Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: Picard Season 1, Lower Decks Season 2, First Contact, and The Next Generation.
While Star Trek: Discovery’s second season was running I wasn’t writing about the show; it wasn’t until November 2019 that I founded this website. Because of that I have a number of theories and ideas kicking around from the first two seasons of Discovery that I haven’t found time to talk about yet! On this occasion we’re going to look into one idea I had during Season 2 that has both in-universe and production-side elements to it – the “Borg origin story.”
I know for a fact that I’m not alone in having speculated that Discovery Season 2 was setting up an origin story for the Borg. Shortly after the season ended a friend of mine from way back was in the area for a visit, and we got talking about precisely this subject – yes, we’re both huge geeks! I’m also well aware that other fans have posited some variant or other of this theory online both during and after the season’s run, so please don’t interpret this article as me claiming to have independently and uniquely come up with this idea!
Here’s the theory in brief: the Control AI, which was the main adversary during the story of Season 2, was originally intended to be the progenitor of the Borg. Its use of nano-technology, its ability to “assimilate” organic beings, and its murderous quest for true sentience that, if left unchecked, would have wiped out all sentient life in the galaxy are all indicators of this. In addition, the inclusion of time travel and the Red Angel suits in the story could have teed up a situation where Control was able to travel backwards through time and far across the galaxy in order to become the originator of the Borg Collective.
Because of Control’s similarities to the Borg in terms of its use of nanites, its single-mindedness, and its lack of care for the survival of organic individuals, this felt like a very real prospect right up until the final moments of the season finale. I really do wonder whether a Borg origin story was included in the original draft of Season 2, perhaps being modified later on once production had already commenced. What we saw on screen would thus contain the residual elements of that story, but with a different ending written – one which sent Burnham and the USS Discovery into the far future.
It’s this decision which I believe would be responsible for changing the story – if indeed such a change were mandated. Discovery had received criticism in Season 1 for its real or perceived “violations” of Star Trek’s internal canon, and it’s this reaction which surely contributed to sending the ship and crew far into the future. It could be that Season 2 was hastily re-written to include the time travel ending, dropping the Borg origin story in the process.
As a narrative concept, the idea that it was the Federation, through out-of-control technological and AI research, who inadvertently created the biggest threat to themselves and to the wider galaxy would be an incredibly impactful one, and something ripe for exploration in detail. The cyclical nature of such a story, with the Federation creating the Borg, then the Borg one day coming for the Federation, could be absolutely phenomenal if done well, and would highlight the morally questionable actions of senior Federation leaders and Starfleet admirals.
It would also be profoundly ironic that the Borg – almost universally acknowledged as the Federation’s biggest adversary – were ultimately a Federation creation. This revelation would have a huge impact on the Federation as a whole – and on our crew of Starfleet heroes when they discovered it – and could form the basis for a new Borg story that would surpass even the likes of The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact in its scope.
Had Discovery gone down this road in Season 2, it may not have fallen to Michael Burnham and the crew to be the ones to learn of the consequences of their battle to defeat Control. Picard Season 1 could have picked up this storyline, with information stored aboard the Artifact (the abandoned Borg Cube) finally revealing the Borg’s origins to the Federation more than a century later. This would have tied the two shows together in a very real and significant way – something I’ve argued on a number of occasions that Star Trek needs to be more adept at doing.
In canon, we don’t know much about the Borg’s early history. The Control AI could have been slotted into the bits and pieces that we do know in a way that didn’t overwrite anything we’ve seen or been told on screen, with every past Borg story being allowed to unfold exactly as we know they did.
In-universe, the Borg originated in the Delta Quadrant “thousands of centuries” before the 24th Century. There was an original Borg race – a race of purely organic beings – but they began using nanotechnology and augmenting themselves, and eventually hooked up every facet of themselves to the Hive Mind. As of the late 15th Century, the Borg had assimilated a number of neighbouring star systems, but weren’t anywhere near as large as they would come to be in the 24th Century. Nothing in the early history of the Borg precludes the involvement of an outside force – the Control AI. It could have been the Control AI’s arrival on the world populated by the Borg’s organic ancestors that led them down a path of assimilation and augmentation.
The Red Angel suits and time crystals present in Season 2 would have provided Control with a method of travelling backwards through time. And as Dr Gabrielle Burnham found to her cost, the Red Angel suits are imperfect and prone to malfunctioning. Based on these pieces of evidence, it would’ve been possible for Control to have seized a Red Angel suit with the intention of travelling either backwards or forwards in time to defeat Captain Pike and Discovery, only for something to go wrong – emerging on the far side of the galaxy millennia in the past.
We are now firmly in the realm of speculation! But had such a scenario come to pass, Control may have found itself alone in the vicinity of a planet populated by humanoids: the Borg’s organic ancestors. Control may have begun the process of assimilating them, injecting its nanotechnology into more and more individuals and bending them to its will.
Control had a forceful personality, but we don’t know what effect mass assimilations of individuals would have had on it. Would it have retained its own personality in the face of potentially thousands or millions of new “drones” – or would its own personality have begun to change, impacted by the personalities and desires of those it assimilated? Perhaps this is where the Borg’s quest for perfection comes from.
This could also explain why the Borg seemed not to recognise humanity or the Federation upon re-encountering them millennia later: Control had simply forgotten its origins, or whatever remained of Control within the Borg Collective was so small and insignificant that the knowledge of its creators had been lost. As the Borg continued to evolve and assimilated more and more beings, perhaps Control’s personality didn’t survive intact.
Alternatively, we could have learned that the Borg did retain all of Control’s memories and knowledge – but simply chose not to make the Federation aware of the connection during their encounters. This could be the Borg’s equivalent of “forbidden knowledge,” something kept secret and known only to the Borg Queen – who may be an embodiment of the evolved Control AI.
It would make sense from the Borg’s point of view not to allow Starfleet to find out about the connection to Control – perhaps out of fear that the Federation could use that information to find a weakness in the Borg’s core synthetic programming. It would only be when Starfleet had access to a derelict but intact Borg vessel – like the Artifact from Picard Season 1 – that they’d be able to hack into the Borg’s systems deeply enough to learn the truth.
So that’s the theory, along with a couple of different ways it could have panned out.
I wouldn’t say I was “100% convinced” that this was going to happen as Season 2 rolled on, but it certainly felt like a distinct possibility. When I later saw the Artifact featured in the trailers for Picard Season 1 I wondered if the reason this story didn’t come to pass was because Picard actually had a Borg origin story of its own in the works!
Had this theory made it to screen I think we could’ve seen one of the most interesting connections between Discovery and the wider Star Trek franchise. Borg stories could be seen through a wholly new lens, and the themes of rogue artificial intelligence that both Discovery and Picard examined in their respective storylines could have been elevated by this “creation wants to destroy its creator” angle. That isn’t something original in science fiction, but it would have been a uniquely “Star Trek” take on the concept.
Whether a Borg origin story was actually present in the original Season 2 pitch or not is something we may never know. However, the team behind Season 2 must have been aware of the similarities between the way Control operated and the way the Borg have always been depicted, and I can’t believe that it was a coincidence. Someone involved in the production of Season 2 must have at least raised the point that the story was going down a very Borg-esque road!
To me it feels like any attempt to tell a story of this nature was superseded by the decision to take Discovery out of the 23rd Century altogether. If there was only room for one time travel ending to the season, the one that was chosen was to send the ship and crew into the far future. Control was left behind in the 23rd Century and seemingly defeated by Captain Pike, so any chance of it having a role in the creation of the Borg now seems to be entirely off the table.
Perhaps all of this was simply misdirection; the writers and producers of the season putting out deliberate red herrings so that fans wouldn’t figure out the ultimate direction of the story! If that’s the case, they definitely got me! Even if that’s what happened, though, as a concept the idea that the Federation accidentally created the Borg is one that could have led to some absolutely fascinating stories. Perhaps we’ll see something like it one day!
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and internationally. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the trailers for Season 4. Minor spoilers may also be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
As many folks had predicted, 2021’s New York Comic-Con saw a brand-new trailer for Star Trek: Discovery’s impending fourth season make its debut! The trailer was certainly jam-packed with action and plenty of teases, and gave us a tantalising glimpse of the “gravitational anomaly” that seems to be at the core of the main storyline. Though there will almost certainly be smaller sub-plots and one-off stories like last season, the trailer mostly focused on Captain Burnham and the crew’s attempts to tackle the unknown anomaly.
First of all, none of the theories that I posited a few months ago about the nature of the gravitational anomaly now seem to be anywhere close to plausible! I had a feeling that this would be the case; that Discovery would once again create something wholly new rather than rely on a phenomenon we’d seen in a past iteration of the franchise.
Captain Burnham was heard in the trailer telling her crew that the anomaly was unlike anything the galaxy had ever seen, and that once they “enter” it, they will be literally going “where no one has gone before.” I appreciated the callback to the line heard over the opening titles of The Original Series and The Next Generation – it’s a line which encapsulates Star Trek’s spirit of exploration with a side of adventure, and to me the use of that phrase represents Discovery staking its claim to be the successor of those exploration-focused shows.
Between what Burnham and Stamets had to say about the newness and unknown nature of the anomaly, we can seemingly rule out any connection to things like the Nexus, a graviton ellipse, and Tyken’s rift – as well as anything else we’ve seen before in Star Trek. That isn’t to say there categorically will not be any connection to other Star Trek stories, but that the anomaly itself will be something altogether new.
As mentioned, we got a couple of glimpses of what seems to be the anomaly itself. The first time we saw it it seemed to resemble a black hole within a black hole within a black hole… a kind of recursive black hole phenomenon. Discovery’s second season showed off a great recreation of a black hole (that was actually a Talosian illusion) and while the anomaly seen at the beginning of the trailer was different, especially in terms of colour, the design is comparable.
The second time we saw the anomaly in the trailer it looked very different, as though a “rip” or “tear” in the fabric of the universe, surrounded by glowing light but appearing as a dark smear. Unlike the black hole-inspired visual effect seen near the beginning of the trailer, this second look at the anomaly didn’t feature the same light-bending effect, nor was anything inside the anomaly visible.
Of the two depictions that seem to be of the anomaly – assuming that they are, in fact, both supposed to represent the phenomenon – the first black hole-esque look is, from purely an aesthetic standpoint, my favourite. It was more memorable and different, and the way the anomaly bent light around it seems more in line with its stated gravitational effects. The “dark smear” was fine – but it wasn’t particularly visually exciting, and could have represented any one of dozens of anomalies seen in past iterations of Star Trek.
There were some short sequences that could be taking place on the other side of the anomaly, depending on how we view things. There seemed to be glimpses of characters fighting with swords, a large explosion, a forest that looked a lot like Su’Kal’s holographic world, and a child in a forest that could all be taking place after the USS Discovery enters the anomaly. We’ve seen parallel universes and different dimensions in Star Trek on a number of occasions, and I wonder if this anomaly could be the gateway to a different dimension once again.
But that’s enough story speculation for now! We won’t know more about the gravitational anomaly until the season kicks off in just over a month’s time, so let’s take a look at some of the other imagery from the trailer to see what else we can discover.
Firstly, it looks as though Ni’Var – the new name for Vulcan since the reunification of Romulans and Vulcans – will indeed rejoin the Federation. A brief scene showed the Federation president – a character identified during the Comic-Con panel as a part-Cardassian, part-Bajoran, part-human character named Rillak – presenting the leader of Ni’Var with a folded Federation flag. This was something teased during the epilogue of Season 3, with Saru’s diplomatic initiatives seeming to bear fruit.
Speaking of Saru, after being unceremoniously shuffled out of the captain’s chair in that same epilogue sequence to make way for Michael Burnham, he was back in uniform in the new trailer. The first trailer only showed us a glimpse of Saru out of uniform, and there was confusion over the position he could have both aboard the ship and within the new story after taking a leave of absence and returning to Kaminar.
Saru’s role still isn’t clear – he seems to retain the rank of captain but hasn’t been restored to the captaincy of Discovery. He was also depicted wearing a different badge on his uniform alongside his combadge – I wonder if this might indicate a diplomatic role of some kind. Regardless, it’s great to see Saru back on the ship, and presumably he’ll be part of the crew. What role he will play in the ship’s command structure as an ex-captain is still not clear, though.
I couldn’t identify every single alien race seen in the trailer, but there were quite a few! At Federation HQ we saw an Orion woman not wearing a Starfleet uniform; she could be a representative of the Emerald Chain – or whatever remains of it. There seemed to be Tellarite crew members aboard Discovery, as at least one was present during an away mission. Also featured prominently at Federation HQ was a Ferengi Starfleet captain.
I liked the Ferengi design; it felt familiar enough to be obvious, while at the same time taking advantage of improvements in prosthetic makeup that have been made since the Ferengi debuted. There was more detail in this Ferengi’s face and ears than we ever saw in the likes of Quark and others. That isn’t to say the older makeup and prosthetics were bad, just that there have been advancements in the thirty-five years since the Ferengi were originally created! After Season 3 teased us with glimpses of Cardassians, Andorians, and Lurians who ultimately played no role in the story, I’m not getting my hopes up that this new Ferengi character will play a major part in the story of the season – but you never know!
The existence of President Rillak seems to conclusively rule out the idea that the mysterious Kovich is in charge of the Federation. This had been a rumour or theory that some fans seemed to be quite attached to last time, but I was convinced for much of Season 3 that Kovich is in fact the head of Section 31 – or perhaps Starfleet security. We saw Kovich very briefly in the trailer, and previous statements from David Cronenberg – the famed director who plays the character – had already confirmed that he will be back in some capacity in Season 4.
Tilly appears to have been promoted to lieutenant, at least based on the emblem she’s wearing on her collar in the trailer. Whether that will happen off-screen isn’t clear, but it would be kind of neat after her arc in Season 3 to see her rewarded with a promotion. Tilly was originally Burnham’s choice for first officer, but with Saru back perhaps he’ll fill that role? Either way, it seems that Tilly will be returning to the sciences division and not wearing the red uniform of the command division – something that was ham-fistedly digitally edited in the Season 3 finale!
Dr Gabrielle Burnham and the Qowat Milat are making a return as well, as we saw them involved in a couple of different scenes during the trailer. It wasn’t clear whether the scenes we saw were all taken from the same episode or not, so the Qowat Milat could be in more than one episode. It was great that Discovery found a way to connect with events from Picard Season 1 in this way, and I wonder if we’ll get any other callbacks to the events of Discovery’s sister show. Due to the pandemic and its associated disruptions, Picard Season 2 won’t arrive until after Discovery Season 4 – though the original plan was surely for things to be the other way around!
We got brief looks at Dr Culber, Adira, and Gray. Gray will supposedly be made visible this season after finally being seen by Dr Culber in the Season 3 finale. The short scenes featuring Adira and Gray in the trailer weren’t clear as to Gray’s visibility, and when Adira interacted with Tilly, Gray wasn’t present. But at the Comic-Con panel, Wilson Cruz teased that Gray will indeed become visible and that he may have a connection to the season’s main story in some way!
One of the most interesting shots from the teaser showed Michael Burnham pulling back a shroud over a reptilian-looking alien. This alien seems to be dead, but interestingly seemed to be noticeably larger than the humanoids we’re used to seeing in Star Trek. That could be a consequence of how this one scene was framed, but the idea of aliens – perhaps from inside the anomaly – being “more alien” in appearance is an interesting one in theory. I don’t believe we’ve seen this species before, though the dead alien’s reptilian-inspired look has superficial similarities to a few past Star Trek races.
There was a shot on a snowy planet that I was also taken by. I wonder if this might be a return to the Guardian of Forever’s new homeworld – the one seen in the two-part Season 3 episode Terra Firma. That’s just a gut feeling and it could be somewhere else entirely, but it would be interesting if Discovery didn’t just abandon the Guardian of Forever. If the crew are on a quest to understand a completely alien and unknown phenomenon, the Guardian could be a good place to start. Maybe it has encountered the anomaly before, or at least is aware of it and knows something about it?
Book and Grudge were back – thank goodness! David Ajala was such a wonderful addition to the cast, providing the Starfleet crew of Discovery with an outsider’s perspective while serving as a guide of sorts to the 32nd Century. And Grudge is beautiful, of course! Book’s ship also made a return. We caught a glimpse of Book in the Spore Cube – his telepathy allows him to serve as Discovery’s navigator alongside Stamets. This could be an interesting source of conflict; how will Stamets feel about someone else muscling in on his job? But at the same time the ability of Book to navigate the mycelial network opens up the Spore Drive’s potential. With multiple navigators available – perhaps millions of potential navigators if any Kweijian or anyone who’s telepathic can take on the role – the Spore Drive could finally be rolled out to other Starfleet vessels.
Whether that will actually happen in Season 4 or not is still an open question, but I think finding a way for the Spore Drive to be more than just a gimmick to be used occasionally by Discovery is a good direction for the series to take. With the show now set in the far future of the 32nd Century, it wouldn’t tread on anyone’s toes in terms of canon – and it would be a great way for Starfleet to mitigate the dilithium shortage and future-proof their fleet. I might write this one up as a full theory, so watch this space!
The visual effect of the crew lifted out of their seats by the anomaly’s gravitational effects is stunning. We’re not really used to seeing artificial gravity failures in Star Trek. Aside from The Undiscovered Country, I can’t really call to mind a time where the failure of a starship’s artificial gravity was a significant story element. Even when ships are badly battered and at the point of destruction, artificial gravity usually continues to function! If Discovery uses this effect sparingly I think it could be very impactful in Season 4.
We saw several members of the cast – and a number of unidentified characters – involved in hand-to-hand violence. Some of this looked utterly barbaric, not at all the kind of thing we’d expect from Starfleet officers. At one point the Qowat Milat even seemed to be engaging a Starfleet officer. I wonder if this is all connected to the anomaly – perhaps things on the other side are more violent, like they are in the Mirror Universe, for example? Or perhaps the anomaly has different effects on people, driving some to become violent? Either way, there seemed to be a lot of that on show in the trailer, and some sort of explanation is required!
Though present, Admiral Vance didn’t have much to say in the trailer. I’m glad he’s coming back, though, as he was a great character in Season 3 as someone who embodied the values of Starfleet. We saw several scenes set at Federation HQ, which was of course Admiral Vance’s home base in Season 3. HQ seemed to look at least a little busier in the trailer than it had in Season 3; this could be a visual representation of the growth of the Federation as it begins to bring back wayward members and expand its fleet. The inclusion of President Rillak may mean Admiral Vance has less to do; both characters seem to occupy a similar role as superiors to Captain Burnham.
Speaking of Captain Burnham and President Rillak, a scene appeared to show Discovery’s captain receiving a stern telling-off from the Federation president. My suspicion is that this is something that happens early in the season prior to the discovery of the anomaly. That’s definitely just a gut feeling, but something about this conversation seemed to suggest the stakes weren’t quite so high. Perhaps Burnham did something in an early mission to earn the president’s ire, but the grave threat of the anomaly will force them to work together despite their differences of opinion and leadership styles.
This sequence, out of everything we saw in the trailer, was my least-favourite. It felt like forced drama for the sake of forced drama, and the use of the word “bravery” when giving an officer a dressing-down was incredibly clumsy dialogue. It was a way to communicate to us as the audience that Burnham is brave and that she’s some kind of maverick who doesn’t always conform or do what authority figures tell her – but it just felt a little too forced. We know Burnham doesn’t always play by the rules having seen the way she operates over three seasons, and having a brand-new character dropped in to reinforce that point may not be the best use of the show’s time. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen the full sequence in context, but in the trailer I didn’t like the way it came across.
So I think that’s all I have to say for now. Stay tuned because there are a couple of nascent theory ideas that I have based on the trailer, so it’s possible they could get the full write-up treatment in the days ahead. Discovery Season 4 is offering another “natural disaster” storyline after the Burn in Season 3, and that may not be to everyone’s taste. However, I confess to being genuinely curious to learn more about this anomaly. What is it? What danger does it really pose? Could it be a weapon rather than a natural occurrence? There are many, many questions running through my mind!
Whatever the ultimate cause of the anomaly, Season 4 looks like it’s on a good track. The trailer was action-packed and exciting, with ample interpersonal drama and an awful lot to unpack. I’ve tried to hit the main points here, but I’d encourage you to check out what other fans and publications have to say as they break down the trailer, as I’m sure there are points I missed or overlooked.
I’m really looking forward to Discovery Season 4 now, and with barely a month left there’s not long to wait. When the new season arrives I’ll be writing reviews of each episode and probably indulging in a spot of theory-crafting, just as I did during Season 3 last year. I hope you’ll stay tuned for that here on the website!
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 will debut on Paramount+ in the United States on the 18th of November 2021, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere a day later. Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including the following upcoming series: Strange New Worlds Season 1, Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, Discovery Season 4, and Prodigy Season 1.
Yesterday was Star Trek Day! And in case you missed it, ViacomCBS held a live event that was streamed online and via Paramount+ showcasing and celebrating all things Star Trek! We’ll break down the big news in a moment, but first I wanted to give you my thoughts on the event as a whole.
This was the first big in-person event that many of the folks involved had been able to attend since 2019, and there was talk of the pandemic and its enforced disruption on the various shows that have been in production over the last couple of years. There was also a lot of positivity from presenters and interviewees not only about Star Trek – which was to be expected, naturally – but also about being back together and simply being able to hold a major event of this nature. The positivity of hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton was infectious, and the event was much better for the role the duo played in hosting the panels and introducing guests.
That isn’t to say that Star Trek Day was entirely without problems, though. To be blunt, the event dragged on a bit too long (it ran to over three hours) and several of the panels and interviews were the worse for being conducted live instead of the pre-recorded, edited, and curated segments and panels we’ve had to get used to in the coronavirus era. Several of the guests seemed unprepared for what should’ve been obvious questions, and there were too many awkward silences and pauses while people gathered their thoughts and responded to the hosts. Such is the nature of live broadcasting – and it sounds rather misanthropic to criticise it!
During what I assume was an intermission on the main stage we were treated(!) to a separate pair of presenters on the red carpet reading out twitter messages and posts from the audience. This was perhaps the segment that dragged the most; one of the presenters even admitted to not being a regular Star Trek viewer (she hadn’t seen Discovery at all) so unfortunately this part of the show was less interesting as the pair were a little less knowledgeable about the franchise. If it had been made clear that this section of the broadcast was going to last as long as it did I might’ve taken a break as well!
Overall, though, despite running a bit too long and the ending feeling a little rushed (something we’ll talk about later), Star Trek Day was a success. It didn’t only look forward to upcoming projects like Strange New Worlds and Picard Season 2, but it looked back at every past Star Trek series, inviting members of the casts of those shows to talk about what made them – and the franchise – so great.
As a true celebration of all things Star Trek, the broadcast has to be considered a success. And although a pre-recorded event could’ve been edited and streamlined to cut to the more interesting parts and to give interviewees a chance to gather their thoughts, it was nice to see many of the folks we know and love from Star Trek back together and able to spend time in person with one another. Hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton did a great job at making us as the audience feel included, as if we were there at Star Trek Day right along with them. For those few hours – even through awkward moments and segments that seemed to run a little too long – it felt like being a member of the Star Trek family. As someone with few friends, I appreciated that immensely. For those few hours last night – and yes, even though Star Trek Day didn’t start until 1:30am UK time I did stay up to watch it – I felt like I, too, was an honorary member of the Star Trek family, and that’s a feeling I would never have been able to get anywhere else.
Now then! Let’s talk about the various panels, trailers, and interviews. Over the coming days I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the announcements and trailers in more detail (as well as perhaps crafting a few of my patented and often-wrong theories), but for now I want to try to include an overview of everything that was included in Star Trek Day.
We’ll come to the biggest announcements and trailers at the end, but first I wanted to talk for a moment about the music. Star Trek Day had a live orchestra on its main stage, and we were treated to live renditions of Star Trek theme music past and present – as well as a medley that kicked off the event. I was listening to Star Trek Day on my headphones, and the music sounded beautiful. Composer Jeff Ruso (who composed the theme music to Discovery and Picard) picked up the conductor’s baton, and the medley he arranged was really an outstanding celebration of all things Star Trek.
Star Trek Day both began and ended with music, as Isa Briones (Star Trek: Picard’s Soji) sang her rendition of Irving Berlin’s 1926 song Blue Skies to close out the broadcast.
There were five “legacy moments” spread throughout Star Trek Day, and these celebrations of past Star Trek series were genuinely moving. Actors George Takei, LeVar Burton, Cirroc Lofton, Garrett Wang, and Anthony Montgomery spoke about their respective series with enthusiasm and emotion. Cirroc Lofton paid tribute to his on-screen dad Avery Brooks, talking about how Deep Space Nine showed a single dad balancing his work and family commitments. He also spoke about Deep Space Nine’s legacy as the first Star Trek show to step away from a starship and take a different look at the Star Trek galaxy.
The themes of diversity and inclusion were omnipresent in these legacy moments, and all five actors spoke about how Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry have promoted diversity since the very beginning. George Takei spoke about Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek, how sci-fi had previously been something often seen as just for kids, and how putting a very diverse cast of characters together was groundbreaking in the 1960s. It’s always amazing to hear George Takei speak, and even fifty-five years later he still has a grace and eloquence when speaking on these topics. As someone who has himself been at the forefront of campaigning for diversity and equality, he does so with a gravitas that few can match.
Garrett Wang spoke about how Voyager could be a “refuge” for fans; a place to go where everyone could feel included and like they were part of the family. The way the show combined two crews was, I would argue, one of its weaker elements, but Wang looked at it through a different lens, and I can see the point about how Voyager put those folks in a difficult situation and brought them together to work in common cause. He also spoke in very flattering terms about Captain Janeway and Kate Mulgrew – who is returning to Star Trek very soon.
Anthony Montgomery was incredibly positive about Enterprise, and how the series embodied the pioneering spirit of exploration. I loved his line about how Enterprise, although it was a prequel recorded later than many other shows, laid the groundwork and filled in much of Star Trek’s previously unvisited stories and unexplained lore. Above all, he said, Enterprise was a “fun” show – and it’s hard to disagree! The orchestra concluded this speech with Archer’s Theme – the music heard over the end credits for Enterprise – which is a beautiful piece of music. If I were to remaster Enterprise I’d drop Faith of the Heart (which is a nice enough song, don’t get me wrong) and replace it on the opening titles with Archer’s Theme. The orchestra played it perfectly.
LeVar Burton talked about The Next Generation, and how Star Trek was reinvigorated for a new era. The Next Generation was the first spin-off, and it came at a time when spin-offs didn’t really exist in the sci-fi or drama spaces, so it was an unknown and a risk. Burton also spoke about The Next Generation’s sense of family, and how Star Trek can be a unifying force in the world.
Far from being mere padding, the five legacy moments saw stars of Star Trek’s past pay tribute to the franchise and the shows they were part of. There were consistent themes running through all five speeches, particularly the theme of inclusion. Star Trek has always been a franchise that strives to include people who are “different” – people like myself. For many fans, that’s one of the things that makes Star Trek so great. To see some of the biggest stars acknowledge and celebrate that aspect of Star Trek was wonderful, emotional, and rather cathartic.
Each of the five actors spoke with love, positivity, and enthusiasm for the franchise that made them household names. Anthony Montgomery’s incredibly positive attitude in particular shone through – he was beaming the whole time and seemed genuinely thrilled to have been invited to speak and to celebrate Enterprise.
If Star Trek Day aimed to celebrate all things Star Trek, then the legacy moments went a long way to making that ambition a reality on the night. The speeches were pitch-perfect, as were the orchestral renditions of all five Star Trek themes, and I had an unexpectedly good time with these moments. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the programme listed on the website; I didn’t really have any expectations of what the legacy moments would include. They surprised me by being one of the most enjoyable, down-to-earth parts of a hugely entertaining evening.
