Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 and the trailers and teasers for Season 5.
We’re going to have to delay my review of the latest Star Trek: Picard episode by a day or two in order to do something that I rarely do here on the website: cover some breaking news. If you haven’t heard, let me be the bearer of what may or may not – depending on your perspective – be a bit of bad news: Star Trek: Discovery is going to end after its fifth season.
Forgive me for thinking negatively, but as soon as I heard that announcement, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. Since filming wrapped on Discovery’s fifth season late last year, no live-action Star Trek has been in production for the first time in a couple of years. Not only that, but Picard’s ongoing third season is going to be that show’s swansong… and despite a spectacular first season, there’s been no news on a third season renewal for Strange New Worlds, at least at time of writing, even though production on Season 2 wrapped months ago. So could this be, as I fear, the beginning of the end for Star Trek in its modern incarnation?
Discovery brought Star Trek back to its small screen home in 2017 after twelve years in the wilderness. The show served as a launchpad for the Star Trek franchise as it exists today – and it’s highly likely that we would never have seen Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, or of course Strange New Worlds were it not for the trail that Discovery blazed. But with its cancellation after Season 5 – which is due to be broadcast sometime in early 2024 – is Star Trek in a better or more secure place than it was in 2017… or in 2005?
I’d argue that it isn’t.
Shortly after new year, I published a piece here on the website titled 2022: A Great and Terrible Year for Star Trek, in which I took a look at what I considered to be the highs and (considerable) lows that the franchise endured over the course of a rollercoaster year. Although there was a lot to say, perhaps my biggest conclusion was simply this: franchise fatigue is beginning to set in. It’s through that lens that I must view the news of Discovery’s imminent ending.
Unlike with Enterprise in 2005, it’s my hope that Discovery’s writers will have known the end was coming well enough in advance to have planned out a conclusive ending for the series and its characters. Enterprise’s finale was divisive among fans, and the show’s final season seemed to leave more than a few characters and storylines up in the air by the time the curtain fell. If this recently-announced news had been known to the producers and creative team, hopefully they will have been able to put together an ending worthy of the show and its great cast of characters.
And as I’ve said more than once: it’s infinitely better for a show to end leaving its audience wanting more, lamenting that we didn’t get “just one more season,” rather than dragging on too long and having us regret that the end didn’t come earlier! Discovery has been an imperfect production, don’t get me wrong, but with the current state of Star Trek being what it is… maybe this is simply the right time for the show to come to an end. If there weren’t great ideas on the table for future story arcs, then I’d rather it came to a close with one last hurrah instead of dragging on ad infinitum.
Star Trek can’t keep up the pace that we saw in 2022, where more than fifty episodes across five shows all debuted in a single calendar year. It’s just too much – and it risks putting off new viewers, who are precisely the people that Paramount needs to convince to tune in if Paramount+ is to have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving the streaming wars. Making Star Trek too dense, too convoluted, and just too large is what’s been happening over the last few years, so stepping back from that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. If anything, it should be a net positive for the franchise.
With Picard also coming to an end, there’s the potential to perhaps scale back Star Trek and refocus. Take what worked about the shows over the last few years and hone it, disregard failed experiments, and have Star Trek operate in a similar fashion to other streaming franchises – with a focus on quality over quantity.
But is that Paramount’s goal? With two live-action shows coming to an end, there’s the potential to put more money and energy into Strange New Worlds, for example, as that show was very well-received. But with no third season having been announced so far… I can’t shake the feeling that this really could be the beginning of the end for the franchise as a whole.
Depending on how things are scheduled, there’s enough Star Trek in production or post-production to coast through into the first half of 2024. But what then? A third season of Strange New Worlds – if one is to be produced – might also debut that same year… but 2025 could end up being like 2005: the end of the road.
If that were to happen, Paramount only has itself to blame. The corporation has mismanaged both the Star Trek franchise and its streaming platform in catastrophic fashion, seemingly led by the most inept team of morons to ever assemble in a boardroom. Before Discovery had even been conceived, an ageing corporate board with no knowledge or understanding of streaming or the internet saw the success of Netflix and said “make me one of those.” CBS All Access was born – and Star Trek was tapped to be its flagship franchise.
But was Star Trek ever big enough to place such a burden upon it? Even if Discovery had been flawless and had landed with minimal controversy, pinning the profitability of a streaming platform on its success was always a bad idea. It isn’t Discovery’s fault that CBS All Access – as Paramount+ used to be known – didn’t become the “next big thing” in streaming… and it isn’t Discovery’s fault that Paramount+ remains massively unprofitable today.
Paramount is in the wrong business. The board is right about one thing: streaming is the future. But they jumped into that market a decade too late, unprepared, and without the technical know-how or infrastructure to really make it work. The only thing CBS All Access/Paramount+ had going for it were shows like Star Trek – but I think Paramount is belatedly learning that the Star Trek franchise simply doesn’t have the mainstream appeal to carry an entire streaming platform.
So what does all of this mean for Star Trek’s future? Maybe it’s too early to hit the panic button… but I confess that I feel echoes of 2005. It’s been surprising to me that no spin-offs or new projects have been announced, and in a way, the announcement of Discovery’s cancellation was another opportunity to do so. The tone would be very different if the press release had stated that “Discovery is coming to an end… but Starfleet Academy or Captain Seven are entering production.”
So here we are. After a creditable six-year run, and numerous cancellation scares, Discovery will be coming to an end. Its imminent fifth season actually looks fantastic – and if it makes good on its promise of telling a different kind of story, perhaps in another world that could have set the stage for the show’s continuation. Perhaps the tragedy here will be that Discovery changed tack too late – that four whole seasons of “the galaxy is in danger and only Burnham and the crew can save it!” was just too much. That would certainly be my assessment, and as enjoyable as parts of Season 4 were, maybe if a different kind of adventure had been written last time around, we could’ve gotten an extra season or two.
There are a lot of unanswered questions. What of the backdoor pilot for a Starfleet Academy series that we seemed to get partway through Season 4? If Star Trek as a whole continues, will another series pick up Discovery’s 32nd Century setting – or does Paramount consider the far future to have been a bit of a misfire? Will Star Trek continue at all after Strange New Worlds Season 2 and Discovery Season 5? Is anyone at Paramount ready for a difficult conversation about what’s going wrong?
