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Why Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Is The Show's Best Yet

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Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is the strongest outing Burnham and the gang have had yet - here's why. Since debuting on CBS All Access in 2017, Star Trek: Discovery's stylistic and thematic changes to the established format have caused much division. With serialized storytelling, Starfleet strife and surprising swearing, Star Trek: Discovery marked a distinctly modern dawn for the franchise, but hasn't necessarily been to everyone's taste. Regardless, critical opinion held steady during Star Trek: Discovery's first two seasons, and this new chapter in Gene Roddenberry's ongoing mission immediately became the biggest thing CBS' in-house streaming service had to offer, assuring Discovery's future on the ever-expanding Star Trek fleet.

The recently-concluded Star Trek: Discovery season 3 picks up with the main crew disorientated and displaced in time, struggling to find their way in an unfamiliar world. With Saru as captain, Discovery embarks on the usual string of daring rescue missions and space dogfights, ultimately battling to victory against Osyraa and the Emerald Chain - villains who seized upon a galactic dilithium shortage to cast an interplanetary stranglehold in the Federation's absence. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is a clear departure on what came before and, thankfully, those risks pay off, leading the Discovery to its most successful season so far.

In its maiden voyage, Star Trek: Discovery still showed some rough edges, and the same could be said of season 2. Star Trek: Discovery's latest run may not have been perfect (those new uniforms are less 32nd century utopia, more Amazon fulfillment center), but many of the criticisms that plagued the first two seasons have been resolved, showing huge improvements in character, structure and storytelling.

The 32nd Century Setting

By far the most important change Star Trek: Discovery makes in its third season is moving the action into the distant future. Back in 2016, when it was announced that Star Trek: Discovery would be set only 10 short years before The Original Series, fans nervously wondered whether the new show could avoid treading on the toes of its predecessors. Five years later, it's clear that no, it couldn't. From the updated Klingon design to mutinying Starfleet officers, Star Trek: Discovery couldn't help but rewrite history at every turn, and not only did this rile the audience, it also meant writers were restricted by 50 years of dense mythology. Star Trek: Discovery season 2 tried to retcon itself free from these inconsistencies, but the more time spent plugging lore holes, the less time Star Trek: Discovery could dedicate to forging its own path, and the decision was made to move into the relatively untouched 32nd century for season 3.

That new setting makes a world of difference. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 revels in the freedom of a fresh timeline, able to introduce planets, characters and storylines without worrying whether it'll contradict something Spock said in the 1960s. Writers take full advantage by dismantling the Federation, disabling warp drive and shaking up famous races like the Vulcans, Romulans and Trill - all moves that would've been sacrosanct in the original timeline, but now fit neatly alongside existing Star Trek history. And where Star Trek: Discovery's first two seasons were forced to rely on technology that viewers were already intimately familiar with, the 32nd century introduces a plethora of new gadgets, restoring the sense of sci-fi wonder Star Trek should always aspire for.

Burnham Is A More Assured Protagonist

Since exchanging the zombie apocalypse for a position in Starfleet, Sonequa Martin-Green has seized the responsibility of a lead protagonist, and turned Michael Burnham into a fascinating, layered character who's still evolving after three seasons. At no point in Star Trek: Discovery has Burnham been weak or boring, but the improvement made between her season 1 mutiny on the Shenzhou and her promotion to captain in season 3's finale is impossible to deny. When Michael Burnham first appeared, she retained the telltale traits of a strict Vulcan upbringing - intensely intelligent and kind, but lacking those social connections Vulcans would deem illogical. Burnham's human qualities have gradually moved to the fore, but not until after Star Trek: Discovery's season 3 time jump did Burnham truly come into her own.

After crash-landing in the future, Burnham spends an entire year waiting for Discovery's arrival. She becomes a courier alongside Cleveland Booker, and by the time her ship turns up, Burnham's hair isn't the only thing that's grown. Across her adventures in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, Burnham is still the rebellious, maverick spirit of before, but with a previously unseen openness and vulnerability that serves to strengthen the bond between protagonist and viewer. During previous seasons, Burnham's Vulcan reticence made her difficult to empathize with at times - even unlikable near the start - but those shades of her personality have been muted in Star Trek: Discovery's 32nd century.

Better Use Of Villains

Osyraa the Orion and her Emerald Chain make up Star Trek: Discovery's villainous complement in season 3, and while the bright green baddie won't go down as a classic character by any means, the Chain allow for a shift towards (slightly) more episodic storytelling. For Star Trek: Discovery's debut season, main villain duties were shared between the Klingons and Gabriel Lorca, and while Jason Isaacs is fantastic as a shady Starfleet captain, the drastically altered Klingons remain shrouded in controversy. Moreover, both villains dictate Star Trek: Discovery's early season-long arcs - a Klingon war and a Mirror Universe invader. Season 2 copied the same format, with Control serving as overarching antagonist for the entire run.

Star Trek: Discovery's third season firmly establishes Osyraa as the main villain, but she's largely an absent presence - appearing in only a handful of episodes before the finale showdown. Instead of hanging around like a stray tribble, Osyraa becomes an ominous background threat, whereas previous seasons were constructed entirely around a central villain. With a less visible enemy, Star Trek: Discovery becomes more episodic in season 3. There are episodes based on a frozen mining planet, an Emerald Chain prison, Kwejian, the Trill home world, and a Ni'var court hearing, with two-part stories set in the Mirror Universe and a holodeck program. Had Osyraa been a more recurring presence like Control or Lorca, the Discovery wouldn't have enjoyed such freedom.

Discovery's Supporting Crew Are Way More Interesting...

Star Trek: Discovery season 1 established the core crew of Burnham, Saru, Tilly and Stamets, as well as whoever happened to be sitting in the captain's chair on that particular day. Season 2 drafted in the Enterprise gang as guest stars, introducing the likes of Spock and Pike to great effect. But Star Trek: Discovery season 3 finally decides to home in on the lesser-known members of the crew, setting aside more time for Detmer, Culber, Owo, Rhys and Bryce. While it might not have been the start of a Borg uprising as some predicted, Detmer's PTSD and subsequent recovery adds a new layer to the Discovery pilot, while Culber comes into his own as the ship's voice of reason, similar to Deanna Troi in The Next Generation. The entire bridge crew band together to retake their ship from Osyraa in Star Trek: Discovery's season 3 finale, and as season 4 warps into view, characters previously known as "that guy" and "metal eye pilot" now feel like close friends.
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