It has had its bumps and its ups and downs, but Star Trek: Discovery has come bolting out of the gate with the start of its third season, leveraging its fascinating premise with stark, simple ideas that Star Trek has held since its very beginning. In the process, it’s finally undoing some of the things that have always disappointed me about the show a bit.
Today the Star Trek website posted a brief scene from “Far From Home”, last week’s second episode in this latest run. It’s from early in the episode, when, having crash-landed on a strange planet that was not their intended point of arrival in the 32nd century, Saru and Tilly venture out to face the future they must now spend the rest of their lives in.
It’s a palpably tense, yet awe-inspiring moment. You feel the trepidation and excitement Saru and Tilly have (especially the latter), and the fear as well — they’re about to meet a civilisation so far removed from their own time, so completely and utterly alien to their farthest comprehension. But they are still scientists and explorers. They want to understand this new world, but they’re not yet sure if they have a place in it. That’s all very Star Trek.
But what’s also very Star Trek about it is the humanity: Tilly talking too much because she’s as scared as she is enchanted by this new world they’re in. Saru, coming into his own as a leader, understanding both Tilly’s awe and her nerves, and comforting her in both. It’s a small moment, but there’s this incredible push and pull: they’re geeking out because they’re Starfleet nerds confronted with the unknown, but they’re also just…people.
They’re scared that they’ve said goodbye to their friends and families and very existences, they’ve crashed onto a world they cannot understand, and are about to face a new society that might not be entirely welcoming. And in that heady sea of emotion, you just have Saru being so earnestly kind and supportive to a young woman he’s come to see as more than just a valuable asset to the Discovery, but as a friend.
There was a time when something like this too would’ve been alien for Discovery. Tilly and Saru are two of the show’s most important stars; they’re anchors to Michael Burnham, and they’ve had their own spin-off minisodes. They’re fan favourites, and for good reason. But because of the show’s focus on Michael, for a while it felt like they, and their fellow bridge officers, were merely vessels in her orbit. Like I said, at first they were important because they were there for Michael’s story to play off of, rather than really as characters themselves. We didn’t get to spend time with them outside of that context. Now, they’re finally starting to feel they’re coming into their own stories, at a time when it’s more important than ever before, because they’re all they have right now.
It took some going to get there, but now, in this brave new future, Saru and Tilly are there for each other. They’re there for themselves. They do indeed make a wonderful impression, the both of them.