This blast from the past crew, continues to ensure the future of the Federation
We’ve previously covered the first 3 seasons of Star Trek Discovery here at Cinapse. In short, a show that kicks off pre-Kirk’s tenure on the Enterprise, tackles the early Federation/Klingon war, collides with the mirror universe, and saves the galaxy from an out of control AI. That last effort led to the starship Discovery, and her crew being flung from the 23rd, to the 32nd Century. This era is one where conventional warp travel has been made a rarity due to an event known as “the burn”. Discovery’s unique spore-driven drive, which allows instantaneous travel across the galaxy, offers a new hope to reuniting the disparate elements of the former Federation, and pushing back on the corrupt elements who sought to exploit the power vacuum that was created in their fall. Season 4 picks up after promising beginnings, with Starfleet’s efforts to reconnect the galaxy halted by emergence of a “Dark Matter Anomaly,” (DMA). A sector hopping destructive force capable of destroying entire systems, whose origins might not be entirely natural. And so Discovery’s mission shifts, from building for the future to ensuring the galaxy has one at all.
Season three was in some ways a soft reboot for the show. Transplanting these optimistic souls into a weary, fragmented galaxy, and through their efforts and ties to Federation ideals, serving as a spark to reignite hope and efforts to rebuilt. The pushback from the nefarious Emerald Chain and even those within what was left of the Federation provided much of the conflict. After resolution, it left the show with something of a clean slate to explore this strange , new galaxy that was the 32nd century. It’s somewhat strange then, that Season 4 introduced an ominous “galaxy destroying” foe as a focus, rather then mine the rich material that lay in front of them. Reconnecting with races, planets, and cultures long entrenched in Trek lore, to see what has become of them after thousands of years sounds so enticing, but that fare takes something of a back seat to this mystery of the DMA, and the exploration of a brand new frontier to try and preserve the galaxy. We conflict between two opposing camps, where science and diplomacy face off against those who favor a more aggressive, preemptive strike against the origins of the destructive force.
In a way, the show tilts back toward Gene Roddenberry’s original ethos, posing moral quandaries and conflict amongst the stars. As well as driving the main plot, it also serves to upend the personal relationship between Book (David Ajala) and non Captain Michael Burnham (the stellar Sonequa Martin-Green). We also see the show spend some time developing some B-plots from last season, including Saru’s (Doug Jones) return to his home planet, the ongoing ascension of the ship’s AI (Zora) into sentience, a departure for one crew member (that seems to be moving into spin-off territory). New plot-lines include a rather adorable romance for Saru, efforts to restore Gray (Ian Alexander) to physical form, and the ongoing politicking of the various leaders, most notably the subtle maneuvering of Federation President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal).
Plenty is packed into the 13 episodes, but there are certainly more key cast members, notably bridge crew, who lack screentime and development. The other notable critique comes from the ongoing drama these characters face, PTSD has been an aspect of the show for a while now. We have a great rollicking adventure in Star Trek Strange New Worlds, and in comparison Discovery is rather heavy. There is a feeling of how much more can this crew and the audience take. A step back from galaxy ending plotlines and getting back to something more akin to what the titular ship suggests could let us all catch a breath, and enjoy exploring this fragmented Federation in our far flung future.
Paramount/CBS home video package all 13 episodes of Discovery Season 4 across 4 discs, along with a nice selection of extra features. As with previous releases, the physical format seems to showcase a more impressive and consistent image quality that streaming. Detail, color range and robustness, black depth, all are superb. Discovery is a stunning show, and this release showcases that. Extra features include:
- Star Trek Discovery: The Voyage of Season 4: Just under an hour in length, and provides a decent dive into the overarching plot and production efforts that drove season 4
- Being Michael Burnham — The Captain’s Log: Built largely on interviews with Sonequa Martin-Green, behind the scenes clips, and other interviews, it paints the character arc of her character over the four seasons leading to her finally taking the captain’s chair
- Creating Space: Showcases some of the VFX work and the large volumetric (AR) space used to create some of the bigger vistas and locations depicted by the show, and how it helped production during this COVID era
- The Toll it Took: Largely focused on behind the scenes efforts, from the writers room, to the prop and costume department, cast and crew quarantines, and other post-production efforts to respond to the challenges of making the show under the shadow of COVID
- Audio Commentary: Episode 413 — Coming Home: Features episode writer (and co-showrunner Michelle Paradise), producer Olatunde Osunsanmi, and cast members Sonequa Martin-Green and David Ajala. Offers a nice mix of insights into the creative decisions as well as events on set
- Deleted scenes: From three of the episodes; Choose to Live, The Examples, and Rosetta. They largely add little character moments to the episodes they were cut from
- Gag reel: Just a few minutes in length and are a cute addition
The Bottom Line
While the galaxy in peril/“big bad” device is getting a little worn, here it is well used, to remind us of Gene Roddenberry’s philosophy about the ideals of mankind, embracing exploration and diplomacy to better ourselves and the galaxy. VIsually resplendent, with a brilliant cast, this release from Paramount continues to celebrate this dynamic and creative entry to the Star Trek universe.
Star Trek Discovery season 4 is available via Paramount Home Entertainment now