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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Finally Picked the Perfect Captain

Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 3 “People of Earth” past this point.

The Captain of the ship on Star Trek: Discovery is like the Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher from Harry Potter: they’re only gonna last a year. But hopefully, given that everything that’s happened so far on the show has led to Saru (Doug Jones) finally sitting in that chair on this week’s episode, it’ll stick past this season. Extra-long Kelpien fingers crossed.

In Season 1 of Discovery, we got Lorca (Jason Isaacs) a brusque, war-focused Captain who turned out to actually be a villain from the Mirror Universe manipulating his crew like chess pieces. In Season 2, it was Pike (Anson Mount), the opposite of Lorca in that he was kind, listened, and almost deferent to his crew. He was also temporary, because his destiny was to head back to the Enterprise.

In the background, though, have been two crew-members potentially destined for the Captain’s chair: Saru; and Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). They were together and jovially jockeying for position since before their time on Discovery together, on the doomed ship USS Shenzhou. And on Discovery, an argument could be made for either: Saru for his steadfast service and belief in the hope of the Federation; Burnham because she has saved the ship, the galaxy, everyone multiple times.

With Pike leaving Discovery, and the crew headed to the future last season, Saru and Burnham tabled the discussion of who would take charge. That discussion — sort of — got picked up this episode, before the credits even hit. When Saru tried to prompt a sit-down thanks to a delayed reunion with Burnham, she immediately shut that s**t down.

“No, it’s… You, Saru,” Burnham said in front of the assembled crew. “And chain of command dictates it. I don’t know if it’s ever been me. You brought this ship through time. You carried this crew on your shoulders. You are a captain in the truest sense of the word.”

Humbly, Saru accepted, and kicked off his stint as Captain of Discovery with a classic Captain-style speech: “This ship has the name Discovery. Never has that been more fitting, or more pressing. She has carried us into the future, and it will be our privilege to make that future bright… Let us begin. Together.”

…and if you’ve been following the show since the beginning, you were definitely crying at this point, particularly when the music swelled and the camera pushed in on Saru’s proud expression. But of course, it wasn’t not going to be smooth sailing for the new Captain from there.

The first challenge he needed to face in the episode — other than the fact that Earth was locked down, and the Federation gone — is that Burnham gave up too easily.

“I must admit, Commander, I am having some difficulty trusting your judgement,” he later noted to Burnham in his office. “I am grateful for your support of my captaincy, but your refusal to even consider the possibility — surprised me. This past year has altered your perspective.”

Therein is the conflict of the episode. Burnham, in the year she’s spent in the future without Discovery, has had to do some very bad things (the extent of which, we’re not sure of yet) that have sullied her outlook. You know they’re bad, too, because she’s wearing black leather and some serious eye-shadow. But by episode’s end, a new status quo is reached that actually makes a lot of sense, though one that couldn’t have necessarily been predicted back in the series premiere: Saru brings Burnham in as his Number One.

“I will trust you to grow through change, as you have trusted me,” Saru tells her in the final minutes of the episode.

“Then I would be privileged to be your Number One,” she answers.

What’s particularly beautiful about this is that everyone pretty much gets what they want, and their position makes a whole lot more sense. Burnham could take command some day, and certainly she may have to (see above re: Defense Against The Dark Arts). But she’s much more focused on action, and getting things done — particularly now, with a fair amount of risk. Saru, on the other hand is a genetic empath: his skill is seeing others, and feeling what they’re feeling. He’s certainly changed and become more battle-hardened over time. But he’s the one who should be sitting in the chair and leading, while Burnham takes the risks he can’t take.

There will always be a sense that Burnham should be in charge, of course… She’s the face of the show, so why wouldn’t she be the Captain of Discovery? But this position suits her, and 3189 Burnham even more. It also suits Saru, who is the right man for the job. May he last longer than Lorca and Pike.

Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays on CBS All Access.

Where to watch Star Trek: Discovery

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