The third season of the American television series Star Trek: Discovery follows the crew of the USS Discovery as they travel to the future, over 900 years after the events of the original Star Trek series.
The season is being produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment, with Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise serving as showrunners.
Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, captain of the Discovery, along with the returning Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Wilson Cruz, Blu del Barrio, David Ajala, and Tig Notaro. Active development on the season began by January 2020, with more time spent writing than previous seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Burnham’s new role as captain is explored following her promotion at the end of the third season, while the space anomaly that the characters face is a metaphor for the pandemic. The fourth season was officially announced in October 2020, and filming took place in Toronto, Canada, from November 2020 to August 2021. New filming processes were implemented to ensure safety during the pandemic, which caused some production delays, and a video wall was constructed to allow for filming in front of real-time computer-generated backgrounds.
The season premiered on the streaming service Paramount+ on 18 November 2021, with the first seven episodes airing through 30 December. The remaining six episodes were released from 10 February to 17 March. Internationally, the season’s release on Netflix was cancelled days before the premiere to allow a 2022 debut on Paramount+ for most other countries; after fan backlash, the series was made available early in some countries through Pluto TV or digital purchase. The season was estimated to have high viewership and audience demand, and has received positive reviews as well as several awards and nominations.
A fifth season was officially ordered in January 2022.
- Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham.
- Doug Jones as Saru.
- Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets.
- Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly.
- Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber.
- Blu del Barrio as Adira Tal.
- David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker.
- Tig Notaro as Jett Reno.
- Oded Fehr as Charles Vance.
- Ian Alexander as Gray Tal.
- Chelah Horsdal as Laira Rillak.
- Tara Rosling as T’Rina.
- Annabelle Wallis as the voice of Zora.
- David Cronenberg as Kovich.
- Shawn Doyle as Ruon Tarka.
- Phumzile Sitole as Ndoye.
- Hiro Kanagawa as Hirai.
- Notable Guests:
- Bill Irwin as Su’Kal.
- Sonja Sohn as Gabrielle Burnham.
- Rachael Ancheril as Nhan.
- Kenneth Mitchell.
- Stacey Abrams as President of United Earth.
Active development on a 13-episode fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery began by January 2020, during production on the series’ third season. By March, a fifth season was also in development with the intention of production on the fourth and fifth seasons taking place back-to-back, but these plans were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-production on the season began in Toronto, Canada, on 17 August. Executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise, respectively co-creator and showrunner, officially announced the season on 16 October, the day after the third season premiered, with filming scheduled to begin on 02 November.
The series’ writers room began working on the season remotely by August 2020, with pandemic-related production delays allowing them to get “quite ahead in scripts” compared to previous seasons. That October, Kurtzman said all seasons after the third would continue to be set in the 32nd century. Writing for the fourth season ended in mid-May 2021, and took place entirely via Zoom with the writers room never meeting in person. Because they, and the whole world, were impacted by the pandemic during the creation of the season, the writers wanted to acknowledge it in some way without literally including a pandemic in the story. Paradise explained that Star Trek series have always reflected the real world in similar ways to this, and the season’s story was designed to be a metaphor for the pandemic without being one-to-one: the main “antagonist” of the season is a giant, destructive space anomaly that the characters do not understand. To establish the impact that this anomaly can have rather than just explain how big and destructive it is, the writers chose to have it destroy the planet Kwejian – the homeworld of Cleveland “Book” Booker – in the season’s first episode. This has an ongoing effect on Book throughout the season.
The third season ends with protagonist Michael Burnham becoming the captain of Discovery, which star Sonequa Martin-Green said was a new beginning for the series. Paradise said the character had “grown in many ways” over the first three seasons, and the fourth would see her continue to grow as captain. The previous captain, Saru, begins the season on his homeworld of Kaminar but eventually returns to Discovery.
Paradise said the writers always intended to form a “really lovely” family unit in the third season with Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, a gay couple, and the non-binary Adira. This is extended to Adira’s transgender boyfriend Gray, who is initially only visible to Adira following his death. The third season promised that the Gray would be “seen”, in a metaphor for representation, and the fourth season does this by transferring his consciousness into a synthetic body (the same technology that was used for Jean-Luc Picard in the first season of Star Trek: Picard). Actor Ian Alexander said he had a lot more “hands-on involvement” with Gray’s storyline in the fourth season. Another metaphor for representation is seen in the storyline for Zora, the Discovery’s sentient computer who is deemed to be a new lifeform that officially joins Starfleet in a similar way to the android Data in the series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The season stars the returning Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Saru, Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber, and David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker, as well as Blu del Barrio reprising their recurring guest role as Adira Tal from the third season. Tig Notaro was asked to reprise her recurring guest role of Jett Reno in the season for two different filming blocks. She chose not to travel to Toronto for filming in November 2020 due to the pandemic, but hoped that conditions would be safer in May 2021 to allow her to travel for the second block; Notaro confirmed in May 2021 that she was in Toronto to film all of her scenes for the season over two weeks. Notaro is credited as a main cast member for her appearances in the season. Despite Tilly leaving Discovery in the fourth episode, Wiseman remained a series regular and returns later in the season.
