‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Producers Talk Season Four Character Arcs And Adversary

Star Trek: Discovery is now five episodes into its fourth season with Thursday’s release of “The Examples.” During a new online event, the series star and executive producers talked about the season and where it is headed.


Season four sets up two opposing forces

A big reveal from Thursday’s episode was that the DMA (Dark Matter Anomaly) was not a natural phenomenon, but was actually created by some unknown force (currently being referred to as “Unknown Species 10C”). On Wednesday evening, Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green, along with executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Michelle Paradise and Olatunde Osunsanmi, participated in an online discussion with New York’s 92Y. One of the questions asked by moderator and Washington Post columnist Helena Andrews regarded the message of the season, and in answering, Osunsanmi gave a hint about this new adversary and how it ties into a larger theme:

The season to me resonates because you have two opposing forces. Both of them think they’re good, but of course each force think the other one is evil or wrong. I love how there is this possible coming together of understanding and connection. Who knows how it all plays out and what ends up happening, but I like to think in our real lives no matter what we think of as the other side, there can be a coming together of minds or at least some form of connection or understanding. Who knows what you do from that point forward? You still may need to go get what you need to get in order to protect yours and your family. But I like to think this season is very inspirational to try to understand the other side of the equation.

David Ajala as Book and Shawn Doyle as Ruon Tarka

What kind of captain Burnham is will evolve through to end of series

In response to a question on if Burnham was being modeled after any other iconic Star Trek captain, Kurtzman said the goal was to have Burnham “carve out her own space as a captain,” but pointed to some classic elements:

I can tell you that there are certain things in different captains of past shows that Burnham maybe reflects or mirrors in some way. But I don’t think you can say they are in the model of some other captain. She’s got some of Kirk’s cowboy. She’s got some of Picard’s strategic thoughtfulness, and you can say the same about Janeway. And yet, I think that part of what the show has been about very textually, and we go there a lot in season four, is: ‘What does it mean for me to be captain based on my own identity?’

Kurtzman also talked about a big part of season four is testing different aspects of how Burnham is a captain, and that process will continue to evolve:

One of the questions that Michelle and I asked early on in the breaking of [season four] was… We will come up with a plot. Great, but the real question was: How does this plot move Burnham forward as a captain? What new challenge does it present to her, that opens up a new door for her understanding of what it means to be a captain? Hopefully, by the end of the season, she has a stronger sense of who she is as a captain. But I will tell you that I think she probably wouldn’t be able to answer that question [of what kind of captain will she be] fully until the series was over.

Even though Kurtzman talked about Burnham’s potential series arc beyond the end of season four, Paramount+ has yet to officially announce a renewal for the show. However, today they did announce that Discovery is their most-streamed original series for 2021, as it has been in previous years.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham

Saru and Michael getting even closer

This season has seen Saru return to the Discovery to be Burnham’s first officer, even though he is also a captain. Martin-Green talked about the evolving dynamic between Burman and Saru and where it is headed:

You see them understanding who they really are to each other. And the fact that they have been proxy siblings for each other… Their relationship deepened in the most fascinating ways, and it’s just going to continue to do that. They are going to get to that point where they’re just speaking without having to speak. They already are there. And being able to be more themselves and more honest and authentic with each other than perhaps they are with anyone else, with the exception of Book and Tilly… I’m  really excited for what’s in store for them, because both contributed to each other’s identity in very permanent ways, which I love.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and Doug Jones as Saru

Looking for different character pairings

Michelle Paradise said that in season four they have been looking to find ways to pair up characters that haven’t interacted with each other much previously, pointing to Book and Stamets in episode two as a prime example. She explains:

You put those two actors in a room together and they make magic. It’s those kinds of things where we’re looking for characters who haven’t spent time on screen with one another. How can we create those opportunities? How can we deepen those relationships? We never want any of our characters to feel static. At the beginning of every season, we talk a lot about where are these characters by the end of the previous season and where do we want them to go by the end of this season? And then, how do we get them there? And a lot of the ways in which we get them there is in their relationships with the other characters. The plot, of course, does that, but it’s really how are they interacting with one another? And how are they growing with one another? We’re always looking for ways to do that.

David Ajala as Book and Wilson Cruz as Culber.

