When I first heard that Bryan Fuller had been developing a new Star Trek series to be part of a new streaming service, I imagined something very different than what we were given in the first two episodes. I didn’t like the tone. While the episodes were darker than standard Trek, I had wanted something grittier and more realistic. I found the third episode to be much closer to the show I had originally imagined. It really should’ve been the first episode.
Perhaps what they were going for in the first two was the optimism of a time of peace. What we have here in the third is the cynicism of a time of war, but I just see it as being naturalistic. Not only has the war taken somewhat of a toll on the attitudes of the ship’s crew but their distrust for Martin-Green’s prisoner Burnham is painfully obvious. She is now Starfleet’s first and only mutineer and no one makes a secret of it. Even her “friends” from the USS Shenzhou have their reservations towards her.
Oddly, the only person on the USS Discovery that seems to trust her is the ship’s captain. Jason Isaacs’ Captain Gabriel Lorca has his own agenda. Isaacs seems to play him with somewhat of a controlled insanity. He will do whatever it takes to win this war and seems to have a kind of an admiration for Burnham. This shouldn’t even exist in a military chain of command. He should at least not let it show. He does. He doesn’t care. I like this captain. His ship. His command. His lack of following rules. I like how we slowly learn that he is also something of of a mad scientist as well.
The humor in the first two episodes showed up as “clever dialogue.” Episode three is like a totally new show and this “new show” wisely limits the humor to one character. Mary Wiseman’s Cadet Sylvia Tilly is extremely likable, despite being more Jar Jar Binks than Gaius Baltar. Her socially awkward demeanor seems directly counterpoint to the silent reserve of the nearly Vulcan prisoner Burnham. An overly-talkative dork with self-described “special needs” could actually be a great source of back and forth exposition. This is also the character with the biggest room for growth and development.
Although I had problems with Martin-Green’s performance in the previous two episodes, I love her nearly silent “tour” throughout the modus operandi of Discovery’s crew. The quasi-quantum physics / biological weaponry experiments are vastly different to the Star Trek that we know. Somehow a former first officer becomes the audience surrogate. Very unusual for a Star Trek narrative. I liked the Klingon “shushing” the humans in an attempt to hide from being twisted apart by Starfleet’s out-of-control experiment. I love how Burnham quietly figures things out. This almost comes across as the evil mirror Star Trek alternate reality. I’m not sure how it can fit in the original continuity. I don’t care. I think I’ll keep watching.