'Star Trek: Discovery' Season 3 Episode 2: The far future is starting to look suspiciously like 'Firefly'
Spoilers for 'Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Episode 2 'Far From Home'
When you know a ship has travelled over 900 years into the future, especially in a show like 'Star Trek: Discovery', you expect to find worlds awash with technological marvels, something to stun even the already futuristic personnel of your average Starfleet spaceship.
However, while there are a few technological leaps here and there — and the inexplicable evolution of a new periodic table even — the future is leaning slightly more dystopic, as The Burn and the dissolution of the Federation has caused the universe to regress somewhat to create a setting more reminiscent of 'Firefly' than 'Star Trek'.
'Firefly' was a science ficiton series that was all about recreating that Old West feel despite being set centuries in Earth's future. It did so by establishing the idea of frontier planets — keeping people technologically challenged by having them explore the outer reaches of the galaxy, in some places where resources are scarce enough that no advancements of technology can quite make up for.
Technologically advanced does not equate to egalitarian prosperity, and with a little Western cutlure liberally sown in each new planet visited, 'Firefly' was able to essentially remake a futuristic version of Wild West frontier towns.
'Discovery' has managed to do much the same. The Burn — the mysterious explosion of much of the world's warp-enabling dilithium crystals - has made travel scarce, and resources even scarcer.
People are at the mercy of those with access to dilithium and galaxy-spanning criminal enterprises soon run rampant. With the Federation dissolved, there's no united Government able to control all these scattered planets — meaning that just like 'Firefly', the future in 'Star Trek' is a lot closer to the Wild West than a utopian ideal of progress.
The show is aware of this, and is leaning into it. On the latest episode of 'Discovery', Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Saru (Doug Jones) play out an old familiar scene. Walking past double doors into an old, largely abandoned saloon where everyone is suspicious of strangers, armed to the teeth and in desperate need of a hero from out of town.
The villain of the episode, Zareh (Jake Weber), underlines it, as he walks in with spurs on his boots in an era where spurs have no practical function whatsoever. Zareh is a courier — one of the few with access to enough dilithium to hold a small town hostage for the resources he provides. The heroes save the day and go on to re-establish Starfleet ideals. In other words, there's a new sheriff in town. Or will be, once they get Starfleet up and running again.
It's a minor disappointment to see that the future is one step forward, two steps back, having devolved into worlds of lawlesness instead of ultra progressive technological advancement — especially for a show where scientific advancement has always been key. However, the crew of the Discovery are finally united, and whether they're in the far flung future or a weirder Wild West, the uniting of the cast is where the strength of Discovery truly lies.
The next episode of 'Star Trek: Discovery' airs on October 29 on CBS All Access.