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Recap / Star Trek: Discovery S3E03 "People of Earth"

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Reunited with Burnham, Discovery heads to Earth to find out what has happened to the Federation in the last thousand years.


Tropes in this episode:

  • Actually, I Am Him: Adira reveals they actually are Admiral Tal. He was a Trill with a symbiont that they are now host to.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Stamets doesn't think any force could affect all dilithium everywhere. Georgiou points out he can jump a starship through mushroom space.
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  • Batman Gambit: Burnham's plan to scam Wen relies on the knowledge that Saru would be willing to risk Discovery to protect her without being told of her plan.
  • The Captain: Saru is still a bit reluctant to take up the big chair now that Burnham is back, but she insists that he's the one most qualified for the job and it's his by chain of command anyway.
  • Captain's Log: Burnham records a personal log over a Time Passes Montage, which gets interrupted when she finally detects Discovery.
    "Personal log, Commander Michael Burnham. Stardate 865211.3. Automatic transmissions to USS Discovery, wherever or whenever it might be. I'm sending you this message because you need to know what I've learned here. I hope that by some miracle you will receive it some day. Seven hundred years after we left, dilithium supplies dried up. The Federation trialed alternative warp drive designs but none proved reliable. Then came the Burn. No one knows how or why it happened but in an instant, all dilithium went inert. Any ship with an active warp core detonated. The Federation, as we know it, disappeared overnight. It's now just a shadow of its former self. We didn't give everything for this version of the future and I'll be damned if I let it stand. I've become a courier. I transport goods in exchange for dilithium to keep exploring sector by sector. Searching for clues as to what caused the Burn. Answers that might help to bring the Federation together again. Wherever I go, look at you, my friends. I listen for any sign of your arrival but communication remains severely limited. Even if I did find you, I know it would be different, because I am different. But I will always love you. I've had to accept I may never see you again. You can love someone and still let them go. It feels like a dream, this world. A strange, terrible, beautiful dream. Luckily, I'm not alone on this journey. I found a friend in the truest sense of the word. This is my life now and I..."
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  • Colonized Solar System: Wen turns out to be a human from Titan, Saturn's largest moon, which is impoverished following an industrial accident.
  • The Constant: At the end, while visiting the former Starfleet Academy, the bridge crew are delighted to find a tree they used to study under still standing. Although, after 930 years, it's a lot bigger than it was.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • With Earth no longer part of the Federation, the crew is greeted (well, intercepted would be a better description) by the United Earth Defense Force, a callback that hearkens all the way back to Charlie X and the United Earth Space Probe Agency.
    • Starfleet introduced the Quantum Torpedo in 2371, and it was the most powerful weapon available during the Dominion War and surrounding conflicts. 900 years later, everybody has them.
    • Discovery left its home time before the events of "The Host". So while Michael recognizes Trill as a species, she doesn't know they have symbionts.
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  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Zig-Zagged. The Discovery crew is — of course — largely lost in the political landscape of the 32nd century, and everyone they ever knew and loved is long, long gone. That said, Tilly and the rest of the bridge crew get to beam down to Starfleet Academy, across from San Francisco, and sit under a tree they studied under 930 years ago.
  • Flashback: The episode opens with Burnham dictating a message to Discovery should they arrive, explaining what she's learned of the future and what she's been doing while they've been gone, set to a Time Passes Montage of her doing courier work, growing out her hair, and gathering clues as to the nature of the Burn. She ends up being interrupted by a signal from Discovery.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Discovery flies past Saturn on the way to Earth. Not long after, Wen shows up and somehow knows Discovery arrived in the system very suddenly. Its largest moon, Titan, turns out to be Wen's place of origin.
    • Adira, even as a Teen Genius, knows and understands 23rd century technology far too well to so successfully sabotage Discovery under everyone's nose on the fly.
  • Generation Ships: Saru claims Discovery is this, blaming sublight travel for why an ancient Starfleet vessel is just now showing up.
  • I Choose to Stay: Adira decides to join Discovery to help them find the Federation.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: When Wen shows up looking for dilithium, Burnham finds Book in the cafeteria downing shots. He's annoyed to learn that it's non-intoxicating synthehol.
