Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Star Trek: Discovery's final season looks to the Next Generation for its last mission

The Paramount+ streaming show revisits a storyline from 30+ years in the past to find its way forward

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5
Image credit: Paramount+

Popverse's top stories of the day

Since its debut in 2017, Star Trek: Discovery has had a curious relationship with Trek canon, simultaneously paying tribute and seemingly contradicting what’s already been established in the many other shows, movies, and elsewhere in the history of the long-running franchise. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the premiere of the fifth and final season of the Paramount+ series should set up a season-long arc that is connected to one of the most notable unresolved threads from one of the most beloved Star Treks of all time.

Spoiler Warning: Stop reading now if you don’t want to know anything more about ‘Red Directive,’ the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 5. You have been warned.

Still promotional image from Star Trek Discovery
Image credit: Paramount

Cast your mind back, dear readers, to April 1993, when Star Trek: The Next Generation’s ‘The Chase’ — an episode in the back half of the show’s sixth season — tackled a surprising subject: why do all the aliens in Star Trek look so similar, beyond the real world reason of “make up is expensive and this is a weekly show with a budget, thank you very much.” For those who don’t remember, the episode revealed that Star Trek’s many humanoid aliens all have the same genetic origin point, courtesy of an alien race billions of years in the past that seeded genetic material throughout the galaxy. It was a discovery made simultaneously by Starfleet, the Romulans, the Klingons, and the Cardassians… and it was promptly never mentioned again.

On the one hand, it makes sense that the discovery wouldn’t have a significant impact on Star Trek, which at the time was a very purposefully episodic experience without much in the way of longterm storytelling. (Deep Space Nine was just starting to experiment with that, way back when.) However… it was nonetheless a little surprising that more was never made of the fact that all of these races were in some way related, and especially odd that there was never any further exploration of the alien race responsible for us all.

Until now, it seems.

Still promotional image from Star Trek Discovery
Image credit: Paramount

Much of ‘Red Directive,’ the opener in Discovery’s fifth season, is an extended chase sequence as the crew of the Discovery pursue Moll and L’ak, two scavengers who have stolen something from a Romulan ship that had been missing for 800 years. It’s an enjoyable enough episode that mixes Trek fan service — there’s a new character that looks just like Data because he’s based on the work of Dr. Soong! — with paying off existing relationships and threads from seasons past (Saru fans, you have reasons to be happy; anyone who liked the Michael/Book relationship, less so)… but it’s the closing minutes of the episode that pay things off for long-term Trek fans.

The Romulan ship belonged to one of the scientists who appeared in ‘The Chase,’ way back when (not coincidentally, about 800 years in the past of Discovery’s timeframe) — and the artifact that the scavengers have stolen is a book that will help them decode the technology of the aliens that seeded the galaxy with life. The mission for the Discovery crew for the rest of the season, then, is simple: prevent the scavengers from using technology that can create life as we know it — and maybe end life as we know it at the same time, because dramatic tension — and, in the process, bring some sense of closure to a story that was left unfinished by The Next Generation 30+ years ago, and end the series by tying it ever tighter into the heart of Star Trek mythology.

Still promotional image from Star Trek Discovery
Image credit: Paramount

It’s an ambitious goal… but then, Star Trek: Discovery has never really been a show that could claim to fail to commit to the bit when necessary. As Dr. Kovich (a returning David Cronenberg, even more laconic than ever) says as the episode ends, “The greatest treasure in the known galaxy is out there. What’re you waiting for?”

The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 5 are available now on Paramount+.

Space may be the final frontier, but there's no end to Popverse's love of the Star Trek universe. Hop aboard the starship Enterprise with our Star Trek watch order, explore strange new worlds with our upcoming Star Trek TV shows and movies list, seek out the new life of the franchise, and boldly go where no Star TRek film has ever gone before - with Quentin Tarantino?