[7.6/10] A good chunk of “Scavengers” is just good clean fun (so to speak). Burnham and Georgiou’s jaunt to the Orion junkyard/stronghold to rescue Book feels like a good spin on the Movie Trek vibe that Discovery often goes for.
There’s interesting personal dynamics with Michael’s barely-sublimated feelings for Book and her testy but maternal relationship with Georgiou. There’s a good overarching task, not just to rescue Book from Orion slavery, but to retrieve a black box that may help solve the mystery of The Burn. And there’s the tension that comes from Burnham once again going rogue, while she and Geogiou have to fool the Orion overseer long enough to escape with their prize, their friend, and their lives.
That’s a damn good setup. There’s nothing very deep to it, but it’s fun to see Mirror Georgiou go full baddie here, selling the ruse to the Orion slaver and seeming cunning and combative, which is Michelle Yeoh’s most entertaining mode on this show. At the same time, we get just enough of a flavor of life in this slavery-ridden salvage yard to understand the dangers Book is facing and care about the other poor souls trapped there with him.
It’s ultimately a good old fashioned Star Trek caper. There’s ruses, secret communications, a group of good people in need, and a MacGuffin that needs retrieving. There’s the ingredients at play to make it interesting: tension, romance, vulnerability, a ruse, and a righteous cause. Things go wrong and go right at a good cadence, and there’s even amusing references to canon like Burnham mentioning a search for “self-sealing stem bolts.”
Things are more mixed for the scenes on the Discovery. “Scavengers” seems to follow a familiar Star Trek structure, with the fireworks happening on the planet of the week, while the rest of the crew deals with other sorts of crises on personal issues in the meantime. It helps pepper an episode with different kinds of scenes and mix tension and relief for variety’s sake. The problem is that Burnham’s rescue/heist wraps up around the two-thirds mark, and the rest of the episode is devoted to on-the-nose conversations between crew members that turn subtext into text.
Some of those moments are good! Most of them involve Saru! I’m particularly fond of his scene with Tilly, a pairing that’s proved remarkably durable. There’s something meaningful about Tilly coming clean about Burnham going off against orders rather than protecting her friend, not just because it’s the duty of a Starfleet officer to report such things, but because she’s sympathetic toward Saru for the position that Michael’s putting him in. Tilly sees the bigger picture here, and her walking the line between loyalties to two different friends, not to mention her job, marks this as a choice with complexity.
(Not for nothing, her scene with Grudge the cat is pretty darn adorable to boot, and feels true to just about any cat owner like yours truly.)
Similarly, I like the scene with Burnham, Saru, and Admiral Vance. I still don’t fully trust Admiral Vance (maybe it’s just because he’s a high-ranking Starfleet officer, so he’s inherently untrustworthy in this franchise), but he’s very fair albeit plainly angry at both of the Discovery’s senior officers. He gripes at Saru for not raising the possibility of Burnham’s mission with him beforehand, and he gripes at Michael for putting others at risk to call her own shot, which reflects a certain amount of selfishness. And yet, he leaves discipline as an internal matter for the Discovery, evincing a certain “tough but fair quality.”
The follow-up, which features Saru demoting Burnham, lays things on a little thick in terms of the dialogue, but it’s also a strong choice. It shows that there’s a cost to Burnham’s choice to color outside the lines, both personally and professionally. As to the latter, she loses her position as First Officer, which retroactively adds weight to what she gave up to save Book and pursue the mystery of The Burn. As to the former, she not only disappoints a friend in Saru, but violates his trust, which has just as potent emotional consequences. Again, this show veers more toward making such moments melodramatic rather than making them feel real, but the emotional calculus of it works.
The same problem afflicts the budding friendship between Stamets and Adira. I like the idea of the two of them bonding not only of a shared love of science and Adira’s aptitude for fixes that make Stamets’s life easier when utilizing the spore drive, but over having lost someone they love who’s nevertheless still with them. The two performers have a good chemistry, and the mentoring relationship is a good one.