Other guest stars reprising their roles from the third season include Oded Fehr as Admiral Charles Vance, Ian Alexander as Gray Tal, Bill Irwin as Su’Kal, Tara Rosling as Ni’Var President T’Rina, Annabelle Wallis as the voice of Zora, Sonja Sohn as Burnham’s mother Gabrielle, David Cronenberg as Dr. Kovich, Phumzile Sitole as Earth General Ndoye, and former main cast member Rachael Ancheril as Commander Nhan. Kenneth Mitchell, who made guest appearances as different characters in the previous seasons, said in August that he would have a unique role in the fourth season after the progression of his ALS diagnosis limited his ability to move and speak un-aided.
New recurring guests for the season include Chelah Horsdal as Laira Rillak, the Federation President, Shawn Doyle as Ruon Tarka, and Hiro Kanagawa as Dr. Hirai. Osric Chau portrays Tarka’s missing friend Oros, and Rothaford Gray is introduced as Book’s father Tareckx. Ache Hernandez and Luca Doulgeris return as Book’s brother Kyheem and nephew Leto, respectively. The crew of Discovery also return, including Emily Coutts as pilot Keyla Detmer, Patrick Kwok-Choon as tactical officer Gen Rhys, Oyin Oladejo as operations officer Joann Owosekun, Ronnie Rowe Jr. as communications officer R.A. Bryce, Sara Mitich as Nilsson, David Benjamin Tomlinson as Linus the Saurian, and Raven Dauda as Dr. Tracy Pollard. Rowe has a smaller role than previously after being cast in the series The Porter, with Bryce being replaced as communications officer in some episodes by Orville Cummings as Christopher.
The crew of the Discovery were given the primarily gray uniforms of other 32nd Century Starfleet officers at the end of the third season, but the producers soon realised that those costumes clashed with the Discovery’s existing gray hallway sets. Costume designer Gersha Phillips designed new uniforms that use the same primary colours as Star Trek: The Next Generation, with red for command, gold for operations, and blue for science. Medical officers wear white uniforms as they did in previous Discovery seasons. Doug McCullough took over as production designer for the season
Filming began at Pinewood Toronto Studios in Toronto, Canada, on 02 November 2020, under the working title Mill Street. Production was previously expected to take place from July 2020 to January 2021, filming back-to-back with a potential fifth season, but these plans were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kurtzman stated in October 2020 that filming would be a “systematised, militarised operation” due to the pandemic, with the season’s crew working in “pods” to minimise the potential spread of the virus. The cast travelled to Toronto early to quarantine for 14 days before filming, per the Canadian government’s requirements, and during filming the cast and crew were tested for COVID-19 three times a week. Jones said filming was slower because of the precautions taken on set, with each episode taking one day longer to film than in previous seasons
Kurtzman revealed in October 2020 that Paramount+ was constructing a video wall to allow for virtual production on the season as well as the series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, utilising technology similar to the StageCraft system that was developed for the Disney+ series The Mandalorian. The new virtual set was built in Toronto by visual effects company Pixomondo, and features a 270-degree, 70 feet (21 m) by 30 feet (9.1 m) horseshoe-shaped LED volume with additional LED panels in the ceiling to aid with lighting. The technology uses the game engine software Unreal Engine to display computer-generated backgrounds on the LED screens in real-time during filming, which visual effects supervisor Jason Zimmerman noted was especially useful for creating the planets that are visited in the series; due to the pandemic, the production was unable to film on location outside of North America to portray alien planets as they did for the third season. The virtual stage was still being installed by the time production took a break for Christmas in late December. The majority of filming for the first two episodes had been completed by then, but scenes requiring the video wall were set to be filmed after the break once the technology was ready, with Zimmerman overseeing the installation and use of the volume remotely from Los Angeles. He noted that the production design and art departments were more involved with the development of the season’s visual effects early on in the process compared to previous seasons since those effects needed to be ready so they could be filmed in the volume during production.