Let’s talk about news and announcements. That’s what you’re here for, right?! That was certainly what I was most interested in and excited for when I sat down to watch the Star Trek Day broadcast – though, as mentioned, I was taken aback by some of the other elements present that I wouldn’t have expected!
First, a non-announcement! Wil Wheaton interviewed the head of production on Star Trek, Alex Kurtzman, early on in the evening. Kurtzman didn’t have anything to say about the Section 31 series, nor about the upcoming Star Trek film due for release in 2023. However, he mentioned something that I found really interesting: a Starfleet Academy series or project. This isn’t anything close to an official announcement, of course, and he and Wil Wheaton talked about it in abstract terms. But a Starfleet Academy series has been something Star Trek has considered in the past; Gene Roddenberry was quite keen on a Starfleet Academy spin-off prior to developing The Next Generation. Watch this space, because it’s at least possible that a project centred around Starfleet Academy will get off the ground under Kurtzman’s leadership.
There were no brand-new shows or films formally announced at Star Trek Day. While I wasn’t necessarily expecting such an announcement, and Kurtzman’s earlier statement that no new show will be worked on until the current crop have run their course would seem to exclude it, there are multiple pitches and projects that have been rumoured or talked about over the last few years. The Section 31 series was absent again, as mentioned, and that’s more bad news for a series that feels like it isn’t going to happen. There were also no mentions of the likes of Ceti Alpha V, Captain Proton, or Captain Worf – just some of the heavily-speculated or rumoured pitches believed to be floating around over at ViacomCBS.
We did get release dates or release windows for several upcoming seasons, though! After Lower Decks Season 2 draws to a close in mid-October there’ll be a couple of weeks with no Star Trek, but then Prodigy will be available (in the United States at least) from the 28th of October. Shortly thereafter, Discovery Season 4 will kick off – it will premiere on the 18th of November in the United States and on the 19th internationally. Finally, Picard Season 2 is scheduled to arrive on our screens in February next year – presumably shortly after the season finale of Discovery.
All of this is great news! There was no release date for Strange New Worlds, but I think we can assume it will follow within a few weeks at most of Picard Season 2, which would put it perhaps in May or June 2022 at the very latest. But there will be a whole lot of Star Trek on our screens this autumn and winter, well into the first half of next year. Wil Wheaton said it best: with so many new Star Trek projects in production, we’re living through a new golden age of Star Trek right now!
I was a little surprised when the Discovery panel ended without revealing a new trailer or teaser for Season 4. Michelle Paradise, Wilson Cruz, Blu del Barrio, and Ian Alexander talked about how the show is fostering a sense of family in the 32nd Century – and that we will see Gray get a “corporeal” body in Season 4 somehow, which is great! But I have to say I’d been expecting a new trailer; the show is only a couple of months away after all. Perhaps we’ll get that nearer to the time. There wasn’t any mention of Season 5 either, but it’s possible that announcement will come as the marketing campaign for Season 4 ramps up.
Wilson Cruz seems like such a positive person in every interview I’ve ever seen him participate in, and he brought a lot of positive energy to the stage in Star Trek Day as well. There was talk of the Stamets-Culber relationship being revisited in Season 4, which is great – Stamets and Culber really form the emotional core of the show. He also spoke about how Dr Culber is embracing new roles in Season 4 – the role of counsellor to others aboard the ship as well as a parental role for Adira and Gray.
Gray’s storyline has the potential to be one of the most powerful in Discovery as the show moves into its fourth season. Being trans or gender-nonconforming can make one feel invisible – something I can speak to myself – and this is literally shown on screen by Gray’s invisibility. The powerful story of discovering how to be seen, and to do so with the help, encouragement, and support of one’s closest friends and family has the potential to be an exceptionally powerful story, one which I can already feel resonating with me. Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander spoke very positively about their on- and off-screen relationships, and they seem like they work exceptionally well together as a duo. I can’t wait to see what Season 4 will bring for them both.
I’ve already got a Prodigy theory! The show’s co-creators talked about how Prodigy Season 1 begins with the kids on a never-before-seen planet described as being “far removed and mysterious.” It sounds like we aren’t seeing a planet that the USS Voyager visited in the Delta Quadrant – something backed up by scenes seemingly set on that world in the trailer – and the USS Protostar appears to have crashed “inside” the planet. Did it crash during the final leg of Voyager’s journey home through the Borg transwarp network? Or perhaps during one of Voyager’s other flights – the space catapult from The Voyager Conspiracy or Kes’ telepathic launch in The Gift, for example. More to come on this, so stay tuned!
So we got a release date for Prodigy in the United States, but as I’ve said on a couple of occasions now it seems as though Prodigy isn’t going to be broadcast anywhere that doesn’t already have Paramount+. Considering that the series is a collaborative project between Star Trek and Nickelodeon (itself a ViacomCBS subsidiary), it should surely have been possible to secure an international broadcast on the Nickelodeon channel – a satellite/cable channel here in the UK and in many other countries. It’s a disappointment that, once again, ViacomCBS does not care about its international fans. It’s not as egregious a failing as it was with Lower Decks, because as a kids’ show Prodigy’s primary audience won’t really notice the delay. But for Trekkies around the world, to see Prodigy teased then find out we have no way to watch it is disappointing, and there’s no way around that.
Despite that, the Prodigy panel was interesting. Dee Bradley Baker, who voices Murf – the cute blob-alien – seems like he’s a real Trekkie and spoke about the franchise with passion. It was so much fun to see him perform Murf’s voice live, as well! Brett Gray, who will take on the role of young leader Dal, seemed overjoyed to have joined a franchise – and a family – with such a legacy, and I liked the way he spoke about how the young crew of the USS Protostar will grow as the season progresses.
The show’s co-creators – brothers Dan and Kevin Hageman – spoke about how Prodigy won’t be a series that talks down to children, but rather aims to be a series with plenty to offer for adults as well. The best kids’ shows manage this – and the Hagemans have received critical acclaim and awards for their work on Trollhunters and Ninjago, so there’s a lot of room for optimism. They both seemed to have a good grasp of the legacy and role Star Trek plays and has played for young people, and I think the show is in safe hands.
The Prodigy trailer was action-packed and exciting! We got a glimpse of the villainous character played by John Noble – and heard his distinctive voice – as well as got a much closer look at the USS Protostar than we had before. Perhaps the most exciting moment, though, was seeing the Janeway hologram for the first time! Janeway’s role in the show seems like it will be that of a mentor; the kids will make their own calls and decisions, but Janeway will be on hand to offer advice – at least that’s my take at this stage.
There were some funny moments in the trailer, too, which will surely produce a lot of giggles from Prodigy’s young audience. “Just hit all the buttons” until the phasers fire was a great laugh line, and the ship losing artificial gravity was likewise hilarious. There was also a crash-landing that reminded me very much of a scene in the Voyager episode Timeless. I’m really looking forward to Prodigy and to spending time with the young crew of the USS Protostar.
The Lower Decks panel was perhaps the funniest of the night. It was also the one where the interviewees felt the most comfortable and did their best at participating and answering questions; there were none of the awkward silences or long pauses that made me cringe during other panels. Noël Wells, Eugene Cordero, and creator Mike McMahan initially took to the stage before being joined in truly spectacular fashion by Ransom voice actor Jerry O’Connell. The cast members clearly get on very well together, and this came across as the four talked with host Mica Burton about the first four episodes of the season as well as what’s to come in the remaining six episodes.
Wells and Cordero talked about how they see their characters of Tendi and Rutherford becoming friends and bonding over “nerd” things – geeking out together over things like new tricorders, engineering, or how best to do their work was a hallmark for both in Season 1. I’m not so sure how I feel about Mike McMahan saying that the rest of the season plans to go “even bigger” with some of its stories. Lower Decks can be overly ambitious, at times, with the number of characters and story threads it tries to cram into a twenty- or twenty-five-minute episode, and this can be to the detriment of some or all of the stories it wants to tell.
However, McMahan spoke about the episode Crisis Point from Season 1 as a kind of baseline for how big and bold the show wants to go in the second half of Season 2. That episode was one of the best, not just for its wacky over-the-top action, but for its quieter character moments. If the rest of Season 2 keeps in mind the successful elements from episodes like Crisis Point, then I think we’re in for a good time!
The mid-season trailer was interesting! Here are just some of the things I spotted: the Pakleds are returning, Rutherford seems to get a “Wrath of Khan-inspired” moment in a radiation chamber, Tendi was transformed into a monster that seemed reminiscent of those in Genesis from Season 7 of The Next Generation, Boimler and Mariner are involved in a shuttle crash, Mariner rejoins Captain Freeman on the bridge, there was a scene in which Boimler easily defeated some Borg that I assume must be a dream or holodeck programme, a Crystalline Entity was seen, the creepy bartender with the New England accent was back, and Boimler and Mariner shared a joke about the utility of phaser rifles. I’m sure there was more – but those were the key things I spotted! The rest of Season 2 will hopefully continue to hit the highs of the past few weeks – and there’s another episode coming out very soon here in the UK that I can’t wait to watch!
It was very sweet for Star Trek Day to take time to discuss Gene Roddenberry’s legacy, coming in the centenary year of his birth. His son Rod, and former Star Trek stars LeVar Burton, George Takei, and Gates McFadden joined Wil Wheaton to talk about Gene Roddenberry, and this was one of the most touching moments in the entire event. There were some laughs as George Takei told us about his first meeting with Gene Roddenberry and how he came to land the role of Sulu – including how both he and Gene mispronounced each others’ names! Gates McFadden seemed to have been talked into joining the cast of The Next Generation by Roddenberry, having initially wanted to return to the stage and join a play. Rod Roddenberry’s reminiscence of the design process for the Enterprise-D was hilarious – apparently his mother thought the ship looked like “a pregnant duck!”
LeVar Burton, who had been a Star Trek fan prior to joining The Next Generation, spoke about how he was overwhelmed at first when meeting “the Great Bird of the Galaxy,” and how a small role on a made-for-television film introduced him to producer Bob Justman, who later arranged for him to meet with Gene Roddenberry during pre-production on The Next Generation. All of these anecdotes went a long way to humanising Gene Roddenberry the man – we can often get lost in the legacy and philosophy he left behind, and how Star Trek and the world he created has influenced and impacted us, but this was a rare opportunity to hear small, personal stories about the man himself. I greatly appreciated that.
George Takei got one of the biggest applause lines of the evening when he spoke about the importance of Star Trek’s fans, in particular Bjo Trimble, on popularising The Original Series and getting a nationwide fan community started. Decades before the internet came along to make fandoms and fan communities a part of many peoples’ lives, Star Trek was already developing its very own devoted fan community thanks to people like Bjo Trimble, and for George Takei to take time to acknowledge the role fans have played in Star Trek’s ongoing success was wonderful to hear.
As I’ve said before, The Motion Picture was the culmination of this fan-led journey for Star Trek, but the film also laid the groundwork for much of what we’d come to know as Star Trek in the eighties and nineties. Many sets and design elements were in continuous use in some form from The Motion Picture’s premiere in 1979 right the way through to the cancellation of Enterprise in 2005, and much of the aesthetic and feel of Star Trek is owed to what The Motion Picture pioneered. George Takei acknowledged that, and that was a pretty cool moment. The Motion Picture is one of my favourite Star Trek films, and a 4K remaster was briefly shown off as well – the 4K blu-ray set of the first four Star Trek films is out now, so Star Trek Day took a moment to plug it!
The panel that seemed to get the most online attention was, I felt, one of the worst and most cringeworthy to watch! The Strange New Worlds panel was followed up by a pre-recorded video that introduced new members of its main cast, who joined Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn. Among the newly-revealed characters were an Aenar (an Andorian race introduced in Enterprise) a possible descendant or relation of iconic villain Khan, and three characters from The Original Series who are returning to Star Trek: Dr M’Benga, who appeared in a couple of episodes, Nurse Chapel, and the one who got the most attention: Cadet Nyota Uhura!
Uhura blew up online after the announcement, and it’s fair to say that I was not expecting this! There was scope, I felt, for Strange New Worlds to bring back classic characters, but the choices they made seem to be pitch-perfect. I’m especially excited to see more from Dr M’Benga – he was a minor character who feels ripe for a deeper look. The same could also be said of Captain Pike and Number One!
As I predicted a few months ago, the uniforms for Strange New Worlds have been slightly redesigned from their Discovery style. I was never wild about the asymmetrical collars; they worked okay on Discovery’s all-blue uniforms but looked perhaps a little clumsy on the recoloured uniforms worn by Pike and the Enterprise crew. So to see the teaser show off a redesigned style that keeps the bold primary colours but ditches the Discovery style was pretty great! As with any new uniform I think we need time to see them in action and get used to them, but there’s already a lot to like. In addition to the V-neck style worn by Pike and Spock, we saw a white medical variant worn by Nurse Chapel, another medical variant with a broad crew collar worn by Dr M’Benga, and a zipper style worn by Number One. Starfleet uniforms – like any aesthetic or design element – are of course subject to personal taste, but from what we’ve seen so far I like the Strange New Worlds uniforms.
The Strange New Worlds live panel was not the best, though. Anson Mount, who is usually so full of life and happy to talk about all things Trek, sat in silence for large parts of it, deferring to the rest of the panel to answer questions. He may have been trying to avoid jumping in too fast or dominating proceedings, but it led to several very awkward silences that weren’t fun to watch. I got the sense that perhaps he wasn’t feeling well.
The producers – Akiva Goldsman, who has previously worked on Picard, and Henry Alonso Myers – gave us a few tidbits of information about the series. I was very pleased to hear so much positive talk about returning Star Trek to a more episodic format. Goldsman, who had been instrumental in crafting Picard’s serialised story during Season 1, seems quite happy to return to episodic television. There are a lot of advantages in a show like Strange New Worlds – i.e. one about exploration – to using a more episodic format. Episodic television can still see wonderful character growth – I’d point to Ensign Mariner in Lower Decksas a recent Star Trek example – so it was great to see how positively the cast and crew talked about that aspect of Strange New Worlds.
The producers and cast seemed very keen to embrace the legacy of The Original Series in more ways than one. Without looking to overwrite anything, they want to bring their own take on classic characters, and I think that’s great. Spock benefitted greatly from the expanded look we got at him in Discovery’s second season, and there’s no reason to think characters like Nurse Chapel or Cadet Uhura won’t likewise get significant character development that plays into the characters we know and love from their roles in The Original Series.
In terms of aesthetic, Strange New Worlds is trying to walk a line between embracing the 1960s style of The Original Series and also updating the show to a more modern look. There was talk about the design of sets, in particular Captain Pike’s quarters, and how the designers had been keen to return to the 1960s for inspiration. Likewise hair and nail styles were mentioned by Rebecca Romijn for Number One – a ’60s-inspired, “retro” look seems to be on the cards for the character, but not to such an extent that it becomes distracting. Walking that line is a challenge – but one I’m glad to see the show tackling!
We didn’t get a full trailer for Strange New Worlds, and the character introductions were cut in such a way as to minimise what we could see of the USS Enterprise. However, we did get a decent look at the transporter room set, which looks really cool, and when we met Dr M’Benga we got a glimpse of what I assume to be sickbay – and it looks like the colour scheme from The Original Series is still present in some form. We also got to see the logo and typeface for Strange New Worlds.
So an underwhelming panel in some respects led to one of the biggest reveals of the night! Uhura, Chapel, and Dr M’Benga make welcome returns to Star Trek, that’s for sure. And there’s a particular genius to choosing these three characters in particular: they’re all ripe for more development and exploration. Uhura was a mainstay on The Original Series, but compared with the likes of Kirk and Spock there’s still plenty of room to explore her characterisation, background, and learn more about who she is in a way that will inform the original character and portrayal. Likewise for Nurse Chapel and Dr M’Benga – in many ways these two characters are near-blank slates for the new writers and producers to mould into their own creations.
I’m more excited today for Strange New Worlds than I was 24 hours ago, and that’s really saying something! I loved how Mount and the producers spoke about how his portrayal of Pike and Pike’s leadership style led them to redesign parts of his quarters so he could accommodate more of his crew around the table. Cooking was a big part of Captain Sisko’s character in Deep Space Nine, and I picked up at least a hint of that in some of the things said about Pike.
The panel also discussed how the USS Enterprise is a “star of the show” in many respects, and how episodic storytelling will allow the series to return to Star Trek’s roots in terms of producing entertaining stories with morals. As I’ve said before, Star Trek has always used its sci-fi lens to shine a light on real-world issues, and to learn that Strange New Worlds is embracing that is fantastic news.
Spock’s characterisation was mentioned by Ethan Peck and the producers, and there was talk of how we’d see different facets of his personality. The Cage was mentioned as showing us “smiley Spock,” and I liked how the producers have a keen knowledge of how Spock and other Vulcans perceive and experience emotions – Spock is an emotional person, even if he suppresses those emotions much of the time. An exploration of that aspect of his character – informed by his experiences in Discovery Season 2, perhaps – will be truly interesting to see play out.
Finally we come to Star Trek: Picard. This was the final event of the evening, and unfortunately the way it was teed up felt incredibly rushed. Jeri Ryan – who will reprise her role as Seven of Nine in Season 2 – raced onto the stage to introduce the new trailer, and it just seemed very obvious that the people running the event were acutely aware of time constraints and wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. There was no Picard panel, no appearance from Sir Patrick Stewart (even by video-link or in a pre-recorded message), and though the trailer was very interesting the way Picard Season 2 was handled felt rushed right at the end of Star Trek Day – ironic, perhaps, considering the rushed way Season 1 also ended!
We’ll get to the trailer in a moment, but it was great to see that Picard Season 3 has been officially confirmed. We knew this was coming – Season 3 is already in production, and filming has already begun. But to get an official confirmation was good, and it drew a huge cheer from the audience. There’s clearly a big appetite for more Picard!
Onward, then, to the trailer. This is one that I’ll have to return to for a more detailed breakdown in the days ahead, but for now here are my summarised thoughts.
A return to the 21st Century is not what I would have chosen. Time travel isn’t my favourite Star Trek storyline, and in particular time travel stories which return to the modern day can feel awfully dated very quickly. Look, for example, at Voyager’s two-parter Future’s End, or Star Trek IV as examples of that. Star Trek feels like the future – one of the reasons I love it so much – and when it comes back to the modern day I think it risks losing something significant. It’s possible that only a small part of the story will be set in the modern day, but even so I wasn’t exactly wild about this story element, unfortunately.
We knew from the earlier trailer that there has been some kind of change or damage to the timeline. It now seems as though Q may be more directly involved, as Picard blamed him for breaking the timeline. Whatever the change was, it seems to be centred in our own 21st Century (though it could be anywhere from 2020-2040, I guess) and resulted not in the creation of the Federation but a “totalitarian state” by the 24th Century. I don’t believe that this is the Mirror Universe that we’re familiar with, but rather a change to the Prime Timeline itself – perhaps caused by Q, but earlier comments seemed to suggest that Q wasn’t to blame, so watch this space.
In voiceover we heard Laris questioning Picard’s motivation for wanting to join Starfleet or leave Earth, something we’d seen him talk about in episodes like Family and again in Generations. She seemed to question whether he’s “running” from something in his past – could it be some darker impulse or perhaps a family secret that’s connected in some way to the creation of the totalitarian state? Could it be, as I suggested recenly, tied into World War III?
One of the things I was most curious about was the role of the Borg Queen, whose return had been signalled a few days ago via a casting announcement. It seems as though Picard has access to the incarcerated remains of a Borg Queen – somehow – and that she may be vital to allowing the crew of La Sirena to travel through time. Rather than the Borg themselves playing a role in the story, then, this may be a battle involving Picard and Seven – victims of assimilation – and a captured, damaged Borg Queen.
There’s a lot more to break down from the Picard trailer, and in the days ahead I’ll put together my thoughts in more detail – as well as perhaps fleshing out a theory or two. For now, I think what I want to say is that I have mixed feelings. The big drawback I can see is the modern-day setting for part of the show. I hope I’m proven wrong, but to me Star Trek has never been at its best with these kinds of stories, and I’m concerned that it’ll stray from being a Star Trek show into something… else.
On the other hand, there are many positives. The return of Laris, who seems to have an expanded role compared to where she was in Season 1. Q’s mysterious time-bending role, too. Is he the villain of the piece, or is his latest “trial” something that he believes will help Picard and humanity? What role will he play – ally, adversary, or something in between? The “totalitarian state” definitely channelled some elements of the Mirror Universe, but also seems to have put its own spin on this concept, taking it to different thematic places. I’d be curious to see what role the Picard of this timeline has in the government of the totalitarian state.
So that’s all I have to say for now. In the days ahead I’ll take a closer look at the Picard trailer, as well as talk about other things we learned at Star Trek Day.
Although it was a late night and a long broadcast, I had a good time with Star Trek Day overall. There were some moments that didn’t work well, some unprepared interviewees and some segments that dragged on too long, but on the whole it was a fun and incredibly positive celebration of Star Trek. I came to the broadcast hoping to see more from upcoming shows, but I was blown away just as much by the celebration of Star Trek’s past as I was by the look ahead.
The hosts, presenters, and most of the speakers and guests showed off their passion and love for Star Trek in a very positive way. There was a lot of talk about returning the franchise to its roots, celebrating the legacy of Gene Roddenberry and his original vision for Star Trek and what made it so appealing to people of all ages across multiple generations. As we look ahead to Star Trek’s future in 2021, 2022, and beyond, taking these moments to look back at what got Star Trek to where it is today was fantastic, and well worth taking the time to see. Above all, Star Trek Day shone with passion and positivity, and that’s just what the franchise needed as it marked its fifty-fifth birthday. Here’s to the next fifty-five years of Star Trek!
Star Trek Day was broadcast online and on Paramount+ on the 8th of September 2021 (9th of September 2021 in the UK). At time of writing the event can be re-watched on the official Star Trek website; panels and trailers are supposed to be available via Star Trek and Paramount+ official YouTube channels. Clips may also be available via official social media pages and channels. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties and series mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for upcoming Star Trek productions, including: Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Prodigy, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Just a short one today! Star Trek Day is coming up in a couple of days’ time, and we’re promised news and discussion of all things Trek straight from the horse’s mouth! Why is September the 8th designated as “Star Trek Day?” Good question, and here’s the answer: it was on that day in 1966 that The Man Trap premiered, kicking off Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 and laying the groundwork for a franchise that’s still going strong today.
As an aside, last year I wrote a piece looking at the villainous creature at the heart of The Man Trap’s story, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here. Worth a read at this time of year – if I do say so myself!
As much as Star Trek Day is an opportunity to look back at the franchise’s fifty-five years of history, this digital event hosted by Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton is also an excuse to look ahead to some of the Star Trek projects that are coming up over the next few months and years. There will undoubtedly be some news – and keep your fingers crossed because it’s even possible that we could get a big, unexpected announcement!
I’ve got a few ideas for what might be coming our way when Star Trek Day kicks off. Please keep in mind, as always, that I don’t have any “sources” nor any “insider information.” This is just a little educated guesswork – and a reminder, in case you’d forgotten, that Star Trek Day is imminent! All of the panels will be available to watch online on the official Star Trek website, so be sure to check in on the 8th to see what they have to say. Or just come back here a day or so later because I daresay I’ll summarise what I consider to be the most important points!
Let’s jump into the list!
Number 1: Official confirmation of Star Trek: Picard Season 3.
This one is a bit of a cheat, as we’ve already heard from a number of reliable sources that Season 3 was in development alongside Season 2, and the two seasons are being filmed back-to-back. In fact, it seems as though some Season 3 scenes may have already been filmed – but that’s not confirmed at this stage.
What’s also unconfirmed, at least from ViacomCBS and Star Trek officially, is the existence of Season 3 at all. Though in the past we’ve seen the company wait until a season is almost being broadcast to confirm that the next one is in development, on this occasion it would make sense to announce Picard Season 3 way ahead of time. It’s already an open secret, so why not? It seems like a great way to drum up even more excitement!
Number 2: A trailer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
Since Strange New Worlds introduced us to five members of its main cast in mid-March, there really hasn’t been a lot of news about the series. We heard last month that production was drawing down on Season 1, only to later learn that some scenes outside of Toronto (where the show is based) were still being worked on. If it’s true that the season is finished, though, the time could be right for a trailer!
Along with Picard Season 2, Strange New Worlds has to be the series that I’m most curious about. Not only will it be fantastic to welcome back Anson Mount as Captain Pike, but the semi-episodic format that has been suggested feels like it could really be the best of both worlds – a return to Star Trek’s past without entirely stepping away from the modern feel of recent productions.
There is a Strange New Worlds panel that will be taking place during Star Trek Day, and a trailer would be a great way to wrap it up!
Number 3: A premiere date for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.
At time of writing, all we know about Discovery’s impending fourth season is that it’s due before the end of the year. Maybe that’ll change and we’ll see the show fall back to early 2022, or maybe Discovery is still on track for a broadcast kicking off in mid-October after Lower Decks Season 2 has concluded. (That was what happened last year.)
Either way, I think Star Trek Day would be a great opportunity for ViacomCBS to drop the date of the new season’s premiere with a lot of attention on the franchise.
Number 4: A teaser trailer for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 featuring the Borg.
Soon we’re going to talk and theorise about the Borg in Picard Season 2. If you missed this, there’s been a casting announcement for the upcoming second season that caught me off-guard: the Borg Queen is returning! Not only that, but she may appear in as many as six of the season’s ten episodes, indicating that the Borg may play a significant role in the story.
It’s been more than eighteen years since the last Star Trek story featuring the Borg: Enterprise’s second-season episode Regeneration. After such a long time it’ll be fantastic to bring the faction back into play in a big way – assuming that’s even the plan! For all we know the Borg Queen may play an altogether different role in flashbacks or in an alternate timeline!
Regardless, following this casting announcement I’d think ViacomCBS would want to tease something about the Borg – without giving away too many potential spoilers.
Number 5: A second trailer for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4.
We got our first look at Season 4 of Discovery back in April, where a trailer showed Captain Burnham and the crew facing down a “gravitational anomaly” – whatever that could be! With the season coming up before the end of the year – all being well, that is – it would be a good time for a second trailer to get fans excited.
It can be hard to get the balance right when it comes to producing a trailer for a brand-new season, especially when a series has a mystery at its core like Discovery does. Show too little and it’ll be hard for fans and prospective viewers to get excited, but show too much and you risk spoiling major plotlines. Cutting the perfect trailer under such circumstances is a real skill!
Number 6: A release date for Star Trek: Prodigy.
As I mentioned in a recent episode of the DenPod (my unscripted podcast), I’ve all but given up on Prodigy getting an international broadcast when it premieres this autumn – at least outside of countries and territories where Paramount+ already exists. Though the series has been co-developed alongside Nickelodeon, it seems as though ViacomCBS is intent on keeping the show exclusively on its streaming service, so it seems unlikely to arrive here in the UK until Paramount+ does some time next year.
For everyone who’s lucky enough to live somewhere with Paramount+ already, though, keep an eye out for a release date for Prodigy. Earlier in the year the series was officially announced for “Fall 2021” – and the beginning of September basically marks the start of autumn, as I recently noted! So we could see Prodigy literally any time from now until the end of November, and I think the Prodigy panel at Star Trek Day would be a great place to announce the specific date.
Number 7: A big, surprising announcement!
What could it be? Is the untitled Section 31 series finally on the verge of entering production? Has ViacomCBS backed down after years of being pestered by Michael Dorn and decided to greenlight a Captain Worf series after all? What about the live-action series that Alex Kurtzman had previously said was in development – could we finally learn more about that?
Though I don’t think we should get too excited about this one, there’s always the possibility for a surprise announcement of some kind. One thing we know for certain is that more Star Trek is in development – so it’s not impossible to think we could see something announced this week.
