I must preface this review by saying I am a huge Star Trek Fan, and I have been pretty much my whole life. My family had tapes of the original series, and we watched Star Trek The Next Generation as it aired every Saturday night. We also watched Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. In my 30s I started Synthoholics, a podcast dedicated to Star Trek with Aaron O’Brian (the writer of Screen Radar’s Star Trek Discovery Season 3 review.) When Aaron stepped away from the show shortly after Discovery Season 3 ended, the podcast pivoted to a general geek-themed show instead of a Star Trek exclusive show. I say all of this to try to impress upon you, dear reader, that Star Trek is in my blood and has been for as long as I can remember.
However, the Alex Kurtzman brand of Star Trek with Discovery and Picard have left me extremely disappointed. The only bright beacon of the current Trek shows that are happening now is Lower Decks the animated show. Strange New Worlds is by far the best of the live-action shows, but it is far from perfect (Screen Radar’s own Jeff Heller joined the podcast to discuss Strange New Worlds)
I have many bones to pick with the series, some from this season others are remnants of previous seasons.
- Why 900 years in the future are we still using normal warp as a means of travel? This is like saying we built sailing ships 900 years in our own past and still haven’t come up with anything better. This is absolute insanity.
- The Burn made dilithium extremely rare; it is said that “necessity and is the mother of invention.” I can’t understand being so complacent when you need to travel to space. Why not come up with something new?
- I understand the Discovery spore drive was classified at the end of season 2. But classification usually comes with a need to know the basics. Someone somewhere in the federation should know about it or at least be able to research old top-secret means of space travel. Why didn’t Section 31 or some high-up admiral bring the spore drive out of top-secret status once the burn happened to bypass the need for dilithium?
- Did the writers have the 10-C blow up Book’s planet because his people can naturally use the spore drive without genetic augmentation via tardigrades? Does this render the next-generation spore drives mentioned this season worthless without anyone but Book and Stamets to pilot them?
- Why would they use 800-year-old cloning tech, that was used for Picard, on Grey when they say in the same scene that it had an extremely low success rate? Was no other method developed that was more reliable? Or did they just want to name-drop Picard? (of course they did)
- Why in the most dire of situations, when time is of the essence, does the President of the Federation have to stop Michael and question her orders when doing so will hold things up?
- This season we have a tight timetable again with learning a language very much like the movie Arrival. And somehow they go from super basic logic to super complicated messages in the time frame when they have an antagonist making communicating with the 10-C even harder. Arrival was a great thoughtful piece of science fiction. Discovery copies it, badly trying to inject action and high stakes when a more thoughtful approach really could have been interesting.
- Why does Tarka need the Dark Matter Anomalies power source to beam to a parallel universe? In Deep Space Nine and TOS, they just used the regular transporters to move between alternate universes. Have transporters 900 years in the future gotten worse and less powerful?
I could go on. There are just so many plot holes and inconsistencies with the show that just really pull me out of it… but for the sake of brevity that is all I will list.
Discovery Season 4 starts off not too long after where season 3 ends. Where the USS Discovery, a ship designed for science and exploration, is now the same-day FedEx Dilithium Delivery Service thanks to its spore drive. A new life-ending threat looms its head, destroying Books planet. The crew of Discovery with its new Captain Michael Burnham must find out what is destroying planets at random and how to stop it. It’s a race against time to find out who did this, decipher a complex alien language, and then ask the aliens if they would kindly stop destroying inhabited worlds. Also, in the middle of all this, they must stop a man who is after the aliens’ power source for his own purposes.
Star Trek Discovery has had the same fundamental problem every single season. Writing is the heart of it. The following is an excerpt from Aaron O’Brian’s season 3 review.
“Simply because the writing is not inspiring to me at all. The last three seasons of Star Trek Discovery and Season One of Picard have been checking the boxes of representation (which is wonderful), and science fiction action shlock (which is fun). But Star Trek has been historically more than these things. Star Trek represents the hope of what humans could achieve as we get past our petty dissimilarities and take pleasure in our differences and celebrate them.”
Again, in season 4, the show forgets to tell a good story focusing on the checkboxes before all else. Star Trek Discovery has a second problem that has plagued all of its seasons as well, the mystery box format. One problematic checkbox is that every season has this mission-critical life-ending or earth-ending threat. They are never wrapped up in a satisfying way because the show just drip-feeds plot details through most of the shows’ episodes then the final episode or two of each season recounts 90% of the storytelling. This makes the pacing of the show painfully slow, leaving the finale to do way too much. If they work through the plot of the show earlier in each of the seasons, they could build to a more satisfying and less convoluted ending. Sure a season or two of cataclysmic events can be fun, but why every season?
Star Trek is more than this, and it seems the current regime running Star Trek has no clue what Star Trek is even really about. I miss exploring, I miss the bright optimistic future Star Trek used to represent; I miss getting to know the crew; and I miss seeing stories with different character focus. With the spore drive, we can go anywhere in the Delta or Gamma quadrants, maybe new galactic locations. Whatever happened to ‘seek out new worlds and new civilizations?’ Discovery needs to do some actual exploring to discover fun new things; they don’t need to discover a new world-ending cataclysm every single season.
Being Michael Burnham The Captain’s Log
Sonequa Martin-Green talks about what it is like being the captain this season, but she talks more about her life and the struggles she was going through during the filming of season 4. Both of her parents tragically passed away during the shoot, and she had to kind of postpone grieving until after filming to get through filming season 4.
Creating Space – Best of the bunch
This was a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes of season 4 and virtual filmmaking with a “Volume” set. This is the first season Star Trek Discovery is using Unreal Engine along with a Volume (much like how The Mandalorian and other Disney Star Wars shows are being shot). They fittingly dub their Volume used for Star Trek Discovery as The Holodeck.
Star Trek Discovery the Voyage of Season 4
This has your cast and crew talking about their experiences with season 4. This is easily the longest of the special features. It has some interesting insights. Anthony Rap talks about some of his favorite Star Trek episodes, and his tastes are surprisingly good! This feature also has Sonequa Martin-Green and Stacy Abrams fangirling over each other a bit.
The Toll It Took.
This is a look into what it was like while shooting during COVID-19. They talk about the physical and emotional challenges of working under the guides, testing, and isolation when not on set. A highlight was a zoom Dungeon and Dragons game during off time from the shoot.
A very short gag reel from the season – not as funny as I would have hoped.
All in all, decent special features. There was nothing too groundbreaking for me.
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.00:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
French: Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 kbps)
German: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1
Japanese: Dolby Digital 5.1
English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian (more)
Four-disc set (4 BD-50)
2K Blu-ray: Region A, B
Guest critic David Duncan is the host of the Synthoholics Podcast and a life-long Star trek fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise.
Star Trek Discovery Season 4 is probably the worst season of Star Trek Discovery. Each season somehow finds a way to be worse than the one that came before it. Whereas most Star Trek shows of the past hit their stride starting in season 4, Discovery continues to be uninspired.