I’m not thrilled to learn that Discovery won’t continue. Although not every season and every character fully stuck the landing, there’s been some fantastic entertainment along the way – episodes and moments within episodes that hit all of the high notes that we know Star Trek can. Moreover, by the time the curtain fell on Season 4, I felt that Discovery had finally turned a corner. Having settled Burnham into the captain’s chair, and told a story about seeking out new life – the very core of Starfleet’s mission – it felt that the show had finally achieved its potential. Season 5 will hopefully capitalise on this – but it will be short-lived, with only ten episodes left for the series to shine.
The history of Star Trek is one of stepping-stones: series and films that lead to new, different, and often better things. Just as Enterprise and the Kelvin films led to Discovery, so too has Discovery led to Picard, Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Strange New Worlds. Whether these shows will lead, in turn, to new things, or whether the trail will go cold for a while, Discovery played its part. It may not have always done so perfectly, but I’m confident that its place in the franchise’s history is assured – and I suspect that at least some of its critics will be won over if they give it a second chance!
I’m still looking forward to Season 5 – but it’s now a rather bittersweet feeling, knowing it will be our final outing with Captain Burnham and the crew. Not to mention that this news has massively increased concerns for the overall direction – and indeed the future – of the Star Trek franchise as a whole.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in countries and territories where the platform is available, and are also available on Blu-ray. Season 5 will stream on Paramount+ in 2023 or 2024. 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 and the trailers, teasers, and announcements for Season 5. Minor spoilers are also present for The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
At New York Comic-Con in October, we caught another glimpse of Star Trek: Discovery’s fifth season. The news earlier this week that filming has officially wrapped makes it seem like a great time to take a look at the teaser trailer and see what – if anything – we might be able to glean about the new story!
So to begin with, filming has just wrapped on Discovery Season 5 at time of writing. With Picard Season 3 and Strange New Worlds Season 2 both also well into post-production, there’s now no live-action Star Trek being worked on… at least, nothing has been officially announced. So that’s definitely something interesting – and while I’m expecting a Season 3 announcement for Strange New Worlds at literally any moment considering how well Season 1 was received, it’s definitely noteworthy that, at least in terms of live-action production, Star Trek seems to be entering a quiet period.
At Star Trek Day back in September, we were treated to a set tour with Wilson Cruz, but I was a little surprised that the set tour and a single still photo were all that there was to show for Discovery at that point. I guess Paramount was saving this teaser trailer for Comic-Con, though, which came barely a month later. I’m glad we finally have something to get stuck into, even though I would guess that Discovery Season 5 may not hit our screens until after Picard and Strange New Worlds, potentially meaning it could be up to a year away.
Earlier in the year I wrote a piece about my “biggest wish” for Discovery’s fifth season. If you missed it, I can summarise it thusly: I don’t want Discovery to try to tell another “the galaxy is in danger and only Burnham and the crew can save it!!!” type of story. We’ve had four of those across the show’s first four seasons, and I know I wasn’t the only one in the weeks leading up to Season 4 to say that it was already beginning to verge on the repetitive. Trying to cram another story into that same creaking framework would be too much… and I’m pleased to say that, based on both this teaser trailer and the official synopsis of Season 5, Discovery seems to be trying something different this time around.
The teaser trailer certainly contained a lot of action – explosions, fire, injuries, weapons, masked alien adversaries, and a fair amount of running away. But these disconnected moments seem – if the voiceover and selected clips can be believed, at any rate – to be in service to a new and different kind of story, possibly one about… treasure hunting!
I know that we don’t have a lot to go on in a teaser trailer that was less than a minute long, so I hope I’m not being misled or getting too excited based on a single line that could, I admit, be open to other interpretations. But I really think that the idea of a treasure hunt could be a good one for Discovery if that’s the route that the new season will go down. At the very least it represents a change from what the show has done before, and as I’ve said previously, Discovery doesn’t need to keep re-using the same “horrible galactic disaster” narrative in order to tell stories that are exciting.
As viewers, our investment in a story is not inexorably tied to a sense of scale. On the contrary, some of the best films and television shows of all time have told character-centric stories that were a million miles away from civilisation-ending disasters – and some of the worst and most boring works of entertainment have tried and failed to compensate for lacklustre storytelling by going too big on the scale of the threat.
Past iterations of the Star Trek franchise also used the “galaxy is in danger” story archetype very sparingly, when you think about it, and some of the most well-remembered films and episodes don’t focus on villains or disasters on anywhere near that scale. If Discovery really is willing to set aside this framework for Season 5 – a framework that I would argue it has pushed to the limit – I think that can only be to the show’s overall benefit. Based on this teaser I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re going to get a main story that goes in a different direction. Fingers crossed, anyway!
Some of the clips in the teaser tie into this theme of an “epic adventure across the galaxy,” to quote the official synopsis released by Paramount. We saw a slightly different look at Burnham on her speeder bike from the previously-released photo, and it seems as though Stamets will be joining her for that part of the quest! Stamets was relegated to a minor role in Season 4, missing out on key storylines, even those which involved Gray, Adira, and Dr Culber – so seeing him back in action will definitely feel good!
We also briefly saw two characters who may be competitors or adversaries as Captain Burnham and the crew race to solve this mystery. The characters’ names have been given as Moll and L’ak, and their official descriptions read somewhat like a 32nd Century Bonnie and Clyde! Their backgrounds as couriers could give them a connection to both Book and Burnham – the latter having spent roughly a year as a courier after arriving in the 32nd Century before the ship and the rest of the crew joined her. There’s scope for some drama there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both characters were known to Book, at least.
I can’t tell what planet L’ak hails from, though his design feels at least somewhat familiar. There’s something Kelpien about his look, but at the same time I don’t think he is a Kelpien. I can’t put my finger on why he looks so familiar, though! Perhaps some kind of connection to an established Star Trek race or character will become apparent once we meet him. Moll, on the other hand, is giving me flashbacks to Farscape’s Chiana – I think that’s just the hairstyle, though!
There were a few clips of ancient-looking statues and ruins that seem to connect with this theme of ancient mysteries and treasure-hunting. I’m reminded of episodes like Captain’s Holiday, The Chase, and Gambit from The Next Generation, and the archaeological sequences set in the ruins of the Bajoran city of B’hala in Deep Space Nine. Jean-Luc Picard studied archaeology, and set off to uncover more than one ancient mystery in his time! Perhaps the story of the season will play out in a similar fashion – and there could even be references to some of the individuals or events in some of those earlier archaeological stories. Discovery hasn’t been big on drawing these kinds of connections, but some smaller references have made it to screen, so it’s possible at least!
