Discovery is more like TNG than you think
Season 4 of Star Trek: Discovery showcased subtle shifts in the dynamics of the crew of the USS Discovery, bringing them closer to the next generation.
In Season 4, Star Trek: Discovery subtly becomes more and more like Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the USS Discovery face a threat to the entire galaxy, and their starship needs to cross the galactic barrier into a new galaxy in order to make contact with the 10-C species. But throughout, the crew of the Discovery were dealing with trauma, and their dynamics gradually began to resemble those of the USS Enterprise-D in TNG.
When Gene Roddenberry was writing Star Trek: The Next Generation, he had a utopian vision of the 24th century and ordered "no conflict" between Starfleet officers aboard the Enterprise. This rule created problems for writers, who had to figure out how to make stylish drama in a way where the show's main characters didn't bicker and always got along. The solution TNG's creative team came up with was to have the conflict arise from external characters and situations, and specific episodes would explore Enterprise-D's individual crew members. By finding a way to work within Roddenberry's "no conflict" rule, TNG has achieved great success and, at its best, told some of the greatest stories in Star Trek history.
How Star Trek: Discovery Became Like TNG
In Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, the series started to emulate TNG and apparently instituted an unofficial "no conflict" rule similar to TNG's Roddenberry. As Captain Burnham and her crew confront the threat of a dark matter anomaly, there is little conflict among the personnel of the Discovery A. For example, in Discovery season 3, Lieutenant Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts) angrily caused a farce at the crew dinner, while the Discovery season 3 finale saw Burnham and Lt. Personal issues arise between Stamets (Anthony Rapp). But those personal issues were put to rest in season 4, with the Discovery crew leaning on and supporting each other as they dealt with shared trauma.
Additionally, Star Trek: Discovery Season 4's storytelling contained more moral and ethical dilemmas that echoed The Next Generation. Meanwhile, Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) becomes the crew's therapist, making his role similar to TNG's advisor Deanna Troy (Marina Sirtis). Although the Discovery crew is closer as a family, their conflicts come from outside characters such as Cleveland Booker (David Ajala), Dr. Ruentaka (Shawn Doyle), and President Laila (Chelah Horsdal), they are not a member of the Discovery all staff. Another visual clue is that Discovery's uniforms changed in Season 4 to reflect TNG's red, blue, and gold codes.
Discovery Is Showing Roddenberry's "No Conflict" Rule Still Works
Star Trek: Discovery season 4 was unabated in terms of plot, with no conflict between Burnham and her crew. Instead, the Discovery crew working together on their personal pain reflects the real-world fear and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic that the cast and production experienced during production on Season 4. Discovery season 4 also has a fascinating through-line investigating DMA, which leads to first contact with Species 10-C, tying the story together.
Despite constant claims by critics of Star Trek: Discovery that the series "isn't Star Trek", Discovery became more TNG-like in season 4, one of the most popular of all Star Trek shows. It also reminds viewers who noticed the changes in Star Trek that Trek: Discovery season 4's tone and narrative suggested that Gene Roddenberry's vision of utopia was still relevant and that perhaps the 32nd century Federation could lean on and work together in the face of external pressures and dangers , it can be achieved after all.
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