empire from the Mirror Universe, who does not care about anyone except insofar as they can help her win power and influence. Yet here she’s frightened for Burnham’s safety, desperate to contact her, and just fawning over her in the way a doting mother would.
One thing I wasn’t sure how the show would handle was the remains of Control. I didn’t expect Control to be able to reassert itself, but I did wonder whether Captain Leland might somehow survive his “assimilation” experience. Whether he would have survived or not is now purely an academic discussion, however, as it turns out Georgiou destroyed his body at some point between the defeat of Control and Saru’s inspection of the ship. That’s a shame in some ways, as Leland was a potentially-interesting character who we only spent a little time with before his assimilation by Control, and having him awaken from that experience in the far future would have been an interesting angle to pursue. Everyone else is along for the ride voluntarily, but Leland wouldn’t have been, and that could have been a source of tension.
Speaking of people who voluntarily travelled into the future: there are a heck of a lot more of them than I expected. During Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 (the Season 2 finale) Saru, Tilly, Spock, and a handful of other main characters assembled in one of Discovery’s hallways to tell Burnham that they were staying on board and would accompany her into the future. Perhaps naïvely, I assumed that we were dealing with just those people, not what seems to be practically the entire ship’s complement! I know that, for the sake of the story, there have to be background characters… but this was presented as a voluntary mission that meant leaving all of their friends and family behind, not to mention the life they’ve always known. It’s true that many Starfleet officers are altruistic, but I’m still surprised how many junior officers on the lower decks of Discovery were content to follow Burnham and Saru.
The damage to a vital piece of communication equipment sets up the next phase of the story. After a technobabble explanation, it’s apparent that there is no way to repair communications aboard the ship without acquiring raw materials, but luckily a nearby settlement may have just what they need. Saru chooses to go in person, and also picks Tilly to accompany him. The pairing of these two characters worked really well, and as they haven’t had many other opportunities to work closely together in the series so far, was an interesting departure from what came before. Though there are myriad issues with the way the change in Saru’s character was handled in Season 2, having him less cowardly and more assertive does, admittedly, make him not only a better commander, but also a more interesting and easy to root for character.
One thing I was hoping Season 3 would deliver is a proper repair to the adorable Stamets-Culber relationship, and based on what we saw this week, we’re going to get it. In a touching scene in sickbay, Dr Culber awakens Stamets from an induced coma – as they need his bio-bed. This sequence was lovely, and not only did we see Dr Culber demonstrate how much he cares for his husband, but also Anthony Rapp put in a fantastic performance as the injured and suffering Stamets. All in all, a great scene.
After a continuation of the Saru-Georgiou argument from earlier – which, again, had too strong a focus on Burnham as I see it – Tilly and Saru leave for their away mission. I liked seeing Discovery’s ready-room so badly damaged, particularly the desk used by both Captains Lorca and Pike being wrecked. Would it be too much of a stretch to call this symbolic of Discovery making an emphatic break with the past as it moves into this new phase of its run? The team behind the series have talked about Season 3 as a semi-reboot, and how writing it has been akin to writing a brand-new show in some respects. I take some of these images as on-screen representations of that (even if that isn’t how they’re intended!)
Nhan is also present at the conference, having transferred from the USS Enterprise in order to accompany Discovery. I was pleased to see Rachael Ancheril has been promoted from guest-star to main cast member for the season, as she puts in a wonderful performance as the Barzan character. Immediately after this we get a grizzly sequence in engineering showing the remains of Captain Leland being disposed of. Whatever techno-magic happened in the spore cube to Control’s nanobots, it’s safe to say they aren’t coming back. Modern Star Trek has been far less restricted that shows of the past when it comes to visceral, gruesome imagery, and this follows on from the sequence with Icheb earlier in the year in the Star Trek: Picard episode Stardust City Rag as an example of that. Partly the change is due to changing attitudes and a greater acceptance of brutality in the ever-advancing quest for visual realism on our screens, and partly it’s because modern Star Trek series are on streaming platforms and aren’t constrained by the rules (or censors) of broadcast television.
Stamets is back on his feet, and I enjoyed his scene in engineering with Reno. Tig Notaro is just fantastic in her deadpan delivery as Reno, and has been a wonderful addition to Discovery. Reno’s injury (though a little unclear earlier in the episode) will set up a great moment later on, and was explained better here. Something about the trip through the wormhole has caused a spinal injury, meaning she’ll spend most of the rest of the episode sat on what I think is some kind of modified engineering workstation.
