Six Star Trek “hot takes”

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Seasons 1-2, Discovery Season 3, Strange New Worlds, the Kelvin timeline films, Deep Space Nine, and The Next Generation.

Today I thought we could have a bit of fun! There are many so-called “hot takes” about the Star Trek franchise flitting about online, and I thought it could be a change of pace to share a few of my own. These are – based on my limited engagement with the wider Star Trek fan community, at least – opinions that aren’t widely held or especially popular. I’ll do my best to explain why I feel the way I do about each of the six subjects we’re going to consider below.

More than ever, I ask you to keep in mind that all of this is subjective, not objective! I’m not saying that these opinions are factual and unquestionable; this is just my singular perspective on a handful of very complex topics. As with everything in media, there are going to be a range of views, and while I’ll try to justify my opinions below, I know that a lot of people can and do disagree. And that’s okay! There’s room in the Star Trek fan community for respectful disagreement about all manner of things.

With all of that out of the way, this is your last chance to jump ship if you aren’t interested in some potentially controversial Star Trek opinions!

“Hot Take” #1:
Star Trek: Picard transformed Seven of Nine into an enjoyable character for the first time.

Seven of Nine in Picard Season 2.

Star Trek: Picard hasn’t been perfect across its first two seasons, but one thing that it absolutely got right is Seven of Nine’s characterisation. Seven was an unexpected character for the series to introduce – she’d never interacted with Jean-Luc Picard on screen before, and the pair hadn’t even the barest bones of a relationship to build on. In that sense, I was surprised (and maybe a little concerned) when it was made clear that she’d be featured in a big way in the first season.

Perhaps I should explain myself before we go any further. Seven of Nine was introduced midway through Voyager’s run in the two-part episode Scorpion. At first she seemed to be a character with a lot of potential, and I enjoyed what she brought to the table in early Season 4 episodes such as Scientific Method and The Raven. But Seven very quickly became repetitive. Week after week she’d learn some lesson in “how to be more human” from the Doctor or Captain Janeway, but she’d seem to forget all about it and revert to her semi-Borg self by the next episode. This was exacerbated by the fact that Voyager’s latter seasons seemed to include a lot of Seven-heavy episodes and stories, making her a prominent character.

Publicity photo of Seven of Nine during Voyager’s run.

That’s how episodic television works, and I get that. Most other Star Trek characters up to that point in the franchise’s history also “reset” in between episodes, and we could talk at length about how characters like Miles O’Brien could go through some horrible trauma one week only to be happily playing darts at Quark’s a few days later as if it never happened. But with Seven of Nine, a combination of her prominence and storylines that often revolved around learning and taking to heart some aspect of what it means to be human and exist outside of the Borg Collective meant that her week-to-week resets and lack of significant growth really began to grate. Toward the end of Season 7, Seven was given an arc of sorts that threw her into a relationship with Chakotay – but I’m hardly the only person who feels that didn’t work particularly well!

So by the time Voyager ended, I was burnt out on Seven of Nine. Out of all the main characters from Voyager, she was perhaps the one I was least interested to see picked up for a second bite of the cherry – but I was wrong about that. Where Seven had been static and repetitive in Voyager, Picard gave her that development I’d been longing to see, and it was incredibly cathartic! Even though Seven’s post-Voyager life hadn’t been smooth, it had been human, and seeing her experience genuine emotions like anger, betrayal, and later through her relationship with Raffi, love, was something I didn’t know I wanted. Having seen it now, though, there’s no way I’d want to lose this element of Picard.

Seven with Admiral Picard.

The death of Icheb, which was shown in one of Picard Season 1’s most gory sequences, became a key part of Seven’s character arc. His loss devastated her – and the idea that Seven of Nine could be devastated was already a colossal leap for her character. That it spurred her on to one of the most human of desires – revenge – is even more significant for her. And this growth continued across the rest of Season 1, with Seven coming face-to-face with the Borg and even becoming a leader (of sorts) for the liberated ex-Borg on the Artifact.

Even though Season 2 was a mixed bag (at best) with some lacklustre storylines, Seven of Nine shone once again. Her relationship with Raffi added a whole new dimension to her character, and after seeing her experiencing anger and negative emotions in Season 1, Season 2 gave her a chance at love. Season 2 also saw Seven revelling in a new experience, having hopped across to a new timeline and found herself in a body that had never been assimilated. That set her on an arc to accepting herself for who she is – including her Borg past.

Seven without her trademark Borg implants.

Seven’s journey has been beautiful to see, but also cathartic. To me, her journey in Picard feels like it’s righted a twenty-year wrong, finally giving Seven of Nine genuine development and an arc that stuck. While I’m sure fans can and will debate individual plot points (like Icheb’s death or Seven’s off-screen involvement with the Fenris Rangers), taken as a whole I’ve really enjoyed what Picard did with what had been one of my least-favourite characters of The Next Generation era.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more from Seven of Nine – and if you’d told me in 2000-2001 that I’d write those words I wouldn’t have believed you!

“Hot Take” #2:
I don’t like The Inner Light.

Picard/Kamin in The Inner Light.

Often held up as an example of The Next Generation at its best, I’ve never enjoyed The Inner Light. It’s an episode I usually skip over without a second thought when re-watching The Next Generation, but I put myself through the chore of viewing it recently; it’s part of what inspired me to put together this list!

The Inner Light steps away from the exciting adventures of the Enterprise-D to show us a pre-warp civilisation living on a random alien backwater planet, and while exploring strange new worlds is part of the gig, the way this episode in particular does that is just not interesting or enjoyable in the slightest. It’s certainly “different” – and I will concede that point. Star Trek has never been shy about experimenting, after all! But this particular experiment didn’t work, which is probably why we haven’t really seen another episode quite like it.

Picard with the Kataan probe.

I don’t like to say that something “doesn’t feel like Star Trek,” not least because that vague and unhelpful phrase has become associated with a subgroup of so-called fans who use it to attack everything the franchise has done since 2009. But to me, The Inner Light feels about as far away from what I want and hope to see from an episode of Star Trek as it’s possible to get.

By spending practically its entire runtime in the past, with Picard taking on the role of an alien blacksmith in a pre-warp society, The Inner Light abandons not only the entire crew of the Enterprise-D, but also many of the fundamental adventurous elements that are what makes Star Trek, well… feel like Star Trek. Its deliberately slow pace doubles-down on this sensation, and The Inner Light seems to drag as a result, coming across as boring.

Picard/Kamin playing the flute.

I’m not particularly bothered by the way the Kataan probe operates – that seems technobabbley enough to get a pass. But after Picard has been hit by the probe and the majority of the episode is then spent on Kataan with Kamin and his family… I’m just not interested. Sir Patrick Stewart is a great actor, and what happened to the Kataan people is both tragic and a timely reminder of our own burgeoning environmental catastrophe (something that we haven’t even tried to fix more than a quarter of a century later). But despite all of the elements being in place, the story just doesn’t grab me like I feel it should. At the end of the day, I can’t find a way to give a shit about Kataan, nor about Kamin or anyone else.

There are many episodes of Star Trek with races and characters who only appear once, and yet very few of them manage to evoke that same “I just don’t care” reaction. Just within Season 5 of The Next Generation we have characters like Hugh the Borg and Nicholas Locarno, or aliens like the Children of Tama and the Ux-Mal, all of which manage to hook me in and get me invested in their storylines. I’d generally consider The Next Generation’s fifth season to be one of its best, with many of my favourite episodes. But The Inner Light isn’t one of them.

Picard/Kamin overlooking the village of Ressik.

There are points to The Inner Light that did work. The Ressikan flute theme, for example, is a beautiful piece of music, and Picard’s flute-playing ability (which he learned during the events of The Inner Light) would become a minor recurring element for his character going forward, notably appearing in episodes like Lessons. And the underlying premise of a probe that transmits a message in this way could have worked; it feels quite Star Trek-y in and of itself.

But for me, The Inner Light just isn’t fun to watch. It’s boring, uninspiring, and I can’t find a way to get invested in the story of Kataan and its people – despite good performances from Sir Patrick Stewart and the other actors present.

“Hot Take” #3:
Modern Trek needs to pick a single era (and timeline) and stick to it.

Admiral Vance and Captain Burnham in the 32nd Century.

Star Trek, perhaps more so than any other major entertainment franchise, is convoluted. As Trekkies, we love that! The fact that modern Star Trek can explore different timelines, different eras, and broadcast different shows that are entirely separate from one another makes for a diverse and interesting presentation. It also means that we can simultaneously step back in time to before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission while also seeing what came next for Captain Picard twenty-five years after the events of Nemesis.

But try to look at Star Trek from the point of view of a newcomer. Every single one of the five shows currently in production is set in a different time period and location, and just figuring out where to start with Star Trek – or where to go next for someone who’s enjoyed watching one of the new shows – is the subject of essays, articles, and lists. It’s beginning to remind me of Star Wars’ old Expanded Universe – a combination of games, books, comics, and so on that had become so convoluted and dense after decades in production that it felt offputting.

Cadet Elnor in the 25th Century.

In order for Star Trek to successfully convert viewers of one of its new iterations into fans of the franchise, it needs to simplify its current output. A fan of Strange New Worlds might think that their next port of call should be Picard or Lower Decks – but they’d be completely lost because those shows are set more than a century later.

The lack of a single, unified setting also prevents crossover stories – and these aren’t just fun fan-service for Trekkies like us! Crossovers link up separate Star Trek outings, bringing fans of one show into close contact with another. Just as The Next Generation did with Deep Space Nine (and DS9 did with Voyager), modern Star Trek should make the effort to link up its current shows. There are links between Discovery and Strange New Worlds – but any crossover potential has evaporated due to Discovery shooting forward into the far future.

Beckett Mariner and Jennifer the Andorian in the late 24th Century.

This also applies to alternate realities, most significantly the Kelvin timeline which is supposedly being brought back for a fourth film. The Kelvin films served a purpose in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but as I’ve argued in the past, is it really a good idea to bring back that setting – as well as its presentation of characters who have recently been recast for Strange New Worlds – with everything else that Star Trek has going on?

In 2009, it was possible for new fans to jump from the Kelvin films to other iterations of Star Trek and keep up with what’s going on. But we’ve had more than 100 new episodes of Star Trek since then across several different eras, some including recast versions of characters who appeared in the Kelvin timeline films. I’m not so sure that a new Kelvin timeline film serves its intended purpose any more.

Captain Pike in the 23rd Century.

I wouldn’t want to see any of the shows currently in production shut down before their time. We’ve only just got started with Strange New Worlds, for instance, and I’m hopeful that that series will run for at least five seasons (to complete Captain Pike’s five-year mission!) But as the current crop of shows wind down, the producers at Paramount need to consider their next moves very carefully. Where should Star Trek go from here, and where should its focus be?

Discovery’s 32nd Century is certainly a contender, and setting the stage for new adventures years after the stories we know provides a soft reboot for the franchise while also opening up new storytelling possibilities. But it would also be great to see Star Trek return to the late 24th or early 25th Centuries of the Picard era, picking up story threads from The Next Generation era – Star Trek’s real “golden age” in the 1990s. Setting all (or almost all) of its films, shows, miniseries, and one-shot stories in a single, unified timeline has many advantages, and would be to the franchise’s overall benefit.

Stay tuned, because I have a longer article about this in the pipeline!

“Hot Take” #4:
Far Beyond The Stars is an unenjoyable episode, albeit one with a very important message.

Benny Russell in Far Beyond The Stars.

This is my way of saying that “I don’t like Far Beyond The Stars” while still giving credit to the moral story at its core. Star Trek has always been a franchise that’s brought moral fables to screen, and Far Beyond The Stars does this in a very intense – and almost brutal – way, shining a light on America’s racist past and present.

But as I’ve already discussed with The Inner Light above, the way in which this story is presented doesn’t really work for me. I find Benny Russell’s story sympathetic… but because what’s happening is so far removed from the events of Deep Space Nine, it’s difficult to turn that investment over the course of a single episode into anything substantial. The “it was all a dream or a vision” explanation also hammers this home; whatever was happening to Captain Sisko was taking place outside of the real world – perhaps inside his head, perhaps as a vision from the Prophets – and thus it doesn’t feel like it matters – in the context of the show – in the same way as other, similar stories.

Julius and Benny.

Far Beyond The Stars is comparable to The Inner Light insofar as it steps out of the Star Trek franchise’s fictional future. In this case, the story returns to our real world a few short years in the past. While there are occasional flashes of Star Trek’s signature optimism, the darker tone of the story combines with its real-world setting to feel different; separate from not only the events of Star Trek, but its entire universe.

“But that’s the whole point!” fans of Far Beyond The Stars are itching to tell me. And I agree! Far Beyond The Stars knows what it’s trying to be and knows the kind of story it wants to tell and goes for it, 100%. I’d even say that it achieves what it set out to. But that doesn’t make it a fun watch, an entertaining story, or an episode I’m keen to revisit. As with The Inner Light, I almost always skip over Far Beyond The Stars when I’m watching Deep Space Nine.

The unnamed preacher.

Perhaps if I were an American, more of Far Beyond The Stars’ real-world elements would hit closer to home. But when I first saw the episode in the late ’90s here in the UK, I confess that at least parts of it went way over my head. That’s perhaps my own bias showing – but the whole point of this exercise is to discuss parts of the Star Trek franchise beginning with my own biases and opinions!

Having re-watched Far Beyond The Stars after spending time living in both the United States and South Africa – two societies which continue to wrangle with legacies of structural and systemic racial discrimination – I definitely felt its hard-hitting message a lot more. In fact, Far Beyond The Stars could be a great episode to use as a starting point for a broader conversation about race and structural racism. But having a moral message – especially a very on-the-nose one – doesn’t always make for the most interesting or enjoyable story.

Sisko sees himself reflected as Benny Russell at the end of the episode.

I don’t find Far Beyond The Stars to be “uncomfortable” to watch. The racial aspects of its story have purpose, and even with the progress that America has made since the turn of the millennium, many of the racial issues that Far Beyond The Stars highlights are just as relevant today as they were twenty-five years ago. But I guess what I’d say about the episode is that it doesn’t deliver what I personally find interesting and enjoyable about an episode of Star Trek.

Taken as a one-off, I can put up with Far Beyond The Stars. It didn’t become a major recurring thing in Deep Space Nine, and while Captain Sisko would recall the events on more than one occasion, it didn’t come to dominate the latter part of Deep Space Nine’s run in any way. So in that sense, I’m content to set Far Beyond The Stars to one side, acknowledging what it brought to the table in terms of allegory and morality while being content to rewatch it infrequently.

“Hot Take” #5:
Canon matters – up to a point.

The original USS Enterprise.

There seems to be a black-and-white, either/or debate in the Star Trek fan community when it comes to the franchise’s internal canon. Some folks are adamant that the tiniest minutia of canon must be “respected” at all costs, criticising things like the redesign of uniforms or even the recasting of characters because it doesn’t fit precisely with what came before. Then there are others who say that “it’s all just a story,” and that canon can be entirely ignored if a new writer has an idea for a story. I don’t fall into either camp!

Canon matters because internal consistency matters. Internal consistency is – for me, at least – an absolutely essential part of the pathway to suspension of disbelief. If I’m to believe that transporters and warp cores exist, the way they work and the way they’re presented on screen has to be basically consistent from one Star Trek story to the next.

The USS Discovery at warp.

The same applies to characters. If a character has a background as an assassin and that’s a central part of their characterisation in one story, the next episode can’t arbitrarily change that and make them into a marine biologist because the plot demands it. Characters need to feel like real people, and the world they inhabit needs to operate by its established rules.

Luckily for Star Trek’s writers, there is a lot of flexibility in those rules! Most of the specifics of how individual pieces of technology work have never been delved into in any detail, and there’s a lot we don’t know about even the most basic of things within the Star Trek universe. So new writers find themselves with considerable leeway if they want to make a change or do something differently for the sake of a story.

A combadge from an alternate timeline.

But there is a limit to that – or at least there ought to be. And the Star Trek franchise has tripped up by introducing new elements that seem to tread on the toes of what has already been established, even if they don’t technically overwrite anything. Spock’s family is a case in point. The Final Frontier gave Spock a half-brother who had never been mentioned, and then Discovery came along and gave him an adopted sister as well. Neither of these additions overwrote what we know of Spock’s family history… but they definitely came close.

On the other side of things, I’m quite okay with Star Trek making changes and updates to its visual style. The redesign of the USS Enterprise that debuted in Discovery and has been expanded upon for Strange New Worlds is a great example of one way that the franchise has modernised its look without really “damaging” established canon. All that’s required to get around the apparent visual changes – for anyone who feels it’s necessary – is to say that the Enterprise must’ve undergone some kind of retrofit in between Pike’s command and Kirk’s.

Sarek and Michael Burnham in Discovery’s premiere.

Where canon matters to me is in terms of characterisation and story. If we’ve established, for example, that the Vulcans and Romulans are related to one another, then future stories must remain consistent with that; there can be no “Romulan origin story” that tries to say that they evolved separately, for example. Likewise for characters. We all love a good character arc – but if a character’s personality and background are established, changing those fundamentals in an arbitrary manner should be off the table.

So to the canon purists, my message is going to be “loosen up a little!” And to the canon ignorers, what I’d say is “internal consistency matters.”

“Hot Take” #6:
The Kelvin films got a lot right – and could be textbook examples of how to reboot a franchise.

Spock, Kirk, and Dr McCoy in Star Trek Beyond.

Even today, more than a decade after 2009’s Star Trek kicked off the Kelvin timeline, I still have Trekkie friends who have refused to watch them. Other fans who showed up at the cinema were unimpressed with what they saw, and the Kelvin films can feel like a controversial part of the Star Trek franchise sometimes. For my two cents, though, although the Kelvin films were imperfect and certainly different to what had come before, they managed to get a lot of things right. I’d even say that Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness could be used as textbook case studies in how to reboot a franchise successfully!

Modern Star Trek – from Discovery to Picard and beyond – would simply not exist without the Kelvin films. When Enterprise was cancelled in 2005, it really did feel as though the Star Trek franchise itself had died and wouldn’t be returning. Even as someone who hadn’t been a regular viewer of Enterprise, that still stung! But if there had been doubts over the Star Trek brand and its ability to reach out to new audiences and bring in huge numbers of viewers, 2009’s Star Trek shattered them.

Transwarp beaming.

Into Darkness eclipsed even the massively high numbers of its predecessor and remains the cinematic franchise’s high-water mark in terms of audience figures and profitability, so it’s not exactly shocking to learn that Paramount hopes to return to the Kelvin cast for a fourth outing next year! These films took what had been a complicated franchise with a reputation for being geeky and nerdy and skimmed off a lot of the fluff. What resulted was a trio of decent sci-fi action films that may just have saved the franchise’s reputation.

The Kelvin films also gave Star Trek a visual overhaul, modernising the franchise’s aesthetic and visual style while still retaining all of the core elements that longstanding fans expected. Transporters were still there – but they looked sleeker and prettier. Warp drive was still present – but a new visual effect was created. Many of these aesthetic elements have remained part of the franchise ever since, appearing in the various productions that we’ve seen since Star Trek returned to the small screen in 2017.

The USS Enterprise.

By establishing an alternate reality, the Kelvin films found scope to take familiar characters to very different places. We got to see how Kirk and Spock met for the first time at Starfleet Academy – a premise that Gene Roddenberry had considered all the way back during The Original Series’ run – but with a twist. Star Trek reintroduced us to classic characters, but put its own spin on them, providing a satisfactory in-universe explanation for why so many things were different.

But at the same time, the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from the prime timeline anchored the Kelvin films, providing a link to what had come before. This reboot wasn’t about erasing anything; it was an expansion of Star Trek into a new timeline, one that had basically unlimited potential to tell some very different stories. The trio of films took advantage of that, and while I would argue that there’s no pressing need to revisit the Kelvin timeline right now, I absolutely do appreciate what they did for Star Trek.

Two Spocks.

As a reboot, the Kelvin films succeeded in their ambition. They reinvented Star Trek just enough for mainstream audiences to discover the franchise – many for the first time. Some of those folks stuck around and have become big Trekkies all off the back of what the Kelvin films did. They updated Star Trek without overwriting anything, and they set the stage for further expansion and growth. By every measure, the Kelvin films were successful.

That isn’t to say they’re my favourite part of the franchise! But as a fan who wants Star Trek to stick around and continue to be successful, projects like the Kelvin films are essential.

So that’s it!

Were those takes as hot as a supernova?

I hope that this was a bit of fun rather than anything to get too seriously upset about. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions about the episodes, films, characters, and storylines that Star Trek creates, and whether I’m thrilled about something, hated it, or have mixed feelings, I will always try to explain myself and provide reasons for why I feel the way that I do. But at the end of the day, all of this is just the subjective opinion of one person!

We’re very lucky to have so much Star Trek content coming our way in the next few years. It seems like the franchise will make it to its sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and episodes still being produced, and there can’t be many entertainment franchises that could make such a claim to longevity!

There are definitely points on the list above that I could expand upon, and I’m sure I could think of a few more “hot takes” if I tried! So stay tuned for more Star Trek content to come here on the website as we move into the summer season.

The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

To recast or not to recast?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for The Book of Boba Fett. Minor spoilers are also present for Solo: A Star Wars Story and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

President of Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy recently made a statement that has drawn a lot of attention. In an interview with magazine Vanity Fair, Kennedy stated that one of the lessons that the Disney-owned studio learned from the lukewarm response to Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2018 was that recasting classic characters isn’t possible. In her words, “it does seem so abundantly clear that we can’t do that.”

This has kicked off a discussion online, not least among fans of the Star Wars franchise and Solo in particular. Today I want to add my two cents to the conversation and use the debate around Kennedy and Solo to talk about recasting characters in a general sense, as well as touch on some alternatives that studios have turned to in recent years.

Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy.

First of all, I encourage you to read the full piece in Vanity Fair so you’re aware of what was said and its context. Online debate often centres around a single phrase, soundbite, or fragment of a sentence, and it isn’t always clear how someone’s words were intended. In this case, for example, Kennedy seems to have been talking about the need for Star Wars to move on – something I’ve talked about at length here on the website – and expand beyond the confines of the “Skywalker Saga” and the handful of familiar characters who made up those stories.

I absolutely agree with that sentiment! The Star Wars galaxy is such a vast and exciting setting, one with thousands of years of history, an uncertain future, thousands of planets, trillions of inhabitants, and so much potential! So far, the Star Wars franchise has doubled-down on showing us the same handful of characters and the same tiny sliver of that setting over and over again, and I for one am starting to get sick of it! Star Wars can be more than Luke Skywalker – if it’s willing to put in the effort.

Canto Bight, one of many interesting locales in the Star Wars galaxy.

So in that sense, I agree with Kathleen Kennedy! But taken as a starting point for a discussion about recasting characters, I couldn’t disagree more.

It’s profoundly ironic that Kennedy made this statement during the build-up to the broadcast of Obi-Wan Kenobi… a series that centres around a character who was recast from the original Star Wars films! The Star Wars prequel trilogy recast a number of characters – and recast characters were even ham-fistedly edited into the so-called “special editions” of the original films, with the original voice of Boba Fett being re-dubbed, the original Emperor Palpatine being overwritten in The Empire Strikes Back, and most notoriously, the Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker being changed in Return of the Jedi.

Disney and Lucasfilm panicked in the late 2010s. The divisive reaction to The Last Jedi and underwhelming numbers for Solo: A Star Wars Story saw the Star Wars franchise refocused to bring back a lot more of what corporate leadership hopes will pass for nostalgia. This accounts for the existence of shows like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as certain narrative decisions in The Rise of Skywalker. It isn’t the first time that corporate cowardice has got in the way of entertainment, and it likely won’t be the last.

The Book of Boba Fett is an example of Star Wars recycling characters.

I’d argue that the wrong lesson has been learned from Solo if Disney and Lucasfilm believe that the biggest takeaway is that they should never try to recast characters. Alden Ehrenreich’s performance was far from the worst thing about that film, and if audiences and Star Wars fans felt that he “didn’t feel” like Han Solo, the blame needs to be placed with the way the script was written and the way the story was told. Solo was a fairly clumsy overplaying of the nostalgia card in my view; a film with an interesting premise that was hampered by shoehorning in characters from the original trilogy and that made the same mistake with Han Solo as the prequel trilogy had with Anakin Skywalker: overexplaining his backstory.

But all of that is incidental. Even if we accept the premise that Solo was a failure and that the performance of its lead was a significant factor – neither of which I’m fully on board with, but I’ll grant for the sake of argument – is the right response really to say that no classic characters should ever be recast again? That seems like a horrible overreaction!

Alden Ehrenreich in Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The Star Wars franchise has done some very interesting things with digital de-ageing and CGI character creation. The way Luke Skywalker was brought to screen in The Book of Boba Fett as an entirely CGI character was technologically stunning, and at first I thought I was watching a lookalike. The technology needed to create CGI characters and perfectly replicate the face – and even voice – of real actors is already here, and while Disney may be a pioneer of the technology, they’re far from the only ones to be using it. We’ve recently seen digital de-ageing make an appearance over in the Star Trek franchise, for example.

I’ve had an article in the pipeline for well over a year that I really ought to get around to finishing one of these days! It’s all about CGI characters in film and television, because I’m convinced that we’re not far away from a film or TV series bringing back to life a dead actor to play a leading role. I can already picture a snooty director who insists that the lead role in their film could only ever belong to someone like Lawrence Olivier or Orson Welles and decides to digitally recreate them rather than cast someone else!

A CGI recreation of Mark Hamill was used to bring Luke Skywalker into The Book of Boba Fett.

That’s connected, in a way, to what we’re talking about here. Some actors and performers are so iconic that I can absolutely see a time – perhaps very soon – when a film or TV series will use a CGI lead mingling with real actors. A digital creation with a fake face and fake voice that are indistinguishable from the real thing. And as that technology improves and becomes more accessible, it may even become possible for amateurs to do something similar. Imagine a Star Trek fan-film where a fully-realistic CGI Captain Picard is the lead. We’re edging closer to that kind of reality!

But is Sir Patrick Stewart inseparable from Captain Picard? Is Mark Hamill the only possible Luke Skywalker? Or are these roles – and many others across the realm of entertainment – more than just one actor? Look at Shakespeare as an example: how many actors have taken on the role of Hamlet, Prospero, or Richard III? And even in cinema, how many different performances have there been of characters like Count Dracula or Ebenezer Scrooge?

Is Christopher Lee the only possible Dracula in all of cinema?

If the argument is that certain characters can only ever be portrayed by one person, doesn’t that limit them and restrict them to a single possible interpretation? There have been very different takes on iconic characters over the years, and while audiences may have a preference for one or another, that doesn’t mean that only one interpretation is valid. Taking a character and giving them to a new actor expands the potential of that character.

In the Star Trek franchise we’ve seen the main characters from The Original Series recast for the Kelvin films, and while I know of some Trekkies who absolutely hated that idea, as time has passed since the 2009 reboot, more of those folks have come around. 2009’s Star Trek did a lot of things right as a reboot of the franchise, and a big part of its success was down to the way those classic characters were reinterpreted.

Star Trek hasn’t been shy about recasting characters!

Some Star Trek characters have been recast multiple times – by my count, Strange New Worlds features the fourth actor to play Captain Pike and the third to play Spock. Early reactions to Strange New Worlds have been incredibly positive – and the series has even drawn praise from some fans who hadn’t enjoyed anything else that modern Star Trek has had to offer. Recasting Pike, Spock, and other classic characters has clearly not harmed Strange New Worlds.

And the same could be true for Star Wars. Maybe Solo wasn’t the best film the franchise has put out, but that shouldn’t mean that experimenting with different takes on classic characters should be entirely shut down. There’s scope for new actors to take on the roles of Luke, Leia, and others – just as there was for Ewan McGregor to become Obi-Wan Kenobi or Alden Ehrenreich to become Han Solo. Arbitrarily deciding that recasting can never work off the back of a single underwhelming film is an unnecessary overreaction – especially considering that recasting has already worked in Star Wars, with an upcoming series standing as testament to that fact.

Obi-Wan Kenobi was recast in 1999 – and the recast character was so popular that he’s about to get his own spin-off series.

At the same time, there’s a place for digital character creation, recreated characters, and CGI characters, and I fully expect to see a lot more of that type of thing in the years ahead. For my two cents, digital de-ageing and CGI characters probably work best as side-characters rather than main protagonists – and I think Star Wars has got away with using them in that context so far. It will be a new challenge to see a film or TV series where the leading role is taken over by a CGI character.

So in conclusion, I’m glad that Kathleen Kennedy is finally willing to consider expanding the Star Wars franchise beyond the tiny fragment of its wonderful and vast setting that we’ve seen so far. That part is the good news! However, I don’t agree that there’s no place for recasting characters in a general sense. New actors have the potential to bring a new interpretation to the role, and if you look across at other films, franchises, and TV shows, it’s abundantly clear that recasting can and does work.

All properties and franchises discussed above are the copyright of their respective studio, distributor, corporation, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 theory – what happened to Q?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 2. Spoilers are also present for Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As the dust settles on Season 2 of Star Trek: Picard, there are still questions that remain. Season 3 may build on some of what Season 2 brought to the table – the strange anomaly, most notably – but other narrative elements will fade into the background and won’t be revisited. For me, one of the unexplained elements that I found intriguing as the season wore on concerns Q. Specifically, what was it that caused this once-immortal superbeing to be reaching the end of his life? What caused Q to die?

For the sake of the story that Picard Season 2 aimed to tell, finding a cause for Q’s death was not strictly necessary. The point of Q’s story and Picard’s relationship with him wasn’t to figure out what was happening, find a cure, or reverse it, but to come to accept it and for Q to find forgiveness and redemption at the end of his life. In that sense, there wasn’t really a narrative problem with the idea of Q dying – but as Trekkies and as fans who’ve followed Q’s journey over the span of more than three decades, it definitely feels like there’s a missing piece of the puzzle. Even if Q’s death was inevitable, explaining why it was happening in the first place would have felt satisfying.

I’m such a Q fan that I have this Mego action figure of him!

We’ll probably have to address this in more detail when I get around to writing a proper retrospective-review of Season 2 as a whole, but one aspect of Q’s death that I feel wasn’t handled well is how nonchalant Picard seemed to be about it. Despite all the trouble he’s caused, the story here was about Picard finding a way to forgive Q and embrace the friendship he had been offering for decades. Wouldn’t someone like Picard have wanted to find out why his friend was dying? And wouldn’t someone like Picard want to do everything in his power to prevent it?

Even if we drop the “friendship” angle, Q is a unique life-form from Starfleet’s perspective. As a being who had been considered to be functionally immortal – or as close to it as the Federation has ever encountered, at least – learning more about the Q as a race and what could possibly harm them seems like an opportunity that a Starfleet Admiral shouldn’t have passed up. Even if it wasn’t possible to find a way to save Q’s life, I would have expected Picard to offer to try. And even if Q was unwilling to share too much information about his condition, his people, and the state of the Q Continuum, I would have expected Picard to have at least asked – and to have not immediately taken “no” for an answer.

Wouldn’t Picard have wanted to understand why Q was dying – and perhaps have offered to help save him?

Perhaps a longer season (or a season that was better-paced and didn’t waste time reaching its conclusion) could have dedicated more time to Q and included some of those questions. In Farewell, the Season 2 finale, Picard seemed to very quickly acknowledge that Q was dying, accept that fact at face-value, and made no effort to follow up on it or ask questions about it. While I understand why it happened that way in terms of the story, it leaves Q’s death feeling like it’s missing something critical – something that could’ve furthered our understanding of both Q himself and the Q Continuum as a whole.

So today, that’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to consider a handful of possibilities for why Q might’ve died at the end of Picard Season 2 and look at the pros and cons of each from both an in-universe and production-side perspective. It goes without saying that all of this is speculative and purely subjective; Q’s cause of death is highly unlikely to be explained on screen in the near future, and if you don’t like my ideas or I miss out something you do like, remember that this is all just the opinion of one person!

With all of that out of the way, let’s begin.

Theory #1:
Q was being punished by the Q Continuum.

Q after having been made mortal. And nude.

In The Next Generation Season 3 episode Deja Q, we saw Q come face-to-face with mortality for the first time. In that story, Q had his powers taken away by the Q Continuum – or whatever passes for the leadership of the Q – and found himself a mortal human. This seems to establish the principle that the Q Continuum has the power – in both a legal and physical sense – to strip individual Q of their immortality.

