Interview: ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Showrunners On Season 5 Themes And The ‘Indiana Jones’ Style Adventure

TrekMovie joined a virtual group press interview with the co-showrunners for Star Trek: Discovery to talk about the fifth and final season of the series. With the assembled members of the media, Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise discussed what’s new in season 5, wrapping up series character arcs, and the legacy of Discovery. Note: The interview contains minor spoilers.

What can fans look forward to this season?

Michelle Paradise: This season people can look forward to action, adventure, and fun. There’s an exciting quest element to this season that will put our heroes in all sorts of different situations. It’s a satisfying journey for the season itself and a satisfying end to the series as a whole.

Can you talk about how other franchises—perhaps Indiana Jones or Star Wars—influenced season 5?

Alex Kurtzman: We definitely knew that we wanted to do a quest season and obviously, probably the greatest quest ever committed to film is the Indiana Jones movies. I think there was some of that influence there. I don’t know that Star Wars was ever really brought up. That wasn’t part of it. But certainly the idea of a quest and the idea of putting pieces together in a giant puzzle to get to a reveal.

Michelle Paradise: We internally talked about it as an Indiana Jones-type season because of that, and because that series of films is known for its adventure. And we just wanted to have fun with that and kind of explore a shifted tonal direction from previous seasons, while of course maintaining all of the things make Discovery, Discovery. We didn’t actually talk about Star Wars or any of the other franchises in this.

The sand speeders in episode 1 were like Tatooine…

Michelle Paradise: When we think of Indiana Jones we think of those archaeological expeditions and the sand and ruins and all of that. We just thought of this city in the desert and it became kind of a thing that we started to play with. And we wanted a cool way for them to get around.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery season 5 (Paramount+)

The first episodes have a sense that things are wrapping up. Even though you didn’t know this was to be your last season, did you have a sense it could be and approach it that way?

Michelle Paradise: We didn’t have any idea actually that it would be the last season. When we came into the season we knew what we wanted to explore thematically, and those are big ideas and questions of meaning and where we come from and all of that. We’ve talked about how that kind of naturally lends itselfin hindsight anywayto finishing a series which is really a wonderful gift, because we feel like then we can come out of the season and wrap things up in a way that will feel satisfying. But certainly going into it, we didn’t know. These were just these were the things we were intending to explore and it’s turned out to be this is how it will end. And that’s something that we feel good about and getting to shoot some additional material to wrap up the series and wrap up those arcs in a in a really good way.

How did going down to 10 episodes change how you prepared and developed the season?

Michelle Paradise: The preparation and production are the same. When we started and we found out that it was going to be 10 rather than 13, you kind of look at the arc of the season and maybe compress a few things. Maybe there are some tributaries that you might go down that you don’t then go down because you want to really focus in on the story. But in terms of the practicalities, it didn’t it didn’t change much. We still had 10 episodes to do and each of those episodes is its own juggernaut. So we just worked to make every single episode the best it could possibly be.

Doug Jones as Saru and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery season 5 (Paramount+)

How does season 5 expand on Discovery’s themes of identity, family, and unity?

Michelle Paradise: I think those are things that we explore every season. Those are areas of focus for the season as well. We didn’t know going into the season, that it would be our last but, thematically, we explore very big things. Meaning “Where do we come from?” things like that. Any given season, we look at how those things are going to play out with each character and their particular arcs. I do think at the end of the day it’s going to feel very satisfying. And we did get a chance to shoot some additional material to wrap up the series itself. But I think people will feel really good about how it’s all wrapping up, and that it tells a complete series story for each of our beloved characters.

What has inspired the focus on mental and emotional health in Star Trek: Discovery?

Michelle Paradise: I think it’s the focus on the characters themselves, and always wanting them to be grounded in whatever experience they’re having. And then mental and emotional health naturally comes from that, particularly in season four was a big one for that when we were writing and shooting in a time of COVID. And that was a time where even among ourselves we had to work to take care of ourselves in the midst of everything that was going on. But aside from that, it really is the focus on the characters themselves and wanting to make sure that we treat each of these characters as a whole being and wanting to make sure that they are not one note. When you look at some of the things that these characters have been through, some of the traumatic experiences, mental and emotional health would naturally come into that. And so that became something that we wanted to explore, as well. As it turns out, that has become something that is quite resonant both for actors and for fans of the show, in terms of being able to respond to those things and those things being very meaningful. I’m personally grateful that those things were landed and that they’ve been helpful in some way.

Wilson Cruz as Culber and Mary Wiseman as Tilly in Star Trek: Discovery season 5 (Paramount+)

How did jumping into the future allow the show to bring back the original ideals of the Federation?

Alex Kurtzman: I think the jumping to the future was about a lot of things for us, but one of them was Trek as a mirror that holds itself up to a time alwaysstarting with TOS but take any iteration of Trek and it will tell you something about the time in which it was made. And it felt to us like we are at a moment where so many of the ideals that we have assumed and taken for granted, not just in our country, but around the world, are under fire. So the idea of jumping to the future, in what Trek does best, which is come up with an allegorical story that reflects what’s happening now. The idea that you had to rebuild the Federation, and therefore define its most prized ideals, felt very right. The idea of what it means to be the Federation, what it means to restore it, what it means to fight for it, was perfect. It was just a perfect allegory or metaphor, or whatever you want to call it. And so that was a huge part of it.

