Star Trek has existed in our universe (and presumably everywhere else in the multiverse) for more than 50 years. In that time we've grown from the early days of Capt. Kirk, Spock and Bones, to Picard and Riker and Data. The legacy has lived on beyond The Next Generation, with spinoffs Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise on TV, and a parallel series of films with an all-new cast.
And with Star Trek: Discovery — the first to live exclusively (more or less) on a dedicated streaming service and not on traditional terrestrial television — we've got a next, next, next generation of Trek.
Discovery pushed back from the proverbial space dock in September 2017 at what was then CBS All Access but is now Paramount Plus. Since its debut, it has firmly planted its flag in the universe not just of science-fiction, but in dramatic television as a whole.
Star Trek: Discovery season 4 will return in the near future, but let's catch up on what you might have missed and everything else you need to know about the series.
'Star Trek: Discovery' season 4 release date
After releasing the first seven episodes of its fourth season on Paramount Plus in November and December 2021, Star Trek: Discovery is slated to return with new episodes of season 4 on Feb. 10.
More Star Trek: Discovery is on the way after that, as Paramount Plus announced that it had renewed the original series for season 5.
How to watch 'Star Trek: Discovery' in the U.S.
Paramount Plus is the standalone streaming service for ViacomCBS, which is a huge media company that's home to all kinds of content. That includes Paramount, and that means the larger Star Trek universe. It's also home to other exclusives like The Good Fight, the Jordan Peele reboot of The Twilight Zone, as well as a number of other new Star Trek original series, including Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy.
Paramount Plus has multiple plans for subscribers but, don't worry, you can watch Star Trek: Discovery on both of them. The first is an ad-supported plan (standard price $4.99 per month) and the other is ad-free ($9.99 per month). There are often offers on subscriptions so check our guide to find the best streaming deals around.
How to watch 'Star Trek: Discovery' in the UK and more
In the UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Star Trek: Discovery is launching on Pluto TV — Viacom's free ad-supported streaming service. Previous seasons had been aired on Netflix but Viacom was going to hold Star Trek: Discovery season 4 until the launch of Paramount Plus across Europe, in 2022.
A fan outcry put a halt to those plans and it's now free to stream live, on Pluto TV's Sci-Fi channel on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 9 pm, local time.
Getting set up on Pluto TV is super easy. The service is free, you don't even need to sign up to use it and it's available on a wide range of devices.
Pluto TV has more than 100 live channels to choose from with shows ranging from Duck Dynasty, to Baywatch, Most Haunted to BET's Tyler Perry shows. Plenty to binge-watch, when you're not engrossed in Star Trek.
How to watch 'Star Trek: Discovery' everywhere else
Outside the US and Europe, Star Trek: Discovery is available on Netflix in 188 countries. In Canada, it's available on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel, and the streaming service Crave.
Paramount Plus is planning to expand into more international regions in 2022, so it may wind up where you are at some point soon, just FYI.
There is a handy way to watch your favourite TV shows wherever you are in the world — it is called a VPN. This lets you get around the usual digital barriers by changing your IP address, meaning you can watch your favourite TV shows even if you're away from home.
If you're travelling and away from home but still want to watch Star Trek: Discovery on Pluto TV, you might find that the content is geo-blocked. However, choose a VPN server based in the UK and stream content just like you would back home.
Our favourite is ExpressVPN, which lets you change your IP address on whichever device you want to watch your favorite TV show on. ExpressVPN is one of the best out there. Not only because it is straightforward and easy to use, but it also has great security and, best of all, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
This is the number one rated VPN in the world right now and as well as trying it out for free for a month, you can sign up for an annual plan and get 3 months absolutely free.
Star Trek: Discovery: the cast, the premise and why it's a big deal
Let's just cut to the chase. This is a good show. Yes, you'll probably want to have at least a minimum context of the Trek universe, but it's not absolutely necessary. Discovery has a few characters you'll know from the other series, but it's mostly about new ones.
Unlike virtually every other Trek series, Discovery doesn't focus on the commanding officer. That gives a new perspective from which to tell the story. And that's not to say that the captain isn't very much involved or that the stories told are ancillary and not as exciting. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's just a great, intriguing new way to tell the tale.
Discovery takes place a decade or so before The Original Series, with Captain Kirk and the gang.
We're following Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green, who you may remember as Sasha from The Walking Dead). She's obviously not Vulcan but was raised as one by Sarek (James Frain) — yes, Spock's father — and his wife (and Spock's mom) Amanda Grayson (Mia Kirshner). So already you know this is going to be complicated — a human raised as a Vulcan, and foster sister to a half-human/half-Vulcan Spock. Intriguing.
There's also Capt. Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), an interesting name for a very Chinese captain on board the USS Shenzou. Her first officer is Saru (Doug Jones, who you'll know as the amphibian man in The Shape of Water), a Kelpian and the only one of his kind in Starfleet.
The cast expands a good bit from there, but we'll break that down just a tad more in the Season 1 and 2 sections.
The basic premise laid out is this: the USS Shenzou, with Burnham, Georgiou and Saru on board, stumbles across an anomaly that turns out to be an ancient Klingon ship that's doing its best to hide, but also has become a beacon meant to unite the Klingon houses. Burnham kills someone and accidentally starts a war. A lot of people die and she ends up committing an act of mutiny on the Shenzou before ending up on Discovery.
