If you want to avoid spoilers, look away now!
In four seasons the crew of the starship U.S.S. Discovery have started and ended a war with the Klingons, ventured into the Mirror Universe, escaped an evil artificial intelligence by travelling 900 years into the future, solved the mystery of The Burn and restored the United Federation of Planets, defeated the Emerald Chain, and travelled beyond our galaxy to make first contact with species 10-C, in doing so saving Earth and Ni’Var from the Dark Matter Anomaly.
Phew! Surely the crew, led by Captain Michael Burnham, now deserve a break? Not on your life, and they’ll be back for a fifth season of adventure, mystery, and danger that’s set to premiere on Paramount+ in early 2023.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 release date
The fifth season was commissioned by Paramount in January 2022, with filming beginning on 13 June. Only 10 episodes were commissioned, following the trend of Discovery’s seasons growing shorter (season 1 had 15 episodes, season 2 had 14 episodes, and seasons 3 and 4 had 13 episodes each).
After the superb fourth season, possibly the best season of modern (i.e. since 2017) Star Trek so far, season 5 has a lot to live up to. While no premiere date has been confirmed yet, all signs point to the first quarter of 2023.
What will Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 be about?
Plot details are scarce, but based on comments from one of the show’s producers, we can surmise what direction season 5 might head in.
Upon their arrival in the 32nd century in season 3, the crew of Discovery found a fractured galaxy; a mysterious event called The Burn had destroyed almost all the dilithium crystals in the galaxy. Dilithium is the key ingredient for warp engines, and its loss rendered long-range warp travel impossible, resulting in major worlds being cut off from one another. The Federation dissolved and what remained of Starfleet went into hiding. Discovery’s crew was able to solve the mystery of The Burn, and the process of rebuilding the United Federation of Planets could begin.
By the end of season 4, both Earth and Ni’Var (more familiar to us as Vulcan, renamed since the reunification between the Vulcans and the Romulans) had rejoined the Federation. With warp travel now restored, and the Federation relatively whole, Starfleet can get back to the business of exploring the galaxy, rather than being forced to react to a steady stream of threats.
Season 4 of Star Trek: Discovery saw the show really find its story-telling confidence to allow it to embody the human spirit that Star Trek is famed for. Olatunde Osunsanmi, who is a director and producer on Star Trek: Discovery, has told ScreenRant that while season 5 will not involve time travel, it “will go back into the past to get farther into the future,” alluding to the show pulling influences from the exploration-driven nature of Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Which characters are returning?
Captain Michael Burnham, played by Sonequa Martin-Green, will of course be back, joined by series regulars Captain Saru (the excellent Doug Jones), Astromycologist Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Lieutenant Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), Chief Engineer Jett Reno (Tig Notaro), and Ensign Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio).
At the end of season 4, Burnham’s love interest, Cleveland ‘Book’ Booker (David Ajala), was sentenced to community service for his role in Ruon Tarka’s plan to destroy the Dark Matter Anomaly against Federation orders. However, Martin-Green has alluded that Book (and his Maine Coon cat, Grudge) will return in season 5 to continue his relationship with Burnham.
It is also hoped that recurring characters Lieutenant Commander Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts), Lieutenant Commander Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), Lieutenant Ronald Bryce (Ronnie Rowe Jr.), Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr, an actor familiar to audiences as Ardeth Bay in The Mummy movies alongside Brendan Fraser), Federation President Laira Rillak (Chelah Horsdal), and Gray Tal (Ian Alexander) will also be back.
There’s also a big question mark over Tilly’s role. In season 4 she departed Discovery to teach at Starfleet Academy, although we also saw her working with Vance during the evacuation of Earth in the season 4 finale. Will she remain at the Academy, or keep working with Admiral Vance, and how will her role in Starfleet tie into season 5’s currently top-secret plot?
With Earth and Ni’Var having now both rejoined the Federation, what of the other major powers in the galaxy? We’ve seen Ferengi serving in 32nd century Starfleet and among the dignitaries sent to make first contact with species 10-C, but what of the Klingons, the Cardassians, the Bajorans, and the Dominion, among others, in this era? They’ve had name checks so far – will season 5 be the season when we see their 32nd century incarnations?
Finally, there’s the wild card of the ship’s computer, Zora (voiced by Annabelle Wallis), which gained sentience during season 4, leading to some brief problems as Zora adjusted to her new individualism and her aims that sometimes led counter to the crew’s goals. Will Zora continue to develop as a personality in season 5, and will that once again put her into conflict with the crew?
For more Star Trek content, check out our list of the best episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, read our review of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 1 finale, and feel like a kid again with our review of the outstanding Playmobil USS Enterprise play set.
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Keith Cooper is a freelance science journalist and editor in the United Kingdom, and has a degree in physics and astrophysics from the University of Manchester. He's the author of "The Contact Paradox: Challenging Our Assumptions in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" (Bloomsbury Sigma, 2020) and has written articles on astronomy, space, physics and astrobiology for a multitude of magazines and websites.