Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Star Trek: Discovery" season 4, episode 13
Well, here we are. Again. It's fourth time around for the finale of "Star Trek: Discovery" on Paramount Plus. After a somewhat disjointed 13-episode season, that felt like it was following an almost identical template to last season and made up of two very different halves, we have the concluding episode, entitled "Coming Home."
We've mentioned in the past that the most consistent thing with "Star Trek: Discovery" is how inconsistent it is and this season finale doesn't do anything to alter our opinion. Looking back at all 13 episodes, we've seen some glimpses of absolute genius, we've seen some abhorrently lazy writing and we've seen just about everything in-between. With the last season also giving us a lame season finale, there was quite a lot riding on this one, and while it's better than last season, Discovery's season four ender is not without its faults … and sadly, there are quite a lot of those. What makes it worse, is that we said something almost exactly the same a year ago. Very little seems to have changed.
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We open straightaway with the Federation HQ itself at warp and preparing for evacuation as the dark matter anomaly looms ever closer to the Alpha Quadrant and who do we see helping to direct proceedings, but Lt. Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) whose contribution to this episode is humble, but it's unquestionably a highlight. It arrives at Sector 001 along with a fleet of starships including the USS Mitchell (named after "Star Trek" actor Kenneth Mitchell who played Aurellio in Season 3) and the USS Yelchin (named after Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the JJ Abrams movies).
If you need to catch up on "Star Trek: Discovery" so far, check out our Star Trek: Discovery streaming guide.
Back on the USS Discovery, Capt. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew frantically try to figure a way out of the 10-C hyperfield so that they can give chase to Book's ship, which itself is trying to evade several guided torpedo-like "orbs" fired by 10-C in their own attempt to stop it. Meanwhile, General Ndoye (Phumzile Sitole) gives herself up for the role she played in disabling the Discovery's warp nacelle in last week's episode, enabling Tarka (Shawn Doyle) and Book (David Ajala) to escape and we lay the foundation for the final installment of the mushrooming "misunderstood" element of the primary plot.
Then something quite extraordinary happens. The first contact diplomatic team holds conference in Burnham's ready room and President T'Rina of Ni'var (Tara Rosling) suggests she try and contact species 10-C by way of a mind meld. My God, why did no one think of this before? And why didn't it even get mentioned in all of the first contact discussions that have been held, both on the Discovery and at Federation HQ..?! This could've potentially halved the time spent trying to establish communication.
She's successful in communicating with them, but is understandably shaken by the overwhelming experience. She is able to tell the first contact team what species 10-C is thinking, but no one feels the need to ask what she was able to convey to them…surely that could've been a considerable help. Roll opening credits.
One of the nice and unexpected highlights of this season was the blossoming relationship between Saru (Doug Jones) and T'Rina and that continues to develop in this episode. Unfortunately, Ruon Tarka (Shawn Doyle) is still hell bent on using the illudium Q-36 explosive space modulator to destroy the dark matter anomaly and he's now holding both Cmdr. Jett Reno (Tig Notaro) and Book (David Ajala) prisoner, but Book has found a sneaky way to escape though by fiddling with something he found on the floor.
They escape and the inevitable "let it go" de-escalation with Tarka begins, but their logic is less than perfect. Reno and Book convince Tarka that the people in the new galaxy/different dimension/alternative reality he calls Kayalise won't be exactly the same as they are here and that he has to let Oros go…but he's supposed to be already there, alive and well — or least he was, because he left the sign on the wall in the ruins of the Emerald prison camp. Maybe it's all meant to be metaphoric. Who knows.
Meanwhile, back on the Discovery, it's calculated that the ship can break free and give chase if they use the spore drive, but remain stationary, so that the stored-up energy could be directed at the orb allowing the ship to break free. The only downside is that it will burn out the spore drive leaving the Federation starship with only warp drive to travel the thousands of light years home.
Could this be a potential set up for the next season? Will they be successful, but be left stranded on the other side of the Milky Way as a consequence of saving all life as we know it? Will the story arc for Season 5 of "Star Trek: Discovery" involve the crew facing a decades-long, "Voyager"-style journey home..? No, none of those things.
To disable Book's ship and guarantee that Tarka won't release his isolytic weapon, Ndoye volunteers to fly a shuttle directly at Book's ship — which still doesn't have a name — and ram it. In the ensuing explosion, the Discovery tries to beam everyone out. The General makes it while Tarka makes the ultimate sacrifice and uses the last remaining power to beam Book out.
Tragically, the attempt to transport him off of his ship fails. Book's atoms! His pattern never truly quite materializes and he's unable to reform properly after having every component molecule in his body scrambled and sent from the bridge of his ship — which is exploding — to the bridge of the Discovery. Thus, he's probably conscious of being pulled apart at a sub-atomic level. It's the kind of thing that really puts a crimp in your day. And for the briefest of moments, you think perhaps "Discovery" has committed itself to at least one less-than-ideal outcome from this desperate mission. But then common sense kicks in and you already dread what's coming.
