Netflix TV review: Star Trek: Discovery: Season 3, Episode 13 (Finale)
Unresolved story strands6
Ian Winterton | On 08, Jan 2021
Warning: This contains spoilers. Not caught up with Star Trek: Discovery? Read our review of the last episode here.
While not quite living up to the promise of last week’s first-rate episode, the finale of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is nevertheless an exciting and enjoyable romp. The sense of jeopardy set up previously helps make this a tense watch, too – the audience sure that at least one of the main characters would wind up dead – but that everyone makes it through miraculously unscathed ultimately feels far too neat.
But the journey to tying it all up with a pretty bow is at least fun. It opens with a return to Saru, Culber and Adira – who’s also joined by her dead boyfriend Gray, made visible to everyone via the holo simulation – and their attempt to persuade Kelpien Su’Kal to leave his computer-generated reality for the universe outside. As we saw in Episode 11, it’s all pretty flaky – and the portentous talk regarding monsters from Kelpien folklore quickly gets tiresome. And we’re still saddled with the writers’ decision to have Su’Kal be the source of The Burn – a plot development that remains disappointingly lacklustre. Surely a malevolent enemy, perhaps manipulating Su’Kal’s latent powers, would have been better?
Happily, the other strands of the episode are more satisfying. Tilly and the rest of the Bridge crew (really, even now, who knows their names?) fight back against Osyraa and her Emerald Chain hijackers, but soon find themselves stuck, Osyraa ordering their deck sealed and the life support switched off. Slow suffocation seems to be on the cards…
Michael and Book, meanwhile, have been captured, resulting in the episode’s strongest scenes. In an attempt to break Michael so she reveals the route into the nebula, the sadistic Zareh tortures Book – his empathic powers intensifying his suffering – on Osyraa’s instruction. It all seems set up for Michael to give in, which makes her ingenious escape a genuine surprise for the viewers, as well as for Osyraa.
Less well plotted, though, are many of the other story strands. As with a lot of episodes this season, the writers seem unable to juggle everything they’ve set up. What of Tilly and Zarej’s feud? She never sees him again and he meets his end having a punch up in a turbo lift against Book. Similarly, what could be a moving plotline between Adira and Gray is scarce given any screentime and would have been better left out. Meanwhile, Aurellio’s realisation that Osyraa is a wrong ‘un happens in the blink of an eye and has no further consequences, while Stamets’ fury at Michael’s betrayal last week is left unresolved – though perhaps this will go on to have consequences next season; the last we see of him is his mild disapproval as Michael takes her place as Discovery’s captain.
Prior to that, we get some even more over-neat storylining, as Michael inspires Tilly and the others to sabotage Discovery and bring it out of warp – although Owosekun’s heroic final (non-fatal) oxygen-free walk to place the bomb is another episode highlight. Even more questionable is the sudden – and very convenient – revelation that Book, being an empath, can sort of fake being a Tardigrade and operate the spore drive, saving everyone just in time. Even in the world of Trek’s pseudoscience space opera this is akin to Fonzie waterskiing over that shark in Happy Days. And, after last week’s hint that she had more to her, Osyraa returns to being a bog-standard villain and gets killed by Michael in what is a fairly dull punch up.
All in all, this is a mixed bag of an episode, which reflects the wavering quality of the season overall. Perhaps the pressure of finishing the run while under coronavirus lockdown is to blame – the pandemic is heavily referenced during the closing moments. As we see Michael take her place in the captain’s chair, the crew looking on – resplendent in their 32nd Century Starfleet uniforms – we get a voiceover from Michael espousing the importance of connection. It’s all a little hokey, and nowhere near as effective as the quote on-screen from Gene Roddenberry the episode ends with:
“In a very real sense, we are all aliens on a strange planet. We spend most of our lives reaching out and trying to communicate. If during our whole lifetime, we could reach out and really communicate with just two people, we are indeed very fortunate.”
Hitting us with the theme music from the 1960s series is a final masterful stroke, and reminds us that Discovery – though in many ways a very modern show, it builds on the liberal values Roddenberry baked into Trek from the very beginning. This is the TV show to show the first interracial kiss on US network TV, and got banned in several Southern States as a result. Season 3 of Discovery might not have been its finest hour, but it’s still a first-rate show and – as it continues to dismiss bigots with its vision of a more hopeful future – it’s still very much Star Trek.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 to 3 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.