Michelle Paradise: Also, jumping ahead also gave us the fresh snow to do that and to explore new types of conflicts and things like that, that reflect where we are today.

So from direct references to outright spin-offs, what’s it been like to see Discovery grow?

Alex Kurtzman: When we made Discovery we weren’t actually setting out to build a universe. We were just setting out to make a new Star Trek show. I think that in sort of tacking along the different roads that Discovery gave us, the fact that we were able to bring Pike and Spock in Number One into the show, Akiva [Goldsman] before we even cast Pike said, “You know, there’s a great Star Trek show with Pike in the lead and the entire era of the Enterprise before Kirk takes over.” And I said, “Why don’t we cast a good Pike and see how that works and we will go from there.” And that obviously ended up becoming Strange New Worlds, but that could never have happened without Season 2 of Discovery, never.

I believe strongly that every Star Trek show needs to have its own very unique identity. I don’t want you to ever think that you can watch one show and get your full your fill of Star Trek and therefore don’t have to watch the others. Each one has to have its own identity, but the key to that is not making one show that’s supposed to please everybody. If you make one show where you try and please everybody, you’re ultimately going to please nobody. So each of these shows is really designed and targeted to access a very specific part of the fandom. And there’s a real misnomer about Trek fandom, which is it’s this generic term you can apply to everybody. There’s so many different subsets of Trek fans. So I think the idea with the rainbow of shows that we’re doing is to appeal to each subset without necessarily having to get everybody in the door.

Discovery led the way in so many ways. It really pointed us as a compass toward what was possible. And that has been incredibly exciting for us. And so now we’re on this wild adventure. And we’re in the middle of shooting Section 31 [NOTE: Interview was conducted before Section 31 wrapped]. And we’re halfway through the writing of the first season of Starfleet Academy, and we start shooting that at the end of the summer. And then there’s more up behind that. So it’s been pretty amazing.

Season 5 cast photo (Paramount+)

More to come

We have more interviews with the Discovery cast from the press junket coming up so stay tuned.

The fifth and final season of Discovery debuts with two episodes on Thursday, April 4 exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the UK, Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and Austria. Discovery will also premiere on April 4 on Paramount+ in Canada and will be broadcast on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada. The rest of the 10-episode final season will be available to stream weekly on Thursdays. Season 5 debuts on SkyShowtime in select European countries on April 5.

Note: interview been edited for brevity and clarity.  

Find more stories on the Star Trek Universe.

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Please let it not be another disappointment after season 4.

Season 4 was awesome..

Season 4 was a boring and tedious mess.

Still haven’t finished it, took a year for me just to finish the first episode. Maybe i never will. The blu-ray is just sitting there. Boring. Too much melodrama. I binge watched all of Picard season 3 in a couple of days. Same for Strange New Worlds season 2. I’ve even made my way through the remasters of all of the films up to Generations. Probably will watch Insurrection and Nemesis, which i hate before Disco.

I’m hungry for good Star Trek content especially since Disney destroyed Star Wars. Wonder if i should try Prodigy.

You should give Prodigy a go, it might surprise you. It’s a refreshing take on the franchise, I had my doubts but it has won me over. I can safely say it’s my favourite show in the Kurtzman era.( I’m not part of the demographic, I’m old, so their you go)

Skyjedi I have written extensive term papers here for my love of Prodigy. Like Dvorak it’s also my favorite show in modern Trek.

It’s such a fun and heartfelt show. And for Voyager fans it’s an added plus although it references the entire franchise.

And next season we’ll be on the Voyager A. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that!

Give the first 5 episodes a shot at least.

Every time the writers and producers do an interview, this season just sounds worse than before. I have a dread feeling Discovery is going to go out badly.

The season still sounds like It will be awful as the last four. It’s just putting more lipstick on a pig.

I do like the the action adventure aspect and it doesn’t sound like the entire fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance for a change. But yeah it’s still Discovery so who knows lol.

I will admit it at least sounds like more fun this time so that’s a bonus. But still think it will fall into a dreary mess.

On a side note it’s nice I can just write two sentences again without triggering people and I appreciate you’re not reporting me for trolling to the mods over it hahaha.

LMAO, yeah…

Fortunately that ridiculous nonsense is permanently over on these boards and it should’ve ended long ago.

Anyway I remember you said you may not watch this season at all. But if you do I hope you come back and give your thoughts on it. And maybe some of us naysayers will be swayed. Fingers crossed.

Either way it’s going to be a fun time to discuss the final season together with people here. I honestly can’t wait.

Hopefully it will be better than last season and the early reviews does sound positive but sorry still remain skeptical.

But I learned it definitely ties in to a very well known TNG episode and one I really like. Maybe that will get more fans onboard who has given up on it.

If it ties into the one I think it does, I hope it doesn’t damage the original irreparably. In the 90s Disney was going to remake quartermaster and the pit, but something like 45 rewrites later, it wound up as mission to mars!

