Yes, we’re already looking forward to Star Trek: Discovery Season 4. Season 3 saw the show go where no Star Trek has gone before – literally. Flung almost a thousand years into the future after saving all sentient life as we know it, Michael Burnham and her crewmates had to navigate a new and alien reality that bore little resemblance to the one they left behind.
Yet, the decision to send Discovery to the future is possibly the best decision the series has ever made, giving the show a much-needed narrative reset that cut ties to things like Klingon wars and The Original Series legacy characters and sends it off to blaze its own path, unencumbered by the strings of existing canon. But now that Discovery is firmly established in the 32nd century, what can we expect from Star Trek: Discovery‘s upcoming Season 4? We have a few educated guesses…
Michael Burnham Finds Her Feet as Captain
Despite her colorful history as an officer – replete with mutiny, insubordination, and general recklessness – it’s been obvious for a long time that Michael Burnham was destined for the Discovery captain’s chair. The only question was a matter of when. But now that she’s there – what kind of captain will she be?
She could very easily turn out to be one of the Starfleet greats. Despite her flaws, Michael has proven time again that she is smart, capable, and brave. A risk-taker who always comes through in the clutch, she has saved her crew more times than most of us can count and she is a shining example of someone who absolutely believes in the mission of the Federation and the good it can do.
But she’s also often rash and impulsive, and just a few short episodes ago wasn’t even all that certain that she belonged in Starfleet anymore. Granted, many successful male Starfleet captains (cough cough James Kirk cough) are remembered as great precisely because they weren’t huge fans of following the rules, either, so there’s certainly precedent that generally refusing to play things safe is a workable leadership strategy.
Yet, Michael has always found her greatest success as a character when she has an authority figure or structure that is set in opposition to her, so it will be interesting to see how she evolves now that she is the authority she once pushed back against.
What’s Next for Saru?
At the conclusion of “That Hope Is You, Part 2,” Saru took a leave of absence from the Starfleet to go with the young Kelpian refugee Su’Kal back to their home planet of Kaminar. What’s next for him is unclear, but there’s no way Discovery’s planning on writing off this character completely – or losing the talents of actor Doug Jones.
So what’s next for Saru? If he does return to the Discovery, what role can he fulfill now that he’s no longer captain? Does his future lie in the Federation hierarchy somehow, possibly working for Admiral Vance or serving as some sort of ambassador to his people?
A third option could involve Saru taking on an entirely different kind of mission, one that looks a lot like fatherhood of a sort. Ever since his arrival in the 32nd century, Saru has longed to reconnect with his people. Perhaps showing young Su’Kal the stars he’s missed out on all his life is something that might allow him to do just that on a smaller, more intimate scale. (And indulge his dorky dad vibes at the same time.)
Gray Will Return Somehow
During Adira’s trip to the dilithium planet to ferry medicine to Saru and Culber, we learned that the holodeck program on the abandoned Kelpian ship could extrapolate Gray’s consciousness and give him a holographic form. This allowed him to be seen by the other Discovery crew members present, which means that the technology clearly exists which can bring Gray back to life again. Sort of, anyway.
Because, of course, Gray is technically dead and his consciousness only exists as part of the Tal symbiont inside of Adira, which raises many questions this subplot will eventually have to answer, including how much agency and sentience post-Burn holograms even have to begin with. (Eli the Federation lie detector hologram certainly seems independent enough.)
Culber has promised both Adira and Gray that he will find a way for him to be seen again. But what that will ultimately look like, we don’t yet know. There is precedent for the idea that one part of a Trill’s symbiont memories can live outside it, but does that mean Gray will become a hologram himself permanently? Or can his consciousness be housed in something that has a more physical form?
What’s Book’s Actual Job Now Anyway?
Now that Cleveland Book – and we’re still waiting for the story behind that name, btw – is officially a part of the Discovery crew, it’s time for the series to define his role in this universe beyond his relationship with Michael. Is he technically part of Starfleet now? Is he an officer on Discovery? Does Grudge get a tiny decorated insignia collar? (Please say yes!)
Much of Book’s role in Season 3 was to support Michael in one way or another, whether that meant to literally help introduce her to the new rules of the 32nd century or to provide emotional and tactical help when needed. And don’t get me wrong, Book and Michael have somehow managed to form one of the most functional, normal relationships in Star Trek history. They’re honestly great together. But David Ajala is a tremendously appealing actor and if he’s going to stick around – which I think we’re all in agreement he should – Book needs a meaningful story of his own.
Following Michael’s promotion to the Captain’s chair, it certainly looks like Tilly is getting some sort of command-level promotion in Season 4.
Technically she was still an Ensign when serving as Saru’s Acting First Officer, and while she conducted herself admirably during, well, everything, if she’s going to be Michael’s legitimate First Officer – which that last scene would definitely seem to indicate – she deserves to at least become a lieutenant.
Stamets and Michael Will Have to Work Out Their Issues
One of the lingering unresolved plotlines from Season 3 is the massive rift that formed between Paul Stamets and Michael following her decision to physically jettison him from Discovery while it was under Osyraa’s control. To be fair, her choice was completely the correct one, as he was the only one capable of operating the spore drive, and removing him from the equation meant that the Emerald Chain couldn’t just jump back to the Verubin Nebula and all its dilithium.
But, Stamets basically took that decision to mean that Michael was fine with condemning his family to horrific radiation deaths, and that’s going to be a hard thing for him to get over. If you notice, he’s the only person who doesn’t exactly look thrilled at Captain Burnham’s promotion, and we don’t see the two interact again once the ship is reclaimed.
There’s also the question of the spore drive itself. Stamets has tied his own identity – and his worth as part of the Discovery team – pretty tightly to his ability to communicate with the Mycelial network. Now that Book can do the same thing, how will this change things for him?
We’ll Probably See More Episodic Storytelling
Solving the mystery of The Burn and battling the villainous Emerald Chain were both season-long arcs that helped establish Discovery’s place in the future, and allowed Discovery the show to set up the new rules and players of its universe. But now that both those tasks have been accomplished, don’t be surprised if we see a shift toward more episodic storytelling in Season 4.
After all, with a fresh new supply of dilithium to distribute and the entire future to explore, isn’t it time we spent some time seeing what the 32nd century looks like? Some of the most entertaining moments of this season came when Michael and the rest of the Discovery crew found themselves on new planets or adjusting to changed cultures (including their own). Since Discovery purposefully removed itself from all known Star Trek canon, isn’t it time the show got about really establishing some new ones? The revelation that Vulcan and Romulan reunification has indeed happened feels like it should be just the beginning of the surprises this universe has in store for us. What has happened to other species such as Klingons or the Borg? Wouldn’t it be fun to find out?
The Grudge Content We Deserve
One of the few things Discovery fans of all stripes can agree on: Grudge is amazing. And we deserve to see more of her. Whether that means all our initial speculation turns out to be true and she’s actually the secret god of a planet full of telepathic felines we’ve yet to visit or just that she gets her own bridge-safe cat basket so she can hang out with Book and Michael next season, just give the people what they want.
Can we at least find out how she and Book ended up together? Throw me a bone – or I guess a cat treat – here, show. (Truly, if we don’t at least get a Short Treks episode about Grudge what are we even doing here?)
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