Star Trek: Discovery season 4 will center on a new threat to the galaxy but it may actually be a familiar enemy for longtime Trekkers: V’Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Picking up from where season 3 left off, Star Trek: Discovery season 4 sees Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) in command of the USS Discovery-A but the what’s known about the destructive force Starfleet will battle in the 32nd century echoes the menace Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the Starship Enterprise faced a thousand years prior.
1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture reunited the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series 10 years after the show was canceled. However, the story of the film takes place only a few years after Captain Kirk and the Enterprise completed their historic five-year mission. Admiral Kirk takes command of a refitted Enterprise, displacing its new Captain, Will Decker (Stephen Collins), because an “alien object of unbelievable destructive power” was headed toward Earth. The entity was V’Ger, a massive energy cloud that destroyed Klingon cruisers and Federation starbases on its mission to meet its “Creator”. When the Enterprise intercepted V’Ger, the entity scanned the starship and killed Lieutenant Ilia (Persis Khambatta), replacing her with an identical, mechanical duplicate so V’Ger could communicate with the humans.
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After Spock (Leonard Nimoy) mind-melded with V’Ger and the Starfleet heroes entered the heart of the gigantic vessel within the space cloud, they learned V’Ger was really Voyager 6, an Earth space probe that fell into a black hole and was rebuilt by a world of sentient machines. Unable to evolve past pure machine logic, V’Ger returned home to Earth to find its Creator – human beings. Commander Decker volunteered to merge with V’Ger through Ilia, which caused the entity to complete its evolution into a new lifeform. V’Ger vanished and Earth was saved.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture isn’t held among the best or most beloved Star Trek movies by Trekkers, but it remains influential in the franchise. The love story of Will Decker and Ilia was reworked in Star Trek: The Next Generation as Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) had the same romantic backstory. Star Trek: The Motion Picture also changed the look of the Klingons to its popular boney-forehead, wild-haired, armored incarnation, introduced the first of many changes in Starfleet’s uniforms, and James Horner’s opening titles score became the theme music of TNG. Star Trek: Lower Decks season 1 brilliantly parodied the reveal of the redesigned USS Enterprise in its episode titled “Crisis Point”. But Star Trek: Discovery season 3 also homaged Star Trek: The Motion Picture and season 4 could even become a sequel of sorts to the original Trek movie.
What Happened To V’Ger In Star Trek: The Motion Picture
V’Ger achieved the evolution it sought in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After Kirk, Spock, Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForrest Kelley), Decker, and the Ilia replicant traveled to the heart of V’Ger’s machine vessel and realized that the sentient entity was originally Voyager 6, Decker chose to sacrifice himself so that V’Ger could add the humanity to its accumulated experiences that it sought. Still mourning the death of Ilia but also feeling the bond with her doppelganger, Decker merged with V’Ger through Ilia and ascended into a higher form. Satisfied with finding the answers it needed, V’Ger entered a new level of existence and vanished.
It was never explained exactly what happened to V’Ger and Star Trek: The Motion Picture was its only appearance in canon. It’s presumed Decker’s mortal form died and his consciousness became part of V’Ger’s machine mind in whatever evolved state it achieved. However, the Star Trek series on Paramount+ are making copious use of time travel. The USS Discovery made a one-way trip to the 32nd century where Captain Burnham and her crew learned the United Federation of Planets fought the Temporal Wars in the 31st century and throughout history. Star Trek: Picard season 2 is also directly dealing with time travel. It’s possible that V’Ger could be resurrected and repurposed to be the new enemy Captain Burnham faces in Star Trek: Discovery season 4 because it actually time-traveled 1,000 years into the future.
What We Know About Star Trek: Discovery Season 4’s New Threat
Star Trek: Discovery’s season 4 teaser dropped precious few clues about the new enemy but what we do know is both compelling and frightening. With the Federation just beginning to rebuild after the USS Discovery-A found a new source of dilithium to provide the galaxy with warp travel again, the Alpha Quadrant is now under attack by a gravitational anomaly that’s five lightyears across. It has the power to completely render 32nd-century starships powerless despite their advanced technology. It’s also apparently not headed towards Earth, which is now an isolationist planet in Star Trek’s far future. Instead, “It could be headed anywhere,” according to Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman).
The producers of Star Trek: Discovery made an interesting choice by deciding that a cosmic threat would challenge Captain Burnham and her crew instead of another villain like Osyraa (Janet Kidder), the leader of the Emerald Chain in season 3. But, this being Star Trek, there has to be much more to the gravitational anomaly, and the answers could lie in V’Ger, which behaved in the same destructive way as the energy field in Discovery season 4. The gravitational anomaly could turn out to be V’Ger, which has evolved but now finds itself in a completely different time than its own. V’Ger’s new state of being could explain why the anomaly is lashing out at the galaxy, confused, and why it’s not going to Earth since V’Ger already met its Creator. And while Persis Khambatta passed away years ago, Ilia could be recast and Stephen Collins could also return to play Will Decker, with a possible melding of archival footage and special effects.
Why Discovery Season 4 Could Be A Sequel To Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 already contained a visual homage to Star Trek: The Motion Picture with its grey Starfleet uniforms, which evoked the monochromatic outfits the crew of the Enterprise wore in the 2270s. Captain Burnham and the crew of the Discovery switched their blue 23rd-century Starfleet uniforms for the grey attire at the end of season 3, but Star Trek: Discovery season 4 will change uniforms again to reflect the TOS and TNG-style primary colors.
More significantly, since jumping to the 32nd century, the scope of Star Trek: Discovery has gotten even bigger. The crew of the Discovery was already playing with galactic stakes with season 1’s Klingon War and season 2’s battle against the nihilistic rogue A.I. called Control, but Star Trek: Discovery season 3’s dilemma was no less than Michael Burnham trying to solve the biggest riddle of the universe – what caused The Burn? – and the solution that it was a Kelpien trapped in a nebula hit some profound notes.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture eschewed space battles for mind-bending sci-fi themes. Introducing a similar threat to V’Ger in Star Trek: Discovery season 4 could signal the series mixing its blistering action with the kind of head trip that makes the original Star Trek movie unique within the franchise, especially if that enemy is revealed to be V’Ger itself. This would force Captain Michael Burnham to solve a problem that goes all the way back to one Captain Kirk faced, thematically trying classic Star Trek together with the new.
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