Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 Will Break a Longstanding Trek TV Tradition

Exclusive: Star Trek producer Alex Kurtzman confirms Discovery season 5 won't follow its predecessors and bring back William T. Riker.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery Season 5
Photo: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

Quick, who’s the most important person in Star Trek? Jim Kirk? Jean-Luc Picard? Morn?

No, no, and maybe, but not who we had in mind. The most important person in Star Trek is the character who has appeared in every series, except The Original Series: William T. Riker, the character immortalized by Jonathan Frakes.

Of course, Frakes played Commander Riker for seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. His twin/clone/variant Thomas Riker showed up as a Maquis agent on Deep Space Nine, while Q shenanigans brought Will to the Delta Quadrant on Voyager. No one, not even Frakes, likes Riker’s appearance with Troi in the finale of Enterprise. But everyone loved Riker and Troi’s vocal appearances on Lower Decks. And, yes, it takes some fudging, but Star Trek: Very Short Treks allowed Riker to blast his trombone with the Star Trek: The Animated Series crew, too.

With Star Trek: Discovery entering its final season, Trekkies want to know whether this means Riker will finally make an appearance in the 32nd century. Sadly, producer Alex Kurtzman had a simple answer for Den of Geek when we asked him about a Riker sighting in an exclusive interview during SXSW 2024. “No,” Kurtzman says.

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Okay, fine. But we can preserve the Riker streak if we channel our inner Scotty and expand the perimeters a bit. Frakes has become the most consistent director within (and without) the Star Trek franchise, having helmed episodes of every post-TOS live action series. That includes one episode per season of Discovery. So let’s count it: Riker is in Discovery!

Even if fans won’t get to see Frakes and Doug Jones’ Saru doing the Riker maneuver together, the final season of Star Trek: Discovery promises an upbeat ending to the series. The final season sends the crew on an exciting quest, with a lighter tone setting in now that Starfleet has been restored and the Discovery crew used to their 32nd century home.

Fans might be more forgiving about the lack of Riker after hearing showrunner Michelle Paradise’s comments about the Discovery‘s bridge crew. Even after four seasons, viewers still don’t know much about Lieutenant Commanders Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon) or Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo). However, Paradise promises that they won’t be forgotten in the final season.

“We love our bridge crew,” Paradise tells Den of Geek. “And we try to incorporate those characters into as much as we possibly can.” Paradise is careful to avoid spoilers, but she does assure us that “there are certain episodes where they feature more for sure.”

Given the bad taste left in the mouth of Enterprise fans, when Riker interacted with Archer and the crew through a holodeck simulation, it’s probably best that Frakes stay off camera for the final 10 Discovery episodes. As long as someone on the Disco crew listens to Jazz or grows a cool beard or has a holodeck girlfriend, the spirit of Will Riker is there. Plus, there’s always the chance we could see him back on Star Trek: Prodigy or Strange New Worlds

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 premieres on April 4 on Paramount+.

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