Variety of shows for a variety of audiences, but all with one vision

When Strange New Worlds debuts in 2022 there will be a total of five new Star Trek series created for Paramount+ under Kurtzman’s direction. He talked about how he approaches differentiating each:

The goal has been that each show needs to have its own identity. And its identity doesn’t just mean the way we tell stories, but its own visual look and its own tone. The benefit of having a multitude of shows is that we don’t need to make a one size fits all show. So each show could be targeted at a very specific audience and directed there and doesn’t necessarily have to go elsewhere.

But he also pointed to how Star Trek shows all have a universal theme:

The more specific you are sometimes the more universal you are. And in the case of Trek, I think for many people that core of [Gene] Roddenberry’s vision is this optimism. The sense that the best of who we are is going to win the day and that we will have a future because of that. It’s a very, very hopeful message. And it’s a very easy message to keep returning to over and over again, because every generation meets its own strife. And every generation goes through a period of time where they question who they are. What is each generation’s identity?

Trek has always been this beautiful mirror that holds itself up to the moment in which it is born. If you start with the ‘60s, and you see what it was reflecting then and you go through successive times you see that each show is really speaking to the moment that it was born in. And we’re obviously now born into an incredibly complicated and incredibly divisive time. And no matter what side of the line you’re on, I think everybody can agree that we’re almost 50/50 down the middle in terms of division. And one of the things I think is really beautiful about Star Trek is that it imagines a future where all those divisions are over, where we somehow move past it. And we figured out a way to find our unification or unity. And that’s incredible. I think that’s why people keep coming back to it.

Ethan Peck as Spock in Strange New Worlds

Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.


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Thanks for the article as usual TM!

You know, I have to really admit, I am loving Burnham as Captain. I said this before in my review of episode 4 that she has become a better character in this role. Kurtzman said she is a little like Picard, Kirk and Janeway. And I agree. I actually mentioned Archer as well because she’s also very friendly and open to everyone. Of course there is a difference, she is literally the first Captain we had who was just part of the crew before getting promoted to one, so they were already very close to each other. I still think its ridiculous HOW she became Captain but yeah it’s Discovery lol. It was a good decision to do although I still wish Saru stayed Captain too. Maybe he’ll end up on the Voyager J though.

As for Kurtzman overall comments, I know many still think of him as the devil, but I honestly like where he is taking the franchise. I agree with him, its great to see all the shows get their own identities in a way the previous didn’t. And of course it helps when you throw them all in multiple time periods. Basically, the current shows exist in four different seasons: Discovery-32nd century; LDS/PRO-24th century; Picard-25th century (basically); SNW-23rd century.

I have NEVER been shy of saying this (and I never will) I totally love what Berman did with Star Trek. Those shows are my golden age of Trek and after my grand rewatch of the entire franchise this year, it really re-affirmed that. I like shows more today, like Enterprise, than when I did when they were on. They all aged very well. Berman-era Trek will probably stay my favorite for a long time to come. It’s going to take a loooong time for a show to become better than DS9 and TNG for me at least. But I don’t think Berman would’ve ever differentiate the shows like this either. Of course he didn’t have five freaking shows running together either, so it wasn’t as necessary. ;)

And I also think Berman was afraid to go past the 24th century; Kurtzman definitely isn’t lol. And the irony is when it was announced Kurtzman became the one to make a new Trek show, I feared we would get a half dozen 23rd century shows in the next ten years and everyone related to Kirk and Spock. Sooo boring and one note for me but happy I was so wrong! He really wants to spice up Trek and take it in new eras and directions. Can you imagine if this new era of Trek went another 18 years like the last era? These shows will probably be allll over the place lol. Different centuries, galaxies and universes. That’s what it needs. But yes the execution can be better which is still my biggest complaint as well!

Oh and congrats to Discovery being the most streamed show on P+. I don’t know how good that is lol, but it’s a huge positive no matter how you spin in. Even though I still have a LOT of issues with this show, I hope it continues for several more seasons; for no other reason to build on the 32nd century as much as possible. I think if the show started in the 32nd century first, I may had been a bigger fan out of it out of the gate. But then again by being here it avoided a lot of the issues many of us had with it out of the gate too. But yeah the show definitely still has poor writing IMO. That’s its biggest enemy to date.