  • Internal Reveal: The existence of Trill symbiosis was unknown to Starfleet in the 23rd Century (revealed in TNG's "The Host", set in 2367), but the Sphere knew, and the data trove it left in the Discovery computer elucidated Saru about them after Adira revealed they're joined to one.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Adira covertly sabotages the deflector array to block the personal transporters so they can spend more time on Discovery. When Wen's forces show up and the inspectors try to retreat, they assume Discovery is responsible for the sabotage.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Downplayed. Adira, a human, is host to a Trill symbiont, something established in Star Trek: The Next Generation as being deadly to a human host over an extended period. Presumably, advances in medical technology have managed to get around that. That said, Adira still has trouble accessing the symbiont's memories.
  • Noodle Incident: Burnham and Book discuss various ploys by referencing where they happened. We never learn many details about what exactly did happen, aside from an exasperated "How many times do you want me to break my nose?" from Book.
  • Not So Different: When Georgiou and Burnham meet once more, Georgiou is able to instantly recognize how Burnham's time away from Starfleet has changed her, because Georgiou knows exactly what it's like.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Wen isn't just another raider — he's the human leader of the remainder of Titan's human research colonies, which declared independence a century ago. An industrial accident caused serious damage to the colonies, and when someone went to Earth for help, they were shot down by the jumpy United Earth government. They've been fighting each other ever since.
  • The Reveal: The Burn is further clarified. Dilithium didn't just outright explode. Rather, all of it went inert all at once, and anything using it to regulate a matter/antimatter reaction immediately exploded because the reaction was suddenly unregulated. Understandably, this meant pretty much every warp-capable vessel with their warp core online — even in an idle state — blew up.
  • Revealing Skill: Stamets and Tilly realise there's more to Adira than they appear because their sabotage of the deflector array and ability to recognize the configuration of the spore drive controls suggests a familiarity with 23rd Century Starfleet technology they simply should not have.
  • Rousing Speech: Saru delivers an impressive speech when he officially becomes the captain of Discovery.
    Saru: This ship bears the name Discovery. Never has that been more fitting, or more prescient. She has carried us into the future, and it will be our privilege to make that future bright. Let us begin. Together.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Even though Earth has become isolationist and suspicious — especially with a group of Space Pirates plaguing them — the instant there's any clarification on the situation, both sides declare themselves amenable to diplomacy.
  • Series Continuity Error: Burnham tells Book — much to his annoyance — that the stuff he's been drinking is synthehol. The TNG episode "Relics" established that synthehol wasn't introduced to the Federation until well after the TOS era, as Scotty was unfamiliar with the alcohol substitute until Data explained it to him. Given that it's 3189, it makes sense that Burnham might have learned about it, but it doesn't make sense that Discovery's replicators have been programmed with it in the two seconds Burnham's been aboard. You'd also think Book would be able to recognize the difference, having been downing shots of it for a while, since Scotty was able to instantly recognize that what he was drinking was not normal alcohol.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Book insists to Georgiou that he and Burnham aren't a thing when she implies otherwise.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: One of the corridor junctions on Discovery has wall panels covered with the Starfleet insignia badges of deceased crew members.
  • Taking the Bullet: Discovery intercepts a torpedo attack from the United Earth ships meant for Book's ship. Burnham anticipated this, betting it would light a fire under Wen to accept their deal and get him to lower his shields so they can kidnap him.
  • Teen Genius: Adira is referred to as this, after analyzing Discovery and her capabilities to a remarkable extent. This is partly explained by Adira being host to a Trill symbiont, making it an odd simultaneous case of Older Than They Look.
  • Teleport Interdiction: Adira attaches a device to Discovery's deflector array that remodulates their shield grid to block the personal transporters being used by the inspectors.
  • True Companions: Subverted. Burnham is only so comfortable back in the Starfleet uniform after a year being a courier, leading to some issues as she tries to acclimate to her old life. Meanwhile, she and Book are so familiar that they can create plans using only shorthand Noodle Incident references.
  • Unrobotic Reveal: Georgiou tears off Wen's robotic-looking mask, revealing he's a normal human.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Burnham ropes Book into a plan which will stop Wen and save Discovery, all of which is related through Noodle Incident references that give only the barest idea of what she intends to do.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Though Saru makes Burnham his Number One, he makes it clear he is annoyed that she didn't bring him in on her plan to outwit Wen.
  • You Are Too Late: Discovery arrives at Earth looking for the Federation, based on a transmission Burnham picked up from Starfleet Admiral Senna Tal, sent 12 years ago. They learn that the Federation left Earth a century prior, and Tal died in a shuttle accident two years ago without leaving any hint as to his destination. Fortunately, being a joined Trill, his symbiont survived and was implanted into Adira, who joins Discovery to help them.

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