But the show, once again, gilds the lily. Having Gray explicitly state that he likes Stamets and thinks he could be a good friend, and also having Dr. Culber explain for any audience member too daft to get it why Stamets and Adira have losses in common, just goes too far. The scenes feel unnatural and hurt, rather than help, a connection between Adira and Stamets that works better with friendly chemistry than it does blunt exposition.
The rest of the business on the ship mostly involves marveling at the new 32nd century upgrades the crew can now enjoy. That means a heap of refits with programmable matter, combages that project info via holographic inputs, automatically receptive new controls throughout the ship, and even separated nacelles. That leads to some stilted attempts at comedy with Linus the Saurian showing up at inconvenient times due to personal transporter malfunctions, but it’s a solid way to show our heroes acclimating to and wow-ing over the technological advances of the future.
If there’s a theme to all of this, it’s the idea of people admitting things to one another, showing vulnerability and emotional honesty in the hopes that it will be rewarded by those close to them. We see it in Burnham sniffing out that Georgiou is suffering from some sort of PTSD-induced panic attacks over the loss of someone close to her (I think she says, son?). We see it in emotional exchanges between Burnham and Saru or Stamets and Adira. And, of course, we see it when the show pulls the trigger on romance between Burnham and Book, a relationship I’m not fully on board with, but am at least glad to see the series stop pussyfooting around on.
Still, the best part “Scavengers” is the escapade Burnham, Georgiou, and Book have in the Orion slaver’s scrapyard. The confluence of double identities, entangled affections, plot-relevant artifacts, and beleaguered freedom fighters feels like classic Trek. All the pieces are there, and season 3 of Discovery has been an improvement so far, I just keep waiting for the show to put it all together.
Linus needs to admit he can’t use the transporter correctly :joy:
This show is ruined by all the cringey forced drama. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve!
All I know is that I would certainly learn how to use a personal transport device when there's a possibility of accidently teleporting oneself into the vacuum of space, or into an occupied privy...
Michael must be the most one dimensional main character in a Star Trek series ever.
Always the same attitude initially, when she rebels. Always the same "empathic' reaction, when others react to her moods and unduly decisions.
And Sonequa adds poor performance, to maximize the effect of the bad writing and character development.She has just one set of facial expression for being competitive/rebellious and one for regret/acceptance. Rinse and repeat.
Shame, because the episode wasn't great otherwise, but without the unnecessary drama about Michael, it was pretty okay.
There’s been a marked shift in tone this season, to a much more self-contained episodic format, reminiscent of TOS, TNG and Voyager. Judged on that basis, this might be the best episode of the season so far. The junkyard rescue was plain fun, and everyone seemed to get something to do in the episode. It wrapped things up nicely. The failure to focus on the Burn and the difficulties that would be inherent in travelling one thousand years in the future is frustrating, but only if you focus on it. Thankfully enough happens in this episode that you don’t have to.
Discovery leaping into the future was the best thing that ever happened to this show. Yes, there's a wee bit too much action for Star Trek standards, Michael is still a terribly annoying character (specially considering she's still whispering all the time instead of talking like a normal person), and there's too much superfluous personal drama, but it's finally been truly enjoyable to watch Discovery. The eye candy has been absolutely gorgeous, this season (I wonder for how long will they be able to keep up with the high budget for this show), and Georgiou has been more fun than ever, quickly becoming my favourite character of the show.
This week's mission was enjoyable with Michael and Georgio, who are a reliably fun pairing, just like Saru and Tilly.
Again, the weak parts involved Adira and Gray, who seem like they'll be hanging around for the foreseeable future, which is a shame. It didn't help that their scenes involved Stamets, who I find pretty annoying at the best of times (I put this down to finding Anthony Rapp's performance a bit one note with his perma-constipated expression, which is a shame as I like Wilson Cruz as Dr Culber).
I suppose it is official - more tears mean more bad acting and bad writing.
philipa swares some more, michael decides to ignore orders, all for a cat... this is boring, slack story.
Good to see Michael was able to score some hair extensions during her year waiting.
This show is so weird now. Is it no longer a military ship?
So many I love yous.. dramatic music every scene.