It seems that the enigmatic Dr Kovich will be back for Season 5 – and after an occasionally frustrating time with this character, I have to say I hope that we’ll learn a little more about him. I haven’t forgiven Discovery’s writers for Kovich’s line in Season 4 that he had “more important things” to do than join the mission to contact Unknown Species 10-C; the fact that that line wasn’t paid off in any way at all wasn’t great. Despite appearing in seven episodes across two seasons, Dr Kovich’s role within the hierarchy of Starfleet and the Federation is still unknown.
I like the idea of Dr Kovich being the one to set Captain Burnham on the right path to begin this quest, as I think he’s the kind of character who could conceivably know something about whatever this mystery is that needs to be unravelled. But I hope that we learn more about Kovich himself, including how he seems to know so much about some of the subjects that he’s an expert in. What rank does he have, for example? Is he, as I’ve suspected since Season 3, an operative of Section 31? Dr Kovich is in danger of become a bit of a joke; a character used only for exposition and whose ambiguous background grows to accommodate anything a story needs – teacher, administrator, psychiatrist… I think we need to pin down who he is and what his official role is!
One character who we barely glimpsed in the trailer is new series regular Captain Rayner. This Romulan or Vulcan (at least by appearance) is described as a “gruff, smart Starfleet Captain” who had a “track record of wartime success,” but struggles in peacetime. Rayner sounds like he’s being set up to be a kind of antagonist for Captain Burnham to butt heads with; perhaps a Starfleet officer who doesn’t appreciate her lax attitude to rules nor her style of command.
We had a similar setup, in some respects anyway, with President Rillak last season, and I was on tenterhooks waiting to see if she’d betray Burnham and the crew – or if she was involved in some way with the DMA. Since arriving in the 32nd Century, senior Starfleet and Federation personnel haven’t fallen into the Star Trek trope of being the “bad admiral,” so I wonder if there could be more to this Captain Rayner that his official description might suggest. It does raise an interesting question, though: what ship will Captain Rayner command? The USS Discovery already has two officers on board who hold the rank of captain: Burnham and Saru. Surely Rayner can’t also be assigned to the USS Discovery – but if he isn’t, how could we expect to see him as a series regular?
Sticking with characters, let’s talk about Tilly. I talked about this after Star Trek Day, when Mary Wiseman appeared during the behind-the-scenes look at Season 5, but I hope that Tilly’s apparent return to the USS Discovery doesn’t undermine the emotional story she went through in Season 4 – a storyline that led to her leaving the ship for a role at Starfleet Academy.
We didn’t see a lot from Tilly in the trailer, but she was present for several clips, including aboard the USS Discovery. She could be “just visiting,” of course, or accompanying one or more of her cadets, but I’m not sure. I get the impression that something has changed for Tilly behind the scenes (yet again) and a reversal of a previously-established arc could be coming. As much as I love Tilly and want to see her continue on the show, her departure in Season 4 felt final… but moreover, it felt right for her character. Undoing that would not be my choice. I wonder if plans may have changed regarding the rumoured but still unannounced Starfleet Academy series – a series which could potentially have included Tilly. If last season’s All Is Possible (an episode that felt like a possible backdoor pilot) wasn’t as well-received as hoped, perhaps a rethink of that series and which characters it might include is underway. That’s something we’ll have to consider in more depth on another occasion!
We saw members of the bridge crew at their posts and on an away mission in the teaser, and I’ll repeat what I said in the run-up to both Seasons 3 and 4: there’s still scope to do more with some of these characters. With the return of characters like T’Rina, Admiral Vance, and President Rillak, Discovery is definitely building up a good roster of secondary characters, so it would be neat to see at least one of the bridge crew given a storyline or sub-plot this season.
And that raises another question: will Season 5 retain Discovery’s heavy plot armour for all of the named characters? After so many disasters, conflicts, and dangerous assignments since the crew arrived in the 32nd Century, it’s a miracle that everyone has survived! As I wrote in the run-up to last season, audience expectations are changing in the aftermath of shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, so giving every character heavy plot armour to survive deadly situations doesn’t really work any more. As sad as it would be to lose anyone – even one of the secondary characters that we don’t know so well – I think it’s something Discovery’s writers ought to at least consider doing.
One thing that I found interesting in the trailer is the puzzle box. The markings on the apparently wooden box were unfamiliar to me, but they look suitably “alien.” They could be Vulcan, perhaps, or Ferengi, or even from a planet like Risa. Whether the puzzle box will be an important macguffin in the story – or whether it was little more than a fun visual metaphor for the trailer – isn’t clear at this stage. Will it be an important artefact that the crew spend much of the season chasing down or trying to figure out?
But there is something more to say about the sequences in which the puzzle box is prominently featured. Look at the fingers that are moving the pieces into position. Do they look familiar at all? They absolutely could belong to an alien – like the new character of L’ak, for instance. But something about those fingers says “android” to me; they remind me a lot of how Data’s hands looked in The Next Generation. Could this mystery connect in some way to Data, Lore, or the Coppelius synths from Star Trek: Picard? Maybe that’s a complete overreach… but you never know!
It’s hard to know what else to say at this stage, really. Some of the clips in the trailer were very short, and without more context it’s hard to say more other than all of the characters from Season 4 seem to be returning. I’ll be curious to see more from President Rillak, who was a fun addition last time, and it’s my firm hope that Discovery will find a way to settle the relationship between Book and Burnham – their relationship drama was not one of the better aspects of Season 4. Book seems to be aboard the USS Discovery in the trailer, so there’s hope in that regard!
For a first look, the teaser trailer did a good job at getting me interested for Season 5. I like the idea of the show striking out and trying something genuinely new and different as it enters its fifth season – giving a bit of a refresh to a show that’s been running since 2017 and is quickly approaching its sixty-fifth episode is no small feat, and I’m rooting for Discovery to succeed.
Although there’s a lot of post-production work to be done, I’m hopeful that we’ll see Discovery Season 5 on our screens in 2023. If I had to guess, I’d say that the show could be targeting a broadcast next autumn, with Picard Season 3 and Strange New Worlds Season 2 going first. If we get any more big news or another trailer (which we surely will before the season arrives) I hope you’ll check back as I daresay I’ll have more to say. For now, I hope this was a fun look ahead to Season 5!
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in countries and territories where the platform is available, and are also available on 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.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the entire Star Trek franchise, including recent and upcoming seasons of Picard, Discovery, Strange New Worlds, Prodigy, and Lower Decks.
The 8th of September is Star Trek Day! That’s the date in 1966 when The Original Series premiered in the United States with the episodeThe Man Trap, and Paramount chose to mark the occasion with a live broadcast for the second year in a row. I tuned in with some degree of excitement; the press release promised “announcements and reveals throughout,” and with Picard finishing up its run next year there was hope, I felt, for some kind of big announcement of a new series.