LOL that’s pretty funny.

Obviously I don’t want to give it away but yes if it’s the same one you’re thinking I can see that concern for sure.

I know the episode you’re talking about as well. I’m very intrigued now.

But if you feel you need to connect it to TNG to get more fans to care about this show, fine, do what you gotta do. But if they mess it up you’re going to have some very angry people out there.

I hope its fun didn’t someone say it was like First Contact or something. Frakes? Just watched my laserdisc of that film better than a single thing that has come out of the Kurtzman era easily in direction and acting.

I like the idea of an Indiana Jones type adventure. But because this entire season is centered around the “thing” they are searching for, the quality of the season will pretty much depend on that. I hope they didn’t screw that part up.

Now, I know I am being hard, but do these shows actually have plots? Do they tell stories? Can’t they just pitch us one story?

“do these shows actually have plots? Do they tell stories?”

The shows are weak at times, yes, but those questions are nonsensical. By definition, they have plots and tell stories.

I am actually quite happy not to know one thing about the next season. Paramount’s marketing machine is spoiling way too much anyway. The less I know the more I can get surprised and entertained.

Actually I don’t feel they have given too much away personally but I know everyone sees these things differently.

Sure, me too – but I find it weird they can’t, or won’t discuss any aspect of the story that I could say, repeat to my friend at a party.

That’s what bugged me about season 4 as well. It was constantly talking vaguely about everything and just talking about the characters relationships with each other. ZZzzz

You can certainly give SOME things away but still not reveal any big twists.

Matalas did that so well for Picard season 4. He actually discussed very tangible things but did give away a single big twist.

Yes I loved reading all of Matalas interviews! He piqued my interest in the show so much and in fact sometimes I still read them lol.

And to answer the other question, yes if I end up watching this season I do plan to give my thoughts when I can. 🙂

Yes Matalas was the master at it and the guy gave 200 interviews lol.

And glad to hear you’ll give your thoughts if you watch.

I really do think if nothing else it’s going to be a more fun season to discuss at least. Again I REALLY want to like this season, especially being the final one. So we’ll see.

And I have gone off topic too many times too count lol. Trying to do better on that as well. 🙂

Oops I meant season 3.

In fact, Picard 3 may have been slightly better if “the obvious horror of having a Borg son” was revealed a few episodes earlier and dealt with in dramatic – not melodramatic – way. That’s been my feeling since the reveal. But I do think that particular reveal was tailored in the script breakdown by Matalas’s knowing to what extent he’d be able to talk about it in future interviews.

Dude that is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves about the season and the whole Jack/Borg reveal took way long. It should’ve been revealed at the end of episode 7 the latest.

Even when I rewatched the season last month I still grumbled over it.

But I do agree it probably helped how Matalas discussed the season.

There was an element of Jack’s powers which also could have been explored, perhaps as something seemingly “good” – a misdirect – and in a more sci-fi way.

All these new shows are avoiding all the SF implications of what’s happening, and that’s a problem *(as mentioned by others here) that they aren’t selling that part of Star Trek anymore, calling it geeky. But that’s what is thought provoking about this genre.

“…is also expected to be broadcast on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada” – it is already listed in the schedule; my recording is set. Is there some last-minute change possible that Canadians should know about?

The encouraging thing is that each episode appears to have their own defining stories and standout elements. We knew that was coming but all of this confirms that. For some reason that makes me more excited than I was. The problem with an over-arching story is that if it doesn’t work, you’re stuck with it and the entire season feels lost. With individual adventures, there’s a greater chance for a favorite episode or intriguing new story.

Hello Anthony.

You are completely right sir. I promise not to repeat myself in the future. And my remarks will stay firmly on topic.

My apologies.

I’m sure there is no limit on two line posts though! 😂

Haha! 😆

I’m staying positive. Especially since it’s a connection to TNG. That alone at least makes it more interesting. I just hope they don’t screw it up like the last four seasons. 🙄

Michelle Paradise: “We internally talked about it as an Indiana Jones-type season because of that, and because that series of films is known for its adventure”

I’m calling it now…the series conclusion is that everybody gets their faces melted off when they open up the object and look at it when they shouldn’t.

everybody gets their faces melted off when they open up the object and look at it when they shouldn’t.


No, because if that were the case they’d have announced that ep’s title as FACE OFF.

I’m glad they got closure, and the way they are doing certainly sounds like it’s fairly organic. We all know what it’s like when a show has to rush to cobble together a series finale otherwise.

The clip they’ve shown so far was pretty awful, so it doesn’t fill me with much hope for the season. The one where Burham is on the hull of the ship travelling at work speaking to a (predictably egotistical and seemingly foolish) male captain on another ship.

The clip where they said the words “Mr Saru” about 17 times in three minutes and Michael phased through the viewscreen and nonchalantly sat in the captain’s chair.

Terrible showrunner, with all respect. I’m sure she works hard, But this show has never been a “must watch.” Check out “The Bear.” Not sci-fi (and Trek loosely is), but I couldn’t WAIT to see the next episode. Trek needs that kind of writing.