Live-action Star Trek is back! After a triumphant venture into animated comedy, Star Trek continues its fall/winter run with the continuation of Star Trek: Discovery, continuing Michael Burnham’s story as she’s hurtled into a new era, one where the Federation is merely a ghost story. But this is only discovered along Michael’s main mission — to be reunited with her crew.
This isn’t too easy, however. Upon being hurtled out of the wormhole, she crashes into the ship of the man we will come to know as Book (and more importantly his feline companion named Grudge). He’s not happy about the damage she caused, and they strike a deal — she sells her antique to get him dilithium, and he takes her to a place she can contact her crew.
This is what hurtles us into the action of the premiere, primarily used to set up the new world and lore of the upcoming season, and to introduce us to Book and who he is — a man who will undoubtedly play a big role in Michael’s life (love interest #2 based on the trailer) and consequently, our story moving forward.
“That Hope is You, Part 1” succeeds in doing what it sets out to do, not only does it introduce the audience into a world that has pieces that seem familiar but are almost unrecognizable, but it also succeeds in character work. The premiere details Burnham’s uneasy state of mind, while maintaining her hope, and it introduces Book, a man who seems to have intentions that circle around survival, but he is revealed to be much more altruistic than that, not that unsimilar to Burnham. It’s no surprise that Star Trek: Discovery pairs these two characters up. Their chemistry is immaculate and their humor on par.
But, if Star Trek is about one thing, that thing would be hope. Staying true the episode’s title, the episode provides this in multiple moments — from Book returning an endangered species to a sanctuary, from Michael commissioning a man who never gave up into Starfleet. It doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that Star Trek: Discovery decided to return to us now, months into a situation that seems to make us feel so helpless, no matter what the root cause of that may be (and there’s plenty to choose from).
Star Trek: Discovery’s decision to venture far into the future is an intelligent one. One of the show’s biggest criticisms is that its relationship with canon wasn’t thought out and its technologies, such as the spore drive, didn’t make sense. Discovery’s new setting alleviates this, allowing it to explore a new era freely, while still leaving centuries of room for other shows to play with.
Even “the burn” which is revealed to be an event that wrecked the galaxy as a multitude of ships exploded, leaving dilithium a more rare and coveted resource, only happens a little over a century before the current setting, at the turn of the millenium. The burn also leaves the Discovery as a ship with a technology more important than ever — with the potential of possibly changing the galaxy with its unique method of transportation. Whether this is addressed in this season is yet to be seen (we don’t even see Discovery this episode), but it opens a new world of opportunities in either episodes or seasons to come.
It’s heartbreaking to find that The Federation remained strong and that its demise wasn’t a consequence of its own corruption or antics, as one could maybe perceive considering its portrayal in Star Trek: Picard, and just as Michael takes in this new world and the consequences of time-passed, the audience goes on the same journey with her. “That Hope is You, Part 1” is filled with highs and lows of her introductory journey into the 32nd century.
It’s Michael Burnham’s persistence and perseverance that takes us further into the story, as most people in her situation would find it easy to give up. In the first moments in this episode, she crash lands, but the audience can feel elated, yet worried, as she attempts to figure out if there’s life in this millennium, and thank god there is. Her scream of joy is a triumphant hook, even though she’s injured and alone.
This leads to a even more powerful moment as Michael commands herself to walk, the smoke rising from the ship she damaged off in the distance. And she does walk.
Michael has always been an intriguing character, less comfortable with her emotions as a result to the environment she grew up in. The frankness and more scientific approach she treats her feelings with is evident, but if anything, this plays to her advantage right now as she is able to address her feelings, but doesn’t let them control her. Someone with less emotional awareness may have trouble moving forward upon news that the thing they held the utmost faith in is essentially dead. Michael feels this pain, but does not yet give up.
At first, she puts everything she has into finding her crew upon this heartbreak, and when she faces another heartbreak upon the news that her crew has not yet arrived, and may not arrive for the forseeable future, she redirects her efforts to the Federation once more. Even as the world around her has clearly faced loss and upheaval, she is not alone in her hope, and its that shared faith in the Federation that will help her move forward, although we don’t yet see this in “That Hope is You, Part 1.”
Star Trek: Discovery’s other challenge is to introduce Book into the narrative which it does very interestingly. Not only is Book the vessel which “That Hope is You, Part 1” introduces its 32nd-century lore through, but it also needs to create him as someone who will fit into its cast of strong characters. Book is important as an intermediary between Burnham and the current state of the galaxy, but he also needs to become a companion for Burnham as Discovery is still on its way through the wormhole.
And Book fulfills all the roles he needs to and more. As a courier, Book fills out jobs with only the hope that the next job he’ll be able to keep some of the profit. Clearly, the Ferengi have no dealings with this system, as it goes against everything they stand for. However, the Andorians and Orions run this on a tight ship. And while it seems like Book is loyal to this cause, going so far as betray the deal he made with Burnham to sell the rest of her “antiques,” this betrayal has much more good-hearted motivations which is also is what deepens his relationship with Michael.
As Book has stolen another courier’s cargo, which happen to be a creature that is a fine delicacy to some, he runs into trouble. But as it turns out, Book comes from a line of poachers but is the anomaly as a man who has an intense connection to all life — plant and animal alike. This is an interesting ability, but also seems to bring him from a different perspective than Burnham.
While Burnham was raised in a society where she learned to repress and manage her emotions, Book feels the emotions of others so intensely. While these two come from different places, they hold the same respect for the universe and have a similar approach to getting the job done. They communicate effortlessly, and nonverbally, leading to an entertaining action-sequence as they attempt to escape the Andorians, Orians, and Lurians (aka Morns). Michael having been dosed with a truth-telling substance that also gives her a high is a sight to behold and also serves to introduce the new state of technology in the 3100s.
If there was any worry that Book’s betrayal would make him an antagonist for the season, or that Michael would be alone as she waits for the crew she has an immense love for, these sequences alleviates these fears as they prove that they have each other’s backs — Michael rescuing Book from his handlers, and Book saving Michael from being eaten alive.
There’s still beauty in the universe even in the burn has allowed for the capitalization of the lower classes by those who have access to highly sought goods. Michael and Book feel pure joy as they see another animal returned to its species in time to complete the cycle that leads to more birth, and as Book takes Michael to what seems the last local outpost of Starfleet.
As we find that the Starfleet attendant’s life is filled of waiting to put up that flag, Michael is everything that he was waiting for, and the attendant is everything that she was searching for. Even if outreach is limited, the spirit of Starfleet had never died, even if it was harder to find. And if anyone can bring in more people to The Federation’s mission and encourage people to raise the Federation’s flag, it’s Michael.
“That Hope is You, Part 1” is about the exchange of hope and faith, whether that be between Book and Michael, or between the pairing and the Starfleet attendant.
But the final scene is perhaps the most poignant part of the episode, a build-up sustained since the final moments of season two. Elevated by a beautiful and inspiring score crafted by Jeff Russo, these final moments launch us into what this season will be all about: a re-discovery of hope and search for the Federation to help take it across the stars.