Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth season ended this week, and it didn’t conclude with some wild cliffhanger or crazy reveal to set up the next season. Instead, it ended an hour of feel-good, fuzzy-logic theming on the power of love and unity with a message to the world, literally and metaphorically, that the work to be done is ongoing. But that message in part came from a surprising figure that… is put into some strange context.
The final scene of “Coming Home” sees Captain Burnham join other delegates of the Federation and its president, Rillak, as they welcome the unnamed president of United Earth to diplomatic negotiations. Earth had spent much of the finale under threat from the gravitational fallout of the mysterious Dark Matter Anomaly, or DMA, which had emerged nearby and immediately started catapulting waves of debris and destruction at the planet and the united homeworld of the Vulcans and Romulans, Ni’Var. Without the timely arrival of Federation HQ and Starfleet, lead by Admiral Vance and Lieutenant Tilly, both planets faced imminent devastation — and even with the unified force of a Starfleet re-emboldened by the events of this season and the last, things looked pretty dire for the planet, with no chance of many of the civilians on its surface being evacuated in time.
Luckily, the day was saved — thanks to a little bit of that powerful love and unity that has been so important to Discovery this season — and thus, we got an extended epilogue that saw the show’s characters celebrate their win and embrace that togetherness, well, together. We learned that United Earth has re-opened formal diplomatic channels in a major way with the Federation, with Madame President on her way to basically tell the Federation that no harm, no foul, they want to rejoin the utopian alliance as thanks for its aid and support during the crisis. But, as we, Michael, and Rillak see, when Madame President’s shuttle door opens, the President of United Earth is an awfully familiar face. And not because she’s a famous Star Trek star or anything…
But because she’s Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat, lawyer, and voting rights activist who has shot to political stardom in recent years across multiple campaigns to become the state’s governor, and whose work in increasing voter turnout and fighting against vote suppression is largely credited in handing President Biden a narrow win in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election. Abrams also happens to be a diehard Star Trek fan — and, like all people with great taste, is a friend of Kathryn Janeway — who has previously sat down with members of the Star Trek cast to help promote voting rights causes during the 2020/2021 U.S. Senate and special election races in Georgia.
So on the one hand, it’s a very lovely moment. Abrams gets to be the literal President of Earth, and manages to also get to be the President of said Earth that gets to see the planet re-join the Federation (“I can’t believe I get to say that,” is one of her asides to Rillak, which feels as much like Abrams talking as the President). She has an utterly fabulous aesthetic, from tied-back braided hair to an absolutely fantastic Star Trek-y take on business wear, complete with an integrated cape. And she gets to talk to Michael about the hope they both now share for the future, and how Star Trek’s future is earned not with idle resting on laurels, but constant, good work. Abrams as a representative of the sorts of ideals that Star Trek aims to show a logical conclusion of in a united intergalactic society is a move that makes sense. And, of course, Star Trek has had a long history of having “celebrity” cameos, from the Rock and Iggy Pop, to Stephen Hawking and Abdullah II bin al-Hussein, the King of Jordan.
That’s one hand. The other… is that, like a lot of things about “Coming Home,” it’s a sweet moment that stops making a lick a sense if you think about the context for more than a few seconds. You might have been surprised to learn that Abrams’ president is in talks to have Earth rejoin the Federation. In the context of Discovery’s 31st century, in the wake of an event called “The Burn” before the series’ third season last year, much of Warp travel was rendered impossible, cutting off swaths of intergalactic society from each other — and crumbling the relationships that kept the United Federation of Planets, well, united. We learned early in Discovery’s third season that Earth itself was one such planet to secede from the Federation, drawing inwards and quickly transforming into a harshly isolationist, self-preserving, and militarised society known as United Earth.
Although, thanks to Discovery itself, relationships begin softening between Earth and the Federation over the course of season three and four, we’re reminded constantly that this is not the Earth we once knew as the heart of Federation society — they don’t fully trust the Federation, and through the lens of United Earth Defence Force officer General Ndoye (recurring guest star Phumzile Sitole), we see that even with that softening Earth’s political stances are still largely aggressive, conflict-driven, and reliant on displays of military prowess rather than diplomacy. So… yeah, that’s the Earth that Star Trek made Stacey Abrams president of. Maybe she’s a new president-elect and ran on a platform for Federation unification and stood against those isolationist policies? We’re left to wonder about that, but, still. It’s very weird. But it’s sweet! But also weird.
Like I said in my recap of the finale, there’s some level of allowance this season with Discovery to let it indulge in its feel-good messaging, even if said feel-good vibes don’t really make much sense if you dwell on the logic that it took to get there. This cameo, as big a surprise at it was, is just another example of asking you to go with those vibes into a happier tomorrow. And hey: at least it’s better than that time the show namechecked Elon Musk like he was a good guy.