I am not confused about Star Trek: Discovery. Despite its shortened run, it has been a great series and the godmother to some of the best new episodes and new series the franchise has ever had. It has been the gift which keeps on giving.
BEFORE STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
Star Trek: Discovery is a series that follows the crew of the starship Discovery, beginning a decade before Star Trek: The Original Series. It debuted in 2017 and is the seventh Star Trek series. The series takes place in the 2250s and follows a devastating war between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets.
Star Trek: Discovery appeared after a long period of quiet on the Star Trek production front. The last franchise series was Star Trek: Enterprise, featuring Scott Bakula as Captain Archer. The original network for Star Trek: Enterprise was UPN.
Enterprise originally ran from September 26, 2001–13 May 2005. It had four seasons and 97 episodes. Like most Star Trek, it had a lukewarm first season but the series picks up and is fairly decent until its unexpected close of the fourth season. The claim is low ratings and franchise fatigue, since Enterprise was appearing after Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which ran concurrently with Star Trek: Voyager. This would appear to be a glut of Star Trek the likes of which the world had never seen.
We were learning more about the Federation, its allies, their challenges, the technology of the Alpha Quadrant, exploring the Borg as a civilization, fighting new foes like Species 8472 and deciding machine intelligence could indeed be sentient.
It was a glorious twenty-five years of Star Trek. It ended on a sour note. There are nearly twelve years before anyone dared to mention Star Trek again.
STAR TREK: THE QUIET YEARS
A decade later, in 2017, the promise of a new series was seen for the first time. Star Trek: Discovery. Set in a time before Captain Kirk, but after Captain Archer. A period of strife in the Federation when the Klingons and humanity were not allies. In fact, the Klingons would remain the most dangerous of foes for decades, even as isolated incidents during Captain Pike’s time might paint them as allies someday in the far future.
The new series was codenamed Star Trek: Discovery (DSC or DIS) would make waves. Shockwaves. It was lead by a Black woman (Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham who was not yet the captain of the ship), a departure from the standard focus for a Star Trek series.
The series expanded the technology of the Federation with experimental designs such as the Discovery and modernized the look of the franchise, a bit too much depending on whom you ask, but the upgrade was aesthetically pleasing. Where the story evolved was in their representation of women, minorities and crew who were openly non-binary, lesbian or homosexual.
This daring was met with open derision and remains one of the major bones of contention with the hard-core fanbase who have mixed feeling on this dynamic franchise addition. Like most Trek, the first season was uneven with several decision affecting the look and the feel of the series. Discovery was not a situational series. It’s stories were sequential, they carried over from week to week even as the episode tried to maintain the standard episodic feel.
The second season picked up when we get to see the legendary Captain Pike, (Anson Mount) and a brief glimpse of the Enterprise before he takes command of Discovery. The second season burned bright. It inspired the franchise makers to consider other projects, believing they should strike while the interest in Trek was high again. Discovery’s adventures with Captain Pike, Commander Burnham and crew inspired the reprisal of the role of Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: Picard (2020) and the animated series, Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020).
A GENESIS DEVICE WAS ACTIVATED…
The machinations at the end of Season 2, inspired further show ideas including a film focused on the clandestine operations of the Star Trek franchise’s secret investigative force Section 31, which will feature the scene-stealing talents of Michelle Yeoh, as Captain Philippa Georgiou but more importantly as her mirror-Universe counterpart, the charismatic, hyper-intelligent and deadly, Emperor Philippa Georgiou. (It was supposed to be a series, but I guess we will wait and see what comes of it.)
Further emboldened by the successful third and forth seasons of Discovery, another animated series, Star Trek: Prodigy also sprung into being.
Captain Pike’s time on Discovery earned him his own ship, where they tested some ideas with Star Trek: Short Takes, and later with the first two successful seasons of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, which has been arguably one of the most successful Star Trek series ever, rivaled only by Star Trek: Lower Decks. A success so integral to the franchise, the Lower Decks ensigns traveled in time to the live action series Strange New Worlds for the well-regarded episode “Those Old Scientists”.
DISCOVERY: THOSE FINAL VOYAGES
Star Trek: Discovery will end with its fifth season. There is much clamor and debate about why this is the case and whether it was a waste of time to produce the series which broke so many rules with its storytelling, characterizations and departures from what had been the Star Trek way of doing things for decades.
The departure was worth it. There may have been many people who felt as if it wasn’t their Star Trek any more, but for millions, Star Trek gave them a visibility unseen thus far. Discovery was not everything to everyone. To the people who saw it as a worthwhile addition to the franchise, it was everything to them.
We owe Star Trek: Discovery a debt. Without it, we would have never had a chance to fall in love with Star Trek all over again, in new ways, working in parts of the ship we normally never see, from the perspective of characters previously unconsidered for anything other than “exploding Ensigns”, to a future where the Federations is all but forgotten, to an exploration of the Orions, changing our view of them forever. The ‘Mistress of the Winter Constellations’ always brings a smile to my face…
Discovery brought us new aliens, new perspectives, another fun visit to the Mirror Universe, while traversing novel interpretations of horrors on strange new worlds.
I am saddened by it being cut short. But I exult in the fact it gave birth to so many new versions of Star Trek means it lived up to its name: Discovery. With it, we discovered so many new ways of seeing the franchise statement being demonstrated so well: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, the basis of Vulcan philosophy, celebrating the vast array of variables in the universe.
What inspired this essay was a comment made by a fan in a forum which had not acquired an appreciation of Star Trek: Discovery, but it hadn’t stopped him from professing his enjoyment of the franchise-restarting series:
“It’s had five successful seasons on Streaming, it helped launch Picard and Lower Decks (and later Prodigy), it is responsible for the launch of Strange New Worlds, Starfleet academy and Section 31. It has been hugely progressive with its representation of LGBTQ+. It brought in a raft of new fans to the franchise and it’s been bloody great. I for one will miss it but I’ll be able to watch it over and over again.”
— Marc Sharp
Even as the series ends, I am confident, the former crew will find new work because there are worst ways to move to a new career as an actor, having been a part of rekindling a legendary franchise.
Well done, Discovery. I thank you, once again, for allowing us to meet the President of Earth. A wonderful touch. I can’t wait for your final voyages in the 32nd century. Star Trek: Discovery, Season 5 is anticipated to come out on Paramount Plus between January and April 2024.
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.