So that’s it!
Star Trek Day will be upon us before you know it, so stay tuned here on the website for coverage and analysis of any major announcements, as well as for a review/roundup of the event itself. I’m looking forward to Star Trek Day very much; it’ll be a great excuse to geek out for hours on end!
I hope this list of predictions has got you suitably excited for the main event!
Star Trek Day panels will be available to watch on Paramount+ and on the official Star Trek website on the 8th of September 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including all properties and titles mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Voyager, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Today we’re continuing our series of theory articles about the Burn, and we’re returning to the Voyager Season 4 episode Living Witnessfor yet another idea! As one of the very few episodes of Star Trek prior to Discovery’s third season to be set in or near the 32nd Century, Living Witness has been the source of several theories and concepts already. On this occasion we’re going to consider what the episode’s far future setting and its ending could mean for Discovery, and what implications there may be if the Delta Quadrant either partially or wholly escaped the worst effects of the Burn.
Let’s start by considering what we know from Discovery itself regarding the Burn and its possible extent. Cleveland Booker introduced us to the idea of the Burn in the first episode of the season, and used the term “the galaxy” when describing its range and scale; this may be hyperbole or exaggeration to a degree, though, as Booker’s knowledge of the wider galaxy was limited – he hadn’t even been to Earth.
Next, Admiral Vance told us that the Federation peaked in the pre-Burn years with a membership of over 350 worlds. While there are certainly enough planets in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants for the Federation to have been contained there, this expansion of the Federation is significant. The Federation was also large enough and spread out enough that Vance’s Starfleet was unable to travel to or even remain in contact with every member world. Vance was familiar with worlds in or near the Gamma Quadrant, as he noted the location of the Guardian of Forever’s new planet was in that region of space, so the Federation has clearly mapped large portions of the Milky Way by the 32nd Century.
Next we have the Burn itself. Originally assumed to have taken place everywhere simultaneously, Michael Burnham was able to prove that the Burn in fact radiated outwards from its point of origin, with ships in different sectors being destroyed milliseconds apart. However, 32nd Century Starfleet didn’t have enough information to have figured this out, instead assuming that the Burn happened all at once. This could mean that the Federation wasn’t as widespread as we might think.
Now we come to Living Witness. The bulk of the episode takes place in the 31st Century, and thus could well have been set in the years before the Burn (all dates in relation to Living Witness are guesstimates based on rounded figures). However, the episode’s ending clearly and demonstrably takes place decades – or perhaps even centuries – later. The final act of the episode sees a museum guide telling Kyrian and Vaskan citizens about the Doctor – a backup copy of whom was left behind by the USS Voyager – and this sequence takes place at the very least decades after the rest of the episode, and certainly after the Burn.
Obviously we have to acknowledge that, for production-side reasons, the two stories aren’t related. We wouldn’t have expected anyone at the end of Living Witness to talk about the Burn because the story concept did not exist at the time. But Star Trek has shown a willingness on multiple occasions to incorporate events depicted in one story into later episodes and films, and perhaps that will happen on this occasion.
In short, here’s how the theory goes: the end of Living Witness shows the Kyrians and Vaskans in the 32nd or perhaps even 33rd Century talking about the Doctor. There was no mention of the Burn, nor of any disaster affecting their Delta Quadrant homeworld, and the fact that the Doctor was able to commandeer a starship in the late 31st or early 32nd Century to undertake his voyage back to the Alpha Quadrant at least implies that there was enough dilithium in that region of the Delta Quadrant for such a voyage to be plausible.
There are other implications from the ending of Living Witness that are worth considering. The Kyrians and Vaskans don’t seem to have had further contact with the Federation since the departure of the Doctor. This could mean that travel to and from the Delta Quadrant is still difficult and/or time-consuming in this era. The fact that the museum guide was not aware of whether the Doctor made it back safely suggests that there hasn’t been any contact between their homeworld and the Federation. We could think of reasons why this might be the case, including random chance, but with more than 700 years between Voyager’s journey and the Burn, there should’ve been ample time for the Federation to revisit planets Voyager encountered if they wanted to.
So is it possible that the Burn had a limited range? Was it truly a galactic-scale event, or did its effects weaken the further out its shockwave went? I think the fact that Burnham found a millisecond difference in between starships being destroyed could hint at this, because the shockwave did radiate outwards from its point of origin. Whether we’re talking about gamma rays or ripples on a body of water, we see the effects weaken the further away from the source we get, so perhaps the same is true of the Burn.
There may have been a transitional zone in which some starships were destroyed but some were merely damaged, and then a zone were the effects of the Burn were noticeable but not catastrophic. Finally the Burn’s shockwave would reach a point where it was imperceptible to all but the most finely-tuned sensors before fizzling out altogether. The episode Su’Kal showed us an example of this, in a way, when Su’Kal’s emotional outburst “almost” caused another Burn – but didn’t. Perhaps this is what some star systems in faraway parts of the galaxy experienced.
We don’t know where the Verubin Nebula is in relation to the Federation or the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. But it could be located near one edge of the galaxy, far away from the Delta Quadrant. If so, and if the pre-Burn Federation didn’t routinely travel to and from the Delta Quadrant, things start to line up for this theory!
So let’s consider the possible implications, assuming this theory is correct. Obviously we know that the Kyrians and Vaskans seem to have escaped the Burn relatively unscathed, so perhaps other Delta Quadrant factions did as well. This could include races like the Kazon, though they seem unlikely to be a significant threat to the Federation based on how far behind they were in technological terms. It could also bode well for potential Federation allies like the Talaxians and Ocampa – if one or both had joined the Federation, perhaps they’re thriving on the far side of the galaxy even after the Burn decimated the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.
But there’s one Delta Quadrant faction that we should be more wary of than any other: the Borg!
Discovery Season 3 didn’t make any mention of the Borg whatsoever, so we don’t know if they still exist in this era, if they’ve been defeated, if they’re still present in the galaxy, etc. But assuming that they’re still around and that their power base remains in the Delta Quadrant, the Borg’s survival could be catastrophically bad news for the Federation.
Even if the Federation had managed to find a way to keep the Borg at bay in the years prior to the Burn, the Borg may have just been given a 120-year head-start on developing new technologies and building up their forces while the Federation fractured and looked inwards to its own day-to-day survival. With much of their transwarp network intact and with their ships and drones protected from the worst effects of the Burn, the Borg may have been waiting and observing the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. They may even have been slowly making inroads, assimilating planets and star systems beyond the range of the Federation’s limited sensors. Perhaps the reason some Federation members dropped out of contact was not because of issues with long-range communications… but because they’d been attacked.
The trailers for Season 4 appear to show the Federation under attack by a “gravitational anomaly.” As I pointed out, this anomaly could be argued to behave in an unnatural way if it seems to be targeting the Federation, its planets, and its starships. Perhaps the gravitational anomaly is a weapon, one designed to be the precursor to an invasion. If so, one of the primary candidates for developing such a powerful weapon has to be the Borg.
As the rest of the galaxy struggles to recover, maybe Starfleet will learn that the Delta Quadrant largely escaped the Burn. The century-long absence of strong borders and interstellar long-range communications could have allowed any faction from that region of space (including the Borg) to seize the opportunity to pursue an aggressive, expansionist policy. The shape of the galaxy could’ve changed far more in the wake of the Burn than we might think, and a return to “business as usual” may not be possible if whole sectors have changed hands – or been assimilated!
As I’ve mentioned in the past, it’s also possible that the backup copy of the Doctor is still alive in this era. We’ve heard nothing from the production side of Star Trek to suggest he might be included as a character in Season 4, but I’d be curious to see if he’ll be mentioned in some way even if he doesn’t appear on screen. If the Living Witness copy of the Doctor has survived and returned to the Alpha Quadrant, that would be the strongest hint yet that at least part of the Delta Quadrant may have escaped the worst effects of the Burn.
Though Star Trek hardly needs an excuse, this could also be a great opportunity to bring the Borg into play in a big way. Discovery flirted with a Borg origin story in Season 2 – at least in my opinion – but we haven’t seen a proper Borg episode or story since 2003’s Enterprise Season 2 episode Regeneration.
If we work on the assumption that everything seen on screen in past Star Trek episodes is canon, and that the events in Living Witness and Discovery both take place in the Prime Timeline, I think we have a solid basis to construct a theory! Did some or all of the Delta Quadrant escape the Burn? And if so, what are the implications for the Star Trek galaxy in the late 32nd Century and beyond? We simply don’t know yet!
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the UK and internationally. Star Trek: Voyager is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the UK (other international streaming may vary). The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery, Voyager, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3.
In the second part of this short series about the Burn we’re going to consider the possible impact of time travel. Last time, in case you missed it, we looked at how transporters and transwarp beaming could – potentially – have provided Starfleet and the Federation with a way to relieve the pressure of dwindling dilithium reserves in the years before the Burn. I also have a column looking at how well the Burn worked as a storyline, which you can find by clicking or tapping here.
As Season 3 began – and for much of its run – I speculated about the possible involvement of time travel either as part of the explanation for the Burn or as a way for Discovery to reset or even undo the catastrophic event at the storyline’s resolution. Here’s the short version of why: the Federation had access to time travel technology for hundreds of years, and by the 29th and 30th Centuries Starfleet routinely explored the timeline and even tried to patrol it and prevent any nefarious interference. Though there was a “temporal prime directive” in effect which prevented travellers from the future from changing the past, the precise way in which this worked is not clear.
Time travel has not been depicted consistently within Star Trek, and we do have to acknowledge that. Stories featuring the cast of The Original Series – including the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – seem to depict time travel as something that basically anyone with a warp-capable starship could accomplish (via the method of slingshotting around a star). However, by the time we get to stories set in the 24th Century, time travel appears to require specialist equipment and devices – which, at various points, the Federation may or may not have been in possession of.
Even if we’re incredibly conservative with how we interpret time travel stories within Star Trek, it still seems highly likely that by the 25th Century or thereabouts, Starfleet had the technology to routinely and safely travel through time – which is more than 600 years before the Burn. Much of what we know about Starfleet’s time travel missions suggests that their primary interests would be in travelling backwards through time to get a first-hand look at historical events, as well as to prevent factions like the Sphere Builders or the Borg from changing the past to suit their own goals and purposes. But there’s nothing to say that Starfleet wasn’t at least peeking ahead at the future timeline.
I’d argue that not doing so would be a major risk and even a dereliction of duty. With Starfleet involved in a Temporal Cold War and/or the Temporal Wars, other factions were almost certainly using time travel technology to jump forwards and backwards through time to try to score an advantage. Heck, Discovery’s second season finale is an example of this: Captain Pike, Saru, Burnham, and the crew decide that sending the USS Discovery forward in time – removing it from the 23rd Century – was the safest way to keep this vital ship and its important data out of the hands of their enemy. If 23rd Century Starfleet was doing that, I see nothing to suggest that 29th and 30th Century Starfleet wasn’t doing that too.
We can’t argue that travelling forwards in time is any more difficult than travelling backwards. Again, Discovery Season 2 is a case in point. The Red Angel project in the mid-23rd Century created two time travel suits that were capable of moving forwards in time, and at various points in Star Trek’s broader canon we’ve seen ships like the USS Defiant and the Enterprise-E manage to successfully return to the 24th Century after jaunts to the past.
Everything we know about time travel in Star Trek tells us that the Federation had the capability to travel forwards in time, and a combination of their role in the temporal conflicts of the 29th and 30th Centuries as well as their previously-established desire to protect and preserve the “true” timeline gives them the motivation – and moral requirement – to do so as well.
So why didn’t anyone warn the Federation about the Burn?
The answer, at least according to Discovery Season 3, is the ban on time travel. But I’m not convinced that this works as a satisfying and believable reason on its own. Even if Starfleet were willing to abide by the ban on time travel and the temporal prime directive, would everyone have felt that way? If a Starfleet timeship encountered the post-Burn galaxy, would they not have felt an obligation to warn their colleagues in their native era?
Even if Starfleet had been willing to sacrifice countless lives and leave the galaxy in a horrible state to uphold certain ideals and principles, the Burn is bigger than just the Federation. Other factions in the Temporal Wars, had they become aware of the Burn, would likely have tried to warn their colleagues of what was to come. Even organisations within the Federation, like Section 31, seem like they’d have been unwilling to abide by a ban on time travel, let alone refuse to share knowledge of an impending disaster.
We don’t know for certain that this didn’t happen. Section 31 may not exist by this time, and if they do still exist they may indeed have tried to warn the Federation about the Burn. Other factions with access to time travel technology may have also warned their past selves too. Heck, this could be a plot point in Season 4; perhaps one faction was better-prepared than everyone else and is now ready to conquer the galaxy.
However, there is a significant counter-point that we need to consider: until Saru, Burnham, and Dr Culber travelled to the Verubin Nebula and met Su’Kal, no one knew what caused the Burn. Even if Starfleet had been warned centuries ahead of time, without the crucial knowledge of what the Burn was, who caused it, and so on, simply knowing that it was going to happen would not have been enough to prevent it. And perhaps that’s the key here. Even if Starfleet had travelled forward in time, in this exact version of the timeline, all they would’ve seen is a galaxy devastated by an event that no one knew anything about.
As I said last time, the way the Burn occurred was a combination of unlikely, unpredictable circumstances centred around a single, relatively obscure starship and one Kelpien child. When looking at a galaxy-wide event that appeared to happen everywhere simultaneously, even the most dedicated timeship crew would’ve struggled to put the pieces together. Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery were able to do so only with the Federation’s help; and it seems highly unlikely that Admiral Vance would’ve agreed to help the crew of a 29th or 30th Century timeship in the way he agreed to help Saru and Burnham. Remember what Vance said when he debriefed Burnham and Saru: their mere presence in the 32nd Century was “by definition, a crime.”
Thus we can argue that Admiral Vance would have been unwilling to help a Federation timeship prevent the Burn, and would not have shared the vital information relating to SB-19 which ultimately allowed Burnham to pinpoint its source.
Likewise, if Section 31, the Emerald Chain, or some other faction operating in the 32nd Century wanted to travel back in time to prevent the Burn, the same issue of not knowing how, why, and where it happened arises. Without this information, realistically it seems impossible for the Burn to have been avoided. Only after Burnham’s investigation, culminating in the discovery of the KSF Khi’eth and Su’Kal, could anyone realistically use time travel to prevent the Burn or warn their counterparts in the past. And from our point of view as the audience, we’ve only just arrived at that chapter of the story!
When the Burn was first teased in the trailers for Discovery’s third season in 2019 and 2020, I wondered what role – if any – time travel might’ve played in the story. There were possible hints at a time travel-related cause for the Burn, perhaps even connected to one of the Red Angel suits from Season 2. There was also the Temporal Cold War from Enterprise. However, as a story point one thing about connecting time travel to the Burn seemed like it would be impossible to resolve as the season rolled on.
In short, if the Burn had been revealed to have been caused by the nefarious actions of a time traveller – or as the result of a time travel/Red Angel suit accident – then logically, from Starfleet’s perspective, the only solution to the Burn would be to undo it; to travel back in time and prevent it from happening. In the first couple of episodes of the season, as we found our feet, perhaps such a storyline could’ve worked. But as we got to know people like Booker, Admiral Vance, the leaders of Earth, Ni’Var, Trill, and many others across the 32nd Century, removing most of them from existence by resetting the timeline would have felt completely wrong.
Undoing the Burn would’ve completely changed the 31st and 32nd Centuries, with knock-on effects for all of those characters – and countless more. Even if the crew of Discovery were immune to such changes, the consequences for everyone else would be vast. As I mentioned when discussing Admiral Janeway’s decision to take a similar action in the finale of Star Trek: Voyager, wiping untold numbers of people from existence altogether seems like the worst possible use of time travel – a war crime. The Temporal Accords that Admiral Vance mentioned and which the Federation strives to protect seem specifically designed to prevent anyone from doing this kind of thing.
So we get into the weeds of philosophy with this one! The Burn happened, and until we learned exactly how and why toward the end of the season, it was possible that time travel could’ve played a role in it. But even if it had, and the Burn was entirely the fault of the misuse or weaponisation of time travel, more than 120 years had passed since. In those 120 years, billions of people lived out complete lifetimes. They made friends, had relationships, had children, and above all they shaped the galaxy in the 31st and 32nd Centuries. Some nebulous, unprovable concept of how it might’ve been “different” and thus better was already a moot point by the year 3188, because going back in time and changing the past would remove untold billions of people from existence, and utterly change the lives of everyone else.
There’s also no guarantee that preventing the Burn would’ve made the galaxy in 3188 a better place. The Burn destroyed countless starships, but if it hadn’t the galaxy’s dilithium shortage would’ve continued and even accelerated, potentially leaving whole fleets of ships – and possibly planetary power grids – with no fuel at all. Though we get into pure speculation at this point, perhaps the Burn destroyed an invasion fleet that the Borg, the Dominion, or some other villainous group had put together, and if it hadn’t occurred the Federation would’ve been conquered.
This is the fundamental problem with making changes to the timeline and with time travel in general – it isn’t possible to predict every consequence! Star Trek even has a story all about that: the Voyager two-part episode Year of Hell, in which the villainous Annorax is in control of a time travel-based weapon, but after inadvertently removing his wife from existence becomes obsessed with making changes to the timeline left, right, and centre to undo his mistake.
In short, whether the Federation, Section 31, or some other faction were involved, they wouldn’t be able to predict what consequences would befall the galaxy if the Burn never happened. It isn’t possible to take into account every individual and thus every variable – as the story of Su’Kal kind of demonstrates. One Kelpien child on one crashed starship caused all of this damage and devastation. Who’s to say that undoing that event wouldn’t have led to something worse, some other catastrophe caused by a different individual?
As a contemporary analogy, imagine going back in time and preventing the rise of Napoleon and thus the Napoleonic wars. Or going back in time to prevent the eruption of Krakatoa. Those events caused widespread death and misery, and our morality says that we should try to minimise suffering and death wherever we can. But could you reasonably predict the consequences? If Napoleon didn’t rise to power in France, would someone else – someone worse – have done so? If Krakatoa didn’t erupt in 1883, would the pressure building up under the crust be released somewhere else at a different time – perhaps somewhere more highly-populated? These are just two examples, yet each one brings with it huge potential ramifications.
To conclude, time travel seemingly presents a way for the Burn to have been avoided – if we don’t dig too deeply. But scratch the surface and it becomes apparent that there are serious barriers. Starfleet’s steadfast commitment to its principles wouldn’t have allowed Admiral Vance – or anyone else in his role – to share information with time travellers from the past. Even if someone from the past had travelled to the 32nd Century, without the very specific information on the KSF Khi’eth that Michael Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery assembled, warning Starfleet that the Burn was coming would have made little difference. Perhaps some ships could’ve been saved if the Federation were forewarned of the exact timing of the event, but that’s about all. With the destruction of the Red Angel suits, it appears that no time travel technology exists in the 32nd Century, preventing anyone – Section 31, the Emerald Chain, etc. – going back in time to prevent the Burn. Even if someone wanted to, the lack of information would once again be a hurdle even if we ignore the huge moral implications – and the implications for Discovery as a series effectively wiping out an entire season’s worth of story!
I can understand why the writers of Discovery Season 3 brought in all of the stuff about the Temporal Accords and the ban on time travel. I wish it had been elaborated on – and I also wish that Star Trek had been more consistent in its depiction of time travel on the whole, because there are definitely holes we can pick in the concept quite easily. As things sit, it feels like the writers basically said “time travel was banned, so get over it” and then moved on to the rest of the story. If you don’t look too hard, that’s okay. But we’re Trekkies – we like to dive deeply into all things Star Trek!
The ban on time travel is just one part of why Starfleet couldn’t really have used the technology to avoid the Burn, though. And the Burn’s ultimate origin as something accidental connected to a child who wasn’t even born before the KSF Khi’eth entered the Verubin Nebula provides a reasonable explanation. Without knowing the Burn’s origin, all Starfleet could’ve done was shut down as many ships as possible and try to rebuild after the Burn – and that would likely not have been good enough for worlds like Ni’Var. The Federation would still have fractured and the rest of the galaxy would still be in a mess.
As for going back in time and undoing the Burn now that Starfleet knows its origin, that seems off the table. Maybe a faction like Section 31 would contemplate it, but even then I think there are solid reasons to hesitate. The morality of wiping out an entire timeline and most of the people in it is the biggest consideration, but purely on a practical level there’s no guarantee that undoing the Burn wouldn’t lead to something else – something worse. For us as viewers, the Burn is something new. But from the point of view of characters like Admiral Vance and Kovich, this is an historical event more than a century in the past; it occurred before practically everyone alive in the Federation in 3188 was even born. Undoing it would be like one of us wanting to undo something that happened in the 19th Century. Can we think of valid, sympathetic reasons to want to undo certain historical events? Of course. But can we also understand why changing the past can have catastrophic unforeseen consequences? Absolutely. And that, in a nutshell, is why I think the Burn couldn’t and wouldn’t have been avoided via time travel.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek Into Darkness, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
This article is going to be the first in a short series about the Burn – one of the main elements of Discovery’s third season. We’re going to consider different ways that the Federation – and the wider Star Trek galaxy – could have avoided the Burn, a catastrophic event that caused untold damage to factions and citizens across known space and beyond.
In order for the Burn to have occurred at all, a very specific set of circumstances needed to align in just the right way (or should that be just the wrong way?) One of these was the dilithium shortage that Admiral Vance elaborated on after Saru, Burnham, and the crew of the USS Discovery arrived at Federation HQ. In short, for a long time prior to the Burn there had been a shortage of dilithium across the galaxy. This shortage was so severe that the Federation began looking at alternative options for faster-than-light travel. One of the ideas they considered was something called SB-19 – a Ni’Var project that seemed to involve some kind of starship-sized “gateways” to get from place to place.
We’re going to leave those ideas behind for now and focus on one aspect of Star Trek that has been present since the beginning: the transporter. In short, would it have been possible for transporter technology to provide an alternative to some or all of Starfleet’s faster-than-light travel?
On the surface it may seem that the two things aren’t related. Transporters are mainly shown on screen as a method of sending people from starships to planets, and vice versa. Faster-than-light starship travel is in a completely different ballpark, right?
Not so fast! What is the main purpose of warp drive in the Federation? Starfleet uses it for exploration and military purposes, of course, so as viewers that’s what we associate warp drive with – setting course for an unknown destination and racing away to explore it. But the Federation is much larger than just Starfleet, and there must be an awful lot of civilian and cargo traffic that uses warp drive in the same way we use a car, bus, train, or aircraft – it’s a means to an end; a way to get from place to place.
2009’s Star Trek introduced something that I think is vital to this consideration: transwarp beaming. On first viewing I felt the film wasn’t clear about how and when transwarp beaming was invented, so for the sake of clarity here’s what seems to have happened: after arriving in the 24th Century following decades in suspended animation – events depicted in The Next Generation sixth season episode Relics – Montgomery Scott eventually went back to work with Starfleet. Sometime prior to 2387, Scotty perfected the formula for transwarp beaming, and Spock provided this equation to Scotty’s younger self on the planet Delta Vega after arriving in the alternate reality.
In Star Trek Into Darkness we see how much more powerful transwarp beaming can be than a regular transporter. As with most of Star Trek’s technologies, transporters have always been somewhat vague and mouldable to the needs of a particular story, but Into Darkness actually gave us a pretty solid idea about the range that transwarp beaming has: it’s possible to transport from Earth to the Klingon home planet of Qo’noS.
Into Darkness doesn’t give an exact distance to Qo’noS, but in Enterprise’s pilot episode it was far enough away from Earth that no human had ever encountered a Klingon despite humanity being a spacefaring species for decades. The travel time from Earth to Qo’noS at warp 4.5 was around four days in that same episode.
Memory Alpha, the Star Trek wiki, suggests that the distance between Earth and Qo’noS could be somewhere between 90-110 light-years, so for a rough guide for the sake of this argument we’re going to say that transwarp beaming has a range of at least 100 light-years. This technology was known to Spock in 2387, so it definitely existed in the Prime Timeline in the late 24th Century. Even if 100 light-years is the absolute maximum distance for transwarp beaming, it’s still a far faster method of travel than anything else known to the Federation. In Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1 (the ninth episode of Star Trek: Picard), Admiral Picard tells Dr Jurati that the use of a Borg transwarp corridor allowed La Sirena to travel “25 light-years in fifteen minutes.” Picard says this with a tone of surprise, as if such speed is something that the Federation, even in the year 2399, is unaccustomed to.
Transwarp beaming, then, is even faster than the Borg’s transwarp network. Though the Borg’s spatial trajector (a technology they appear to have assimilated from the Sikarians) may give it a run for its money! Regardless, transwarp beaming is arguably the fastest method of long-range travel ever seen in Star Trek. It allowed “John Harrison” to travel around 100 light-years in a heartbeat, something that even Borg starships couldn’t do a century later.
So how does all of this connect to the Burn? Based on what we saw on screen, it doesn’t! That’s the short answer. For whatever reason, Starfleet appears not to have pursued transwarp beaming in the 29th and 30th Centuries. But this is a fan theory, so we’re running with it anyway!
Despite what’s usually shown on screen, transporters don’t just move people. In fact, living beings are arguably one of the hardest and most complex things for a transporter to manage. Early episodes of Enterprise explained that the first transporters were only supposed to move cargo, and we’ve seen industrial-sized cargo transporters on other ships, including the Enterprise-D. These transporters were often larger, capable of beaming large objects, groups of people, and other things.
Do you see where this is going yet? Much of the reason for interstellar travel within the Federation was to move objects and people from place to place. Going into space in a starship and travelling at warp speed was the best method that the Federation had of doing so – until transwarp beaming came along. Transwarp beaming, even if it had an absolute maximum range of 100 light-years that could never under any circumstances be surpassed, was still a viable option for a significant portion of the Federation’s interstellar travel needs.
Nothing we know of in Star Trek should have prevented the further development and honing of transwarp beaming. Even if no one did anything with the transwarp beaming concept before the 29th or 30th Centuries, when dilithium supplies began to run short Starfleet could easily have started to work again on a concept they’d sidelined. The formulae and information about transwarp beaming seem unlikely to have been lost in that time. Industrial-sized transwarp beaming hubs could have been built, capable of sending vast amounts of goods and whole crowds of people from one planet to another. Not only that, but transwarp beaming hubs in space could even have been constructed, forming a network that would’ve allowed Starfleet to send its vessels from system to system without expending valuable fuel.
It is possible based on what we saw on screen that some version of transwarp beaming was part of the aforementioned SB-19 project. But that has never been confirmed, and considering that transwarp beaming was known to work reliably in the late 24th Century (or the 23rd Century in the alternate reality) it seems unlikely that SB-19 would have struggled to make the concept work hundreds of years later. This was already proven, working technology within Star Trek’s Prime Timeline.
Had Starfleet invested in transwarp beaming on a large scale, it’s possible that the range of the technology could have been extended, its power consumption reduced, and a vast interplanetary network of transwarp beaming stations created that would have relieved at least some of the pressure on dilithium-powered starships. With that pressure reduced and the desperation on the Federation’s part to source new dilithium lessening as a result, the chances of the KSF Khi’eth crashing in the Verubin Nebula, setting in motion the unlikely chain of events that led to the Burn, seems greatly diminished.
In short, using transporters in this way could have avoided the Burn entirely.
Now let’s consider the biggest counter-argument to this idea: how power generation works in Star Trek.
It stands to reason that a transporter takes up a lot of power. In Discovery’s premiere episode, a particular design of transporter in use on the USS Shenzhou was considered outdated by Michael Burnham specifically because of its high power consumption. It logically follows that the larger the mass of the objects being transported, the more power is required. It also stands to reason that transporting over longer distances would likewise require a larger expenditure of power. This might even jump exponentially.