Back in sector 001, Earth and the Starfleet vessels assisting in the evacuation start to face the incoming debris as a result of the gravitational effects caused by the anomaly. It's not a climatic season finale space battle in the traditional sense, but more like a space fight against rocks. There's still plenty of action and explosions, sparks flying about, shaking sets and camera shots, so it's almost the same. Tilly and Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) bravely stay behind to coordinate as much of the effort as possible and form an unlikely, but entertaining relationship. Sadly though, the dialogue is clichéd and lets this story thread down.
The 10-C recognize much of the meaning of these recent events and the bridge crew of the Discovery is permitted to transport to the surface of their homeworld. President Laira Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) starts a dialogue with the 10-C and certainly doesn't waste any time. Thank heavens Kelpiens can type at 90 words per minute. The remainder of this third act plus the somewhat lengthy and drawn out, 14-minute long epilogue, is basically closure.
Then your earlier fear and dread are realized and the 10-C present Book to them. Book's a zombie! Yes, the 10-C intercepted the transporter pattern and stored it, you know, just in case it was important. The dark matter anomaly is shut down and for some reason, all the debris that was flying towards Earth stops, then flies back the other way. So, surely everyone is still in the firing line, just from the reverse direction?
Now for that issue about getting home. Well, the 10-C leave the DMA wormhole open just long enough for the USS Discovery to zip through and get home in time for tea and medals. The 10-C themselves are persuaded to drop the protective shielding that the boronite was fueling and face the universe without hiding behind something. Once home, everyone wraps up their affairs and Book — whose character has suffered the most from bad writing this season — accepts his punishment and says au revoir to Burnham. Ndoye on the other hand, appears to have gotten away without any serious repercussions.
It's really hard to fully understand — an insane effort is put into prop design, prop placement and continuity, set design, wardrobe, Easter eggs and so on; things that keep Jörg Hillebrand busy for months. So why then, for the love of Quality Science Fiction, is the story writing so shockingly weak? The cast mostly put in incredible performances and the actors have (one assumes) no significant influence on the story. So, they cannot be blamed in any way. It's the showrunner; that is where the buck ends.
And the current showrunner for "Discovery" likes to add layer after layer of emotional melodrama and frankly, it quickly gets too much.
In other "Star Trek" news, Paul Wesley, perhaps best known for appearing in "The Vampire Diaries," has been cast to play young Captain Kirk in the second season of "Strange New Worlds."
"I am deeply humbled and still a little startled to have been given the honor of playing the inimitable James T Kirk," Wesley said in a tweet.
Quite how that's going to play out, no one is quite sure. Captain Pike (Anson Mount) was obviously in command of the USS Enterprise before James Kirk (William Shatner) and prior to the events of the epic two-part TOS episode "The Menagerie," the two had only met in passing, when Pike was promoted to Fleet Captain. It's possible that the publicity photo that was released with this story shows a young Kirk taking the Kobayashi Maru test…but, his uniform bears the rank of captain.
However, in "Star Trek" history, there aren't too many specifics for young Kirk before he took command of the USS Enterprise. That said, in 2259, six years before "The Original Series" — when "Strange New Worlds" is believed to be set — Kirk had only held the rank of Lieutenant for four years and while he was the youngest Starfleet officer to ever achieve the rank of captain, he assumed command of the Constitution-class USS Enterprise from Christopher Pike somewhere between 2262 and 2265.
Here's a brief timeline to help understand the relevant events.
- Pike takes command of the USS Enterprise — 2250 ("Discovery" episode "Brother")
- Kirk enters Starfleet Academy — 2252 ("TOS" episodes "Shore Leave" and "The Apple") 2251 ("The Autobiography of James T. Kirk")
- Spock joins the USS Enterprise — 2254 ("Short Trek" episode "Q&A")
- Events of "TOS" episode "The Cage" take place — 2254
- Kirk serves on the USS Republic as an ensign — 2254 (Autobiography)
- Kirk graduates and serves as a lieutenant on the USS Farragut — 2255 ("TOS" episode "The Corbomite Maneuver")
- "Star Trek: Discovery" (S01, E01) "The Vulcan Hello" — 2256, but there’s six month skip to next episode
- "Star Trek: Discovery" Season 1 ends with "Will You Take My Hand" in 2257, towards end of the year
- "Star Trek: Discovery" Season 2 "Brother" starts either very late 2257 or early 2258
- Pike gives up command of the USS Enterprise, according to Star Trek.com — 2262
- Kirk takes command of the USS Enterprise in either 2265 ("TOS" episode "The Menagerie, Part I") or 2262 (Autobiography)
- Montgomery Scott joins the ship — 2265 ("TOS" episode "Where No Man has Gone Before")
- Leonard McCoy joins the USS Enterprise — 2266
- Pike suffers horrific injuries after an accident during a routine inspection — 2266 ("Discovery" episode "Through the Valley of Shadows")
- Events of "TOS" episode "The Menagerie" take place — 2267
Season 4 of "Star Trek: Discovery" is available to watch now on Paramount Plus in the US and CTV Sci-Fi or Crave TV in Canada. Countries outside of North America can watch on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. Season 2 of "Star Trek: Picard" is also currently airing and the premiere season of "Strange New Worlds" begins on May 5.