Though somewhat contradicted by the events of the Voyager episode Death Wish – in which it was strongly suggested that a member of the Q Continuum dying is something its leaders sought to prevent at any cost – Deja Q at least gives us something to work with. It was the first episode that established that certain members of the Q Continuum could inflict this kind of punishment on others, and while the specific nature of the Q Continuum and its power structure (if such a thing exists) is suitably vague, we at least have a starting point of sorts!

Another member of the Q Continuum – someone with the ability to make Q mortal.

Based on what we know about Q himself, and specifically his role in causing the death of a fellow Q, sparking a Q Civil War, and creating the first “baby” Q in thousands of years, perhaps we can piece together that the Continuum were not happy with Q’s behaviour and actions. Could it be possible that, after what Q did in episodes like The Q and the Grey, the leadership of the Continuum turned on him?

Given that we’ve also seen the Q Continuum strip powers – and immortality – away from at least two other Qs, this kind of punishment by the Continuum has to be a pretty high probability for explaining what happened to Q. Regardless of what reasons the Continuum may have had, as far as we know they’re the only ones powerful enough to force a Q to become mortal.

Theory #2:
The entire Q Continuum has been attacked.

The Q Continuum as it appeared in Voyager.

This was a theory that I hatched during Season 2 – so it may be familiar to you if you followed along with my weekly theory posts! In short, it seemed possible to me that one explanation for Q’s condition could be related to the Q Continuum itself. If the Continuum had been attacked by some outside force, maybe that could explain what was happening to Q – and it could also explain a cryptic line in Discovery Season 4. Admiral Vance explained to Captain Burnham that the 32nd Century Federation has had no contact with the Q Continuum in over 600 years – and while the events of Picard Season 2 took place approximately 780 years before that conversation, perhaps the two are linked somehow.

One line from Guinan in Picard Season 2 is also of interest here. Guinan described a “cold war” between her people and the Q Continuum in the past, a conflict that was eventually resolved. But based on what we know of the two races, a “cold war” doesn’t seem plausible, does it? The Q are immortal and god-like, and while the El-Aurians certainly have abilities of their own, they’re very much a race of mortals – a race who were conquered by the Borg. So any conflict between the Q and the El-Aurians should’ve been a one-sided rout. That is, unless the El-Aurians knew of some kind of weakness inherent in the Q.

Did the El-Aurians discover some kind of weakness in the Q Continuum?

Some kind of weak point in the Q Continuum would seem to be the only possible explanation for how the El-Aurians could pose any semblance of a threat. That weakness (whatever it may be) could be something that another faction discovered, and instead of negotiating as the El-Aurians had, they might’ve gone on the attack. Or after the El-Aurians were assimilated by the Borg, the Q Continuum’s weakness could’ve become known to them – which could mean that the Borg are responsible for attacking and defeating the Q.

So there are possibilities here – some of which are more plausible than others, admittedly – based on what we know! It isn’t clear whether the powers of an individual Q are tied in any way to the Q Continuum – but it’s possible that they are. If so, perhaps a weakness in the Continuum weakens every surviving Q, and the defeat or destruction of the Continuum would reduce the power of any Q who remained. It seems a possibility to me – even though it was never stated on screen.

Theory #3:
The Q Continuum was destabilised after its Civil War.

“Colonel Q” led one of the factions during the Q Civil War.

Voyager established that the Q Continuum devolved into civil war in the late 24th Century, with two opposing factions. The war came to an end with the birth of a new Q – the first such child in thousands of years. However, as Captain Janeway suggested toward the end of the episode: it doesn’t seem like having a baby would solve the underlying tensions within the Q Continuum.

While the causes of the war and its details were, in Q’s words: “beyond the understanding of humans,” it stands to reason that not only were the underlying issues not fully resolved, but that the fact that the Q Continuum was at war with itself in the first place would be hugely destabilising. After what seems to have been millennia of peace and quiet the Q Continuum was shattered by civil conflict, and as we know from out here in the real world, the consequences of wars – even brief ones – can be incredibly devastating and long-lasting.

Q was injured during the conflict.

Even if war never resumed between the two factions, there was still a lot of cleaning up to be done, rebuilding to achieve, and the need for reconciliation between one-time enemies. We don’t know for sure what kind of resources the Q Continuum might need to sustain itself, but it’s possible these were reduced or exhausted by the war, too. In the conflict’s aftermath, it’s even possible that two distinct Q Continuums were created.

Taking the Q Civil War as a starting point, we could argue that a general destabilisation of the Q Contniuum itself may have occurred. In the aftermath of the Civil War, perhaps the Q Continuum even collapsed, and individual members of the Q were left to fend for themselves. Without the support and resources of a united and undamaged Continuum, perhaps individual Q began to lose their powers and their immortality.

Theory #4:
Death by natural causes.

Did Q simply reach the end of his natural lifespan?

This seems to be what Picard Season 2 at least implied was happening to Q. Q gave no explanation for his impending death, seeming not to know why it was happening, and the explanation could simply be that Q reached the end of his natural life. To us, members of the Q Continuum may seem immortal, but it’s possible that they have a natural lifespan – even if it’s imperceptible to humans because it’s measured in millions or billions of years.

Q, despite appearances, may be one of the oldest members of the Q Continuum, and could thus be the first – or the first in many years – to reach such a ripe old age. He may not know what’s happening to him because death is incredibly rare in the Q Continuum, and a death by natural causes or old age simply hasn’t happened in a very long time.

Perhaps Q is the first of his race to reach this point.

We also don’t know how long Q has been flitting about the galaxy – nor how long it has been for Q in between visits to Picard. From Picard’s point of view, he last saw Q approximately 30 years ago (during the events of All Good Things at the end of The Next Generation). But has it only been 30 years for Q?

A being that can travel through time could have spent millions or billions of years away from Picard before reuniting with him. Q could have travelled back in time to the Big Bang and done other things for 13.8 billion years… then gone back to the Big Bang again and spent another 13.8 billion years killing time and doing his own thing before finally returning to Picard. In short, Q may be far, far older than we assume, and it might’ve been a lot longer in between visits than the 30 years of linear time that Picard experienced. All of these could explain why Q was coming to the end of his life.

Bonus Theory:
Q didn’t really die or was saved at the last moment.

Q’s final snap.

If there’s no body, is anyone in film or TV really dead? Star Wars uses this trope to an excessive degree! But maybe it’s true in Star Trek, too. After Q’s final “snap” that sent Picard and the crew of La Sirena back to the 25th Century, we don’t know what became of Q. Did his body dissipate into energy? Was he vaporised? Did his empty corpse collapse in a French vineyard while Rios and Teresa looked on?

Though it would completely undermine the powerful and deeply emotional sequence at the end of Season 2, maybe the real end to this story has yet to be written. Somehow – perhaps through the intervention of another member of the Q Continuum – Q actually survived, or was reborn immediately after sacrificing himself.

Q in what he described as “the afterlife.”

This… would not be my choice. As much fun as Q can be, establishing his death – and making it a huge part of the story of Picard Season 2 – was incredibly important and felt final. To undo that in any way would devastate the entire narrative arc of Picard Season 2. Given that most of the rest of that season’s storylines were weak, taking away one of the most powerful and most emotional moments would leave very little left.

There is scope for Q to return. His time-traveling nature could see him pop up in other stories as long as they took place prior to the events of Picard Season 2 from his perspective. His cameo in Lower Decks Season 1 is a case in point. But to bring back Q in a big way and claim that he somehow survived… I can’t see it working. It would take away so much of what made Picard Season 2 matter. With Picard seemingly ending after Season 3 as well, there’s less of an argument for including Q in a big way in future stories. He’s primarily a Picard-centric character, so if Picard is killed off or his departure from Star Trek is made permanent, there’s less of a reason to bring back this individual Q. Other members of the Continuum, sure. But this Q should probably remain dead.

So that’s it!

Picard and Q embrace.

Picard Season 2 didn’t explain what happened to Q. In terms of the way the story unfolded, it was ultimately “unnecessary” in order to get Picard and Q to come together and for Q to send Picard home to the 25th Century. The reason for Q’s declining health could have been built into the story, giving him additional motivation and focus, but again that didn’t have to happen based on the way the story was written. Finally, Q’s decline meant two things for the story: firstly, he wasn’t unbeatable any more, potentially giving Picard and the others a chance to stop him. And secondly, it meant that Q’s final act of the season – and final moment as a Star Trek character – was one of self-sacrifice, giving up his life to get Picard and his friends home.

Whether all of that worked just as well without an underlying cause is debatable. And I definitely believe that there was room within the story of the season to explain why Q was dying – and perhaps even to tie that into some other part of the franchise – even if such an explanation wasn’t entirely necessary for the story. The season’s story may not have been hanging from this one narrative thread, but even so it might have been worth it. It would certainly have been satisfying for returning fans from The Next Generation era.

Q as he appeared in Lower Decks.

I don’t think anything we saw on screen during Season 2 of Picard actively rules out any of the theories above – although I’d certainly entertain the argument that Q might’ve mentioned something incredibly major such as the Borg assimilation of the entire Q Continuum! But with Star Trek seemingly setting Q aside for the foreseeable future, it falls to us as Trekkies to speculate and propose answers to one of Season 2’s biggest unexplained story points.

I hope this was a bit of fun – or at least interesting. Personally I’d have liked the writers of Picard Season 2 to have come up with some explanation for Q’s death that felt conclusive. Although the Q Continuum and its denizens are difficult for humans to understand, that doesn’t mean there’s total free rein to throw Q into all kinds of different stories and just use “it’s a mystery” or “you’d never get it” as excuses to cover up the fact that no real answer to the question was created in the first place! So while the cause of Q’s death may not have been critical for the story that Picard Season 2 aimed to tell, not even attempting to make up some semblance of an explanation for it definitely leaves me feeling like something was missing as the story came to an end.

In a better and more enjoyable season of Star Trek, maybe I could see past that and revel in the story that was told rather than picking at threads and asking “why wasn’t this included?” But because Picard Season 2 was, at best, a mixed bag with episodes of inconsistent quality… the fact that it ended leaving behind something that feels like it could’ve been significant feels all the worse. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Paramount wants YOU to pirate Strange New Worlds

I held off writing this for a while, even as the prospect of Strange New Worlds getting an international broadcast slipped further and further away. I didn’t want to jump the gun and come across as being too aggressive or too critical of Paramount Global – the corporation that owns and mismanages Star Trek. But with only a week to go, it’s patently obvious that Paramount has no plans whatsoever to broadcast Strange New Worlds outside of the United States and the handful of other countries where Paramount+ is available.

At the time of the Discovery Season 4 mess last November, I felt hopeful that the backlash from fans might’ve prevented this. But I guess I should’ve known better – this isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation, after all. Lower Decks Season 1 was the first casualty of the Paramount board’s ineptitude. That show’s lack of an international broadcast in the summer of 2020 hurt it immeasurably.

The lack of an international broadcast in Season 1 did serious harm to Lower Decks.

Then came Prodigy Season 1 in 2021, another series with real prospects to expand the Star Trek franchise far beyond its usual fanbase. That opportunity was squandered by Paramount’s decision to withhold the series from international broadcast. That decision was made so much worse by the fact that Prodigy is branded as a Nickelodeon co-production – and with Nickelodeon channels available in well over 100 countries, fans were rightly asking why they couldn’t watch the show along with their American friends.

Finally, only a few weeks after the Prodigy mess came the Discovery Season 4 calamity. Paramount literally paid Netflix money out of its own pocket to take the show away, preventing fans all across the world from watching it. They announced this “deal” with barely 48 hours’ notice, leading to a massive backlash from fans and even some of the actors and creative team. You’d think they’d have learned a thing or two from that mess, especially when it tanked their share price.

You’d think Paramount might’ve learned something from the mess surrounding Discovery Season 4…

But alas, it’s only April 2022 – less than six months later – and here we are again. Paramount has decided that it doesn’t want its international fans to pay for Strange New Worlds – it would rather we pirated the show instead. Fine by me.

It’s not like there weren’t options if Paramount wanted to make Strange New Worlds available to international viewers. Here in the UK, for example, Paramount Global owns the following: Channel 5 and its associated channels 5Select, 5Action, 5USA, 5Star, and the My5 catch-up service, Nickelodeon and its associated channels Nick Jr. and Nicktoons, Comedy Central, MTV and five MTV spin-offs, the Horror Channel, the Smithsonian Channel, CBS Drama, CBS Justice, and CBS Reality. Several of these are free-to-air, with the others being available on subscription via cable or satellite providers.

In addition, Paramount Global owns PlutoTV, the online television network where Discovery Season 4 was made available. And speaking of Discovery Season 4, Paramount was able to make deals with Amazon Video, Google Play, and even YouTube to allow viewers in some countries to pay to watch. In short, Paramount Global could have made Strange New Worlds available. They had every opportunity and numerous options for doing so.

Paramount owns PlutoTV, which broadcast Discovery Season 4 here in the UK.

On top of all that, the Star Trek franchise has been subjected to some truly pathetic scheduling decisions over the past few months, and these schedules now seem even worse in light of the lack of an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds. Compounding the decision to cut off international fans, Prodigy’s first season has been butchered, cleaved into small chunks of episodes that have made it harder than necessary for the show to gain any kind of traction.

But worse is the situation with Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. Why have these shows overlapped one another? Discovery and Picard ran concurrently for three weeks, and Picard’s season finale will be broadcast the same day as Strange New Worlds’ premiere. Why? If these three shows had been better-scheduled, split up by just a few weeks, then maybe there’d have been more time to get Paramount+ ready for the next phase of its international rollout. The UK and Europe have been promised Paramount+ by the end of Q2 – well that’s only a few weeks away, so if Picard Season 2 had been delayed by 4 weeks, and Strange New Worlds by another 3-4 weeks, maybe more fans would’ve been able to watch. How did this happen? And are the inept schedulers still making decisions? Seems like a firing offence to me.

Why wasn’t Picard Season 2 delayed?

By choosing not to take advantage of the global media empire that it literally owns, refusing to do deals with other corporations, and screwing up the scheduling of its own shows, Paramount has chosen to push fans toward piracy. Not only that, but the hurt and anger that has been generated by these decisions over the past couple of years will make it so much harder to convince fans to sign up for Paramount+ if the incompetently-managed service is ever ready to be rolled out.

Streaming platforms do not exist in a vacuum. The option fans have is not “pay for Paramount+ or don’t watch anything.” Piracy exists, and the only way that companies like Netflix and Disney have been able to make a success of the streaming model is by offering a good service at a low price. Paramount+ already fails the “good service” test – according to what I’m hearing from subscribers in the United States – so charging fans a higher price than Netflix, Amazon, or Disney for a worse product isn’t exactly going to incentivise folks to sign up.

Paramount+ is shit.

Despite that, when a film, television series, or video game is made available to watch, I’m firmly in the camp that says “pay for it.” I don’t want to be a pirate. From both a moral perspective and as a point of simple practicality, I believe that everyone from actors, writers, and directors to producers and executives should be paid for the work that they put into creating an entertainment product. But when a corporation takes that option away and piracy becomes the only way to access that content, then I’m all for it. In such cases as these, it is quite literally the only option.

That’s the position Paramount has placed fans in. They had options to broadcast Strange New Worlds on channels and networks that they owned from as far afield as Angola and Mozambique to the UK, Western Europe, and beyond… but they actively and willfully chose not to. They did so knowing that many fans wouldn’t wait for Paramount+… and if they didn’t realise that many of us would turn to piracy, then they’re even more incompetent and out of their depth than I thought.

The team in charge of Paramount+, apparently.

It’s become increasingly obvious that Paramount as a whole needs a good clear-out. 20th Century thinking is trying and failing to lead the corporation into the mid-21st Century, and executives and leaders clearly know nothing about a global media landscape that has been entirely transformed over the past couple of decades. Their attempt to launch their own streaming platform a decade too late in a massively competitive market was already a blunder all but certain to end in failure; the fact that Paramount+ is being handled so poorly is just hastening its demise. The anger and hurt caused to fans around the world – and not just fans of Star Trek, either, but fans of shows and franchises as diverse as Halo and iCarly – will be a weight around the corporation’s neck going forward. With inflation and other financial issues hitting hard in the short term, it’ll be ever more difficult to find subscribers for such a mediocre platform.

Paramount’s “America First” fetish would even make Donald Trump blush, and the corporation’s decision to gatekeep its own shows, segregating its audience geographically, is a colossal mistake. It’s one that Paramount+ may never recover from. And you know what? If a streaming platform with this level of ineptitude and mismanagement fails, it will deserve to fail. If a corporation with such a blinkered, short-sighted approach and an atrocious corporate attitude fails, it will deserve to fail too. My only concern as a fan of Star Trek is that Paramount+ may very well drag the Star Trek franchise down along with it.

Will Paramount+ drag Star Trek down the sewer?

The United States has been Paramount’s exclusive focus thus far, so much so that even when Paramount+ rolled out to countries like Australia, new episodes of shows like Prodigy weren’t broadcast there. Australian Trekkies who’d paid for Paramount+ were told that they’d have to wait for Discovery Season 4, and then Prodigy Season 1… so what exactly was the point of signing up? Did anyone at Paramount consider that question, or were they too fixated on America to care – or even notice?

I have tried my best to support Star Trek over the years. I signed up for Netflix in 2017 entirely because Discovery would be shown there, and I’ve likewise paid for Amazon Prime Video to watch Picard and Lower Decks. Over the span of more than thirty years I’ve bought Star Trek films and episodes on VHS, then the entire collection of every pre-2005 series on DVD, several on Blu-ray, and enough merchandise to sink a small boat. I’ve done my part to contribute financially to this franchise that I love… and even so, even with all the money I’ve already spent and all of the problems that I know Paramount+ has, I was ready to spend more. But Paramount saw fans like me offering up our cash and told us to fuck off.

Fans offered Paramount our cash… but they don’t want it.

The actors and the creative team who worked so hard to bring Strange New Worlds to life don’t deserve to find themselves in the middle of a stinking corporate mess, but in a way they’re caught in the crossfire. We should all be able to come together and celebrate the broadcast of a series that was only made possible because of Star Trek fans – many of whom are not American. But instead, we’re arguing about it. Strange New Worlds has become the latest in a line of own goals from Paramount, and there’s no way that the toxicity that they have created won’t spill over into criticisms of the show and everyone involved.

This mess could’ve been avoided. Paramount could have learned the lesson from just a few months ago, and spent the intervening time figuring out the best option for broadcasting Strange New Worlds in all of the different countries and territories around the globe. Instead they pissed away that time doing nothing of the sort, dragging the Star Trek fan community back to the same old arguments we had during the Discovery mess.

Paramount couldn’t possibly be doing more to encourage piracy of this new series.

Paramount has options to broadcast Strange New Worlds internationally, either on channels and platforms that it already owns or by agreeing licenses with other corporations. It has had more than enough time to figure out what to do, and should’ve been spurred into action by the clusterfuck surrounding Discovery Season 4. And failing all of that, Paramount has had weeks now in which to break the news to Trekkies; to tell us something and respond to the many questions that have been asked about the series. They’ve done none of that – and the explanation is simple. They don’t care about or respect any non-American fans or viewers.

So our recourse is piracy, as it always has been. When a corporation misbehaves like this, and treats its biggest fans and biggest supporters with such blatant disrespect, they haven’t just encouraged piracy, they deserve to have their shows pirated. They deserve the financial hit, the hit to viewing figures, and quite honestly, Strange New Worlds deserves to fail. Under this appalling team of corporate fuckwits, Star Trek as a whole will fail. And when we’re picking up the pieces in a few years’ time, asking where it all went wrong, we’ll be able to look back on these decisions and recognise that it was here that Paramount screwed up.

I constantly hope for better from Paramount – and I’m constantly let down. So I’m going to do what they clearly want me to do: I’m going to pirate Strange New Worlds. And you should too.

Piracy is probably against the rules where you live, so when you do pirate Strange New Worlds, do so carefully. Here’s where I’d usually tell you that the Star Trek franchise is someone’s copyright, but fuck it. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

My biggest wish for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

With Picard Season 2 ongoing, Strange New Worlds Season 1 hot on its heels, and Prodigy and Lower Decks still to come this year, it might seem premature to be thinking about Discovery Season 5 already! But as I was writing up the final part of my Season 4 theory list, it got me thinking. Season 4 wasn’t bad, all things considered. It had some storylines that disappointed or underwhelmed, but there are some genuinely outstanding episodes in the mix as well – and it ended on a very emotional and exciting high note.

It’s never too early to look ahead, and before production gets fully underway on Discovery’s next outing, I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions about where the show could go from here, and what I’d like to see next. That’s what this article will be about – but stay tuned for a more in-depth look at Season 4 and some of its story elements in the weeks and months ahead.

The USS Mitchell in the Season 4 finale.

For me, the single biggest wish I have for Discovery Season 5 is that it steps away from the “apocalyptic, galaxy-ending threat” story archetype that has been used in different ways across all four seasons of the show so far. We’ve gone through the Klingon war in Season 1, Control and the Red Angel in Season 2, the Burn and the Emerald Chain in Season 3, and finally the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C in Season 4. It’s time to give Captain Burnham and the crew a break, and for the series to try using a genuinely different formula instead of slapping a new coat of paint on the old one.

Just because a story is smaller in scale doesn’t make it any less emotional, exciting, tense, or dramatic, and I think that’s a lesson some of Discovery’s writers and producers could do with taking to heart. How we as the audience respond to a work of fiction is guided not by how massive the monster is or how big the explosions are going to be, but by how the characters we’re rooting for react. Their emotions become our emotions, their investment in the world around them becomes our investment, and so on. A story about a group of people working in an office, friends going on a road trip, or star-crossed lovers from rival families aren’t smaller, less exciting, and worse because they don’t have the backdrop of a world-ending disaster spurring them on. And conversely, some of the worst and least-exciting films and TV shows I’ve ever seen went over-the-top with the size and scale of the disaster the characters were facing.

The Burn was the driving force for much of Season 3.

Past iterations of Star Trek used these kinds of apocalyptic stories pretty sparingly, when you look back on it. It’s only Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc, which lasted for three seasons, that comes close to being as long and drawn-out an affair, and even within the framework of the Dominion War, DS9 found ways to tell very different and fun one-off stories. Things like the Borg incursions that Captain Picard and his crew had to deal with were either two-parters or one-off films, and they work well in that format.

Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D still found other ways to be entertaining, and many of The Next Generation’s standalone episodes have gone on to be considered iconic, even those that had a far smaller focus than blockbuster outings like The Best of Both Worlds. This doesn’t mean ditching the season-long story arcs or returning to an episodic format, because I think Discovery has done some interesting and neat things with its serialised stories. But it does mean choosing season-long storylines and narrative arcs that are different in a fundamental way to what the show has tried already.

The DMA was the big threat in Season 4.

Practically any format can become bland and unexciting when overused, no matter how much fun it might’ve been in its original incarnation or at its best moments. It’s a challenge to keep any television series feeling fresh as it enters its fifth season and races toward its sixty-fifth episode, and there are many examples of shows that ran out of steam somewhere along the way. Heck, I have an entire list of television shows that either ran too long or wore out their concepts, and I can think of many more that I could’ve included.

Even Star Trek has hit the wall in the past, running out of energy and failing to keep audiences engaged. By the time Enterprise was willing to try new things in its third and fourth seasons, for example, the franchise was already in such a steep decline that cancellation was inevitable. To Paramount’s credit, lessons have been learned from what happened in 2005 in terms of the way the franchise as a whole operates. Different series are telling stories in their own ways, appealing to broader audiences, and Star Trek as a whole feels varied and diverse. But Discovery on its own doesn’t… and it’s right on the verge of becoming repetitive.

The USS Discovery in Season 4.

I was far from the only commentator to make the point prior to Season 4 that another “galactic threat” storyline felt samey, coming off the back of three similar narrative frameworks, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one to say that re-using that format a fifth time will be a bridge too far. Making use of the newly-established 32nd Century in different ways, and telling a story that may be smaller in scale but that’s just as impactful, emotional, and entertaining, will be the key challenges that I’d like the writers to tackle in Season 5.

The theme of rebuilding in the aftermath of a disaster was something we only saw Season 4 tackle in the briefest and barest of ways right at the beginning of the season, but this could be a concept that the show puts to much better use next time around. Discovery could follow Captain Burnham as she and the crew jump to different worlds, delivering dilithium, solving problems, flying the flag for the Federation… and most importantly, bringing hope to a galaxy that’s been through a lot.

The flag of the Federation…

This is what I’d hoped Season 4 would do, to be honest. The idea of restoring the Federation from the incredibly weakened state it was in when we encountered it is far too important and interesting to be relegated to something that happens off-screen, and I felt even before Season 4 had aired a single episode that this concept offered so much scope for emotional, exciting, and varied storytelling. Discovery could hop to different planets, combining the inclusion of new and visually different alien races (like Season 4’s “butterfly” aliens) with the reintroduction of classic races.

Catching up with some of the factions we remember from past iterations of Star Trek is also something I’ve been wanting Discovery to do for two seasons now. We’ve caught glimpses of races like the Ferengi and Andorians, and heard others mentioned in dialogue and log recordings, but we haven’t actually spent a lot of time with practically any of them. Finding out what became of fan-favourites not only in the years after the Burn, but in the centuries before that event took place, is something that I think a lot of Trekkies would be interested in.

We caught glimpses of familiar races… but Discovery didn’t find time to explore most of them in any detail.

If the 32nd Century is going to be a major setting for the franchise going forward, this kind of world-building is important. Just like how The Next Generation laid the groundwork for Deep Space Nine through its introduction of the Cardassians and Bajorans, so too could Discovery introduce us to planets, races, and technologies that future spin-offs and Star Trek projects could expand upon.

Part of that world-building can be done in a serialised story that looks at how the Federation can be rebuilt in the aftermath of the disasters it has already faced; introducing another new disaster to avert or recover from is simply not needed at this point. From the point of view of the characters, throwing them into another extreme situation would also be problematic, and would take the storytelling close to soap-opera levels.

Owosekun, Saru, and Detmer.

Discovery has, to its credit, attempted to show how some of the events that its characters have gone through have impacted their mental health. Some of these stories have been underdeveloped – Detmer’s in Season 3 and Dr Culber’s in Season 4 being the most egregious examples. But even with this kind of attempted mental health focus, there’s a limit on what we could expect characters to go through and still be alright when they come out the other end.

To be fair, that’s a line that the Star Trek franchise has crossed in the past with characters like Miles O’Brien, for example, who seemed to survive a lot of traumatic events only to be back to normal the next week! But as shows like Picard have demonstrated with characters like Seven of Nine and Jean-Luc Picard himself, it can be incredibly cathartic to revisit some of these characters and give them meaningful, lasting development. But we’re drifting off-topic!

Captain Burnham in Season 4.

Star Trek’s galaxy is vast, and as we saw in Season 4 with the inclusion of races like the Abronians and Unknown Species 10-C, even in the 32nd Century there’s still a heck of a lot that Starfleet doesn’t know about it. There’s scope for Captain Burnham and the crew to get back to exploring for its own sake, as well as using their Spore Drive to reach parts of the galaxy that it would be difficult for the Federation to do otherwise. There’s the potential for the crew to bring hope to far-flung Federation outposts after the Burn, the Emerald Chain, and the DMA have had such a devastating impact… and it’s worthwhile telling stories like that.

Even if Season 5 doesn’t do much of that rebuilding or exploring, I’m still hopeful that whatever stories it chooses to tell won’t feel repetitive and won’t recycle the same basic story framework that we’ve seen throughout the show’s entire run to date. Discovery could do so much to expand our understanding of the Star Trek galaxy; even more so in a 32nd Century setting that is wholly unconstrained by prior canon. Shooting this far forwards in time was a great way for the show’s writers and producers to give themselves new opportunities to play in the vast sandbox that we call the Star Trek galaxy – so now would be a great time to take advantage of that.

As I look ahead to Season 5, I feel hopeful and optimistic. Season 4 had some problems, but generally it was an improvement over Season 3 and it ended in truly spectacular fashion. There’s potential for what comes next to build on that, and if the series can avoid retreading too much old ground, Season 5 could be Discovery’s best outing yet.

Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ where the platform is available and via a patchwork of video-on-demand and pay-to-view streaming platforms in the rest of the world. The series is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery theories – Season 4 finale

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Season 2, VoyagerEnterprise, and The Next Generation.

Discovery’s fourth season concluded just over a month ago, but for some reason I’d forgotten to wrap up my theory list! I blame the oversight on the excitement of Picard’s second season overlapping Discovery for the final few episodes… and, perhaps, the issues surrounding Strange New Worlds’ international broadcast. Regardless, we’re here now! So let’s get on with it, shall we?

In my review, I said that Coming Home was probably the high point of the season, and while the episode wasn’t perfect, it was a great way to bring an occasionally frustrating season to a close! Some of the complaints and criticisms that I made were more to do with Season 4 as a whole rather than Coming Home itself, and while we’ll touch on some of those points today, please stay tuned because I hope to write up my full thoughts on the entirety of Season 4 in the weeks ahead.

Coming Home was an explosive end to the season.

The theory list had grown quite long across Season 4, peaking in week 11 where I had 36 different theories in play – with varying levels of plausibility! By the time we got to the season finale that number had dipped somewhat, and there were 23 theories on the list going into Coming Home. I’ll be recapping each of them on this occasion, as well as three production-side theories that were also in play.

Keep an eye out for several of them to return in the run-up to Season 5, because a few theories that weren’t outright debunked (or even touched on at all for much of Season 4) still feel plausible and interesting to me!

For now, let’s start with the sole theory that was confirmed in the season finale. We’ll then look at the debunkings, the production-side theories, and the few that remain on the table going into Season 5.

Confirmed theory:
Book and Burnham got back together.

Burnham and Book embrace near the end of the episode.

This theory was one that I was desperately hoping would make it to screen! In short, the “Burnham relationship drama” angle that Season 4 pursued from shortly after the halfway point was one of the weakest narrative elements, one which felt gratuitous and overdone. I understand where it came from, and how it aimed to show how grief was leading Book down a dark path. But after everything Captain Burnham went through with Ash Tyler, seeing her settled and happy with Book was fantastic – and I greatly disliked how Discovery ripped that away.

The relationship drama storyline also trod on the toes of other potentially interesting stories. Discovery has always been the Michael Burnham show, and expecting that to change in Season 4 was unrealistic, perhaps. But even so, episodes like All In and Rubicon sidelined other stories and other characters to allow more time to be spent on Book and Burnham and the way they were feeling. For me, it was just too much – and one consequence of that was that some potentially-interesting story arcs, like Dr Culber’s mental health struggles, didn’t get as much development as they deserved.

When Book and Burnham reconciled at the end of Coming Home it really felt great – and I hope that their relationship will remain rock-solid for the remainder of the series’ run!

So that theory was confirmed.

Next, let’s run through the theories that were debunked as of the end of Coming Home.

Debunked theory #1:
Unknown Species 10-C is responsible for the galaxy’s dilithium supply running out.

Dilithium aboard the USS Discovery in Season 3.

This is the first of several theories that were connected to the events of Season 3. For whatever reason, though, Discovery’s focus shifted far away from the Burn in Season 4, with only a few mentions of the phenomenon and its consequences. The state of the galaxy in the aftermath of the Burn served as a backdrop to the events of the season, but in many ways the story could’ve unfolded in exactly the same way if the Burn had never happened or if we’d never come to know about it!

In short, I speculated that Unknown Species 10-C may have been mining the galaxy for dilithium in a similar way to how they used the DMA to mine for boronite. If so, perhaps they could have been behind the still-unexplained loss of dilithium supplies in the years leading up to the Burn. As it is, there was no connection – or at least, no connection was apparent as of the end of the season.

Debunked theory #2:
The Guardian of Forever will make an appearance.

The Guardian of Forever in The Animated Series.

The Guardian of Forever potentially opened up a completely different story trajectory for Burnham – and for Book and Tarka in particular. The events of Terra Firma in Season 3 seem to confirm that the Guardian can be a portal not only to travel through time but also to cross between universes. With Tarka hoping to cross over to a different parallel universe, the Guardian of Forever seemed like a plausible way for him to do so – potentially allowing everyone to get what they wanted.

As it is, Tarka’s story ended in an unspectacular fashion, and unfortunately I consider his storyline to be a bit of a waste. A fun, exciting, and nuanced character was set up earlier in the season, only to turn into a fairly flaccid and one-dimensional villain as the story reached its end. The Guardian of Forever was never mentioned, and Tarka presumably died when Book’s ship exploded.

Debunked theory #3:
Unknown Species 10-C is connected to a faction from Star Trek’s past.

A member of Unknown Species 10-C.