Relatively few Star Trek stories have been set on planets, so we don’t know very much about how planetary power generation works. But assuming that, in order to power the technologies and mod-cons of the 24th Century, planets require comparable levels of power per person to a starship, it’s possible that planetary power grids (such as the one on Earth that was sabotaged by Admiral Leyton in the Deep Space Nine episodes Homefront and Paradise Lost) use a similar matter-antimatter reaction in order to generate enough power for the needs of the population. And what does a matter-antimatter reaction need to be safe and stable? Dilithium crystals.
Transporters based on starships would also have this limitation – as everything on board a starship seems to be powered by a controlled matter-antimatter reaction. Perhaps, then, transporters have the same basic limitation as warp drive: a reliance on dilithium for power. This counter-argument could be used to explain why transporters and transwarp beaming weren’t able to be used as a viable replacement for even a small amount of Starfleet’s interstellar traffic in the years prior to the Burn.
I still think this is an interesting idea, though! Star Trek has thrown a lot of technobabble concepts our way over the years, so it’s inevitable that almost any new storyline can bring with it questions like “why didn’t they try to do X?” or “why didn’t someone think of using Y?” That’s just the nature of this kind of franchise.
On this occasion we’ve jumped headfirst into a theory based on a few lines of dialogue and interpretations of things shown on screen in unconnected parts of Star Trek’s broader canon. I didn’t do that to imply that there’s somehow an egregious “plot hole” in the way Discovery’s third season explained the dilithium shortage or the Burn; really this has just been an excuse to spend a bit more time in the Star Trek galaxy. This isn’t something to take too seriously – no fan theory is – and as already mentioned I can think of at least one solid counter-argument to the idea of Starfleet setting up a kind of transwarp beaming network to ease its reliance on warp drive.
I hope this theory was a bit of fun, though! Stay tuned for more in this short series about the Burn, because transporters and transwarp beaming aren’t the only ways that Starfleet could’ve potentially avoided the disaster and its consequences. And if you want to see my breakdown and analysis on how well the Burn did (and didn’t) work as a narrative in Discovery Season 3, take a look at this article.
Until next time!
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the UK and internationally. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3.
As I was wrapping up my Discovery Season 3 series of articles in January, I said that we’d return to the Burn at a later date once I’d had time to get my thoughts in order. The Burn was the main storyline running through all of the show’s third season, and in addition it’s a story which has significant ramifications for Star Trek going forward, so I wanted to be able to do justice to this big subject. As you may recall from my commentary as the season was ongoing, I have mixed feelings. There’s a lot to talk about.
First up, let’s recap what the Burn was purely from an in-universe perspective, then we can get into my analysis of how well it worked as a narrative.
Though the timeline of some of these events was vague, we know that beginning in the 28th or 29th Centuries, the galaxy began to experience a dilithium shortage. The reason for this was never given nor explained in detail, but it was serious enough that the Federation began seeking out alternative sources of dilithium. At the same time, the Federation started to research alternative methods of faster-than-light travel, the most successful of these being the Ni’Var (Romulan-Vulcan) project called SB-19.
All of this came against the backdrop of a conflict referred to as the Temporal Wars. It’s assumed that this is related to Enterprise’s Temporal Cold War storyline, which saw a temporal agent named Daniels spend time aboard Captain Archer’s NX-01 Enterprise. The end of the war in the late 30th or early 31st Century saw the implementation of a ban on time travel, which is an aspect of the storyline that never really went anywhere.
By the mid-3060s, the Federation’s quest for dilithium was ongoing, and a Kelpien ship – the KSF Khi’eth, with Dr Issa on board – travelled to the Verubin Nebula. After finding a route inside, the ship crashed on a dilithium planet inside the nebula, and wasn’t able to be rescued. A child named Su’Kal was born to Dr Issa while inside the nebula, and as a result of exposure to the Verubin Nebula’s radiation and the dilithium of the planet where he was born, Su’Kal developed a telepathic connection of some kind with dilithium, a link which was seemingly amplified by being on the dilithium planet. At moments of extreme emotion, Su’Kal could trigger a psychic shockwave which destabilised dilithium. The death of his mother in the late 3060s caused this to happen, and the psychic shockwave travelled across the entire galaxy near-simultaneously. Almost all active dilithium went inert, and any ship with an active warp core exploded. This event was later referred to by survivors as “the Burn.” No one, including the Federation, knew how or why this happened, and for more than a century the cause of the Burn went unknown.
The Burn caused widespread societal changes across the known galaxy, including the withdrawal of many Federation members and the rise of a faction called the Emerald Chain – which was implied to be a successor to the Orion Syndicate. Worlds like Trill, Earth, Ni’Var, and others left the Federation, and the severe dilithium shortage meant that other Federation members and colonies were no longer within travel distance. It’s not clear whether the Burn wrecked the Federation’s subspace communications network directly, or whether decades of decline and decay were responsible. Either way, by the time of Michael Burnham’s arrival in the year 3188, the rump Federation was not able to even communicate with some former and current members.
So that, in a nutshell, is the Burn.
Over the course of Season 3, Discovery dropped hints about the Burn and what it could be connected to. We had the mysterious piece of music that everyone seemed to know, Michael Burnham’s year-long research quest into starship black boxes, the aforementioned SB-19 project, the missing Red Angel suits and Michael’s mother, the name “Burn” possibly implying a connection to Michael Burnham, a mention of the Gorn having “destroyed” a region of subspace, a couple of possible ties to the Short Treks episode Calypso – by way of the word “V’draysh” to refer to the rump Federation and the timelines seeming to line up – and a couple of other smaller things.
This setup forms a fairly typical “mystery box;” a style of storytelling pioneered by people like the writer/director of 2009’s Star Trek (and The Rise of Skywalker) J.J. Abrams. Alex Kurtzman, who was Discovery’s executive producer for all of Season 3 and who’s in overall creative control of the Star Trek franchise for ViacomCBS, is a colleague of and frequent collaborator with J.J. Abrams, and has adopted at least some of his storytelling methods. So it makes sense to see a “mystery box” in Discovery considering who’s in charge – and how television storytelling in general works as we’ve moved into an era of serialised shows.
The basic problem with the Burn as a “mystery box” is that the clues we as the audience were fed throughout the season did not add up to the story’s resolution. None of the clues or hints that the show dropped ultimately mattered; there was no way for anyone to put the pieces together to figure out the cause of the Burn based on what we saw on screen, not until the final episode when the Burn’s true origin was revealed. Some, like the piece of music, were dropped from the story altogether, despite seeming to be important when they first appeared. This made for a narrative that was, for many viewers and fans, unsatisfying at a fundamental level.
I’m not suggesting that the storyline should have been telegraphed or written in a very obvious way, but once the decision had been made to establish the 32nd Century’s semi-post-apocalyptic setting as being of mysterious origin, that mystery needed to be resolved in a satisfying way. The fact that nothing that we learned across the entire season mattered or had any impact whatsoever on the Burn made the reveal that Su’Kal was the cause feel like a bolt from the blue; a deus ex machina.
Had the Su’Kal reveal come in episode 3 or 4, and then the story had moved on to deal with things like the diplomacy with Ni’Var and the conflict with the Emerald Chain, perhaps it would’ve worked better. But it came at the end of a season that had been running for several months, and in which several episodes were side-missions that didn’t further the Burn story in any way. Season 3 feels like it spent a lot of time getting to an anticlimax; all of those expectations which had been built up quite cleverly over the preceding episodes basically fizzled out. It wasn’t a catastrophic disaster of an ending, but it was one which just didn’t seem to fit with the story that had been teased all season long.
For Trekkies – and for more casual viewers too, I would argue – the Burn was the most interesting, tantalising, and engaging part of the story of Season 3. How had Star Trek’s optimistic future been brought to its knees? How had the Federation allowed this event to happen in the first place, and how had the organisation so badly bungled its aftermath that even Earth had quit the organisation? These questions were all teed up by the Burn storyline, and providing a satisfying answer was perhaps the single most important task that befell the writers and producers of Season 3.
Su’Kal being the answer could have worked if the mystery had been set up differently. Bringing in the Kelpiens at an earlier stage would’ve helped, as would clues or hints about missions to seek out dilithium or experiments about radiation and telepathy. But I don’t think there can be any denying that Su’Kal as the cause of the Burn in the version of the story that made it to screen came from nowhere; it simply does not fit with what was set up in the rest of the season. That’s the fundamental reason why, for many folks, the Burn feels like a storyline that didn’t deliver at what should’ve been its climax.
There’s more to say, though. The idea of running out of an essential fuel and looking for alternative options is an interesting analogy considering that the real world remains dependent on fossil fuels. The Burn can be read, perhaps, as an extreme metaphor for climate change – the Federation’s dependence on dilithium ultimately caused a catastrophe that almost led to the collapse of civilisation itself.
But if this kind of analogy was part of the writers’ intentions, it has to get a failing grade. The concept itself works. It does what Star Trek has always done: uses its sci-fi setting to look at real-world issues. But once Su’Kal was shuffled out of the way, what did the Federation find? A massive cache of dilithium. A planet-sized mass of this vital fuel could power the galaxy for decades or more, regardless of the fact that it was almost responsible for the end of advanced civilisation. To continue the climate change analogy, this is the equivalent of running out of coal and oil, trying to use renewables, then the story ending with a huge new coal mine and oil fields being discovered.
Though some Trekkies may be glad to see that dilithium crystals aren’t in danger of disappearing from the franchise, this adds another element to the Burn’s unspectacular ending. After all of the talk of a shortage of fuel, alternative methods of propulsion (including several mentioned in the season premiere that were never spoken of again), and how dangerous dilithium could be, the story ends not with some new technology being invented to circumvent the crisis, nor with Federation starships being fitted with Spore Drives like Discovery has, but with a cop-out – finding a huge new dilithium planet that can be strip-mined for fuel.
The Burn and the dilithium shortage storylines were effectively reset by the end of Season 3. With Season 4 seemingly picking up a new story, what could’ve been one of the most powerful turning points in the entirety of Star Trek may find itself relegated to being little more than an unsatisfying season-long story arc that future stories will simply ignore. The Burn could’ve led to significant changes for Star Trek, assuming future shows might use a 32nd or 33rd Century setting. New kinds of starship could have been created using different methods of propulsion and new technobabble to explain it. Instead, basically what happened is that after a season-long dalliance with a setting teetering on the edge of the post-apocalyptic, Star Trek will shift back to using the same things as before.
A story that comes full-circle can work. After a season of seeing the galaxy struggling in the aftermath of the Burn, it will feel great to see Captain Burnham and the crew bringing hope back to the shattered Federation, and hopefully seeing the organisation returning to full strength. But how we get to those ending points is significant, and in the case of the Burn, the storyline took an odd route that has left many viewers feeling it wasn’t all it could’ve been.
Finally, we come to what I consider to be the worst and most egregious failing of the Burn and its storyline: the portrayal of Su’Kal and his role in it.
Bill Irwin put in an outstanding performance as Su’Kal, and I don’t want to criticise him for a moment. The way Su’Kal came across on screen was sympathetic, and his scenes with Saru in particular were deeply emotional. This is no criticism of the performances of Irwin or any of the other actors involved in the Su’Kal sequences.
Neurodivergent people, people with learning difficulties, and people with mental health issues have long been portrayed on screen in a variety of negative ways. That can be by becoming the butt of jokes, at other times being portrayed as villains, having no say in or agency over their own lives and stories, or simply by being ignored; it hasn’t been an easy road. Simply seeing a positive portrayal of someone in that situation could be a big deal, yet Discovery completely screwed this up.
By saying that Su’Kal accidentally caused the worst disaster in the entire history of the Star Trek galaxy, the show plays to old stereotypes of the neurodivergent as dangerous. Su’Kal is, for all intents and purposes, no different from Lennie in John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel Of Mice and Men. Lennie would accidentally kill another character in the book because he didn’t realise or understand his own strength, and that description of a man who was “too stupid” to recognise or understand his own power fits Su’Kal almost perfectly.
Discovery treats Su’Kal with a cloying, sickening pity at times, looking down at him while trying to present him in as pathetic a manner as possible. The show sees Su’Kal as a hapless moron who blew up every starship in the galaxy with his uncontrolled emotional outburst, painting him – and, by extension, other people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities – as a serious danger to others. People with learning difficulties are often portrayed as unable to control their emotions, which is a further stereotype that Discovery leans into. These aspects of the portrayal are really just awful, and putting Su’Kal in this position has real-world comparisons that are deeply unpleasant.
How many times can you remember hearing, in the aftermath of a massacre or killing spree, that the suspect had “mental health problems” or a learning disability? It seems like it happens every time we hear of such an event, and there’s a huge stigma even today around the topic of mental health. As someone with diagnosed mental health conditions myself, this is a topic that hits close to home, and I feel that the way Discovery portrayed Su’Kal as this kind of “dangerous idiot” stereotype shows how far we still have to go as a society when it comes to talking about and depicting neurodiversity on screen.
Though I enjoyed much of what Discovery’s third season brought to the table, the way Su’Kal was portrayed in his two appearances at the end of the season were really disappointing, even more so considering that the Star Trek franchise has so often tried to be a pioneer for portrayals of underrepresented peoples. Season 3 introduced transgender and non-binary characters for the first time, for example, and the show has a married gay couple, is led by a black woman, and has characters from many different backgrounds. But when it came to depicting someone with mental health issues and learning difficulties, Discovery fell back on overused stereotypes and outdated tropes, effectively bringing a modern-day Lennie to the screen.
There are aspects of Su’Kal’s story that did work. I like the fact, for example, that the telepathic technobabble aspect of the storyline was very “Star Trek” – you wouldn’t get this kind of story in any other franchise, and that’s something that gives Star Trek a sense of identity; a slightly esoteric, weirder kind of sci-fi than you get in other stories. But that side of it is drowned out by how badly Su’Kal as a character and a trope landed.
Neurodiversity isn’t always going to be easy to put to screen, and I get that. If there were only two half-episodes to show off Su’Kal and get to know him, perhaps the chance for a nuanced portrayal that was sympathetic without being pitiful never existed to begin with. But if that’s what happened, Su’Kal should never have been created in the first place. Either a different character should’ve filled that role, or an alternative explanation for the Burn should’ve been found. Given all of the other faults, missteps, and failings present in the Burn narrative as a whole, which I outlined above, I would prefer the latter.
Su’Kal as a character exists in a weird space for me. On the one hand, the emotional side of the portrayal, and the performance by guest star Bill Irwin, were outstanding. But there are so many flaws in the premise of the character and his role in this galactic catastrophe that I can’t look past them. Su’Kal being responsible for the Burn is an age-old trope, one which perpetuates the stigmatisation of the neurodiverse, and in particular those with learning difficulties. Star Trek should know better than to use a character like Su’Kal in a role like this; Star Trek should be better than this, and that’s why it’s so disappointing to see this storyline in Discovery.
To conclude, I’ll say that the Burn was an interesting, if slightly alarming, premise for the season. It allowed Discovery to tell some truly different and unexpected stories, it provided the backdrop for some great characterisation and character moments, and it has set the stage for future stories in this era. It wasn’t a total failure and I wouldn’t want to see it somehow erased or overwritten.
At the same time, however, the storyline itself followed a very odd path. The ending didn’t flow from what had been slowly built up across the rest of the season leading to the Burn as a whole feeling unsatisfying. Season 3 is saved by the fact that it has those other great episodes, character moments, and standalone stories; had it been all about the Burn we could well be talking about Season 3 as Discovery’s worst.
For me, though, the most egregious failure and deepest disappointment with the Burn storyline is the role Su’Kal played in it, and the implications that has for how neurodiverse people are viewed and portrayed on screen. Though the stigma around mental health and learning disabilities still exists in a big way out here in the real world, Star Trek has always been at the forefront of changing minds and challenging stereotypes. To fall back on such an old-fashioned trope, even though I have no doubt it was accidental, is bitterly disappointing and even upsetting.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the UK and around the world. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and for other iterations of the franchise.
When we think about which Star Trek show is the best fit for some wacky, out-of-left-field storylines, Lower Decks almost certainly springs to mind! But rather than silly or outlandish stories, what I’m thinking of today are five storylines that could take us by surprise in Discovery’s fourth season, in large part due to the huge time jump.
Star Trek: Picard showed us a little of the state of the galaxy in the years after Nemesis and Voyager, but that’s really as far along as the timeline has gone, and even then there’s a lot we don’t know. The galaxy as we knew it could have changed massively in the 800 years since; just think about how completely different our own world is today compared to even just a century or two ago. Factions and races we might not expect to see working together could come together, and likewise the passage of time could have seen friends drift apart.
Discovery’s third season already showed us a very different galaxy in the aftermath of the Burn. The idea that Vulcan and even Earth would have quit the Federation seemed unfathomable, yet that was the galaxy that Burnham and the crew found themselves in. So perhaps the entries on this list aren’t quite so wacky after all! Will they come to pass, though? Only time will tell…
My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” This list is just for fun, to speculate about some strange possible future scenarios that could, under some circumstances, possibly come to pass in the Star Trek galaxy. I’m not even trying to say that any of these would necessarily be good stories! I just think these concepts are interesting, and would – if nothing else – shake up the Star Trek galaxy and Discovery’s 32nd Century in completely different and unexpected ways. With all that out of the way, let’s jump into the list.
Number 1: The Dominion has joined the Federation.
Discovery’s third season focused a lot on which planets and factions had left the Federation, but aside from the Barzan we didn’t really learn of any existing Star Trek factions that had joined the Federation in the centuries since Nemesis and Picard. Prior to the Burn, there were at least 350 Federation members, so that means an awful lot of planets and factions had joined. Could the Dominion, once the foremost power of the Gamma Quadrant, be among them?
I don’t mean a Federation-Dominion peace treaty or alliance. I mean the Dominion became a full-blown Federation member like any other. It’s possible that faster warp speeds cut travel time between the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, making such a proposal feasible without relying wholly on the Bajoran wormhole. But would the Dominion ever want to make such a move?
In What You Leave Behind, the finale of Deep Space Nine, Odo travelled to the Founders’ homeworld. He did so not only to cure them of a disease that threatened their lives, but also to share his knowledge of life among “solids,” hoping to convince them to abandon their desire for conquest and subjugation. If Odo had succeeded in that objective, it’s possible to envision a future in which the Federation and Dominion opened a dialogue, one which eventually led to friendship, alliance, and the Dominion’s accession as a member.
With actor René Auberjonois having sadly passed away in 2019, I can hardly think of a more fitting legacy for the character of Odo than for Star Trek to say he successfully brought the Federation and Dominion together. There are a lot of questions that such a story would bring up, like whether only the Founders joined, whether the Vorta and Jem’Hadar did too, and what became of the planets and races the Dominion had conquered. But if the Dominion are to return in a future Star Trek production, this could be a really interesting twist on their expected status as adversaries, as well as Star Trek once again using its sci-fi setting to comment on real-world issues, in this case the prospect of peace even between bitter enemies.
Number 2: The Kelvan Empire is attacking the Milky Way galaxy.
By Any Other Name, from the second season of The Original Series, introduced the Kelvan Empire. The Kelvans were native to the Andromeda galaxy, but feared that rising levels of radiation would wipe them out. They sent out generation ships to seek out other galaxies to conquer; Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise encountered several members of their expedition to the Milky Way.
The Kelvans were initially set on conquering the Milky Way by force, but were eventually convinced by Captain Kirk to seek a peaceful solution to their problem, dispatching an unmanned starship back to Andromeda with a proposal from the Federation to help the Kelvans find a new homeworld in the Milky Way. The story ends shortly after, without a proper conclusion.
Given that the Kelvans initially seemed to view humans and the Federation in the way we might view ants, and that Kirk was only able to change the Kelvan leader’s mind by essentially tempting him to remain in humanoid form and enjoy the new feelings and sensations that brought him, it’s at least possible that the Federation’s offer to the Kelvans in Andromeda would be dismissed out of hand. Even if the Kelvan Empire accepted, if they arrived at the Milky Way in the aftermath of the Burn, they may have seen an opportunity to conquer.
Perhaps the “gravitational anomaly” glimpsed in the Discovery Season 4 trailer is a Kelvan weapon! Their technology was very powerful, far outclassing the 23rd Century Federation’s, so it isn’t impossible to think they could have such a weapon. Discovery has looked at obscure parts of canon on several occasions in the past, including bringing back factions and races from The Original Series era. So perhaps this one isn’t quite as wacky as it may seem!
Number 3: The Federation and Klingons are at war again.
When Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a Klingon main character as a Starfleet officer it really was a big change in the way the two factions interacted. Over the course of the first few seasons of the show we’d learn more about how the Federation and Klingons were at peace, and finally in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country we got to see how that peace was won. Considering that the Klingons had been the main adversary faced by Kirk and co. in The Original Series, this was a significant change for the Star Trek galaxy.
When discussing the Dominion, I noted that the passage of time can make friends out of longstanding enemies. But unfortunately the same is true in reverse; factions that had once been close allies can drift apart and even revert to being adversaries. It’s possible that this happened slowly over time, but there’s one event more than any other that could lead the Klingons – and many other factions, come to that – to hate the Federation: the Burn.
Su’Kal, a Kelpien, caused the Burn, as we learned in Season 3 of Discovery. At that time, the Kelpiens were Federation members, and the ship Su’Kal was on when it crashed in the Verubin Nebula was undertaking a mission for the Federation. From the point of view of the Klingons, then, the Federation are responsible for the Burn, and presumably for thousands if not millions of Klingon deaths.
It’s hard to see how the Federation could keep the Burn’s origin a secret, and once it’s out there, it’s up to the denizens of the galaxy to apportion blame and decide how to respond. I hope that Season 4 doesn’t just ignore this aspect of the story, because I think there’s a lot of potential here to really shake things up. Whether the Klingons had ever been Federation members is kind of a moot point, because surely once the Burn’s true origin is known they would be out for revenge!
Number 4: A classic character is still alive… somehow!
This time I’m not talking about a backup copy of Voyager’s Doctor or any of the other few characters who could potentially have survived this long. Instead I’m thinking of a character who has absolutely no right to still be alive in the 32nd Century, yet somehow is! Whether it’s Will Riker, Kira Nerys, Harry Kim, or someone else doesn’t matter – I just like the idea that a random character has somehow been kept alive this long.
Discovery’s far future setting should mean that no one from the 23rd or 24th Centuries is still alive. But Star Trek has done funny things with stasis fields and sleeper ships in the past, even allowing Montgomery Scott to emerge from a transporter beam into the 24th Century and meet Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D.
Technobabble basically means Star Trek can get away with bringing back practically any character, and as stasis, suspended animation, and other similar technologies are all known to exist, it would be quite achievable! In the past I did consider a handful of characters whose survival this long seemed more likely, but practically any character could come back via this method.
Dead characters could even return thanks to cloning, holographic technology, or even straight-up medical miracles that are tantamount to necromancy! So don’t count out any character from a past iteration of Star Trek, because who knows who we might encounter in the 32nd Century.
Number 5: The Borg have disappeared.
In this storyline the Borg weren’t defeated militarily by the Federation. One day, they simply went silent – as if they had completely disappeared from existence. Perhaps the Federation sent probes or starships to visit what had once been Borg space, only to find no trace of the cybernetic beings who were once considered the galaxy’s biggest threat.
I like this kind of storyline for one simple reason: it’s incredibly unnerving. What could have caused the Borg to vanish? Did they do it themselves, or were they attacked? If they were attacked that raises perhaps an even bigger and more important question: who could possibly have the power to defeat the entire Borg Collective in one fell swoop?
It’s not unfair to say that a lot of Trekkies are sitting on our hands waiting to see how and when the Borg will return to Star Trek. This would be a complete twist on their expected return, triggering a mystery to solve in the process. One of the Star Trek shows I’d love to see most of all would be an all-out Borg war, but such a show could only have one possible ending: the Borg’s ultimate defeat. This storyline, in which the Borg have simply vanished, could be a lot more open-ended.
The danger in this kind of story is getting a suitably satisfying ending. The question of how and why the Borg disappeared would have to be paid off in a big way, somehow – and I’m not really sure how such a story could and should end. There are many different possibilities, but getting it to work and not feel unsatisfying or like a deus ex machina would be the key challenge.
So that’s it. Five wacky stories that Discovery Season 4 almost certainly won’t touch!
It’s been a lot of fun thinking up some very different Star Trek stories for the 32nd Century. I can see why the writers and producers wanted to take the ship and crew so far into the future – doing so has really opened up the kind of stories they’re able to tell within the Star Trek galaxy in a way that isn’t possible in other productions, even Picard.
Discovery’s fourth season is still on the schedule for 2021, and it’s possible we could see it as early as October – or as late as the end of December! Whenever it arrives, be sure to check back as I’ll be reviewing each episode as they’re broadcast as well as indulging in some theory-crafting. I hope these wacky ideas were a bit of fun!
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix internationally. The Star Trek franchise, including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above, is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, as well as the teaser trailers for Star Trek: Picard Season 2 and Star Trek: Discovery Season 4. Further spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
During Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard last year, I kept holding out hope that the show would make a serious attempt to connect or cross over – somehow – with Discovery, its sister show. Aside from a couple of throwaway lines, however, that didn’t happen. We have since seen Discovery pick up a major faction that had been present in Picard, though, so clearly there’s some intention over at ViacomCBS to link up the two shows. Hopefully this will continue into their next seasons – and that’s what today’s theory is all about!
Discovery Season 4 will premiere months before Picard Season 2, and while I’m hopeful it will be able to include some kind of cameo or crossover like Season 3 did, where I’m going to focus much of my attention this time is on Picard Season 2, so we’ll be shooting past Discovery Season 4 for the most part. In short, there was a line in the Picard Season 2 teaser which stood out to me, and it could be interpreted as setting up some kind of crossover. At the beginning of the short teaser, we hear Picard say in voiceover that “the true final frontier is time.”
Beginning with Season 3, Discovery shot forward into the future, with Seasons 3 and 4 taking place almost 800 years after the events of Picard Season 1. That should preclude any major character crossovers… but not if time travel is somehow involved. By the 32nd Century, Admiral Vance and Starfleet believe time travel has been completely outlawed and that no way to travel through time exists. But at the dawn of the 25th Century, the Federation (and other factions) are just beginning to dip their toes in this untapped “final frontier.”
Picard himself has travelled through time on several occasions, both to the future and to the past. And while much of what we saw in the Season 2 teaser suggests that Picard and/or his new crew will travel backwards in time, if time travel is involved, all bets are off. The future and the past blend together in many time travel stories, and it’s possible – at least in my opinion – that Picard and his new crew could find themselves in Discovery’s 32nd Century at some point during their adventures.
Another point we could argue is in favour of this theory is the re-emergence of Q. Because of Q’s nature as a trickster, and an incredibly powerful being, practically anything is possible. In the Voyager Season 2 episode Death Wish, for example, a member of the Q Continuum was able to send the USS Voyager back in time to the moment of the big bang – 13 billion years in the past. The 32nd Century is nothing compared to that!
I’ve spoken before on a number of occasions about the need for Star Trek as a whole to get some threads of consistency going between the shows currently in production. There is a link between Strange New Worlds and Discovery, of course, but Picard and Discovery are almost entirely disconnected right now. Bringing the two crews together – even just for a one-off special episode – would be absolutely fantastic and a great way to celebrate all things Star Trek.
If Picard Season 2 is going to focus on travelling backwards through time instead of forwards, perhaps looking to preserve the future by righting wrongs in the past, that still doesn’t necessarily preclude the appearance of Discovery and her crew. Before Burnham, Saru, and the rest of the crew headed into the 32nd Century they were, of course, present in the 23rd, and although we’d be seeing these characters as they were in the past – and thus the storyline could become complicated – it would be possible, at least in theory, for Picard and his new crew to meet up with someone from Discovery if they visited the 23rd Century.
