REVIEW: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 4 Explores Grief & Unity in the Final Frontier

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Star Trek Discovery Season 4 - but Why Tho

Star Trek: Discovery begins its fourth season in a surprisingly good place. After the events of Season 3, the Federation of United Planets is slowly being reformed, and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) has taken captaincy of the U.S.S. Discovery. However, a mysterious gravitational anomaly is slowly destroying planets, threatening the fragile peace of the newly formed Federation. Burnham and the crew of the Discovery must work to discover the source of the anomaly while brokering peace between planets that wish to join the Federation.

Discovery remains one of Paramount+’s flagship series and one that continues to grow better with each season (in this reporter’s humble opinion.) The third season explored a new version of the “final frontier” by launching the Discovery‘s crew nearly nine hundred years into the future; this season begins with them reaching out to other worlds while rebuilding the Federation-which gives the show plenty of room to tackle, and even subvert, the usual tropes that come with a Star Trek property. Case in point: the premiere, “Kobayashi Maru,” features Burnham and Book (David Ajala) attempting to negotiate a deal with a race of aliens that goes south due to a misunderstanding involving power structures and Book’s cat Grudge.

Burnham also finds herself dealing with political struggles, as she often butts heads with the Federation’s new president Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) on various situations. Yet she manages to navigate these struggles, as well as the various threats the galaxy throws at her. Martin-Green has spent three seasons fleshing out Burnham as a character, and Season 4 shows that while she has more than earned her captaincy it won’t be smooth sailing. A prime example comes in the episode “Choose To Live,” which sees Burnham’s Vulcan upbringing and duty to Starfleet collide when she must deal with a rogue member of the Romulan warriors known as the Qowat Milat. Thankfully she has her crew to help, including Saru (Doug Jones) who has returned to offer his advice. Saru is my favorite character on Discovery, and I’m glad to see him back on the bridge-Jones infuses him with a wise demeanor that continues to elevate Saru to the level of beloved Star Trek characters like Spock and Data.

Another great element of the season is the unexpected pairings that happen within episodes, particularly Book and Lt. Commander Stamets (Anthony Rapp). “Kobayashi Maru” deals an unexpected loss to Book, and the following episodes center around how he deals with it; Stamets suffered a similar loss in the first season of Discovery, and works to understand the anomaly so that Book can have some peace of mind. Other unorthodox pairings include ship physician Dr. Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Ensign Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio), as Adira deals with their Trill boyfriend Grey (Ian Alexander) transferring his sentience into a synthetic body; Saru, in addition to acting as Burnham’s advisor, also provides words of wisdom to Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) as Tilly is seeking to step outside of her comfort zone.

The mysterious anomaly also presents a unique challenge, as for the first time in a long time a major threat in Star Trek canon is not a sentient being. Showrunner Michelle Paradise has said that the anomaly is meant to represent the uncertainty of life, which has come to the forefront of people’s minds during the COVID-19 pandemic; that uncertainty is also shown to weigh heavily on the crew. Burnham must deal with attempting to rebuild the Federation; this could easily wreck her efforts. Stamets is a scientist; it represents a major unknown, despite his best efforts to catalog it. And for the planets within the Federation, it signifies another disaster that could upend their lives. Good fiction will often reflect the world outside your window, and Discovery is doing that in a way that feels not only relevant but unique in a string of projects that have attempted to tackle the pandemic.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 introduces an existential new threat that tests both the mental state of its characters and the ideals they uphold. Yet it also continues the series trend of reinvention with each season, while expanding the Star Trek mythos. Between the return of Discovery and the debut of Star Trek: Prodigy, alongside Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks, Trekkies have plenty of stories that explore different aspects of the final frontier.

The Season 4 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery is currently available to stream on Paramount+, with new episodes premiering every Thursday.

 


Star Trek: Discovery — Season 4
9.5/10

TL;DR

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 introduces an existential new threat that tests both the mental state of its characters and the ideals they uphold. Yet it also continues the series trend of reinvention with each season, while expanding the Star Trek mythos. Between the return of Discovery and the debut of Star Trek: Prodigy, alongside Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks, Trekkies have plenty of stories that explore different aspects of the final frontier.