Last week I made a big deal of Discovery’s filming locations – especially when contrasted with Picard, which used too many locations within a few miles of Los Angeles! I mentioned that the show is filmed in Canada, and while that is true, many of the outdoor scenes both this week and last week were, in fact, filmed on location in Iceland. The location shoots truly bring a lot to the table, leading to the planet Discovery has crashed on feeling truly different from practically any other we’ve seen in Star Trek. It was desperately sad, though, to see the glacier where the sequence was filmed slowly melting away, leaving a large body of water behind.
As mentioned, I greatly enjoyed this character pairing. It would be great to see more uncommon character match-ups across the season or into next season, as I can think of many members of Discovery’s crew who’ve barely said more than a couple of words to each other after two full seasons! Tilly has often been little more than comic relief, so it was touching to see the respect Saru has for her and her abilities. I especially liked this line: “We are introducing ourselves to the future; you, Ensign Tilly, are a wonderful first impression.” Not only did this moment between the two of them cement Tilly as more than just a comic character, it also served as a further demonstration of Saru’s confidence and his ability to serve as a commanding officer.
Tilly and Saru spot a figure in the distance, watching them; presumably someone who had seen or detected the crash and arrived to investigate. This figure doesn’t approach them or try to communicate in any way, and they end up following him for a while. The buildings depicted on the surface of this planet reminded me of the Star Wars franchise, and if I had only seen the establishing shot of the pair trekking across the Icelandic landscape I’d have said it must surely be a scene from one of the Star Wars films. Something about the way the mining buildings were constructed, I think. It isn’t a bad look – modern Star Wars films are visually impressive, after all – just something different. And considering how far into the future the ship and crew have come, they’re bound to see many different things!
After rounding a corner and disappearing briefly from Tilly and Saru’s sight, the figure they’ve been following vanishes. This effect was the same as that used for the 32nd Century transporters in last week’s episode, so it’s assumed he beamed somewhere. Tilly and Saru soon find out where, as they’re similarly transported from the same spot to a ledge outside a bar. Star Trek was originally inspired by mid-century Westerns, and we see a continuation of that in the saloon doors used for the bar that Tilly and Saru enter. Not only that, but in true Western style, the patrons all go silent and turn to look at the incomers! It was a great little homage to not only the Western genre, but to Star Trek’s own origins, and I loved this moment.
The bar’s occupants are sceptical of Tilly and Saru – understandable to us as the audience, given what we know of the future, but a shock to the duo. Last week we met Mr Sahil, a “true believer” in the legends of Starfleet and the Federation, and here we meet a second character who is similarly a Federation devotee. I didn’t recognise this race of aliens at first, but they aren’t new to Star Trek; the Coridanites debuted in Enterprise.
Though the Coridanties remain uneasy about Tilly and Saru, they agree to a trade when Saru mentions that they have dilithium. As we learned last time, the Burn was the explosive loss of most of the galaxy’s dilithium, meaning the important mineral is in short supply. Though the miners have ships they currently lack dilithium to power them, meaning the trade is perhaps their only option if they want to leave this planet.
The planet that I think we all assumed to be Hima (since that’s where Burnham arrived) turns out not to be. Earlier, when the crew detected several settlements I wondered if one might’ve been the trading post Burnham and Book visited, but it seems that this is an altogether different planet after all.
A brief scene with Stamets and Reno back aboard the ship sees Stamets climb up a ladder into the jeffries tubes in search of blown power relays. Reno, due to her injury, is unable to go. This sets up a moment later in the story, and again Reno is a fun character so it’s always good to have her on screen.
Back at the bar, Kal is easily able to replace the damaged component from Discovery using “programmable matter,” the first genuinely futuristic-feeling technology that we’ve seen. Mr Sahil’s office appears to make use of the same or similar tech, and we saw that in last week’s opening sequence, but here we got to see a more useful application of the tech as well as get an explanation for it. Kal was, naturally, surprised to see how unfamiliar Tilly seemed with what appears to be a fairly ubiquitous and commonly-used piece of kit. She rather unconvincingly tries to tell him she was “just testing” him, which I liked. It was a very “Tilly” way to respond!
Though Kal is receptive to the Starfleet officers and generally helpful, others in the bar are not. They mention their courier, Zareh, will surely be coming to investigate the crash, and that he’s bad news. We saw last week how some of the couriers – like Book’s rival Cosmo – can be aggressive, and the occupants of the bar would not be so afraid of Zareh without good reason. It seemed like an inevitability that Tilly and Saru would encounter him before long, and right on cue he arrived. Kal tried to tell Tilly and Saru to escape out the back, but for some reason they made no attempt to flee.