Given the complicated nature of the Control AI storyline in Season 2, anyone from Discovery having been aware of meeting someone from the Picard era could open up a plot hole, so it would have to be handled carefully. Perhaps Picard or someone from La Sirena is able to blend in and disguise themselves as a member of Starfleet in the 23rd Century, for example, allowing them to interact with the likes of Saru or Michael Burnham without the latter being aware of their true origins. That kind of crossover would be a lot of fun, and I think everyone involved would enjoy it!
One image that was prevalent in the Picard Season 2 teaser was the USS Stargazer – Picard’s first command. He first sat in the captain’s chair in the 2330s – about 75 years after the events of Discovery Seasons 1-2. That’s quite a long time, but considering the extended lifespans we know are present in Star Trek, it’s not so long that characters from Discovery couldn’t still be alive. Spock, obviously, is still alive in this era. And Dr McCoy was present at the launch of the Enterprise-D, despite being 137 years old. This opens up the possibility to see “aged up” versions of characters from the 23rd Century that we met in Discovery, such as Ash Tyler, L’Rell, or Saru’s sister Siranna.
Even just a short cameo from someone like that would be an amazing way to tie the shows together. Ash Tyler could have risen through the ranks to become a senior officer in Starfleet Intelligence by this era, and he could be someone Picard speaks with upon assuming command of the Stargazer, just as one idea off the top of my head. The introduction of Q and time travel into Picard Season 2 has opened up the possibility of such crossovers in a way that I hadn’t previously considered possible.
There is one other possibility, and it’s an inversion of a theory I had in the months before Discovery Season 3 premiered. Back then I theorised that something would go wrong with Burnham and Discovery’s jump into the future, leading them to arrive not in the 32nd Century but at the dawn of the 25th, leading to a crossover with Picard. That didn’t happen, of course, but right now there exists the possibility of this happening in reverse – for Picard and La Sirena to find themselves in the 32nd Century.
Maybe I’m in the minority, and both casual fans and Trekkies love to see the various Star Trek shows and films split up along the timeline – and in parallel universes! But I really do believe that consistency and stability are the hallmarks of a successful franchise, and if Star Trek wants to build on recent successes, picking a single time period to focus on for a majority of its shows and films makes a lot of sense. It makes following the franchise as a whole easier, and it makes it simpler for casual viewers to hop from one series to another without needing to read whole encyclopaedia articles about Star Trek lore to understand who’s where and what’s what. Perhaps bringing Picard into the 32nd Century could be a way to cut down on the franchise’s ongoing time periods.
This would be bittersweet, in my opinion. While it would be great for Star Trek to replicate its ’90s heyday by picking an era and sticking with it, taking Picard out of the 25th Century would make future character returns significantly more difficult. It was great fun to see the likes of Data, Riker, Troi, and Seven of Nine again, and I think one thing a lot of Trekkies are hoping for is that Season 2 of Picard will reintroduce more characters from The Next Generation era. Shooting the show forward by more than eight centuries would make that much more difficult.
We’d also miss out on finding out more about the state of the galaxy as the 25th Century dawns. We spent some time with the Romulans in Season 1, but we know next to nothing of the Klingon Empire, the Cardassians, the Bajorans, and so many others. In my opinion, if Star Trek is going to pick one era to be the main focus for upcoming projects, I’d rather it was the 25th Century than the 32nd. Jumping forward in time by a generation instead of centuries is what the Star Wars sequel trilogy tried to do, allowing for the return of classic characters alongside new ones. That’s one reason why I wondered if Discovery was going to end up in this time period too!
At the end of the day, time travel in Star Trek allows for many different possibilities. Even if Picard just visits the 23rd or 32nd Centuries briefly, during a single episode, the potential for using this technobabble as an excuse for a major crossover exists. If Season 2 is going to have a major focus on time travel, it would almost be a wasted opportunity if the show didn’t include some kind of crossover with Discovery!
The inclusion of Q almost certainly means that some wacky shenanigans are afoot in Picard Season 2. Whether he’s responsible for Picard travelling through time or not, he certainly has the potential to be a disruptive influence, and I could absolutely see Q sending La Sirena spiralling into the path of the USS Discovery – either the refitted 32nd Century version or the older 23rd Century variant! Heck, this could even be how the Short Treks episode Calypso gets resolved… though maybe that’s too much to hope for!
So that’s my theory. A rather disjointed and vague theory, I grant you, but a theory nevertheless. Somehow, the time travel storyline in Picard Season 2 will lead to a crossover with Discovery. Regardless of whether it happens or not, I’m really looking forward to Picard Season 2. It’s been over a year since Season 1 wrapped up, and despite the ending of the first season not quite hitting the highs of its premiere episode, I cannot wait to find out what will come next for Picard and the crew of La Sirena.
Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is currently targeting a 2022 broadcast, and Discovery Season 4 is scheduled to premiere before the end of 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including Picard, Discovery, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3.
Today we’re going to take a look at something that’s been bugging me for a couple of years, ever since the finale of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 in April 2019. I didn’t start working on this website until November ’19, so I haven’t written up full reviews of Season 2, nor have I spent much time breaking down all of the various story points. This will be my first big foray into that! Rather than just a critique of what could be argued to be a plot hole or “goof,” though, I want to turn this into a theory, particularly one that could have an impact on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – the upcoming series set on the USS Enterprise with Captain Pike, Spock, and a new cast of characters.
Ever since I watched Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2, something has stuck in my mind. Immediately before Burnham and the USS Discovery left the 23rd Century behind and headed into the far future we’ve seen depicted in Season 3, they were engaged in a climactic battle alongside Pike and the USS Enterprise against the Control AI. In addition to a fleet of Section 31 starships that were unmanned, Control had also possessed (or assimilated) the body of Section 31 commander Captain Leland. Control used Leland’s body to board the USS Discovery at the battle’s climax to attempt to retrieve the Sphere data – the macguffin that was the cause of the fight in the first place.
The relationship between Control and Captain Leland was not sufficiently explained on screen, in my opinion, and this has a bearing on what comes next and why I have an issue with Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2. But based on what we saw during the episode, it seems as though Control was somehow tied to Captain Leland’s body in a very significant way, such that when his body was crippled by Georgiou inside the USS Discovery’s Spore Cube, it had an impact on the battle raging outside.
This is the moment where I feel there’s an issue. The entire reason for sending Burnham and the USS Discovery on a one-way mission to the far future was to keep the Sphere data safe from Control, but when Georgiou defeated Captain Leland, Control appeared to also be defeated – or at least sufficiently incapacitated as to be unable to continue the battle. This all happened before the USS Discovery entered the time-wormhole.
So, with that in mind, why did Pike, Saru, or even Burnham not stop? Surely at the very least they could have paused what they were doing to consider their next moves. Aboard the Enterprise, Pike was able to easily destroy the disabled Section 31 ships, removing any immediate danger, and with Captain Leland incapacitated and clearly not going anywhere, the Sphere data was also safe. Before sending the ship and crew to an unknown destination with no way back, did no one realise that the battle may have already been won? Was there no reason to send Burnham and the ship into the future?
This is what I’m terming “the big mistake” for the purposes of this theory.
Although Burnham had already used the Red Angel suit to open the time-wormhole, I would absolutely argue that, based on what we saw on screen, the battle against Control had taken a decisive turn before either she or the USS Discovery actually crossed the threshold, and that there was time for Saru, Pike, Spock, or someone to point that out. They were preoccupied with the jobs that they had to do, but when it became obvious that Control was at least incapacitated – if not outright defeated – I think that warrants pause from everyone concerned. They were in the process of making a life-changing decision for Burnham and the crew of Discovery, yet for some reason no one seemed to realise that it may have ultimately been unnecessary.
So let’s break it down even more, for the sake of clarity, and follow events step-by-step. I don’t usually do time-stamps, but I think this is important so we’re all on exactly the same page. If we begin at exactly 51 minutes, 30 seconds into Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 – at least on the Netflix version (I assume it will be roughly the same on Paramount+ and Blu-ray too) – we see Burnham getting ready to open the time-wormhole. In the shot of her flying through space near the raging battle, we see the Section 31 ships beginning to slow their rate of fire with a consequent drop in the number of explosions. This is the first indication that something was changing.
At 51:54, Saru gives Detmer the order to follow Burnham’s lead. The USS Discovery moves through a field of debris (presumably caused by the battle) and then we get our first look at the time-wormhole a few seconds later at around 52:06. At this point, neither Burnham nor the ship are anywhere close to crossing the event horizon and entering the time-wormhole.
Just before 52:30 the action cuts to Captain Pike on the Enterprise’s bridge, watching Burnham and Discovery preparing to enter the wormhole. Trailing in Discovery’s wake are Section 31/Control drones, chasing after them. After Saru and Pike exchange goodbyes at 52:40, and Dr Culber tells Stamets that “we’re on our way,” at 52:57 we come to the scene at the heart of my argument – and of this theory. In Discovery’s engineering bay, the possessed Captain Leland is trapped in the Spore Cube by Georgiou.
Seemingly admitting defeat, Control-Leland tells Georgiou – in true clichéd villain style – that “this does not end here!” Georgiou then finishes the job of killing him, using the powerful magnets in the Spore Cube to force the nanites out of Leland’s body. This action cripples Control, and severs the link between it and its fleet.
53:39 sees Control-Leland hit the deck, dead. The nano-bots spill out of his corpse, and though it’s not clear exactly what will happen to the human Leland, or whether he could be saved, this is a major blow for Control. Less than ten seconds later, at 53:48, the USS Discovery and Burnham can both be seen, still outside the time-wormhole, and Control’s fleet suddenly stops pursuing them.
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Una (Number One) notes this at 53:51, informing Captain Pike that “they’re all dead in the water.” Again, this is before either Burnham or Discovery have entered the time-wormhole. Even if no one on Discovery realised what was happening – which is possible given everything else going on – the crew of the Enterprise certainly had, and there was still time to contact Discovery.
At 54:00, Georgiou contacts Captain Saru, and this is the moment where he could have made a decision too. Georgiou informs him of Leland’s death, but uses a very interesting phrase: “Control is neutralised.” Discovery has not yet entered the wormhole, and on the bridge, Saru is already aware that the reason for doing so no longer exists. Pike is aware that their reason for heading into the future no longer exists. They have already won the battle. By Georgiou’s own admission, the threat Control had posed is unequivocally over.
At 54:16, Burnham and the USS Discovery are seen reflected in the glass of Siranna’s starfighter, still not inside the time-wormhole nor having crossed its event horizon. These are the crucial seconds at the core of the theory, because it’s in these few seconds that the decision to leave the 23rd Century behind could have been called off. With the Enterprise destroying what remained of Control’s fleet, and with Leland dead, there was no immediate way for Control to access the Sphere data – and yet no one on either ship seems to have realised that.
Even if we say that Control was not totally killed off, and that its servers remained active at Section 31 HQ (or elsewhere, if you prefer) and thus that Control was still out there and potentially able to regroup, the fact remains that the immediate threat had passed. The battle had been won, even if there was still more to do to win the overall war.
No one mentioned this in Discovery Season 3. After a brief reference to Georgiou destroying the remains of Leland in the episode Far From Home, and a short conversation about Control with Admiral Vance in the episode Die Trying, their reasoning for going to the future was never discussed nor elaborated on. Burnham, when pressed about it by Book in That Hope Is You, maintained that it was the “only way” to save the galaxy, so she clearly hadn’t realised what was going on behind her – but that makes sense as she was busy operating the Red Angel suit and keeping the time-wormhole stable.
Saru and Pike have no such excuse, in my opinion. Both commanders clearly and demonstrably knew that Control and/or its fleet were incapacitated, and I believe that should have led to one or both of them bringing an immediate halt to events to take stock. If Control was disabled, there was no immediate need to head to the future. With Leland dead, the Sphere data was safe, at least temporarily. With the battle won, everyone could have taken a moment to breathe and assess the situation, perhaps planning to go to Section 31 HQ and permanently destroy whatever remained of Control. Instead, everyone simply sat back as Burnham and Discovery raced into an unknown future – a future, I would argue, they did not need to travel to.
There’s a way this could come back in either Discovery Season 4, Strange New Worlds Season 1, or both: if Saru and/or Pike realise that they made a big mistake.
Given what he went through to make the Red Angel suit possible, I would suggest the person this would affect the most would be Captain Pike. In the episode Through the Valley of Shadows, Pike obtained a time crystal from the Klingons, but did so at great personal sacrifice – solidifying for himself a future of permanent disability. How would he feel knowing that it was all for naught; that if he replays the events of the battle in his mind, he could see that Control was already beaten and that there was no need for the time crystal?
One theme Strange New Worlds is certainly going to pick up on is Pike’s knowledge of his impending disability. As a disabled person myself, this is something I’m really interested in seeing come to life on screen. I can relate to what Captain Pike is going through, because I’ve had the experience of sitting in a room with a doctor and being told things about my health and my future that are unavoidable. I get that sense of inevitability, of knowing things won’t get better but they will get worse. This is something genuinely interesting and that has the potential to be inspirational through Anson Mount’s wonderful portrayal of Pike. But I also wonder if we’ll see him wrestle with feelings of regret or remorse, feeling that his fate and future are his own fault. If he knows (or believes) that the battle was won in Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 without the need for time travel – and thus, without the need for the time crystal he sacrificed so much to obtain – will those feelings be worse for Pike?
Though we didn’t see much of this in Discovery Season 3, with Season 4 on the horizon there’s a chance for the circumstances of Discovery’s jump into the future to be revisited. Even if nobody aboard realised it at the time, it’s possible that someone will have subsequently had the revelation that their one-way trip to the future, sacrificing so much and leaving their loved ones behind, may not have been necessary. Perhaps this will become an issue for Captain Burnham or Saru, with a disgruntled crew member taking out their anger on them for forcing them into a post-Burn future that they didn’t have to inhabit.
So that’s it. My theory, based on what we saw in Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 is this: the defeat or disabling of Control toward the end of the battle means that Burnham and Discovery didn’t actually need to go to the far future – at least, not immediately. At the very least, pausing to take stock would have been worthwhile.
It seems possible to me that this could be brought back as a story point – even if it’s just in a relatively minor way, such as with a line or two of dialogue acknowledging it – in either Discovery or Strange New Worlds, as it’s a story which impacts major characters from both shows.
Having delved deeply into this battle from an in-universe point of view, now let’s step back and acknowledge that this is, in effect, a “plot hole” or production-side issue. The writers and producers of Discovery Season 2 wanted to send the ship and crew into the far future, partly due to negative fan feedback involving so-called canon problems during Season 1. But at the same time, they also wanted to make sure that the Control storyline was 100% wrapped up and concluded before Season 3 kicked off.
Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, the way they chose to accomplish those two goals has opened a plot hole. In the mad rush to wrap up Discovery Season 2 in what was already a feature-length episode, an inconsistency has been created within the plot of the show. If Burnham and Discovery had gone into the future, and in the final few minutes of the episode we saw Pike, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise finish defeating Control, there would be no problem. But because it was Georgiou, aboard Discovery, who killed Captain Leland, and because this unexplained link between Leland’s body and Control seems to have crippled the entire fleet, we have a problem.
Overall, for most viewers who don’t spend as much time thinking about (and nitpicking) Star Trek as much as I do, it probably passed by unnoticed. But even in 2019 I was having conversations with fellow viewers – including some who I would call “casual” viewers as opposed to hardcore Trekkies – who noticed this very issue. The fact that no one – not Pike, Spock, Number One, Georgiou, or Saru – thought to call off the journey to the future, even temporarily to assess the new facts, is a plot hole.
However, it’s a plot hole that could be plugged by incorporating it into future stories. Captain Pike could be affected by it, as previously mentioned. As could Spock or Number One on the Enterprise, as they saw the battle end before Burnham and Discovery entered the time-wormhole. It could also become an issue for anyone aboard the USS Discovery – perhaps with their mood and mental health suffering, they replay the events of the battle in their mind and come to the conclusion that they were forced to travel to the future unnecessarily. That’s my theory, anyway!
Whether any of that will come to pass, or whether both shows will proceed ignoring this issue is anyone’s guess right now. I would think that, if Discovery wanted to acknowledge this criticism, Season 3 would’ve been the time to do so, and the fact that it didn’t happen may mean that the writers and producers are keen to move on and put Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 behind them. But I’m not 100% convinced of that. I think there’s scope to incorporate what feels like a plot hole into the storylines of either upcoming show in a way that would make sense.
As I said at the beginning, this is something that’s been on my mind since I first saw the episode a couple of years ago! Even on first viewing, it seemed patently obvious to me that someone should have realised what was happening before Burnham and Discovery left, speaking up to put the brakes on. It really does feel that, based on the sequence of events and how they unfolded on screen, Burnham and Discovery could have remained in the 23rd Century.
Despite all of this over-analysing of a few minutes of the episode, I really enjoyed Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 – and Discovery Season 2 as a whole. It’s a fantastic season of television well worth a watch, and this theory, despite being something that’s bugged me for a while, is really just a glorified nitpick!
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The series is also available on Blu-ray. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery, Strange New Worlds, and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
During Star Trek: Discovery’s third season, I wrote a weekly series of theories, speculating about what may be going on with the show’s various storylines. I had some successes in my theories and predictions, but there were more than a few misses as well! Now that the season is in the rear-view mirror, I thought it could be fun to go back to some of my theories and see how wrong I was!
All of these theories seemed plausible at the time – for one reason or another – yet ultimately proved to be way off base. One thing I appreciate about Discovery – and a lot of other shows and films too, both within the Star Trek franchise and outside of it – is that sense of unpredictability. Nothing in Discovery Season 3 was mundane or felt like it had been blatantly telegraphed ahead of time, and the fact that the narrative took twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting was, on the whole, great! There were a couple of storylines I personally didn’t think were fantastic or handled very well, but on the whole, Discovery’s third season was an enjoyable ride.
Some of the theories I had were pure speculation based on nothing more than guesswork and intuition, and others seemed truly reasonable and plausible. While the season was ongoing I tended to just write up any theories I had, no matter how wild or out of left-field they seemed to be! Whether that was good or not… well the jury is out! The theory lists I published were well-read, so I assume at least some folks found something of interest!
I like to caveat these kinds of articles by saying that no fan theory, no matter how plausible or rational it may seem to be, is worth getting too attached to or upset about. The internet has been great for fan communities, allowing us to come together to discuss our favourite franchises and engage in a lot of theory-crafting. But there is a darker side to all of this, and some fans find themselves getting too attached to a particular theory to the point where their enjoyment of the actual narrative is diminished if that theory doesn’t pan out. Please try to keep in mind that I don’t have any “insider information,” and I’ve never tried to claim that a particular theory is somehow guaranteed to come true. I like writing, I like Star Trek, and writing about Star Trek is a fun activity for me – that’s why I do this, and if I ever felt that theorising about Discovery or other shows was harming my enjoyment, I would stop. And I encourage you to take a step back if you find yourself falling into that particular trap.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at ten of my least successful Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 theories!
Number 1: Cleveland Booker is a Coppelius synth.
When we met Book in That Hope Is You at the beginning of the season, it wasn’t at all clear who he was. However, there were inhuman elements to Book, such as his ability to heal, to use a holographic interface seemingly attached to his body, and glowing, almost electronic-looking areas on parts of his skin. With Book’s origin somewhat of a mystery, I wondered if he might turn out to be a synth – and specifically, a synth from the planet Coppelius (or one of their descendants).
We met the Coppelius synths in Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and I was hopeful as Discovery’s third season got underway that there’d be a serious attempt to connect the two shows – as this was something Picard wholly failed to do in its debut season. I’ve said numerous times that Star Trek needs to do more to bind different parts of the franchise together, and after Picard basically ignored Discovery, I was hoping for some kind of connection to manifest in Season 3. Booker being a synth could have been one way to do that.
So really, it’s not unfair to say that this theory was concocted more for production-side reasons than anything we saw on screen. Book’s abilities as we saw them in That Hope Is You (and subsequently in episodes like The Sanctuary, There Is A Tide, and That Hope Is You, Part 2) were clearly more organic and telepathic than anything artificial or technological in origin – except for his holographic computer interface. So perhaps this was always a bit of a stretch!
Booker turned out to be a Kwejian native – though what exactly that means is unclear. Given Book’s human appearance, it’s possible that the people of Kwejian are descendants or offshoots of humanity, or perhaps, given their telepathic nature, they’re somehow related to the Betazoids. In the season finale, Book promised Burnham he’d tell her more about his background, and how he came to use the name Cleveland Booker, so perhaps we’ll learn more about Book’s people in Season 4. He was a wonderful addition to the season, even if I was way off base with my theory about his possible origin!
Number 2: The Burn is connected to Michael Burnham – and/or the Red Angel suit.
The Burn’s origin was not definitively revealed and confirmed until the season finale, so for practically the entire season I was talking about some form of this theory! There seemed to be a few possible clues that Discovery gave us – which ultimately turned out to be red herrings as the Burn was unconnected to any of them – about the ultimate answer to the Burn, and several of them could have been interpreted to mean that Burnham was, in some way, connected to the event that shares part of her name.
The main reason I considered this theory plausible, though, was because Discovery has always been a series that put Burnham front-and-centre in all of its main storylines. Having a connection to the biggest story of the season thus seemed possible. When the event’s name was revealed, the fact that it shared part of her name seemed to lend credence to that idea – at least it did considering I’d already started down that rabbit hole!
That Hope Is You saw Burnham arrive in the future immediately following the events of Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 – the Season 2 finale. She took off her Red Angel suit and set it to self-destruct, but as we never saw the self-destruction for ourselves on screen, it was a bit of a mystery as to what became of the suit. In a future where time travel technology had been prohibited, the Red Angel suit may have been one of the last extant ways to travel through time, and would be incredibly valuable to factions like the Emerald Chain, so I reasoned that perhaps someone had intercepted the suit, and either intentionally or unintentionally caused the Burn.
I’m glad this one didn’t pan out, because it was nice to give Burnham a break! In the end, Burnham wasn’t strongly involved in the resolution to the Burn’s storyline, with that task being given to Saru, Dr Culber, Adira, and of course Su’Kal. After Burnham had just saved the galaxy by defeating the Control AI, there would have been an interesting ethical and philosophical dilemma for her if she had learned that her actions and/or the Red Angel suit had been responsible for the Burn – but it would’ve been hard to pull off and arguably too similar to the guilt she felt at the outbreak of the Federation-Klingon War in Season 1. So overall, it was an interesting theory well worth considering, but I’m glad it wasn’t true!
Number 3: The USS Discovery could arrive in the future before Burnham.
Time travel stories are complicated. Once the link between cause and effect is broken, almost anything becomes possible. Even though Burnham and the Red Angel suit were leading the way into the future, the mechanics of the time wormhole were not explained, and it was at least plausible to think that the USS Discovery might’ve arrived first.
I first posited this theory after the season premiere, and it seemed plausible for practically all of Far From Home too. One thing that could’ve happened, had this theory been correct, would be that Burnham would’ve been out of her element for a lot longer than just one episode. In That Hope Is You, we saw her completely awed by everything she saw, experiencing a completely new world for the first time. And that premise meant that we were seeing Burnham in a whole new way, not in control of the situation and having to rely on others instead of trying to shoulder all of the burden all of the time. Had the USS Discovery found her after the ship and crew had spent a year in the future instead of the other way around, Burnham could’ve been our point-of-view character for learning what was new and different, instead of reverting to type.
With both Red Angel suits gone, I doubt we’ll see the time-wormholes they could generate ever return either. But it would be interesting to get to know a little more about how that technology worked – would it even have been possible for the USS Discovery to arrive earlier than Burnham? Burnham arrived on the planet Hima, and Discovery arrived near a planet called the Colony, so considering the wormhole had two different exit points it seems possible to me anyway!
Because of the one-year time skip, we didn’t get to see much of Burnham’s exploits with Book in the 32nd Century prior to Discovery’s arrival. It would have been interesting to see either Burnham or the crew trying to learn more about their new home and the origins of the Burn, because in some ways it could be argued that we as the audience arrived with the first part of a story already complete. I kind of want to see that part for myself – and maybe we will in flashbacks in future seasons!
Number 4: Lieutenant Detmer is going to die.
One of my hopes going into Season 3 was that Discovery would finally spend some time with other members of the crew, and I was pleased that it happened. After two full seasons I felt that we hadn’t really got to know anything about people like Owosekun, Rhys, and Detmer, despite their being permanent fixtures on the bridge. Though not all of the less-prominent officers got big storylines this season, one who did was Detmer.
In the episode Far From Home, Detmer was thrown from her seat following the ship’s crash-landing. Concussed, she was sent to sickbay where, after a once-over, she was patched up and returned to work. However, there were hints – at least, what I considered to be hints – that all was not well with Discovery’s helm officer, and I wondered if her first significant storyline might in fact be the setup to her death. There just seemed to be so much foreshadowing!
Ultimately, however, Detmer’s storyline took a different path. I appreciate what it was trying to be – an examination of post-traumatic stress that ended with a positive and uplifting message showing Detmer “getting over it,” for want of a better expression – but because it wasn’t properly fleshed-out after Far From Home, with Detmer only given a handful of very brief scenes before her big turnaround in The Sanctuary, I just felt it was underdeveloped and didn’t quite hit the notes it wanted to. So despite a potentially interesting premise, the execution let this storyline down somewhat.
Especially after the way she was acting in Far From Home, I can’t have been the only one to predict an untimely end for Detmer! I heard several other theories that I considered to be very “out there,” such as Detmer’s implant being possessed by Control in the same manner as Ariam had been in Season 2, but I firmly believed the setup was foreshadowing her death due to injury rather than something of that nature. It’s probably good that it didn’t happen, as it leaves her a slightly more rounded character if the show wants to do more with her in future. However, there were several officers in the final trio of episodes who could’ve been killed off after the ship was captured by the Emerald Chain, including Detmer, and it feels somewhat like Discovery was playing it safe by not doing so. Aside from Ryn, no major hero characters lost their lives in Season 3, and while character deaths aren’t something I desperately want in a show like this, they can certainly raise the stakes.
Number 5: The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager (or rather, a backup copy of him) will make an appearance.
This was my most popular pre-season theory! I stuck with it practically the whole time, and branched out to include a handful of other characters from past iterations of Star Trek who could, in theory, still be alive by the 32nd Century. By the standards of my modest website, an absolutely huge number of you read this theory – and it continues to be popular even today, despite the season having concluded months ago. So I wasn’t the only one half-guessing, half-hoping that the Doctor might be included in Discovery!
The reason why I considered the Doctor to be one of the most plausible characters who could make an appearance is because of an episode from Voyager’s fourth season: Living Witness. In that episode, a backup copy of the Doctor was activated sometime in the 30th or 31st Centuries after being discovered among museum artefacts, and while the story was interesting in its own right and a critique of how things we consider to be “historical facts” can shift over time, what really interested me was its timeframe and its ending.
At the end of Living Witness, in a scene set even farther into the future, it was revealed that, after living with the Kyrians and Vaskans in the Delta Quadrant for decades, the Doctor eventually took a small ship and set out to try to reach Earth. If he had survived and completed his journey, he could’ve reached Earth in the years prior to the arrival of Burnham and Discovery. The timelines lined up for a possible crossover.
However, it wasn’t to be! Though we did see the return of the Guardian of Forever, which had originally appeared in The Original Series, no major characters from any other Star Trek show made an appearance. Perhaps the producers and writers felt that, with Seven of Nine carrying the torch for Voyager with her appearances in Season 1 of Picard, including a second main character from Voyager in a new show would’ve been too much, or at least that the timing was wrong. Regardless, I think it would’ve been amazing to see, and despite this theory failing to pan out in Season 3, it’s one I may very well bring back in time for Season 4!
