Booker’s vessel — minus Book, but not his cat — appears at Starfleet Headquarters. A recording left by Book details his discovery of a "black box" from a starship destroyed in the Burn, found in the slave labor regions run by the Orion/Andorian syndicate, where Book has gone missing and may now be held captive. Such a black box could be a key piece of evidence in understanding how, and perhaps from where, the Burn originated. This is a mystery very much on Burnham’s mind, and she wants to undertake a rescue mission to find her missing friend as well as this black box of possible evidence.
The catch: Admiral Vance needs Discovery on standby for something more urgent to the greater good of Starfleet, so Saru can’t sanction a mission for one man (who, by the way, isn’t even a member of Discovery‘s crew), even if it might shed light on the Burn. So Burnham decides to go rogue and disobey a direct order to rescue Book. She recruits Georgiou ("You had me at rogue mission") to help her.
There’s a lot to unpack in the dense and ambitious "Die Trying," which is easily the best episode of the third season so far and among Discovery‘s best outings, and possibly its most balanced to date. This show tries to do a lot of things, and it ends up doing most of them very well. There’s promising stuff here.
If “Forget Me Not” was a good example of Discovery dialing it down and acting like classic Trek, "Die Trying" is more in line with Discovery‘s own true DNA. But it has figured out how to balance the formula and blend its more modern sensibilities with the classic ones. It does this in a story where Discovery reaches the 32nd-century joint Starfleet/Federation headquarters where they meet Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr), who debriefs them on some current happenings, but has numerous questions for the crew of such an old ship.
"Forget Me Not" is a refreshingly, unusually quiet and introspective hour of Discovery that feels like it’s from a previous generation of Star Trek. It’s among the quietest and most character-driven episodes of the series. It’s perhaps not the most riveting episode of all time and it employs plenty of mystical alien mumbo-jumbo, but it’s very nicely done and sincere, and it benefits from a final revelation that’s truly intriguing — building on a concept previously explored by adding just a slight little spin on things that’s rather ingenious.
The episode takes us to the Trill homeworld, to see if they can help Adira — the only known successful example of a human joined with a Trill symbiont (I guess Riker in "The Host" doesn’t count because it was temporary) — recover the Tal symbiont’s memories, which are blocked from her. (These memories include those of Admiral Senna Tal, who may know where to find what remains of the Federation.) Indeed, Adira can’t remember how she even came to be joined with the symbiont in the first place.
"People of Earth" is an effective mix of emotions and well-paced starship-standoff action, and provides our first glimpse at what a familiar Federation locale — specifically Earth — looks like in the post-Federation 32nd century. It’s our first real attempt at world building within this third season. This is a step up from the first two outings, which felt like generic space westerns in terms of their storytelling. (Although, as space westerns go, they had nothing on this past weekend’s season premiere of The Mandalorian.)
This series wears its emotions on its sleeve, and Burnham’s reunion with the Discovery crew is milked for all the feels, and pretty effectively. Tilly reflects in a pretty good scene that having traveled forward in time means everyone they knew is now long dead; it’s good to see the story slow down to acknowledge what it means to be displaced permanently from your time. New Braided Chillax Burnham seems all about letting the past go, and indeed it at first seems questionable whether she will even rejoin the crew. She has a nice reunion with Saru, where kind words are exchanged and she relinquishes any ambitions she ever had to be captain. Like I said last week, Martin-Green’s performance is notably lighter with Burnham having now spent a year in this century as a courier. Even Tilly mentions the new air.
I’m so glad to learn the aesthetics of 19th-century saloons, complete with batwing doors, have survived into the 32nd century. That’s some staying power. And that bad guys come strolling into such saloons with an imposing swagger as the camera makes a point to show us their jangling boots before showing us their faces.
There’s a scene midway through "Far From Home" that screams out: Hey look! Space cowboys in a space western! At the risk of setting up an expectation where I will make one Andromeda reference per episode this season (don’t count on it), I couldn’t help but think of that series’ "Last Call at the Broken Hammer," which also had a futuristic saloon with batwing doors, albeit infinitely worse production values.