If there's one major criticism of Discovery as a series, it's this: There is a LOT going on. A lot of characters, a lot of species, and a lot of moving parts. These parts are going to come and go. They're going to twist and turn on on top of each other
That's the end of the non-spoiler parts. We'll dive in a little deeper from here — and ruin things along the way. So if you're not up for that, just go ahead and get your CBS All Access subscription now and get to watching. If you want more in written form, however, read on.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 — War to end all wars
That little act of mutiny Burnham committed on board the Shenzou? It might well have saved the ship and prevented all-out war — and saved the life of Captain Georgiou. Instead, it made Burnham the most hated person in all of Starfleet
Which is why it's interesting that as she's in the middle of a not-so-routine prison transfer (mutiny is still bad, of course), she ends up on board the USS Discovery, thanks to Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs, with an awful accent). He's a brilliant tactician and leader, but butts heads with the scientific staff on board his ship. He wants to win the war, and the scientists want to science the shit out of whatever secretive thing it is they're doing. They need Burnham's help, though they won't tell her (at first) what they're up to.
It turns out that the big secret is a new kind of propulsion system that doesn't so much make a ship go faster as it does make it instantaneously appear somewhere. That is, so long as it doesn't accidentally turn everyone's bodies inside out first. It happens. How does this "Spore Drive" work? With mushrooms. Yes, really. The ability to leap across a galaxy is a convenient plot point, and also a great way to win a war
Meanwhile, the sort-of united Klingons are kicking Starfleet's ass thanks to its cloaking devices. The leader, Voq (Kenneth Mitchell) will do anything to win this war and reunite the Houses in the old ways. It turns out he'll do everything, in fact — including taking over the body of Starfleet officer Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), who had been held on a Klingon prison ship with scoundrel Harry Judd (Rainn Wilson).
Wait — it's not even complicated yet.
Discovery ends up accidentally jumping (via its Spore Drive) into an alternate universe — one in which Starfleet isn't good, Georgiou isn't dead — and in which Captain Lorca's evil twin originated before ending up on Discovery. Turns out this whole thing was a ruse to get him home.
Meanwhile, Ash Tyler (who has one of those names that has to be said in its entirety) realizes he's actually a weird sort of Klingon agent — which puts a damper on his burgeoning romance with Burnham. There's a new plan to blow up the Klingon home world, and Burnham hands the trigger to ... the female Klingon strategist who was in love with Voq, and turned him into Ash Tyler. (Or Ash Tyler into Voq.)
Plus, bad Georgiou from the alternative is now mostly good Georgiou.
See? It's complicated. It's also very, very good.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 — The Red Angel
The war with the Klingons is over, but now there are some mysterious signals coming from across the galaxy. Discovery — with Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) in the chair while the USS Enterprise undergoes some conveniently weird maintenance — heads off to investigate one of them, where Burnham and Pike discover ... comedian-turned-Starfleet engineer Tig Nortaro (Jett Reno, in the series).
Burnham almost dies during the rescue of Reno — until a mysterious Red Angel-looking figure shows up just in the nick of time and saves her. Where there's a signal, there's a Red Angel, apparently.
Meanwhile, Spock took leave from the Enterprise but also apparently went quite mad and might have killed a couple people. So Burnham wants to to find her foster brother. Also hot on his trail is Section 31, which is a shadowy Starfleet-sanctioned group that does what needs to be done, even if it plays in the gray areas more than you're used to in a Star Trek series.
There's a lot of intra-Starfleet politics going on in this one. Georgiou and Ash Tyler have ended up with Section 31. And both probably can be trusted to do what's right even if it means doing what's wrong. Probably.
Eventually everyone figures out that where there's a signal, there's the Red Angel. So they devise a plan to capture the Red Angel to figure out what the hell is going on, why Burnham and Spock and others have had visions of the Red Angel — and, oh, why the fate of all sentient life in the universe is at stake.
It turns out the Red Angel is ... [Sure you want this spoiler? OK.]
It turns out the Red Angel is Burnham's mother, Gabrielle (Sonja Sohn) believed to have been killed in a Klingon attack when Burnham some 20 years earlier. (This added another layer in Season 1.) It turns out she's been trapped in time 950 years into the future and has been coming back to present day to do ... Something.
And it turns out that that something is to stop Section 31's artificial intelligence called Control from getting some AI data from a 200-thousand-year-old sphere and deciding that every living thing must die. Now it's Control and Section 31 and their superior tech against Discovery, the Kelpians, the Klingons and anyone else they could scrounge up, trying to help Burnham lead Discovery 950 years into the future, where Control won't be able to get to the AI data.
It's one hell of a battle.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 — Back to the Future
And that brings us to Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. What to Watch did an episode-by-episode recap for season 3, which you can read right here:
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episodes 1-4
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 5: Die Trying
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 6: Scavengers
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 7: Unification III
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 8: The Sanctuary
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 9: Terra Firma, Part 1
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 10: Terra Firma, Part 2
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 11: Su'Kal
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 12: There Is a Tide ...
- 'Star Trek: Discovery' season 3 episode 13: That Hope Is You, Part 2
'Star Trek: Discovery' season 4
Here is the official synopsis for Star Trek: Discovery season 4:
"Season 4 of Star Trek: Discovery finds Captain Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery facing a threat unlike any they’ve ever encountered. With Federation and non-Federation worlds alike feeling the impact, they must confront the unknown and work together to ensure a hopeful future for all."
And here's the trailer:
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Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.