Number 6: There will be a resolution to the story of the Short Treks episode Calypso.
Poor Calypso. I’m beginning to feel that the Short Treks episode is doomed to be a permanent outlier in the Star Trek canon, evidently connected to a version of Season 2 that never made it to screen. Broadcast in the months before Discovery’s second season, Calypso introduced us to Craft, a soldier from the far future fighting a war against the “V’draysh.” We also got to meet Zora, an AI who was the sole inhabitant of a long-abandoned USS Discovery.
Here’s where things get confusing. Season 3 saw some moves toward Calypso, including the apparent creation of Zora from a merger of the Sphere data with Discovery’s computer. The voice actress from Calypso even reprised her role, although the name “Zora” wasn’t mentioned. We also heard the villainous Zareh use the term “V’draysh” to refer to the rump Federation – seemingly confirming that Calypso must be set in roughly this same era.
However, we also saw some big moves away from Calypso as well. The most significant one is that the USS Discovery has undergone a refit. While this isn’t readily apparent from the ship’s interior – something I really hope changes in Season 4 – it was very apparent from the exterior of the ship. Calypso showed off a pre-refit Discovery, which means that resolving the story of this short episode feels further away than ever.
As I mentioned in the intro, it seems clear that Calypso was originally written with a different version of Season 2 in mind – perhaps even to serve as a kind of epilogue in the event that Season 2 would be Discovery’s last. Even going into Such Sweet Sorrow – the two-part finale of Season 2 – the possibility of hiding the ship in a nebula, as depicted in Calypso, existed, and with a few changes and tweaks to the season finale, Calypso would have been a natural epilogue to that story. That’s what I think happened on the production side of things, anyway. With the storyline of Season 2 up in the air, a somewhat ambiguous short episode was created to serve as a potential epilogue if the show was cancelled. Discovery wasn’t cancelled, though, and now the writers have to find a way to square this particularly tricky circle. Or they might just try to ignore it!
Number 7: The Spore Drive will become Starfleet’s new method of propulsion.
When it became apparent that warp drive in the 32nd Century was very difficult due to the lack of dilithium and the aftereffects of the Burn, I thought the writers and producers of Discovery had played a masterstroke by finally finding a way for the show’s most controversial piece of technology to play a major role.
The Spore Drive, which was introduced in Season 1, received a mixed reaction from fans. Some insisted that it “violates canon” by allowing a 23rd Century starship to effectively travel anywhere in the galaxy, and others wondered why the technology had never been mentioned in settings where it would have logically been useful – such as to the crew of the USS Voyager, stranded tens of thousands of light-years from home! Though I would suggest that many of the fans who felt this way about the Spore Drive also had other gripes with Discovery, by pushing forward in time there was an opportunity to expand the role of the Spore Drive in a way that wouldn’t undermine anything in Star Trek’s established canon.
The dilithium shortage the galaxy is experiencing, made a hundred times worse by the Burn, seemed to offer an opportunity to expand the role of the Spore Drive. And at first, Starfleet did seem to be keen on making use of it. However, despite Discovery’s extensive retrofit, the Spore Drive remained aboard the ship and Starfleet seems to have made no attempt to copy it or roll it out to any of their other vessels. The huge planet-sized cache of dilithium in the Verubin Nebula has also solved – at least in the short-term – the galaxy’s fuel problem, so there’s less of a need from Starfleet’s perspective to invest in recreating the Spore Drive, despite its seemingly unlimited potential.
Perhaps this will be picked up in Season 4, especially with Book’s ability to use the Spore Drive getting around the last hurdle in the way of a broader rollout. There was potential, I felt, for the dilithium shortage and Burn storylines to parallel real world climate change and how we’re slowly running out of oil, but the Verubin Nebula’s dilithium planet kind of squashed any real-world analogy! Again, though, this is something that could potentially return in Season 4.
Number 8: Dr Issa is a descendant of Saru’s sister Siranna.
The Short Treks episode The Brightest Star was broadcast in between Seasons 1 and 2, and introduced us to Saru’s sister Siranna. She returned in Season 2, in the episodes The Sound of Thunder and Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2. In Season 3, the same actress who played Siranna also appeared as Dr Issa – the commander of the crashed Kelpien ship in the Verubin Nebula and the mother of Su’Kal.
Because of this production-side coincidence, as well as Saru’s incredibly strong reaction to seeing Dr Issa in holographic form, I speculated that Dr Issa could be a descendant of Siranna, and thus a great-great-niece to Saru. That familial tie could have explained why Saru found himself so emotionally compromised during the final few episodes of the season, and why he risked everything to help Su’Kal.
However, it seems that this was little more than casting coincidence! Perhaps it was easier for the producers to work with someone who was already familiar with the Kelpiens – and Kelpien prosthetic makeup – instead of casting a new actress for the role. Or perhaps it was deliberate – presenting Saru with someone superficially similar to Siranna to push him emotionally. Regardless, this theory didn’t pan out.
It could have been interesting to see Saru coming face-to-face with a distant relative, and it could’ve added to the Su’Kal storyline. However, in the time allotted to Saru’s exploits in the Verubin Nebula, it would have been difficult to add this additional emotional element and have it properly developed, so perhaps it’s for the best!
Number 9: The holographic “monster” is either Dr Issa or the real Su’Kal.
The episode Su’Kal pushed hard for a creepy “haunted castle” aesthetic when depicting Su’Kal’s holographic world, and a big part of that was the holographic “monster.” The monster seemed like a very odd inclusion in a holo-programme designed for a young child, and even though an attempt was made to excuse it by saying it was an old Kelpien legend, I wasn’t convinced that there wasn’t something else going on.
Additionally, the monster didn’t behave or appear like any of the other decaying holograms. After decades of continuous use, Su’Kal’s holographic world was falling apart. Many of the holograms were flickering or fading, and they were quite basic in what they could say or do. In contrast, the monster moved with a natural, organic fluidity, and didn’t flicker or appear in any way artificial – even as the holographic world disintegrated around it.
The Verubin Nebula’s radiation was said to be fatal, but in horror and sci-fi radiation is often seen to cause mutations. Given the monster’s vaguely Kelpien appearance and dishevelled, decrepit, morbid look, I wondered if it was actually the real Su’Kal – or Dr Issa – having mutated and decayed after decades in the hostile nebula. The final piece of evidence I added to this little pile was the strange way that the monster interacted with Burnham in the episode Su’Kal – it seemed curious about her, perceiving her in a way I thought was almost human.
Despite all of that, however, the monster turned out to be exactly what the crew believed it to be: just another part of the holo-programme. This theory was quite “out there,” as it would’ve been a big twist on what we as the audience were expecting. There were hints that I felt could have built up the monster to be something more, but ultimately these turned out to be red herrings!
Number 10: Season 3 is taking place in an alternate timeline or parallel universe.
Over the course of the first two-thirds or so of Season 3, there seemed to be breadcrumbs that at least hinted at the possibility that Burnham and Discovery had crossed over to a parallel universe or alternate timeline. The biggest one was the initial absence of Dr Gabrielle Burnham, but there was also the strange piece of music that seemed to be connected to the Burn, the fact that the time-wormhole didn’t take Burnham and the ship to their intended destination of Terralysium, and a couple of hints from Voyager (as mentioned above) and Enterprise that could have been interpreted to mean the Burn never happened in the timeline depicted in those older shows.
There was also the possibility that the Burn was caused by the interference of time travellers. The resolution to that storyline could have been for Burnham and Discovery to go back in time and prevent the Burn from ever happening – restoring the “true” timeline and undoing the Burn. Both of these theories seemed plausible for much of the season.
I’m glad, though, that neither theory came to pass! “It’s a parallel universe” is almost akin to “it was all a dream” in terms of being a pretty lazy excuse for storylines in sci-fi, and the idea of undoing the Burn, while interesting in theory, would have effectively wiped out all of the good deeds Saru, Burnham, and the crew did across Season 3, like helping the peoples of Trill, Earth, Ni’Var, and Kwejian. So it was to the show’s overall benefit to stick firmly to the prime timeline.
Doing so is actually rather bold. Discovery took Star Trek to some very different thematic places in Season 3, largely thanks to the Burn and its lingering effects, and I could understand the temptation to brush all of that aside. We still got some parallel universe action in the two-part episode Terra Firma, which revisited the Mirror Universe. With the Burn now in the rear-view mirror and Discovery moving on to new adventures, perhaps it will be possible for Star Trek to establish the 32nd Century as a major new setting, allowing Discovery Season 3 to be the springboard for a host of new shows and films.
So that’s it. Ten of my worst Discovery Season 3 theories!
Though we can debate some of the story points across Season 3 – and I still haven’t written my big piece about the Burn yet – overall I think Season 3 did a good job of establishing the show in its new setting. The Burn presented a tantalising mystery to solve, and for the first time in the series, it felt as though more members of the crew had significant roles to play in the season’s main storylines.
So I hope this look back was a bit of fun! Stay tuned, because as and when we get news about Season 4 I’ll be taking a look here on the website, and when the season premieres later this year I’ll be reviewing every episode… and probably coming up with a few more theories!
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is available to stream now in its entirety on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, the teaser for Season 4, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Did you read my weekly theory posts as Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 was ongoing? If you did, perhaps you’ll remember that, about four episodes in, I began to speculate that Michael Burnham’s new attitude toward Starfleet – which had changed following a year alone in the 32nd Century – would ultimately lead to her leaving the organisation, and perhaps even Star Trek: Discovery altogether.
That didn’t happen, of course, and it was part of Burnham’s arc across the season to get her ready to assume the captaincy at the end of the season finale. Although Burnham had at least one bump in the road where I felt her newfound independence spilled over into selfishness, her storyline and her rise to assume command was generally satisfying, especially across the back half of the season. By the time the credits rolled on That Hope Is You, Part 2, Burnham had truly earned the captaincy.
What I’m about to suggest may seem odd seen in that context, but there are a couple of reasons why I consider it plausible as I’ll try to explain. In short, I’m bringing back the theory that flopped in Season 3: Michael Burnham will, somehow, no longer be in command of the USS Discovery by the end of Season 4.
One of Discovery’s unique features within Star Trek’s broader canon has been the season-long captaincies of three very different individuals. Season 1 brought us Captain Lorca, the hardball who ultimately turned out to be deceptive. Season 2 reintroduced Captain Pike, the classic character who embodied the best of Starfleet’s values. And Season 3 saw Saru sit in the captain’s chair, the first ever alien captain to helm a Star Trek series.
Each captain brought something new and different to the ship, and thus to the series as well. And Michael Burnham, having assumed command at the end of Season 3, will undoubtedly put her own stamp on things as we enter Season 4. That’s great, and it keeps one of Discovery’s unexpected themes going. But as we look ahead to Discovery’s future, with a fifth season rumoured to be all but confirmed and even the possibility of some kind of feature film involvement, I can’t help but wonder whether she will remain in the captain’s chair.
Unlike Lorca, Pike, and Saru, Burnham has been Discovery’s protagonist since the beginning – even if, at times, her status as our main character didn’t always work as intended! So perhaps that means her rise to the captaincy, rather than the captaincies of the three other characters, is what we should be focused on. And that is a good argument in some ways – the story of Discovery, rather than being about the other captains or even other members of the crew, has primarily been about Michael Burnham.
Thus we can argue that Seasons 1, 2, and 3 showed off different aspects of her ascent to the captain’s chair – which, it has to be said, is an amazing premise for a Star Trek series. Past shows all introduced us to captains who were already established; even Commander Sisko, who we saw at the beginning of Deep Space Nine assume his post for the first time, was still very clearly in command. We did get some episodes showing us parts of the backstories and pasts of Captains Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer, but when we first met them they were already established. We didn’t see their rise through the ranks in the way we’ve seen Burnham’s unfold over the past three seasons.
So that argument is valid, and it may very well prove to be true. But despite Discovery’s tight focus on Burnham much of the time, the show does have a broader cast of characters, some of whom we’re getting to know reasonably well now that we’re three seasons in. The show has never been about Burnham alone, and the different captains have, as I mentioned above, all put a unique spin on things during their tenures.
Discovery feels like it’s in a place where it could go down one of two paths, and which one the producers ultimately choose will depend on all sorts of factors, including future plans for the wider Star Trek franchise. One path is outlined above, keeping the Burnham focus as a key aspect of the series, and allowing Seasons 1-3 to depict her growth and rise. But there is another option.
The second path would be for Burnham to follow Lorca, Pike, and Saru, with her captaincy of the ship lasting a single season. Discovery’s unique selling point as a series would thus change from being all about Burnham to being a show which had a rotating captaincy. Those first three seasons – and probably Season 4 as well – would still have that Burnham focus. But if Discovery manages to keep going into Season 5 and beyond, perhaps we’ll look back on it as “the show with all those different captains!”
Because of a captain’s role and status, changing things up can really have a significant impact on the ship – and the series. While arguably an extreme example, if we look to Chain of Command, the two-part episode from The Next Generation Season 6, the introduction of Captain Jellico as a replacement for Captain Picard radically changed things up on the Enterprise-D, and if he’d remained in command we’d certainly have seen The Next Generation transformed into a very different series!
It makes for an interesting concept for a Star Trek show – something closer to an anthology series than a “traditional” Star Trek show in the vein of The Original Series and The Next Generation. Not only would the captaincy have changed, but we also have two very different time periods in play which really adds to the sense that Discovery has been, across its three-season run to date, very different season by season. Burnham’s departure could cement that trend.
To clarify, I’m not saying this should happen, or that it would be great for the series. Because despite some of my critiques of Burnham’s characterisation, particularly early in Season 1, her rise to the captain’s chair worked. Seeing her take her seat at the end of Season 3 felt earned and it felt great; a genuinely emotional moment.
Despite that, however, I can’t help but wonder if the storyline of Season 4 – which seems to involve another “galaxy-threatening” event – will end with Burnham’s departure from the ship and the show.
There are two ways such a departure could happen, at least as far as I can see, so before we wrap things up we’ll briefly look at both.
Firstly, the one that seems more obvious given what we saw in the Season 4 teaser, and given what we know of Burnham’s disposition and personality, is some kind of self-sacrifice. Perhaps the only way to save the ship and crew – or more likely, save the whole galaxy – will involve Burnham making a decision to sacrifice herself for the cause. Her death would thus mirror characters like Data and Captain Kirk, both of whom were killed in the line of duty while saving others.
In a show that has been all about Burnham, depicting her at her lowest moments and showing her greatest achievements, there would be something poetic about going out in a “blaze of glory” – but at the same time, her death might seem like the series finale. If there are no plans for a fifth season (or film) to continue Discovery’s story, perhaps the series will conclude with Burnham’s death.
It wouldn’t be impossible for the show to go on without her, though, despite her prominent role. And while her death might feel like Discovery’s conclusive end, that wouldn’t necessarily have to be the case. As I’ve argued in the past, Star Trek shows are typically about more than just one character, and as we’ve spent more time with other members of the crew, I think there’s more than enough interest and potential for the series to stand on its own two feet if Burnham leaves or is killed off.
And that brings us to our second possibility – that Burnham survives, but for other reasons chooses to leave Starfleet.
This is what I felt Season 3 seemed to be hinting at in those early episodes. The shift in Burnham’s attitude toward Starfleet, her willingness to break the rules and disregard orders given by Saru and Admiral Vance, and the fact that she admitted to both Book and Georgiou that she found a sense of freedom outside of Starfleet in her year alone all seemed to be building up to a potential departure. The second half of the season got rid of that, and we saw Burnham’s attitude change such that her rise to the captaincy made sense in-universe. But there’s still the prospect of those feelings returning.
Burnham has, ever since the Season 1 premiere, had a bit of a problem with authority and the chain of command. While we should see much less of that with her in command, and thus not answerable to anyone else aboard the ship, the USS Discovery does not exist independently and is still under the command of Admiral Vance and Starfleet. If Burnham feels constrained by the orders she’s given, and repeatedly butts heads with senior Starfleet officers, perhaps the craving for freedom that we saw her express in Season 3 will come back.
I wouldn’t want to see Burnham storm off, throwing down her combadge and just walking away. After three seasons of being with her and seeing her grow, that would feel wrong. That’s why I was so critical of Discoveryat one point in Season 3 when I felt this antagonistic attitude and selfishness, putting her own wants ahead of Starfleet’s orders, seemed to be a character regression, dragging Burnham back to where she was in Season 1. Luckily it didn’t pan out that way, and I hope it won’t here.
But there can certainly be a way to get Burnham to walk away from Starfleet, perhaps at the conclusion of a successful, galaxy-saving mission, that would work. If she were to say goodbye and head into the sunset with Book, having saved the galaxy not once but twice, I think we could absolutely say that she earned the right to live her own life away from Starfleet in the manner she chooses. In short, this storyline could work, but it would all hinge on the way Burnham’s characterisation was handled and the manner in which she left.
So that’s it, really. We can call this a pre-season theory, and summarise it thusly: somehow, perhaps toward the end of Season 4, either through an heroic death or satisfying resignation, Michael Burnham will leave the USS Discovery and cease to be a main character on the show.
Will it come true? I have no idea! And with filming on Season 4 currently paused for two weeks due to a small coronavirus outbreak, perhaps we won’t find out for a while.
Once again, I’m not arguing in favour of this theory necessarily. I think it could be made to work in a way that felt right, and it would mix up the captaincy of the ship again, potentially keeping things fresh going into Season 5. But at the same time, I’ve grown to like Burnham. Her departure would be a bittersweet moment for the series, and in a way it would be a risk unlike any the show has taken so far.
I hope you’ll swing by later in the year, as I plan to review every Discovery Season 4 episode when they’re broadcast. If Season 4 lends itself to theory-crafting, I daresay my weekly theories posts will be back as well! Between now and then we have Season 2 of Lower Decks to look forward to, which is coming up in less than four months now! So there’ll be a lot to talk about there as well. I hope you enjoyed this theory, but as always, please remember not to get too attached to any one individual fan theory. No theories are worth getting upset or disappointed over.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. Season 4 is due for broadcast in late 2021. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the teaser for Season 4. There are further spoilers for the following: Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Picard.
Now that we’ve seen the first teaser for Star Trek: Discovery’s upcoming fourth season, and learned that a release later this year is on the cards, I thought it could be a bit of fun to consider some of the factions from past iterations of Star Trek that may – or may not – still be around in the 32nd Century! We know that at least part of the story of Season 4 will look at some kind of gravitational anomaly, and if you want to check out a few of my theories on that you can do so by clicking or tapping here. Even if the gravitational anomaly is the overarching season-long story, Discovery is likely to still find at least some opportunities to step away and spend a bit more time exploring the 32nd Century.
Season 3 was our first introduction to this time period in all of Star Trek, and as such we as the audience were learning about the state of the galaxy as Burnham, Saru, and the rest of the crew had their adventures. We met a couple of major factions outside of the rump Federation, but many familiar factions and races from past iterations of Star Trek were entirely absent – including some that might prove interesting from a story perspective. So in this article I’m going to take a look at a few of my favourites and speculate about where they might be in the 32nd Century.
With Burnham and the crew having originated in the 23rd Century, they’ve missed most of what happened in past iterations of Star Trek! Major events like the V’Ger cloud’s arrival at Earth, two Borg incursions, and the Dominion War will all be unfamiliar to them, and there’s storytelling potential in re-introducing a faction from Star Trek’s past to a character or group of characters who are entirely unaware of their existence. Such a story could be interesting and fun, as well as providing new Trekkies – those who haven’t seen much of “classic” Trek – with an easy introduction to an older faction.
My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I’m not suggesting that any of these factions will definitely show up, or even be mentioned, in Discovery Season 4. This is simply a chance to have a bit of fun and speculate about the future of some of the factions we’re familiar with from past iterations of Star Trek by imagining where they could be by the 32nd Century.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!
Number 1: The Bajorans
We’re going in alphabetical order, so the Bajorans are up first! Even though they weren’t a Federation member, a number of Bajorans were known to have served in Starfleet in the mid-late 24th Century, including Ro Laren, Sito Jaxa, and Lieutenant Shaxs. The Bajorans were in the process of applying to join the Federation when the Dominion War broke out; it has long been assumed by many fans that they would ultimately be successful, perhaps even becoming a fully-fledged member by the time of Picard Season 1.
Bajorans were familiar to the Federation in the 31st Century at least, because Dr Issa programmed a Bajoran physical appearance into the holoprogramme she made for her son, Su’Kal, aboard their crashed ship in the Verubin Nebula. It seems very likely that the Bajorans were a Federation member in the years before the Burn – whether they remained in touch with the rump Federation afterwards is unknown, but if they did they may very well be welcomed back into the fold following the discovery of a huge dilithium cache.
It’s also worth pointing out that Bajor is at a very strategic location – the Bajoran wormhole connects the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants. Whether that will matter quite so much with the advent of new, faster methods of travel is unclear, but Bajor could very well still be an important location.
Number 2: The Borg Collective
Since their official first contact with the Federation – which came in either the 2350s or 2360s depending on how we consider such things – the Borg have attempted to invade Earth twice. Though a time-travelling Admiral Janeway did some damage to the Collective in the late 2370s, I never felt convinced that the events of Endgame would have led to the complete destruction of the Borg.
With the Federation – or at least humanity – firmly in their sights, would the Borg have simply given up? It stands to reason that they made subsequent attempts to attack the Federation, taking advantage of their superior technology and greater numbers. However, the existence of the Federation in the 32nd Century means that any such attempts were met with failure! Perhaps the Collective is no longer around, having been decisively defeated.
The Burn would have presented an ideal opportunity for a faction like the Borg to attack the shattered Federation – yet they don’t appear to have done so. Could that mean that they have already been defeated, or could they be waiting just beyond Federation sensor range for Burnham and Discovery? Maybe the Spore Drive is something they want to acquire – and they could even be responsible for the gravitational anomaly seen in the Season 4 teaser!
Number 3: The Breen
The Breen were initially thought up as an unseen faction, able to be referenced without ever making an on-screen appearance. That changed toward the end of Deep Space Nine, when they joined the Cardassian-Dominion alliance and came close to turning the tide against the Federation in the Dominion War.
Following the war’s end, we know nothing of the Breen. The peace treaty that they signed after their final defeat over Cardassia may have seen a loss of territory for them, or it may simply have seen them retreat to their own borders. Regardless, the Breen were a major power in the Alpha Quadrant in the mid-late 24th Century, with technology capable of matching and even outpacing the Federation. Their defeat in the Dominion War was a setback, but with their homeworld untouched by the conflict it stands to reason they were able to recover quickly.
Would they have pursued peace with the Federation in the decades and centuries after? Would their technology have continued to keep up? Did the expanding Federation come into conflict with the Breen again? Any and all of these things are possible, but as we didn’t see or hear of the Breen in Season 3, perhaps we will never know.
Number 4: The Cardassian Union
Discovery’s first Season 3 trailer tricked us last year! By showing off a Cardassian among a group of what we now know to be Emerald Chain guards, a lot of Trekkies wondered what sort of role the Cardassians might play. The answer, of course, was “none at all!” However, there was a second Cardassian seen in Season 3 – a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in the episode Scavengers. This is arguably the most interesting post-Deep Space Nine Cardassian appearance to date, as the individual in question was a senior Starfleet officer, perhaps even a captain.
As noted above with the Bajorans, non-Federation members were eligible to join Starfleet under certain circumstances, and the post-Burn Federation was hardly in a position to turn away qualified candidates! But the existence of a Cardassian in what seems to be such a senior capacity suggests that they may have been a Federation member in the years before the Burn.
In a way, despite what happened during Dominion War, this makes a lot of sense. The Federation were in a position to offer help to the Cardassians as they rebuilt following the Dominion occupation of their world, and perhaps that help turned into an alliance over time, culminating in their joining the Federation.
Number 5: The Coppelius synths
The (relatively) short lifespan of humans and other organics means that, barring time travel shenanigans or being put in stasis, no one we met in the 23rd or 24th Centuries could reasonably have survived to the 32nd Century. However, synths don’t have such limitations, and as such it’s possible that some or all of the Coppelius synths from Picard Season 1 are still alive in this era.
What happened to them after the events of Picard Season 1 is not clear, and it may be something that Discovery’s sister show plans to revisit. If that’s the case we may not see anything of the synths in Season 4. However, if Picard Season 2 is going in a different direction – as its teaser indicated it might – there could be scope to pick up the synths’ story in Discovery.
The Coppelius synths were under Federation protection by the end of Picard Season 1. But with the Romulans hell-bent on exterminating them, they still appeared to be in danger. It would be very depressing to learn that a subsequent Romulan attack wiped them out, especially after Picard and Soji worked so hard to help them. So I hope that the synths are still around – even if they had to relocate to a new homeworld. They could have joined the Federation by this time, too.
Number 6: The Denobulans
The Denobulans have thus far only appeared in Star Trek: Enterprise, where main character Dr Phlox was a member of the species. Though friendly toward humanity by the mid-22nd Century, the Denobulans were not strictly “allies,” nor were they a founding member of the Federation – which consisted of Andorians, humans, Tellarites, and Vulcans in its original incarnation.
However, the Denobulan homeworld must have been in relatively close proximity to Earth and Vulcan, and with the Federation coalescing and growing it seems at least plausible that they joined up at some point, especially given their friendly history. If Federation HQ relocates back to Earth in Season 4, perhaps we’ll see more of the Denobulans, who might still be in the vicinity.
Number 7: The Dominion
The Dominion were the dominant power in at least part of the Gamma Quadrant, and according to their own history, had been so for over two millennia as of the mid-24th Century. After a years-long cold war between the Dominion and Federation following first contact, armed conflict broke out in the 2370s. The Dominion War was arguably the most significant event of the latter part of the 24th Century from the Federation’s point of view, proving far more devastating than incursions by the Borg or earlier wars with the Klingons and Romulans.
Following their failed attempt to invade the Alpha Quadrant, the Dominion agreed to return to their own space beyond the Bajoran wormhole. Odo, a Founder who had lived among Bajorans and humans for decades, reunited with his people, hoping to communicate to them that the Federation would not try to wipe them out nor conquer them. If Odo was successful, this could have set the Dominion on the path to peace.
We simply don’t know what became of the Dominion. The Guardian of Forever was seen in Discovery Season 3, and had relocated to a planet near the Gamma Quadrant. Admiral Vance didn’t mention the Dominion when Burnham and Saru planned to travel there, so perhaps we can infer from that that the two powers are at peace. However, the Burn may have disrupted that peace, especially if it resulted in serious damage to the Dominion – might they hold the Federation responsible for that disaster?
Number 8: The Ferengi Alliance
The Ferengi initially appeared to be antagonistic toward the Federation following (official) first contact in the mid-24th Century, but they soon revealed their true nature: hardcore capitalists for whom war was simply not worth participating in as it was usually unprofitable. Ferengi society was strictly segregated, with men participating in business while women were expected to remain at home and raise their families.
There were seeds of change in the 2370s, with women’s rights issues coming to the fore in Ferengi society. There were also moves away from unregulated capitalism, with some Ferengi even forming unions and advocating for more rights and welfare. Though such changes surely led to pushback from conservative Ferengi, the appointment of Rom as Grand Nagus may have cemented at least some of these reforms.
Though hardly allies of the Federation, at least one Ferengi – Nog – would serve in Starfleet in this era, bringing a different perspective to the organisation and perhaps bringing the factions closer together. The existence of a USS Nog in the 32nd Century – while intended to be a tribute to actor Aron Eisenberg – could also be seen as an indication of continued warm relations in this time period.
