In just a few months Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 will take the setting of the Trek universe further into the future than ever before. Though the crew of the USS Discovery originates in the 23rd century (2257 to be exact), thanks to a very intentional wormhole journey, their new home will be the year 3187. As a result, everything about Discovery Season 3 will be new, exciting, and best of all, a fresh start for Trek in general.
But what comes after that? Will Discovery actually stay in the 32nd century perpetually? Recently, the man in charge of most of the Star Trek Universe (executive producer Alex Kurtzman) confirmed that Season 4 of Discovery will follow Season 3. So, at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, will Season 4 take place in the 32nd century, too? Here's the case for why it might not.
Spoilers ahead for Discovery Season 2. Speculation ahead for Seasons 3 and 4.
Well before Discovery Season 1 hit the airwaves, the first showrunner of the series — Bryan Fuller — revealed that his original plan for bringing Star Trek back to TV would have involved an American Horror Story anthology-style approach to the whole franchise. “The original pitch was to do for science-fiction what American Horror Story had done for horror," Fuller said in 2017. "It would platform a universe of Star Trek shows."
Though Fuller gave up show-running duties of Discovery in 2016, citing scheduling conflicts with his work on American Gods, in some ways, his vision for a platform that would create more Star Trek shows has happened. In the same new interview where he confirmed Discovery Season 4, Kurtzman mentioned that scripts on four different new seasons of Star Trek series are all being written: "We’ve been running all of our writers’ rooms on Zoom. The silver lining is that we’ve been actually been able to get quite ahead [on] scripts for upcoming seasons of Discovery and Picard and Strange New Worlds — which is going to be shooting next year — and Section 31."
Okay, so Discovery Season 4 is happening, and will probably shoot around the same time as Picard Season 2, or Season 1 of Strange New Worlds, or Section 31. Let's not worry about Picard and Strange New Worlds for a second, and just think about the Section 31 series. This show, which was announced back in 2018, is going to focus on Michelle Yeoh's Philipa Georgiou character from Star Trek: Discovery. In Season 2 of Discovery, Georgiou was part of the Prime Universe's version of Section 31, even though she herself is from the Mirror Universe. By the end of Discovery Season 2, Georgiou jumped into the future with the rest of the crew, and we know for a fact that she'll be in Season 3. But what about after that?
Section 31 might hold a clue to Discovery's future beyond Season 3
If Georgiou is destined to star in a Section 31 series after Discovery Season 3 (and we've been told that's the case) then it stands to reason that she'll part ways with the crew in some way, shape or form by the end of Season 3. If the Section 31 show is about a new version of Section 31 that exists in the 32nd century, then this will all be fairly simple. But, for some reason, it feels unlikely that the Section 31 series will take place in the far future setting of the 32nd century. For one thing, Section 31 has always been part of Starfleet, and if Starfleet doesn't really exist in Discovery Season 3, then it seems like Section 31 might not either.
So there are only two ways for Michelle Yeoh's Section 31 to happen post-Discovery Season 3. Either she jumps out of this century and into another time period (or dimension) or, the entire ship jumps with her.
We've all forgotten about the Spore Drive
The USS Discovery is unique mostly because it has a type of propulsion system no other Star Trek ship has: the zany Spore Drive, which enables the ship to cross vast distances in the blink of an eye, but also, in Season 1, crossover into parallel dimensions. Throughout Season 2, we learned the Spore Drive was actually hurting aliens who live in the mycelial network. So Stamets and the rest of the crew decided to put a hold on using that tech.
That said, Spore Drive and access to the mycelial network is totally responsible for bringing Dr. Culber back to life. So the idea that everyone will forget about it seems unlikely. Further, although Spock helped make the Spore Drive classified in the Discovery 2 finale, that is now 930 years in the past for the crew of the Discovery. Using the Spore Drive in the 32nd century might not be as damaging, or carry the same risks as it did in the 23rd.
Why Discovery season 4 could jump to a new location
When you consider the fact that the ship still has the Spore Drive and that Georgiou might need to get to another setting to have her Section 31 series, suddenly it feels super-likely that Discovery's new status quo might not be a status quo at all. We know that at some point, the ship's computer will evolve into the super-intelligent Zora, who we met in the 2018 Short Treks episode "Calypso." But beyond that, a lot can happen with this ship and crew. Also, who's to say that "Calypso" even took place in "our" universe? Discovery jumped to one parallel universe in Season 1. There's nothing preventing them from doing it again.
Fuller's vision for Discovery turning into a kind of anthology series might end up happening. Season 3 could be the 32nd century. But Season 4 could be another time period, or another dimension altogether. They've got the technology and the motivation to leave the 32nd century after Season 3. So the most unlikely thing that could happen is that they decide to stay.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 warps to CBS All Access on October 15, 2020.