What ultimately happened to the USS Discovery in the 'Star Trek: Discovery' series finale?

The USS Discovery from Star Trek: Discovery
(Image credit: Paramount Plus)

Over five seasons of "Star Trek: Discoverywe got to know Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery, but the show's final scene is reserved for its eponymous starship. In the series finale "Life, Itself", self-aware computer Zora fires up the spore drive for the final time to embark on one last mission. 

We still have no idea why she's given a top-secret Red Directive to wait indefinitely at these particular coordinates, but a 2018 "Short Trek" episode "Calypso" has already revealed the next stage of her journey. Here's what's in store for Zora and Discovery a millennium down the line — watch out for spoilers. (And if you need a refresher on all things Trek, check out our Star Trek streaming guide for how to watch nearly every series on Paramount Plus.)

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What happens to Discovery at the end of season 5?

Admiral Michael Burnham in Star Trek Discovery Season 5, Episode 10 (Image credit: Paramount)

Several decades after the Discovery crew tracked down the Progenitor technology — long enough for Admiral Michael Burnham and Cleveland Booker to see their son, Leto, rise to the rank of Starfleet captain — the ship is assigned one final mission.

Burnham arrives on the bridge to give the ship's sentient computer, Zora (voiced by Annabelle Wallis), her briefing. "I'm going to bring you to a set of coordinates in deep space," explains the admiral. "Then me and your crew will leave. After that, you wait."

"For what?" Zora asks, but she doesn't get a definitive answer. 

"This is a Red Directive; we both know how transparent those are," replies Burnham, referring to the beyond-classified instructions that have become the mysterious Dr. Kovich's stock-in-trade. "I did hear a word in passing," the admiral adds. "'Craft'. I'm not sure if that's a person or a vessel or…"

That word will prove to be important, but as Burnham correctly predicts, she'll be long gone when Zora finds out what it means.

After this emotional farewell, Discovery is waved off by an armada of Starfleet vessels and a few bars of Alexander Courage's iconic "Star Trek" theme. Then, Zora fires up the spore drive and jumps away to her mystery destination. 

Related: Star Trek: Discovery is at an end: Here are 5 things season 5 needed to fix

How is the USS Discovery sentient?

An Illustration of the USS Discovery, the titular starship in Star Trek: Discovery.

(Image credit: CBS)

Starships often come to feel like characters in their own right, but never has this been as true as it is for Discovery.

Zora is much more than some glorified Siri or Alexa substitute, thanks to Discovery's 23rd century computer merging with hundreds of thousands of years of data collected by an ancient alien Sphere. Discovery was protecting this precious information when it jumped forward to 3189. 

The newly created super-computer gradually develops sentience, emotions and a personality, and decides to name herself Zora (which means "dawn" in several Alpha Quadrant languages). She's eventually recognized as a lifeform in her own right, and awarded the rank of Specialist by Starfleet.

What happens next? And what does it have to do with 'craft'?

A scene from Star Trek Short Trek "Calypso" showing Zora and Craft dancing. (Image credit: Paramount)

Not a lot. For around 1,000 years, Zora sits and waits at the designated coordinates, getting some "alone time" inside some kind of interstellar storm cloud. Then she runs into an escape pod with a sole occupant — a man who calls himself Craft. 

This "reluctant" soldier (played by Aldis Hodge) hails from Alcor IV, and has spent the last decade at war with the V'draysh, which — based on comments from criminal boss Zareh in "Discovery" season 3 — appears to be a Pidgin word for the Federation. (This may explain why the enemy vessel Craft has commandeered contains an extensive collection of Earth cartoons from "the long ago".)

During their time together, Zora introduces Craft to tacos, the concept of Tuesday, and her favorite movie, 1957 Audrey Hepburn/Fred Astaire rom-com "Funny Face." She falls in love with the visitor, but he ultimately departs in the hope of finding his wife and son. She refuses to give him a lift home in Discovery, however, reasoning that she has to maintain position to complete her mission.

All this was revealed in 2018 "Short Trek" episode "Calypso", though back then — before season 2 had aired — we had no idea that Discovery would depart for the 32nd century, that the Sphere data would help Discovery's computer evolve into Zora, or that Burnham (then a science officer) would be promoted to captain. These days "Calypso" makes a lot more sense. 

So what exactly is Zora's final mission?

Dr. Kovich, played by David Cronenberg, in Star Trek Discovery. (Image credit: Paramount)

Beyond waiting for a long, long time, that remains unclear. But, seeing as her mission has top secret Red Directive status, it's pretty much certain that Dr Kovich — now revealed to be Temporal Agent Daniels of "Star Trek: Enterprise" fame — has a plan for Zora, and that her bumping into Craft is no accident. 

But whoever she encounters next, it's sure to have major ramifications for the galaxy — and perhaps beyond. Burnham promised a "new beginning" for Zora when she eventually comes back. Who knows what that might mean…

All five seasons of 'Star Trek: Discovery' and the 'Calypso' 'Short Trek' are now available to stream on Paramount Plus. To find out where to stream every other Star Trek movie and show, check out our Star Trek streaming guide.

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Richard Edwards
Space.com Contributor

Richard's love affair with outer space started when he saw the original "Star Wars" on TV aged four, and he spent much of the ’90s watching "Star Trek”, "Babylon 5” and “The X-Files" with his mum. After studying physics at university, he became a journalist, swapped science fact for science fiction, and hit the jackpot when he joined the team at SFX, the UK's biggest sci-fi and fantasy magazine. He liked it so much he stayed there for 12 years, four of them as editor. 

He's since gone freelance and passes his time writing about "Star Wars", "Star Trek" and superheroes for the likes of SFX, Total Film, TechRadar and GamesRadar+. He has met five Doctors, two Starfleet captains and one Luke Skywalker, and once sat in the cockpit of "Red Dwarf"'s Starbug.