I clung on to my shrinking list of Unknown Species 10-C candidates for the longest time, but I was finally forced to give up on the idea of the mysterious race turning out to be someone familiar a couple of weeks before the season finale! However, even if Unknown Species 10-C were new to Star Trek, I theorised – with very little to back it up, I should say – that there could be some kind of connection to another faction from the franchise’s past.

It couldn’t be the Federation, nor almost any organic race, but it seemed possible to me that there could be a connection to someone like the Borg. If Unknown Species 10-C had been the victim of an attack by someone like the Borg, that could’ve explained their desire to hide away from the rest of the galaxy.

As it is, no connection was forthcoming. I fully expect Unknown Species 10-C to be a minor part of Season 5 (at best), so I doubt we’ll learn much more about them any time soon.

Debunked theory #4:
A major character will be killed.

A Starfleet coffin, draped with the flag of the Federation, as seen in Deep Space Nine.

Before the season began I took a look at the main characters and speculated about who may or may not be on the chopping block! As television storytelling has changed and evolved, particularly in the wake of shows with “disposable” casts like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, audience expectations have changed as well. I suggested several times throughout the season that Discovery giving its main characters some pretty heavy plot armour in the face of incredibly challenging missions and dangerous circumstances wasn’t a great look – and I kept this theory in play right up until the season’s final moments.

The fake-out over Book’s death wasn’t a problem, and I don’t want to single it out for criticism just because it was the final example of this phenomenon; I felt it worked well in Coming Home. But looking back at the season overall, there were multiple opportunities to kill off characters in meaningful and impactful ways, but Discovery’s writers chose not to. Even minor characters like Dr Pollard and Commander Bryce seem to have survived the season, and while Tarka was killed, as a villain his death doesn’t count in the same way.

A well-timed character death can do so much for a story, and I feel like Discovery dropped the ball on this one during Season 4.

Debunked theory #5:
Admiral Vance’s holo-message about Earth and Ni’Var was fake or has been tampered with.

Admiral Vance in Coming Home.

Although Coming Home absolutely stuck the landing and made the sequences at Federation HQ feel incredibly tense and emotional, I didn’t like the whole “Earth is in danger” story cliché that had been introduced in The Galactic Barrier. That trope isn’t just one that’s overused in stories like these, but it’s one that can fall flat and fail in its effort to ramp up the drama, tension, and excitement.

In short, we know in a story about Earth being in danger that Captain Burnham is going to find a way to save the day. If it were literally any other planet – Ni’Var, Qo’noS, Bajor, or wherever – there’d be a real sense of danger that Discovery could’ve repeated the shock of Kwejian’s destruction at the beginning of the season and blown up another planet! But because it was Earth, that never felt like a realistic prospect, and that potentially robbed the story of much of its drama.

I had speculated that someone might’ve faked the message about Earth being in danger, partly because I was hoping it wasn’t true and partly because I was wondering if there might be more going on at Federation HQ. But it turned out that the message was accurate, leading to the scenes at Federation HQ in Coming Home.

Debunked theories #6 & 7:
Unknown Species 10-C built the Galactic Barrier, and
Someone else built the Galactic Barrier to keep Unknown Species 10-C out.

The USS Discovery at the Galactic Barrier.

As we headed into the season finale, the Galactic Barrier was definitely fading out of sight, and as a result this theory was already feeling less likely. However, after much had been made of the Barrier earlier in the season, with an entire episode dedicated to crossing it, I wondered if we might learn more about this unusual phenomenon!

The Galactic Barrier had been introduced right at the beginning of The Original Series and had been mentioned on several occasions throughout Star Trek’s history. It served an interesting storytelling purpose, but we didn’t really learn much about it – including how it works or why it exists! There was scope to tie the Barrier’s existence to Unknown Species 10-C; their incredible engineering skills suggested that they could be responsible for its construction. Alternatively, I theorised that someone else might’ve constructed it in the past to prevent Unknown Species 10-C from attacking. Neither theory panned out, and it seems very unlikely we’ll revisit the Galactic Barrier next season, so I don’t expect this one to be picked up any time soon.

It would be interesting to learn more about the Galactic Barrier and where it came from, though.

Debunked theory #8:
There will be a character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.

Geordi and Scotty in Relics.

I’ve been sticking to my guns on this theory since well before Season 3, and a couple of years ago I even proposed a shortlist of characters who could still be alive in the 32nd Century. Thanks to technobabble, though, practically anyone from Star Trek could be included if the writers wanted to bring them on board.

There was also the possibility of Captain Burnham unearthing a hologram, recording, or log left behind by a long-gone character who might be familiar to us as the audience. While this would be less of a “crossover” in the same way, it could still be exceptionally fun.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen this season. I haven’t given up, though, so you can expect to see this one on my Season 5 theory list!

Debunked theory #9:
Book will find Kyheem and Leto inside the hyperfield.

Book with Leto and Kyheem in the season premiere.

One of my first thoughts about the DMA, long before it had a name and before the season had even aired, was that it could be related somehow to the Nexus from Star Trek: Generations. Then later, when we learned that the DMA had wormhole and transporter capabilities, sending material back to its point of origin, it seemed possible that maybe not everyone on Kwejian was as dead as we first assumed.

Just like Captain Picard was able to encounter Captain Kirk inside the Nexus, I wondered if Book might reach the hyperfield only to discover that Leto, Kyheem, and others from Kwejian had survived the destruction of their planet. It didn’t happen in the end, and in a way that’s a good thing because it would’ve undermined the powerful moment Book had when he spoke to Unknown Species 10-C and took them to task for their destruction.

Debunked theory #10:
Season 4 will connect with the Short Treks episode Calypso.

Craft and Zora dancing in Calypso.

Is Calypso destined to remain forever out of reach? After Seasons 3 and 4 both seemed to move toward a potential tie-in with the Short Treks outlier, once again the story came to an end with no connection in sight. While things like Zora’s development definitely tie in with the events of Calypso, other things, like the retrofit the ship went through in Season 3, have actually moved us away from the events of that short episode.

This is a tough one. I strongly suspect that Calypso was created at a time when Season 2 had a different ending – perhaps even as a kind of “epilogue” in the event of the whole series being cancelled. Its story of the ship being abandoned for a thousand years and an AI developing sentience from the ship’s computer feel quite far-removed from the stories told in Seasons 3 and 4, and realistically, unless a multi-episode arc can be written to bring Discovery and Calypso together, it may be destined to remain unresolved.

Debunked theory #11:
We haven’t seen the last of the Abronians.

Abronian stasis pods.

It’s a bit of a surprise to me that the Abronians – a race rescued from cryo-sleep by Captain Burnham, Tilly, and Dr Gabrielle Burnham in the episode Choose To Live – didn’t return later in the season. There were several different ways that they could’ve been included, even if they didn’t tie in with the main Unknown Species 10-C story.

Discovery doesn’t usually like to do wholly standalone side-stories like this, so all season long I was half-expecting to see the Abronians make a reappearance! Perhaps we’d learn that their homeworld had been destroyed by the DMA, or maybe they could’ve arrived to assist the Federation in an hour of need. Their massive planetoid-sized ship could’ve been incredibly useful during the evacuation of Earth and Ni’Var, for instance.

Debunked theory #12:
Tarka will create his own DMA.

Stamets, Tarka, and Saru with the DMA model.

If Tarka had been unable to find the DMA’s power source inside the hyperfield, I wondered if he’d resort to building his own DMA. We saw as far back as The Examples that he understood the basic principles involved and had been able to build a scale model. I speculated that maybe he would go on to build his own version.

This theory originally began when Tarka was on my list of suspects for creating the original DMA. That didn’t pan out, of course, but even going into the season finale it still seemed possible that he might try to build his own version of it.

Debunked theory #13:
Kayalise is the Kelvin universe.

The USS Kelvin, namesake of the Kelvin timeline.

In the weeks ahead I’d like to take a look at Ruon Tarka’s story in a bit more detail, as I feel that it started very strongly but went off the rails toward the end. For now, suffice to say that it’s disappointing that we didn’t learn more about Kayalise – the alternate universe that Tarka hoped to travel to.

I speculated that Kayalise could be the Kelvin timeline – it’s one of the only other parallel universes that we know of in Star Trek, it stands to reason that the Burn didn’t happen there, and Discovery had already dropped a Kelvin-timeline reference in Season 3. It could’ve been interesting to follow Tarka across the divide between universes… but it didn’t happen.

Debunked theory #14:
Oros is alive – and we’ll see him soon!

Oros.

Oros was a fun and interesting character, and it’s such a shame we only got to see him for a few flashback sequences in a single episode. There was scope to follow more of his story, and if Tarka’s storyline had ended in a more satisfying manner, a meet-up could’ve been on the cards.

I speculated that Tarka would successfully use his interdimensional transporter, or that a compromise could be found to allow him passage to Kayalise, and that he’d be able to reunite with his long-lost friend.

Overall, Oros’ inclusion in the story was an odd one. I feel that we were teased unnecessarily by the show keeping his name hidden for several episodes, and that encouraged speculation that this character might’ve been someone we’re already familiar with. For the heavily-teased character to make a single appearance and then never return was strange – and a bit of a let-down.

Debunked theory #15:
The interdimensional transporter works!

Tarka with the interdimensional transporter.

Though it was left somewhat ambiguous as Book’s ship met an explosive end, it seems pretty clear to me that the interdimensional transporter won’t be making a return to Star Trek anytime soon! Tarka held onto hope for the longest time that not only would his own model work, but that Oros’ original interdimensional transporter had as well.

There was scope, had the season ended in a different way, for the interdimensional transporter to be useful for Captain Burnham, too. If Unknown Species 10-C were native to a different dimension, for example, that could’ve been a way to tie the two halves of the story together. In a season that was all about diplomacy, compromise, and finding a middle ground, Captain Burnham could’ve traded with Tarka for the technology, and that’s just one example.

As it is, it seems like we’ll never know whether the interdimensional transporter even worked at all.

Debunked theory #16:
Michael Burnham won’t remain in command of the USS Discovery.

Captain Burnham with the President of United Earth at the end of Coming Home.

In short, I speculated that Discovery’s trend of having a different captain for every season might continue, and that the season could end with Captain Burnham either leaving Starfleet to be with Book, or accepting a new role within the organisation. To be clear, because I know there’s a lot of debate any time Captain Burnham is mentioned: I wasn’t in favour of this theory necessarily. I just thought it was a possibility, and a potentially interesting one at that!

In the end, the season drew to a close with Captain Burnham still in command, ready to tackle the next mission as the Federation continues to rebuild. And that was a great way for things to end!

So those theories were debunked!

There are a handful of theories that were connected to events in Season 3 that I also kept on the list this time, and none of those were really touched on at all. In addition, there are a couple of theories that I introduced in Season 4 that I still consider plausible for future seasons or stories. We’ll take a look at those briefly now.

Theory #1:
Saru will assume command of the USS Voyager-J.

Captain Saru.

The captaincy of the USS Voyager-J – seemingly the Federation’s new flagship – was discussed as the season drew to a close. President Rillak, who had determined Captain Burnham to be unsuitable for the role in the season premiere, changed her mind after the mission to Unknown Species 10-C’s hyperfield.

I had suggested that Saru embodies many of the qualities that President Rillak was looking for in a captain for the Voyager-J, and that he might assume command of the ship at the end of the season. There’s also the question of how Saru, who holds the rank of captain, will fit in with the command structure aboard the USS Discovery going forward; his presence as Captain Burnham’s XO this season was implied to be temporary.

Whether Saru has a major role to play in Season 5 or not, I’m keeping this one on the list at least for now.

Theory #2:
Who is Dr Kovich, and what is his role within the Federation hierarchy?

Dr Kovich.

I’m beginning to feel that Dr Kovich is seen by the show’s writers as a bit of a joke; a character who we’ve been teased with, but whose interesting-sounding lines and suggestions never go anywhere. The most egregious example of this has to be his line in The Galactic Barrier, where he spoke of having “more important things” to do than accompany the USS Discovery. What were those important things? The show never bothered to tell us.

Going all the way back to his first appearance in Season 3, Dr Kovich has been intriguing. Is he a Section 31 operative? The Federation Vice-President? Admiral Vance’s boss? We don’t know, and while Dr Kovich has occupied several different roles this season – counsellor, Starfleet Academy instructor, diplomat, etc. – we still don’t know who he is or what he’s all about.

I’d like to hope we’ll learn more about him in Season 5!

Theories #3 & 4:
We’ll learn more about the ban on time travel, and
Has the Federation violated the ban on time travel?

La Sirena prepares to use the sun to travel back in time in Star Trek: Picard.

The ban on time travel was introduced in Season 3, and there were narrative reasons for its inclusion. However, as I’ve said ever since we first learned about it: such a ban would be incredibly difficult to implement and enforce. I’d love to know more about how it works, how it’s enforced, and who’s responsible for preventing basically anyone with a starship from doing something like the “slingshot method.”

I also think it’s possible that the Federation itself (or perhaps an organisation like Section 31) has chosen to ignore the ban when it suited them, and again I’d be curious to learn if someone like President Rillak or Dr Kovich had greenlit some kind of time travel escapade.

Theory #5:
The USS Discovery will have to defend the Verubin Nebula.

The dilithium planet at the heart of the Verubin Nebula.

The Verubin Nebula is the galaxy’s only major source of dilithium (at least, as of the end of Season 3). With the Federation in control of this incredibly valuable resource, it stands to reason that other, more aggressive powers might seek to take it from them. Even if the Federation is willing to share its bounty with everyone, factions such as the Borg Collective, the Dominion, or the Klingon Empire may not be satisfied and may want to control the Verubin Nebula for themselves.

I speculated prior to Season 4 that the USS Discovery may be called into action to defend the Verubin Nebula from such an attack – and even though it didn’t happen this time, it’s still a possibility for Season 5!

Theory #6:
Some areas of the galaxy, such as the Delta Quadrant, avoided the worst effects of the Burn.

Stamets with a map of the galaxy.

The Burn was mentioned in Season 4, but never came to the fore in a major way. We still don’t know how far its impact reached, and what effects the Burn had on far-flung parts of the galaxy far away from the Verubin Nebula.

I speculated that some regions of the galaxy may have avoided the worst of the Burn, and maybe some areas didn’t even feel it at all. It could be very interesting to learn that a faction such as the Borg – who were mentioned in Discovery for the first time near the end of Season 4 – were unaffected. They might’ve been able to spend the last hundred years building up their forces for a major invasion!

Check out a full write-up of this theory by clicking or tapping here.

So those theories may return!

Finally, we had three production-side theories on the list as the season finale approached, and I’d like to take a look at those before we wrap things up.

Production-side theory #1:
The season will end on a cliffhanger.

This one is officially debunked! As the finale got closer and closer with seemingly a lot of different narrative threads still in play, I wondered if the season might’ve ended on a cliffhanger, with the story to be resumed in Season 5. It didn’t happen, though, and while not every storyline was brought to the perfect ending from my point of view, all of the main narrative threads were tied up by the time the credits rolled.

Star Trek has a history of season-ending cliffhangers, so this didn’t feel too far-fetched! Still, it will be nice to have a clean slate going into Season 5.

Production-side theory #2:
Tilly’s departure will be permanent.

Tilly’s departure.

This is still officially unconfirmed at time of writing. We don’t yet know whether Mary Wiseman will be returning in Season 5, and if she does return, whether she’ll be doing so as a main cast member or just making a cameo or guest appearance.

It was nice to have Tilly back for the scenes at Federation HQ in Coming Home, and I’m glad we got to spend a little more time with her. However, to me her decision in All Is Possible felt permanent, and taking up a new role at Starfleet Academy feels like a good fit for her. Undoing that development, and unravelling that interesting and fitting character arc, wouldn’t be my preference.

There’s also the possibility that the rumoured Starfleet Academy series could bring back Tilly in a major role. Either way, we’ll have to wait and see!

Production-side theory #3:
There will be a crossover of some kind with Picard Season 2.

Admiral Picard.

As you’ll know by now if you’ve watched both shows, no crossover between Picard and Discovery was forthcoming. This theory arose because Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4 overlapped one another by three weeks – something that I genuinely cannot explain. Paramount Global consistently makes these random, illogical decisions, and while it was fun to speculate about what a Picard-Discovery crossover could look like… now that the dust has settled I genuinely do not understand why it had to happen this way. Is it something to do with the fiscal year?

Given that Paramount+ remains unavailable in most of the world, and that Strange New Worlds’ premiere is now imminent, the scheduling makes even less sense. Delaying Picard’s second season by a measly three weeks would’ve bought a little more time for Paramount+ to be ready. Three weeks may not have made all the difference, but combine it with a short delay to Strange New Worlds and maybe it would’ve been possible for more Trekkies to watch the new series together.

I’m not disappointed that a crossover didn’t happen – though that could’ve been a lot of fun. But I am disappointed in Paramount and the inept way they’re handling the Star Trek franchise.

So that’s it!

A happy ending!

Thank you for sticking with me through Star Trek: Discovery Season 4. As the season wore on I did get some things right with my theories, even if some of my bigger ones – like the identity of Unknown Species 10-C – were wide of the mark.

Discovery Season 4 began in a truly awful corporate mess, with Paramount paying money out of its own pocket to try to take the show away from fans outside of the United States. Even in regions where Paramount+ was available, they originally planned to deny viewers access to Discovery Season 4. While I’m glad that the corporation recognised the backlash from fans and backtracked on those plans, it’s something I haven’t forgotten. With Strange New Worlds now in the same position, it’s clear to me that Paramount Global has learned nothing.

Federation HQ in orbit of Earth; the final shot of the season.

In the weeks ahead I’ll definitely write up a longer retrospective of the season. For now, suffice to say that it was a mixed bag, with some decent episodes and some that dragged. The main storyline – that of the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C – seemed to take a long time to reach its conclusion, feeling padded in places. However, the season finale brought things to a close in a very emotional, entertaining, and enjoyable way. Whatever I may have thought about parts of the ride, the destination in this case was worth the wait.

One final note. I write up these theories for fun! I like Star Trek and I like writing, so writing about Star Trek is an enjoyable endeavour for me. For some folks, though, fan theories can become problematic. It’s always worth trying to keep in mind that any fan theory, no matter how enjoyable and plausible it may seem, isn’t worth getting upset over. Most of the theories I come up with never make it to screen, and usually what unfolds on screen is better! If I ever found that theorising and speculating about Star Trek (or any other franchise) was beginning to harm my enjoyment, I’d stop – and I’d encourage anyone in that position to do the same.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is available on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Paramount’s cack-handed marketing strikes again…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for unreleased Star Trek episodes, including casting information for Strange New Worlds Season 2 and Picard Season 3. Spoilers are also present for Picard Seasons 1-2.

Today has been First Contact Day – the 5th of April is the date in 2063 when the Vulcans will arrive on Earth, as depicted in the film First Contact. First Contact Day has become somewhat of an “event” in the Star Trek fan community, with an entire digital broadcast being dedicated to it last year. This year there was nothing quite so big on the schedule, but there were still teases and hints from Paramount Global that the corporation would do something to mark the occasion.

I’ve given up on hearing anything about an international broadcast for Strange New Worlds, so that never seemed like a realistic prospect – though it’s probably the biggest request from non-American Trekkies at the moment. But I admit that I was curious about the prospect of some kind of announcement. There are other Star Trek projects being worked on behind-the-scenes, after all… could we be set for an announcement of something like the Starfleet Academy series, perhaps?

No, as it turned out.

No news about a Starfleet Academy series today.

Instead, what we got was the second announcement in a row from Paramount Global’s marketing department that just feels exceptionally poorly-timed. A couple of weeks ago, Paramount Global had clumsily dropped the news that Strange New Worlds Season 2 would feature the character of James T. Kirk in an unspecified capacity; an unnecessary overreaction to a single leaked photograph from the show’s ongoing production.

That announcement sent fans into overdrive, and Star Trek’s social media channels were overwhelmed with toxicity for a few days, as the threadbare announcement left many things unclear about Strange New Worlds – a series which hasn’t even aired a single episode yet. Announcing Kirk’s return to Star Trek was premature to say the least, and the way in which Paramount Global handled it left much to be desired.

A promotional photo of James T. Kirk in Strange New Worlds Season 2.

The corporation had a solid couple of weeks to learn lessons from the fiasco surrounding Kirk’s role in Strange New Worlds… but, as evidenced by another announcement put out today, their inept marketing team has learned absolutely nothing. To commemorate First Contact Day, Paramount Global released a teaser for Star Trek: Picard Season 3, announcing the reunion of most of the main cast members of The Next Generation.

The teaser trailer was smooth and well-composed. Unlike the first tease for Season 2 (which was shown off at last year’s First Contact Day digital event) it showed off a couple of clips of what at least appears to be actual footage from the new season. And the announcement that closed it out was clearly designed to get a lot of fans excited. But here’s the thing: we’re only halfway through Picard Season 2 right now, so the new teaser for Season 3 not only feels wholly unnecessary at this moment, but it opens up a lot of questions about the series that Paramount Global isn’t interested in addressing.

Picard holding a familiar combadge in the teaser.

I confess that I’m intrigued by the prospect of a reunion. The Next Generation was my own “first contact” with the Star Trek franchise and my way into becoming a Trekkie in the early 1990s. I’ve been a fan for more than three decades off the back of that series, and I always felt that there was scope for Picard to show us at least a glimpse of what other members of the crew of the Enterprise-D were up to. We’ve had some of that already across Seasons 1 and 2.

But I was also keen that Picard shouldn’t try to be “The Next Generation Season 8.” There are new characters, new storylines, and other new elements in play, and for the series to do justice to all of that – and to do right by the new characters – it had to keep its focus there and avoid the gratuitous overuse of classic characters. Season 1 generally struck the right balance in that regard; Season 2 has already sidelined two major new characters and, thus far at least, has underdeveloped and regressed a third.

The main cast of Star Trek: Picard.

The Season 3 announcement made no mention of the current Star Trek: Picard cast. While we now know that Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Marina Sirtis are joining the crew, we don’t know what that means for Evan Evagora, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Santiago Cabrera, Isa Briones, or even Jeri Ryan. Part of the fun of Picard has been seeing the Admiral working with a new crew, and I feel like we don’t know some of the new characters as well as we ought to at what is now the halfway point of the series’ three-season run.

Those new characters should be given the chance to become the next generation of fan-favourites. In thirty-five years’ time, it’s my firm hope that a new group of Trekkies will be talking as excitedly about the return of Elnor and Dr Jurati as we are about Worf and Dr Crusher. In a series that already has a limited number of episodes remaining, it’s hard to see how there will be enough time to deal with some pretty heavy stories and make sure each of the new characters gets enough screen time, especially if the entire crew of the Enterprise-D is reuniting.

What will become of characters like Elnor in Season 3?

There’s also the issue of spoilers. Now I know that it always seemed like a reasonable assumption that Picard would survive and that, somehow, he and the crew would make it back to the prime timeline! But we’re literally halfway through Season 2’s story right now, and there are a lot of different directions it could go and different ways that it could pan out. To drop a massive Season 3 announcement at this time was categorically the wrong thing to do, and it risks blunting the dramatic edge of the rest of Season 2.

We now know that Picard will make it back to the 25th Century, for example, which wasn’t necessarily a given in a franchise that loves season-ending cliffhangers. We also know that Picard will successfully restore the prime timeline as of the beginning of Season 3, which again was not guaranteed as of where we are in terms of the story of Season 2. And finally, it now seems that we can safely assume that Season 3 will be the beginning of a new story, not the continuation of an ongoing one.

Jonathan Frakes as Captain Riker in the Season 3 teaser.

All of these things colour how we’ll watch the second half of Season 2 over the next five weeks. And I can’t help but feel that a significant chunk of the show’s tension and drama has been stolen by this ill-timed announcement. There will undoubtedly be twists and turns along the way as Picard and the crew of La Sirena rumble with Q and Dr Adam Soong, but one way or another everything will work out – Picard will make it home, the crew of the Enterprise-D will reunite for one last mission, and then… who knows.

If this announcement had come at the end of Season 2, I’d still have some of the same concerns about the current Picard cast (well, unless they’re all killed off, stranded in the past, or otherwise clearly written out of the series) but at least it would feel like the right time to make it. The halfway point of Season 2 was not the right time for this announcement, just like the timing of the James T. Kirk announcement wasn’t right prior to Season 1 of Strange New Worlds.

The Next Generation main cast will be returning.

It seems to me that Paramount Global knew that they didn’t have anything major to announce at First Contact Day this time around. Discovery Season 5 hasn’t entered production yet, Strange New Worlds has already released teasers and trailers over the past few weeks, and while there was perhaps scope to do something with Lower Decks Season 3 or the second half of Prodigy, it was evidently decided by someone higher up that a major announcement was necessary. I don’t see any reason why that should be the case; First Contact Day this year could’ve been dedicated to the upcoming Strange New Worlds and the second half of Picard Season 2, but there we are.

Maybe I’m still sour off the back of the Strange New Worlds situation, but I’m not as excited by this announcement as I feel I should be. The timing of it just seems incredibly wrong, hot on the heels of another self-inflicted wound with the Kirk debacle. And it opens some uncomfortable questions about the fates of the current main cast members of Picard.

All things considered, I wish that Paramount Global could’ve at least waited until the end of Picard Season 2 before making this announcement. Doing so now doesn’t seem right, for the reasons outlined above. While I’m intrigued by what has been teased, right now I can muster curious interest, tinged with more than a little concern, rather than the outright excitement that this announcement was trying to generate.

Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, Strange New Worlds, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Strange New Worlds: I just can’t get excited…

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Seasons 1-2, Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

I’ve had a hard time lately knowing what to say about Strange New Worlds. When the series was officially announced just under two years ago, I had high hopes and it rocketed to the top of the list of TV shows that I was most excited to see. Even as 2022 approached, this was the mindset that I had. After the phenomenal portrayals of Captain Pike, Spock, and Number One in Discovery Season 2, I was among the fans who wrote to Paramount Global (then known as ViacomCBS) about getting a Captain Pike spin-off series, and Strange New Worlds’ very existence is the result of a powerful fan campaign that brought together Trekkies from all across the world. I’ve been proud of the small role I played in that.

But as the show’s premiere approaches, Paramount Global has completely screwed up. It became apparent late last year, when Prodigy Season 1 and then Discovery Season 4 were denied international broadcasts, that Strange New Worlds would follow suit, and I said as much back in November when the Discovery debacle was unfolding. And now, with barely five weeks to go before Strange New Worlds makes its debut in the United States, there’s been radio silence from Paramount Global about an international broadcast.

It’s time to talk about Paramount Global again.

Let’s get one thing straight right now: this lack of information and refusal to engage with fans and audiences isn’t merely something that might hurt Strange New Worlds’ chances in the future. Paramount Global’s blinkered “America First” policy is hurting the show right now. For every fan whose question is left unanswered, anxiety and apathy about the series grow. Instead of Trekkies and viewers all around the world being able to chatter excitedly on social media and in fan clubs, the discussion is suppressed. Everyone remembers the Discovery Season 4 clusterfuck and how damaging that was to both Star Trek as a brand and the Star Trek fan community – and people are being cautious, talking less about Strange New Worlds for fear of stoking arguments.

Because we live in a globalised world, it’s no longer possible for big entertainment companies or streaming platforms to region-lock their content. Doing so is incredibly stupid, harming the prospects of a series and practically guaranteeing it won’t live up to its potential. How many more viewers might Lower Decks have picked up if it had been broadcast internationally in its first season? We will never know – the chance to get untold numbers of new eyes on the Star Trek franchise for the first time in years was wasted.

A representation of how we’re all connected in a globalised world.

When a show is cut off and its audience segregated geographically – as seems all but certain to happen with Strange New Worlds – that has a knock-on impact that the out-of-touch and out-of-date leaders at Paramount Global seem totally unaware of. With the Star Trek fanbase being large and international, millions of people will miss out on Strange New Worlds – and as a result, they won’t talk about the series on social media. Hashtags won’t trend, posts about the series will reach far fewer people, and even within the United States, Strange New Worlds will suffer as its social media hype bubble deflates – or never inflates to begin win.

This is the real harm of this stupid, blinkered “America First” approach. By refusing to engage with fans, we’re left to assume that the reason for that is because the news is bad. As a result, millions of Trekkies aren’t talking about Strange New Worlds, just as they didn’t talk about Lower Decks or Prodigy. In the absolutely critical few weeks before the series premieres, when hype should be growing and excitement reaching fever-pitch… it just isn’t.

Paramount Global is refusing to engage with fans from outside of the United States.

Why should we, as Trekkies outside of the United States, bother to engage with Paramount Global on Strange New Worlds – or on any other Star Trek property, come to that? If we’re constantly treated as second-class, even in regions where Paramount+ is available, what’s the point in continuing to support the series or the franchise? I’m left in the position of actively willing Strange New Worlds to underperform at the very least. Maybe then, Paramount Global would begin to understand.

I’m all for supporting actors, writers, directors, and other creative folks. But they’ve already been paid for the work they did on Strange New Worlds, and moreover a second season has already been confirmed and entered production. So to the folks who say that they’ll pay to use a VPN to subscribe to the American version of Paramount+, or who plan to wait diligently for the service to be rolled out internationally, I have to ask: how are fans supposed to protest? How are we supposed to share our anger and frustration with Star Trek’s corporate overlords if not by voting with our feet and our wallets?

Season 2 is already underway.

This article began life as a breakdown of the Strange New Worlds trailer that was released a couple of weeks ago. But as I started writing, I soon realised that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sit here and happily ignore the corporate bullshit and the incredibly poor way that Paramount Global has treated its biggest fans and biggest supporters. I couldn’t just pay lip service to the problems with a line or a paragraph and then get chatting about Pike’s beard or the Enterprise at warp. I’ve lost my excitement for this series.

A few weeks ago I managed to get a print of the Strange New Worlds poster. It’s framed alongside my Picard Season 2 poster, and it overlooks my workspace where I sit to write these columns and articles. But even that was stupidly difficult, because Paramount Global didn’t make the poster available for purchase in the UK. I had to get a custom print of it ordered from a print shop. Just another way that Paramount Global is content to damage its own marketing, cutting off its biggest fans because of where we happen to live.

The poster in landscape form with the addition of the show’s logo.

Considering the position we’re currently in, the scheduling of Discovery Season 4, Picard Season 2, and even Prodigy feels incredibly weird and inept; another example of Paramount Global fucking things up. Why did Discovery Season 4 and Picard Season 2 overlap by three weeks? And why is Strange New Worlds scheduled to overlap with Picard as well? Delaying both projects by literally just a few weeks might’ve given Paramount+ more time to get ready for an international launch. We’ve been promised the service by the end of June and Strange New Worlds premieres in early May… if Paramount+ is still on schedule, can’t Strange New Worlds be delayed by five or six weeks so that more fans can watch it together? Where would be the harm in that from Paramount Global’s perspective?

On top of all that, as Season 1’s marketing campaign was just getting started we had a really stupidly-timed Season 2 announcement: the casting of a new actor to play James T. Kirk. I didn’t like the fan reaction in some quarters, with a lot of folks being incredibly critical and some of that criticism spilling over into hurtful remarks directed toward the actor – my firm belief is that we need to give Paul Wesley a chance to show us what he can do, and we need to be patient to learn more about the storyline (or storylines) that Kirk may be involved with. But I have to admit, I understand where the backlash came from… and it’s yet another indication of how poorly Paramount Global has handled this new series.

I was disappointed that some Trekkies attacked actor Paul Wesley… but this premature announcement was a stupid own-goal from Paramount Global.

There was no need to announce Kirk’s role this early. There had been a single leaked on-set photo showing actor Paul Wesley as an unnamed character, and there was no reason whatsoever for Paramount Global to comment on it. They could have said something like “that’s a secret for now, but stay tuned for Season 1!” and left it at that. Some fans would’ve speculated, some had already guessed that the character was James T. Kirk before the official announcement was made. But confirming it just made things worse, and turned an already depressed and underwhelming conversation around the new series positively toxic for a few days.

One way or another, I’m going to watch Strange New Worlds – and you can interpret that however you’d like! But what I won’t do is talk about the series here on the website or on social media. If Paramount Global doesn’t make it available here, why should people like me comment on the series or give it publicity? In my own small way, I plan to have a communications blackout – shutting down a portion of the conversation around the series and directing attention away from Paramount Global. I’d love to see others get on board and do the same thing – a full-fledged blackout would be symbolic of the fanbase coming together to tell a greedy American corporation that its behaviour is not acceptable. If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, that shouldn’t feel out of place at all!

A Strange New Worlds blackout would be unfortunate, but I would argue it’s necessary.

