Discovery The Gateway Trek

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After almost 7 years and 5 seasons, Star Trek: Discovery has reached the end of its journey. Months after main shooting on the 5th season was completed, Paramount revealed that this was to be the final season and it soon became clear that it had not been produced with the end in mind. This news was quite upsetting for many Trekkies, myself included, who had been following the series over its tenure to date. The success of Discovery led to the birth of such shows as Strange New Worlds, Picard, Lower Decks and Prodigy, with more Treks still to come within what has been dubbed its Latinum Era. Discovery is also the reason that I am a Trekkie today because, without it, I would not have found my way to the classic Treks when I did.

I was 23 years old when Discovery began its first season in September 2017. At this point in my life, it had been over a year since I had graduated from my performing arts course at university. I was in the early stages of getting to the root of mental health issues that had been bubbling underneath the surface, for most of my life, before they began to spill out, towards the end of my degree, in a way where I knew I needed help. While I went through periods of counseling and GP referrals, I turned to music, TV, movies and everything artistic; absorbing it as best as I could (and even trying to create stuff of my own) because I got plenty of joy from it all. Discovery seemed like another show that could help

Before Discovery’s launch, I had been a huge Doctor Who fan since I was 11, so I was no stranger to a long-running sci-fi franchise like Star Trek. At that point, my Trek awareness was limited to things I had read on Wikipedia and vague childhood memories of seeing random episodes of the classic shows. Fortunately, with Discovery being a prequel to almost all of those series, I was less intimidated to give this Trek a try. One of the main reasons I got into Discovery was that the lead actress, Sonequa Martin-Green, was familiar to me from a recurring character that she had played in the fairytale drama Once Upon a Time, one of my favourite shows while I was at tech and university. Another reason was that I knew there would be gay characters in the series, which I was always looking out for in things I watched. As the first of what would eventually become many regular and recurring LGBTQ+ characters within Discovery, it was nice to see Stamets and Culber have their quiet moments as a couple, alongside the scenes where they prove their worth as Starfleet officers like the rest of the crew. However, like many others, I was disappointed when Culber was brutally murdered in the midseason premiere. Although the showrunners were quick to reassure the fans that this was not the end of his story, I had stopped watching before the final 3 episodes, in which the groundwork was laid for his return.

A few months before the start of Discovery’s 2nd season, I was diagnosed with a form of ASD, more than a year after one of my best friends suggested it might be something worth looking into. Discovering that I am autistic helped me begin to make sense of a lot of my life up to that point, as well as why my mind works the way it does. When I saw the trailers for the 2nd season, I felt drawn to the more direct ties to The Original Series, with the appearances of Spock and Pike, as well as the more vibrant tone, which helped me jump back into watching Discovery, after going back and picking up the remaining episodes of the previous season. As the season progressed, through Saru’s experience of Vahar’ai and Culber’s resurrection to Commander Burnham’s journey to reconnect with her half-brother Spock, I found myself enjoying the show more and more. As a result of the episode ‘If Memory Serves’ being a sequel to the first Trek pilot from the 1960s (with a ‘Previously On’ recap of that very episode), I became more curious about diving into the rest of Trek. The rest of the season gave me more opportunities to do that, as the finale saw Burnham lead her ship and crew into the 32nd century to prevent Control from destroying all organic life in the universe, leaving Spock and Pike to continue aboard the Enterprise (sworn to secrecy about Discovery’s fate). From there, I went straight into a full watch-through of The Original Series, followed by The Next Generation and Voyager in quick succession, before circling back to start Deep Space Nine on New Year’s Eve 2019.

It felt good going into Discovery’s 3rd season with a greater understanding of the Trek universe, as the series re-established itself as the Trek set furthest into the future than any of its predecessors. Throughout this season, there were a number of callbacks to events from TOS and TNG, which then became foundational blocks for new stories with the Discovery crew. For example, the Guardian of Forever (from the TOS classic ‘The City on the Edge of Forever’)nreturned to play an instrumental role in highlighting the growth of Mirror Universe Phillipa Georgiou’s character from ruthless emperor to a more compassionate figure who was willing to change for the better. Commander Burnham getting to see the man Spock became, after learning that reunification between the Vulcans and the Romulans became possible with his help, was another beautiful moment that celebrated Trek’s legacy and also helped push Burnham forward.

The 4th season of Discovery saw my love for Star Trek continue to grow, as I joined the wider online Trekkie community, cementing a routine of watching one or more episodes of Trek a day. In these last few years, I have really enjoyed making connections with other fan friends around the world as we all share our thoughts on our favourite stories, characters and moments from the entire franchise. The idea of connection had been a core theme of Discovery’s entire tenure so far, especially in the previous season, with the Discovery crew beginning a new physical and psychological journey together in a 32nd century where connection was in short supply, in the aftermath of the Burn. Through using their emotional experiences and their expertise in uncovering the truth behind the Burn, they became a beacon for Starfleet and the Federation to help chart a course into a brighter future. That carried over into the 4th season, as the freshly-promoted Captain Burnham and her crew navigated a new galaxy-threatening event known as the DMA, which destroyed Book’s home planet of Kweijan. This arc was one of the more contemplative arcs in Discovery, not only for Book but for the majority of the crew, as Culber ran the risk of burning out completely from his dual role as doctor and counselor and even the ship’s computer, Zora, wrestled with their growing sentience. The resolution to this season was one of my highlights, as it all came down to the crew of Discovery making an emotional appeal to the creators of the DMA. As ‘Darmok’ , from TNG, stands as one of my favourite Trek episodes, it was fun to see Discovery give a similarly complicated language to Species 10-C and watch Captain Burnham and her crew work together in order to decipher it and make a connection with them that was powerful enough to make them stop using the DMA.

In contrast to my experience of Star Trek prior to the first season, I went into Discovery’s 5th and final season having seen every official episode and movie within the franchise. Although this season was not meant to be the end of Discovery, it actually turned out to be a fitting conclusion for the series, for the most part. As the season progressed, it was easy to get the sense that the arcs were heading towards a natural conclusion, with Saru leaving the ship to become a Federation ambassador and finding love with T’Rina, as well as Tilly continuing to embrace her new calling as a Starfleet Academy instructor. The main ‘quest’ arc of finding and understanding the nature of the Progenitors’ technology proved to be a meaningful experience for Captain Burnham, especially, as she began to come terms with what drives her and what brings the most meaning to her life beyond the captaincy and the mission. The initial ending of the season, in which Burnham and Book resumed their relationship, was expanded beautifully by the newly-filmed coda where they were married and living happily on Sanctuary 4, with Burnham now an Admiral and their son also serving as a Starfleet captain.

In a similar way to Doctor Who, there are many ‘jumping on’ points within the Star Trek franchise, with the upcoming 32nd-century based Starfleet Academy series set to be another one for new fans (and hopefully continuing some of Discovery’s unfinished stories, as well). Much like the Treks that came before it, Discovery had its fair share of exploring strange new worlds and new civilisations but, for many of its characters, there was a great focus on discovering themselves too. Seeing the characters mature and evolve over the five seasons was beautiful to see, especially Michael Burnham, who made mistakes but worked hard to make things right and better herself in the process (a powerful message for Trekkies to embrace). Although the crew’s onscreen adventures have come to an end sooner than expected, Discovery is a series that will continue to have an impact on me because it was my gateway into the entire universe of Star Trek.

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Chris

Talking Trek, Who, music and many more colourful things in the universe!

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