Star Trek Day was overshadowed this year by the death of Queen Elizabeth II. I wasn’t entirely sure whether the event would go ahead as it became clear throughout the afternoon here in the UK how serious things were, but with the official announcement of her death coming mere minutes before Star Trek Day was due to start (and after most of the guests had already arrived), there wasn’t time to do anything about it. As someone who is categorically not a monarchist, this didn’t bother me in the slightest! But I hope that Star Trek Day proceeding as it did, with light-heartedness and humour, didn’t upset anyone in light of such an historic event.
There were some fun chats with stars of all of the present Star Trek shows, but Star Trek Day lacked any major announcements or reveals, in my view, to fully justify a two-hour live broadcast of this kind. It was fun – up to a point – but there were expectations that Paramount had placed on the event through its promise of “announcements and reveals” that weren’t met, at least not for me.
I’m not just talking about brand-new projects, either. We could have seen announcements for things like Lower Decks Season 5 or Strange New Worlds Season 3, the latter of which is surely being worked on at this stage with filming having already been completed on Season 2. But no such announcement was forthcoming at Star Trek Day, and really the only big news (if we can call it that) was the announcement from Nicholas Meyer that his Ceti Alpha V pitch is going to be turned into a podcast.
As the event’s hosts and guests gathered together on the stage to bid farewell to Star Trek Day, I was thinking to myself “surely that can’t be it!” Some kind of final announcement to wrap things up, like last year’s Picard Season 3 revelation, felt like a possibility. But then the live stream ended and, as it turned out, that really was it.
So I confess to feeling a little disappointed that we didn’t get any of the major announcements that I had been half-hoping to see. As I said a few weeks ago when previewing Star Trek Day, though: Paramount hasn’t been shy about making announcements and revealing details about upcoming projects this year, with news being made at events like Comic-Con. In a way, it’s a testament to how broad Star Trek’s base is as the franchise continues to enjoy its renaissance that so much news has been made so far in 2022. Still, a part of me feels at least a little sad that this made-for-fans event couldn’t have included some kind of big announcement.
But that’s enough about what didn’t happen at Star Trek Day! Let’s talk about what we did see, because there were some trailers and teasers, some fun conversations, some fan-focused moments, and some trademark Star Trek weirdness thrown in for good measure.
First up, to get this out of the way, there were some technical hitches that definitely didn’t go unnoticed. Hosts Tawny Newsome and Paul F. Tompkins both struggled with their teleprompters at different points in the event, leading to some awkward moments as they didn’t know what to say or how to fill the space.
Also on the technical side, at least on YouTube the live stream cut out at least half a dozen times. This only happened for a few seconds at a time (and thankfully not during any of the teasers or trailers), but it’s something that really shouldn’t be happening at this level. Paramount is a massive corporation with a big budget and with lots of experience in running live broadcasts. This wasn’t an issue at my end, either, as I saw a lot of people making similar comments on social media about the quality of the stream itself. This didn’t happen last year – and if Star Trek Day is to return in 2023, I hope it won’t happen again.
Last year, Star Trek Day felt rehearsed and choreographed. The hosts (Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton) felt confident, and everyone involved seemed to know where to go, what to say, and what was coming up next. This year… let’s just say that the whole thing felt a lot more “casual.”
Hosts Tawny Newsome and Paul F. Tompkins had great chemistry together and both brought a lot of energy to the stage, but neither of them seemed to have the faintest idea what they were doing, who they were about to talk to, or what was coming up next during the entire broadcast. There was chaos on stage at several points as one or both of the hosts got distracted, forgot what to say, or because of the aforementioned teleprompter issue. One or two instances of this could feel charming, but for two hours of occasionally cringeworthy viewing… I felt it rather outstayed its welcome. While I like both Newsome and Tompkins, and they definitely had great chemistry, I think a dress rehearsal of some kind would have been to their benefit. They didn’t have that many lines to learn, and several of the panels only consisted of a couple of questions, so it just feels as though on that side of things, Star Trek Day wasn’t as polished or rehearsed as it might’ve been or as it was last year.
This also applies to the DJ who was present throughout the event and the stand-up routine that took place partway through. Musical taste and comedy are both very subjective things, of course, but I felt that neither DJ Reggie Watts nor comic Brian Posehn excelled. Neither appeared well-rehearsed or coordinated, and I think that’s such a shame. Had a bit more effort or at least practice gone into their acts, Star Trek Day might’ve been a bit more enjoyable. As it was, both were pretty forgettable, with the only points of note being jokes that appeared to fall flat in the auditorium and a DJ who didn’t know what buttons to press and whose music didn’t seem to start on time.
Aside from big announcements of new projects, I was hoping to get news of Prodigy’s first season, Picard’s third, and Strange New Worlds’ second. We got a few tidbits of information about these projects, which was great, and in a moment I’ll break down the trailers and teasers that we saw. But first, a word about the live panels themselves.
Only Strange New Worlds felt fully-represented, with the majority of the main cast making an appearance. The Strange New Worlds panel was also probably the least cringe-inducing to watch, as host Tawny Newsome managed to get in a few interesting questions that prompted the cast to talk about both their experiences of Season 1 as well as drop a few teases about Season 2.
The other panels, however, were pretty lacklustre. Sir Patrick Stewart was present along with Michelle Hurd and Jeri Ryan to talk Picard Season 3, but the truncated panel only had time for a couple of questions before rolling the new teaser trailer. The Lower Decks panel completely fell apart, and while I don’t like to be too critical of performers who come down with a case of what seemed to be stage fright, Noël Wells and Tawny Newsome were not at their best as they seemed to have no idea what questions to ask or how to answer them.
The Prodigy panel was so short as to basically amount to nothing; Brett Gray, who plays Dal, barely got to say two words before a teaser clip for the second half of Season 1 was shown. I’m glad that Prodigy finally has a release date for those episodes, and I’m happy to see that Picard Season 3 will be on our screens in Feburary next year, but the panels were one of the parts of Star Trek Day that I was most looking forward to, and it’s just a shame that they were cut short. Better preparation from the hosts and some of the guests would have improved things, too.
