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Star Trek Discovery Season 4: A Capsule Review

NB: to avoid spoilers, I am not going to mention what individual characters do in this episode. I genuinely want you to watch the season itself. But people who spoil shows for unwilling people usually are the most evil.

Author’s note: I have reviews of each episode of season 4 of Star Trek: Discovery. If you are extremely bored and are in the mood to read 13 essays on Star Trek, they can be sent. But they are not short in any way, Season 3 has individual episode reviews from me too. I really like them and it is such a compliment if you want to read all 26.

But in the interests of maintaining my position as the Star Trek and Wrestling guy here at Robot Republic, rather than 13 essays, I present to you a single article summarising this chapter of the Star Trek Discovery journey.

In one sentence that grossly oversimplifies the whole season, it kept me guessing and tuning in each week. The quality of design is clearly there, the barely disguised stage flamethrowers on the sets stick out somewhat yes. However, this is to no great extent and they are used to great effect.

There is no getting around a single, very simple fact. There is a pandemic on and for the Star Trek franchise, even though it has four prongs right now (five as of May 5th bringing us Star Trek Strange New Worlds) this has been reduced to three for the pandemic era so far (Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks) and I am quite confident in saying that Discovery (and in particular, this season) is the biggest victim of the franchise. As Lower Decks and Prodigy are animation, the production sort of lends itself to a more working from home format. Picard took a year out and came back when the pandemic was in a more manageable state (although sadly still incredibly present).

This is most often seen in characters briefly leaving the show with little reason, or in one excellent character’s case, they were brilliantly sublime in the previous season and do return here, but in a much-reduced role and instantly are a completely welcome presence and overall improve the episodes they are in. It must be said that in all cases, I was exceptionally happy when they would show up again.

Additionally, it was always for a meaningful reason, a satisfying way to hide the fact actors had to be metaphorically juggled somewhat so there were not too many actors and crew working together at one time. However, in one case, it is very apparent at least one recurring actor at least was filmed separately from the rest of the cast in certain scenes. Maybe it is just me being a film and tv production nerd speaking, but that took me out of enjoying the show somewhat. For most, I am sure this won’t matter a jot and their performance, not to mention keeping them safe is reward enough.

New this season is the character of President Rellik, the President of the Federation. The writer in me saw their name backwards is ‘Killer’, the massive Trekkie in me thought of the Planet Killer from Star Trek: The Original Series. I kept telling everyone that it would be back. For 12 of the 13 weeks. Don’t make the same mistake I did. But while we have had half Cardassian and half Bajoran characters before (see Deep Space Nine’s Ziyal), it is just quintessential Star Trek that the Federation of the 32nd Century is led by someone who is the child of these two previously warring races (who were often both utilised in Holocaust analogies throughout Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

Another strength is the addition of the digital backdrop. Now many shows (each Star Trek included) have used Computer Generated Imagery extensively. A blue or green screen is not an uncommon sight in during production stills from Star Trek shoots. However, it is at times evident that each actor is imagining something different in a digital scene. Not massively so, but it does slightly hurt the result. Now, there are digital sets, but the pre vis or even some finished visuals are displayed and give the actors something to look at and more importantly, equal to act to. I think it is evident from this season that it has had great results.

By this point, you might have noticed that I have described myself as Robot Republic’s Star Trek person and one of the many Wrestling people too (I personally recomend the audio and full audio-visual versions of the Recharge Wrestling podcast here and perhaps even my own articles on All Elite Wrestling here and here) but I think I have earned the further moniker of the Robot Republic’s James one person too. There’s a myriad of articles, Goldeneye N64 here, news on its port here a similar capsule review to this of No Time To Die here, and well there are nearly a dozen of them, it might be easier to just link to their spine here .

If you follow my twitter at all ( @Jack1706A ) you will know EXACTLY where I am about to go.

It is a safe bet that the James Bond franchise is very dear to me. I have said since a few episodes into the third season of Star Trek Discovery that the actor who plays the role of Cleveland Booker, David Ajala is the best and to my mind, only choice to succeed Daniel Craig in the tuxedo and Walther. In season four, they continue giving not only this performance in large quantities but usually are surrounded exclusively by equally talented actors. The fact David is from the same London borough as yours truly and took a photo which he signed with me after I told him he must is my absolute favourite choice for Bond is immaterial. They are (without fear of hyperbole) responsible for the single greatest performance in live-action Trek since the last time Kate Mulgrew stepped off the set of the Bridge on the final day of shooting that show’s finale, Endgame.

Fun fact: six days after this was taken, I broke my ankle in three places and now that bone is held together with metal. I deserved that for not wearing a hat.

Again, no spoilers, but season 4 has - a beat where even this very jaded, long term fan of the entire franchise was left having to pick up their jaw. After it happened, I saw many of the more bigoted ilk (including certain senior figures) absolutely losing their mind over it on twitter. Discovery must have cost millions by now, this made it alone worth each penny and then much more.

Overall, it is probably the weakest season of Discovery so far. I might put it on a par with the first. Where it had strong individual episodes, but it was clear the show had not found its unique voice just yet. But I am very comfortable blaming most perceived weaknesses on the global pandemic. I have heard people blame how over-emotional the characters are and how some seem to come out of nowhere. To that I ask, are we watching the same show?

It is definitely a strong season, and if you get the chance to, I implore you to see all 13 episodes of this season and its arc. A great cast has (with an asterisk) managed to gift us yet another great season.

Told you I should have worn a hat.

I’m going to have to update my ‘best of Star Trek’ article found here:

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