But it’s unlikely to happen, sadly. A lot of fan websites and social media groups work hand-in-glove with Paramount Global and wouldn’t want to risk losing their access or their freebies that the corporation provides them. So we’re in a difficult, unpleasant situation once again, with echoes of the Discovery Season 4 mess all over again. And I don’t know how to navigate it, I really don’t. I feel like I want to stick to my principles and do whatever I can, in whatever small way, to stick the boot into Paramount Global. I also feel that someone needs to make a stand on behalf of fans around the world who can’t access the series because we’ve been so callously cut off.

But I can also understand the argument that we should be supporting a series that was originally brought about thanks to a fan campaign – a campaign I participated in. And, of course, I’m aware that I’m such a small outlet that on my own I can’t make much difference.

Fans have been waiting for the next chapter of Captain Pike’s story for almost three years.

Maybe Paramount Global will surprise me with Paramount+ in time for the show’s premiere. Or maybe they’ll do the right thing and delay it if Paramount+ won’t be ready… but I’m not holding my breath. Right now it feels like we’re on course for a repeat of the Discovery mess, and the only thing I can do in this situation is refuse to cover the series at all. That isn’t the stance I wanted to take. I wanted to be spending this time talking with you about the minute details that I noticed in the trailer, or speculating about what role Kirk might play. But I can’t. And if Strange New Worlds doesn’t get broadcast here or in other parts of the world in a few weeks’ time, don’t expect to see any reviews, theories, or discussion here on the website.

I’m tired, and I feel like I can’t keep doing this. Star Trek is supposed to be fun; an escape from the realities of life. As someone who’s disabled and has mental health struggles, I need the positivity and fun that a show like Star Trek can bring. I’m not cut out for this kind of constant negativity, shouting and screaming at Paramount Global to get its fucking act together. It’s depressing and disappointing that we’re here again.

This is where I’d usually tell you where to watch Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and tell you that it’s the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery review – Season 4, Episode 13: Coming Home

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

I cried a lot while watching Coming Home. It was an incredibly emotional episode, one that hit all of the notes that it was aiming for and brought the season to a close in style. We can say definitively that Season 4 ended on a high, having saved the best for last. In fact, Coming Home might just be the best episode of the entire season!

From almost the first minute, the emotional punches started coming – and they didn’t let up until the epilogue. Captain Burnham and the entire crew went on a rollercoaster ride as they battled to stop Tarka, to get Unknown Species 10-C to listen, and to save Earth and Ni’Var from destruction. The episode was well-paced, with plenty of energy to keep things exciting but without ever feeling rushed. And there were some wonderful visual effects and animation work as we finally got an unobscured look at Unknown Species 10-C.

A group of Unknown Species 10-C.

I had a wonderful time with Coming Home, and thinking about Season 4 as a whole, the finale is one of the strongest offerings. That contrasts with Season 3, where the end of the Burn’s story felt like a non-sequitur, if not an outright letdown. In that respect, it’s nice to see that Discovery has grown, adapted, and perhaps even taken on board some of the feedback received about the Burn and Season 3 in general. The creative team can be pleased, I think, that they did a better job this time around.

All that being said, there are some issues that are raised by Coming Home. The episode itself was great, and even some of the storylines that I’d been less invested in were paid off in emotional style. But thinking about the episode as the concluding chapter of a thirteen-episode season, I do have some complaints about absences, about characters who weren’t well-used, and about specific storylines that didn’t get the kind of payoff I’d been hoping for. While these points don’t detract from a wonderful and emotional episode in Coming Home, they do count against Season 4 as a whole.

Dr Hirai was a character with potential who felt sadly underused this season.

In the weeks ahead I’d like to do a retrospective of the season, and when I do I’ll go into more detail about some of these complaints. But with Coming Home being the season finale, I’d be remiss not to mention them here. This was the last chance for Discovery to do something significant with some of these narrative points – especially when considering that Season 5 will almost certainly go in a different direction.

Ruon Tarka’s abrupt turnaround from an understandable and even sympathetic character to a bold-faced villain was not handled particularly well, and while Coming Home went some way toward reversing that and bringing back some of the nuance that had made him such an interesting character in the first place, it came too late. Tarka’s story – much like Tarka himself in his final moments – ran out of road, and ended in an unspectacular and unsatisfying fashion, with no real payoff to his quest to reach Oros and Kayalise.

Tarka met his end in an unsatisfying way.

The scenes between Tarka and Book were beautifully constructed, and the raw emotion that both David Ajala and Shawn Doyle brought to screen is undeniable. The performances were fantastic, and Coming Home found enough time to show off these moments despite having plenty of other narrative beats to get through.

Despite that, however, the damage to Tarka’s characterisation had already been done. The complex and nuanced character that we met in The Examples, half a season ago, had been developed slowly over several episodes. His desire to use the power source at the heart of the DMA was explained through a series of flashbacks that introduced us to his long-lost friend Oros… and it feels like none of that really went anywhere. There were the ongoing themes of grief and loss that have been running since Season 3, and I guess we could argue that Tarka represents a different kind of reaction to those things than other characters. But even then, this side of the story doesn’t feel particularly strong.

Tarka with the interdimensional transporter shortly before his death.

It was nice to see that, in his final moments, Tarka seemed to come around to Book’s way of thinking. As he stood on the wrecked bridge of Book’s ship, awaiting the inevitable, he’d taken several steps back toward being the complex character that we believed him to be in his earlier appearances, and I do appreciate that. It wasn’t that there wasn’t time to pay off Tarka’s well-established story. It’s just that Discovery chose not to.

This was a story that, at the end of the day, didn’t need Tarka. It didn’t need a villain to be outsmarted and killed in the final act; all the pieces were in place for a story of first contact with Unknown Species 10-C that was tense, interesting, and engaging without him. There was more than enough drama and excitement in that premise to make Tarka’s addition unnecessary; fluff to pad out a season-long story that I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling had been padded out far more than it should’ve been.

Tarka was ultimately the villain of the season… but he didn’t need to be.

Season 4 could have been structured differently, with the Tarka and Unknown Species 10-C stories going in different directions. If one story had concluded around the time of the mid-season break, the second half of the season could’ve followed another related but separate story… and when both sides of the story were overstretched by running for as many episodes as they did, perhaps that would’ve been preferable.

But that’s less about Coming Home than it is about the structure of the season as a whole! Despite my waning interest in the Book and Tarka story, Coming Home pulled out a complex and emotional ending for both characters. It wasn’t the way I would’ve necessarily hoped for nor chosen, but once the decision had been made to kill off Tarka in this way and to have the fake-out over Book’s death, Discovery executed it about as well as possible.

Tarka and Book caught in an explosion.

Going into the finale there were genuine concerns for Book and Reno’s survival. While a fifth season has been confirmed, neither character was guaranteed to appear in it, and there was a real possibility that one or both could’ve died as Tarka tried to execute an increasingly desperate (and, sadly, an increasingly nonsensical) plan. When it came to the moment of Book’s apparent death, it thus felt like he was really gone; there was no part of me saying “this is all just a fake-out.” And again, this was one of many emotional punches that Coming Home set up and delivered perfectly.

Book’s survival was also kept hidden by the story – we weren’t immediately shown him alive with Unknown Species 10-C – which kept things going as other storylines played out. As a fake-out, I think it worked pretty well. It made Book’s return in a pillar of light feel genuinely wonderful, and took Captain Burnham on a rollercoaster that allowed Sonequa Martin-Green to really show off her emotional range. Both as a story point and on the technical side of things, it worked well for Coming Home.

Book was saved by Unknown Species 10-C.

But, as I’ve found myself saying numerous times as the season has worn on, it means that Discovery has yet again given all of its characters some pretty serious plot armour. In an individual episode we can forgive that a near-death situation resulted in survival, or that an apparently-dead character like Book was safe all along. But when we consider the season overall, no one aside from Tarka was actually killed. Despite the incredibly dangerous situations that the crew found themselves in, and despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them by Unknown Species 10-C, the DMA, Tarka, and everything else they went through, they all survived.

Television storytelling has moved on since Star Trek’s early days – something that the very nature of Discovery is itself testament to. To run an entire season this way – with another “galaxy-ending” calamity for the crew to deal with, which they all survive – risks diminishing the threat felt in future stories. If we as the audience can feel confident that everyone will be fine, no matter what else is happening or how badly the ship seems to be blowing up, that robs the show of a significant portion of the excitement, tension, and drama that its storylines have done an otherwise good job at creating. Book’s fake-out “death” isn’t the problem in and of itself; it’s a symptom of a much bigger issue – the obvious lack of willingness on the part of Discovery’s writers to allow even the most minor of tertiary characters to be killed off. In 2022 that’s out-of-date, and it’s a storytelling mistake that will have to be addressed in future.

Book survived… and so did everyone else.

The whole “Earth is in danger” angle is a trope that I wish hadn’t been brought into the story this season. It’s such a played-out cliché, and it’s one which, as I noted a couple of episodes ago when it was introduced, risks making the end of the story feel formulaic. It was obvious two episodes back that Discovery wasn’t going to allow the destruction of Earth and Ni’Var in the final act of Season 4, so unfortunately I went into Coming Home with that expectation firmly embedded in my mind.

That doesn’t mean that the route to saving Earth was easy, and on the Federation HQ side of the story with Tilly and Admiral Vance there were some absolutely wonderful moments. The swooping arrival of the USS Mitchell – named for Discovery actor Kenneth Mitchell – hit all of the right notes for me, echoing moments like the Enterprise-E’s dramatic entrance during the Battle of Sector 001 in First Contact. In fact, all of the evacuation sequences worked well, and after her departure earlier in the season it was nice to welcome back Tilly – however briefly.

The USS Mitchell arrived to save the day!

I’d have liked to have seen something earlier in the season to perhaps set up some kind of dynamic between Vance and Tilly, and that would really be my only criticism. The two didn’t feel like they had natural chemistry; I was acutely aware of the difference in status between the head of Starfleet and a character who, until a few episodes ago, was a lowly ensign. The two performers did well to sell it, but had we seen Tilly offered her role at Starfleet Academy by Vance, not Kovich, back in All Is Possible, I think we would’ve had some kind of baseline for their relationship. This would’ve let us see how far they’d come to be able to sit together and share a drink as they awaited what seemed to be the inevitable.

That said, I liked the evacuation sequences. In fact, this part of Coming Home might actually be my favourite – surpassing the meeting with Unknown Species 10-C, and definitely beating out the conclusion to Tarka’s story. There’s something about a doomed, heroic “last stand” that always gets me no matter how it’s played, and for Vance and Tilly, they knew that they didn’t have any control over the DMA situation. They had to do their jobs knowing there was nothing they could do to prevent what was happening – they were relying entirely on Captain Burnham and the USS Discovery.

Admiral Vance led the evacuation efforts.

That setup led to a real unexpected highlight. I maintain it would still have worked were it not Earth in the firing line, but setting aside that particular narrative gripe, the scenes at Federation Headquarters were pitch-perfect. Seeing Federation HQ warp in to offer to help, even though Earth was not a member of the Federation, really epitomises what the Federation is all about. That is the spirit of Star Trek, in many ways: offering to help while asking nothing in return. The DMA placed Earth in danger, and Starfleet rode in to help without even having to think twice.

Admiral Vance and Tilly both came to embody that Federation spirit in these sequences, and they gave it their all to get as many people to safety as they possibly could. Choosing to remain behind to cover the escape of the final ships was just the perfect end for both of them – and something I could absolutely see both of them being willing to do. As they sat down, knowing they’d given their all, and shared a drink, I was absolutely blown away by this unexpected and wonderful addition to Coming Home.

Tilly and Admiral Vance sharing a drink.

We also got to spend a little more time with some of Tilly’s cadets from All Is Possible. After those characters fell somewhat flat in that story, it seems like at least some of them have grown into their roles as Starfleet cadets, which was nice to see. It wasn’t a huge part of this side of the story, but it was a neat way to include something that had been established earlier in the season.

There was, unfortunately, a gaping hole on this side of the story. It wasn’t really apparent until Coming Home was drawing to a close, and it didn’t detract from the way any of these incredibly emotional moments felt as they unfolded. But in retrospect I have to ask: where was Dr Kovich? Is he just a gag character now, someone whose lines tease stories that sound interesting but go nowhere? Because that’s what it feels like. After Dr Kovich’s line in The Galactic Barrier that he had “more important things” to do than make first contact with the species who built the DMA, I was hoping that Discovery would pay that off somehow… but it didn’t happen.

What happened to Dr Kovich?

We’ll deal more with the Dr Kovich situation when I take a look back at the season as a whole, but suffice to say that his absence from this part of the story was noticeable, and several threads that seemed to tease that he was working on something interesting with Lieutenant Commander Bryce ultimately just went nowhere. This isn’t a situation like the Picard Season 1 finale, either, where the meandering story of the season ran out of road and didn’t have enough time to pay off its stories… this was a conscious choice on the part of Discovery’s writers. They teased us with Dr Kovich all season long, feeding us little crumbs of information that seemed to set up something about his character… and then just dropped it, perhaps with a snide laugh behind their hands, in the finale.

As the episode wrapped up, it seemed as though Discovery had one last surprise up its sleeve. As the President of United Earth was about to arrive, I wondered if we might be about to see Dr Kovich when the doors wooshed open – if not, perhaps a character from a past iteration of the series. When it was revealed to be a new character I wasn’t disappointed; it seemed as if the point the series was making with the buildup to her reveal was that the President of the Federation, the President of United Earth, and the Captain of Discovery are all women, which I thought was a neat way to go.

I had no idea who this was at first!

But there was more to it that, as a non-American, I missed at first! The President of United Earth was played by Stacey Abrams, an American politician and writer who’s been quite politically active on the left wing of US politics. This casting choice is interesting – and perhaps a little provocative! There will be people on the conservative side of things who will feel upset, and Discovery knew this well in advance of casting this character. Doing so was a way for the series to really emphasise its progressive principles, which have been front-and-centre just as they’ve always been in Star Trek.

Star Trek is no stranger to cameos and stunt castings, before anyone jumps in to say that this one is somehow different because of who it is. The King of Jordan had a cameo in Voyager once upon a time, and there have been real-life astronauts, scientists, and other celebrities who’ve all joined in for guest-starring roles. Considering that Stacey Abrams is, as far as I’m aware anyway, a newbie to acting, I think she did a wonderful job!

The President and the President shake hands.

I adored this scene with the President of United Earth. Set aside the casting for a moment, because the content of the scene made a huge impact on me. Coming Home had already been a hugely emotional story, so seeing Earth rejoin the Federation after two seasons outside it was pitch-perfect. Stacey Abrams and Sonequa Martin-Green excelled in their moments together, and what resulted was an optimistic and emotional high to bring the episode – and the season – to a conclusion.

There are some interesting real-world parallels that the casting of someone like Stacey Abrams arguably hammers home. After the United States had pursued a nativist, isolationist policy for four years, the country is stepping away from that. United Earth rejoining the Federation could be viewed as symbolic of America’s return to the world stage. From a British perspective, it could be seen as a hope for the UK one day rejoining the European Union after the Brexit referendum. Star Trek has always used its sci-fi setting to look at real-world issues, and those are just a couple of possible ways we can interpret this emotional and uplifting end to the season.

Captain Burnham and the President of United Earth.

We’ve come all this way but we still haven’t talked about Unknown Species 10-C! The visual effects used to create one of the most “alien” races ever seen on screen in Star Trek were excellent, though I would caveat that by saying that the meeting place being a carbon copy of the ruin visited in Rosetta detracted a little from the way things looked. Recycling sets has been something that the Star Trek franchise has always done, but this moment was the crux of a season-long story, and I think more could’ve been done to give Unknown Species 10-C’s new home a new look, even if it was just in a minor way through changes and tweaks. It’s been a millennium since they lived on the planet seen in Rosetta, so if for no other reason than the passage of time we might’ve expected it to look slightly different.

That being said, I liked Unknown Species 10-C both in appearance and in concept. Star Trek has a long history of showing us alien races that look only slightly different to humans – and in some cases are completely identical! That’s never been a problem for me; I think it’s part of the suspension of disbelief that one has to have when stepping into the Star Trek galaxy. However, the rise of modern CGI and animation, combined with new technologies like Discovery’s AR wall, mean that some very different aliens can be created and can be blended with real actors. This blend was seamless in Coming Home – as it has been, with only a few exceptions, all season long.

A member of Unknown Species 10-C.

The story of bridging a communication divide is honestly one that I could’ve spent longer on. Much of the legwork had been done in Species Ten-C last week, so we got less of the minutiae that a “learning to understand one another” story can provide. But what we did get was interesting, and we got to see how Unknown Species 10-C didn’t mean to do anything wrong – their scans didn’t indicate that there were sentient life-forms in the areas that the DMA hit.

In that sense, we have a comparable situation to the Burn in Season 3. Unknown Species 10-C weren’t some horrible invading alien for Starfleet to heroically defeat; what happened was a genuine accident, one that they regret. That may not be enough for someone like Book, who lost his home, his family, and his entire race… but it’s a different ending, one that many other sci-fi franchises wouldn’t have even considered. Discovery pulled it off, and while the story leading up to it was imperfect and padded, it worked.

A representative of Unknown Species 10-C conveys their regret to the assembled crew and delegates.

However, Discovery has now run four seasons with some variation of the “major galactic threat” storyline, and I think that framework needs a break. Not every story has to be about the entire galaxy, Earth, and the whole Federation being in danger – there can be just as much drama, tension, excitement, and emotion from stories that are smaller in scale. Just because a story doesn’t threaten life as we know it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter, and how we as the audience respond to a story begins with the way the characters we’re invested in respond to it. So consider this a plea to all of Discovery’s writers and producers: try something different in Season 5!

I enjoyed the performance from Chelah Horsdal as President Rillak. For practically the whole season I couldn’t tell if we were going to get a “bad Admiral” type of character turn; President Rillak certainly seemed to have a Machiavellian edge that could have made for a wonderfully complex antagonist. In Coming Home, though, we got to see the culmination of her diplomatic efforts and her leadership of the Federation, both through the way the DMA threat came to an end and through Earth rejoining the organisation – something that had been one of her major objectives.

President Rillak speaking with Unknown Species 10-C.

For what feels like the first time this season, Stamets had more than just a couple of lines. It was a shame that he couldn’t be present at the meeting with Unknown Species 10-C; I’d have rather seen him there with Dr Culber and Adira to stand alongside Captain Burnham than some of the secondary bridge characters, really. But it was still nice to see Stamets and his family coming together at the climax of the story, and how Dr Culber forfeited his own chance to go on the away mission to be with them.

Stamets and Culber formed Discovery’s emotional core in the first season and the third, with a disappointing foray into a relationship squabble in the second. But aside from a few smaller scenes, neither character really seemed to have all that much to do in Season 4. With Gray’s story brought to a conclusion early on, in the episode Choose To Live, the family dynamic changed, but Stamets missed practically all of that. In fact, his only scene with Gray all season that I can recall was when Gray left to return to Trill. In short, I was glad to welcome back Stamets in Coming Home, and thrilled to see him bonding again with Culber and Adira… but the reason why it felt so great is because I’m aware of how absent moments like that had been all season long.

Adira, Dr Culber, and Stamets.

I was not a big fan of the Burnham-versus-Book relationship drama angle that began in But To Connect earlier in the season. It didn’t work for me, and I felt that the focus on Burnham and Book’s emotions, particularly in episodes like All In and Rubicon, came at the expense of other characters and other story developments. It was cathartic, then, to see the two finally reconcile in Coming Home, and I’m glad that the season didn’t end with their relationship left in question.

Because of the timing of Book’s fake-out “death,” it could have ended there and still felt satisfactory; Captain Burnham would’ve known that Book loved her, and his actions in his final moments would’ve been trying to stop Tarka and prevent an escalation of the damage he’d already done. That could’ve worked – but I’m glad that Book lives to fight another day and that they got to have a proper sit-down together and a proper reunion on Unknown Species 10-C’s planet. After a storyline that shook things up too much for my taste, a proper resolution that has hopefully set the stage for a rock-solid relationship between them in Season 5 was the least bad outcome.

Captain Burnham and Book embrace.

I enjoyed the speeches both Captain Burnham and Book gave to Unknown Species 10-C, and it was great that they were able to find a way to connect with a species that could have been “too different” to bridge the divide. Book’s speech after his resurrection was remarkable, and the emotion packed into each and every word resonated. David Ajala has done a great job all season long conveying Book’s grief and sense of loss, and he brought everything to bear in this scene as he came face-to-face with the race who killed his family and destroyed his home. It was heart-wrenching to watch.

Captain Burnham’s speech was likewise packed with emotion, particularly as she was still reeling from the shock of Book’s apparent death. This was definitely one of Sonequa Martin-Green’s best moments of the season, as Captain Burnham finally made contact with the enigmatic race. She had to convince them that they needed to stand down – and with just moments remaining, she was able to do so.

Captain Burnham spoke to Unknown Species 10-C.

General Ndoye, who had been responsible for Tarka’s escape during the events of the previous episode, stepped up and admitted what she had done. She presented a strength of character that I wasn’t expecting given how she’d been roped into Tarka and Book’s conspiracy. The idea that the first contact mission was progressing but was sabotaged by people who were unwilling to wait was an angle that was potentially interesting – but it didn’t need to go to such extremes, perhaps.

Still, I liked General Ndoye. Phumzile Sitole played the character with a kind of hard-nosed pragmatism, and although General Ndoye was in the wrong from Captain Burnham’s point of view, it’s only because we as the audience could see what was happening that we realised that. Ndoye acted in what she believed to be Earth’s best interests based on the information she had available – she was never a villain nor an antagonist, and she remained in that complex space even while Tarka was being transformed into an out-and-out villain last week.

General Ndoye.

A few scattered thoughts before we wrap things up:

  • Coming Home contained the first mention of the Borg in Discovery… could that be setting up something to come in Season 5, or perhaps some kind of tie-in with Picard? I can’t help but wonder! Seeing Captain Burnham go toe-to-toe with the Borg would be delicious!
  • Dr Hirai felt sidelined once again, contributing relatively little to the story. This character feels like a waste of potential – someone interesting whose role on the mission made sense, but who was underused and who underwhelmed in the few appearances he made.
  • The destruction of Book’s ship feels like it could be symbolic… but I’m struggling to find the intended symbolism considering that Discovery will presumably bring him back in Season 5, and the show didn’t exactly go through a soft reboot at the end of the season.
  • Unknown Species 10-C definitely gave me a “sea monster” vibe.
  • It was so sweet that Saru and T’Rina finally got together!
A happy ending for T’Rina and Saru!
  • Shutting down the hyperfield, which Unknown Species 10-C had been running for a millennium, seemed a bit quick right at the end.
  • It would’ve been interesting to see Captain Burnham having to lead Discovery on a Voyager-esque mission back to Earth… but Unknown Species 10-C’s wormhole tech meant it never felt like a realistic prospect.
  • I will always love seeing Admiral Vance with his family!
  • The use of Grudge’s collar to escape the forcefield was a clever inclusion that felt like classic Star Trek technobabble.
  • I hope we’ll see Unknown Species 10-C again and they won’t just be forgotten about in future 32nd Century stories.
  • Will Federation HQ now remain permanently in orbit of Earth? Or will other planets want to have Federation facilities, given that Earth has been absent for more than a century? It could be interesting to explore such a conflict in Season 5.
Federation HQ in orbit over Earth.

There’s a lot more to say, quite honestly… but I feel this is already running long. It’s taken me a long time – longer than usual – to get my thoughts in order, and I find that a lot of what I want to say in a more critical way is more about the story or structure of the season as a whole rather than about Coming Home specifically. It was a great episode in its own right, it capped off the season in a beautiful, emotional way, and left me with a real sense of optimism as Discovery prepares for a fifth season. But despite a solid ending, Season 4 as a whole is much more of a mixed bag, and I’d like to talk about that more on another occasion.

Coming Home was the emotional high point of an occasionally frustrating season, but it’s an episode that means we can say that things ended on a positive note. I’m genuinely excited for Season 5 and to see where the show goes next… but I hope it’s not going to be another “the galaxy is in danger” storyline! After the Klingon war, Control, the Burn, and the DMA, we’ve had enough of those.

It took me a while to get this review together, partly because of how much of an emotional experience Coming Home was… and partly because I’m feeling a little burnt out after three weeks of two Star Trek episodes meaning I was writing two big reviews! I really wish Paramount Global would sort out its scheduling…

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Picard theories – week 2

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Seasons 1-2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Discovery, Voyager, First Contact, and The Next Generation.

I had fun with Penance. It didn’t have the same charm that The Star Gazer had a week earlier – which had brought back so many different design elements from The Next Generation era that I was in heaven! – but it was a very interesting episode nevertheless. I admired the ties to Deep Space Nine in particular, as that’s a part of the franchise that we don’t see referenced very often, and I also enjoyed exploring the Confederation timeline – a riff on the Mirror Universe that managed to avoid many of the storytelling traps that such a setting has presented in the past.

In terms of the theory list, this week we have three solid debunkings, one more that feels almost certainly debunked, and one confirmation. There are several other theories that are barely hanging on, but with the story at such an early stage – and many things unexplained or only having the barest bones of an explanation – I’m choosing to keep those on the list at least for now.

As always, we’ll start with the debunkings before we jump into the main theory list.

Debunked theory #1:
The captive Borg Queen is the same one from First Contact.

The remains of the Borg Queen.

Jumping over to the Confederation timeline meant that this theory was looking less likely, and so it proved. There are still open questions about the nature of the Borg Queen – such as whether every Borg Queen is essentially the same individual – but in terms of this theory, I consider it to be debunked.

I had originally posited that the Federation may have saved and even reactivated the remains of the Borg Queen that Picard and Data defeated at the climax of First Contact, and that individual could be the same one that Picard and the crew of La Sirena met. But we can now strike it off the list!

Debunked theory #2:
In the Confederation timeline, Picard is not a synth.

A recording of the Confederation timeline version of Picard.

It wasn’t clear, as of the end of The Star Gazer, whether Picard would keep his synth body when he hopped over to the Confederation timeline. It seemed reasonable to assume that he might not – the circumstances in which he became a synth were unique, and if Dr Culber was correct in Discovery Season 4, the mind-transfer process was difficult to recreate. Thus I speculated that Picard might be human – and could even be suffering from Irumodic Syndrome.

If Picard lost his synth body, not much would change necessarily – but it could have added an extra dimension to the mission. If Picard knew that he didn’t have long left to live, fixing the timeline could have taken on a very personal angle; a timer that was running out for Picard. As it turned out, Q explained that Picard did in fact acquire a synthetic body in the Confederation timeline thanks to a battle against Gul Dukat.

Debunked theory #3:
The Confederation is an isolationist power.

Earth in the Confederation timeline.

When we saw what looked like a shield grid protecting Earth in the pre-season trailers, I wondered if we’d see an isolationist Earth rather than an all-conquering empire. This would be very similar to how Earth has appeared in Discovery’s 32nd Century, and there could have been interesting allegories about certain nativist and isolationist political movements in the real world.

As it turned out, the Confederation has set out to conquer the galaxy – and seems to be doing a pretty good job of it! They’ve managed to beat the Borg – somehow – and subjugate races like the Cardassians and Klingons despite possessing technology comparable to the Federation of the prime timeline. The Confederation is still xenophobic and human-centric, but it isn’t the isolationist Earth that I had speculated about.

Almost certainly debunked theory:
Elnor will be assimilated.

Raffi and Elnor in a pre-season trailer.

When we saw in the pre-season trailers an injured Elnor and a very upset Raffi bathed in the eerie green light that we so often associate with the Borg, I put two and two together and speculated that we could see Elnor attacked by the Borg Queen. It seemed plausible to suggest that he was in the early stages of assimilation – but the closing seconds of Penance have changed my mind!

Elnor was shot by one of the Magistrate’s goons when they beamed aboard La Sirena, and I think what we’re about to see is that the clip from the trailers was taken from the next episode with Elnor being treated for that phaser or disruptor injury. I certainly hope he’ll be okay!

So those theories have been debunked (probably)!

We also have one confirmed theory, so let’s briefly look at that before we get into the main list.

Confirmed theory:
The Borg Queen will be necessary for time travel.

The Borg Queen in Penance.

Before the season got going I speculated that the Borg Queen could be used as a kind of time machine, and we got confirmation of that in Penance. Dr Jurati believes that the Borg Queen will be able to make the necessary calculations to send La Sirena back to the 21st Century, something that the ship and crew would be unable to do without her, apparently.

I had initially speculated that the Borg Queen may possess some unique technology that allowed her to travel through time, something that could have accounted for her appearance in First Contact, but it seems that the real reason is somewhat simpler! Still, we can count this theory as officially confirmed – our first confirmation of the season!

So that theory was confirmed.

Now let’s get into the main theory list, beginning with theories that are new or saw significant movement in Penance.

Theory #1:
Laris will join the mission back in time.

Picard and Laris at the start of the season.

This theory is officially on very thin ice! Laris is dead in the Confederation timeline, killed by General Picard’s forces some years previously. Every other main character (except Soji, who we’ll come to in a moment) awoke in the Confederation timeline in the bodies of their counterparts; if Laris has no Confederation timeline counterpart, presumably she is dead or else can’t exist in this timeline.

It’s certainly possible that Laris will become a driving force for Picard, spurring him on to find a way to restore the timeline. If he reconsiders his position on love, he could want to return to her, or his adventure could give him a new appreciation for her. But Orla Brady, who plays Laris, had been promoted to a main cast member at the beginning of the season, and I’m pretty sure we saw at least one clip of her in one of the pre-season trailers that we didn’t see in The Star Gazer. How could she come back? Well, isn’t it obvious? Q’s magic! Q could bring her back, allowing her to join the mission.

Theory #2:
Picard and the crew will have to prevent Donald Trump’s re-election.

The White House.

So if you’re new here, you’re probably thinking that I’ve officially lost my marbles. I totally have, by the way, but that’s incidental. When I write up my theories, I like to include some real left-field ones if I think of them. It’s fun, and while this theory would certainly be something completely different, Picard as a whole has been a different kind of Star Trek show. So why not court controversy and bring a real-life political figure into the story?

Q explained to Picard that one of the differences in the Confederation timeline is that Earth failed at preventing climate change, instead finding ways to paper over the cracks. Donald Trump’s energy policies were very pro-fossil fuels during his tenure, and he’s a known climate change “sceptic.” Secondly we have the date that Picard and the crew will travel to: 2024. That’s the date of the next United States presidential election – an election in which Donald Trump is rumoured to be a candidate.

So could it be that the point of divergence that started the Confederation timeline and ruined the entire Star Trek galaxy is… Donald Trump’s election as president?

Theory #3:
Soji will appear in the Confederation timeline – but she’ll look very different.

Could this be how Soji appears in the Confederation timeline?

Where’s Soji? She wasn’t aboard the Stargazer or Excelsior when they confronted the Borg, and she wasn’t seen at all in Penance. But if synth-building techniques are good enough to create a golem for Picard, then the same process could have been used to create the Confederation timeline version of Soji, right?

Synths look a lot more basic in the Confederation timeline, with Harvey appearing to be much closer to the prime timeline’s F8 than even someone like Data, so it’s possible that if Soji does exist, she looks quite different. She could even look similar to Sutra – her “evil twin” from the Season 1 finale. If that’s the case, though, I hope the makeup is done better this time! I don’t think I could take a whole season of the awful gold makeup from Season 1…

Theory #4:
The mission back in time won’t last all season.

Los Angeles, 2024.

If Picard and the crew make it back to 2024 in the next episode, that still leaves a lot of the season remaining for them to repair the damage to the timeline. Perhaps this is as much a wish as a theory – time travel stories that visit the modern day have never been my favourites in Star Trek – but I wonder if there could be something truly unexpected coming afterwards.

With Q involved in the story, he could send Picard and the crew to another alternate timeline or parallel universe, for example. Or after the timeline is repaired, we could see Picard and the crew engage in a battle against the Borg – we still don’t know what was going on with the new Borg Queen and the Legion ship from The Star Gazer. In short, there are many different ways that the season could go after a jaunt to the past.

I’d also point out that, aside from a few clips from the 21st Century, the first two episodes of the season seem to have included most of the clips from pre-season trailers and teasers, which could mean that the latter part of the season is hiding something big!

Theory #5:
The Q Continuum has been attacked.

The Q Continuum, as seen in Voyager.

What’s wrong with Q? That was a question Picard asked that went unanswered in Penance, but there’s clearly something different about Q this time. Though at times he has the same impish charm that we remember from his earlier appearances in the franchise, at other moments he seemed incredibly angry – even hitting Picard at one point.