The announcement of Ceti Alpha V as a podcast, that I mentioned earlier, is an interesting one in some ways. I’m glad that the Star Trek franchise hasn’t committed television or film money to this project, as it wasn’t one that I was desperately interested to see. But an audio drama of some kind is something different, and if Paramount markets it well it could become something of a sleeper hit. I won’t go into my full critique of the Ceti Alpha V concept again; suffice to say that I feel the chapter of Khan’s life in between Space Seed and The Wrath of Khan may not be the most interesting one to revisit. But if Nicholas Meyer was dedicated to it, perhaps an audio drama is a good compromise. I would say that Meyer didn’t seem thrilled to be making the announcement and specifically mentioned that he wrote it for television; perhaps there’s some degree of sour grapes there! You can read my full thoughts on Ceti Alpha Vby clicking or tapping here.
The teaser we saw from Prodigy seems to pick up fairly shortly after the events of the most recent episode, with the crew of the Protostar on the run. It looked tense and exciting, and really like more of the same; a continuation of the story and events of the first half of Season 1. I’m hopeful that Paramount will start to support Prodigy more strongly as I really feel that the show has so much untapped potential to convert a whole generation of kids into Trekkies for the first time. But if that’s going to happen, Paramount is going to have to do more to promote and assist the show. Toys would be a good start; we’re still months away from the first batch of Prodigy toys, and despite showing off some new merch at Star Trek Day, Prodigy was once again conspicuously absent from the lineup.
It’s good that Prodigy will be returning in late October, though – as soon as Lower Decks Season 3 wraps up, Prodigy can fill that slot. It means there’ll be new Star Trek on our screens all the way to the end of the year, which is fantastic. Although the clip that was shown seems to be from the first new episode, there’s scope for the crew of the Protostar to have lots of new adventures – and perhaps connect their story to Voyager in a significant way. I can’t wait to see what’s in store!
Strange New Worlds also showed a single clip from Season 2 in lieu of an edited and composed trailer, with the action focused on Lieutenant Ortegas as she prepared for an away mission. The planet Rigel VII was mentioned, which was a location first glimpsed in flashback sequences in The Cage and The Menagerie; Rigel VII is a planet Captain Pike has visited before and it’s home to fierce Kalar warriors.
The clip itself was interesting. We learned a little about the relationship between Ortegas and Spock as the latter’s analysis of information caused Ortegas to be dropped from an away mission she was excited for. We also learned that Captain Pike had once been a “test pilot” which made him confident enough to pilot a shuttle under what sounds like difficult circumstances. I’m getting a Gallileo Seven vibe from this story setup; perhaps the shuttle will crash in Kalar territory and the crew – led by Ortegas aboard the Enterprise, maybe – will have to mount a rescue! Am I over-interpreting a short scene? Well that’s a possibility!
A second announcement for Strange New Worlds’ second season introduced a brand-new character: Commander Pelia will become the Enterprise’s new chief engineer, taking over from poor Hemmer. I’m still sad about Hemmer’s departure from the series, but I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the writers managed to resist the temptation to replace him with Scotty! There’s scope to do more with legacy characters in Strange New Worlds, don’t get me wrong, but I want to maximise the time we have with some fantastic new characters, too.
Commander Pelia will be played by veteran actress Carol Kane, who you might know from Taxi, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or the original stage production of Wicked. Landing someone of her calibre feels like a real coup for Strange New Worlds, and I’m hopeful that Commander Pelia will be a wonderful addition to the crew. I’m excited to see more scenes set in engineering in Season 2, as well!
We caught a glimpse of a new Lower Decks episode during Star Trek Day, too. The clip seemed to feature an aggressive Romulan adversary attacking the USS Cerritos, so I guess we should stay tuned for the Romulans to make an appearance later in the season! Maybe this is a controversial point, but I think Lower Decks may be in danger of over-using the “starship swoops in at the last second and saves the day” trope. It worked so well with the Titan in Season 1, and the Cerritos getting to be the saviour in Season 2 was poetic symmetry. But I think big, emotional moments like this should be used sparingly, so to see another starship doing the same here was… I don’t know. Maybe a little less impactful than it could have been.
However, all of this could be a moot point! It seems possible that the events we saw in the clip are taking place in an alternate timeline, a holodeck simulation, or something like that – because how else do we explain a Boimler clone with a different name in command of the other vessel? It was an exciting clip, though, and I’ll be fascinated to see that episode when it’s broadcast! Stay tuned for a full review!
The promised Discovery set tour was a bit of fun. Season 5 seems well underway, and it’s always nice to catch a glimpse behind the scenes. Wilson Cruz was a great guide, and although we didn’t get to see any brand-new sets, we got to see some of the details in Burnham’s quarters that are often overlooked. Cruz also drew attention to the dedication plaque at Federation HQ; again this is something I hadn’t seen up-close.
Of particular note during this segment was Mary Wiseman’s appearance. Lieutenant Tilly’s departure from the USS Discovery early in Season 4 was an unexpected move, but one that actually felt right for her character. Tilly got an emotional send-off before making an appearance in the season finale alongside Admiral Vance, and it felt possible that her departure could have set her up for a role in the long-rumoured Starfleet Academy series. That may still happen, but for now it seems that Tilly will be back aboard the USS Discovery in some form in Season 5. I’ll be glad to welcome her back – but I hope her return doesn’t detract from her wonderfully emotional departure in Season 4.
As the tour continued we saw a scene being prepared on the bridge set, with several characters in uniform. The bold primary colours that were reintroduced in Season 4 remain in place – something I’m pleased to see! A conversation with Stamets actor Anthony Rapp and one of the show’s costume/wardrobe artists was also interesting, and we saw Stamets’ familiar blue tunic in that segment.
Finally, a single promotional photo was shown off for Discovery’s upcoming fifth season – featuring Michael Burnham riding some kind of Star Wars-inspired speeder bike across a dusty or desert landscape. The image looks like it’s taken from an exciting sequence, and Burnham seemed to be out of uniform which could suggest she’s on an away mission or undercover assignment. But there’s only so much speculating we can do based on a single image! There was no release window for Discovery Season 5, but filming is well underway and I’m a little surprised that we didn’t get some kind of teaser trailer.
Star Trek Day paid tribute to Nichelle Nichols in very touching fashion. In fact, the pre-recorded segment was my favourite at the event, all things considered. Nichelle Nichols, who passed away earlier this year, made a huge impact on the Star Trek franchise – but more importantly in many ways, on the world beyond Star Trek and entertainment, too.
Performers Dawnn Lewis, Sonequa Martin-Green, Celia Rose Gooding, Wilson Cruz, Michelle Hurd, and more all contributed to the beautiful piece, and it really was the perfect way to salute a unique individual, someone who made a real difference not only on screen and within the Star Trek franchise, but far beyond the world of entertainment. As we discussed when I paid my own tribute to Nichelle Nichols, she played a huge role at NASA in getting more people from diverse backgrounds involved with the space programme. For Star Trek Day to take the time to salute her and recognise her legacy was important, and it was handled beautifully.
