While this review avoids spoilers, the first four episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 5 were screened for review.

The beginning of the end is about to arrive for Star Trek: Discovery. The show that relaunched the Star Trek Franchise on the small screen in 2017 is concluding with a fifth and final season that sees Captain Michael Burnham (Executive Producer Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the titular ship on a climactic quest across the galaxy.

Saru and Burnham on a forest planet, both wearing sleek Starfleet EV suits.
L-R Doug Jones as Saru and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

Disco fans can prepare to be delighted by this final season, which confidently and unapologetically doubles down on the show’s distinct features while continuing to weave in more Star Trek lore than you can shake a lirpa at.

Star Trek: Discovery season 5 review

In the four out of ten episodes I’ve seen of Discovery’s fifth and final season, both returning and new characters alike receive solid and meaty parts. This includes series mainstays Saru (Doug Jones), Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and Doctor Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz). And the continued presence and development of Adira (Blu del Barrio) is welcome, to say the least.

Tilly has a green drink (extra green) in the Disco lounge on Star Trek: Discovery.
Mary Wiseman as Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

Meanwhile, while he may not be part of the Disco crew proper, Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) has become an integral cast member since his introduction in season 3, and it is a relief to see him return. And speaking of returning, while it’s an understandable character arc for Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) to become a professor at the reborn Starfleet Academy of the 32nd century, the character was much-missed during her diminished role in season 4. It’s a delight to see her return to a larger part for the fifth final season.

L'ak and Moll on Star Trek: Discovery.
Elias Toufexis as L’ak and Eve Harlow as Malinne Ravel of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

While I can say little about the new characters while continuing to avoid spoilers, all three are excellent additions to the cast. The enigmatic antagonists, Moll (Eve Harlow) and L’ak (Elias Toufexis), are charismatic but incredibly well-armed. And while you may be quick to dismiss Captain Rayner (Callum Keith Rennie) as a standard-issue archetype, his important narrative role will swiftly undermine your expectations.

Finally, we do get the reappearance of certain recurring characters. But inevitably, with only ten episodes in this final Discovery season, some fan-favorites are sure to be left off the duty roster. The creators can’t be blamed for any omission, especially given the reduced episode order. However, it’s hard not to regret that we don’t get more episodes (or even seasons) of this groundbreaking series.

Boldly Going One More Time

That being said, while Discovery season 5 may only have 10 episodes, each of them are unapologetically Disco. This means a heavily serialized narrative, a focus on themes like identity and personal growth, a steadily-updating opening credits sequence and some bizarre, previously unseen alien fauna.

Furthermore, the show’s fifth season maintains its consistent inclusion (and frequent centering) of queer characters and storylines. Disco’s unapologetic queer rep has been one of the show’s strengths, and a powerful statement of the Franchise’s core philosophy of diversity. It’s a relief to see it continue through to the show’s conclusion.

Adira looks at a person with long white hair. Next to them is someone in a Trill Guardian robe.
Blu del Barrio as Adira in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: John Medland /Paramount+

Part of what has made this era of the Star Trek Franchise so successful are the varied tones of the various shows which comprise it. While shows like the Discovery spin-off Star Trek: Strange New Worlds could have more closely mimicked what made Disco successful, it wisely set off to explore its own direction instead. 

However, this brings me back around once again to regretting that Discovery won’t continue to operate in its unique established space. I think as time goes on, Disco will be reassessed and elevated in the public opinion, like so many other Star Trek shows have been before. But for those of us who have already woken up and smelled the replicated coffee, Disco season 5 is poised to serve as a fitting send-off.

Disco Will Never Die

Book and Burnham armed with phasers while Culber stands behind them squinting.
L-R David Ajala as Book, Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Wilson Cruz as Culber in Star Trek: Discovery, season 5, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Marni Grossman /Paramount+

But hey, let’s not forget: all the best shows get canceled, sometimes two or three times. And Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out a decade after The Original Series concluded, so no matter how much time passes, there’s always hope for a revival.

I’m hopeful we’ll get to see the Discovery crew again in the future. If nothing else, maybe they’ll turn up for an episode of SNW, or in Section 31 or Starfleet Academy. But if this is our final outing with Captain Burnham and company, at least it’ll be a suitably memorable ride.

The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 5 will arrive for streaming on Paramount+ on Thursday, April 4th, 2024 — just in time for First Contact Day on April 5th.

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