Perhaps there’s something going on in the Q Continuum – the Continuum could have come under attack, for example, and Q could be one of the few survivors. If something that Picard did or didn’t do is partly to blame, that could explain Q’s antagonistic behaviour.

Though the Q Continuum and the Q species seem god-like from our perspective, it’s not impossible to think that someone found a weakness to exploit. Could it be the Borg, perhaps? Q’s anger could stem from the fact that Picard didn’t do enough to stop them.

Theory #6:
Q is approaching the end of his life.

Q and Picard.

A simpler explanation could be that Q, like Picard, is coming to the end of his life. From Picard’s perspective it’s been 20+ years since he last saw Q, but Q could have lived thousands or even millions of years before choosing to re-visit his “old friend.” Maybe the Q are not entirely timeless and immortal, and perhaps Q is aware that he’s coming to the end of his life. Or if there’s something wrong with the Q Continuum, Q could be dying as a result.

This would potentially open up the Q-Picard relationship, giving the two a chance to discuss what it means to come to the end of one’s life. Picard could even help Q as he faces this new and unsettling turn of events.

Theory #7:
Q is angry with Picard for “giving up.”

Grumpy Q.

Over the course of The Next Generation, Q took a particular interest in Picard. More so than anyone else, Q seemed to see potential in Picard as a representative of the human race, someone who potentially showed him what humanity could be… with a little prompting and guidance. Q seemed fascinated by that idea, so seeing Picard’s fall from grace may have shocked him and left him feeling disappointed and bitter.

Picard spent more than a decade away from galactic affairs, retiring to his vineyard and seemingly just waiting around to die. Someone like Q might take that personally; he might feel that Picard was not living up to the potential he had. Perhaps Picard’s absence had some kind of unknown consequence, something that harmed Q or the Q Continuum. In any case, Q’s animosity to Picard seems to be personal – could disappointment at Picard’s attitude in the years prior to Season 1 be the cause?

Theory #8:
The Borg ship from The Star Gazer crossed over from the Confederation timeline.

The Borg vessel identified as “Legion.”

As far as we know at this stage, the Confederation timeline replaced the prime timeline thanks to someone or something changing the past. But timelines and parallel universes often go hand-in-hand in Star Trek, and after we learned about the Borg’s defeat in the Confederation timeline, I wonder if their ship from the season premiere might have found a way to punch through or cross over into the prime timeline.

If the Borg were facing defeat, as their message seemed to suggest, perhaps that could explain why. Also, the anomaly that the ship emerged from was not a typical transwarp conduit; we’d seen transwarp corridors as recently as Season 1. Finally, the Borg Queen of the Confederation timeline was aware of Picard and the history of the prime timeline – perhaps the Confederation timeline Borg knew of the prime timeline and this was a last-ditch effort to survive.

Theory #9:
The Borg are fighting a war – and they’re losing.

The Borg vessel using its transporter-weapon on the USS Stargazer.

Possibly connected to the theory above, one explanation for the Borg’s message and appearance in The Star Gazer is that in the prime timeline the Collective has found itself on the losing side of a war. Penance told us that the Confederation had been able to defeat the Borg using technology that Dr Jurati believed was roughly equivalent to the Federation’s in the prime timeline – so clearly it’s possible to fight and beat the Borg.

Could mentions of Gul Dukat or Martok in Penance be hints at something to come later in the story? Both characters were major players during Deep Space Nine’s Dominion War arc; maybe the Cardassians and/or the Dominion have been aggressively attacking the Borg in the late 24th Century. The other big culprit is the Confederation – assuming that it’s possible for the two timelines to mix!

Theory #10:
The masked, hooded figure from The Star Gazer is not the real Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen?

The Borg Queen – the hooded figure who materialised on the bridge of the Stargazer – was absolutely terrifying, evoking feelings for me that the Star Trek franchise hasn’t hit in decades. The way this character was presented, with her shrouded face, flowing robes, monochromatic aesthetic, and blend of humanoid and decidedly non-humanoid mechanical features was simultaneously riveting and frightening!

This character was presented as the Borg Queen in the episode, and the Borg have no reason that we know of to lie about that. But at the same time, she was very different not only from how we’ve seen the Borg Queen in past iterations of Star Trek, but she also looked very different to clips we’ve seen in trailers and teasers for Season 2. Could it be that this character will be revealed to be somebody else?

Theory #11:
The masked, hooded Borg is Admiral Janeway.

A Borgified Janeway as seen in Voyager.

This theory could apply whether the Borg on the Stargazer is the Queen or not! Admiral Janeway was assimilated by the Borg Queen as part of her plan to introduce a neurolytic pathogen into the Collective, and appeared to have been killed when the Borg Queen’s complex exploded. But is there a way she could have survived?

Her assimilation could have been a turning point for the Borg. She did untold damage to the Collective, but also potentially gifted them knowledge and information about future events and technologies that were decades ahead of their time. Just like the Borg once chose Captain Picard to become Locutus – their “spokesperson” or representative – perhaps they might have chosen Admiral Janeway to fill a similar role during this latest incursion. Admiral Janeway could even have been incorporated as part of the Borg Queen.

Theory #12:
The masked, hooded Borg is Soji.

Soji in The Star Gazer.

Soji represents a different kind of synthetic life, and may be of interest to the Borg as a result. If the Borg are aware of what transpired in Season 1 on Coppelius, one possible reason for their re-emergence could be to target the synths. The Borg seek “perfection” through the synthesis of organic and synthetic parts; if Coppelius synths like Soji have something that the Borg want, perhaps we’ll learn that they assimilated her to get it.

The anomaly from which the Borg vessel emerged was not a standard transwarp corridor, and was specifically noted to emit some kind of temporal radiation. Thus the Borg vessel could be from a future date after Soji has already been assimilated. We could even learn that the super-synths from the Season 1 finale are actually the Borg; that could be how they first became aware of Soji and the Coppelius synths.

Theory #13:
The Borg are aware that Picard is now a synth – and his synthetic status is part of the reason why they waited until now to make contact.

Picard awakened in a new synthetic body in Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2.

Continuing in the same vein, the timing of the new Borg incursion is interesting, especially considering that they asked for Picard by name. Are they aware of his newfound synthetic status? And if so, could Picard’s transition to a new synthetic body be the reason why the Borg chose to launch their attack?

The Borg seek “perfection” through a synthesis of organic and synthetic components, and while Picard’s new synthetic body is a far cry from the Borg drones we’ve seen, the idea of an organic mind in a synthetic body isn’t a million miles away from that same basic idea. Although Picard’s body was said to be comparable in practically every way to his original one, synthetics can have enhanced abilities that allow them to easily overpower humans – and, as we’ve seen with Data on more than one occasion, they can outmatch individual Borg drones as well.

A Borg drone losing a fight against Data.

Perhaps the Borg want to re-assimilate Picard now that he’s synthetic. If the Collective is still reeling from the damage inflicted upon it by Admiral Janeway or if they’re on the losing side of a war, perhaps they hope to use fully-synthetic bodies like Picard’s to replace damaged or destroyed drones, or as cannon fodder on the front lines. There are many reasons why the Borg might be interested in synthetic technology, and that could explain their re-emergence.

Even if the Borg don’t plan to assimilate Picard or the Coppelius synths, the timing of their appearance is certainly interesting and there could be a connection.

Theory #14:
Q is not responsible for changing the timeline.

Q hit Picard!

This theory is definitely feeling less and less likely… but as of Penance, the role Q has actually played in what happened is still not certain. The events of the past couple of episodes can certainly be interpreted as Q being the one who deliberately and willingly changed the timeline, and that’s certainly the assumption that Picard has made. However, Q himself didn’t admit responsibility, and while he certainly knows a lot about the Confederation timeline, there may be more going on than we’re currently assuming.

Given the more angry, aggressive presentation of Q that we saw in Penance, what would his goal or objective be if he changed the timeline? It doesn’t seem as though he’s setting up a puzzle for Picard to solve, and if he wanted to punish him for some perceived slight or wrongdoing, would this be how he’d do it? I can think of a million-and-one creative ways that a being with Q’s powers could punish or torture someone, and changing the timeline in a way that could be fixed, while also ensuring Picard could find his friends, doesn’t seem like the best option from Q’s point of view.

Q at the vineyard in Penance.

Someone like Q doesn’t make for a good villain from a storytelling perspective, either. Q’s powers would essentially mean that he could undo any victory that Picard could hope to win – he could fling them forwards in time if they approached the 2020s, for example, ensuring they would never be able to undo whatever changes had been made. Or Q could snap his fingers and leave the crew isolated on a desert island with no way to escape. In short, Picard was able to solve Q’s previous puzzles because Q allowed him to – or wanted him to. If Q really wants to change the timeline to punish Picard, there’s less than nothing Picard could do to stop him.

I have a longer article that goes into more detail about this theory that I wrote before the season premiere, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #15:
Q shielded Picard and the crew from changes to the timeline.

Q in General Picard’s study.

One way in which Q could be involved would be to have protected Picard – and his new crew – from changes to the timeline. There are many reasons why he might do this, and it could apply regardless of whether Q changed the timeline himself or not. If the entire timeline has been changed going back centuries, there has to be a reason why Picard and the crew of La Sirena are seemingly the only ones unaffected – and one explanation for that could be “Q’s magic.”

This would be in line with how we’ve known Q to operate. Episodes like Tapestry and All Good Things saw him use his powers to place Picard in an alternate life while retaining his original memories, and to move between three different time periods. Such a power is something we know Q can use, and it would explain two key things: how Picard and the crew of La Sirena remained unaffected, and how Q is involved in the story.

Theory #16:
Who is responsible for damaging the timeline, then?

Did the super-synths do it?

If Q isn’t the one who changed the timeline, the obvious question that raises is “who did it?”

In theory, it could be any one of a number of different Star Trek factions. We’ve seen the Klingons having access to time travel in the early 25th Century, for example, in the Voyager episode Endgame, and various time travel stories and stories depicting powerful alien races could all theoretically yield suspects. But considering what we know about Star Trek: Picard specifically, in my view the main suspects are as follows:

  • The Borg. The Borg could be one of the season’s main antagonists after their emergence in The Star Gazer, and we’ve seen in past iterations of Star Trek that they can travel through time.
  • The Zhat Vash. While the Zhat Vash may not have been shown to possess time travel tech, they were the primary antagonist last season, and arguably were not defeated in the Season 1 finale.
How about the Zhat Vash?
  • The super-synths. The super-synths from the Season 1 finale are a wildcard; we don’t know much about them except that they seem to be technologically powerful. Travelling back in time might be on their agenda – but erasing the prime timeline could result in the erasure of the Coppelius synths.
  • The Romulan government or the Tal Shiar. With or without the support of the Zhat Vash, the Romulan government could have taken action against the Federation in response to the events of Season 1.

There are undoubtedly other Star Trek factions who could be implicated, and if we had a free choice we could suggest the likes of the Dominion or the Sphere-Builders. But I think those are far less likely when considering the elements Picard has brought on board.

Theory #17:
Guinan will be aware of the shifting timelines.

Picard and Guinan in The Star Gazer.

In The Next Generation Season 3 episode Yesterday’s Enterprise, Guinan demonstrated a unique awareness of changes to the timeline. The Borg Queen seemed to have a similar ability in Penance, and I wonder if the Confederation timeline version of Guinan is aware that something is wrong. If so, perhaps she will seek out Picard before he travels back in time.

This was one of my pre-season theories, as it seemed to fit with what we know of Guinan. However, it’s possible that Guinan’s role in the season won’t be particularly big, and what we saw of her conversation with Picard in The Star Gazer could be all there is! If we don’t see her before Picard travels back in time, we can probably strike this theory from the list – but as of the end of Penance, it remains in play.

Theory #18:
The Confederation is run by augmented humans.

Who is Adam Soong, and could he be responsible for creating genetically engineered humans?

We didn’t get confirmation of this in Penance, so perhaps this theory should be struck from the list. But it’s possible, at least in my view, that the Confederation timeline represents one in which human genetic engineering was never outlawed. Khan-like “supermen” may have come to dominate the human race, and we could learn that humans of this timeline – like General Picard – were genetically engineered.

The inclusion of a new character played by Brent Spiner – who may or may not be named Adam Soong – could be connected to this, as we know that the Soong family was involved in human augmentation in the prime timeline. Khan is perhaps Star Trek’s best-known augment, and he intended to govern in the kind of militaristic, dictatorial style that the Confederation has adopted.

If this theory were true I think I’d have expected to see more direct evidence of it in Penance… but with Picard and the crew still in the Confederation timeline, perhaps there’s still time to learn that augments are involved in its governance. That could even be the point of divergence that created this alternate timeline.

So those theories are new or saw movement this week.

Next, as always, I like to recap all of the other theories that are still in play. These theories didn’t move at all in Penance, but remain possibilities for later in the season.

Theory #19:
There will be a connection between the augments and Strange New Worlds.

One of the few things we know about Strange New Worlds at this early stage is that there will be a character named La’an Noonien-Singh. This new character seems to be related in some way to the iconic villain Khan, and if Khan or Khan-inspired augments play some kind of a role in the Confederation’s power structure, perhaps that will set up a connection – or even a crossover – between Picard Season 2 and Strange New Worlds.

Theory #20:
Dr Jurati will unleash the Borg Queen.

The Borg Queen and Dr Jurati.

Sticking with the Borg Queen, we’ve seen several teases and clips that seem to show her on the loose. If this version of the Borg Queen was originally a captive – as the trailers have seemed to suggest – the question of how she was able to break free raises its head. It’s of course possible that she’s smart enough and powerful enough to break out of her confinement on her own, but she might also be able to convince someone to help her.

Dr Jurati is the cyberneticist that we met in Season 1, and she has a real love for all things synthetic. She seems to know a lot about the Borg, including the status of the Collective, and as we saw in Season 1 her fascination and sympathy for synthetic life is a very powerful motivating factor for her – so much so that she was able to break out of her Zhat Vash brainwashing and didn’t harm Soji. Given all of that, perhaps the Borg Queen is going to be able to convince Dr Jurati to let her guard down or even loosen her restraints.

Theory #21:
There will be a reference to Gabriel Bell or Sanctuary Districts.

Gabriel Bell.

According to the trailers, Picard Season 2 will be paying a visit to the year 2024… but it isn’t the first Star Trek production to visit that specific year! If Picard Season 2 wanted to visit “the modern day,” why not pick 2022 – or 2021 or 2023? 2024 feels like it could hold some kind of significance, and though there have been a couple of other references to events in the 2020s, the Deep Space Nine third season two-part episode Past Tense has already taken us to 2024.

The biggest event that we know of took place in California – the Bell Riots. I don’t necessarily expect to see the Bell Riots depicted all over again, but we could get some kind of reference to Gabriel Bell – the man who led the riots. There could also be mentions of “Sanctuary Districts,” which were areas built to house homeless people that became overcrowded prisons. Given that Picard Season 2 is going to visit the California area, some kind of reference seems plausible.

Considering the current problem with homelessness in some American cities – including in California – it could be an interesting point of social commentary to revisit some of the themes tackled by Past Tense. That episode’s depiction of the 2020s feels a little too close for comfort to the state of the real world, in some respects!

Theory #22:
There will be some kind of crossover with Star Trek: Discovery.

The USS Discovery in the Season 4 episode All Is Possible.

One thing that I find a little odd right now is the scheduling of Picard and Discovery. For three weeks, the two shows will be broadcast on the same day, which doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider that 1) they’re shows with relatively short seasons, and 2) Paramount+ is a streaming platform. Does that mean there’s a glimmer of hope for some kind of larger-scale crossover than either show has attempted so far?

I suspect I’ll be proven wrong on this one, and that it’s simply due to the inexplicable nonsense that we’ve come to expect from Paramount+ and parent company Paramount Global. Someone has evidently decided that “Thursday is Star Trek day,” and that’s inflexible no matter what. That still doesn’t explain why Picard Season 2 couldn’t be delayed by a measly three weeks, though – especially with the constipated international rollout of Paramount+ potentially meaning that Strange New Worlds will premiere in the USA weeks or months before Paramount+ arrives in Europe. But we’re off topic!

In short, one possible explanation for the odd scheduling could be because the two shows are planning some kind of crossover event; if so, I’d love to see it! And with time travel on the agenda, anything is possible, right? At the very least, I hope that Picard Season 2 will put in more of an effort to connect with Discovery than happened in Season 1.

Theory #23:
Picard and the crew will have to actively trigger World War III to save the future.

World War III soldiers as glimpsed in Discovery Season 2.

Although the Bell Riots are the main event of 2024 that we know about in Star Trek’s internal timeline, the 21st Century was arguably dominated by another event: World War III. The war may have kicked off as early as 2026 (as suggested in The Original Series) and concluded by the mid-2050s as seen in First Contact. The “post-atomic horror” that followed was the backdrop for Q’s trial in Encounter at Farpoint.

World War III is integral to Star Trek because without it, it’s hard to see how warp drive would’ve developed and how humanity would’ve made peaceful first contact with the Vulcans. Just like the end of the Second World War brought about major technological and societal changes that ultimately made the world a better place, Star Trek’s World War III is integral to the events that led to the founding of the Federation. If it were prevented, the timeline would change dramatically.

So my theory is that the point of divergence is the outbreak of World War III – meaning that it will fall to Picard to trigger one of the worst wars in human history in order to save the future. Talk about a moral dilemma! You can find a full write-up of this theory by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #24:
Romulans are spying on Earth in the 21st Century… and could be time-travelling Zhat Vash.

A young boy encounters a Romulan or Vulcan.

In the third trailer, a young boy wearing what seemed to be 21st Century clothing was seen encountering a Romulan or Vulcan. If the Zhat Vash are involved in the new season’s story somehow, perhaps this individual is a Zhat Vash operative. This could confirm that the Zhat Vash were able to travel through time, or send a message back in time to their 21st Century counterparts. The Romulans had achieved interstellar flight centuries earlier, so travelling to Earth to spy or place operatives seems plausible for them.

Of all the scenes we’ve glimpsed so far from Season 2, the one with the young boy and the Romulan or Vulcan is the one that I’m least sure about! It doesn’t seem to fit naturally into a story about the Borg, Q, and time travel… but this is one theory that could make sense, and would connect to the theory above about Q not being to blame.

Theory #25:
The Vulcans are on Earth in the early 21st Century… as stated in Discovery Season 4.

A meeting of senior Federation and allied officials in Discovery Season 4.

Another theory about the unnamed Romulan or Vulcan is tied into the Discovery Season 4 episode The Galactic Barrier. This could easily be a complete overreaction to a throwaway line, but at the beginning of the episode, the enigmatic Federation leader Dr Kovich stated that Vulcans were on Earth for decades prior to official first contact taking place.

This one line could be a reference to Carbon Creek, an episode of Enterprise that saw Vulcans crash-land on Earth in the 1950s. But the timing seems odd given the scene glimpsed in the Picard Season 2 trailers! If the character seen above is a Vulcan, perhaps there will be a connection of some kind between Discovery and Picard.

Theory #26:
At least one character from The Next Generation will make an appearance.

The cast of The Next Generation in Season 1.

With the return of Guinan and Q, as well as Voyager’s Seven of Nine, there are already a lot of returning characters in Picard Season 2! But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a well-placed cameo or two, or even an episode like Season 1’s Nepenthe that steps away from the main story to revisit classic characters. We could even have a bit of fun with some alternate timeline versions of them!

There are so many characters from Star Trek’s past that I would love to spend more time with; listing them all here would be impossible! But if Picard is to end with Season 3, as some outlets have been reporting, it would be fantastic if the crew of The Next Generation could reunite one last time.

I have a list of possible character crossovers that I wrote back in 2020, before we got to see any teasers or trailers, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #27:
The Federation is responsible for creating the Borg.

A rather incredulous-looking Borg seen in The Next Generation.

This is a total wildcard, but I’m just throwing it out there!

The Borg Queen – and the Borg in general – appear to have a fascination with humanity and with Picard. Could it be that the explanation for that is that the Federation and/or humanity are somehow responsible for their creation? With time travel on the agenda, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which the progenitor of the Borg – perhaps even the Queen herself – is able to travel back in time, founding the Collective.

Nanites used by the Control AI.

The idea that the Federation is responsible for creating its own worst nightmare could be an interesting one if executed well, as could the cyclical nature of such a story. It would have to be handled in just the right way to avoid treading on the toes of previous Borg stories, but it feels like a lot of the pieces exist for this theory to seem plausible. The return of the Borg, the inclusion of Q, and even the talk of Picard and humanity needing to pay a “penance” could all be connected.

Discovery Season 2 ran a story with the Control AI that could have also been a Borg origin story. Was it known as early as 2018-19 that Picard wanted to tell a story like this, and if so, could that explain why the Control storyline ended the way it did? I have a write-up of Discovery’s abandoned Borg origin story that you can find by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #28:
The USS Stargazer will make an appearance.

The original USS Stargazer.

Okay, technically the USS Stargazer has already appeared, but not in the way I expected! Captain Rios is (or was) in command of a new USS Stargazer, and not only that but he had a model of the original vessel in his conference room! So that’s it. Theory confirmed, everybody can move on to the next one!

Just kidding. The inclusion of a brand-new USS Stargazer brings the ship and its legacy back to the fore. Picard himself commented in The Star Gazer that the original vessel was his first command, and as far back as Season 1 we had a reference to his time in command through the character of Dr Benayoun. All of these things could be leading to some bigger role for the original USS Stargazer – and with a story that seems to include time travel and a strong focus on Picard’s own personal history, a flashback or even a visit to the ship could be on the agenda!

Theory #29:
By restoring the timeline, Picard – and everyone aboard the Stargazer – will die.

The USS Stargazer self-destructs.

As far as we know based on what’s been teased and shown off in various clips and trailers, a big part of the storyline this season will be undoing whatever damage was done in the 21st Century and restoring the true timeline. But if that happens, and the timeline is fully restored, that means that Picard, Captain Rios, Dr Jurati, and Seven of Nine will be on board the USS Stargazer when it self-destructs. Raffi and Elnor will be aboard the USS Excelsior in the same moment – and their ship could be destroyed as well.

If this story turns into a two-season arc, perhaps the final episode of Season 3 – which is rumoured to be the end of the show entirely – will see Picard and the crew restore the timeline, only to spend their final seconds aboard the Stargazer before it’s destroyed. This would be a bittersweet ending – to say the least!

Theory #30:
The season will end on a cliffhanger.

Because Seasons 2 and 3 went into production back-to-back, that made me wonder if they might form one continuous story – or if the final act of Season 2 might set up the story for Season 3. Star Trek has a long history of season-ending cliffhangers, such as The Best of Both Worlds in The Next GenerationEquinox in Voyager, and Such Sweet Sorrow in Discovery, to give just three examples.

Something in The Star Gazer could be relevant, though. If the story we’re going to see is all about restoring the correct timeline and undoing whatever damage has been done, then assuming Picard and co. succeed in their objective… won’t that place them back on the bridge of the Stargazer just as it’s about to self-destruct? If that’s the case, maybe it won’t happen this season and will instead be the finale of Season 3, with Season 2 ending on a cliffhanger at the story’s halfway mark.

Theory #31:
The Borg Collective was badly damaged in the Voyager episode Endgame and has been unable to recover.

Dr Jurati decoded the Borg message.

In The Star Gazer, it seemed as if the Borg Collective was reaching out, asking the Federation – and Picard specifically – for help. If so, the question is why? Was it just a shallow ploy to launch another attack on Starfleet? Or is there at least a degree of truth to the Borg’s request?

Endgame, the final episode of Voyager, depicted a time-travelling Admiral Janeway introducing a neurolytic pathogen – a type of virus – into the Borg Queen, seriously damaging her, her base of operations, and several Borg vessels in the vicinity. Because the Borg hadn’t been seen since – until The Star Gazer, that is – we never got to learn just how deadly Admiral Janeway’s actions were.

Admiral Janeway in Endgame.

I’ve always assumed that the Borg Collective is vast enough, powerful enough, clever enough, and most importantly adaptable enough that Admiral Janeway’s actions weren’t going to strike a fatal blow. Whatever damage she had done seemed like something the Borg could eventually fix – and their existence 25 years later during the events of The Star Gazer seems to prove that. The Borg’s technology and weapons are still streets ahead of anything Starfleet has at its disposal… but even so, it’s still possible that the Borg are on their last legs facing defeat.

If that’s the case, maybe we’ll discover that it was Admiral Janeway who’s responsible – that her actions in Endgame are either wholly or partly to blame for the Borg’s weakened state. Dr Jurati seemed to know that the Borg Collective isn’t as strong as it once was, so that could be another clue pointing to this theory.

Theory #32:
The loose ends from Season 1 will be tied up.

Will we learn Narek’s fate?

The Star Gazer already crossed off two things from the list of Season 1 leftovers! Dr Jurati’s legal status was clarified, as was her relationship with Captain Rios. There are still a number of points that I’d like to see addressed before the season ends, though, as Season 1 unfortunately left quite a lot of story on the table thanks to a rushed and underwhelming finale.

Here are the main ones:

  • What will become of the synths on Coppelius, and will they have to be relocated for safety?
  • Did Starfleet attempt to visit Aia and shut down the beacon at the centre of the Zhat Vash’s prophecy? Leaving it out in the open seems dangerous.
  • Will Starfleet contact the super-synths and attempt to make peace or convince them that they pose no threat?
The Artifact’s resting place on Coppelius.
  • Why did Bruce Maddox go to Freecloud?
  • With the Zhat Vash plot exposed, what will become of their crusade against synthetic life?
  • Did Federation-Romulan relations suffer as a result of the Zhat Vash’s attack on Mars and attempted attack on Coppelius?
  • What happened to Narek after he was captured by the Coppelius synths?
  • Who controls the Artifact and what will happen to the surviving ex-Borg?

So that’s it!

Harvey the synth.

We have a lot of theories in play at this early stage, but there’s plenty of time for more to develop over the next few episodes. It seems as though Picard and the crew of La Sirena will soon begin their mission to the year 2024, and we could soon learn more about what exactly happened in that year that set humanity and Earth on a very different, very dark path.

I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction. But for some folks, fan theories can be frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Picard Season 2. I fully expect many of these theories to be debunked and for the season to go in wildly unpredictable directions!

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia, and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery theories – week 12

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Season 2, Voyager, Enterprise, and The Next Generation.

Species Ten-C was a good episode, and while there’s still a lot of story to get through if the season is going to wrap up everything by next week, we’re well on the way to stopping the DMA and saving Earth. This week saw the first major theory cull of the season, with a whopping nine debunked theories. As the season approaches its end, this was to be expected!

We’ve got a lot to get through this time as we whittle down the theory list going into the season finale, so let’s get started by looking at the theories that have been debunked.

Debunked theory #1:
Unknown Species 10-C is a faction from a past iteration of Star Trek.

A member of Unknown Species 10-C.

We’d been moving away from this theory for weeks, and it had been looking increasingly unlikely as Captain Burnham and the crew approached their base of operations. As I said when I first considered the theory, it always felt like there was a good chance that Discovery would go down this route; it happened in Season 2 with Control and the Red Angel, and in Season 3 with the Burn. Tarka’s friend Oros also being a new character was a strong indication that Discovery wants to do its own thing, adding to the lore of Star Trek and expanding the franchise instead of returning to elements and factions from the past.

Still, it was fun to consider the different factions that might’ve been involved! There were some genuinely plausible candidates for creating something on the scale of the DMA – the Borg, the Kelvan Empire, and Enterprise’s Sphere-Builders, to name just three – and I had fun putting together my long list earlier in the season. Thinking about where some of these factions could be by the 32nd Century was also interesting.

At the end of the day, I’m not surprised that Discovery went in this direction. What I would say, though, is that now Unknown Species 10-C has been created, I hope Discovery doesn’t just ignore them in Season 5. The story took a long and winding route to reach this point, and it would be a shame if all we ever see of Unknown Species 10-C comes in two episodes at the end of the current season.

Debunked theory #2:
Unknown Species 10-C is extinct.

A bone of Unknown Species 10-C.

This theory would have scrapped the “figuring out how to communicate” angle that was a big part of this week’s episode, and would have replaced it with Captain Burnham and the crew perhaps having to discover how to use some very alien technology to shut down the DMA. When we learned more about Unknown Species 10-C, like their planet having suffered a catastrophe, I felt it was plausible that they were no longer around, with the DMA being a kind of Doomsday Machine-inspired device. There could have been interesting allegories for things like climate change and pollution from such a storyline.

Ultimately, of course, Discovery showed us that Unknown Species 10-C is alive and well, living their best life on three planets inside of their hyperfield. As the season enters its final act, I hope we get to learn much more about this unique civilisation.

Debunked theory #3:
The bones from Rosetta don’t belong to Unknown Species 10-C.

The away team.

I speculated that the huge bones that the away team found in Rosetta may not actually be from Unknown Species 10-C themselves, and could be from domesticated animals or other creatures that lived on their homeworld. This would have potentially allowed for Unknown Species 10-C to surprise us with their appearance, possibly even being humanoid!

It didn’t turn out that way, though, and although the Unknown Species 10-C representative in Species Ten-C was partially obscured when they made contact with the USS Discovery, they seemed to be the right size and shape for the bones from Rosetta. Also, they used the pheromones that the away team discovered.

Debunked theory #4:
The hyperfield will be empty or abandoned.

The USS Discovery at the hyperfield.

This theory could have been connected to the one above, with Unknown Species 10-C being extinct. Or it could have stood on its own, with the hyperfield perhaps serving as a portal or wormhole to a different galaxy or even another dimension. Figuring out where Unknown Species 10-C had gone could have been part of such a story, and maybe Captain Burnham and the crew would have had to leap into the unknown in order to stop the DMA.

As it turned out, the hyperfield had three whole planets inside of it! There were presumably huge numbers of Unknown Species 10-C doing their thing, living their lives and making the hyperfield a thoroughly inhabited place!

Debunked theories #5-8:
Someone else made the DMA.

The DMA on Discovery’s viewscreen.

As of last week, I still had the Red Angel suits from Season 2, Oros, Dr Kovich, and President Rillak on my list of possible culprits, either being directly implicated with the DMA or at least being connected to it in some way. I think we can now strike all of them from the list!

Unknown Species 10-C have clearly never met a human, nor anyone else from within the Milky Way galaxy, as we saw from their inquisitiveness and their initial inability to recognise that the strange creatures they’d encountered were even sentient. If they’d discovered a Red Angel suit or met someone like President Rillak or Oros, Discovery’s initial first contact wouldn’t have unfolded in that way.

Finally, with Tarka now being set up as the villain of the season’s final act, there’s no way to add someone like Dr Kovich or President Rillak into the mix as well. Rillak, despite her Machiavellian qualities, now seems to be firmly established on this side of the story. I think there’s scope to spend more time with her, and perhaps even set up an antagonistic role for her in future, but it now seems certain that it won’t happen this season.

Debunked theory #9:
Captain Burnham will use the interdimensional transporter.

Burnham using a transporter in Season 1.

It’s still possible that Tarka will get his interdimensional transporter working – even if doing so comes at the expense of hurting Unknown Species 10-C. However, this theory was set up on the premise that Unknown Species 10-C may be from another dimension themselves, and that using Tarka’s device could be the only way to reach them. That is clearly not the case, so I think we can strike it from the list.

I’d like to see the Tarka-Oros storyline about their interdimensional transporter paid off before the season ends… somehow. It would feel a little hollow if all it turns out to be is a macguffin, something to motivate Tarka to pursue this increasingly unhinged plot to steal Unknown Species 10-C’s power-generating tech. But with only one episode remaining, there’s very little time left to do anything meaningful with this side of the story!

So those theories were debunked!

There are several other theories that are hanging by the thinnest of threads, but I’m going to leave them in place for now. Even if they don’t pan out this season, there’s still scope for some of them to be incorporated into Season 5.

We have a number of theories that are still firmly in play, though, so let’s jump into the list!

Theory #1:
Unknown Species 10-C is connected to a faction from Star Trek’s past.

The super-synths from Picard Season 1.

Although Unknown Species 10-C turned out to be brand-new to the franchise, there’s still scope for them to have some kind of connection with a faction from Star Trek’s past. Most organic factions are probably ruled out thanks to the way Unknown Species 10-C reacted; they’ve clearly never encountered humans, Kelpiens, or Vulcans before! But they could have met someone like the Borg, for example, or the super-synths from Picard Season 1.

This theory is definitely running out of road with only one episode remaining, and if the season finale has to deal with Tarka and the DMA, perhaps we won’t actually get to learn very much at all about Unknown Species 10-C. However, I think a connection remains a possibility – even if it’s a shrinking one!