Zareh appears to be human, and arrives in dramatic fashion accompanied by several armed goons. Saru attempting to bluff his way through the conversation without the knowledge of the Burn or the status of the Federation made for a tense moment, but having abandoned his cowardice in Season 2 he handled himself very well. I was reminded of the moment in Star Trek Into Darkness when Sulu has to bluff his way through a conversation with John Harrison – both characters stepped up and gave it their best shot!
Evidently Zareh considers himself to be in control of this planet and its inhabitants, as they are reliant on him for any resources they can’t make locally. He detected Discovery’s arrival and crash-landing, and makes it very clear from the start that he knows they’re time-travellers, even though he doesn’t come out and say it until much later. The performance from guest actor Jake Weber was magnificent; he portrays Zareh as cold-hearted and creepy, especially towards Tilly.
Tilly eventually reveals the reason she and Saru are in the bar – the repaired component. Saru attempts to stand up for Kal when Zareh threatens him, which is yet another demonstration of his ability to command and his leadership qualities. However, it wasn’t enough for Zareh, who kills Kal in cold blood in front of everybody. Saru and Tilly are shocked; their simple mission to repair a damaged component has now got an innocent person killed.
After the show of force, Zareh insists on being taken to Discovery. Saru, however, stands his ground and says that he will offer a trade of dilithium, but only if they stay at the bar to negotiate. Zareh and his goons converse in “pidgin” – a language to Star Trek that isn’t wholly new, having been glimpsed in the Short Treks episode Calypso. But we’ll come to that in a moment. One of the most useful pieces of technology in Star Trek is the universal translator: a piece of kit able to translate between perhaps millions of languages, allowing the Federation to communicate with other aliens and with itself. Discovery has shown the universal translator many times, most notably in the second season episode An Obol For Charon, where the translator malfunctions and practically everyone on the crew is shown to speak a different language natively. So I’m afraid this moment, where Saru asks Zareh to speak in “the common tongue” is not consistent with Star Trek canon, nor even internally consistent within Discovery.
The writers evidently wanted to show that this “pidgin” language is in common use in the 32nd Century, but I feel the way they did so throws up more problems than it resolves. And aside from one word that Zareh uses that we’ll talk about in a moment, there wasn’t any real need for the “pidgin” language anyway. It may be something that becomes important later in the season, somehow, but in terms of the story of this episode it added nothing, and now the confusion surrounding the “common tongue” is going to be an annoyance. Star Wars uses this kind of setup for its fictional languages; “galactic basic” is their lingua franca, with various aliens having their own languages. But although we’ve seen other languages in Star Trek – Klingon most prominently, but there have been others – they’ve always been shown in the context of the universal translator. And for some reason, Discovery has chosen to abandon that here – despite the fact that just last season it was firmly established to be in use.
It was eventually decided that Tilly should be sent back to the ship to retrieve some dilithium, while Saru would wait with Zareh and his goons at the bar. This was despite a warning from the Coridanites that after nightfall it will be too difficult and dangerous to traverse the ice. Apparently the ice Discovery landed on is “parasitic,” which seems to imply that the ice itself is alive! Back aboard the ship, Nhan and the crew are struggling with that as they’ve begun to realise the ice is not what it seems.
We get a brief scene aboard Discovery showing Nhan had lost Georgiou, and another great sarcastic line from Reno. Back at the bar, we find out where she went. She’d been captured (or, I assume, allowed herself to be captured) by two of Zareh’s goons who were out on patrol. She’s thrown onto the floor of the bar where she proceeds to engage in a “who’s more evil” contest with Zareh. This is the moment I alluded to above, the one which partly explains the use of “pidgin.” Zareh uses the term “V’draysh” to refer to the remains of the Federation – a term we first heard used in the Short Treks episode Calypso. In that story, the V’draysh were said to be at war with another faction for whom protagonist Craft had been a soldier. Most interestingly, though, that episode showed the USS Discovery abandoned in a nebula, seemingly having been hidden there for almost a milennium. Fans have been speculating ever since how Calypso might connect to the rest of the series, and this seems to be the biggest indication yet that Calypso is set around the same time as Season 3. What does that mean for the ship? Will it be sent back in time only to be left derelict for a millennium? That would be one way to allow Mirror Georgiou to return to the 23rd Century in time for the untitled Section 31 series! But we’ll have to see whether any further connections to Calypso emerge.
Georgiou, in her single-minded obsession with Burnham, wants to recover the repaired communications kit so she can contact her. With Zareh and his goons in the way, it was only going to end in a fight, and during the scuffle we got a very cool moment where Saru used his head-spikes to defeat one of the courier’s guards. This isn’t something technological nor some augmentation; every member of Saru’s species has this kind of built-in biological defence mechanism, and seeing him use it in anger for what I think is the first time was incredibly interesting.
