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Recap: Star Trek: Discovery - "Kobayashi Maru"

In the season premiere, Burnham's captaincy is tested

Star Trek: Discovery

Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery season four, episode one to follow!

Welcome to Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth season! Set roughly five months after “That Hope Is You, Part 2,” a sizable amount of time has passed since our last check-in with the U.S.S. Discovery-A’s crew. Following Osyraa’s defeat and the Emerald Chain’s collapse in the third season finale, the Federation has been experiencing a resurgence and using its newfound dilithium supply to reconnect with both member and non-member planets.

Captain Michael Burnham (wearing a fancy new captains’ jacket, just as Jean-Luc Picard did in “Darmok”) and Cleveland “Book” Booker undertake one such mission, attempting to smooth relations with the Alshain, a species that exists in harmony with butterfly-like creatures and remains suspicious about the Federation’s intentions. After a misunderstanding over Queen Grudge’s status as a pet or prisoner, the Alshain take to the sky and pursue Burnham and Book in an exciting chase.

The captain and her crew salvage the situation by noticing the Alshain’s erratic paths, deducing that the satellites which orbit the planet actually help guide the natives in flight. With a quick fix from Discovery’s DOTs and a gift of dilithium, Burnham averts disaster and impresses the local emperor.

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Meanwhile, on Kaminar, the Kelpiens and Ba’ul discuss the potential for returning to the stars, with Su’Kal, the individual who accidentally caused The Burn, and Captain Saru, temporarily on leave from Starfleet, arguing in favor of exploration. Back at Federation HQ, where Starfleet Academy is reopening, Burnham expresses doubts about Federation President Rillak’s political ambitions. With its HQ no longer cloaked, the Federation has increased its membership from 38 planets to 59 and is planning to upgrade and expand its fleet using Archer Spacedock, a reveal which appropriately included a piece of musical fanfare fromStar Trek: Enterprise.

During the ceremony, Admiral Vance receives a distress call from Commander Nalas at Deep Space Repair Beta 6 and sends Discovery to assist. The crew finds the station spinning out of control from a collision with a gravitational distortion. Nalas is a Akoszonam, a species originally seen in the Short Trek “Children of Mars” and first identified by name here, who gruffly welcomes Lieutenant Sylvia Tilly and Ensign Adira Tal aboard to aid with repairs.

Unfortunately, an unexpected debris cloud rains down upon Discovery and the station, forcing an evacuation. With the station’s only escape vessel inaccessible, Burnham (in what her brother Spock would describe as her typical behavior) takes it upon herself to fly a worker bee to free the pod.

On nearby Kwejian, previously seen in “The Sanctuary,” Book and his brother, Kyheem, share a special ceremony with Booker’s nephew Leto, but the touching scene is soon interrupted by a mysterious noise that Book departs to investigate. In Kaminar’s council chambers, Su’Kal implores Saru to return to Starfleet, believing that the elder Kelpien has more than fulfilled his promise to ensure Su’Kal reacclimated into his planet’s society.

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Back on Discovery, the first group of evacuees arrives, with only Nalas, Tilly, and Adira left on the station. With shields failing, Burnham wants to risk the ship to buy the trio enough time to escape, yet President Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) insists the situation is a no-win scenario and that Discovery must retreat. Burnham resists, opting to wait until the pod returns, but a piece of debris strikes the shuttle bay as soon as the starship jumps away, killing Nalas and two others.

Cruising through Kwejian’s sky on his starship, Book encounters a flock of dead birds plummeting from above. Exiting the atmosphere, Book braces for impact as a shockwave decimates a nearby planetoid and heads straight for his vessel.

In Burnham’s ready room, Rillak references Starfleet’s infamous Kobayashi Maru test, a training exercise that Cadet James T. Kirk found a “creative solution” for in the Prime and Kelvin universes. The captain and president debate the merits of accepting loss, as Rillak discloses that she accompanied Discovery to assess Burnham’s abilities. With a next generation spore drive and new propulsion system, called a pathway drive, proceeding toward the testing phase on the U.S.S. Voyager-J, Rillak needs a leader to oversee their development.

Rillak believes that, despite the captain’s experience, she would not be suited to take command of those projects, but the chat is interrupted by a notification that Book’s ship has arrived via auto-pilot. In a frenzy, Book asks Lt. Commander Owosekun to use the deep space array to scan for Kwejian. Theorizing that the same gravitational wave had somehow struck the planet, the crew is shocked to learn that Kwejian is not at its proper coordinates, but rather hundreds of thousands of kilometers away. A fiery, broken orb appears on the viewscreen. Kwejian, a beautiful sanctuary of life, has been completely destroyed.

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The stunning conclusion punctuates an episode full of progress, as we learned about the Federation’s outreach to other worlds, its drive to rebuild its membership, and its desire to resume Starfleet’s mission of exploration. Brief visits to Kaminar and Kwejian were a visual treat, though the latter’s final appearance ultimately became bittersweet. Admiral Vance (Oded Fehr) has been reunited with his family, who he had previously mentioned in season three, the majority of Discovery’s officers have received promotions, and we even meet the ship’s backup communications officer, Lieutenant Christopher (Orville Cummings). However, the threat posed by the gravitational anomaly overshadows all of these developments, leaving us to wonder whether or not the Federation can counter this unimaginably devastating phenomenon. Stay tuned as we continue to boldly go…

Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer and consultant who has contributed articles to, Star Trek Explorer, and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and Jay serves as a BoldlyGo Campaign Ambassador for The Roddenberry Foundation. Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.

Star Trek: Discovery currently streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. Internationally, the series is available on Paramount+ in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics, and on Pluto TV in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom on the Pluto TV Sci-Fi channel. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Discovery is distributed by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.