Picard’s third and final season now has a release date, and it’s nice to know that we’ll be having one last adventure with Admiral Picard in the early part of next year. The teaser trailer was interesting, and we got to see another new starship: the USS Titan! Spacedock also made a return to the franchise, which was beautiful to see. Sir Patrick Stewart told us that he and the crew are going back to space for Season 3 – after Season 2 spent most of its time on Earth in the 21st Century – and if the teaser is anything to go by, the crew’s return to the stars will be epic!
It was great to see Seven of Nine in uniform, and she seems to be playing an important role in whatever mission Admiral Picard will have to pick up. During the brief panel, Michelle Hurd mentioned that Season 3 will feature some kind of storyline involving the “criminal underworld” of the Star Trek galaxy, a premise that sounds interesting – and perhaps a little Star Wars-y!
The teaser trailer showed clips of all of the returning cast members from The Next Generation, with the notable exception of Brent Spiner. Spiner will be playing a role in Season 3, but who his character will be is still unknown. It could be a member of the Soong family, such as Altan Inigo Soong who was part of the story of Season 1. Equally it could be an android like Lore or B-4. We don’t know at this stage, but clearly Paramount is keeping that under wraps for now!
Aside from seeing the USS Titan up close, the teaser trailer played its cards close to its chest! The brief glimpses that we caught of the main characters were fun and exciting, but didn’t really communicate anything significant about the plot. At this stage, we really don’t know where the story will go or whether it will connect with anything from Seasons 1 or 2. I hope that it does, and that maybe some of the dangling story threads from those earlier seasons could be tied up… but my gut says we’re probably going to get something brand-new.
So that’s about all there is to say this time. Star Trek Day was… okay. There were no big announcements, no replacement for Picard, no season renewals for the current shows, and only two release dates for seasons that we already knew were coming. I think it would be unfair to call an event like this that was made for Trekkies “underwhelming,” but I really wasn’t blown away by this year’s Star Trek Day. A combination of technical issues, hosts and guests who felt unprepared, most of the panels being shorter and less-detailed than expected, and the lack of any major announcements or news all came together to put a bit of a downer on what should have been a fun extravaganza of all things Trek.
I felt that last year’s Star Trek Day event – which had a few issues of its own, don’t get me wrong – was better. Last year the hosts and guests felt better-prepared and rehearsed, there were none of the technical hiccups that impacted this year’s event, there were longer and more detailed panels featuring more guests, and there were bigger and more interesting announcements for all of the current shows. This year’s event just feels smaller and less exciting in comparison.
Despite that, I had a good time for the most part with Star Trek Day. I’m glad that Paramount put this together and I’m especially glad that it wasn’t locked behind a Paramount+ paywall and was thus accessible to all Trekkies. It’s no one’s fault that there weren’t any major announcements; that’s just the way it goes and if things aren’t ready, it’s infinitely better to wait than to jump the gun and announce something prematurely! Star Trek 2023 and the untitled Section 31 series stand as cases in point to that!
That’s just my take, though, and I sincerely hope that everyone in attendance and the legions of fans who watched from all across the globe had fun. We’re very lucky that the Star Trek franchise is going through a renaissance right now and that events like this still draw huge audiences! Long may that continue!
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties discussed above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. Star Trek series and films are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries and territories where the platform is available. Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks are available on Amazon Prime Video outside of the United States. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including recent seasons of Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks, and Strange New Worlds.
The 8th of September is Star Trek Day! On that date in 1966, The Original Series premiered in the United States with the episode The Man Trap, kick-starting a franchise that’s still going strong fifty-six years later. Last year, Paramount organised a major broadcast to mark the occasion, hosted by Wil Wheaton (The Next Generation’s Wesley Crusher and host of The Ready Room) and Mica Burton (daughter of Geordi La Forge actor LeVar Burton). It was a fun event – albeit one that probably went on a little too long – that celebrated all things Star Trek. With Star Trek Day coming back this year, I wanted to look ahead to the event and consider what we might see when it arrives in just under three weeks’ time.
My usual caveat for these sort of things applies: I have no “insider information,” and I’m not trying to claim that anything discussed below will definitely be included in this year’s Star Trek Day broadcast. This is speculation from a fan – and an opportunity to talk Trek – and nothing more! With that out of the way, let’s get started!
First of all, I think it’s worth talking about some of the big announcements we’ve seen over the past few months, because Paramount hasn’t been shy when it comes to making headlines for the Star Trek franchise. We’ve had major announcements about Picard Season 3, including who will be part of – and excluded from – the main cast, we’ve seen trailers, clips, and teasers for Lower Decks, which will be a couple of episodes into its third season by Star Trek day, we’ve had plenty of news about Strange New Worlds Season 2 – including the surprising return of a fan-favourite character… and much more besides. Events like last month’s Comic-Con saw big panels featuring main cast members and major announcements, like the Strange New Worlds crossover with Lower Decks.
In short, I’m not so sure that we should expect a glut of trailers and teaser clips and a plethora of massive announcements! Paramount could’ve saved things like the Picard Season 3 teaser and posters that were shown off at Comic-Con for Star Trek Day, but in a way it makes sense to use an event like that – where all eyes are on the world of entertainment – to make waves and show off Star Trek’s renaissance. Star Trek Day itself, at least based on what we saw last year, is more of a celebration for Trekkies and the Star Trek community.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be anything of substance, and the official press release for Star Trek Day promised announcements, reveals, and surprises! With Season 3 being Picard’s last, and principal photography already having been completed, I can’t help but wonder whether we might get an announcement of what could replace it in the lineup. When Picard disappears from the schedule next year, there will be a gap – and as Alex Kurtzman (head honcho of Star Trek for Paramount) has previously told us, there won’t be any new Star Trek until one of the current shows has ended its run. Well, something’s going to have to fill the Picard hole in late 2023 or 2024… so could the announcement of a new project be imminent?
I note that the official press release for Star Trek Day specifically mentioned that Michelle Hurd (Raffi) and Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine) will be present to talk about Picard. I know I’m not the only one who’s talked up the possibility of a “Seven and Raffi Show” as a spin-off from Picard, so it’s interesting that these two actors will be present together at Star Trek Day. Sure, they could just be there to talk about Picard Season 3… but maybe, just maybe, there’s more to it than that!
