Review: Star Trek Discovery’s “Scavengers” Treads Water

Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Book (David Ajala) are reunited in Star Trek Discovery's "Scavengers" (S3:E6)

In Star Trek: Discovery’s newest episode, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) teams up with Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) to save Book (David Ajala) and search for more information about the cause of the Burn. It’s a fun romp but none of the characters feel challenged, and the viewers don’t learn anything new. “Scavengers” provides many fun character moments while moving the show’s larger arcs along, but doesn’t satisfy as a single episode.

Star Trek Discovery (Season 3)

Douglas Aarniokoski (director), Anne Cofell Saunders (writer)
Doug Jones, Sonequa Martin-Green, Michelle Yeoh and David Ajala (cast)
November 19th, 2020

Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) search for a 'black box' in Star Trek Discovery's "Scavengers" (Season 3, Episode 6)
Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) search for a ‘black box’ in Star Trek Discovery’s “Scavengers” (Season 3, Episode 6)

The episode begins with Discovery being upgraded by the Federation, still docked at the same headquarters from last episode. I’m curious to see if this HQ becomes their base for the back half of this season, a place they’ll keep returning to and fleshing out characters like Vance (Oded Fehr). There’s a fun motif running throughout this season where we see the central characters excited and awed each week in the face of new technology. It feels like the show is celebrating being farther along than any other Trek, and the creators are having fun introducing new technology at every turn.

Meanwhile, the crew gets a message from the missing Book about an investigation into a ship’s black box, which could hold the key to secrets about the Burn. The central conflict here comes from Burnham wanting to investigate and save Book, while Saru (Doug Jones) wants to stay behind and follow Federation orders, remaining on standby in case of an emergency. It feels like the show itself is just as sidetracked and obsessed as Burnham is, ignoring all other storylines just to focus on the cause of the Burn; Saru and the Discovery do nothing this episode except act as obstacles for Burnham to overcome. It’s obvious now that we’ll get a big explanation for the Burn at the end of the season. That makes me sigh, but hopefully it’s a part of the bigger bringing the Federation back together plot rather than some magic on/off switch for the universe’s dilithium.

There’s a couple fun moments with Grudge, Book’s cat, including Tilly (Mary Wiseman) growing attached to Grudge while pet-sitting in Burnham and Book’s absence. Adira gets some heartwarming scenes with Gray (Ian Alexander) and Stamets (Anthony Rapp), where Adira slowly becomes closer to Stamets and even softens him up. This whole plotline still bothers me for isolating and killing off a trans character, but it was touching seeing Adira and Stamets talk about this, and Stamets understanding where they’re coming from. This open acknowledgement of the strangeness of the show’s queer relationships, including deaths and ghosts and mysterious space evolutions, actually almost made me enjoy this arc. I just wish we can one day see Gray interacting with any of the other main characters, after this storyline hopefully concludes with him being miraculously revived somehow.

I enjoyed this episode, but there was hardly any story here. Burnham and Georgiou save Book from a prison work camp, and there are some big explosions and spaceship action. But none of the characters are fleshed out or particularly memorable, and they feel like pawns around the episode’s McGuffin, the black box. Ultimately, everything here feels like a repetition of things we’ve already seen in Discovery. Book’s story feels like a rehash of this season’s opener, Burnham’s of her first season arc, and the Federation and engineering plots of the last couple episodes. It feels like Discovery’s been treading water a bit as it puts the pieces in play for its finale, and I hope that isn’t true of next week’s episode.

Sasha Fraze

Sasha Fraze

Sasha Fraze is a professional comic book gremlin. You can find her on Twitter at @schlocking where she's probably sharing random thoughts about comics new and old or retweeting trans news and memes.