Star Trek: Discovery has reintroduced Starfleet Academy, and the class of 3189 can wipe out the idea of corrupt elite cadets that plagued TNG and DS9.
Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 4 – “Anything is possible”.
The new Starfleet Academy in Star Trek: Discovery season 4 fixes a major franchise problem that has existed for 29 years since Star Trek: The Next Generation season 5. Along with the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet Academy was forced off Earth when the Earthlings’ homeworld became isolated from the rest of the galaxy after The Burn. After the USS Discovery solved the mystery of the burn and restored warp travel to the Federation, the Academy was reestablished, but Starfleet Academy is now based in Federation headquarters instead of San Francisco.
Starfleet Academy is an institution revered by most Star Trek characters enrolled there, but Star Trek: The Next Generation showed the darker side of the school, which cultivated elite cadets who thought they were above Starfleet values. the GNT The Season 5 episode, “The First Duty,” introduced Nova Squadron, an elite group of cadets whose reckless spaceflight stunt resulted in the accidental death of one of their classmates. Nova Squadron, which included Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), tried to cover up the accident until Wesley confessed and admitted his part in the plot. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine then introduced Red Squad, another elite cadet corps that Nog (Aron Eisenberg) barely survived when he joined. Not only did Red Squad participate in an attempted military takeover of Earth by Starfleet, but they later commandeered the USS Valiant and fought in the Dominion War without Starfleet’s knowledge. Red Squad was so full of their superiority as Starfleet cadets that they got killed fighting the Dominion.
With the new 32nd century Starfleet Academy, Star Trek: Discovery finally changes a decades-old problem and completely eliminates the concept of elite cadets. In Star Trek: Discovery season 4, the Starfleet Academy reboot introduced a smaller class of 3,189, which consists of just under two dozen students. When Lieutenant Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) agreed to lead a training exercise with a handful of cadets in Star Trek: Discovery season 4, episode 4, “Anything Is Possible”, she learned that although Starfleet Academy now consists of the best and brightest of their respective worlds, they had no experience dealing with other species aliens due to their previous life of isolationism through the Burn. But it’s also an advantage because, in the new Starfleet Academy, everyone starts on an equal footing without the elitism that tainted the Academy in GNT and DS9.
Starfleet Academy in the 24th century seemed to encourage arrogance and elitism among its students. After Nova Squadron, Starfleet Academy should have shut down some cadets with special privileges and elite status. Instead, he created Red Squad a few years later, and these Starfleet cadets were easily manipulated into supporting a coup that could have placed Earth under Starfleet military control. Worse still, Red Squad was given their own starship, the USS Valiant, and they fought their own version of the Dominion War until their hubris ended their entire lives. It’s unclear if Starfleet Academy learned from the Red Squad debacle and ended “elite cadets,” but Star Trek: Discovery season 4 can certainly prevent mistakes like Red Squad from reforming in the 32nd century.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4’s Starfleet Academy appears to be a more optimistic concept of the school, though the class of 3189 and the cadets who follow them face an incredibly hostile galaxy full of new challenges and dangers. However, Starfleet Academy Class 3189 now enjoys Lieutenant Sylvia Tilly as one of its instructors. Because Tilly grew up a thousand years in the past, she can convey her vision of Star Trek: Discovery23rd century Starfleet, where space is the last frontier where anything is possible. Tilly also disapproves of elitism, and her egalitarian view of Starfleet would be invaluable to cadets seeing everyone as equal to themselves. With Tilly as an example, Starfleet Academy can ensure that corrupt groups like Nova Squadron and Red Squad belong to the distant past of Star Trek: Discovery season 4.
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Star Trek: Discovery airs Thursdays on Paramount+.
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