But I’m a Trek fan I want it all to succeed. Hell I still want another Kelvin movie and a fifth season of Enterprise! ;D

I want a Captain Sato series. If only to piss of George Takei and Michael Dorn. Just kidding, but honestly I would love to see Linda Park in Trek again.

I love Linda Park

Totally totally love Hoshi too. I would love to see her as Captain and how much she has grown as a Starfleet officer.

Regarding it being the most streamed show on P+… I would imagine that is a little like being the highest point in Florida. A mere 365′. Sure, for Florida that’s high but for most other places that’s nothing.

I don’t think a fifth season of ENT will happen but what about a follow-up line-up of streaming movies? Romulan Wars, Kobayashi Maru, early Federation… still a lot to explore…

Honestly I think P+ need to give the idea of quarterly Trek streaming movies a chance… We don’t need a full series for every corner of the Trek Universe, but streaming TV movies could easily fill in some gaping blanks… The post-ENT era is such a lost era that needs more exposure…

Make streaming movies for special days: First Contact Day, Star Trek Day, Christmas… on an annual basis :-)

Realistically, a Star Trek streaming movie is going to cost in a similar range as a full season of a Trek show. Especially if the movie takes place in a different era so they can’t re-use existing assets.
What’s going to bring in more subscribers? A season of a Trek show or a single Trek movie? I don’t know.

Netflix may be happily spending record amounts for big movies like Bright and Red Notice, but I would tend to agree it makes way more sense to spend the same amount on a TV series, at least a mini series. $200 million for one disposable Dwayne Johnson movie could have gotten them 8 Squid Games or at least a couple The Crowns.

Netflix also likes the binge model, but I think that’s like a sugar rush. I’ll engorge on a show in the span of a day if it’s presented in its entirety in front of me, but as someone who is making a show, I’d prefer it be doled out weekly so the audience is talking about it for months rather than 2-3 weeks, and everyone is at the same point in the story.

ViacomCBS needs to keep Paramount afloat and has very few franchises to anchor that ambition, Star Trek being its number 2 or 3. They’ll save the movies for the big screen, and with five Trek series they’re gambling that’s probably enough to always have a new show streaming to minimize Trekker churn. They also probably didn’t see much traction when they dumped “Infinite” on Paramount+. IMO streaming is the place for more niche mid-level budget projects which are dicey at the box office. Paramount used to excel at those. During the pandemic, movies appealing to older audiences and little kids are also smart to prop up a streamer with. $100+ million Trek movies? Get that sweet box office first!

I’m feeling more positive about Discovery these days than ever in the past. I would love for it to continue to be good for the while season, and then get three more good seasons so I could say that by the time it ended, it had ended up in the net-positive column for me.

Time will tell.

Ethan Peck looks so much better as Spock in that photo than he did in any of the episodes he’s appeared in. Very glad they decided to alter his look.

Ethan Peck looks good but honestly I don’t believe he looks like Leonard Nimoy in the slightest.

No but he has the manner down and the voice is better than Quinto’s.

Agreed. His voice is 99% Nimoy.

I think none of them look like Nimoy. Nimoy had very very unique facial features, especially the eyes and cheeks. But 50% of Nimoy’s Spock vibe was his voice and Peck nails that, Quinto doesn’t!

No, not at all. I still wish they had avoided bringing in a new Spock, but if they had to, I think he’s proving to be a good choice. Especially if the idea is that they are going to just live in that space where he’s the Spock of “The Cage.” I’m conflicted about even doing that with someone other than Nimoy, but I’ll give it a chance to work.

Bryant anytime you are positive about Discovery then they must be doing something right lol. Really glad you’re enjoying the season so far. I do sometimes miss the put downs and sheer brutalness you give the show because it makes me laugh, but hey it’s not always about me. ;D

And also agree, I hope the show go several more seasons. I think if nothing else it’s finally feeling much more like Star Trek these days and they are doing a better job exploring those types of stories like classic Trek did. And yeah, I just love the 32nd century. It’s a lot of fun to see how different the universe is in this period. I want to know how much has the Federation expanded before the Burn. Maybe they made it all the way to the Delta Quadrant. Maybe the Xindi are now important members. We still haven’t seen a single Klingon yet and what they are up to. So there is soooo much they can really do here.

