Even some of the most passionate fans of Star Trek: Discovery might come up short if asked what rank members of the USS Discovery's crew are besides Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Going into Star Trek: Discovery season 5, the series is moving away from the dire galactic threats that the prior seasons revolved around. Instead, Captain Burnham and the Discovery's crew are on a treasure hunt for the galaxy's "greatest prize." Meanwhile, Burnham is now surrounded by a highly-ranked crew aboard the Discovery.

Many fans may be surprised to learn that nearly all of Captain Burnham's crew were promoted by the start of Star Trek: Discovery season 4. Discovery season 3's ending was the culmination of Burnham's roller-coaster journey to become Captain of the Discovery. However, in between seasons, Michael's bridge crew all leveled up. Unless the audience was paying close attention, it was easy to miss that helmsman Kayla Detmer (Emily Coutts) and operations officer JoAnn Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo) became Lieutenant Commanders. Meanwhile, Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) in Engineering became a full Commander. But all of this happened without the pomp and circumstance afforded to Captain Burnham. As a result, Discovery now feels like the bridge of Captain Kirk's (William Shatner) Enterprise in the Star Trek movies where nearly everyone was at least a Commander.

Why Discovery Downplays The Ranks Of The Crew

Although Star Trek: Discovery features a talented ensemble cast, there's no question that the series revolves around Michael Burnham. Even more than the Captains of other Star Trek shows, Burnham is the singular focus of Star Trek: Discovery who drives the action and the main story of each season. The rest of Star Trek: Discovery's cast plays support for Michael, even Saru (Doug Jones), who is also a Captain and preceded Burnham as Captain of the Discovery. But because Michael is undisputedly Discovery's star and center, everyone else is largely downplayed to keep the dramatic spotlight on Captain Burnham. Star Trek: Discovery doesn't carve out as much time for the rest of the cast, comparatively, and details like their promotions suffer as a result.

Structurally, Star Trek: Discovery was never like Star Trek: The Next Generation or Star Trek: Voyager, even though it's also based on a starship. Discovery is serialized and far more dramatic and operatic than other Star Trek series. Discovery is a very different type of Star Trek show that is inspired by and shares its DNA with J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies more than the 1990s series. The whirlwind Starfleet career of Michael Burnham is akin to how James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) became Captain of the Enterprise in Star Trek 2009, except it played out over multiple seasons instead of two breakneck hours.

Rank Is More Important In Other Star Trek Shows

Shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation are far more methodical than Star Trek: Discovery and promotions are presented as significant events in the lives of the crew. Perhaps the most memorable promotion was in Star Trek Generations when the senior staff of the USS Enterprise-D converged on the holodeck in full 19th-century British naval regalia in order to promote Worf (Michael Dorn) to Lt. Commander. Promotions also became the goal of a character, such as when Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) to an exam to become a Commander in TNG season 7.

But even without the comedic theatrics afforded to Worf's promotion, the times when Commander Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) was finally promoted to Captain or Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor) jumped from Major to Colonel on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were given their just due. Star Trek: Discovery's mass promotion of most of their cast, who many fans complain need more screen time overall, felt too expedient. Further, it's questionable that the USS Discovery's bridge crew would remain at their posts given their high rank instead of moving to other ships. This includes Captain Saru, who inexplicably remains aboard the Discovery. But overall, rank simply matters less compared to Star Trek: Discovery's action-packed drama centered on Captain Michael Burnham.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 is expected to premiere in 2023 on Paramount+.