Last week’s episode caught viewers up on Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and introduced new character Booker (David Ajala), so naturally this week caught us up on the rest of the crew and the ship Discovery itself.
Star Trek Discovery (Season 3)
“Far From Home”
Olatunde Osunsanmi (director), Michelle Paradise, Jenny Lumet, and Alex Kurtzman (writers)
Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Wilson Cruz and Michelle Yeoh(cast)
October 22nd, 2020
This episode is narratively traditional Trek-wise; there’s a new frontier, an A plot and a B plot, and a smart, diverse crew working together. It’s refreshing and comfy. “Far From Home” not only reestablishes (most of) the main characters, it also adds extra levels to them and shows the possibility of Discovery going forward.
Saru (Doug Jones), Tilly (Mary Wiseman), and Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) take up the A plot of the episode. They get to leave the ship, explore the planet, meet new people, and learn about the future. I didn’t realize Georgiou was on the ship at the climax of last season and thought she’d been left behind with Section 31, and she was a wonderful surprise here. She’s so much fun to watch; she’s strong and principled, but also morally ambiguous and confusing to the Starfleet dorks around her. Michelle Yeoh steals any scene she’s a part of and is similarly fun. The way she talks, moves, and commands everyone around her makes her irresistible.
Tilly and Saru originally started as foils to Georgiou: shy, weak, and dogmatically attached to Federation values. They’ve grown a lot though, and that continues here. We see Saru struggling with wanting to follow the Prime Directive and Tilly struggling to assert herself. These make for funny moments, in contrast to Georgiou pushing them. Saru realizes he has to break the Prime Directive, and Tilly reaffirms her value to the mission and the ship. They’re both exasperated with Georgiou throughout the episode, but she helps them, both by pushing them early on and by saving them at gunpoint later on. Yeoh gets an amazing opportunity to chew the scenery, declaring “Pain is my foreplay” as she disposes of mercenaries surrounding them.
There are new characters and there’s a fun little space-Western story within this episode, but it doesn’t matter much beyond helping our main characters learn about the new status quo and fix their ship. Jonathan Koensgen and Jake Weber star as Kal and Zareh respectively, the honorable helpful frontier alien and the evil merchant/bounty hunter extorting the inhabitants of this small space village. They make for some fun classic space-Western set pieces but they feel more like plot devices than actual characters, and they’re not what this episode is really about.
Meanwhile, Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) center in the B plot. They’ve got to work together to get engineering back online, with little time to spare before the terrain or the planet’s inhabitants turn on them. These characters work together so well. They’re all smart and capable scientists in their respective fields, and they’re all frustrated, tired, and cranky, making for great interplay.
Stamets takes up the classic Star Trek archetype of a character valiantly sacrificing himself and setting aside his well-being to fix some strange mechanical problem on a ship. That’s Kirk countless times, Spock in Wrath of Khan, and Pike’s pre-TOS arc. Except here there are many other competent people who are able and willing to both help him and climb around inside the ship, making Stamets’ coworkers and romantic partner understandably annoyed with him. There are so many quiet loving moments between Culber and Stamets, as Culber is reminded of how stubborn Stamets is, all while trying to get him to rest and recover.
The truly remarkable thing about this subplot, more than the humor or the fun of it, is that all three main characters involved are queer. There’s no awkward lampshading or knowing comments about it. There’s a beautiful short kiss between Culber and Stamets at one point, and a realistic work frustration with your partner for both characters. But these characters are just allowed to interact and live and be annoyed with each other, and fix the ship and help save the day. The sincerity of it made me tear up. Star Trek has avoided queer characters for much of it’s history and the three queer characters on Discovery have experienced tragedy in the past, so it’s revolutionary, refreshing, and heartwarming to just see some gays in space have fun and get shit done.
The episode ends with Tilly, Saru, and Georgiou getting back to the ship with their repaired parts and new information, right as the engineers have made it ready for take off, just in time for the ship to narrowly avoid being swallowed up by the planet’s icy terrain. It’s a very tidy ending, but it feels earned and it’s satisfying to see everything come together. The crew is operating at their full potential for the first time in a long time. The ending is a little cheesy and predictable, with the Discovery rising out of the ice only to be pulled up by another ship’s tractor beam, which is quickly revealed to be Michael Burnham.
It’s refreshing that they let the crew reunite here. They could’ve easily left the episode with a cliffhanger on who was pulling them up, but no they let the viewers have a feel good moment right before it’s all over. The gang’s back together, and everything is good. Fans have criticized Discovery in the past for being “too dark,” “too dramatic,” or “not fun like Star Trek.” These aren’t views I usually share, but they’re definitely not things you could fault “Far From Home” for. More than feeling light or fun, this episode feels confident. The actors, writers, and the director all know what they’re doing, and they’re having fun and doing it well. I’m excited to see where it goes next episode and to see more new adventures in this new century.