With Discovery ending in 2024, which modern Star Trek show has the warp speed required to drive the franchise forward into 2025 and beyond?
- Star Trek: Discovery’s final season in 2024 marks the end of Captain Michael Burnham’s journey, but the show’s 32nd century setting may make it less relatable for contemporary audiences.
- Star Trek: Lower Decks is the most important show for the franchise’s future, as it expands the Star Trek universe and builds on the legacy of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- Lower Decks bridges the gap between the end of the Star Trek: TNG movies and the start of Star Trek: Picard, potentially setting up meaningful plot points for future series like Star Trek: Legacy.
The final season of Star Trek: Discovery is the first big release next year, but it’s not 2024’s most important Star Trek show. Discovery season 5 is the final outing for Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and her loyal crew, sending them on an intergalactic treasure hunt. Season 5 wasn’t originally intended as the final season for Discovery, and the reshoots required to bring the series to a satisfying conclusion are just one of the many elements that have delayed the final season’s release.
It was thanks to the success of Discovery in 2017 that Star Trek‘s small screen renaissance took off in earnest three years later. As Star Trek: Discovery season 5 brings the show to an end in 2024, it’s a good time to look at the state of the franchise it leaves behind. With no more Discovery after 2024, it leaves the question of which Star Trek show will drive the franchise into 2025 and beyond. Perhaps surprisingly, the answer to that question comes in the form of Mike McMahan’s animated comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks.
Why Lower Decks Is Star Trek’s Most Important Show In 2024
When Star Trek: Discovery ends in 2024, it leaves behind two animated series and its live-action spinoff/TOS prequel, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. Of all four of these shows, the most important series for the future of the franchise is actually Star Trek: Lower Decks. While the Discovery finale will be a big event in 2024, its 32nd century setting can sometimes make it feel separated from the wider Star Trek universe. It’s over a thousand years in the future for viewers, which could be alienating to a contemporary audience. Star Trek has always told stories with contemporary relevance in a believable futuristic society, and the far future of Discovery can often be hard to relate to.
Meanwhile, Star Trek: Prodigy is a great primer for young audiences that has a lot to offer dyed-in-the-wool Trek fans. The only problem is that, thanks to the bizarre cancelation decision, it will now stream on Netflix, partitioned off from Paramount+. This leaves the uncomfortable, if unintentional, impression that Prodigy isn’t “proper” Star Trek. Elsewhere in the franchise, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will hopefully return in late 2024, now that the actors and writers strikes are over. SNW is an excellent series that harks back to the “traditional” model of Star Trek, but with the pacing and production values of modern television. However, it’s also squarely focused on Star Trek‘s past, and not its future.
Star Trek: Lower Decks Is About Starfleet’s Future, Not Its Past
Star Trek: Lower Decks is currently the only show on Paramount+ that is focused on driving the story of Starfleet and the Federation forward into the 25th century. It might seem strange to say that about a show that has as many callbacks and continuity references and Star Trek Easter eggs as Lower Decks does. However, as much as Lower Decks revels in the giant toy box that is the Star Trek universe, it’s also doing a great deal to expand the mythology and build on the legacy of shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation. In just season 4 alone, Lower Decks has greatly expanded Starfleet’s knowledge of Ferengi and Orion culture.
Obviously, Star Trek: Picard season 3 set up some of the challenges facing Starfleet and the Federation in the early 25th century. It’s still hoped that this story will continue with Star Trek: Legacy, but to date nothing has been greenlit. With no current plans for Terry Matalas’ proposed sequel to enter production, Star Trek: Lower Decks remains the custodian of the TNG era’s legacy. Season 4 ended with Lt. D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) returning to Orion, possibly on a secret mission, which will further develop relations between Starfleet and the secretive Star Trek aliens. There’s also the tantalizing prospect of the return of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Section 31 lingering in the background, too.
How Star Trek: Legacy And Lower Decks Can Work Together
Should Star Trek: Legacy get the green light, it will continue the story of the TNG era in the 25th century, while also focusing on Star Trek‘s next, next generation. This puts Star Trek: Lower Decks in an important position, as it’s effectively bridging the gap between the end of the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies and the start of Star Trek: Picard. Important changes to the make-up of the Federation will, therefore, be reflected in Star Trek: Legacy. Big Lower Decks plot points like the return of the Breen and the Ferengi’s Federation membership could have fascinating ramifications for Captain Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the crew of the USS Enterprise-G.
Star Trek: Lower Decks‘ crossover episode established that these characters can also exist in live-action. This means that Captain Boimler (Jack Quaid) and fellow Captain Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) could easily show up to assist the work of the USS Enterprise-G. Star Trek fans who may be apathetic toward animation should put aside their skepticism to enjoy how Mike McMahan is drawing up the road map for the universe that the USS Enterprise-G will be exploring. With Star Trek: Discovery ending and Star Trek: Legacy still a lovely pipe dream, Star Trek: Lower Decks is the future of the franchise, and it’s a hugely positive one.