….just chiming in here, Tiger & Co. Still checking in to read every day, and enjoying the reviews and comments. It sounds like S4 of DSC may actually be something I may want to check out someday. I’ll probably sign up for P+ next year (mainly for ‘1883’ and ‘Mayor of Kingstown,’ honestly) but will have a chance to check out LDS and Prodigy. Except for the freebies I’ve caught on YouTube, both shows look worth watching and I’ve liked the feedback here. Picard S2, looking forward to, hesitantly. And the big question of course (imo), will SNW compliment the pre-TOS era, or the opposite? I’ll be tuning in for that. Just wish I had more faith in the showrunners to not mess up that era of Trek. Cheers!

Mayor of Kingstown looks like the first original Parmount+ that isn’t Star Trek I want to see. Haven’t yet though!

And I think that’s the best way to go Danpaine, just wait until something you really want to watch first and watch some of the shows you’re not feeling like Discovery then.

PRO and LDS were both home runs out of the gate for me. They can still fall flat on their face but they feel like solid Trek shows so far. And I’m with you on Picard season 2. I’m more excited about it now than I was when season 1 ended, but still cautiously.

As for DIS, I do think it’s a stronger show today, but I still don’t know if it will get a lot of its critics on board yet and that include you. I’m liking season 4 thus far but not in love with it either. What’s funny is season 4 of all the other shows are some of their best seasons for me. TNG, VOY, DS9 and definitely Enterprise is when the shows just got exceptionally good if for all different reasons. I don’t feel DIS is there yet but it’s my opinion only and it’s still very early. But it has improved.

“I do sometimes miss the put downs and sheer brutalness you give the show because it makes me laugh, but hey it’s not always about me.”

Haha, thanks! I just hope I am able to stay positive about it. I promise you, I have NEVER enjoyed disliking this show the way I have disliked it much of the time. I know all of us anti-Discovery people are supposedly bitter old gatekeeper types, but man, I just want great Star Trek. I’ll settle for good Star Trek, and so far this season, Discovery has fallen somewhere between those two positions. Works for me!

In complete agreement of course. That’s all most of us want. And I do think the bitterness is a bit bigger for the new shows vs classic Trek for two reasons. One, they do feel different and that is taking some time to get used to. And two, most importantly, everyone is paying to watch these shows now; so they are going to naturally be harder on them. It’s one thing when its bad, but FREE, Star Trek. It’s another when you have to pay for bad Trek every month. So yeah there definitely people more harsh about the new stuff but the reasons are obvious. Once it just gets better, people will moan less. It happened for all the other spin offs, it will happen for Discovery at SOME point lol.

Personally I do think it’s a lot less complaining about it IMO. And I think a big part of that is just having the show feel like classic Trek while still doing its own thing in the 32nd century. Looking back at season one, it really tried to be more like DS9 was, ie, cynical and darker. It was supposed to challenge Federation values against a war backdrop the way DS9 did. Not directly but it’s obvious. You don’t put on a character like Lorca if that’s not the case. Of course DS9 was just a much better show, but it had its detractors for a long time too. And still do in some circles, just not as vocal today.

But now, the show is going more for the optimism route of TOS and TNG. They been doing it since season 2 IMO but the last two seasons it’s more obvious with the Burn story line. All the characters believes in the Federation more than ever and trying desperately not to just build it back up, but to remind people why its still important to have. This strikes a better chord with fans even if they still think the show itself sucks.

It’s probably better to do something like this instead of trying to decide to create genocide to an entire species because you’re at war with them and then give yourself a gold star when you didn’t lol.

I’ll be honest — I’m one of those DS9 detractors. It just isn’t what I want from Trek, and at times feels like a literal slap in the face to the Trek I do love.

That said, it’s got a lot of great episodes, and is overall a show I’d call good. It’s just not for me at times. But I agree, I think that’s the vibe they were going for with the early seasons of Discovery. They had the cast to do it; they did not have the writing.

Yeah you mentioned that to me before which is totally understandable. Again, as Trek fans we’re not a monolith. Just as long as we can respect that all the shows and movies do have their fans, then people should feel how they want.

Funny thing is I just watched the documentary episode The Center Seat yesterday about Deep Space Nine and yeah there was a lot of talk of how both the fans and the studio itself had issues with the show and a big reason it never reached TNG ratings because it was so different and darker for a lot of the fanbase.

