Sam, Lionel, Troy and their friends at Winchester University are preparing to say goodbye, as Netflix’s Dear White People is set to drop its fourth and final season next week. The first three seasons were filled with sharp humor, biting social commentary and genuine heart, and Season 4 (or Vol. 4) appears set to carry on that grand tradition. However, the show will be changing up things by injecting a musical vibe into this last stretch of episodes. Some may be quick to assume music-based shows were the main inspirations for the new episodes but, as it turns out, the creatives actually drew from Star Trek: The Next Generation and another unexpected TV classic.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dear White People showrunners Justin Simien (who is also the show’s creator) and Jaclyn Moore about the upcoming season. And based on our conversation, it’s apparent that the creative duo put a lot of thought in care into how they wanted to wrap up the show. During our chat, I couldn’t help but ask Simien, major TV fan, about his personal influences for Vol. 4, and I was pleasantly surprised when he mentioned Star Trek: The Next Generation. On the surface, the two shows may not seem to have a lot in common, but there’s certainly a connection:
Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part series finale, “All Good Things...”, sees Captain Jean-Luc Picard jumping through different points in time. It serves as a fitting sendoff for the beloved show but, as Justin Simien mentions, it also manages to reframe the series in a fresh way.
Those who have seen the full trailer for Dear White People Vol. 4 likely know that part of the season takes place in the future and sees the characters navigating life post-Winchester. With this, TNG was quite invaluable for Simien and his colleagues and, as he further explained, the approach meshed with their musical ambitions:
As previously mentioned, the folks behind Dear White People are TV watchers, so Star Trek was not their only guiding light. Jaclyn Moore went on to confirm that a fan-favorite HBO series also had an impact on the final season:
Years ago, the critically acclaimed Six Feet Under also used flashforwards during its final season. Writers tend to employ these in order to give viewers a better sense of the present-day narrative’s impact down the line. And if you’ve seen the show, you’ll know they were used to great effect there.
It’s bittersweet knowing that this will be the last time fans will get to check in with the students of Winchester. However, Dear White People’s imminent conclusion is easier to fathom knowing that Justin Simien, Jaclyn Moore and their team have something special planned.
Dear White People Vol. 4 premieres on Netflix (opens in new tab) on September 15.
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