Theory #2:
Unknown Species 10-C is responsible for the galaxy’s dilithium supply running out.

The KSF Khi’eth was one of many Federation ships scouting for dilithium as supplies dwindled.

It seems as though Unknown Species 10-C may not have been aware that the Milky Way is inhabited by sentient beings. If that’s the case, and they’ve somehow managed to be entirely unaware of everyone from the Andorians and Borg to the Xindi and Yridians, it’s possible that they’ve been exploiting the galaxy for resources for a very long time. Season 3 didn’t explain why dilithium was suddenly in short supply, so it could turn out that Unknown Species 10-C stripped away much of the galaxy’s supply in the years before the Burn.

Unknown Species 10-C could have even used a similar mining tool to the DMA to extract dilithium, sending it back to their hyperfield through wormholes. Again, time seems to be running out to explore this idea in much detail – but it would be a fun and interesting way to link the two 32nd Century seasons together!

Theory #3:
Book and Burnham will reconcile and get back together.

Burnham and Book earlier in the season.

Book is in serious danger right now! Trapped aboard his ship with Tarka in control, it’s possible that he won’t survive the season. However, if he does survive I’d very much like to see him and Burnham get back together. The whole “relationship drama” angle was not Season 4’s best narrative choice, and there were other ways to get the main story arcs to this point without disrupting Book and Burnham’s relationship.

However, as of Species Ten-C, Book appears to have moved much closer to Burnham’s position of making peaceful first contact. Partly, it has to be said, this is out of necessity: Tarka’s plan would seemingly destroy the hyperfield, the USS Discovery, Unknown Species 10-C, and would still leave Earth and Ni’Var in danger. But even before the consequences of Tarka’s plan became apparent, Book had moved back in this direction. In Rubicon, we saw how he was willing to pause his plan and wait for diplomacy, so there’s scope for him to fully come back into the fold and reconcile with Burnham.

Though I don’t believe female characters in any way need to have a male character in their life, after Burnham had been on a rollercoaster with Ash Tyler in Season 2, giving her a settled relationship worked very well. It was a shame Discovery went down this road in the first place, but all the pieces seem to be in place for a satisfactory conclusion.

Theory #4:
Oros is alive – and we’ll see him soon!

Oros.

The revelation that Tarka’s plan will actually end up killing everyone is a bit of a damp squib; an unnecessary twist that took the character from complex and understandable to out-and-out villain. However, because of the nuanced and interesting characterisation over the preceding few episodes, part of me is still rooting for some kind of reunion between Tarka and the long-lost Oros.

Perhaps Discovery will surprise us by showing Tarka’s plan succeed – he could activate his interdimensional transporter and disappear, leaving Captain Burnham to pick up the pieces. Or maybe a series that has talked big on middle grounds, compromises, and diplomacy will see Captain Burnham or President Rillak reach out to Tarka, offering him a different pathway to success.

Discovery teased us unnecessarily by keeping Oros’ identity a secret before showing us the character in quite a bit of depth. It would be a shame if Oros only exists in flashbacks; less a character than a narrative device to give Tarka’s quest a motivating factor.

Theory #5:
The interdimensional transporter works!

Oros and Tarka with the original interdimensional transporter.

Connected to the theory above, if Tarka is to succeed in his goal of reaching Kayalise then his interdimensional transporter needs to work! He’s convinced that it does, and that the one Oros built at the prison camp also worked. If the two are to have any hope of reuniting, this crucial (and power-hungry) piece of technology is essential.

In narrative terms, the interdimensional transporter is a macguffin right now. But it has huge potential – perhaps opening up future Discovery or 32nd Century stories involving visits to parallel universes. This could even be the way that the outlying story of Calypso is brought into the fold. In short, there are many good reasons to demonstrate its success!

Theory #6:
The Guardian of Forever will make an appearance.

The Guardian of Forever in Season 3.

Earlier in the season I’d been speculating that Captain Burnham could turn to the Guardian of Forever for help with the DMA. That didn’t happen (she seems to have entirely forgotten about the Guardian’s existence) but there is still a way to bring the Guardian back into the story in a way that makes sense.

In short, Season 3 saw the Guardian send Georgiou to an alternate reality, so it stands to reason it could do the same for Tarka. The Guardian of Forever is one of the few ways that could allow everyone to get what they want: the DMA could be moved away from Earth and inhabited worlds, Unknown Species 10-C could continue to mine boronite, and Tarka could use the Guardian to travel to Kayalise. There’s also a remote possibility that the Guardian could be used to send the USS Discovery back in time as part of a tie-in with Calypso, but at this late stage in the season I don’t think we’ll get that.

Theory #7:
A major character will be killed off.

A Federation funeral service.

This would’ve made more sense earlier in the season, with the death of a major character potentially setting up the danger of the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C, but even at this late stage it could still be impactful. Right now, Tarka has to be top of the list for not surviving the finale. Somehow, Captain Burnham will have to stop him, and one reliable way to do that would be for him to be killed! This happened in Season 1 with Lorca, in Season 2 with Control, and in Season 3 with Osyraa, so Discovery has precedent for killing its villains.

However, there are other possibilities. Lieutenant Commander Bryce is very high on the list following his emotional goodbye with Saru a couple of episodes ago, and had warranted his own entry on the theory list for the past couple of weeks! Then we have Book and Reno, who are trapped with Tarka aboard Book’s ship. One or both of them could be killed, either accidentally or intentionally, during Tarka’s quest to reach Kayalise.

Lieutenant Commander Bryce.

The departures of Gray and Tilly have the potential to shake up the cast as Discovery prepares for its fifth season, but both characters have just left the ship to do other things; they could return at any time and their friends know that they’re safe. A character death – if well-timed and pulled off with the right weight and emotion – can be incredibly impactful, not only to the characters they leave behind, but to us as the audience as well.

At points this season, I’ve felt that Discovery has given even its minor characters some pretty heavy plot armour. And if the aim was to communicate the stakes involved with the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C, a character death this late in the game would miss the mark. But there’s still time for a dramatic twist of this kind!

In ranked order of how likely I think they are to die in the season finale, we have the following characters: Tarka, Bryce, Reno, Tilly, and Booker.

So those theories saw movement this week.

We still have a number of theories left in play, with quite a few seeming increasingly unlikely to be included this season. However, it’s possible for the season to end with a cliffhanger, or for the final act of the season finale to set up something big for Season 5 that could include any of these story elements. I’ll recap the remaining theories here.

Theory #8:
We’ll learn more about who Dr Kovich is and what position he has within the Federation.

The enigmatic Dr Kovich.

I have four theories about Dr Kovich that came to the fore in The Galactic Barrier. In that episode, Dr Kovich claimed to have “more important things” to do than accompany the USS Discovery to Unknown Species 10-C’s hyperfield. This prompted a lot of speculation – but with the last two episodes having ignored him altogether, this could be one of those Discovery lines that sounds exciting and interesting… but ultimately has no payoff of any kind.

Regardless, here are my Kovich theories summarised:

Theory #8-A:
Dr Kovich works for Section 31.

Sloan, a 24th Century Section 31 leader.

Section 31 is the off-the-books, black ops division of Starfleet Intelligence. They run morally questionable operations and even attempted to commit genocide against the Founders of the Dominion in Deep Space Nine. I originally pegged Dr Kovich as a Section 31 leader back in Season 3 for his treatment of Georgiou. He also seems to have a very wide range of skills and a lot of power: appointing Starfleet Academy instructors, having access to classified intelligence, and acting as a therapist or psychiatrist are all things we’ve seen him do.

Theory #8-B:
Dr Kovich is Vice President of the Federation.

If there’s a President then there must be a Vice President!

We got confirmation a couple of episodes ago that President Rillak has an unnamed Vice President. This character was only mentioned briefly and their name wasn’t revealed, so it’s possible they’ll never be shown on screen and won’t matter to the story. However, it seems at least plausible that Dr Kovich is the Vice President; it could account for his powerful role within the Federation hierarchy and give him a reason to remain behind.

Theory #8-C:
Dr Kovich is a Q (or similar alien).

Q.

This would be a complete twist, but I wonder if the reason for Dr Kovich’s enigmatic nature is that he’s a member of the Q Continuum.  It could be revealed that Dr Kovich is from an alien race and has been observing the Federation while trying to offer limited help and guidance – not dissimilar to how Q operated. This could explain why he seems to offer fairly limited help, at times, or sets up other characters to make breakthroughs with a little prompting.

Theory #8-D:
Dr Kovich is preparing a weapon of last resort to strike Unknown Species 10-C.

The Burn as shown in Season 3.

One reason why Dr Kovich may have remained at Federation HQ (regardless of what his job title is) could be to prepare a backup plan in case the USS Discovery’s mission fails. This could take the form of some kind of “weapon of last resort” which could be far more powerful than Tarka’s isolytic weapon. It could also make use of time travel, or even be a weaponised form of the Burn.

Theory #9:
Admiral Vance’s holo-message about Earth and Ni’Var was fake or has been tampered with.

Captain Burnham listening to Admiral Vance’s message.

As I said in my review, this is the one part of The Galactic Barrier that I wasn’t wild about. Earth being in trouble is a cliché, and one which really makes the ending of the season feel like an inevitability – with Earth, Titan, Ni’Var, and the rest of the Sol and Vulcan systems in danger, it’s unfathomable that the DMA won’t be stopped in time. But I digress!

If there are other plans afoot at Federation HQ then it’s plausible to think that someone either faked or tampered with Admiral Vance’s holo-message, meaning that the information Captain Burnham and the crew received wasn’t correct. It could lead to an attempt at a dramatic finale, with Captain Burnham thinking she’s too late to have saved Earth… only to discover that Earth is fine because it was never in danger to begin with!

Theory #10:
The ban on time travel will be explained in more detail.

The USS Enterprise-E travelled through time in First Contact.

As mentioned above, there may be plans afoot within the Federation and Starfleet to strike Unknown Species 10-C, and a weaponised form of time travel could be a last-resort weapon that the Federation – and other galactic races – might consider using. If so, perhaps the ban on time travel that was introduced in Season 3 will be explained in more detail or expanded upon.

The ban made storytelling sense; it was a way to avoid questions about how the 32nd Century was so different to the far future glimpsed in past iterations of Star Trek, it prevented an easy fix to Georgiou’s health condition, and it prevented any of the main cast returning to the 23rd Century. But it also raised some issues for nitpicking Trekkies like us! The biggest one was how something like this could possibly be enforced; it isn’t possible to un-invent a powerful, weaponisable technology, and even if every single race in the galaxy agreed to the ban in theory, it seems like it would need an incredible level of oversight to enforce it. Finding out more about how the ban works is as much a hope as a theory in some respects, but I think it’s something Discovery should at least attempt to do!

Theory #11:
The Federation has flouted the ban on time travel (or is about to).

Book, Burnham, and Sahil with the flag of the Federation in Season 3.

As above, it may be possible that the Federation is about to make a move using time travel to attack Unknown Species 10-C. If so, we may be about to learn that it isn’t the first time that they have failed to abide by the rules set out in the ban on time travel.

It doesn’t seem likely that the DMA is directly related to time travel, as I had previously suggested. But if time travel is about to come into play, we could learn more about the ban and the Federation’s relationship to it.

Theory #12:
Unknown Species 10-C built the Galactic Barrier.

The USS Enterprise approaching the galactic barrier.

Given their technological capabilities, it doesn’t seem impossible that Unknown Species 10-C constructed the Galactic Barrier – perhaps as a way to shield themselves from the races of the Milky Way, or perhaps to keep anyone from exploring too far and discovering their location. There are many reasons why a technologically advanced race might want to build something on this scale – and we could even learn that the harvested boronite is being used to fuel the Galactic Barrier itself.

One possible explanation for why Unknown Species 10-C might want to build something like the Galactic Barrier is to keep the Milky Way’s inhabitants in… but it could also be a shield designed to keep someone else out. That raises a very frightening question: what could be so powerful that a barrier is needed around the entire galaxy? And what could be so dangerous that being locked inside a galaxy with the Borg would be preferable?

With Unknown Species 10-C seemingly being very secretive, I think the idea of them building it to shield themselves is more likely… but there are definitely a lot of ways this theory could go!

Theory #13:
Someone else built the Galactic Barrier to keep Unknown Species 10-C out.

The Galactic Barrier.

If the Galactic Barrier is an artificial construct, perhaps it was created by another race or faction as a shield against Unknown Species 10-C. It could be the case that Unknown Species 10-C has used DMA technology against the Milky Way in the distant past, and some other race or faction constructed the Galactic Barrier to keep them out. If Unknown Species 10-C are belligerent and interested in conquest, it might take something on a galactic scale to keep the Milky Way safe. A race like the Q could be responsible if that’s the case.

Obviously this theory and the one above can’t both be right! And it’s a distinct possibility that the Galactic Barrier element of the story was just a convenient macguffin to blind Starfleet to Unknown Species 10-C and prevent easy travel to their region of space, dragging out the story and prolonging attempts at communication so other narrative threads could play out.

If that’s the case, we may learn nothing about the Galactic Barrier in the season finale! However, I still think it’s interesting to consider the possibilities, and it could be fun to finally get some more detail on this lesser-known but significant aspect of the Star Trek galaxy.

Theory #14:
There will be a character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.

Star Trek has had some wonderful crossovers in the past.

There are many ways to bring back a character from a past iteration of the franchise and incorporate them into the story of Season 4 – and there would be many potential benefits to doing so! I had initially proposed a version of this theory in the run-up to Season 3 that centred on the Doctor from Voyager – but with some creative technobabble, practically anyone could be included, despite the leap forward in time.

Choose To Live showed us the Abronians in cryo-sleep, and Stormy Weather saw the crew of Discovery use the transporter buffer to survive – just like Scotty had done in The Next Generation Season 6 episode Relics. Could these be hints at something to come?

It would also be possible for Captain Burnham to discover the logs or a holographic recording of a long-dead character – and while this would be less of a “crossover,” it could still be a ton of fun and great fan-service!

Theory #15:
Book will find Kyheem and Leto inside the hyperfield.

Leto in Book’s dreams.

In Star Trek: Generations, Captain Picard encountered Captain Kirk inside the Nexus – despite Kirk being declared “dead” after the Enterprise-B encountered the energy ribbon almost eighty years earlier. Now that we know a little more about how the DMA operates, it seems at least faintly possible that, just like Captain Kirk, the inhabitants of Kwejian may not be as dead as they first appear.

This theory is, I freely admit, a bit of a long-shot. But the wormhole technology that we know the DMA uses seems to be capable of sending some of what it harvests or mines back to Unknown Species 10-C’s base of operations. Maybe that means that some of the people from Kwejian were transported there instead of being killed. Now that Book is inside the hyperfield, could a reunion of some kind be possible?

Theory #16:
Michael Burnham won’t remain captain of the USS Discovery.

Lorca was Discovery’s captain in Season 1.

It’s possible that Captain Burnham will have to go to extreme lengths to stop the DMA and/or Tarka, and while I doubt very much that she’ll be killed off, something major could happen in the season finale that sets the stage for her departure from the series.

The developing situation between Captain Burnham and Book could end up with her choosing to resign her commission or taking a new job within Starfleet. Her role as captain of Discovery forced her to choose her responsibility to the Federation over her relationship, and after she was almost forced to kill Book, it would be understandable if Captain Burnham never wanted to be put in that position ever again!

Pike commanded the ship in Season 2.

It wouldn’t be the first time Captain Burnham has been unsure of her place in Starfleet and what role she wants to have. We saw this in Season 3 as part of the background that set up her eventual ascent to the captaincy, and while it seems unlikely that it will come back into play in a big way, the situation with Book could be a catalyst for Captain Burnham wanting to have a simpler life either outside of Starfleet or, at the very least, out of the captain’s chair.

This would also continue a trend that Discovery has had across all four seasons thus far: the rotating captaincy of the ship. Each season has seen a new captain in command, and with Season 5 in the offing, it’s got to be at least possible that this trend will continue. I’m not really in favour of this, but it’s certainly interesting to consider. Because Captain Burnham has been the show’s protagonist since Season 1, it seems unlikely, and the overall arc of Discovery between Season 1 and Season 3 can be read as her redemption and ascent to the captaincy. But the show’s revolving door of captains may continue, and her conflict with Book and the difficult emotional situation it put her in could be the trigger to make this happen.

Theory #17:
Saru will be given the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J.

Captain Saru in command… of a shuttle!

Saru’s future was briefly discussed before he offered to serve as Captain Burnham’s first officer in the episode Anomaly. He has already been offered a command of his own, so Starfleet clearly values his command abilities and experience. President Rillak was seen to be assessing Captain Burnham’s suitability for the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J in Kobayashi Maru… and she mentioned having a shortlist of candidates. Could Saru be on her list?

Several of the qualities that President Rillak said she was looking for in a potential captain seem to apply to Saru. He’s more level-headed, less likely to put himself in a dangerous situation, and more inclined to think of the big picture. He has a weakness when it comes to Kaminar, as we saw toward the end of Season 3, but generally speaking he isn’t someone who lets his emotions get the better of him. His wisdom and calm demeanour could be valuable in the captain’s chair of the Federation flagship. This could also set the stage for his departure from the show, or possibly even for a new show following his adventures aboard his new ship.

Theory #18:
Season 4 will connect with the Short Treks episode Calypso.

The USS Discovery in Calypso.

Zora’s status as a member of the crew was confirmed in But To Connect, and this followed her developing emotions and sentience earlier in the season. Zora is now much closer to her presentation in Calypso, potentially bringing the story of the Short Treks episode one step closer.

With just one episode remaining and a lot of other storylines to get through, this one feels less and less likely – but it could be an interesting cliffhanger ending if the ship had to be sent back in time!

Theory #19:
Some areas of the galaxy – such as the Delta Quadrant – avoided the worst effects of the Burn.

Adira and Stamets with a map of the Milky Way galaxy.

In But To Connect, President Rillak told us that the diplomatic summit she convened would bring together races from “all four” quadrants. Assuming she was referring to the familiar Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta Quadrants that make up the Milky Way galaxy, this would count as our first mention of the Delta Quadrant in the 32nd Century. I didn’t spot any familiar Delta Quadrant races (or their emblems) amongst the assembled delegates, however!

I had previously speculated that the Burn may not have affected the entire galaxy equally, and that regions farthest away from the Verubin Nebula may have survived without much damage. I still think that this is a possibility – though whether Discovery will revisit the Burn in any depth, or visit the Delta Quadrant at all, remains unclear.

To see a full write-up of this theory, click or tap here.

Theory #20:
The crew will have to defend the Verubin Nebula.

The dilithium planet is vital to the Federation.

This one is definitely hanging by a thread right now, at least in terms of Season 4! The story continues to unfold in a very different direction, largely ignoring the main story beats from Season 3. But the dilithium shortage has been mentioned more than once, and as things stand right now, the Federation is in control of the galaxy’s only significant dilithium supply. The Verubin Nebula is almost certainly going to be a target for somebody – even if Unknown Species 10-C don’t care about it.

It begins to stretch credulity to think that all of the belligerent factions and races present in the galaxy would become aware of the Federation controlling this impossibly valuable resource and wouldn’t want to take it for themselves. And while it may not happen now until after the DMA storyline has run its course, I think sooner or later someone is going to want to steal the Verubin Nebula and its dilithium. Maybe it will be at the end of Season 4, maybe it will be in Season 5… who knows?

Theory #21:
Tarka will create his own DMA.

Tarka and Stamets Saru with their DMA model.

In The Examples, we saw Tarka – aided by Stamets – building a scale model of the DMA. Now that his plan to destroy it and seize its controller has failed, perhaps he’ll attempt to recreate the device using the knowledge he acquired. If so, he could inadvertently create a new DMA. Or, through time travel shenanigans, Tarka could turn out to be the creator of the original DMA!

If Tarka isn’t able to find a power source for his interdimensional transporter on the far side of the Galactic Barrier, he may feel he has no choice but to try and recreate the DMA’s original power source.

Theory #22:
We haven’t seen the last of the Abronians.

I currently have four ideas for different ways that the Abronians – the non-humanoid race that Captain Burnham, Tilly, and the Qowat Milat helped save from cryo-sleep in the episode Choose To Live – could play a further role in Season 4. Time is ticking away… but it’s still possible!

Theory #22-A:
The Abronians’ homeworld was destroyed by the DMA.

Captain Burnham believes this image depicts a “supernova.”

After arriving at the Abronians’ cryo-ship, Captain Burnham found a stone carving that seemed to depict the destruction of the Abronians’ homeworld. This carving was only shown on screen briefly, but it seemed to show the planet being damaged or destroyed in a large explosion. Burnham credited the planet’s destruction to a “supernova,” and the story then raced ahead.

We’re running out of time with this one – and it could be that Captain Burnham’s initial observation was correct. But this would be one way to connect this side-story to the season’s main narrative arc.

Theory #22-B:
The Abronians’ homeworld was on the other side of the DMA.

Abronian stasis pods.

One thing struck me as odd about the Abronians: the Federation was entirely unaware of them, despite the Abronian cryo-ship being relatively close to Federation space – such that Captain Burnham could reach it using Book’s ship in a short span of time. It’s possible that the Abronians had been asleep for millennia, unnoticed by the Federation and the wider galaxy for all that time. But it’s also at least possible that their cryo-ship is a newcomer to the area.

Having seen the destruction present on Unknown Species 10-C’s ex-homeworld, maybe the Abronians fell victim to the same devastating event if their original planet was in the same region of extragalactic space.

Theory #22-C:
The Abronians will return to help the Federation.

A deceased Abronian.

One of the themes of Discovery since Season 3 has been connection, including building connections between the Federation and other races and organisations. The Abronians were awoken from cryo-sleep thanks to the interventions of Captain Burnham and Tilly – at least in part – and they may seek to repay the Federation, or Captain Burnham personally, for that help.

We saw this play out last season with Ni’Var; in the season finale Ni’Var ships raced to the Federation’s aid as the Emerald Chain attacked. Perhaps the Abronians will likewise step up to help when the Federation needs allies.

Theory #22-D:
The Abronians’ moon-ship may be useful in a later story.

“That’s no moon…”

The cryo-ship used by the Abronians was huge, and appeared to have the mass of a planetoid or small moon. With Earth and Ni’Var now under threat and an evacuation necessary, perhaps the Federation will ask the Abronians to borrow their moon-ship. This could even be what Dr Kovich was planning to do and why he couldn’t join Discovery on the mission through the Galactic Barrier.

The moon-ship was fully operational thanks to the new dilithium that J’Vini “procured,” so it could be commandeered by Starfleet for the purposes of an evacuation. That would be one way to pay off what is, at the moment, a side-story.

Theory #23:
Kayalise is the Kelvin universe.

The titular USS Kelvin.

Oros didn’t make clear, in the flashback sequences we saw, exactly what Kayalise would be like. He only believed that it would be better than the prime universe, and talked about it in mythological, almost religious terms. That could mean something significant, or it could simply be Oros being poetic!

Tarka had previously suggested that the universe he hopes to escape to is one where the Burn didn’t happen and the Emerald Chain never rose to power. Because of the unique circumstances of the Burn, it seems at least possible that it didn’t occur in the Kelvin timeline – the one established by 2009’s Star Trek. We’ve already had at least one Kelvin reference in Discovery’s 32nd Century, confirming that the universe was known to exist and was reachable. With a fourth Kelvin film in early production, it’s possible that Kayalise is actually the Kelvin universe!

So that’s the main theory list!

We now have three production-side theories in play, so we’ll look at those too before we wrap things up.

Production-side theory #1:
There will be some kind of crossover with Star Trek: Picard Season 2.

Picard Season 2 is running alongside Discovery.

This theory has arisen in large part because of the very odd scheduling of Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4, which will run alongside each other for three episodes. I wonder if that’s because some kind of crossover is on the agenda. With time travel playing a significant role in the story of Picard Season 2, it seems at least plausible to think that some kind of connection is possible!

This could be a complete over-reach, and the ultimate “explanation” for the weird scheduling may turn out to be nothing more than the random illogical spasms of the ineptly-managed Paramount+ and parent company Paramount Global. That would not surprise me in the slightest! But I really do find the scheduling odd.

Admiral Picard.

The shorter seasons of today’s Star Trek shows means that there really isn’t any need for such a pile-up this spring. Discovery has thirteen episodes, Picard and Strange New Worlds have ten apiece – and even with Lower Decks and Prodigy still to come, there are more than enough weeks in 2022 for the entire Star Trek franchise to be evenly spread out. Why have four out of ten weeks with two episodes from two different shows, then a gap of several weeks later in the year where no new Star Trek is broadcast? It makes no sense – especially not on a streaming platform.

Finally, with the constipated international rollout of Paramount+ showing no signs of speeding up, it’s looking increasingly likely that Strange New Worlds will be broadcast in the United States weeks or months ahead of its international premiere. If both Picard Season 2 and Strange New Worlds were delayed by as little as 5 or 6 weeks, this might be able to be avoided – assuming the rollout of Paramount+ “by the end of Q2” happens as planned.

In short, it’s all very strange – but one possible explanation for the weird scheduling could be that there’s a crossover event planned sometime in the next three weeks!

Production-side theory #2:
Tilly’s departure will be permanent.

Tilly’s departure feels permanent.

Mary Wiseman confirmed in an interview with Wil Wheaton on The Ready Room (Discovery’s social media aftershow) that Tilly will be seen again before the end of Season 4, and we glimpsed her in the trailer for the second half of the season as well. But that doesn’t mean she will return as a main character on the show going forward, and her departure in All Is Possible felt permanent. Despite that, I’ve seen quite a lot of folks online who don’t believe that Tilly is actually leaving the series – so I wanted to put it out there officially and say that, in my opinion anyway, she is.

Maybe those people know something that I don’t! As I always say, I don’t have any “insider information;” all of this is just speculation on my part. However, I feel that the manner of Tilly’s departure, the fact that she got that emotional sequence with Captain Burnham, a montage showing her leaving the ship, Adira seeming to take over several of her roles, and her departure feeling like the culmination of her arc going back to the latter part of Season 3 all come together to strongly indicate that she won’t be back as a major character. She may yet have a significant role to play in a future Season 4 episode, as has been suggested, but unless Discovery’s writers are really playing with our emotions I believe we’ve seen Tilly’s end as a main character on the show. She may come back in a future Starfleet Academy series, though… so watch this space!

Production-side theory #3:
Season 4 will end on a cliffhanger!

Star Trek has a long, well-established tradition of season-ending cliffhangers! There have been some truly shocking ones in the past, including The Best of Both Worlds in The Next GenerationDeep Space Nine’Call To ArmsEquinox in Voyager… and many more! With the story of Unknown Species 10-C and the DMA slowly being unpicked, it could be the case that we’ll get a clean resolution – like we did at the end of Season 3. But it’s also possible, in my opinion, that Season 4 will end in similar fashion to Season 2 – on a major cliffhanger!

That could be because the Unknown Species 10-C story didn’t conclude, or a war with the mysterious faction is about to break out. But the Season 4 finale could also set up the beginnings of Season 5’s story, just like how the final moments of Season 1 saw Captain Pike’s Enterprise link up with the USS Discovery.

So that’s it!

The USS Discovery and Book’s ship in Species Ten-C.

We still have a long list of theories as we head into the season finale. Obviously most of them won’t pan out – there isn’t time in a single episode to pay off even half of those still on the list! But they all seem possible or plausible to me, and with a fifth season of Discovery having been confirmed, maybe we’ll see some of them return in 2023 when I start putting together my Season 5 theories!

I always like to end these theory lists by saying that I do this just for fun. I enjoy writing, I enjoy Star Trek, and spending more time in this world is an escape and an enjoyable distraction. But for some folks, fan theories can be frustrating or unenjoyable, especially if they get very attached to a plausible-sounding theory that ultimately doesn’t pan out. I have no “insider information” and I’m not trying to claim that anything suggested above can, will, or must be part of Discovery Season 4. I fully expect many of these theories to be debunked and for the season to go in wildly unpredictable directions!

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery review – Season 4, Episode 12: Species Ten-C

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

Species Ten-C wasn’t just a good episode in its own right, with plenty of excitement and tension that showed how Star Trek can do a heck of a lot without resorting to violence and battles, but it was one that made the episode immediately preceding it significantly better in retrospect. I wrote last week that the one saving grace to an otherwise frustrating experience in Rosetta could be if the hydrocarbons discovered by Captain Burnham and the away team were put to good use – and that happened in a big way this time.

On the other side of the story, I finally felt what I believe the writers have been aiming for for weeks with the Book and Tarka storyline: that Captain Burnham was right, diplomatic initiatives should be given a chance, and that Book has fallen victim to Tarka’s manipulations. While this has the unfortunate effect of relegating Tarka from a complex character with an equally understandable motivation into the out-and-out villain of the season’s final couple of episodes, it clarifies what had been until now a very fuzzy and occasionally frustrating story.

The Book and Tarka storyline was expanded upon in a big way this week.

If I were to be critical of Species Ten-C, what I’d say is that it probably took too long for the season to reach this point. Several advances in the DMA/Unknown Species 10-C storyline were sprinkled in at or near the end of unrelated or tangentially-related episodes, with the Federation often running into problems or delays that took too long to surmount, and the result of that is that it took a long time to arrive at the hyperfield.

The story of finding a way to bridge the communication divide could have been a longer one, and it was handled in a genuinely interesting way – but with only half an episode dedicated to it here and just one final episode of the season remaining, it’s an interesting concept that may not be explored in as much detail as it could have been.

Species Ten-C saw the crew making first contact.

This story of learning how to communicate with someone far more alien than usual, and doing so while under threat thanks to the DMA, is not one that required a B-plot villain. While Tarka was interesting in his earlier appearances and his motivations were laid out in a clearly understandable way, the narrative just doesn’t require this additional element in order to be exciting.

Discovery has a tendency, as I’ve pointed out on a number of previous occasions, to try to inject double the tension and three times the drama when it just isn’t necessary, and if I were to make one comment about the series as a whole it’s that the writers need to have more confidence in their stories. Dropping the Tarka angle, or reworking it to make him less of an antagonist in this final chapter, would allow the main story of learning to communicate with Unknown Species 10-C to stand on its own – and as it’s already sufficiently tense, interesting, and engaging, Tarka’s villainy just isn’t necessary.

Tarka in Species Ten-C.

Not for the first time, Discovery has set up a character who feels well-rounded and complex, with motivations that seem understandable, only to turn them into a pretty standard villain later on. I wouldn’t have even called Tarka “morally ambiguous;” his weapon plan made a lot of sense when it was first proposed, and I even suggested that a show which has had themes of seeking a “middle ground” could have figured out a way to keep Tarka on board, building his weapon as a back-up plan while attempting to make first contact. But as with Captain Lorca in Season 1, much of Tarka’s nuance now feels lost; brushed aside because the writers determined that the season needs a villain.

There were other ways to formulate this story that either skipped over Tarka altogether or that kept him in that complex space. We may yet learn that his interdimensional transporter will be important, in which case he may have served a narrative function, but if the ending of the story is going to be Tarka’s defeat or death, with a reunion with Oros not being able to happen, then I think I’ll have to go back and re-evaluate his role in the season overall. This story already had the complexities of Unknown Species 10-C and the DMA; I’m not sure it needed a second antagonist, especially not one who seems to have come at the expense of an interesting and complex character.

Tarka with Oros earlier in the season.

We’ve also got to talk about the new character of Dr Hirai. In short, he needs to do something truly outstanding and unique next week – otherwise his inclusion in the season will have proven to be a complete and utter waste of a great actor. I like the concept of the character; a linguistics and communications expert seems perfect for this kind of mission. But in his two earlier appearances this season he did nothing whatsoever, and his accomplishments this week were relatively minor. It didn’t feel like bringing Dr Hirai along was in any way important to the success of the mission, with Captain Burnham, Zora, Saru, and even characters like Detmer, Nilsson and the very minor Lieutenant Christopher all contributing at least as much – if not more – to the story as he did.

He was ultimately sidelined by President Rillak, who chose Saru and Burnham over him for their linguistics and first contact expertise, confirming his relegation to a bit-part role at best. In light of what happened last week with Rosetta, I’m willing to wait and see if Dr Hirai will yet make a significant contribution – but with only one episode left in which to do so, he needs to do something big pretty quickly or we’ll unfortunately have to consider his inclusion in the story a bit of a let-down.

Dr Hirai doesn’t have long left to make an impact on the story.