Number 9: The Gorn
The Gorn were neighbours of the Federation by the 23rd Century, and may have been involved in border disputes and skirmishes. There was no indication that they ever joined or even considered joining the Federation, and appeared to maintain a closed-border policy well into the 24th Century.
In the Lower Decks episode Veritas, Ensign Rutherford’s arrival at a Gorn wedding led to him coming under immediate attack by the Gorn who were present, and while this was (of course) part of an extended joke, it certainly suggests that the Gorn were not in any way friendly toward the Federation by the 2380s.
In That Hope Is You, the Discovery Season 3 premiere, Book told Michael Burnham that the Gorn had “destroyed subspace” somewhere in the vicinity of Hima. Perhaps that indicates that they were not allied to the Emerald Chain, nor the Federation – retaining their status as an independent power.
Number 10: Holograms
We saw a number of holograms in Discovery’s third season, confirming that the technology is still in use in the 32nd Century. At least one of these holograms appeared to be intelligent, perhaps even sentient, but that was never confirmed.
In the late 24th Century, the Doctor – the USS Voyager’s Chief Medical Officer – was involved in a court case regarding his ownership over a work of fiction he had created. The court case was resolved in his favour in the episode Author, Author, and Captain Janeway suggested that he might have “struck the first blow for the rights of holograms.” There were other sentient holograms in the 24th Century as well, including a holographic version of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty. What became of them is unclear!
As with the Coppelius synths, there’s no reason why holograms from the 24th Century couldn’t have survived this long, and one of my most popular theories here on the website has been that Voyager’s Doctor – or rather, a backup copy of him – will make an appearance in Discovery.
Number 11: The Iconians
Iconian civilisation flourished more than 200,000 years ago, and by the 24th Century they were believed to be extinct. However, their powerful technology utilised “gateways” to travel vast distances, and it was implied by the extent of the archaeological evidence that they maintained outposts or colonies on many other planets.
The destruction of their homeworld by an alliance of their enemies may have rendered the majority of Iconians extinct, but such a widespread civilisation could have avoided total annihilation, perhaps. The reason the Iconians are on this list is because of their popularity in non-canon works, particularly the video game Star Trek Online. Some elements from non-canon Star Trek publications have ended up crossing over to the main series, so perhaps the intervening centuries saw some kind of re-emergence of the Iconians.
Number 12: The various Kazon sects
Discovery Season 3 didn’t establish whether the Federation were able to travel to the Delta Quadrant, nor if they had ever revisited the region since the USS Voyager’s transit in the late 24th Century. Given that warp drive was still the main way of travel, and that maximum warp speeds (as understood in a 24th Century context) meant that the Delta Quadrant would take decades to reach, perhaps they never did.
So we may not find out what became of the Kazon! Similar in some ways to a less technological, less organised Klingons, the Kazon were major antagonists across the first couple of seasons of Voyager. We know that the Borg considered them “unworthy” of assimilation – the only species we know of that the Borg couldn’t be bothered with!
It seems unlikely that the Kazon will have had much impact on the Federation given their distance. However, if they ever succeeded in unifying their disparate sects, perhaps they could have become a regional power in the Delta Quadrant. The USS Discovery’s Spore Drive could take the ship anywhere – even 70,000 light-years away. So maybe if they’re able to travel there, we’ll find out!
Number 13: The Kelvan Empire
The Kelvans are an interesting – and potentially alarming – faction. Extragalactic aliens from the Andromeda galaxy, their technology was far superior to the 23rd Century Federation, and arguably to anything the Federation subsequently developed! They only appeared once, in The Original Series Season 2 episode By Any Other Name, but that shouldn’t stop them making a comeback.
The Kelvan Empire’s home galaxy was facing an extinction event due to rising radiation levels, and they sent out scouting parties to look for new homes. One of these parties encountered the USS Enterprise upon arriving in the Milky Way. Though initially interested in conquest, Kirk was able to convince the Kelvans to consider an alternative proposal, allowing the Federation to help them find new worlds to settle.
If the Federation’s proposal was accepted, perhaps there are millions of Kelvans living somewhere in the Milky Way in this era. Or if it was rejected… perhaps the Kelvan Empire is about to descend upon the Federation en masse!
Number 14: The Klingon Empire
The Klingons, despite having made so many appearances in Star Trek already, are perhaps the most interesting faction to see return in Discovery. Burnham and the crew are veterans of the Federation-Klingon war, and while I wouldn’t say any of them “hate” Klingons, they certainly would be distrustful of them. How would they react to learning that the Klingons had been allies with the Federation – or even Federation members – for centuries?
I think there’s a lot of potential for conflict, drama, and for Star Trek to do what it’s always done best: use its sci-fi setting to examine real-world issues, in this case, the way we can be guilty of judging groups of people. Characters like Culber, who was “murdered” by Voq, or Stamets, who had to deal with the fallout from that loss, could be front-and-centre in such a story, and it would be absolutely fascinating to see it unfold.
Rather than Discovery making the Klingons antagonists again, like in Season 1, it would be great to learn that the alliance of the 24th Century continued, and that if the Klingons remain an independent power – which they may well be – they’re at least on friendly terms with the Federation.
Number 15: The Maquis
Although Maquis forces were said to have been almost entirely wiped out by the Cardassian-Dominion alliance during the early stages of the Dominion War, at least some Maquis were known to have survived the initial attack. In addition, the USS Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant with a contingent of 40-ish Maquis, including Chakotay and B’Elanna Torres.
It’s at least possible that the Maquis, who were breakaway colonists attempting to secede from the Federation, recreated their society in the aftermath of the Dominion War. While their soldiers may have been killed, we saw no confirmation of the fate of other Maquis colonists. If they survived the war, even in captivity, perhaps they attempted to continue their quest for independence afterwards.
If so, the Maquis colonies may have been independent of the Federation for centuries by the 32nd Century. What kind of society they might’ve developed in that time is not known.
Number 16: The Q Continuum
The Q Continuum are returning in Season 2 of Picard – or at least, their most well-known member is. Perhaps that means we won’t see or hear anything about them in Discovery, nor learn what became of them in the far future. But it’s possible!
The Q are as close to immortal as any faction we’ve seen in Star Trek, so they should certainly still be in existence by this time. Their incredible powers are, as a famous quotation puts it, “indistinguishable from magic,” and Q suggested that the Continuum has existed for at least as long as the universe itself.
The Q seemed to view humanity and the Federation with curiosity rather than animosity, with Q even trying to help Captain Picard to solve puzzles that required different ways of thinking. If this kind of intervention continued, and humans continued to develop their reasoning skills, perhaps they might be on friendly terms with the Q by this time. However, if the Q are able to create matter, they would have been very useful friends to have as the Federation began to run out of dilithium! Perhaps the Q have instead stepped back from actively intervening in Federation affairs, content to watch from the outside.
Number 17: The Romulan Star Empire
The existence of Romulans on Ni’Var – the planet formerly known as Vulcan – suggests that the Romulan Empire has disbanded following reunification. It was certainly implied heavily in the episode Unification III that reunification involved all Romulans and Vulcans. But it’s possible that a breakaway faction exists in some form; a “New Romulan Empire” claiming the mantle of the disbanded one.
We’ve already seen what was perhaps the biggest possible reveal for Burnham and the crew – learning that the Romulans are an offshoot of the Vulcans. However, with Ni’Var seemingly on the verge of rejoining the Federation, perhaps there is scope to see more from them. The Romulans remained a distinct group on Ni’Var, with full integration with the Vulcans having not occurred, and there are clearly internal tensions between the three main groups. This could be a story thread that Season 4 picks up.
Number 18: The super-synths
We know practically nothing about this faction, despite them playing a major role in the conclusion to the story of Picard Season 1. They don’t even have a proper name! Claiming to be “an alliance of synthetic life” existing beyond the Milky Way, this faction offered to come to the aid of any synthetics who needed them. It was not clear if this offer was genuine or part of an elaborate trap.
I suggested in the run-up to Season 3 that the super-synths could have been involved with the Burn, but that turned out not to be the case. However, if they became aware of the Federation following the events of Picard Season 1, they could still be planning to travel to the Milky Way – perhaps with conquest on their minds.
The super-synths could thus be responsible for Season 4’s gravitational anomaly – perhaps it’s a weapon; an artillery barrage to soften up the Federation before the troops arrive! It would be fantastic for the creative team in charge of Star Trek to find a major way to tie Picard and Discovery together. Whether this is the right way to do it is certainly up for debate, but in principle I like it.
Number 19: The Talaxians
Although the Talaxians are native to the Delta Quadrant, there was at least one Talaxian colony in or near the Beta Quadrant, significantly closer to Federation space. This seems to increase the likelihood that the Federation would have been able to remain in contact with them at least in the late 24th Century.
The Talaxian homeworld had been conquered sometime in the mid-24th Century by the Haakonian Order. Perhaps the Federation, if they remained on friendly terms with the Talaxians, would have wanted to aid them in liberating their homeworld. If the Federation developed the ability to travel to and from the Delta Quadrant at some point in the future, perhaps the Talaxians even joined the Federation!
Number 20: The Talosians
The Talosians were a very dangerous people whose telepathic powers were able to trick humans, Vulcans, and other known races into seeing things that weren’t there. As a result of their attempt to kidnap Captain Pike and other Enterprise officers, Talos IV was declared off-limits to Starfleet personnel and the Federation.
The events of The Menagerie, in which the Talosians welcomed Captain Pike back to their world, as well as their general helpfulness toward Spock and Michael Burnham in Discovery Season 2, however, may suggest that General Order 7 – the section of Starfleet’s rules banning travel to Talos IV – may have been reassessed, although no in-universe evidence for that exists.
The surviving Talosians lived underground after their planet was devastated by war, and lost their ability to control their technology, focusing instead on refining their mental powers. In the 23rd Century, Talosian leaders believed their race was doomed to extinction – but maybe the Federation found a way to aid them? If not, perhaps Talos IV is uninhabited by this time period.
Number 21: The Tholians
The Tholians have only made a couple of appearances in Star Trek – once in The Original Series and once in Enterprise. However, they’ve been mentioned on a number of occasions, and despite being antagonistic in the 23rd Century, some kind of diplomatic relations clearly existed a hundred years later.
As one of the few non-humanoid sentient species, it would be really interesting to see the Tholians make a return. An area of space that they claimed as their own seemed to have some kind of gateway to the Mirror Universe – if Discovery were to revisit that setting, perhaps the Tholians could be included.
As to where they might be or what they might be doing by the 32nd Century, that isn’t clear. In the aftermath of the Burn, they could have expanded to conquer border worlds, or they might’ve been a peaceful neighbour or even ally of the Federation in this era.
Number 22: The Vidiians
Another Delta Quadrant faction whose reappearance will depend on the Federation’s ability to travel, the Vidiians were an antagonist during the USS Voyager’s journey – but only because a disease known as the Phage was afflicting their society.
In the episode Think Tank, a group of “problem-solving” aliens claimed to have cured the Phage, and if this was true – that was left rather ambiguous due to the way the story progressed – perhaps the Vidiians would have been more peaceful and willing to establish a dialogue with the Federation, especially if they were visiting the Delta Quadrant regularly. Or, due to their relative proximity to the Borg, the Vidiians may have been assimilated!
That may seem like a harsh fate, but in the Picard Season 1 episode The Impossible Box the Borg were revealed to have assimilated at least some members of the Sikarian species, making use of their spatial trajector technology. The Sikarians were present in the same region of space as the Vidiians, so perhaps the expansion of the Borg in the late 24th Century was a problem for them.
Number 23: The Xindi
I recently took a look at the possibility of the Xindi returning – along with fellow Enterprise antagonists the Suliban. Neither faction has been seen since Enterprise went off the air, and their absence suggests that, at least in the 23rd and 24th Centuries, they may have pursued a policy of isolationism.
The Xindi had joined the Federation, however, by the 26th Century, with at least one Xindi serving aboard the Enterprise-J. Whether they remained members in the years after the Burn is not known, and with 90% of Federation members either leaving or being out of contact it seems likely that they would have had to fend for themselves for a while.
So that’s it. A few factions from Star Trek’s past that may be around – in some form – in the 32nd Century!
This was a long list, so credit to you for making it to the end. Truthfully I can think of at least half a dozen more factions that could have made it, but it was already getting far too long! We don’t know at this stage where Discovery Season 4 is going to go, and thus which factions may or may not be included.
What I would say, though, is that Season 3 had some pleasant surprises, bringing back elements from Star Trek’s past that I genuinely would not have expected. With that in mind, I think there’s potential for any of the factions above to play a role – minor or major – in the upcoming season.
If Discovery Season 4 remains on course, we’ll see it before the end of the year. With Lower Decks Season 2 scheduled to arrive in mid-August and run for ten weeks, we might even see Discovery before Halloween, just like we did in 2020. Time will tell, but I hope you’ll stay tuned for more Discovery news and, when the season is ready, reviews of every episode… and perhaps a bit of theory-crafting!
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is scheduled to premiere on Paramount+ in the United States (and other territories where the service is available) before the end of 2021. The series will arrive on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the teaser trailer for Season 4. Further spoilers are present for the following: Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise.
Star Trek’s First Contact Day virtual event has given us an awful lot to digest! We got teasers for Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, Discovery Season 4, and more details about Prodigy. If you missed the event, I wrote up my impressions of everything we saw, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here.
This time, I want to look at the teaser for Discovery’s impending fourth season in more depth, and in particular start making some guesses about what may be going on! The teaser was barely ninety seconds long, and with the show at least six months away it may be futile to speculate about pretty much anything! But that hasn’t stopped me in the past, so let’s jump in!
My usual disclaimer applies: I don’t have any “insider information.” I’m not offering up these suggestions saying any are unequivocally true. This is nothing more than speculation from a fan – and a chance to spend some more time talking about Star Trek, which I absolutely adore.
In the run-up to Season 3 last year, I spent a lot of time speculating about the event that ultimately turned out to be the Burn. When we first heard its name I put together a list theorising a number of possible connections to past iterations of Star Trek – but as you know by now, none came to pass!
Discovery has had an on-off relationship with Star Trek’s broader canon. Season 1 sidestepped a lot of things, redesigning the Klingons, visiting the Mirror Universe years before Kirk’s first crossing, and fighting a major war. Season 2 tied itself much closer to canon, bringing in Captain Pike, Spock, and revisiting Talos IV. Season 3 shot forward into the future, and told a story that touched on past iterations of the franchise at points, but had an overall narrative that stood on its own two feet.
In short, trying to guess whether Season 4’s main storyline will be related to something we’ve seen in the past or not is a crapshoot. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t. Regardless, if it’s going to be something brand-new then naturally the details become impossible to predict! So in this list I’m going to look at eight possibilities from Star Trek’s past that could explain what we saw in the teaser.
First of all, let’s explain what exactly we saw! Stamets described a “gravitational anomaly” that’s at least five light-years in diameter. This anomaly appears to be incredibly destructive, and if Burnham is correct, it’s appearing and disappearing at random. As a result, it could potentially strike any Federation or non-Federation world or starship without warning.
Assuming that this anomaly is the main problem facing Captain Burnham and her crew in Season 4, I’ve got a few ideas for what it could be, or what it may be related to. I quite like the idea of Discovery sticking with the “natural disaster” concept from Season 3. It worked well last time, and presenting the crew with a puzzle, mystery, or challenge that’s more scientific in nature than military could be wonderful to see. As long as such a storyline manages to avoid feeling either repetitive or anticlimactic, I think it works in principle.
One final point of note is that, due to disruption caused by the pandemic, Discovery Season 4 began filming back in November, well before Season 3 had finished airing – and crucially, before the creative team had time to process any feedback they were getting about the season’s themes and storylines. As a result of that, it may be the case that Season 4 doesn’t make as many changes from Season 3 as some fans would have wanted to see. But once again, that’s speculation on my part!
So let’s consider this “gravitational anomaly,” then. What could it be? What have we seen in past iterations of Star Trek that could potentially be involved? Will there be any tie-ins to other ongoing series, such as Picard, or will the show set up something we’ll see return in a future project, such as Strange New Worlds? Let’s jump into the list and see if we can make some reasonable guesses!
Number 1: The Nexus
When I first saw the teaser, my mind immediately went to the Nexus, the energy ribbon seen in Star Trek: Generations. The Nexus was large, more than large enough to engulf an entire planet, and while it may not have been light-years in diameter when we saw it in that film, it’s possible it grew… somehow! The Nexus was incredibly destructive, causing the destruction of two transport ships and seriously damaging the Enterprise-B, not unlike some of the damage suffered by the USS Discovery in the teaser.
There are two crucial points which made me think of the Nexus, though. The first is that the energy ribbon was said to contain a “gravimetric field,” which sounds an awful lot like Stamets’ “gravitational anomaly.” Both seem to be connected to gravity, and as we saw in the teaser, the USS Discovery appears to lose its artificial gravity at one point.
The second point I consider key to the Nexus being a possibility is that we already know it’s something that recurs. The Nexus returns to the Milky Way galaxy every 39.1 years (according to Data in Generations) and unless something major happened in the intervening centuries, this force of nature should still be present, periodically crossing through the galaxy.
At a couple of points in the teaser we saw members of Discovery’s crew looking dazed and confused, not unlike how Soran and Guinan appeared after being transported out of the Nexus by the crew of the Enterprise-B. Perhaps we can infer from their demeanours that they’re not quite sure where they are or what just happened – maybe that means they’ve just spent time inside the Nexus’ paradise-like realm.
Though the stated size of the anomaly relative to what we saw in Generations may count against it, I like the idea of revisiting the Nexus. Would Discovery bring aboard a Soran-like villain, someone hell-bent on getting to “paradise?” Maybe!
Number 2: The super-synths from Picard Season 1
It’s absolutely true that I also suggested the super-synths could’ve been the cause of last season’s disaster! But that doesn’t mean I’m done suggesting ways for this unnamed faction to reappear in Star Trek, especially considering that the teaser for Picard Season 2 suggested that series is moving away from them.
At the end of Picard Season 1, we learned that there is a race of super-synths that exist somewhere out in deep space – perhaps many thousands of light-years away from the Milky Way galaxy. They offered to come to the aid of any synths that ask for their help, though whether this offer was genuine or not was not clear – as indeed was very little about the faction!
Soji and Sutra, two of the synths from Coppelius, attempted to make contact with the super-synths, but despite opening a beacon and a portal to their base, Soji was ultimately convinced to shut it down and cut off her attempt to communicate. We thus learned precious little about who the super-synths are or what their objectives may be. They seemed menacing, and may harbour an anti-organic hatred that could make them diametrically opposed to the Federation.
We know that, in principle, this faction can open portals in space to allow for travel far faster than warp drive. Perhaps getting too close to one of their portals causes the kind of damage seen to the USS Discovery, and their portals may appear to be “gravitational anomalies” when detected on sensors. The super-synths clearly have a powerful understanding of gravity, such that they were literally able to move stars and create a stable eight-star octonary system. It’s thus at least possible that they use gravity or gravitational anomalies as some kind of weapon.
One thing that Picard Season 1 left unresolved was the fate of the super-synths. Having been contacted, were they now aware of the Milky Way and the Federation? Might they be hell-bent on attacking the Federation? If their offer of help wasn’t genuine, might they arrive to attack the synths who live in the Milky Way? There are a lot of unknowns, but it’s at least plausible that they could be involved. As I’ve said numerous times, finding a way for Picard and Discovery to work together, using similar themes, factions, or even characters would be fantastic and something truly worth doing. This may not be the way it happens… but it could be!
Number 3: A graviton ellipse
The Voyager Season 6 episode One Small Step introduced the graviton ellipse, a fast-moving anomaly that can travel through subspace, normal space, and even other dimensions. The ellipse was drawn to electromagnetic energy – such as that emitted by spacecraft! One ellipse appeared in the Sol system in 2032, during an early manned mission to Mars, and “swallowed” the Ares IV ship. It later attempted to do the same to the USS Voyager.
The graviton ellipse was smaller than five light-years across, so again we have to contend with size. But there are points in its favour! Firstly, the ellipse was specifically drawn to spacecraft and other future technology. Though we didn’t see it attempt to “eat” anything on a planet’s surface, it stands to reason that similar technologies used in power generation may emit the same kind of electromagnetic radiation that an ellipse would be drawn to.
Secondly, the ellipse moved essentially at random, disappearing into subspace to reappear many thousands of light-years away. One single ellipse was known to have visited both the Alpha and Delta Quadrants. This seems to fit with what we know of Discovery’s “gravitational anomaly” – specifically the part Captain Burnham told us about its random, unpredictable appearances.
Finally, the graviton ellipse was known to cause damage to spacecraft, draining their power, as well as gravity-related disturbances in space. An encounter with an ellipse may not have destroyed Ares IV or the Delta Flyer, but they were known to be very difficult to escape from.
The drawbacks of this option are that graviton ellipses were relatively well-understood as early as the 24th Century, and with Discovery Season 4 set over 800 years later, it stands to reason that the Federation would be well-equipped to at least know what they’re up against if an ellipse seemed to be in the vicinity. Secondly, there was no indication that the ellipse would stay in one area, causing widespread damage in the way Discovery’s fourth season teaser suggested. Despite those negative points, however, I think it’s at least a possibility. Perhaps post-Burn technology has drawn an ellipse to Federation space, or it’s even possible that someone has found a way to weaponise one to attack the Federation.
Number 4: The Sphere-Builders from Enterprise
Discovery’s third season had a couple of interesting references to Enterprise, specifically the “Temporal Cold War” arc. One faction involved in the Temporal Cold War were the so-called Sphere-Builders: extradimensional beings who were attempting to convert part of the Milky Way galaxy to match their native realm so they could colonise it.
Though the time-travelling agent Daniels told Captain Archer that the Sphere-Builders were definitively defeated in the 26th Century, Daniels was from a time period before Discovery Season 4 is set, so he may not have been aware of any future involvement they had in galactic affairs!
The Sphere-Builders, as their name implies, built spheres. These moon-sized objects were spread throughout a region of space known as the Delphic Expanse, and emitted huge amounts of gravimetric energy, causing the entire region to become unstable and peppered with anomalies.
The spheres were also able to cloak, concealing them from 22nd Century human and Vulcan ships. The region of space a single sphere could affect was huge, and in the mid-22nd Century there was a large network of them, perhaps consisting of over 75 individual spheres. A hidden anomaly-generating piece of technology with a connection to the Temporal Wars? That sounds like something that could cause the problems afflicting Captain Burnham’s ship as seen in the teaser!
If a rogue sphere were on the loose, if the Sphere-Builders were returning, or if a single sphere had been left in the Milky Way, forgotten about since the 22nd or 26th Centuries, it stands to reason based on what we know of them that it could be the cause of the “gravitational anomaly.” This concept is potentially interesting; a leftover “doomsday weapon” unattended for centuries could make for a fun story. It would also be great to see a tie-in with Enterprise!
Number 5: Tyken’s Rift
A Tyken’s Rift was mentioned in the Picard Season 1 episode Nepenthe, but before that one had been seen in more detail in The Next Generation fourth season episode Night Terrors. It was described as a rare spatial anomaly, one capable of encompassing entire star systems.
Unlike some of the other entries on this list, size isn’t a problem for a Tyken’s Rift! If a whole binary star system (i.e. a system with two stars) was able to fit inside, it’s more than possible such an anomaly could be five light-years in diameter!
The Enterprise-D wasn’t badly damaged by its encounter with the rift, but it was trapped inside and unable to escape. The Tyken’s Rift was also said to drain power, trapping ships inside. Perhaps the damage to the USS Discovery was not caused by the anomaly itself, but by pushing the ship past its limits trying to escape?
The drawback to a Tyken’s Rift being the cause of Discovery’s anomaly is twofold. Firstly, aside from a slow but steady power drain it didn’t seem to be harmful, and we saw nothing in Night Terrors to suggest this anomaly could or would cause catastrophic damage to a ship. And secondly, the Tyken’s Rift that the Enterprise-D encountered appeared to be stationary. It was even included on stellar maps, so it would be easily avoided.
I don’t think either of these points totally rule it out, and as one of the relatively few named anomalies in Star Trek that are massive enough, it seems fair to still include a Tyken’s Rift as a possibility.
Number 6: Species 8472 and Fluidic Space
One of Voyager’s most interesting adversaries was Species 8472, known only by their Borg designation! This powerful extradimensional faction were able to outwit even the Borg, fighting a very successful war against them for a time.
Species 8472 were native to a realm filled with an organic compound. Voyager’s crew named this region “fluidic space,” and it seemed as though Species 8472 based much of their technology on this organic material, including their spacecraft.
The Borg became aware of fluidic space some time in the mid-late 24th Century, and attempted to travel there and assimilate it. But Species 8472 proved resistant to assimilation, and waged a war on the Borg, eventually travelling through to normal space to continue the fight. The intervention of the USS Voyager gave the Borg an advantage, but it seemed shortly thereafter as though the war ground to a stalemate.
Species 8472 made one further incursion, but after an agreement with the USS Voyager, agreed to return to their own dimension, content that the Federation proved no threat. However, that was 800 years ago! A lot can change, and perhaps Species 8472 have decided to make a return.
This would change the “natural disaster” concept, making it perhaps a precursor to invasion. Whether that would be good or not depends on how well it was executed – as well as your personal preferences for storylines! Given what we know of Species 8472 and their technology, I think it’s at least possible they could be the cause. Perhaps Stamets’ anomaly is some kind of gateway to fluidic space.
Number 7: The Borg
On the other side of the war with Species 8472 were the Borg! I also suggested Star Trek’s iconic cybernetic villains as a possible cause of the Burn last season, and despite seeing some ex-Borg in Picard Season 1, we haven’t really seen the faction proper in Star Trek since Enterprise Season 2 in 2003. Perhaps now is the right time?
Borg technology outpaced the Federation in the 24th Century by a considerable margin, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that wouldn’t continue to be the case. The anomaly Stamets and Burnham discussed in the teaser may well be a natural phenomenon, but if it turns out to be a weapon, I can think of few other factions capable of creating and wielding one so massively powerful. Other Borg technology, such as their transwarp network, was known to have gravitational effects as well, so perhaps that’s another sliver of evidence.
This doesn’t really fit with the Borg’s usual modus operandi, and that is certainly a mark against it! But then again, the Borg are very adaptable, and travelling back in time several centuries is not exactly standard procedure for assimilating a planet either, yet that’s what they tried to do in First Contact! The gravitational anomaly could be the opening salvo of an attack; the artillery barrage to soften up the Federation before the Borg drones rush in to assimilate the survivors. The Borg certainly seem capable of doing something like this, and with the Federation having been on the back foot for more than a century as a result of the Burn, the Borg may have been using that time to build up and prepare for a large-scale invasion attempt.
We don’t know for sure if the Borg are still around in the 32nd Century, or if they still hope to one day conquer and assimilate the Federation. After more than 800 years, anything could have happened to them! However, it’s plausible that they still exist in similar form to how we last saw them.
The anomaly seemingly “attacking” both Federation and non-Federation targets could be indicative of an intelligence at work behind it. Space is huge after all, and the chances of it hitting a target as small as a starship, starbase, or planet regularly seems unlikely without some kind of explanation. Is it a force of nature drawn to energy, like the graviton ellipse mentioned above? Or is it a Borg weapon deliberately targeting Starfleet? The latter may seem unlikely, but it’s not impossible!
Number 8: The Burn
I certainly hope that Discovery Season 4 doesn’t just drop the Burn and proceed as though it never happened. After the cataclysm caused huge disruption to the Federation and the wider galaxy for over a century, I think we need to see a lot more of the consequences of that event before we even consider a “reset” of the Federation!
Perhaps what this anomaly will be is some kind of “mini-Burn,” affecting a smaller area. It could be a ripple effect of the original event, or otherwise connected to it in some way. Hopefully it won’t be caused by poor Su’Kal, who’s been through enough over the last 125 years! Though the Burn was presented as a unique event, perhaps it had lingering effects that are only just becoming known.
