SXSW 2024: STAR TREK DISCOVERY Season 5 Finds a New Sense of Adventure

Some minor spoilers follow in this overview of Red Directive

We’ve well charted Star Trek Discovery here at Cinapse, with reviews of Seasons 1-3, and 4. A show that has always had potential, sometimes stumbled, but very often soared. Back for its fifth and final season, the show has one last huzzah lined up and after watching the first episode (entitled Red Directive), the signs are good that the good crew of the USS Discovery get to go out with a fun filled bang.

The episode opens with a thrill ride, Captain Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) clinging onto the hull of a ship at high warp. Cut to four hours earlier and things are far more relaxed. A diplomatic soiree to continue the rebuilding of ties within this newly expanding Federation. A social event that ends with Burnham being dragged into a meeting with Dr Kovich (David Cronenberg with a rather substantial presence this episode). In this, a ‘Red Directive’ is issued. A mission of paramount importance, triggered by a distant probe finding the remains of an 800 year old Romulan vessel. Details are on a need to know basis, and Burnham and her crew do not need to know anything beyond an item is interest lies in the wreckage, and they’re in a race to salvage it.

Heading to a corner of the galaxy know as a scrap graveyard, Discovery is joined by another starship commanded by Captain Rayner (Callum Keith Rennie, Battlestar Galactica), whose style looks to setup some butting of heads with Burnham this season. They arrive to find scavengers already on the scene, a pair of former couriers they come to know as Moll and La’ak. In their possession, an ancient Romulan puzzle box. After a firefight and warp chase, they lose them. Their only hope in tracking them lies with Book (David Ayala) who takes them to a remote settlement and a relic buyer named Fred. A 600+ year old synth based on the old Alton Soong designs, whose memories offer a glimmer of hope to continue their search. Meanwhile, Tilly uncovers the truth about this centuries long classified information. Forcing Kovich to open up about what this object means, and the possible threat (or opportunity) it poses for the galaxy.

While that all sounds ominous, the episode flies along with a real cavalier spirit. The emotional and existential weight so prevalent in previous seasons is lifted and the fun takes over. This is a crew that has handled some shit. Confidence exudes, a swagger creeps in, banter is had. It all enhances the sense of adventure the season is clearly striving for. This is never more evident than in the many action sequences. The aforementioned ship ride within a warp bubble, which feels akin to a good old train heist. A planetary outpost with shades of Tatooine, sees a desert chase with speeder bikes paying homage to those in Return of the Jedi. This climaxes with a dual starship maneuver that feels like the most madcap stunt pulled in an atmosphere since Battlestar Galactica. The show has always looked good, and showcased an action spectacle, but the visual work here just soars.

It’s not just action that gets the attention, this family of characters does too: Stamets considering his legacy now the spore drive program has been shuttered. Tilly learning how to cope at Starfleet Academy, as well as maybe finding a new romantic interest. Saru dealing a choice between service and love, Starfleet and a new opportunity. Lastly we have Burnham, figuring out things after reconnecting with Book. Plenty of character arcs planted to explore this season, and hopefully to tee them up for a fitting finale.

There is a rather big reveal in the episode’s climax that won’t be spoiled here, one that surprisingly ties the show back not just 800 years, but to an existing part of the Star Trek mythos. With the sheer sense of scale and adventure in this episode, it looks like the show will fittingly pay respect to this cherished aspect of the franchise, while also giving the Discovery and her crew the sendoff they deserve.

Star Trek Discovery Season 5 premieres on Paramount+ on April 4th

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