Note: This review was written before news broke of Star Trek: Discovery’s removal from Netflix internationally ahead of the Season 4 release today and not being available outside the US and Canada until some time next year.
Nearly a year since it was last on our screens, Star Trek: Discovery is back for Season 4 today, Thursday, November 18th, at its new home over at Paramount+. The crew of the Discovery have spent the months since they stopped the threat of the Burn reconnecting the disparate worlds of the Federation. But now, a new threat has emerged, one with a destructive force unlike any seen before. And it is up to Discovery to find some way of averting a galaxy-wide tragedy.
When I was told I’d be reviewing the first four episodes of Season 4 of Disco ahead of its release, I knew it would be difficult to remain impartial and come at it from an objective point of view. Why? Because I adore this show. After some growing pains in its first season, Disco has emerged as a shining example of what makes Star Trek great; showing the goodness inherent in people, the help that Starfleet and the Federation can bring to those in need. But it has never been afraid to criticize these elements at the same time, to dig into them and bring to light where there is darkness and try to find some way out of it. This is a show that last season made me cry (in a good way) every episode, be it from emotional goodbyes or tragic events to heroic victories and accepting people for who they are, who they want to be. It’s very good at pulling on the strings of my heart and getting me invested in every single element of Discovery.
For a show made entirely during our current circumstances, a pandemic, it could have been easy for Disco to reflect the darkness we have seen these past months, for it to reflect our world in its own way as Star Trek has done so well before. Instead, we get a show that, despite dealing with an event that is a threat to everyone, is all about the hope found in these situations and those who come together to avert tragedy. I won’t lie, there was some worry when I heard the show was going to tackle the pandemic, thinking it would lean more towards the darkness of this situation. So I’m incredibly happy at the way they have gone about it and I can only hope other shows will follow this direction.
I’ve already talked about what the main crux of this season’s story is and honestly, that’s all you’re getting from me. You should go in as unspoiled as possible and experience the heroic highs and the emotional heartbreaks for yourself. One thing I will say is that elements introduced in Season 3, ones that maybe weren’t the primary focus, are hit upon within the first four episodes. They are all satisfying to see further unfold. In fact, that may be the best word to describe these opening episodes of Disco Season 4, they’re satisfying. Each episode has its own story, but it adds and connects elements to the overarching plot of the season, while always ensuring to center its characters at the forefront.
Speaking of character, let’s dig into the crew of the Discovery. First up, we have Michael Burnham, played with such fire by Sonequa Martin-Green. Having been promoted to Captain at the end of Season 3, we see Michael grappling with the realities of command. In the first episode alone, she comes face to face with her own Kobayashi Maru, which if you know Star Trek, you know just what kind of challenges Michael is facing this season. We find Doug Jones’ brilliant Saru at a crossroads at the beginning of this season, torn between his duty to his homeworld and his found family on the Discovery. Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, and Mary Wiseman are all back in their respective roles of Stamets, Dr. Culber, and Tilly. These three are perhaps the closest to being the heart of the show, with Tilly especially seeing a lot of growth throughout these opening episodes. Meanwhile, Stamets and Dr. Culber are learning to operate in a sort of family unit, having brought into their fold Blu del Bario’s Adira and their Trill boyfriend Gray (Ian Alexander), whose own story goes through a lot of change for good during Season 4. And then we have David Ajala’s enigmatic Book and his delightfully chonky cat Grudge. Book is centered in the season’s overarching story in such a way that it really allows Ajala to show off his range. His performance in Episode 2 especially is seriously heartbreaking.
I’d be remiss not to mention the beloved bridge crew of Discovery. While they aren’t the main characters it’s always a joy to see them, especially when they are given a chance to show off why they are such an essential part of the crew and the show itself. Be it Detmer, Owo, Rhys, Bryce, or Nilsson, I can’t help but have a smile on my face every time I see them thrust into the spotlight. While I’m talking about the Discovery crew, I have to bring up the incredible new Starfleet uniforms they’re sporting this season. They look SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD. I love them, especially as they’re using the Next Generation color scheme for denoting what division each crew works in. I’ve never done cosplay before, but between these new fits and the ones worn by the crew of the Cerritos in Lower Decks, I think I’ve got to start.
One thing that always blows me away when it comes to Disco is its effects. I genuinely don’t know how they pull it off on a TV budget. From the sweeping shots of the Discovery in flight to the set design within, it looks more like what was found in the 2009 Star Trek film (which still looks incredible if you were wondering) than anything else on TV right now. I am constantly amazed at the imagery the effects team pulls off episode after episode. Even if you aren’t that into Star Trek, you owe it to yourself to watch just for the insane level of excellence in every element of the show’s execution.
And there we have it, Star Trek: Discovery is back and better than ever. If you’re already a fan, you don’t need any convincing from me to jump in and continue witnessing some of the best sci-fi storytelling around. However, if you’ve been curious about Disco and want to jump in, I implore you to go back to the beginning and witness the journey unfold. But if you do want to see what you’re getting into, check out the Season 4 premiere. You’re guaranteed to love it and will want to go back to the beginning and see this wonderful journey of the good ship Discovery unfold.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 1 “Kobayashi Maru”, premieres today, Thursday, November 18th and new episodes drop weekly only on Paramount+.