Philip Lanyon was the lead director of photography for the season after previously working on an episode of Discovery’s second season and also serving as lead director of photography for the first season of Star Trek: Picard. Franco Tata and Chris Mably also served as cinematographers for the fourth season. Lanyon began by developing a “visual mood board” with producing director Olatunde Osunsanmi. The season was filmed with Arri Alexa Mini, Mini LF, and SXT cameras, and Lanyon brought back Cooke Optics’ Anamorphic/i Special Flare lenses because they gave him control over the lens flares that arise from all of the practical light on the Discovery sets. He also chose to start using Anamorphic/i Full Frame Plus SF lenses on the season, believing that the full frame format of those lenses created a cleaner image and allowed him to get closer to the actors with a wider field of view without distorting the image in the way that some wide-angle lenses do. The full frame lenses were just used for the virtual production scenes on the season’s first eleven episodes, and the softer backgrounds created by the lenses helped control artefacts from the LED screens such as moiré patterns. Lanyon and Osunsanmi then used the full frame format as the primary lenses for the last two episodes of the season. Lanyon felt the cinematography for the season, especially with the addition of virtual production, gave it a “bigger world” with a different visual style when compared to the first three seasons. Coincidentally, cinematographer Glen Keenan chose to use the full frame lenses on Strange New Worlds around the same time that Lanyon selected them for this season.
On 22 April 2021, production on the season was paused after a “Zone A” individual, referring to key cast members and crew who are in contact with them, came in “close proximity” away from set with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. This was detected through Ontario’s contact tracing system. The Zone A individual began 14 days of quarantine, with the rest of the season’s almost 80-person production not required to quarantine but subject to a lockdown in the Toronto area. Filming on the season was set to start again on 06 May, with film and television productions allowed to continue during the lockdown. One of the series’ pandemic protocols saw the bridge crew of Discovery rotated so the same actors would not always be on set. This is explained in the series by Burnham requiring all crewmembers to take time off for their mental and emotional health. Production for the season was originally set to end on 10 June, but pandemic delays meant this end date was extended to August or September. In mid-July, Martin-Green said they had “a little bit more [filming] to do” for the season, and much of the cast wrapped for the season by early August. Paradise returned to Toronto on 09 August for the final weeks of pickup shots and location shooting, and announced that filming for the season had wrapped on 23 August.
Composer Jeff Russo confirmed in December 2020 that he would begin work on the fourth season once the third season was completed. By April 2021, he was considering using musical themes in the season that he had composed for Noah Hawley’s planned Star Trek film before that project was put on pause in August 2020.
In February 2021, Martin-Green appeared in a marketing campaign for Super Bowl LV advertising the rebranded streaming service Paramount+. Martin-Green then revealed the first teaser for the season during a panel for the “First Contact Day” virtual event on 05 April 2021, celebrating the franchise on the fictional holiday marking first contact between humans and aliens in the Star Trek universe.
The season premiered on Paramount+ in the United States on 18 November 2021, with the first seven episodes airing through 30 December. The remaining six episodes were released from 10 February to 17 March. Bell Media broadcasts the series in Canada on the specialty channels CTV Sci-Fi Channel (English) and Z (French) on the same day as the US, before streaming episodes on Crave.
Netflix originally held the streaming rights for the season in another 188 countries as with the previous seasons, but two days before the season’s international debut, ViacomCBS announced that it had bought back the international streaming rights to Discovery from Netflix effective immediately. This meant the season would be streamed in other countries on Paramount+ once the service was available there some time in 2022. The announcement led to backlash from international fans for its timing and the fact that the season would not be available in other countries at the same time as it was released in the US and Canada. On 24 November, ViacomCBS acknowledged the backlash and said the season would be made available internationally through several avenues: it would begin releasing on Paramount+ for markets where the service had already launched, starting with the first two episodes on 26 November; episodes would air multiple times a week on the free streaming service Pluto TV in other territories; and episodes would be available for digital purchase in some countries.
In December 2021, Paramount+ revealed that Star Trek: Discovery was the most watched series on the streaming service for its inaugaral year. Audience demand analytics company Parrot Analytics, who estimate streaming viewership based on global “demand expressions”, listed Discovery as the 15th most in-demand streaming series of 2021 and calculated that it was 19 times more in-demand than the average United States series. It was the only Paramount+ series in Parrot’s top 20 list for the year. Whip Media, who track viewership data for the 19 million worldwide users of their TV Time app, ranked Discovery in the top 10 original streaming series for US viewership the week of the season’s premiere. It returned to the top 10 in their rankings the week of the third episode’s release, and remained on the list each week that the rest of the season’s first half was released.
Star Trek: Discovery Series
- Episode 01: Kobayashi Maru.
- Episode 02: Anomaly.
- Episode 03: Choose to Live.
- Episode 04: All Is Possible.
- Episode 05: The Examples.
- Episode 06: Stormy Weather.
- Episode 07: …But to Connect.
- Episode 08: All In.
- Episode 09: Rubicon.
- Episode 10: The Galactic Barrier.
- Episode 11: Rosetta.
- Episode 12: Species Ten-C.
- Episode 13: Coming Home.
You can find a full index of Star Trek TV series here.
Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries
You can find a full index of all Star Trek TV series, films, documentaries here.
Production & Filming Details
- Release Date: 18 November 2021 to 17 March 2022.
- Running Time: 50 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.