Star Trek Discovery – The Final Season

Having sent the Discovery and her crew into the far future, Paramount seem to have decided to use the series to explore some classic science fiction themes. The finale of Season 4 owed a lot to the movie, Arrival, and of course the brilliant Ted Chaing story on which it is based. Season 5 mines another classic plot: alien technology so powerful that only our heroes should be allowed to have it.

The plot has its origins in the Next Generation episode, “The Chase”. In that story, an old archaeology professor who once taught Picard is chasing down rumours of an ancient alien race whom, it is said, seeded all of the life in the universe. The Klingons, Cardassians and Romulans are also on the hunt, but obviously the Enterprise gets to the prize first. The aliens, known as Progenitors, claim to have the power to direct evolution, but the key to that technology is hidden elsewhere in the galaxy. This is the last we hear of the story in Next Gen.

Skip forward now to the Discovery timeline where we learn that a group of scientists from various planets conducted a search for the Progenitor technology, and eventually found it. But they deemed the galaxy too warlike for such power to be made available. Rather than claim the power for themselves, they created a complex puzzle which, they hoped, only a sufficiently moral and upstanding sentient being could solve. Oh yes, that would be you, Michael Burnham.

Drama is added to by the presence of a couple of clever chancers called Moll and L’ak who have discovered the existence of the Progenitor technology for themselves and are determined to get hold of it first and sell it to the highest bidder. For complicated [spoiler] reasons, this means that the Breen get involved.

That’s the structure for the story arc of the episode. It works pretty well. Of course that can’t be all that there is to the series. We get sub-plots involving various characters as well. Burnham and Book are trying to repair their relationship after the unfortunate events of Season 4. Obviously they do, because Book is the Dishiest Man in the Galaxy. Stamets and Culber continue their role as Gay Dads to Adira, who has some growing up to do.

The bridge crew are mostly their usual place-holder selves. However, this season does introduce a new First Officer. Rayner is a crusty older captain who gets asked to take early retirement because he can’t adapt to service in peacetime. Burnham gives him a second chance, and their relationship is one of the more interesting aspects of the season.

So where is Saru, you ask? Well, he has transitioned to a role as a Federation Ambassador which allows him to spend more time with his beloved T’Rina, the President of Vulcan. Watching two people who are massively uncomfortable expressing emotion fall in love is, in my humble opinion, the best entertainment of the season. They are unbearably cute.

There is, of course, the main plot to resolve. I’m pleased to see that the scriptwriters came to the correct decision, though it did seem remarkably easy. We could have done with Philippa Georgiou around to mess things up a bit. But, as seasonal story arcs go, this is probably the best of all five seasons.

The decision to cancel Discovery seems to have come shortly after filming finished for the season. At any rate, the Discovery team were given permission to film an epilogue. This takes the form of a sequence featuring an older Admiral Burnham and her family (Book and son, Leto). I’m not sure how long it was, but it felt at least as long as the interminable ending to Peter Jackson’s film of The Return of the King (not as long as the ending to The Battle of the Five Armies though, I’m too old to live through that again and would be doing a Miss Haversham impression by the end if I did). It is nice that Paramount let them do it, but really, was it necessary?

It is unclear what will happen next with the Discovery timeline, but it has recently been announced that Star Fleet Academy will be set in the Discovery era. This will allow Tilly to guest star as one of the instructors and provide some continuity. We might expect people such as Admiral Vance and Saru to also pop in from time to time. It could be a good show.

Meanwhile it is much too long to wait until the next season of Strange New Worlds.