There is one concept underlying the way Unknown Species 10-C reacted to Discovery’s arrival – and the conversation it prompted between Captain Burnham and the others – that I didn’t like. As humans, we’re able to recognise signs of intelligence in other species, even though we’re far more advanced and intelligent than they are. We can recognise the complex social structures present in ant colonies, for example, or how crows and some great apes are learning to use tools. Even though these creatures are far lower on the intelligence scale than we are, we’re able to determine quite easily that animals – even small and lowly ones – can exhibit signs of complex understanding and intelligence.

With that in mind, the idea that Unknown Species 10-C would see a starship arriving at warp speed, using a warp core and a spore drive, built from clearly artificial alloys, and somehow not understand that the creatures aboard it are sentient makes no sense. This species is supposedly much farther advanced than even the 32nd Century Federation, and even though they exist outside of the galaxy they must have the ability to scan and detect the existence of other sentient species, even if they choose not to interact with them. It’s conceivable that they might be selfish and not care about any other species besides themselves – but the idea that they would be unaware or incapable of determining intelligence in this situation is one that I can’t buy as a believable story point.

The USS Discovery approaches the hyperfield.

It seemed at first as though Species Ten-C was going to centre on this aspect of first contact, and I was certainly a little disappointed at first. But thankfully this didn’t last too long, with Unknown Species 10-C eventually getting the message and realising that the life-forms aboard the warp-capable starship are actually intelligent. Took them long enough!

I know that probably sounds like a nitpick – and it is, in a way. It’s just that, despite all of the talk of Unknown Species 10-C being very alien and having a very different culture, some things should be universally obvious – like if someone is capable of building a starship that can travel faster than the speed of light, use metal alloys that don’t exist in nature, and fly right up to your base to initiate contact, it’s probably a safe bet to assume that they possess some degree of intelligence. That should apply no matter who you are! And as pointed out above, humans are capable of recognising the signs of intelligence in the natural world. As a narrative beat, I get that it was in there to make the initial meeting feel very tense, but it’s kind of illogical if you think about it!

A representative of Unknown Species 10-C.

We didn’t get a clear look at Unknown Species 10-C, as their representative was partially obscured by a cloud of swirling gas. Nevertheless, the visual effects on this side of the story were mostly high-quality, and Unknown Species 10-C themselves at least seem like they’ll be visually interesting if we ever get a better look at them. I actually got a slight “Mass Effect Leviathan” vibe from what we glimpsed of Unknown Species 10-C. The design of the hyperfield was likewise interesting; it appeared much more solid than I had been expecting based on the holographic projections seen in previous episodes. Seeing it go from solid-metallic looking to swirling like fluid was also a very cool visual effect that Discovery executed well.

The only visual that I felt was a bit of a miss was Unknown Species 10-C’s shuttle pod/diplomatic chamber. When it arrived in Discovery’s shuttlebay it looked rather bland and low-quality, like a video game where a texture hasn’t loaded properly. It was clearly designed to look similar to the hyperfield, but I guess trying to blend that with a real set and real actors was difficult. It didn’t look awful, but it was noticeably lower quality when compared to the rest of the visual effects and animation work present in Species Ten-C.

This visual effect felt rather weak.

The idea of Unknown Species 10-C recreating part of Discovery as an environment for the crew works as a story point – I can quite understand why they’d choose to do something like that. But I confess that I rolled my eyes a little when I saw Captain Burnham and the others stepping onto the bridge set. It was understandable in the context of the story, but it didn’t make for a particularly impressive or interesting sequence when shown on screen. In fact, it almost makes Species Ten-C feel like a “bottle” episode – a Star Trek trope going all the way back to The Original Series where episodes would be set entirely aboard the ship.

As mentioned above when discussing Dr Hirai, President Rillak chose to bring both Captain Burnham and Saru when boarding Unknown Species 10-C’s diplomatic shuttle. And aside from totally sidelining Dr Hirai, this also left the command structure of Discovery and the rest of the mission uncertain. Rhys had the ship’s conn, as we’d see on the bridge near the episode’s climax, but who was in charge of the remaining delegates and the rest of the diplomatic mission? And how far did Rhys’ authority extend? Would he, for example, have been authorised to fire upon Unknown Species 10-C if time began to run out for Earth? Taking both the captain and first officer on this mission – when other experts were available – is a bit of an odd choice, and while of course as the audience we want to see our familiar characters leading the charge, it again makes the addition of some of these other delegates and experts feel like a bit of a waste.

The interior of Unknown Species 10-C’s pod.

A longer episode – or a story which had arrived at the hyperfield earlier in the season – could have spent longer on the whole first contact thing, and I really think that would have been worth doing. I’m actually getting a bit of a familiar feeling the more I think about Species Ten-C: it reminds me of the finale of Picard Season 1 in the sense that the season dawdled a lot to get to this point, and it feels like there’s a lot of important story points left to get through with very little time remaining. As a result, some aren’t being given as much attention or screen time as they probably should receive. We aren’t at the same level as Et in Arcadia Ego – at least, not yet. But suffice to say that Season 4 as a whole has left its final episode with a lot of work to do to wrap up all of the major stories in a satisfying way.

There were a few very close-up shots of characters’ faces that made the cinematography in Species Ten-C feel a bit odd. Close-ups can work and can be dramatic, but their use here felt rather gratuitous, with the episode both beginning and ending with them in a way that made it feel like the director was throwing everything at the wall in an attempt to make things seem even more dramatic. As I’ve said on several occasions this season when discussing certain narrative choices, Discovery is already a series that brings plenty of drama to the table – trying to take it from a ten to an eleven can sometimes fall flat, and a few of these extreme close-ups definitely strayed very close to the line.

Was there any need for so many close-up shots?

Book saw some significant character development this week after several episodes in which he felt very static. Although Tarka’s motivation for continuing to pursue the DMA’s power source feels pretty well-established by this point in the story, I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile Book’s presence on this side of the story in the aftermath of the failure of the isolytic weapon back in Rubicon. We hadn’t seen or heard enough from Book since that dramatic event to signal that he’s still on board with the next phase of Tarka’s plan – and this week he actually seems to have moved much closer to Burnham’s position.

Book’s cause is noble: he wants to stop the DMA from hurting anyone else in the way it destroyed his home and hurt him. And seen in that context, his decision to get on board with Tarka’s weapon plan was understandable. In Rubicon, Book indicated he would be willing to stand down for a short time to give diplomacy a chance to play out, and in the aftermath of the failure of the weapon, it wasn’t clear at all why he continued to follow Tarka. I’m still not exactly sure how he arrived at this point – was he motivated by fear of repercussions for the use of the weapon? Did he still believe it would be possible to destroy it after Tarka failed once? If so, is he now no longer willing to let Captain Burnham try for a diplomatic solution first?

Book in Species Ten-C.

These points were glossed over in Species Ten-C, but we finally got some movement from Book, arguably bringing him back into the fold as one of the “good guys.” It emerged that Tarka’s plan would destroy the DMA, destroy Earth, and destroy the hyperfield containing Unknown Species 10-C and the USS Discovery – so Book didn’t really have a choice! Again, this is Discovery pushing the story to extremes, and it feels as though Book coming back to the light is more of a necessity than a choice at this point. Still, it worked, and for the first time in several episodes I felt like I could relate to Book as a fully-rounded character again, not just a plot device caught up in the narrative wake of other characters with more volition.

There’s even a message in Book’s story, if we look a little deeper. The idea that grief can lead someone to a very dark place was already something we’d seen explored a little with Book earlier in the season, but now we can add into the mix themes of manipulation, of being lied to, and of getting involved with someone untrustworthy. It was initially grief that saw Book teaming up with Tarka, but he also had the noble objective of wanting to prevent others from having to experience that same level of grief. Unfortunately for Book, he relied on someone who turned out to be unworthy of his trust – and that’s how he ended up in this particular predicament.

Grief led Book down a dark path.

Reno saw her best scenes of the entire season on this side of the story, too. We’ll have to try to excuse the lousy “kidnapping” plot last week, because as weak and difficult to explain as that may have been, it ended up going somewhere significant. It didn’t necessarily have to be Reno as the one to reach out to Book – basically anyone on board the ship could’ve done so – but it was interesting to see her in this situation. Her words managed to reach him in a way that even Captain Burnham hadn’t been able to, and the sequences between the two of them worked exceptionally well.

Reno has often been used as a light-hearted character, bringing moments of deadpan comic relief that could lead to brighter moments in otherwise dark stories. This time, her role harkened back to her introduction in Season 2 – which was also referenced this week – when we first encountered her trapped aboard a crashed starship. A more serious performance from a comedic character carried a surprising amount of weight, and perhaps it’s because we know how Reno usually behaves and speaks that her words to Book meant a lot.

This was Reno’s best episode of the season.

For at least the past three episodes, Discovery seems to have been building up to a conclusion which is going to say something like: “if only Tarka and Book had told Captain Burnham what they were doing! It should have been possible for everyone to get what they want through diplomacy and communication!” and I don’t think that’s changed. It isn’t exactly formulaic, and there are still big questions about what Unknown Species 10-C will do and how Captain Burnham will respond to try to cool things down in the time that remains. But one way or another, the story’s going to get to that place.

As we approach the end of the season, feeling like we know roughly where the story is going to go was to be expected, I guess! And on its own merits, Species Ten-C was a good episode, one of the better offerings from Season 4 for certain. Whether it has moved things along far enough for the season finale to wrap up all of the remaining narrative threads is an open question, one we’ll have to wait until next week to get an answer for.

Book’s ship escaped the USS Discovery and entered the hyperfield.

Although I had some nitpicks within the story, overall I had a good time this week. Species Ten-C told a very “Star Trek” story, with perhaps some inspiration from the film Arrival in there too! Meeting a brand-new alien race and learning how to communicate is something truly interesting, and my biggest complaint is that I would have liked to have seen more of it – for the season to have reached this point a couple of episodes ago so we could have spent longer with Captain Burnham, Saru, President Rillak, and Dr Hirai as they worked on figuring out how to use a complex arrangement of lights and pheromones to communicate. It was nice to see some significant movement from Book, too, after several uninteresting or flat episodes on that side of the story.

Did Season 4 need to turn Tarka into a villain? I think that could be a question for a longer essay once the season has wrapped up! I could certainly entertain the argument that the Unknown Species 10-C story – one of misunderstanding, communication, and first contact – was strong enough to carry both this episode and the bulk of the season without requiring this kind of last-minute character twist. Between the DMA and the smaller character moments – some of which, as noted last week, haven’t been as thoroughly explored as they could have been – maybe it would have been better overall to find a different way to include Tarka. But we’ll talk about that more in the weeks ahead, perhaps.

For now, there’s only one episode remaining! This time next week it’ll be all over… or will it? Could a cliffhanger ending be on the cards?

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Tarantino Trek: A missed opportunity?

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise.

Quite a lot of very famous, very successful people are fans of Star Trek. The franchise has an incredible reach, and has inspired the likes of scientists, engineers, politicians – and many people in the world of entertainment, too. One such Star Trek fan is famed director Quentin Tarantino, who directed such films as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill. A few years ago it was reported that Tarantino had pitched his own Star Trek film, with the aim of it becoming his next project after work on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood wrapped.

That film is now not going ahead, with the cinematic Star Trek franchise seemingly planning a return to the Kelvin timeline – although that announcement, it seems, may have been premature, as some of the 2009 cast were said to have been taken by surprise. But that’s a conversation for another time! On this occasion I wanted to consider Tarantino’s pitch for a Star Trek film, what it might have been, and what it could have meant for the franchise. Will we come to lament the cancellation of this project? Will we look back and say it was a missed opportunity? Or is it better for both Star Trek and Quentin Tarantino to stay in their lanes?

Is it better for Star Trek to return to the relative safety of the Kelvin timeline?

Quentin Tarantino can be a controversial individual, and not just for the violence depicted in his films. He’s been accused of pushing actors to do stunts that they didn’t feel able to do, of gratuitously using certain racial slurs, and of making controversial statements on sex abusers such as Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein. Some actors have claimed Tarantino is difficult to work with, and there’s certainly an argument to be made that any long-running franchise might want to think twice about an association with someone like that.

Tarantino also has very limited experience working within the framework of a larger franchise. With the exceptions of a single episode each of ER and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that he directed, all of Tarantino’s projects have been standalone works, usually that he’s both written and directed, taking charge of every aspect of the story and production. With his most recent directing credit outside of his own projects being more than fifteen years ago, there are definitely questions as to how well Tarantino’s story would fit in with the broader Star Trek franchise, and how well he would be able to work with the creative team at Paramount Global who are in overall control.

Quentin Tarantino directed a single episode of ER’s first season. I bet you didn’t know that!

I confess that I rarely seek out Tarantino’s films, speaking for myself. His violent style and, in some cases, deliberate decisions to ignore real history can make them uncomfortable and difficult to watch, and at the end of the day I guess that kind of film just isn’t usually “my thing.” We all have different tastes and preferences, and having seen most of his films by now I feel comfortable enough to make that kind of subjective judgement.

Given everything I just said, you might assume that I’m happily celebrating the news that Quentin Tarantino’s Star Trek project isn’t going ahead – something that many Trekkies I’ve spoken with or seen on social media seem to be doing. But I’m not – and I really do wonder if we’re going to look back on this decision in the future as being a mistake, perhaps even one that did untold damage to the Star Trek franchise as a whole.

Could cancelling this project be a mistake?

Right now, Star Trek’s short-term future seems assured. There will be new seasons of all the shows currently in production taking us to at least the early part of 2024, at least one and possibly two films in early production, and perhaps as many as three upcoming series (and/or miniseries) that are also being worked on behind-the-scenes. Official announcements for some of these projects may be coming as early as this year.

So Star Trek is busier than ever, which is great news! But things aren’t perfect by any means, and there are problems just below the surface that could prove damaging to the franchise’s longer-term success. The constipated international rollout of Paramount+ continues to be a huge weight around the neck of the franchise, cutting off millions of Trekkies from shows like Prodigy. Paramount Global’s “America First” attitude means that even fans outside the United States who are lucky enough to get Paramount+ still can’t watch all of the latest episodes at the same time as American viewers. Star Trek’s social media, merchandising, and marketing is all ridiculously sub-par, and while there are signs of improvement, there’s still a long way to go.

Star Trek’s social media marketing just plain sucks.

There are relatively few directors with the name recognition of Quentin Tarantino. He directs one film every few years, they usually receive critical acclaim and become wildly successful at the box office, and anything he creates draws a lot of attention and huge audiences. If someone of that stature were to be involved with Star Trek and direct a Star Trek film, we’d quite likely see audience numbers that eclipse even Star Trek Into Darkness – the franchise’s current high-water mark at the box office.

We’d also get huge numbers of people checking out the Star Trek franchise for the first time, and as always happens with every new Star Trek project, some of those people would go on to join the fan community and become huge Trekkies. There are millions of people who are only vaguely aware of Star Trek or who have dismissed it out of hand; someone like Tarantino has the rare ability to reach out to those people and convince them to give it a try. That’s not to say everyone who sat down to watch Tarantino’s Trek would immediately be transformed into Trekkies – but some of them would, and the fanbase could grow much larger off the back of one single film than it’s been able to in years.

Quentin Tarantino directed the critically-acclaimed Pulp Fiction.

That’s the real reason why a project of this nature is worth investing in. It won’t be every day that Paramount Global gets a pitch from someone as undeniably talented and well-known as Quentin Tarantino, so even if he doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the current direction of the franchise, any project with his name attached should be worth considering very seriously. The benefits of bringing fresh eyes to Star Trek and reaching audiences that no other Star Trek film could even contemplate could pay dividends for the franchise in the medium-to-long term. Aside from making a single successful film – which any Tarantino work almost certainly would be – and turning a profit, a Tarantino Star Trek film could potentially expand the Star Trek fanbase in a huge way.

In order for Star Trek to remain successful, there has to be a near-continuous level of growth in audience numbers and in terms of the money it brings in for parent company Paramount Global. If the franchise stagnates and starts to decline, we’ll be back in the position we were in in 2005, with cancellation looming and the franchise potentially disappearing altogether. Projects like Lower Decks and Prodigy have already demonstrated that Star Trek can reach out beyond its usual niche and appeal to new demographics – although the decision to withhold both shows from international broadcast hurt them immeasurably.

Lower Decks is a Star Trek project that hasn’t been afraid to try new things.

So Paramount Global is willing to try new things, which is great. And right now, Star Trek is more diverse than it has ever been – and I don’t just mean in terms of its on-screen faces. Different series are reaching out to completely different target audiences, whether it’s younger kids, comedy fans, or fans of serialised drama. Not every project will hold an appeal to every existing fan, but I think most Trekkies are still willing to give them a try.

That diversity could have been a point in favour of Tarantino’s Star Trek film. If I were in charge of greenlighting these things for Paramount Global, I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen Tarantino Trek instead of other projects. But if I knew the Star Trek franchise was already doing a number of very different things already, I think I’d have taken that risk and found a place for it. Worst case scenario, you get a mediocre film that almost certainly still turns a profit. But in the best case, the Star Trek fanbase grows significantly, and with the renewed attention such a project would bring, more people would be inclined to try out other recent offerings. Combine the release of Tarantino Trek with a decent marketing campaign highlighting Paramount+ as the home of Picard, Lower Decks, Strange New Worlds, and so on, and I think all of the pieces are there for the film to be a launchpad for unprecedented subscriber growth and more new eyes on the franchise than we’ve seen in a long time.

The film could have provided Paramount+ with a nice boost.

This is the same fundamental reason why I supported the Kelvin films when they kicked off in 2009. I have friends who still to this day refuse to watch the Kelvin films because they hated the decision to re-cast The Original Series characters, they didn’t like the aesthetic of the films, and they felt they would be too action-oriented, taking Star Trek away from its roots. I obviously don’t agree with those criticisms, though I can understand where they came from to a degree. But even though the Kelvin films weren’t my all-time favourites in the franchise, they succeeded at rebooting Star Trek.

Star Trek 2009 could be a textbook case study in rebooting a franchise. It got so many things right – and it was rewarded for that with what was, at the time, the highest audience numbers and best box office returns for any film in the entire franchise. It shot past The Wrath of Khan and First Contact, easily overtaking both even when accounting for inflation. And for the casual audience that the Star Trek franchise had been losing by the millions from the late 1990s through to the early 2000s, the 2009 reboot demonstrated that there was still life in the franchise. New fans joined the fan community having seen the Kelvin films, and have since gone back to watch and enjoy older series and films. Tarantino’s film had the potential to do what Star Trek 2009 did – but at a completely different order of magnitude because of the huge name attached to it.

Love it or hate it, Star Trek 2009 reinvigorated the franchise.

I might not have enjoyed Tarantino’s film. But I recognise that he’s a talented filmmaker, storyteller, and director – and someone with undeniable talents in those fields should be the kind of person that Paramount Global seeks to attract to the Star Trek franchise. This isn’t to put down or belittle anyone currently or recently involved with Star Trek – there are some fantastic creative people who’ve told some wonderful stories that deserve more praise than they get, sometimes. Comparing and saying “who’s better” is always going to be a subjective thing with no real answer, but for my money, if the option to have both is on the table – Tarantino and the current crop of Star Trek creatives – then I’d happily find a way to include him.

I confess that I was a little surprised by the reaction to the news that this film isn’t going ahead. There were quite a lot of Trekkies who seemed to be celebrating its demise – and while I can understand some folks may find Tarantino an unlikeable person or might disagree with some of the things he’s said and done, I can’t help but feel that this schadenfreude may be misplaced. In time, we may look back at this project’s cancellation and wonder what might have been if it had gone ahead.

Quentin Tarantino.
Photo credit: Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons.

For all the time that we’ve spent discussing the potential in Tarantino’s film, we haven’t actually talked about what the film itself was supposed to be! All of this has to be taken with a grain of salt, based on interviews and gossip, but it seems as though Tarantino was interested in taking another look at The Original Series classic episode A Piece of the Action. That episode was set on a planet whose inhabitants revered the mob lifestyle of Chicago in the 1920s, and saw Captain Kirk and Spock become “gangsters” – of a sort.

I’ve always found A Piece of the Action to have a campy charm as it mimics, in its own way, the gangster movies of a generation earlier; Hollywood films of the 1930s. The original Scarface, The Roaring Twenties, and G Men are all the kind of titles that A Piece of the Action drew its inspiration from, and while those films are less well-known in 2022, when A Piece of the Action premiered, they were only between 30-35 years old – akin to a viewer today recalling a film from the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Spock and Dr McCoy in A Piece of the Action.

Gangster films have done well in recent years, too. Films like The Irishman, The Highwaymen, and TV shows like Peaky Blinders have all put their own spins on the genre since 2010, showing that there’s plenty of interest even today in this kind of period gangster flick. Tarantino’s film could have easily been on par with any of those, blending humour, drama, and action together while appealing to a segment of the audience that past Star Trek films have failed to reach.

A Piece of the Action might not be my choice to return to, but again that’s thinking about it in isolation. I can happily agree with anyone who says that A Piece of the Action isn’t the best part of Star Trek and isn’t the one thing they want to see more of! But in the context of an expanding, broader franchise, with different projects going in wildly different directions, I think I could find a place for it.

Captain Kirk in A Piece of the Action.

And that basically encapsulates how I feel. On its own, if there was no room for other Star Trek to be made, or if greenlighting Tarantino’s film would mean cancelling something like Discovery or Prodigy, then I’d shoot it down in flames. But as one part of a franchise that has a lot of different projects on the go and that hopes to target different audiences? I really do believe that it could have been made to work. Maybe not every Trekkie would have liked it. But again, if it were a one-off project with a new cast of characters, that’s almost incidental. What would matter far more, in my view, are the new fans it could create, the new eyes it would bring to Star Trek for the very first time, and the potential it could have to repeat and even eclipse the success of the Kelvin films at growing the fanbase. This would, in turn, have the effect of shoring up support for the franchise at a time when the “streaming wars” and the missteps made by Paramount+ have placed Star Trek’s longer-term future in doubt.

There are a number of Star Trek films that never got off the ground for one reason or another, just as there are series concepts and episodes that were likewise never made. Perhaps in future, Tarantino’s project will be just one of many such entries on a list, and it won’t matter that it didn’t happen. If shows like Prodigy and Strange New Worlds succeed at keeping the franchise feeling fresh, I think we stand a good chance of reaching the sixtieth anniversary in 2026 with new films and shows still on the air. But beyond that… it gets harder to predict. I’d hate to be looking back a few years from now, with Star Trek off the air once more, wondering what could have been if Tarantino’s film had gone ahead.

The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and films mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery review – Season 4, Episode 11: Rosetta

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4.

Last week’s episode, The Galactic Barrier, was absolutely fantastic – one of the highlights of the season for certain! Unfortunately Rosetta didn’t reach that high bar, and was an episode that felt like it was dragging its feet. While there were some emotional character moments, even those weren’t as strong as they might’ve been and couldn’t salvage an episode in which both halves of the story felt contrived, and where a major new element that had been introduced to the story last week constantly got in the way. Rosetta plodded along, constantly tripping over one big, unnecessary narrative cliché.

I like the idea of Discovery stepping away from total serialisation to go on away missions to planets like the one featured in Rosetta. As we saw just last week – and on a couple of occasions earlier in the season – those semi-standalone stories can work exceptionally well, blending together Discovery’s modern serialised approach to storytelling with at least some components of Star Trek’s episodic past. But this week, for much of the time all I could feel was a sense that the mission to Unknown Species 10-C’s ex-homeworld was a complete waste of time – not only for the characters, who don’t have so much as a second to waste, but more importantly for us as the audience.

The away team.

The worst part of last week’s episode was the insertion of the horribly overused trope of Earth being in danger. I tried to put that to the back of my mind as Rosetta got started, hoping that the time constraint it had imposed would lead to some kind of interesting or exciting storyline as Season 4 reaches its conclusion. But this cliché absolutely ruined Rosetta – turning a story that might’ve had the kernel of a good idea at its core into one that felt like a complete and utter waste of everybody’s time. With time being a very limited resource for Captain Burnham, that just isn’t something that should have been allowed to happen!

If the “Earth is about to be destroyed” cliché wasn’t part of the season’s story, this feeling would have been far less prominent throughout Rosetta, and I could have almost certainly forgiven another detour on the way to Unknown Species 10-C’s hyperfield. With less of a time constraint, such a mission would arguably be worth doing, and while there could still be naysayers and dissenters among the crew and assembled delegates, I would have been firmly in the camp that says “let’s see if we can find any interesting or useful information about this completely unknown faction.” But because Discovery’s writers wanted to crank up the tension and drama to eleven out of ten, what should have been a decent episode with some interesting story elements didn’t work. Instead of the tension rumbling in the background, spurring me on to make the story feel exciting, I could barely prevent myself from shouting at the series to just get on with it – to go to the hyperfield right now! Tension became frustration.

Captain Burnham chose to lead an away mission to a planet instead of racing to the hyperfield.

Not for the first time, narrative contrivances in Discovery have conspired to make Captain Burnham seem like she’s in the wrong. While not exactly being a complete and utter moron, she came across in the episode’s opening act as misguided in the extreme – wasting time on a mission that could have easily yielded nothing of consequence. As happened in episodes like The Vulcan Hello and The Red Angel, it fell to another character to be the voice of reason against Captain Burnham – in this case, Earth’s representative, General Ndoye.

Ndoye made the very simple point that there isn’t time to waste visiting a random planet, and that attempting to make contact first would be the best move. If Unknown Species 10-C didn’t respond to attempts at communication, visiting the planet could be Plan B – but there’s no way it should’ve been Plan A. Rosetta attempts to rely on the away team’s discovery of pheromone-like hydrocarbon dust to say “aha! Captain Burnham was right all along!” but in my view, all that the end of the episode proved was that she got very lucky. Her judgement, four seasons in, is still questionable at times – and on this occasion, with the stakes so very high, I can’t shake the feeling that she made the wrong call.

General Ndoye became the voice of reason… briefly.

The hydrocarbon pheromones will almost certainly play a role in the next couple of episodes – I mean, they have to, right? Otherwise Rosetta will have proven to be a complete waste of time. But even assuming that’s the case, Captain Burnham took a massive risk by diverting to the planet with hours to spare, and it just feels like – not for the first time this season – there was a very easy “middle ground” approach that neither she nor anyone else seems to have considered.

The USS Discovery is equipped with a contingent of shuttles, so sending one with a small away team to the planet while the rest of the crew takes the ship and visits the hyperfield – instead of sitting in orbit of the planet doing fuck all – would have been the hallowed “middle ground” option that the show’s writers seem to have just ignored. Because Captain Burnham has to be the main focus of practically every episode and every major plotline, other characters in the show are relegated to sitting on their hands and waiting for her latest stroke of brilliance. In this case, everyone with the exception of Detmer, Saru, and Dr Culber were just shoved off-screen, seemingly doing nothing except waiting for Captain Burnham to get back. Adira and Reno even found time to get coffee.

This picture is Rosetta in microcosm: Captain Burnham goes off on an away mission while everyone else stands around doing nothing.

That makes Discovery Season 4 feel like a pretty basic story – one designed for small children who don’t have the attention to focus on more than one major narrative at once. Because Captain Burnham wanted to visit the planet, everyone has to visit the planet. God forbid any other character is granted any agency over the plot or given the volition to do anything independently – they’re not real people, you know, just narrative devices.

And yes, it’s Star Trek. It’s fiction. It’s “just a story” – but god do I hate that tired excuse every time it’s trotted out in defence of contrived, underwhelming, or just plain indefensible narratives. If we’re expected to suspend our disbelief and get lost in the world of Star Trek, even just for an hour, the way characters behave has to make basic sense. The characters themselves have to feel like real people – flesh-and-blood beings with emotions, feelings, and brains, not just plot devices who can be used one moment then placed into hibernation the next. And this week, Rosetta basically sidelined the entire crew, forcing them to sit on their hands and do nothing while Captain Burnham took charge of a pretty barebones side-story that I’m not even sure accomplished all that much.

The away team with a cache of magic dust.

I said earlier that the pheromone hydrocarbons will have to feature in the story in some way later on – and I certainly hope that they will! But as of the end of Rosetta, the mission to Unknown Species 10-C’s ex-planet doesn’t feel as though it achieved very much. Captain Burnham didn’t find anything substantial – and the dust, while narratively interesting, was visually unimpressive to say the least. If there had been something more visually unique or interesting about what the away team recovered – like one of the bones that were briefly seen, a computer core, a stone tablet, or literally anything we as the audience could see, maybe that feeling wouldn’t be so prevalent. But because even the away mission’s big accomplishment was difficult to really perceive, the entire story feels like it’s on far shakier ground than it already was.

If the pheromone hydrocarbons are incorporated into the story of the next couple of episodes in a major way, maybe we’ll revisit Rosetta and consider it a little more favourably in hindsight. There are definitely interesting possibilities with this new narrative element that could be explored or that could be paid off in a big way. But if Discovery doesn’t do something big with the pheromone hydrocarbons before the end of the season, the episode will feel like even more of a waste than it already does.

Will the pheromone dust play a significant enough role in the story to make Rosetta feel like a worthwhile detour?

In past iterations of Star Trek – including in previous episodes and seasons of Discovery – the universal translator has been shown to work pretty well. There are some exceptions – such as the Tamarians – but even then a way across the language barrier was eventually found. With the 900-year time jump to the 32nd Century, it stands to reason that the universal translator has only gotten better as Starfleet has encountered more and more races. Even if we accept the premise that communication has never been successfully made with a species that uses pheromones or chemicals to communicate, doesn’t it seem like it would be worth trying to use the universal translator, especially given the time constraints? With the level of technology that Unknown Species 10-C has been shown to have, they might have some kind of translator or communicator of their own, too.

I know a lot of this must sound like nitpicking, but it all stems from the fact that the show’s writers chose to inject forced drama by using an “Earth is in danger and there’s just hours to save it!” cliché that wasn’t necessary to make this story interesting or exciting. The stakes were high enough, the danger was real enough, and by trying to turn the drama up to eleven, Rosetta tripped over. There was a potentially interesting story about learning more about a very new and different form of life… but it’s one that this cliché has spoiled. Take away the time constraint and many of the narrative complaints on this side of the story would have fallen away.

A holographic depiction of the hyperfield.

Rosetta wasn’t saved by its B-plot, either, with Tarka and Book undertaking an equally nonsensical away mission that also seemed to be based on a very shaky premise. With Captain Burnham’s decision to take an away mission to the planet, my criticism stems from the fact that The Galactic Barrier had introduced the cliché of Earth being threatened meaning that there wasn’t time for a detour. But Book and Tarka’s away mission to the USS Discovery was done because they… wanted to stick Book’s ship to Discovery’s hull? Couldn’t they just remain under cloak and tail the ship? It feels pretty weak, even by the standards of Star Trek technobabble.

We also didn’t get to see any of Book and Tarka’s journey navigating the Galactic Barrier, which is something I was genuinely interested in. A powerful ship like the USS Discovery barely made it through, so how would Book’s glorified runabout survive? We basically got no payoff to Book and Tarka’s side-mission last week of collecting programmable antimatter at the abandoned prison camp. Presumably they were able to successfully apply it and transit the Galactic Barrier – but the episode literally didn’t even pay lip service to that, with their story starting up with Book’s ship already parked a few yards away from the USS Discovery.

Couldn’t Book and Tarka just continue to tail Discovery? Also, how did they make it through the Galactic Barrier?

Given how difficult navigating the Galactic Barrier proved to be for the USS Discovery, it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see Book and Tarka having to tackle that task. Maybe it could’ve been included at the end of last week’s episode – even if it was just a short sequence, Discovery should really have done something to pay off their mission to the prison camp.

It also seems like Book has decided that he and Tarka are fugitives without even trying to make contact and explain what happened. The end of Rubicon suggested that there might be a pathway to reconciliation for him and Michael, but he has done nothing to attempt to pursue that – except for creepily spying on her in what has to be one of the most uncomfortable moments in the entire episode. Book signalled his willingness to stand down and give peace a chance; it was only Tarka’s actions that led to the weapon being detonated. With Captain Burnham on his side to advocate for him, you’d think he’d know that he has a good chance of not getting into serious trouble – and he could even be a valuable asset to Starfleet, sharing his knowledge of Tarka and his plans.

Did anyone else find this moment of Book spying on Burnham a little creepy? Cool camera shot, though…

This continues a trend of Book having been fairly static for several episodes now, having gone through several stages of grief for Kwejian and his family before seeming to just… stop. In the first half of the season, Book got some of the most deeply emotional moments in the show, and seeing how grief was leading him down a dark path was a potentially interesting story, but it’s one that Discovery hasn’t really been able to successfully elaborate on. Like most of the rest of the characters, Book has been relegated to a supporting role, and that means he doesn’t really get much agency over the story any more. He’s stuck following Tarka just like everyone else is stuck following Burnham. If we’d heard anything from him to indicate that he was still committed to that cause, maybe it wouldn’t feel so silly. But right now, Book feels like a follower; a passive character caught in Tarka’s narrative wake.

