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Star Trek Discovery Showrunner Teases a Non-Living Villain for Season 4

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Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman has teased a new kind of villain for season 4 -- one that’s not alive. Discovery was one of the first original series announced for ViacomCBS’s streaming platform, CBS All Access. The platform will rebrand to become Paramount Plus in March, but their Star Trek content has expanded to include Picard, Lower Decks, and the upcoming Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, among others.

Star Trek: Discovery has broken lots of new ground for an already expansive franchise, and season 4 will continue that trend. Season 3 of the series entered new territory via a time jump into the 32nd century, which Kurtzman promised would continue to be the setting for the show. The upcoming season is also set to introduce Star Trek’s first-ever all-female bridge crew, led by Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green).

That’s not the only fresh path to be explored in Star Trek: Discovery season 4. In an online panel for Deadline, Kurtzman teased some of the other new elements that the Paramount Plus series will examine, including the season’s Big Bad. He cryptically suggested that season 4 will be "diving deep into science," before suggesting that the next antagonist wouldn’t be so cut-and-dry as the villains of the past. He explained: "There have been many kinds of villains over the course of Star Trek. What happens when the villain is not actually any kind of living, breathing entity, but something else? How do you solve that problem?"

Kurtzman also indicated that a major challenge of Star Trek: Discovery season 4 would be in rebuilding the United Federation of Planets after it was nearly destroyed by Osyraa, leader of the Emerald Chain crime syndicate. Burnham will be faced with the task of bringing other worlds into the fold of the Federation, but she’ll also be confronted by "meeting the criteria and standards of what it means to be a member of the Federation but also not to rob other cultures of their identity."

Knowing that the villain is a non-living entity still leaves a lot of options for season 4’s antagonist. However, based on Kurtzman’s comments, it doesn’t seem like he means something like a robot (Star Trek: Discovery has already had AI antagonists), but rather a concept. Since Burnham will be reuniting the Federation, perhaps the "Big Bad" has to do with prejudices that are keeping these future cultures divided.

The season’s true villain being an allegory for racism (or something along those lines) would certainly be timely, with issues of race being very culturally prevalent at the moment. Star Trek’s diverse cast and utopian vision of the future has always been a response to our present-day reality, so tackling such a broad and thorny concept would be in keeping with the show’s history. Regardless of season 4’s true villain, it certainly seems like Star Trek: Discovery is moving in intriguing directions.
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