There are at least two unannounced Star Trek projects in the works at Paramount, again according to Alex Kurtzman. I don’t think we’d get two massive announcements like that at Star Trek Day, and if I had to put my money anywhere I’d say that a Picard spin-off or at least another show set in that same 25th Century era is the most likely. But you never know! There are rumours of a Khan-focused project and a Starfleet Academy series, the latter of which may (or may not) be a Discovery spin-off set in the 32nd Century with Mary Wiseman reprising her role as Lieutenant Tilly.
Does the untitled Section 31 series still count as having been “announced,” given that there’s been no official news for almost four years at this point? We could finally hear something about that project, too, I suppose. But I’m not holding my breath on that one.
So there are a few different possibilities for a major announcement. A brand-new series would be a heck of a way to celebrate Star Trek Day, especially if the announcement came along with things like concept art or maybe even casting information.
The other big project that’s currently up in the air is the untitled feature film Star Trek 2023. As we recently discussed, I seriously doubt whether the film will make its intended December 2023 release date given that most of the main Kelvin timeline cast don’t appear to be on board yet, but Star Trek Day could surprise us with some more information about the project.
So those are the potential projects that I think we could hear something about. As I said, my money would be on some kind of 25th Century Picard replacement if you forced me to make a bet… but there are definitely cases to be made to hear something about a Starfleet Academy series or perhaps a some kind of Khan project, too.
This year’s Star Trek Day will be hosted by Tawny Newsome (Ensign Mariner on Lower Decks) and Paul F. Tompkins (Dr Migleemo on Lower Decks) who co-host The Pod Directive, Star Trek’s official podcast. I’m sure they’ll make a great presenting duo – though part of me feels a little sad that Wil Wheaton won’t be on hosting duties. His energy and passion for Star Trek really elevated last year’s event.
I’m curious to see what may be teased about Discovery Season 5. Filming is currently underway in Toronto, and a behind-the-scenes tour hosted by Wilson Cruz (Dr Culber) promises appearances by some of the cast members and a look at new sets. I’m not sure when Discovery’s fifth season will make its debut; it seems right now as if Picard and Strange New Worlds will be ready first, even though Discovery Season 4 wrapped up back in March, so we could see one or both of those arrive before Season 5 is ready. Still, it’ll be neat to catch a glimpse behind the curtain – and maybe there’ll even be a teaser of some kind!
We’re edging closer to the first anniversary of Prodigy’s premiere, and we’ve been promised a second batch of ten episodes to round out that show’s first season before the end of this year. With a Prodigy panel on the agenda for Star Trek Day, I have to assume we’ll get some more details about those episodes – hopefully including a premiere date. If I had to guess, I’d say that the second half of Season 1 could directly follow on from Lower Decks, which could mean a premiere date in late October or early November.
Prodigy has not been particularly well-supported by Paramount, in my view, at least not so far. Splitting up its first batch of episodes into chunks of four and five respectively with a long gap in between is not a great way for a new series to gain traction – especially with its young target audience. There’s also a lack of toys and tie-in products, and while there are plans in place to address that, at time of writing none of those items are available for purchase. Paramount has a lot of work to do to really sell Prodigy – and I really hope they get on with it, because it’s a unique project within the Star Trek franchise and one that could turn a whole generation of kids into Trekkies if handled better.
Either Lower Decks or Strange New Worlds stars could go into more detail about the upcoming crossover, and although it’s still early days we could get some kind of teaser for Strange New Worlds’ upcoming second season. I don’t expect to see any clips from the crossover at Star Trek Day – that’s just a hunch, of course, but something tells me it’ll be kept under wraps until much closer to the episode’s premiere. But we could learn more about Season 2, including whether any new cast members will be coming on board. There’s at least one and perhaps two spots open if the producers wanted to make additions, although I hope they don’t go overboard and try to cram in too many new characters – especially not characters from The Original Series.
Season 1 managed to strike a good balance between legacy and new characters, and I’d hope that would continue in Season 2. There must be a temptation to add characters like Scotty, for example, in engineering, but I hope that the show’s writers can resist – at least for now. There may be scope to bring in more legacy characters in later seasons, but for now I’d like to spend more time with some of the newbies who we’re just getting to know.
There’s also a decent chance, in my view, that we’ll hear about a Season 3 renewal for Strange New Worlds. Season 2 has already finished its main production phase, and with Discovery Season 5 well underway, it’s definitely time for those conversations to be happening behind-the-scenes. It seems utterly unfathomable to me that there won’t be a third season (and a fourth…) given how well Season 1 was received. Pre-production may be already happening, so it wouldn’t shock me at all to get a formal announcement at Star Trek Day.
In a similar vein there could be announcements for a fifth season of Lower Decks, a third for Prodigy, and perhaps even a sixth for Discovery – though the latter may be premature at this stage. As Discovery has been running since 2017 (and in production since 2016), it’s not an absolute certainty that we’ll get more after Season 5, but at the same time the 32nd Century feels like a really interesting setting to spend more time in, so I’m hopeful that there’ll be more to come from Captain Burnham and the crew.
So those are my main thoughts/predictions. I’m also looking forward to some of the other events that will be part of the live broadcast, including a tribute to Nichelle Nichols, as well as a couple of fan-focused events, some music, and even some stand-up comedy. Star Trek Day’s stated runtime is two hours, and that feels about right for something like this. As mentioned, last year’s event may have dragged just a little – at least for me – so it seems as though some lessons may have been learned from that. But as they say, live events have the potential to take unexpected turns, so I won’t be shocked if Star Trek Day ends up running a little over that time limit!
I guess that’s about all there is to say. I’m glad Paramount is doing this, and I’m glad the event will be free to stream on the official Star Trek website instead of being locked behind a Paramount+ paywall. It’s a nice way to celebrate all things Star Trek, and even if there are no massive announcements about brand-new shows or films, I still think it’ll be a fun time. There’ll be glimpses behind-the-scenes, chats with cast members, and hopefully a lot of positivity and excitement about the Star Trek franchise.
I’m looking forward to Star Trek Day, and when the event is over I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on the broadcast, as well as perhaps take a longer look at any major trailers, teasers, or announcements. Stay tuned here on the website in the next few days because I have a list of a few potential upcoming Star Trek projects currently in the works – and who knows, we may hear about some of those at Star Trek Day!
Star Trek Day will be live-streamed on the official Star Trek website and social media channels on the 8th of September 2022 beginning at 3:00pm Eastern Standard Time/8:00pm British Summer Time. The Star Trek franchise – including all shows and properties 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Spoiler Warning: There may be minor spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise.
