If everything had gone to plan this year, we’d have seen and hopefully enjoyed the third season of “Star Trek: Discovery” already. It was filmed a long time ago, and early on this year it was in post-production as “Star Trek: Picard” went to air.
The initial plan appeared to be let “Picard,” play out, allow Trekkies a few weeks to breathe, and then press on with the release of “Discovery.” For reasons that are familiar to all of us, that wasn’t possible. The virtual shutdown of all production facilities around the world slowed down the post-production on the show immeasurably and left the show in limbo.
While it’s arriving later than planned, we finally have a release date for the show’s hotly-anticipated third season. The first episode will arrive on CBS All Access in the United States of America on October 15th. For the rest of the world, as has been the case with the previous two seasons, the show will air on Netflix on the same date, with episodes released on the same schedule. With that small but essential piece of information finally available, fans of the show can stop speculating about when the show might arrive. Instead, they can start speculating on what the show might look like and what the central plot might be. Given that the USS Discovery’s crew has been catapulted over nine hundred years into the future and is beyond the date of any previous official “Star Trek” media, almost anything is possible.
This third season will be a vital one in the context of the long-term future of the science fiction show. Although “Discovery” has a loyal band of viewers and fans, it hasn’t captured the hearts and imaginations of the public in the way that the original series or “The Next Generation” did. Both of those shows got their own series of movies. Even now, many years after the last of those movies, there are games at online slots websites based on both of them. For those of you who have an interest in such things, the slots are called “Star Trek: Red Alert” and (rather unoriginally) “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” respectively. While obviously this isn’t the most accurate or efficient way of gauging interest in such things, the fact that there isn’t an online slots game based on “Discovery” is probably telling. This is a problem that it shares with “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” and “Enterprise,” all of which struggled to live up to the standards set by the two juggernauts. “Discovery” needs to find a way to bridge that gap, but that might be easier said than done.
The most apparent problem that’s facing the show immediately is that two of the most popular characters from season two are no longer in the cast. That’s Captain Pike and Spock, who have both returned to the Enterprise. Anson Mount was outstanding as the pre-Kirk captain of the Enterprise, and Ethan Peck gave us a whole new perspective on the character of a younger and slightly more vulnerable Spock. Given the far-future setting of the third season of “Discovery,” it appears that there’s no way to bring the characters back, and even if it were, the actors might not be available.
It’s likely that they’ll be very busy making their spin-off show “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” for which scripts are being written at the moment. At some point in the future, it’s possible that Michelle Yeoh’s character Philippa Georgiou will also disappear from the regular cast, as she’s been lined up to star in yet another spin-off show based on the shady world of Section 31, the Federation equivalent of a secret service or black ops division.
Without the guest characters to fall back on, more is going to be demanded of Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham than ever before, along with Doug Jones as Saru who is, at least nominally, the captain of the Discovery in its new setting. They’re the most recognizable and established members of the cast.
As much fun as Tilly, Hugh, and Stamets occasionally are, we don’t know enough about them for them to carry much of the drama yet. That’s arguably the show’s fault, and hopefully, more time will be spent this season on telling us who these characters really are and why we ought to care about them.
There will still need to be a strong dramatic thread to give viewers a reason to tune in every week though, and the source of that might come from the fact that, if fan interpretations of the trailer are to be believed, the Federation is not what it once was by this point on the timeline. It may not even exist at all.
One of the key moments in the trailer involved Burnham planting a battered, torn Federation flag on a seemingly deserted world. Other aspects of the trailer suggest that Starfleet’s influence over the galaxy has waned over the centuries. Presumably, the reasons for that will form a part of the story that’s to be told. There’s also the question of whether “Control,” the rogue AI from season 2, still exists in the future or has found a way to follow the Discovery through time and space.
An element of risk will presumably be threaded through all of this; the Discovery will be an ancient relic in terms of the technology of the era, with defenses and weaponry that won’t make a dent on the ships it comes across. Going so far ahead of the established canon is a whole new realm for the franchise to explore, and they could do anything with it. Will we see highly advanced Borg? A new breed of Klingons? A resurgent Romulan Star Empire or Tal Shiar? All of them are possible, along with any number of brand new, previously-unknown races.
While we clearly have far more questions than answers at the moment, it’s good to know that we’re not far away from starting to get the answers to some of those questions. On October 15th, “Star Trek: Discovery” will boldly go where no “Star Trek” show has gone before, and we will most definitely be coming along for the ride.