Star Trek Discovery: Scavengers (S3E6)

The core of this episode is a bit weak and cliched but it is surrounded with decent character work.

Book’s ship turns up at Star Fleet HQ with only Grudge the cat on board. With Saru keen to prove Discovery’s reliability to Star Fleet he forbids Michael from going on an impromptu rescue mission. Naturally Michael goes on an impromptu rescue mission.

The mission itself involves Michael and Georgiou visiting a junkyard planet that’s just some sort of rusty mineral processing factory but filmed with a yellow filter to look alien. The factory is run by the bad-guy organised crime gang and populated with slave-prisoners. The slaves can’t escape because they have devices on their necks that blow their heads off if they cross the perimeter. Book is one of the prisoners etc. It’s fine but you’ve seen it all before.

What is better here is that episode finally makes an attempt to deal with the question of Michael’s propensity for rogue missions in a way that is neither court-martial-life-imprisonment nor a pat-on-the-head and praise for what a cheeky scamp she is. The set-up for her disobedience is (more or less) a bit of a genuine dilemma for both Michael and Saru and the consequences for her insubordination are significant and have impact but aren’t absurd or unjust.

Trek has wobbled all over the place with these kinds of issues through every iteration. The problem is creating a dilemma for what are supposed to be military officers that doesn’t imply that at least one party is both an arsehole and shouldn’t be an officer with access to the weapons of a starship. The result adds to the wildly inconsistent portrait of Star Fleet as an institution and as a place where the chain-of-command is on one hand sacred and on the other hand a more of a vague custom rather than something enforced.

Meanwhile, the episode moves things along with whatever mysterious thing is going on with Georgiou and also moves things along with Adira and Stamets. The bridge crew also get new toys. None of which are big plot points (yet) but do demonstrate that the show continues to improve in giving a sense that everybody on the ship aren’t just holograms that wink off when Michael leaves the ship. A short scene with Tilly and Grudge likewise does a lot of this work. You don’t need big speeches or even a B-plot to ensure that a show about a crew of a spaceship feels populated.

ETA Cora makes the valid point that while the slave-worker story is a familiar one, it’s not one that is common in Star Trek

4 thoughts on “Star Trek Discovery: Scavengers (S3E6)

  1. The “dont cross the perimeter or you will die” – concept is used fairly often, because its quite creepy horror. Which is probably the reason it hasnt been used in Star Trek before…
    But for some reason it reminded me of… Andromeda, the Rodenberry show based on a similiar idea as Discovery Season 3. There too was an episode on a prison planet (but told from Sobos perspective) (It was one of the worst episode in nott very good first season) and while I think its pure coincidence its fun to see some paralells on the the themese used in both shows – One of the first episodes in Andromeda also consisted of the Andromeda flying to a ship where they thought was still a remnant of the “Commonwealth” (and it wasnt). Its probbaly what you expect to establish this kind of universe and Disco is much better, but still, it keeps reminding me and if Andromeda would creep up on a streaming service I would at least skim a few of the better key episodes.

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    1. Leigh Brackett used the slave collar and perimeter fence that will kill you in “Enchantress of Venus” back in 1949. No idea if anybody came up with the idea before then.


  2. I liked the episode because first, who doesn’t love Grudge, and second, it did give some clarity about the whole Emerald Chain gang situation. It’s been over a hundred years since the Burn in the future history, but they’re still salvaging the old husks of the ships because planets teamed up to form gangs and keep control of the ruins and now we have a name for the head of the operation. Michael’s been there a year, but the rest of the crew has not and
    the show has been exceedingly stingy with information about the future culture, so even if it was a very traditional prison escape plot, it was a good world-building episode. And it’s fun to see Georgiou let loose her vicious empress routine and her and Michael’s weird relationship.

    The episode also really got to the heart of the perpetual issue between Saru and Michael, which was a nice way to build on the show’s past history without getting entangled in the less successful parts of the past seasons. The conversation between Tilly and Saru about Michael was also good in that way.

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