The fight ends with Zareh alive but his goons defeated. Georgiou and Saru then have a standoff – Saru wants to let him live, Georgiou advocates killing him. And here, for the first time in the season so far, I felt the promised optimism. Post-apocalyptic settings – which Discovery’s 32nd Century kind of is (and kind of isn’t) – can be a great vehicle for telling positive, hopeful stories. And Saru’s reasoning that killing Zareh would be wrong because it isn’t who Starfleet is was exactly the kind of thing that these settings can do very well. I had been sceptical of a post-apocalyptic setting from the moment we saw the first Season 3 trailer, but so far that side of the galaxy hasn’t been as bad as I had feared. And here, we get to see the way such a setting can be used to tell positive stories and to generate positivity. I liked that – even if I agree with Georgiou that Zareh is too dangerous to keep alive. I have a theory that he’ll return later in the season – probably at an inopportune moment – but we’ll save that for my theory-crafting article!
Tilly points out to Georgiou and Saru that the sun has set, presumably making the parasitic ice come to life. The scene ends and we’re back aboard the ship, where Reno has summoned Dr Culber to engineering. Stamets is in a bad way in the jeffries tube, but manages – with the help and support of Culber (and, to a lesser extent, Reno) – to complete the repair task, fixing Discovery’s systems and bringing power back to the ship. We got a great look inside the jeffries tube here, and also at the damaged EPS relay. The way it was designed was reminiscent of similar locations and systems seen in past iterations of the franchise – particularly in The Next Generation’s era. I liked that, and seeing Stamets work on the ship was great fun. The drama and tension of the scene was ramped up by his injury; hopefully Dr Culber can patch him up in time for next week!
After continuing to argue about what to do with Zareh, Saru and Georgiou eventually agree on letting him go. He says he won’t survive the night alone on the planet – but as mentioned, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. After returning to the ship, the repaired communications equipment was able to be installed. However, the parasitic ice is trapping the ship, and despite Detmer’s best efforts it seems like they’re trapped.
The arrival of another ship is presented as a problem. The crew anticipate that it is an ally of Zareh who may be seeking revenge (or to steal their dilithium). However, I wasn’t at all convinced by this. It seemed patently obvious that this ship – which locks a tractor beam onto Discovery – would be Burnham and Book, and I don’t know if that’s because I’d read all the episode synopses, seen the trailers, or what. But something about this moment didn’t work as intended and lacked any real tension.
As expected, Burnham and Book arrive to save the day, pulling Discovery free from the ice. To the surprise of the crew, Burnham has been in the 32nd Century for about a year – and if you remember what I said last time, with time-travel such things are possible! I’d wondered if we might’ve learned that it was somehow Discovery that arrived first, but instead it was the other way around and it was Burnham who’d been here for a long time. She’s thrilled to have finally found the ship and crew, and they’re just as relieved and happy to see her.
So that was Far From Home. There were some great character moments this week, and some great pairings too. The decision to have Saru team up with Tilly worked very well, and it was great to see Stamets back with Culber and Reno at various points. Saru has stepped up to become a captain the ship and crew will want to follow, and that character development has been great to see. The return of Nhan was nice, even though she didn’t have too much to do this week.
Mirror Georgiou is still a one-dimensional character, and I don’t really like her Burnham obsession in a series that already goes out of its way at times to tell us how amazing its protagonist is. Georgiou can be useful, though, and given the chaotic and violent nature of the 32nd Century her assistance may prove invaluable. Despite that, however, I’m not sold on her as a character as things currently sit, and I don’t really see much of a pathway for development given her background as a Terran.
The other character whose story seemed wasted this week was Detmer. It’s possible her implant-concussion is setting up something that will be paid off in a future episode, in which case I’m all for it and I’m happy to wait and see what comes of it. However, in this week’s story it felt like something superflous, especially considering that by the end when she was back on the bridge she seemed okay.
The only other point of criticism is the confusion the episode introduced regarding the universal translator. That’s something only nerds like us would be bothered by, and perhaps if the “common tongue” is never referenced again it will be a single-episode inconsistency (of which, admittedly, there are many in Star Trek!)
As the second part of the season premiere, Far From Home was good. It was a solid, enjoyable episode with a lot going on. It gave us some tantalising hints at a possible resolution to the story from Calypso, and gave us some further background to establish the 32nd Century as a setting. It was a solidly enjoyable episode, one which gives me confidence that the season is on firm foundations. Roll on next week, which will see the ship and crew head to Earth!
Star Trek: Discovery is available to watch now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including 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.