It’s very loved today though which the documentary also highlighted and seems to always be included in the top 3 shows but back then it really did feel like the black sheep of the family. It’s been my favorite show for 20 years now, but totally get the issues you and others have with it. It was probably the most controversial Star Trek show ever made…until Discovery showed up lol.

And yes maybe in another 20 years Discovery will be just as loved by the fanbase as a whole, but like DS9, will probably always has its own detractors.


I’ve been rewatching DS9 along with Mission Log recently, and am planning to watch “What We Left Behind” (which I own but haven’t seen) after the finale. Looking forward to it! I would like to see all of The Center Seat at some point, as well; hoping for a Blu-ray set of that.

Yes definitely watch ‘What We Left Behind’. It’s my favorite Star Trek documentary to date easily. I saw it in the theater and then bought the digital copy when it came out. I’ve watched it about 5 times now.

I thought The Center Seat was good as well. I signed up to History Vault for a whopping 99 cents to watch it lol. I finished all of it just yesterday in fact, with the last episode focused on Enterprise of course. It’s more of a TV special with just a lot of talking heads and clips but I actually learned quite a lot. I thought I was going to already know everything about the later shows like DS9, VOY and ENT since those shows were all born in the internet age but still learned quite a bit of new things and DS9 already has WWLB. So definitely check it out when you can.

And I know how excited you are about Voyager’s doc, ‘To The Journey’! I can’t wait for that one to come too and hope it’s as good as WWLB.

i don’t think ds9 was cynical in anyway.
the characters largely tried to pursue, preserve starfleet, Fed values though it was easier to ‘be a saint in paradise’

You don’t think characters like Odo, Kira, Maquis, Garek, Quark, Section 31, etc wasn’t cynical? Obviously they aren’t part of Starfleet (no comment about S31) but they are a very big part of the show and as outsiders didn’t think the Federation was the end all and be all of the paradise it constantly spouted, which is what I’m talking about.

That was the beauty of DS9. TOS and TNG never had characters that questioned or just plainly thought Federation ideals were either a pipe dream or just plain unrealistic depending on where they were in the galaxy. Many of the regulars eventually came around like Kira, but many of them really questioned just how good people are, especially when the chips are down. And we saw that directly in episodes like Home Front, Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges and In the Pale Moonlight. The best speech ever given about DS9’s cynical nature came out of Quark from all people. You heard it many times but still it really says it all how DS9 viewed humans in the 24th century:


You never would’ve gotten a speech like that on TOS or TNG. Even when characters on those shows were at their lowest they always believed humanity itself would always be the better angels in the end (minus a few rogue Captains or Admirals ;)). DS9, someone would at least question it from time to time.

I’m not saying any of this is a bad thing of course. This is why I love the show so much now.

but we have seen many ds9 eps where quark does the the right thing despite his feelings about that beverage, and also nog, rom broke away from ferengi status quo thanks to their involvement with those statfleet officers

Yes I agree. I’m not saying the show was TOTALLY cynical, just more so compared to the other shows. Yes Quark deep down was a good guy and that clip actually showed he did care about people. But he was also the same guy making a profit during the Bajoran occupation and working in a place where he knew Bajorans were being used as slave labor and dying at the hands of Cardassians too. Characters like that usually don’t get to work on the Enterprise.

Nog and Rom though did show they went against the Ferengi status quo and made Ferengis more three dimensional and I remember HATING Nog at the beginning lol. He ended up being one of my favorite characters on the show. Again, that clip another example the type of person he became and another reason why this show is so good.

Quark had a few moments like that. My personal favorite was when he and Sisko were trapped in that episode that first introduced the Vorta. He gave it to Sisko about how he looked down on Ferengi. And I felt he made some really good points and it looked like Sisko thought he did too.

I’m not happy about the adversary Part, but I have enjoyed this season and I’m going to trust the writers to take me on this journey.

What I’m enjoying about this season is that they’re finally allowing the characters to breathe. There are character-building moments that have been too few in past seasons. If Ariam had this type of development then maybe we would have cared more when she was killed off.

If I had one complaint it is that some of the moments seem ill-timed. Like having a deep conversation while snow octopuses are bearing down on you in the middle of a lighting storm. Save the chit-chat for after the crisis maybe?

You’re not wrong, but that’s television. Gotta fit the scenes in wherever you can.

Please don’t let the Adversary be Humans or the Emerald Chain again