So I’m not going to nitpick things like needing to physically board the ship to install a macguffin into the macguffin network. That’s Star Trek-ish enough to be inoffensive. But the setup that led Book and Tarka to that point felt very contrived, and it wasn’t sufficiently explained as to why they couldn’t just continue to tail Discovery all the way to – and perhaps inside – the hyperfield. It also wasn’t explained why everyone keeps assuming that the hyperfield will be impenetrable – they haven’t even tried to approach it, and if Unknown Species 10-C are as advanced as we think they are, surely they’d see a spaceship coming and investigate. Book and Tarka’s quest this week seems like an unnecessarily involved stealth mission that had the potential to lead to moments of either extreme drama or perhaps even comedy, with the two fugitives sneaking on board the ship, but it ultimately didn’t deliver much of either.

Book and Tarka managed to sneak aboard Discovery.

Bringing General Ndoye into the Book-Tarka side of the story is, again, something that we’ll have to watch and see whether it leads to a significant payoff. Right now it feels like it could go either way, and although I would argue that Ndoye had been the voice of reason earlier in the episode with Captain Burnham, I’m not wild about her becoming a kind of double-agent in this conspiracy.

Two of the big thematic elements of Seasons 3 and 4 have been connection and communication – and it seems like the series is now building to a conclusion which will say something like “if only Book and Tarka had worked with Captain Burnham, everyone could have got what they wanted.” If Book and Tarka would share why Tarka wants the power source, maybe Captain Burnham could work with him – or find an alternative way for him to travel between universes, such as the Guardian of Forever that we saw last season. And if Captain Burnham could find a way to compromise with Book, their whole relationship feud could be solved. A story about how division and failing to communicate can lead to problems can be a powerful one, but it’ll need to be executed a damn sight better than it was in Rosetta. Here, the two disconnected stories just chafed against each other in the most frustrating way.

Book and Tarka at the end of the episode.

The CGI work for Unknown Species 10-C’s planet was good, and although it was only seen very briefly and not really explained, I liked the “Dyson rings” seen orbiting their star. Presumably Discovery scanned the rings off-screen and determined there’s nothing worth looking for there… although that would have been nice to get confirmation of, otherwise the rings seem a good target for an away mission of this nature as well.

The filming location for the outdoor sections of the away mission looked very familiar; I’m sure it was seen either earlier in Season 4 or perhaps in Season 3. In an interview for The Ready Room a few weeks ago, Mary Wiseman mentioned a quarry in the Toronto area that has been used for several outdoor shoots, which could be why it’s so familiar. Slapping a yellow filter on it in post-production didn’t really do much to disguise it, and with the new AR wall that Paramount invested a fair amount of money in, I’m left wondering why the Star Trek franchise keeps walking headfirst into this particular mistake. The AR wall was used to great effect to depict the interior of the Unknown Species 10-C base… so why not the exterior as well?

The away team.

The crew’s EV suit malfunction is also a bit of a contrivance. Aren’t protective suits meant to protect against everything in the environment, especially things that are new or haven’t been encountered before? This is another nitpick, I guess, but I didn’t like the way that this was just hand-waved away by half a line of dialogue. “Oh, I guess the EV suits don’t protect against substances that aren’t in the Federation database and are very different.” That just seems like an odd way to explain it. And if we want to keep nitpicking, that dust looked like it was everywhere – floating in the air as well as lying on the ground and on surfaces. So how did Detmer not get exposed when everyone else did?

After making the decision to waste time on an away mission that, realistically, she must’ve known had the possibility of failure, Captain Burnham came across as incredibly stubborn shortly before the crew encountered the 10-C nursery. Partly this was triggered by a reaction to the hydrocarbons, I guess, but coming after I found her decision to go on the mission in the first place difficult to justify, stubbornly doubling-down on it when it seemed as though there wasn’t anything to find wasn’t a great look for her character.

Captain Burnham during the away mission.

So have we just nitpicked Rosetta to death?

There were interesting and clever concepts buried here, and there were some nice but unspectacular character moments between Dr Culber and Captain Burnham, Tarka and Book, and to a lesser extent between Reno and Adira and Detmer and Adira too. Some fans argue that Discovery is all about its characters and that the sci-fi trappings should just be seen as a backdrop, with any contrivances and plot complaints waved away because of how well-done some of these character moments can be. I don’t agree with that – if you want character drama, go and watch a soap or some scripted reality show. Star Trek is science fiction, so at the very least the sci-fi side of the story has to be basically competent and good enough to keep my suspension of disbelief going.

Because of how Rosetta sidelined many of the other characters and didn’t actually spend that much time on these interpersonal moments, I would argue that it wasn’t even a particularly impressive episode on the character side of things, either. The moment between Dr Culber and Captain Burnham came in two parts – one during the away mission and one at the end in her ready-room. But it lasted all of two minutes, maybe, and that just isn’t enough time to do justice to a complicated mental health story.

Counselling for the counsellor.

Dr Culber’s storyline feels like it’s retreading the Detmer path from Season 3. We’ve had a few short scenes spread across a handful of episodes to explain in the most basic of ways how he feels overwhelmed, stressed, and/or unable to cope with his work and the situation he’s found himself in. His moment admitting to Captain Burnham that he isn’t okay should have been the culmination of this season-long character arc… but it’s an arc that feels so underdeveloped that, despite the beautiful performance by Wilson Cruz, I’m struggling to buy it. The story of a counsellor – someone working as a mental health professional – needing to seek help for their own struggles is a noble one, and one absolutely worth telling, but it’s also a story that Discovery is not doing justice to as things stand.

I’ve been a big advocate for better mental health representation in all forms of media, but I’m unfortunately in the position of having to say that if the series can’t do justice to stories like this I’d honestly rather that it skipped them altogether. It feels like Discovery is doing little more than paying lip service to a serious topic, one that’s clearly too big for the limited time and attention that the show is willing to dedicate to it.

Captain Burnham and Dr Culber during the away mission.

Returning to Detmer, last season she got a storyline about post-traumatic stress that was referenced in Rosetta. But like Dr Culber’s story of dealing with his struggles this season, it wasn’t fleshed out enough to be meaningful. She had a few scenes spread across a handful of episodes, then seemed to magically “get better.” It’s only now, a full season later, that we even heard about her getting help or treatment for PTSD.

In Rosetta, Discovery also continued a disappointing trend of ham-fistedly inserting blatantly expository dialogue that the writers sometimes use as a substitute for actual character development. In this case, Detmer remembered something about her father mistreating her that could have been significant, but it was treated as an afterthought by a script that had its attention firmly focused elsewhere. Emily Coutts did well with the material she had, and put in a decent performance – but the material was barebones to say the least.

Lieutenant Commander Detmer.

Saru’s panic attack was one of the more interesting moments of characterisation, and if I were to single out one performance and one strong element from Rosetta it would be the way Doug Jones conveyed Saru’s terror during these sequences. We’ll have to set aside questions of why Captain Burnham didn’t immediately send him back to the shuttle, but if we can ignore contrivances like that, Saru really sold me on his panic attack. As someone who has had panic attacks myself – thankfully infrequently – I found the depiction of Saru in these moments very relatable.

We got a bit of a pep talk between Reno and Adira; two characters who don’t feel like a natural pair but who worked well together this time. Adira has adopted much of the awkwardness of Season 1 Tilly, and that “young, inexperienced, and nervous” character type is a good counterbalance to some of the show’s older and more established characters. Reno was deadpan as ever, but none of her lines this week were laugh-out-loud funny; while her scenes brought some much-needed levity to the story, they didn’t exactly blow me away.

Reno with Adira.

Finally, we come to Dr Hirai. For the second episode running – and he’s only been in two episodes so far – he felt very underused. There was a brief scene between him and President Rillak in which she rebuked him for his bluntness, but that was it. Perhaps that was deserved, but as we’ve spent such a minuscule amount of time with this character, it just felt like an unnecessary addition. If Dr Hirai was going to be featured in a scene this week, why not show him working or doing something that could contribute to the story? Just because everyone aboard Discovery was sitting around waiting for Burnham to get back that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have found something useful to do.

Again, Dr Hirai is someone who could have a bigger role to play before the season ends. But his two appearances so far in Rosetta and in The Galactic Barrier have felt like fluff; a potentially-interesting character about whom we know nothing of consequence. If he is going to have something significant to do in the next couple of episodes, we need to start seeing more from him very soon – otherwise he risks feeling rather flat.

Dr Hirai.

So that was Rosetta, I guess. Not the season’s high-water mark, unfortunately.

At the core of the episode there was an interesting idea, and the notion of Unknown Species 10-C being difficult to communicate with is a concept that could still work – if it’s properly executed in the two episodes that remain. But because The Galactic Barrier added an unnecessary time constraint to Captain Burnham’s mission, this side-quest felt more frustrating than exciting; I wanted to shout at Captain Burnham – and at Discovery’s writers – to just get on with the main story.

There were more than enough smaller narrative threads to pick at to unravel the episode’s entire story. Both the A- and B-plots were disappointing, and even where Discovery has been successful in the past – with moments of characterisation and communication – I was underwhelmed by what Rosetta had to offer. As we approach the final two episodes of the season, there’s a lot of work left to do to pull out a decent ending to this rather plodding story.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten “comfort episodes” of Star Trek for difficult days

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the following Star Trek productions: The Original Series Season 2, The Voyage Home, The Next Generation Season 6, Deep Space Nine Season 6, Voyager Season 4, Enterprise Season 2, Short Treks, Picard Season 1, Lower Decks Season 2, and Prodigy Season 1.
Phew. That was a lot!

The world can be a crappy place, and not just because of wars and pandemics. Sometimes we all need to switch off from current events and seek out some escapism. For me, films and TV shows with very heavy themes, lots of violence, or dark narratives don’t always provide the best escape, and on days when my mental health suffers I find myself reaching for something lighter and comforting. On this occasion, I thought we could pick out a few Star Trek stories that I believe fit that description.

The Star Trek franchise has long been an escape from reality for me. In both its older and modern incarnations, I find that jumping head-first into a future that looks safer and better than anything we could imagine today feels pretty great! Star Trek has always had an underlying setting that feels optimistic and hopeful for a better tomorrow – and that’s something we all need to hear sometimes.

So with that in mind, let’s consider a few Star Trek stories that I believe make for lighter, comforting viewing. As always, this isn’t a ranked list; the episodes are listed below in the order they were first broadcast.

Number 1:
A Piece of the Action
The Original Series Season 2

Captain Kirk as you may not have seen him before!

The Original Series made very creative use of some of the limitations of its time! It wasn’t always possible to visit a brand-new planet every week that looked and felt very “alien,” so The Original Series used sets intended for other films and TV shows in different – and occasionally silly – ways. A Piece of the Action sees Captain Kirk and the crew encounter a planet whose entire population have based their society around the Chicago mob!

When A Piece of the Action was written, the 1920s were only forty years in the past – the equivalent today of the eighties! So perhaps to viewers at the time it was more relevant and less… camp. But I’ve always found A Piece of the Action to have a light, almost comedic flair simply because of its setting; the ’20s-inspired dialogue, the old fashioned suits, and the general tone of a “Golden Age of Hollywood” gangster flick all contribute to that.

Spock and Dr McCoy with Tommy guns.

The notion of going to a faraway planet in space and finding a society based on the Chicago mob is silly, but A Piece of the Action sells it in the best way it can, making the very odd juxtaposition of scenes aboard the Enterprise and scenes on Sigma Iotia II flow surprisingly well. But above all, it’s a fun story that imitates, in a very Star Trek way, classic mobster films from a generation earlier.

Apparently A Piece of the Action was going to be the basis for a Quentin Tarantino-directed Star Trek film that ultimately didn’t enter production. It seems as though I’m in a minority, based on the reactions to this news from Trekkies I’ve spoken with, but I’d have been interested to see what a director as undeniably talented as Tarantino would’ve brought to Star Trek. A new film from such a big name would surely have been a box office draw, at the very least! But maybe that should be the topic of a longer article sometime.

Number 2:
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Dr McCoy and Scotty in 1986.

Also known as “the one with the whales,” The Voyage Home is arguably the most lighthearted and fun of all the Star Trek films to date! After the very heavy stories of loss and death in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, the third and final act of this trilogy came along like a breath of fresh air. I feel that The Voyage Home is the most dated of the Star Trek films thanks to being set in what was, at the time, the modern day. But that doesn’t detract from it; the kitschy eighties flavour is all part of the appeal!

There are some fantastic moments of pure comedy in The Voyage Home. I won’t spoil them if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, but suffice to say that bringing a 23rd Century crew to the modern day and forcing them to interact with basic things like cash and computers led to some absolutely hilarious, iconic moments.

HMS Bounty makes it home.

There’s an ecological message at the heart of The Voyage Home, and the threat posed by the alien “whale probe” is definitely serious. But that theme doesn’t present as excessively weighty, and by the time Kirk and the gang are running around San Fransisco in 1986, the focus is more on the fun side of that premise.

With Star Trek: Picard Season 2 fast approaching, it could be fun to go back to The Voyage Home to see the most recent use of the “slingshot method” of travelling through time – something that may be making a return to Star Trek very soon!

Number 3:
Relics
The Next Generation Season 6

Cheers!

I wanted to put at least one crossover episode on this list, and this time it’s Relics that makes the cut! Bringing Scotty into The Next Generation was a lot of fun, and having him overcome his “fish out of water” status to eventually work alongside Geordi La Forge was absolutely fantastic, and made for a wonderful, heartwarming story.

With no evil villain to defeat nor a war to fight, Relics posed a scientific puzzle for Star Trek’s first two engineers to overcome – and in the process they were able to save the Enterprise-D from being trapped inside of a Dyson Sphere! There’s definitely a message in Relics: that older people have a lot to contribute if younger people are willing to take the time to listen.

Star Trek’s first two engineers teamed up for this adventure.

When I first saw Relics back in the ’90s, I wasn’t prepared for Scotty’s arrival. This was before the days of spoilers on social media, so I went into the episode completely unaware of what I was about to see. When Scotty materialised on the transporter pad for the first time I was absolutely blown away! The Next Generation had been my first port of call in the early ’90s, but by the time Relics came around I’d seen all of The Original Series films and quite a few episodes, so I was really excited when it turned out to be a crossover episode.

Relics is, in a lot of ways, a very fan-servicey episode. But it’s also a comforting one, and more than that it feels almost like a slice of pure Star Trek. There’s a scientific mystery that’s both interesting and exciting, there are some wonderful character moments between Scotty and Picard and Scotty and La Forge in particular, there’s more than a dash of humour, and there’s an underlying message that may just strike a chord with some folks in the real world. It’s an all-around Star Trek episode!

Number 4:
The Magnificent Ferengi
Deep Space Nine Season 6

Aren’t they magnificent?

The Magnificent Ferengi takes what should be a dark and upsetting premise but manages to put a lighthearted, comedic spin on it thanks to the inclusion of the titular Ferengi. After a less than spectacular introduction in the first season of The Next Generation, in which they were originally supposed to replace the newly-pacified Klingons and become a major antagonist, the Ferengi carved themselves a new niche in Deep Space Nine thanks in no small part to a wonderful performance by Armin Shimerman as Quark.

We came to see the Ferengi as comic relief on a number of occasions, as in The Magnificent Ferengi, but they were also a people with depth. Issues within Ferengi society surrounding the pursuit of wealth at all costs, the second-class status of women, and so on were topics that Deep Space Nine tackled, and the fact that the Ferengi can be funny didn’t detract from those attempts to use them to examine some more serious subjects. But that’s not why we’re here today!

Quark and Keevan.

At the height of the Dominion War, Quark and Rom’s mother is captured by the Dominion, and Quark leads an all-Ferengi rescue operation. With the exception of Grand Nagus Zek, this episode brings together practically every Deep Space Nine Ferengi character, and musician Iggy Pop has a guest-starring role.

The plot descends into a comedic farce – naturally, given Quark’s leadership – and if you’ve ever seen Weekend at Bernie’s… well, you know what to expect! The Magnificent Ferengi is a ton of fun, and a great episode for showcasing some of Deep Space Nine’s recurring characters.

Number 5:
Message in a Bottle
Voyager Season 4

Two Emergency Medical Holograms!

Once again we have an episode with a potentially dark premise that goes in a very different and fun direction! The Doctor is the star here, as he’s sent to the Alpha Quadrant to attempt to make contact with Starfleet for the first time since Captain Janeway and the crew became stranded 75,000 light-years from home… but he finds himself aboard a ship that has been captured by the Romulans!

Comedian Andy Dick guest-stars as a newer version of the Emergency Medical Hologram, and forms an astonishingly funny pair with the Doctor, who was often used for moments of comic relief during Voyager’s run. Seeing the two holograms working together to outsmart the Romulans in a comic story that could verge into slapstick is absolutely hilarious, and there are some real laugh-out-loud moments.

The Doctor and his fellow EMH.

I also find Message in a Bottle to be a very uplifting episode. It marks the halfway point of Voyager’s seven-season run, and the first moment that the crew are able to contact the Federation. After four years of being alone, the crew finally get to inform Starfleet that they’re okay and working their way home, and there’s something incredible about the episode’s closing moments as a result.

The Prometheus-class ship is a pretty cool inclusion, too – a brand-new class of ship which has features that even the USS Voyager or Enterprise-E couldn’t match. I always wanted to see more from this ship, but aside from a couple of background appearances, we haven’t yet!

Number 6:
Carbon Creek
Enterprise Season 2

Vulcans… in the fifties!

Carbon Creek uses a frame narrative to tell the story of the first time Vulcans came to Earth… and it wasn’t in the mid-21st Century, as Captain Archer (and us as the audience) had been led to believe! Instead, T’Pol tells the tale of her great-grandmother, and how she and a small crew came to be stranded on Earth in the 1950s during a survey mission.

Carbon Creek is fun for its fifties atmosphere, and Enterprise really manages to nail that feel through some wonderful sets, costumes, and dialogue. It’s also an episode that shows off how Vulcans can be unintentionally funny in Star Trek, particularly when confronted with different or unusual situations. In this case, T’Mir and her crew have to blend in with a town of very emotional humans.

Cheers!

There are definitely some lighthearted moments scattered through the entire episode, and the frame of T’Pol recounting the story to a stunned Archer and Tucker adds to that as well. It’s also a great example of how a prequel story doesn’t have to tread on the toes of anything established previously; nothing in Carbon Creek fundamentally changes what we already know about first contact between humans and Vulcans. In many ways it expands it – knowing that Vulcan had humanity under observation decades ahead of official first contact gives them a reason to be surveying the area during the events of First Contact!

All in all, a fun episode that steps away from many of Star Trek’s familiar elements like starships to tell a story with some interesting characters in a fun setting.

Number 7:
Ephraim and DOT
Short Treks Season 2

Ephraim and DOT.

It’s a shame that we haven’t seen more Short Treks lately; the most recent batch of episodes ended with Children of Mars shortly before Picard Season 1 kicked off in early 2020. The idea of telling one-shot short stories in the Star Trek galaxy may have been a fairly blunt and obvious way for CBS All Access (since rebranded as Paramount+) to convince Trekkies to remain subscribed in between seasons of the main Star Trek shows, but several episodes ended up being fantastic in their own right.

Ephraim and DOT was one of two animated Short Treks episodes that were broadcast in December 2019, and it’s something that we hadn’t really seen the Star Trek franchise do before. Thirty-five years after The Animated Series went off the air, this was Star Trek’s first return to animation, and where The Girl Who Made The Stars was more of a conventional story, Ephraim and DOT was framed very differently!

A well-earned hug.

Telling the story of a tardigrade named Ephraim and a DOT-type robot aboard the USS Enterprise, this Disney-inspired tale sees the unlikely duo team up to save Ephraim’s eggs. With an enthusiastic narrator who sounds like they’ve come from a National Geographic documentary, the short story is a lot of fun – and packs a surprisingly emotional punch at its climax!

Ephraim and DOT also shows off a handful of fun clips from The Original Series that have been reimagined for animation, and this “greatest hits” montage was absolutely fantastic; a blast from the past that elevated the episode.

Number 8:
Nepenthe
Picard Season 1

Picard and Riker embrace.

If you don’t have the same connection to the characters from The Next Generation that I do, maybe Nepenthe won’t be one of your “comfort episodes.” But for me, seeing Picard reunited with Riker and Troi was one of the highlights of Picard Season 1 – and Nepenthe is one of the best Star Trek episodes that I’ve seen in a long time!

After several tense and dramatic episodes in which Picard and the crew of La Sirena had to unpick the mystery of Bruce Maddox, the synths, the Zhat Vash plot, and so on, Picard was able to rescue Soji and use a spatial trajector to escape to the planet of Nepenthe – home to Riker, Troi, and their daughter Kestra.

Kestra and Soji.

There are some very sweet moments between Soji and Kestra as they bond, and while the story has some very bittersweet moments as we learn that Riker and Troi’s elder child had passed away, there are some absolutely incredible and heartwarming character moments as well. After more than eighteen years away from the 24th Century, Nepenthe felt like the homecoming I had been waiting for.

Seeing Riker and Troi enjoying a peaceful life away from Starfleet was something that I needed to see, even if I didn’t realise it beforehand! Although there were issues with the Picard Season 1 finale that meant that, realistically, taking an entire episode away from the main plot to slow down and hang out with Picard, Riker, Troi, and Soji was arguably a mistake, I just can’t find it in my heart to fault Nepenthe for the way it comes across on screen. It’s a beautiful, emotional episode, and sitting down to eat pizza with the characters after everything they’ve been through just feels right.

Number 9:
First First Contact
Lower Decks Season 2

Tendi and Dr T’Ana.

First First Contact might be my favourite episode of Lower Decks so far. It isn’t as hilarious as some of the show’s other offerings, but as an uplifting story with a real “Star Trek” feel, I don’t think it can be bettered! The episode sees the crew of the Cerritos teamed up with the fancier and more powerful USS Archimedes – under the command of one Captain Sonya Gomez, no less – to undertake their first ever mission of first contact!

But naturally, things don’t go to plan. The Cerritos is called into action to save the stricken Archimedes, and the entire crew pulls together to perform the very difficult and dangerous task of literally stripping off the ship’s outer hull! Lower Decks ditched its usual two (or three) storylines format here, and put all four ensigns and all of the ship’s senior staff in the same story – and the result was absolutely fantastic.

The USS Cerritos and the USS Archimedes.

Lower Decks goes out of its way to recreate the look of The Next Generation era, and I’ve always appreciated that. But it doesn’t hesitate to bring new things to the table, and we get our first look at Cetacean Ops in this episode – an aquatic department that had been mentioned in background dialogue in The Next Generation but never seen on screen.

All four ensigns have roles to play in the story, and after the Cerritos had to be saved at the climax of the Season 1 finale, the poetic symmetry of being the one to save a disabled Starfleet ship was absolutely beautiful, and a great way to bring the show’s successful second season to a close.

Number 10:
Kobayashi
Prodigy Season 1

Dal and Jankom Pog with a holographic Dr Crusher.

The Kobayashi Maru test seems like an odd choice for a “comfort” pick, doesn’t it? But the way Prodigy pulls it off feels like a love letter to Star Trek, bringing in classic characters from The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine in holographic form.

There’s more going on in the episode than just the Kobayashi Maru test on the holodeck, and Prodigy’s ongoing story arcs come into play in a big way throughout. But for me, the moments on the holodeck with Dal and the holographic versions of some wonderful characters from Star Trek’s past are what elevates Kobayashi and what makes it so enjoyable.

Uhura!

It’s such a shame that Prodigy remains (officially) unavailable in most of the world, because it’s been one of the most surprisingly fun Star Trek projects, and despite its kid-friendly atmosphere and intended audience, there’s so much to love for Trekkies. I hope that the rollout of Paramount+ internationally will see Prodigy grow in popularity and bring in hordes of new fans – and with episodes as strong as Kobayashi to ease them into the world of Star Trek, there’s a good chance that’ll happen!

The character choices may seem like an odd mix at first – and seeing Odo on the bridge of a Galaxy-class ship definitely felt strange! But each of them is given a moment to showcase their strengths, and what they brought to Star Trek in their original appearances. It makes the entire holodeck sequence feel so very special – and with such an eclectic mix of characters, there really isn’t anything quite like it in Star Trek’s entire official canon!

So that’s it!

The original USS Enterprise.

Those are my picks for ten “comfort episodes” – or rather, nine comfort episodes and a comfort film – from the Star Trek franchise. We don’t need to repeat why the world feels so messed up right now, because we can all see what’s going on. Certain news stories have become omnipresent, completely taking over social media and other apps. If you find yourself doomscrolling, take a break. Do anything other than wallow in the mess of the real world.

The Star Trek franchise has been my comfort place for decades, and I find myself drawn to it when the world feels too much or when my mental health suffers. A future where humanity has succeeded at conquering not only the problems of today but also many of the baser, more primitive aspects of our own nature holds an appeal that can be difficult to put into words, and I find that practically every Star Trek story – even those darker in tone – have a lot to offer.

So I hope this was a bit of fun and maybe gave you some viewing inspiration! I had a great time going back to these episodes to put this list together, and with everything going on in the world I thought it could be a good time to share something like this.

The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and films discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery theories – week 9

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 1-4, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

After All In failed to move the needle in a major way, Rubicon came along! The latest episode saw a minor theory cull, with three theories being debunked – and a couple of others moving ever closer to being struck off the list! As the season builds up to its conclusion, this was bound to start happening, and I don’t lament the passing of any of the theories that didn’t pan out. We also had a rare confirmation this week, and with fewer new theories to talk about, the list will shrink for the first time in several weeks!

On reflection, perhaps I was a little harsh on Rubicon in my review. The episode was decent, but it suffered because I find myself struggling to get invested in the Book-versus-Burnham relationship squabble storyline, and that’s been a dominant force over the past couple of episodes in particular. I’m still hopeful that Discovery will find a sensible – and fairly quick – resolution to this, but at the same time I think I need to try to be less petty about it!

So let’s take a look at the confirmation and the debunkings before we jump into the main list.

Confirmed theory:
Tarka’s weapon will be successful.

Kaboom!

The obvious path for a “happily ever after” kind of story would have been for Captain Burnham and the crew to stop Book and Tarka before they had a chance to use their weapon. And, to her credit, Captain Burnham was inches away from success as she managed to talk to Book and convince him not to deploy the weapon.

But I guess that in her haste to patch things up with her boyfriend, Captain Burnham forgot about Tarka. And Book likewise didn’t make sure that Tarka was on board with his decision to wait for the communication attempt, as Tarka launched his weapon the second Book and Burnham finished their conversation.

Tarka launched his weapon.

I’m glad that the story took this route. It potentially opens up a more interesting meeting with Unknown Species 10-C, one with more tension and the possibility of conflict. But most importantly, Tarka remained true to his characterisation. He didn’t back down just because Book had a change of heart, and he wasn’t able to be persuaded by Captain Burnham’s request.

Tarka remains an interesting adversary. I don’t want to call him a “villain,” not exactly. He has a complexity and a nuance that makes his motivation understandable, even if his “ends justify the means” approach could very well lead to people getting hurt. I’m not ready for Discovery to get rid of Tarka… and I confess that I’m still rooting for him to find a way across the divide between universes.

So that theory was confirmed.

We also have several debunkings to get through, so we’ll run through those next!

Debunked theory #1:
Nhan works for Section 31.

Nhan in Rubicon.

This was a fairly straightforward one by my standards! When we saw Nhan in the promos for Rubicon, I theorised that she might be wearing a different uniform to the standard Starfleet ones worn by Captain Burnham and the crew because she had been recruited by Section 31. She could have been given a Section 31 mission aboard Discovery – perhaps connected to the DMA.

But it didn’t come to pass! Nhan works for Starfleet Security, and has spent some time as a soldier helping the Federation battle against the remaining forces of the Emerald Chain. She doesn’t appear to be making a big return to Discovery, either, merely appearing in a guest role in Rubicon.

Debunked theory #2:
Tarka will realise that there’s a tracker on the isolynium.

Tarka and Book working on the isolytic weapon.

This was another fairly simple one by my standards. In short, I speculated that Tarka would check the isolynium that Book procured and figure out that a tracking device had been placed on it. It seems like the kind of thing he might’ve done; he’s been thorough when it comes to his work, and he clearly didn’t fully trust Haz Mazaro.

But Tarka didn’t check, or if he did off-screen he didn’t find the small tracking device that Captain Burnham had placed. If this theory had panned out we could’ve seen Captain Burnham and the crew having to pick up the trail another way, or even being led into a booby-trap of Tarka’s devising! In a longer season, perhaps such a detour would have made sense. With only four episodes left, I guess wasting an episode chasing down Book and Tarka would’ve been extraneous fluff.

(Probably) debunked theory #3:
The DMA is (or was) a life-form.

The DMA in Rubicon.

It was never stated outright in clear-cut terms, but this theory now feels sufficiently unlikely that I’m striking it from the list. If the DMA was alive… it isn’t anymore! Tarka’s weapon saw to that. The arrival of a second DMA within moments of the demise of the first seems to confirm that the destructive anomaly is little more than a tool; the dredge or mining equipment that Captain Burnham and others figured out at the end of All In.

Unknown Species 10-C could still be a synthetic race, so the concept of a life-form on the scale of the DMA is still plausible in Discovery Season 4. But the DMA itself now seems certain to be little more than a tool – whoever is controlling it is the sentient one. It might’ve been interesting if the DMA had been alive, with a story similar to The Motion Picture perhaps unfolding from that premise. But now we must look to Unknown Species 10-C!

So those theories have been debunked!

Now let’s jump into the main theory list, beginning with those theories that are either new or saw movement in Rubicon. Then we’ll conclude with a few theories that are still in play, but which Rubicon didn’t touch.

Theory #1:
Unknown Species 10-C built the Galactic Barrier.

The USS Enterprise approaching the galactic barrier.

I’ve never been wild about the Galactic Barrier in Star Trek. It’s something that dates right back to the very beginning of The Original Series, but it’s always struck me as a bit of an oddity; an element of pure fantasy in a setting that prefers to base its astronomy on real science. The Galactic Barrier is also rather poorly explained, and can seemingly be ignored at the whim of Star Trek’s writers – some episodes depict crossing it as being impossible, others show starships moving through it with ease. It also feels like a 2D anachronism in the 3D realm; unless the galactic barrier is a sphere, surely flying up and over it should be possible!

But maybe we’re about to learn more about this strange phenomenon. Given their technological capabilities, it doesn’t seem impossible that Unknown Species 10-C constructed the Galactic Barrier – perhaps as a way to shield themselves from the races of the Milky Way, or perhaps to keep anyone from exploring too far and discovering their location. There are many reasons why a technologically advanced race might want to build something on this scale – and we could even learn that the harvested boronite is being used to fuel the Galactic Barrier itself.

The Enterprise-D is one of a number of vessels known to have passed through the Galactic Barrier.

One possible explanation for why Unknown Species 10-C might want to build something like the Galactic Barrier is to keep the Milky Way’s inhabitants in… but it could also be a shield designed to keep someone else out. That raises a very frightening question: what could be so powerful that a barrier is needed around the entire galaxy? And what could be so dangerous that being locked inside a galaxy with the Borg would be preferable?

With Unknown Species 10-C seemingly being very secretive, I think the idea of them building it to shield themselves is more likely… but there are definitely a lot of ways this theory could go!

Theory #2:
Someone else built the Galactic Barrier to keep Unknown Species 10-C out.

The Galactic Barrier on the USS Enterprise’s viewscreen.

If the Galactic Barrier is an artificial construct, perhaps it was created by another race or faction as a shield against Unknown Species 10-C. It could be the case that Unknown Species 10-C has used DMA technology against the Milky Way in the distant past, and some other race or faction constructed the Galactic Barrier to keep them out. If Unknown Species 10-C are belligerent and interested in conquest, it might take something on a galactic scale to keep the Milky Way safe.

The Q Continuum spring to mind as a possible candidate if the Galactic Barrier was artificially created. Admiral Vance mentioned the Q a few episodes back, saying that there hadn’t been any contact for more than 600 years. Given that the Q – or at least one member of the Continuum, at least – were very interested in the progress of races like humanity, perhaps they took a decision to “seal” the Milky Way to protect its inhabitants from Unknown Species 10-C.