Star Trek: Discovery changed its setting from the 23rd century to the 32nd, which gave the franchise a new future and enabled Strange New Worlds.
The most important decision Star Trek: Discovery made – jumping to the 32nd century – saved Star Trek‘s future twice. Originally a prequel set in the mid-23rd century, Star Trek: Discovery‘s daring retrofitting of the franchise wasn’t met with the fan enthusiasm that was hoped for. Discovery didn’t look or feel like the TV Star Trek that came before it, and the serialized action-adventure series was centered on a singular heroine, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), instead of a Captain and his crew exploring strange new worlds.
Star Trek: Discovery‘s bold attempts at innovation, such as the USS Discovery’s displacement-activated spore hub drive, was problematic because of the show’s 23rd-century setting. Disco was such an outlier, it couldn’t be reconciled with the established canon of Star Trek: The Original Series, which was set a decade later. The show’s solution was novel as the series permanently time-traveled 930 years into the future at the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 2. However, another masterstroke was introducing Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), and the crew of the USS Enterprise, who were so popular, the audience demanded – and received – a spinoff, which became Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
How Discovery In The 32nd Century Saved Star Trek
Star Trek: Discovery jumping to almost a thousand years into the future freed the series from the constraints of canon. In the 32nd century, the USS Discovery was now antiquated, but the 23rd-century ideals of Starfleet were sorely needed in a 32nd-century United Federation of Planets broken by The Burn. In addition, Discovery’s spore drive was suddenly vital technology that fit in more easily in the distant future. With Michael Burnham now Captain, Discovery crucially changed from a franchise disruptor to the series charting a brand-new future for Star Trek while every other series and movie besides Star Trek: Picard are still mining the well-trodden 23rd and 24th centuries.
The boon no one could have anticipated following Star Trek: Discovery‘s time jump was Strange New Worlds. Captain Pike’s episodic TV series successfully recaptured the vibrant optimism of Star Trek in the 23rd century (as opposed to Discovery‘s dire cataclysms), and the fanbase not only responded with joy, but a new audience also opened their eyes and hearts to Strange New Worlds. Discovery had to exit for Strange New Worlds to happen, as both series running concurrently wouldn’t have worked, but the Star Trek franchise is now far stronger with both shows on opposite ends of the timeline.
Moving To The Future Also Showed Where Discovery Went Wrong
There’s no question Star Trek: Discovery works better in the 32nd century. Disco‘s stunning visuals and riveting action lend themselves better to a new era it can trailblaze that’s also far removed from the Star Trek of the past. Discovery really never should have been set in the 23rd century to begin with. Disco was always going to upend canon in order to push the boundaries of Star Trek, often in directions the established fandom isn’t comfortable with. But in the far future, Star Trek: Discovery‘s bold swings and risks work better. Best of all, nothing Discovery does in the 32nd century will retroactively affect anything else in Star Trek.
Meanwhile, Strange New Worlds learned the key lessons from Discovery’s early mistakes. In turn, Strange New Worlds has won over the audience in spite of its own deviations from canon because Captain Pike’s show stays so true to the look, feel, and core ideals of Star Trek. Fans overall seem to prefer Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and trust it to embody the essence of Star Trek, but this also benefits Star Trek: Discovery by giving it the freedom to keep pushing the envelope in the distant future.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 will premiere in 2023 on Paramount+.