If it’s not one thing, it’s always another. Such has been the case for the crew of the Federation starship U.S.S. Discovery over the course of its current four season run. Early next year, audiences will find out just what the crew of the Discovery will get into once again when Star Trek Discovery returns for its fifth season. Reports of Season Five’s story line are few and far between, and the season’s premiere date is still unknown, too. So until Season Five premieres, audiences who have yet to see Season Four can now take in the series’ latest installment on DVD and Blu-ray thanks to Paramount and CBS DVD. Season Four proves to be another step in the right direction for this series, which started out on a rough point in its first two seasons. That is due in part to its story, which will be discussed shortly. While the story is another step in the right direction for the series, this season is not perfect. The scene transitions are somewhat problematic. This will be discussed a little later. The cast’s work on camera works with the story to make for its own share of engagement and entertainment, too and will also be examined a little later. When it is considered along with the general writing and even with the issue, the whole results in a presentation that is surprisingly among the best of this year’s new DVD and BD box sets for grown ups.
Star Trek Discovery: Season 4 is a surprisingly, mostly successful new entry to the series. It is another step in the right direction for a show that started off on very rocky ground in its first two seasons but finally started getting righted in its third season. The success that this season enjoys comes in large part through its featured story. This season’s story finds the Discovery’s crew investigating an anomaly that is threatening life in not just the Milky Way but the very universe. Not to give away too much for the sake of those who have yet to see Season Four, but the anomaly turns out to be a gravitational wave. The thing is that the wave in question turns out to be anything but natural. The ultimate revelation as to who created it and how will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. Suffice it to say, the show’s writers took a page from Steven Spielberg’s timeless 1977 science fiction flick, Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the final revelation. It is a little bit laughable, considering just how close the scenarios in the two play out, but still interesting in its own right.
Over the course of the season’s 13 total episodes, the writers do make another valiant effort to keep moving away from the full on serialized approach of the series’ first two seasons, as was the case in Season Three. The episodes actually manage (and well) to develop their own stories within the bigger story of the crew’s investigation into the anomaly. From the story of Zora’s growing artificial intelligence and the concerns that it causes (and its relation to the gradual rebuilding of the Federation) to the story of Tilly’s personal growth (which is really a surprisingly entertaining story) to that of Michael and Cleveland’s growing relationship, the stories that interweave into the bigger picture this season help offset the otherwise serialized approach of the season. They give audiences a little something more from one episode to the next. That is a big help, especially in the case of Michael and Cleveland’s relationship. It would have been so easy for the writers to allow that overly sappy story overpower the bigger story, but instead they found a way to directly weave it into that story. It even circles back — to a point — to Zora’s discussion about her love of the ship’s crew and that she would never put them in harm’s way. It all comes together so well that the overall writing makes for a solid foundation for this season.
While the writing presented in this season of Star Trek Discovery does much to make it surprisingly engaging and entertaining, this season is far from perfect. In watching each episode, audiences will note that the writers also had a horrible tendency to leave the scene transitions imbalanced. More specifically, audiences will find themselves having to keep their remotes in hand so as to turn the volume up and down from scene to scene. That is because from one scene to the next, the episodes tend to go back and forth between loud, action packed moments (that are honestly often over the top and so cliche in their approach) and calmer moments. The action packed moments have so much going on that audiences are forced to reduce the volume considerably. However, when those moments end, audiences are left to turn the volume back up again in the scenes that follow. While this constant back and forth is not overly constant, it does happen enough that it can and does get frustrating having to monitor the volume that steadily. Keeping that in mind, this issue is problematic, no doubt. At the same time, it is still not enough to doom this season of Star Trek Discovery.
Knowing that the issue of the constant variance in the episodes’ volume there is still one more positive to note in this season. That positive is the cast’s work on camera. Lead Sonequa Martin-Green’s work is just one example of what makes the cast’s work worth applauding. Audiences have watched her go from a nonstop teary-eyed young woman to a confident captain, leading her crew. Her growth is on display in those moments when she publicly goes toe to toe with the Federation’s president and even as she thinks Cleveland has died. It would have been so easy for Martin-Green to over emote in those and so many other moments, but instead, she shows so much control It makes for plenty of interesting moments because of her personal growth on screen.
On another note, Mary Wiseman (Lt. Sylvia Tilly) offers her own enjoyable performances throughout the course of Season Four. As the season progresses, she does so well exhibiting Tilly’s personal growth, coming out of her shell and her comfort zone. That moment when she leads the cadets on a training mission and is thrust out of her comfort zone was a powerful, moving moment. Not to give away too much but that life-changing moment results in her eventually getting a surprise opportunity that leads to another surprise moment in the season’s overall story. That moment in question is certain to move audiences who have come to know Tilly throughout the show’s run so far. It is just one more example of the importance of the cast’s work to the show.
One more performance deserving of praise this season comes from none other than Doug Jones, who returns once again to the role of Saru. Saru ends up coming out of his own comfort zone this season as he starts to battle his own insecurities and uncertainties after leaving his home world to rejoin the Discovery crew. His admission to President T’Rina (played by Tara Rosling — Happy Place, Impulse, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) about his feelings and even his growing feelings for her brings so much depth to his character thanks to Jones’ performance. Again, this is more character development than had been seen in the series’ first three seasons, so it was nice to see this increased change through Jones’ work. Between Jones’ work, that of Wiseman, Martin-Green and the rest of the cast, what audiences get this season in the acting is its own full positive that audiences will enjoy. When the cast’s work is considered alongside the writers’ work (and even those responsible for the costuming, makeup, and general cinematography) the whole makes the overall presentation this season another step in the right direction for what has been perhaps the most polarizing Star Trek series to date.
Star Trek Discovery: Season Four is a surprisingly engaging and entertaining new entry in the series’ run so far. Its success comes in part through its writing. The writing once again creates a serialized story that spans the season’s 13 episodes. Throughout those episodes, the writing incorporates several secondary stories that do well on their own as part of the whole. While the writing this season does plenty to make the show worth watching, the scene transitions are somewhat problematic. That is because they force audiences to constantly control the volume from scene to scene because the volume so consistently rise and fall in each episode. It really becomes an issue very quickly. The cast’s work joins with the work of the writers (and that of others behind the scenes) to make for even more engagement and entertainment. That is because of the depth that the cast brings to the characters this time out. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the season’s set. All things considered they make the fourth season of Star Trek Discovery truly one more step in the right direction for the show.
Star Trek Discovery: Season Four is available onw on DVD and Blu-ray. More information on the series is available online now at: