Discovery’s “Kobayashi Maru” is Star Trek at its best for a modern time

Five months after the events of season three, Discovery picks up with Burnham in the captain’s seat using the newly discovered dylithum deposits to reach out to the former members of the Federation in the 31st century, but when a space station is knocked out of orbit by an unknown anomaly, Burnham’s own willingness to win the day no matter what could send her own crew to their doom. Meanwhile, an even bigger threat looms on the galactic horizon.

Fans love to poop on Star Trek: Discovery. It’s almost like its some of their entire personalities now… kind of like it was with Star Trek: Voyager. The truth is, despite it stumbling out of the gates, the show has been exceptionally strong since its second season and has brought a new level of sophistication and maturity to the franchise. This isn’t a show with a woman who cries too much as the toxic bro-fans love to repeat over and over again, this is a series with characters who have flaws, show emotions, fail, and climb back up again.

“Kobayashi Maru” takes this concept and runs with it, exploring Captain Burnham’s flaws and how they make her a great captain and, potentially, a disastrous one. This is a level of scrutiny that has never been given to any other Star Trek captain and the way it is presented: Honestly and without pretext was both harsh and refreshing. Burnham is a Captain crafted by her suffering and exploring how that affects her command style should prove interesting.

That being said, I am really enjoying the addition of President Rillak, played by Chelah Horsdal. She is a strict, no-nonsense professional who I see as a perfect foil for Burnham moreso, even, than Dadmiral Vance — who I still love, by the way. I hope that there are more opportunities for Burnham and Rillak to collide later down the line and, even more, I hope that a part-Cardassian and part-Bajoran character might take us back to Bajor just to see what’s happened around those parts in the last 1000 years.

The episode was full of drama, philosophy, and a healthy helping of action — all staples of what Discovery provides and has never made a secret of. The addition of the virtual soundstage, The Volume, for the expansive scenery shots was a definite and noticeable contribution to this episode feeling larger than Discovery has before.

Finally, that final scene with the destruction of Book’s homeworld, Kwejian, not to mention his family and his adorable little nephew, was the perfect coda to this episode and enough of an emotional gut-punch, acted perfectly by every actor on the bridge, to insure that this is another season of Discovery I will happily sit through.

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