Star Trek: Discovery returned for its third season last week and ventured into a new era. The 32nd century is further into the franchise's future than we've ever been. Still, it felt like a return to the idea that space is a frontier, set down by Gene Roddenberry in Star Trek: The Original Series. But it's this season's second episode, "Far From Home," that leans fully into the Western genre, right down to the fight at the saloon. And then there's the big reunion at the end that sets up the remainder of the season. SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery season three, episode two, "Far From Home," follow.
Last week, Michael Burnham arrived in the year 3188 but couldn't find or contact Discovery. This week, we find out what happened to the ship. After crash-landing on a planet, the starship needed repairs but didn't have the materials it needed. Saru and Tilly walked across the icy planet's surface to a nearby settlement in hopes of finding what they required.
That's where they enter a saloon. We soon learn that not all couriers are as noble-hearted as Book. A courier named Zareh killed the settlement's previous courier and has been exploiting the residents ever since. When he arrives on the planet, things get tense, especially after killing a local to make a point.
As mentioned, this is all Western tropes writ large. Even the way Zareh dresses evokes the look of a heavy on a classic TV cowboy show, and Jake Weber's performance does the same.
But the genre trappings are more than just affectation. They speak to how out of their depths the Discovery crew is at this moment where they find themselves in unfamiliar territory and without Starfleet support. And this confrontation tests their values. It brings to mind Benjamin Sisko's angry rant in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While it's easy to be a saint in paradise, Federation ethics often don't survive once you leave the utopia of a planet like Earth and head to society's fringes.
The ethical questions only get more complicated when Emperor Georgiou shows up to turn the tables on Zareh. Now that Discovery's people have the upper hand, should they treat this opportunistic bully the same way he's treated them?
The answer is "obviously not," and that's how Saru plays it. He has Georgiou back off, and they manage to get what they need and protect the settlement from future exploitation. The episode sets a tone for the rest of the season. From here on out, Discovery will have to fight for Starfleet, without and within, rather than taking for granted.
Luckily, Burnham finds Discovery before the crew gets into any more trouble. Next week's episode will reveal what comes of that reunion.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes debut Thursdays on CBS All Access.