Yesterday we got some fantastic news about the direction of the Star Trek franchise over the next couple of years. I’m sure you’re already aware of all of it, but just in case, here are the key announcements in brief:
Star Trek: Discovery has finally been renewed for a fifth season.
Star Trek: Picard Season 2 will premiere on the 3rd of March.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will premiere on the 5th of May.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has been officially renewed for Season 2.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 will premiere this summer.
Star Trek: Lower Decks has been renewed for Season 4.
Star Trek: Prodigy Season 1 will take a break when Discovery returns, before broadcasting the second half of the season later in the year.
Star Trek: Prodigy has been officially renewed for Season 2.
All of these announcements take the Star Trek franchise well into 2023, and when you add into the mix the as-yet-untitled 2023 film as well, there’s a massive amount of content to come over the next couple of years. It seems as though scarcely a week will go by without at least one new Star Trek episode premiering throughout all of 2022!
This is all unequivocally good news. Star Trek has made an absolutely triumphant return to the small screen since Discovery premiered in 2017, and the franchise has grown beyond my wildest hopes and most optimistic expectations in a scant five years. I hope that this is just the first phase of a new Golden Age, with more Star Trek on our screens taking us to the franchise’s sixtieth anniversary in 2026 – and beyond.
But it hasn’t been a smooth ride for Trekkies in recent weeks, especially for those of us who live outside of the United States. Star Trek: Prodigy is well into its first season for American viewers, but the rest of the fanbase hasn’t been able to see so much as a single episode – at least not via “conventional” means. This is despite Prodigy being a co-production between CBS Studios and Nickelodeon; the latter being a kids’ television channel that is available in more than 70 countries and territories around the world and is wholly owned by ViacomCBS. Surely a Prodigy international broadcast should have been possible – yet the corporation running Star Trek has consistently chosen to prioritise its American audience ahead of fans in the rest of the world, even when doing so makes no sense.
The same situation initially befell Discovery’s fourth season, when an insultingly-worded, awfully-timed announcement saw the series pulled from Netflix with 48 hours to spare. It was only thanks to the huge backlash that ViacomCBS received, leading to a significant fall in the corporation’s share price, that Discovery was shopped out to Pluto TV, Amazon, YouTube, and other platforms. Fans won in the end – but it was a battle that we should’ve never needed to fight.
At the time of the Discovery disaster, I wrote a piece here on the website in which I asked a difficult question: what might the situation and the precedent it had set mean for future Star Trek productions, including those shows that have just been renewed or had premiere dates announced? You can check out the full article by clicking or tapping here, but to briefly summarise: I am not optimistic that the painfully slow rollout of Paramount+ can be sped up, nor that shows like Strange New Worlds will be granted an international broadcast at all.
ViacomCBS is a poorly-managed corporation with leaders and executives who seem utterly incompetent – or who are dusty old relics, ill-suited to a 21st Century media landscape. The lack of care and preparation with which the Star Trek franchise is being handled is indicative of this, and the franchise lags far behind old rival Star Wars in many areas. Where are, for example, 4K HDR episodes? This is something Star Wars has been doing since 2019 with The Mandalorian, and many other television shows on Amazon, Netflix, and Disney+ are now streaming in 4K HDR. Where are the toys that should have been available in time for Prodigy’s debut? And, come to that, where’s the rest of the Star Trek merchandise for other shows?
These are just a couple of examples of how the Star Trek brand is being mismanaged by ViacomCBS, and unfortunately the breach of trust between the corporation and a sizeable chunk of its fanbase means that the plethora of announcements made yesterday are, at the very least, seen through a new lens. At worst they’re completely tainted, with excitement and hype replaced with either apathy or anxiety as fans ask whether we’ll be able to watch any of these new shows and new seasons – and if we can’t, why should we care?
Since I created this website in 2019, I’ve reviewed every Star Trek episode that has been broadcast – except for Prodigy. Why? Because ViacomCBS deliberately chose not to make Prodigy available here in the UK (by lawful means, at least) despite owning and operating the UK version of the Nickelodeon channel and thus having the ability to do so with ease. When a corporation behaves in such an insulting manner, I feel it’s difficult to support practically any announcement or project that they have going on.
It will take time – and most importantly, a significant amount of effort from ViacomCBS – to repair the breach of trust between the corporation and Trekkies. And while these announcements are exciting, I can’t bring myself to fully board the hype train, not until we have more information about how and when these shows are going to be made available.
Here are several key questions that ViacomCBS needs to address in pretty short order:
When will Paramount+ be available here in the UK?
Are there any plans to make Paramount+ available in Asia, Africa, and other regions?
If there are no plans to roll out Paramount+ in a particular country or territory, will these new Star Trek shows be available via some other broadcaster?
Will new episodes of Star Trek be available on Paramount+ outside of the United States, or will the international version of Paramount+ delay the broadcast of some or all of these episodes (as initially happened with Discovery Season 4 in Australia, Latin America, and Scandinavia)?
Can you offer fans a guarantee that Picard Season 2 and Lower Decks Season 3 will be broadcast on Amazon Prime Video this year?
Will Paramount+ be available internationally in time for Strange New Worlds Season 1?
If not, will Strange New Worlds be available on another broadcaster or platform outside of the United States?
I love Star Trek. Heck, I run a Star Trek fan website – and in my small way I offer ViacomCBS free publicity and advertising by talking and writing about the franchise in my free time. But I can’t blindly support a corporation that has continually taken decisions that harm Star Trek’s international fans, and until ViacomCBS is willing to answer some of the questions fans are rightly asking about the availability of upcoming productions, it’s going to remain difficult for any of us to fully get on board and be as excited as we want to be.
ViacomCBS needs to get a grip and put real effort into accelerating the international rollout of Paramount+. If Paramount+ isn’t going to be available in time, then the corporation needs to make plans to ensure international Trekkies can watch the likes of Strange New Worlds at the same time as fans in the United States. Star Trek is not an American entity, solely the preserve of American fans. ViacomCBS and its predecessors encouraged the creation of a global fanbase because they saw profit overseas – but that fanbase has been bruised by a slew of poor corporate decisions that have damaged the reputation of Star Trek and Paramount+, and which have unfortunately seen shows like Lower Decks underperform.
As Star Trek gears up for an exciting couple of years, the team in charge has a lot of work to do to rebuild trust between ViacomCBS and Trekkies. Star Trek’s long-term success depends on fixing the problems of the past couple of years and getting things right going forward. I’m interested to see how ViacomCBS will respond – and willing and able to hold their feet to the fire if they continue to get it wrong.
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.