Why Star Trek: Discovery Chose That Classic Next Gen Storyline To Explore In Its Final Season

Shields up! This article contains major spoilers for the season 5 premiere of "Star Trek: Discovery."

Who knew that "Star Trek: Discovery" would be saving its biggest reveal for last? After being responsible for kickstarting the new era of "Trek" on streaming, the fifth and final season is signaling the beginning of the end for the flagship series. But as fans would expect, the opening episode proves the writing team has no intentions of taking its final bow without crafting one last adventure worthy of Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Mr. Saru (Doug Jones), and the rest of the Discovery crew. (For more on that, you can check out /News's "Discovery" season 5 premiere review by Jacob Hall here.) So perhaps it was inevitable that the biggest twist of the young season would have its roots in one of the most game-changing hours of "Trek" lore ever.

Trekkies will no doubt remember the classic "Next Generation" episode "The Chase," which first introduced the extinct race known as the Progenitors. Responsible for seeding humanoid life throughout the galaxy, these ancient beings were meant as an in-universe explanation for why almost every alien race encountered by Starfleet looked mostly like, well, ourselves ... give or take a few random ridges on foreheads and such. This also had the side effect of linking even the biggest enemies — humans, Romulans, Cardassians, and even Klingons alike — on a foundational genetic level.

"The Next Generation" mostly breezes past this revelation and reverts to business as usual in later episodes, despite the startling implications, so leave it to "Discovery" to pick up this major dangling thread and weave it into the fabric of this new season. At the season 5 world premiere, producer Michelle Paradise addressed why the show's creatives went back to this storyline in particular.

'Huge ideas and huge themes'

How do you raise the stakes even higher than the time-traveling shenanigans of "Discovery" season 2, the mysterious dilithium "Burn" of season 3 that caused the breakdown of Starfleet, and the impossibly advanced species of extraterrestrials that put the entire galaxy at risk in season 4? Well, going all the way back to the origin of life as we know it is definitely one way to get the job done and end things with a bang.

It took until the closing moments of the season 5 premiere for the full picture (or part of it, at least) to round into shape, but what a twist it is! As it turns out, the pair of scavengers who absconded with an item of top priority to Starfleet couldn't have possibly picked a more important piece of "Trek" lore: the leftover Progenitor tech that helped them create humanoid life in the first place. So why tie things back to that underrated "The Next Generation" episode, of all things? At the SXSW premiere of "Discovery," producer Michelle Paradise had this to say:

"'The Chase' is an episode that had stuck with many of us because it addresses such huge ideas and huge themes. Where do we come from, the creation of life. And then it was this one episode, and then that was it [...] And it just left us with many, many questions."

That's putting it mildly. Even for a sci-fi franchise like "Star Trek," those are some incredibly heady ideas to attempt to tackle. It's one thing for a random episode in the early 1990s to suddenly establish such a massive change to canon. It's quite another for "Discovery" to double down. According to Paradise, however, this was done with character and theme in mind.

Tackling the big questions

Arguably more than any other ongoing series, "Discovery" has always worn its heart on its sleeve. That doesn't appear to be changing in season 5, but it's only fitting that the final adventure for this cast digs deeper into the psyches of the characters than it ever has before. The biggest question on the minds of the creative team, as it turns out, revolved around ideas of meaning and purpose for Burnham, Saru, and all the rest. According to Michelle Paradise, those are existential topics that translate naturally from the events of "The Chase," set hundreds and hundreds of years before the future timeline of this current season of "Discovery." She went on to say:

"And so when we were thinking about this season in particular and what we were going to be doing thematically and our characters looking at questions of meaning, questions of purpose. It felt like that was a really great place to go back to as a launching point for this adventure and that it was going to have that resonance."

For a crew that's been stranded in the future and cut off from everyone they used to know, these are poignant issues that previous seasons of "Discovery" have sought to explore. After having rebuilt Starfleet to something close to its former glory and putting the officers of the Discovery through the wringer, the rest of season 5 is now primed and ready to push these characters where they have never gone before.

New episodes of "Star Trek: Discovery" season 5 premiere on Paramount+ every Thursday.