Season 4 needs to walk a line between acknowledging the events of Season 3 without dwelling on them the whole time. I understand that the writers and producers have other stories to tell in the 32nd Century beyond the Burn, but given how catastrophic it was I feel strongly that we need to see at least some of its lingering impact. Connecting the Burn to this new problem would create a degree of separation, allowing the season to go in new directions but without dropping the massive event entirely.
The Burn was a disaster which “caused dilithium to become inert,” and which caused active warp cores to explode. It wasn’t known to have gravitational effects, instead being some kind of shockwave that travelled through subspace. That could certainly count against it!
However, if this event were connected to the Burn in some other way, rather than being a direct result of Su’Kal’s outburst, perhaps it could be explained. I couldn’t even guess how such a connection could be made; it would be some kind of technobabble connecting the anomaly to dilithium and/or subspace. But it could be done, and it could be made to fit!
So that’s it. Eight very early theories about Discovery Season 4 and the mysterious “gravitational anomaly!”
As mentioned at the beginning, I quite like the idea of the series going down a “natural disaster” route, allowing the crew to solve a puzzle and unravel a mystery, rather than simply pitting them against a Federation-threatening adversary. Perhaps that will be what ultimately happens, but I think it’s at least possible we’re seeing some kind of attack or weapon as well. Time will tell!
The teaser was action-packed, and the new season looks to be in great shape. I think that there are possible downsides to another “huge galactic disaster” storyline so soon after resolving the Burn, in that it risks feeling tacked-on, derivative, or even anticlimactic if it’s an event smaller in scale. But despite that, if this anomaly is going to be one of the main storylines in Season 4, there’s a huge amount of potential.
Star Trek’s past didn’t provide the key to understanding the Burn last season. Will something we’ve seen before come into play in Season 4? Maybe!
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 will debut on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, sometime later this year. Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 are available to stream now. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, and most importantly, there are spoilers (including images) from the teaser trailers for Picard Season 2, Lower Decks Season 2, and Discovery Season 4. There are also spoilers for Prodigy.
Yesterday was “First Contact Day” – the 5th of April is the day in 2063 when humans made first contact with the Vulcans, as depicted in Star Trek: First Contact. We’ve seen the event celebrated within Star Trek on a few occasions, and apparently one dish often served is salmon! But we’re off-topic already.
The creative team in charge of Star Trek set up First Contact Day as a digital event, somewhat akin to last year’s Comic-Con @Home presentations, and other similar events that they’ve done periodically. It was marketed on social media, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. But it wasn’t 100% clear how fans were supposed to access the virtual panels – whether they were just going to be available on the website, on social media directly, or even via Paramount+. Even navigating to the right part of the Star Trek website took clicking through several links.
That confusion was entirely self-inflicted and clarifying it would have been easy to do. It was almost as if the social media/website teams were making watching the panels “live” – they were actually pre-recorded – as difficult as possible. Thankfully all five of the panels were later made available on YouTube (vital for me, so I could go back and take screenshots!) But while we’re complaining about Star Trek/Paramount+/ViacomCBS’ social media, if you want to watch the full panels on YouTube I advise you to do so fast – in the past, some Star Trek videos, including one of the trailers for the first season of Picard and last year’s Comic-Con panel I mentioned earlier, were taken down by YouTube’s copyright protection algorithm. Hopefully that won’t happen this time, but it’s worth keeping in mind the possibility.
One of the pre-event social media posts was really tantalising and very well put-together. A “teaser” clip of a viewscreen which briefly flashed up two numbers – that looked like map coordinates – got a number of Trekkies talking and speculating, successfully building up a degree of hype for the First Contact Day event. In 2021, this kind of audience engagement via social media is vital for any franchise, and I’m glad to see Star Trek at least making an attempt!
So let’s start with the big news!
We got teaser trailers for Lower Decks Season 2, Picard Season 2, and Discovery Season 4! In addition, we got to see the design for Captain Janeway in Prodigy. Each of the panels gave us a few clues and tidbits of information about these upcoming Star Trek projects, which was fantastic.
The mysterious numbers mentioned above did in fact turn out to be coordinates – for a convention centre in Chicago! Star Trek: Mission Chicago is going to take place in April 2022, and will be the first in-person convention since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Perhaps it’s because I was never going to be in attendance, but I’m not sure the convention was the strongest way to end the First Contact Day event. It was saved for the last moment by co-hosts Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton, and it just felt a tad anticlimactic after an event that had seen so much other exciting news.
With so much going on, and so many amazing reveals, it’s hard to know what to talk about first! Let’s start with Prodigy, since the newly-revealed image of Captain Janeway is probably going to be seen as First Contact Day’s most iconic takeaway. While there was no trailer or teaser for the series, which I admit I had been half-hoping for, we did get a bit more information.
The series is set several years after Voyager, at roughly the same time as Lower Decks, in the 2380s. And the reason why none of the aliens we saw in the first teaser image a few weeks ago look familiar is because the show is set in the Delta Quadrant. The aliens are (presumably) all Delta Quadrant natives who are, according to the show’s creators, totally unaware of Starfleet or the Federation.
The version of Captain Janeway that they encounter is a “training hologram” that has been left behind on some kind of training vessel, presumably by the USS Voyager as it passed through the Delta Quadrant. This is the abandoned Starfleet vessel that had been mentioned in the show’s original description.
The design of Janeway is just fantastic. Modern Star Trek has not been shy about changing up classic designs, but Janeway retains her Voyager-era uniform and combadge, and the design manages to blend the way she looked in the show with a CGI-cartoon aesthetic just perfectly. Looking at her, you know immediately who she is! I honestly cannot fault the design, and I can’t wait to see her in action along with the new crew.
The premise of Prodigy has now fully taken shape. The setting has been laid out and the crew assembled. Now all we’re missing is the ship itself! Could that be the Delta Flyer?
The creators of Prodigy talked about how the new series will be great fun for kids, stimulating their imaginations and creativity. Both words, “imagination” and “creativity,” came up several times during the panel, and it sounds as though they’re really pushing hard for Prodigy to be something more than just background noise or brainless entertainment. The best kids’ shows do this, and as a result have a lot to offer kids and adults. There was a mention that Prodigy is for “all ages,” which is great!
Finally, Prodigy promised a number of surprises and connections to Star Trek’s broader canon, both of which I like the sound of! There was a hint that one of the characters we saw in the teaser image has a connection to The Original Series; my first guess was the rock-like alien perhaps being a Horta, as that was something I guessed at when I first saw the image. But we’ll have to wait and see on that!
So that was Prodigy. Since we’re looking at animation, let’s move on to Lower Decks next.
Creator Mike McMahan was involved in a panel that looked at Star Trek’s sense of humour. Considering how many “critics” attacked Lower Decks before it was broadcast for being an un-serious take on Star Trek, I think it was worthwhile to remind people that humour has been a huge part of the franchise going all the way back to The Original Series. McMahan in particular noted the interactions between Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy as being a great example of this.
The panel concluded with the aforementioned Lower Decks Season 2 teaser, and in a scant few seconds there was a lot going on! Here are just a few of the things I noticed: Rutherford’s implant is back, meaning his design remains unchanged despite the events of the Season 1 finale. Boimler, as promised, remains aboard the USS Titan, though his posting doesn’t seem to be going well!
Jonathan Frakes will return as Riker, which we had assumed but hadn’t been confirmed. At one point, Mariner wore what looked like the anbo-jyutsu armour from Season 2 of The Next Generation – something Riker wore once in that show. A Miranda-class ship was briefly shown. And finally, there was a sequence in which Mariner appeared to be fighting several Cardassians!
There’s a lot to digest in just those few seconds, and taken out-of-context it’s hard to be sure of what’s going on! What we didn’t see was Boimler interacting with the other three main characters, and perhaps that’s to keep his fate a secret. Or perhaps it’s indicative of the fact that he will remain aboard the USS Titan for several episodes!
Lower Decks Season 2 looks to be coming together nicely, and there was a lot shown off in the teaser that seems to be from quite a few different episodes. We now know that Lower Decks Season 2 will premiere on the 12th of August, which is pretty much one year after Season 1’s debut! So that’s fantastic news, and it means we’ll get at least some Star Trek this year!
Discovery’s fourth season is also scheduled for 2021, though no date was confirmed. After an interesting panel which focused on Nichelle Nichols and a documentary that has been made about her and her work and influence over women at NASA called Women In Motion, Sonequa Martin-Green introduced the first Season 4 teaser trailer.
Before we look at the teaser in depth, I enjoyed the Women In Motion panel. One point that came up is the value of representation, which was something Michelle Hurd (Star Trek: Picard’s Raffi) discussed at length. Representation matters in entertainment, and I’ve had an essay in the pipeline on that very subject for a while. One of these days I’ll get it finished!
On to the teaser trailer. The first thing to note is that Discovery’s uniforms have been changed. The grey design appears to have been retired in favour of a more colourful look – the basic layout of the uniforms appears to be very similar, but the colours have changed. This is something I predicted a few weeks ago, and I look forward to seeing more of the new uniforms at some point soon; it’s difficult to assess them fairly from a few short scenes in a teaser!
After the Burn in Season 3, it seems as though Discovery is returning to another “natural disaster” concept in Season 4. An “anomaly” described as being five light-years in diameter seems to be threatening both the Federation and other worlds, perhaps meaning there will need to be some working together to figure out a solution.
After Seasons 1 and 2 both ended up being about fighting and had major villains to defeat, it was a nice break for Discovery to largely have to deal with a scientific problem in Season 3, so I think the same concept could work well again. I just hope that it doesn’t end up feeling either repetitive, as though copying the Burn, or anticlimactic, coming after the galaxy-wide catastrophe and simply not being as impactful.
When I heard talk of a gravitational anomaly that was several light-years wide, my first thought was the Nexus, as seen in the film Generations. That “energy ribbon” was known to be able to damage starships and even planets, and though we didn’t see any evidence of the Nexus, perhaps it could be the cause of this strange anomaly?
It looks as though the USS Discovery takes a beating in Season 4, and may even end up destroyed or irretrievably damaged! At one point, Burnham was the sole figure on the bridge and had to wear a helmet, presumably because of the extent of the damage suffered by the ship. Though the uniforms have been redesigned, I didn’t see any significant changes to the internal design of the USS Discovery itself, which is something I think would be nice to see now they’re established in the 32nd Century.
It was great to see Cleveland Booker back, and it seems as though David Ajala will be back as a regular cast member for the show. Book was such a fun character in Season 3 that I’m thrilled he’s back. He wasn’t in a Starfleet uniform, so it seems as though he’s keeping his status as an outsider. That worked well in Season 3, so why change what works?
Lieutenant Detmer appears to have upgraded her cybernetic implant! We saw at least one glimpse of a scene in which the USS Discovery appeared to lose artificial gravity, which is something rarely seen in Star Trek. We saw the return of the President of Ni’Var, who appeared in Season 3, as well as the debut of a new character who seems to be a Federation official.
Saru was shown briefly, and looks to be in some kind of diplomatic or ambassadorial role based on the few seconds he was on screen. We also saw one other Kelpien, a couple of unknown aliens, and Burnham once again talking about togetherness and unity as ways to tackle the threat they all face – presumably this anomaly. And most importantly: Grudge is back!
So all I can think to say is “wow!” Discovery Season 4 looks action-packed to say the least! We didn’t see either Admiral Vance or Kovich; the latter we know is returning but I certainly hope Admiral Vance will be back as well. Oded Fehr’s performance in Season 3 was fantastic, and it’s wonderful to have a Star Trek admiral who does what’s right and isn’t an adversary; it makes a nice change!
Based on what we saw, Discovery Season 4 looks fantastic, and getting confirmation that it’s aiming for a 2021 release is great news as well. Though no date was given, at this stage I would assume (alright, guess) that we’ll see something of a repeat of last year, with Lower Decks running from August to October, and Discovery Season 4 picking up sometime in mid-October; certainly before Halloween. It would then run through the autumn and winter before concluding sometime in the New Year. That was 2020’s pattern, and with Lower Decks scheduled for August, I think we can reasonably guesstimate that the same thing will happen this year as well.
That brings us to Picard, which was one of the first things we saw! The Picard Season 2 teaser was totally unlike the Lower Decks and Discovery teasers, being comprised of no filmed scenes and featuring no characters – which makes sense, given how early in production the season is! Despite that, however, in the short teaser we actually got a lot of information – or possible information – about what might be going on!
Firstly, time travel appears to be involved. Specifically, travelling backwards in time. This was represented by an hourglass running in reverse. We also saw the teaser linger very prominently over a model of the USS Stargazer – Picard’s first command. There was also a glimpse of Paradise Lost, an epic poem about falling from grace and the rejection of God. I’m sure that’s a tease at something… but what? Then we got the biggest bombshell of the entire teaser: Q is returning!
John De Lancie, who plays Q (and who recently appeared in Lower Decks) joined Wil Wheaton and Sir Patrick Stewart to confirm Q’s return, and it was great to see him back! The combination of time travel plus Q seems to make for an interesting setup to the new season!
The USS Stargazer was under Picard’s command for more than twenty years, seemingly from the 2330s to the 2350s. Having spent so much of his life aboard the ship, revisiting it makes a lot of sense for the show! It’s also an almost-blank slate, as aside from a few references and lines here and there across The Next Generation, the Stargazer’s exploits are largely unknown. We do know that the ship was involved in the Cardassian Border Wars, and that Jack Crusher served aboard the ship before being killed. In voiceover, Picard talked about time being the real “final frontier,” and about the desire to do things differently.
A couple more hints about the storyline and Q’s involvement came in the panel which followed. Sir Patrick Stewart made a couple of references to Q appearing in an “episode” using the singular, so perhaps Q will be back for just one appearance! It doesn’t sound as though Q caused whatever time-related event is happening, which is also a point of note.
Q’s arrival was said to come at a “shattering moment” – perhaps the moment that time shattered? Or perhaps a moment in which Picard feels traumatised, as Sir Patrick Stewart and others made reference to Picard being “traumatised” both by his past and whatever is going on in the new season.
There seemed to be a hint that Picard may visit more than one time period, as well as Jonathan Frakes’ inclusion suggesting that Riker may make a reappearance in Season 2 as well. My first thought, putting all of these elements together, is some kind of follow-up to the events of All Good Things, the finale of The Next Generation. In that story, Q allowed Picard to move between three time periods in order to solve a puzzle – events in the future were having a causal effect on events in the past! Perhaps some kind of similar “anti-time” story is on the cards?
Q appeared in the first episode in which we met Picard – Encounter at Farpoint right at the beginning of The Next Generation’s run. As I said once, it would be poetic if he were also to appear in the episode – or at least the season – which marks Picard’s end as a Star Trek character as well. Though a third or even fourth season of Picard was said to be there for the taking if Sir Patrick Stewart wanted to do it, I wonder if Q’s inclusion in Season 2 may mean that it will be the last season of the show – and may even see Picard killed off.
That’s pure speculation on my part, though!
With production having only been going on since late February, I’m not surprised that Picard didn’t have more to show at this stage. It seems certain we won’t see Season 2 before next year, and that’s actually okay! As excited as I am to continue the journey, we’ll have plenty of Star Trek to get stuck into later this year.
So that wraps up my thoughts on the three teasers (plus one image) that we got during yesterday’s First Contact Day event. Before we go, though, I want to talk briefly about the other panels.
This year is the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: First Contact (gosh I feel old now, as I remember seeing it at the cinema!) There was a panel hosted by Wil Wheaton that featured Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and Alice Krige – the actress who played the Borg Queen in that film. It was a very sweet panel, as all the participants had fond memories of working on the film.
Krige in particular spoke very highly of working with the cast of The Next Generation, and being welcomed aboard by a team that had been working together for almost a decade at that point. There were some lighthearted moments too, as Frakes was quizzed over his “Two Takes Frakes” nickname! It was a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see that, even after so many years, the cast still enjoy one another’s company.
The only panel I haven’t touched on yet was that hosted by Mica Burton in which several designers and artists participated. It reminded me of a book I own called Aliens and Artifacts which similarly looks at makeup, uniform design, prosthetics, and so on, and how all of those things are created by artists behind the scenes.
It’s always interesting to learn a little more about how these things work, and it was neat to hear from some of the folks who have been involved with designing new aliens, new uniforms, and other aesthetic elements that go on to be iconic and emblematic of Star Trek.
So that’s it! First Contact Day was interesting, and we got to learn a lot about upcoming Star Trek projects! The return of Q in Picard Season 2, as well as a time travel story, sounds interesting. Discovery Season 4 looks to be playing up the strengths of Season 3. And Lower Decks looks like another wacky good time! It was great to see Captain Janeway’s design in Prodigy, as well as learn a little more about that series. Though I hoped to find out when it will debut or even see a trailer, I’m content to wait and let the creators get it ready first!
The Star Trek franchise, including all properties mentioned above, is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3.
In addition to the first teaser image for Star Trek: Prodigy, a recent update from ViacomCBS (that was primarily directed at their investors) has given us a couple of interesting bits of news regarding both current and future Star Trek projects. Today I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at what was said and try to figure out what may or may not be coming our way in 2021 and the first half of 2022.
The most significant piece of news was that ViacomCBS plans to have something from the Star Trek franchise on Paramount+ every quarter. Since it’s already almost March I think we can rule out anything in Q1 this year! But that still potentially leaves us with three Star Trek projects before the end of 2021.
I said just after New Year that I believed we’d see both Prodigy Season 1 and Lower Decks Season 2 this year, and those will almost certainly be two of the three. With Discovery Season 4 having been in production since November, I have to assume that will be the third series planned for this year – perhaps targeting a Q4 broadcast like Season 3 received in 2020. That’s ambitious in my opinion – post-production work on Discovery Season 3 took over nine months to complete – but if ViacomCBS and Paramount+ can manage it, it will be a fantastic achievement! And it will mean one extra Star Trek show in 2021 that I wasn’t expecting!
If that’s the plan, that would then open up Q1 and Q2 of 2022, and it seems certain that we’d get Picard Season 2 (which has just started filming) and Strange New Worlds Season 1 in the first half of next year – probably in that order. So this current quarter could be the longest we’ll have to go without any new Star Trek for quite some time!
What will happen after that is in question, and this is where the other interesting bit of news comes in: ViacomCBS has no plans to produce any other Star Trek shows until those currently in production have concluded.
This seems to mean that the Section 31 series, which originally had a premiere date suggested for this year, is going to be delayed yet further, and I interpret comments by some of its writers and producers to mean that the series going ahead at all is less certain now than ever. Strange New Worlds completely stole the Section 31 show’s thunder, both before and after it was announced, and as I said a while ago, I never really got the impression that there was much excitement for Section 31. Many Discovery fans were clamouring for a Pike series almost from the first episode of the show’s second season, but Georgiou and Section 31, while not badly received, were very much the lesser part of that story overall.
Georgiou’s recent departure from Discovery has set the stage for Section 31 – but it also left things very open as to where (and when) she will end up. Perhaps behind the scenes what’s going on is some major retooling of the Section 31 show’s premise; it had been suggested by Alex Kurtzman and others fairly recently that the scripts were still being worked on, and this feels like another indication of changes to the upcoming series.
So this unfortunately raises the question of the Section 31 show’s ultimate fate. Is this the first step to it being cancelled… or “un-announced?” It feels like it could be, sadly. Despite not being as interested in Section 31 when it was announced, I’ve recently come around to the idea of this kind of spy thriller. If done well I think it could be something really fun and different within Star Trek, and with it having been announced I kind of want to see it come into being. Even if it only runs for a single season, or gets cut down to a miniseries or television movie I still think it could be worthwhile.
The longer-term futures of other Star Trek projects are less clear. No future seasons of any in-production shows were announced – though it seems likely, according to the rumour mill, that we’ll see Discovery Season 5, and Picard Season 3 was said to be there for the taking if Sir Patrick Stewart wanted it. Beyond the halfway point of 2022, though, Star Trek’s future gets a little harder to predict. We could see Lower Decks Season 3, Prodigy Season 2, or perhaps a new set of Short Treks mini-episodes.
What is clear, though, is that Section 31, the potential Ceti Alpha V miniseries that I covered a few weeks ago, and the still-unannounced live-action series that is in pre-production won’t be coming imminently.
ViacomCBS has “plans” for expanding Star Trek beyond the projects that we know about, though, and there was talk of ideas and concepts being worked on behind the scenes. Paramount+ is being established with a view to a widespread international rollout, which will begin next month with the USA, Canada, and Australia, before heading to Scandinavia and Latin America later in the year. Hopefully it’ll come to the UK soon!
Other recently-announced projects for Paramount+ include a Halo television series, a prequel to Western drama Yellowstone, a reboot of Nickelodeon cartoon Rugrats, and more. CBS All Access has grown its subscriber base since it was launched, passing the 8 million mark last year. The relaunch of the service as Paramount+, with its promised live sport and varied mix of films and television shows will surely bring in a lot of viewers – keeping Star Trek on the air for a long time to come.
These announcements were interesting, and I feel reasonably confident now that we’ll see three Star Trek shows this year instead of the two I had been expecting, so that’s fantastic! And I cannot wait for both Season 2 of Picard and the debut of Strange New Worlds next year. It’s a wonderful time to be a Star Trek fan right now – we have literally never had so many different projects all on the go at once. Someone pinch me… I must be dreaming!
The Star Trek franchise – including all properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for the episodes on this list.
Love is in the air! Happy Valentine’s Day – even though 2021 promises to be the strangest in a long time. If you have a special someone to spend today with, I bet you’re wondering what to watch to put you both in the mood. And if you don’t… perhaps you’re just wondering what to watch. So without further ado, here are a few Star Trek episodes worth watching on the most lovey-dovey day of the year – or at least tangentially related to it! As always, the list is in no particular order.
Number 1: The Dauphin (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
It’s been a while since we talked about The Next Generation’s most controversial major character: Wesley Crusher! He’s the main focus of this episode, falling in love with the ruler of a war-torn planet. In a classic case of “bad timing,” Salia and Wesley’s relationship wasn’t to be. He learned a valuable lesson about love along the way, though, and while the episode has some cute moments and some awkward ones, it manages to be distinctly “Star Trek” all the while.
Number 2: Choose Your Pain (Star Trek: Discovery)
I often call the relationship between Stamets and Dr Culber the “emotional core” of Discovery, yet looking back on the show’s 42 episodes, there are relatively few in which they are the main focus. Choose Your Pain has a lot going on, but one of the most significant points is how Hugh and Paul clash over the tardigrade – the space-dwelling lifeform that appears to be the key to making the Spore Drive work as intended. They’re able to resolve things, of course, but only when Stamets does something life-changing to himself in order to save the tardigrade’s life.
Number 3: Threshold (Star Trek: Voyager)
When we think about Tom Paris, who’s his romantic partner? B’Elanna Torres, of course. But in Threshold – widely regarded as one of Voyager’s worst episodes – Paris and Janeway get together and even have kids! Had you forgotten about that? After passing the Warp 10 barrier and experiencing “hyper-evolution,” Paris kidnaps Janeway and flees to an uninhabited planet. The two hyper-evolve into lizards and apparently “do the nasty,” resulting in at least three offspring. The crew of Voyager opted to leave the hyper-evolved children behind when they rescued Paris and Janeway, though, and for some reason the events of Threshold were never mentioned again. I wonder why?
Number 4: Amok Time (Star Trek: The Original Series)
Amok Time is certainly one of the most iconic Star Trek episodes, having been imitated and parodied many times. It focuses on Spock and introduces us to the concept of pon farr – the Vulcan biological mating need. The Vulcans evidently practice arranged marriage, and when Spock’s betrothed chooses another man, Kirk and Spock must engage in a ritual fight to the “death.” As one of the first episodes to explore the Vulcans in depth, as well as our first visit to the planet Vulcan, Amok Time is incredibly important within the history of Star Trek. And as a love story, well there’s something kind of romantic about T’Pring choosing to escape her arranged marriage to be with someone she cares about… right?
Number 5: Change of Heart (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
Workplace romances are bound to cause problems! After Worf arrived on the station at the beginning of Deep Space Nine’s fourth season, he and Jadzia Dax struck up a relationship. They eventually got married in the episode You Are Cordially Invited, and continued to work closely together. In Change of Heart they’re assigned a dangerous mission to evacuate a Federation spy at the height of the Dominion War. But when Jadzia is injured, Worf is forced to choose whether to save her life or complete the mission.
So that’s it. Five somewhat Valentine’s Day-related Star Trek episodes! Try not to take it too seriously; this was just a bit of fun to mark the occasion!
On a more serious note, Valentine’s Day can be difficult. It can be a day that brings home feelings of loneliness, that we aren’t loved or even that we’re unworthy or undeserving of finding someone special. If you feel that way, listen to me: it’s bullshit. You’re a King, a Queen, or non-binary Royalty and you are amazing. If you haven’t found somebody yet, that’s okay. There’s no pressure or time limit. I know people who found love well into their seventies and eighties, and a few years ago attended the wedding of a neighbour of mine who finally was able to marry his boyfriend – at the age of 85! Just because some people manage to find their special somebody early in life doesn’t mean you have to conform to that too. One thing I wish I’d learned a lot sooner is that it’s better to be single than to be in a bad relationship! So please try not to worry or let Valentine’s Day become an excuse to feel rotten. Your time will come. Until then, I wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day – platonically, of course!
The Star Trek franchise is available to stream now on CBS All Access (soon to be rebranded as Paramount+) in the United States, and on Netflix and/or Amazon Prime Video in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Star Trek and all episodes and series listed above are the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.
Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 1, and for other iterations of the franchise.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 only concluded a few days ago, and while production has begun on Season 4 it will be a while yet before we get any news. Regardless, I thought now would be the perfect time for some wild speculation… sorry, I mean “preliminary predictions.” It’s very early in the game to be thinking about Season 4 – a season which, if Season 3’s timeline is anything to go by, is unlikely to grace our screens before Spring 2022. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a bit of fun!
The end of Season 3 wrapped up the main storylines in a generally satisfactory manner; regardless of how we may feel about specific events (like the Burn) their stories were concluded by the time the credits rolled. The dangling story threads left behind are more like teases for what may come, rather than unfinished elements from what came before. That’s a good way to do things, and unfortunately that’s where Picard’s Season 1 finale earlier in 2020 dropped the ball, at least in my opinion.
So Season 4 is potentially quite open right now. There’s no obvious direction for the story to go, nor did Season 3 end with a cliffhanger or big tease like Season 2’s journey into the future – or even Season 1’s reveal of the USS Enterprise approaching. Captain Burnham was given her orders after assuming command of Discovery, and set out in the ship to begin the task of delivering dilithium across the fractured Federation. It was implied that this was step one in bringing more wayward ex-members back into the fold, so perhaps that’s something we’ll see continued.
To re-emphasise: I’m categorically not saying that I have any “insider information,” nor that any of these predictions will come to pass in Season 4. This is guesswork on my part – educated guesswork, in some cases, but guesswork nevertheless. I would encourage all of you to be incredibly sceptical of anyone claiming to know for sure what will happen, or anyone claiming to have “anonymous sources” within the production team at ViacomCBS. Many, many times have people making such claims been shown to be making things up.
With that out of the way, let’s jump into my list, which is in no particular order.
Number 1: Visiting Kaminar.
One thing I disliked in the Season 3 finale was the unceremonious dumping of Saru. Though we know that Saru actor Doug Jones is returning to Discovery in Season 4, it will be in a different role now that Burnham has become captain. I have a couple of ideas for where Saru may fit, but for now suffice to say that I think we’ll have at least one episode focusing on Saru’s home planet of Kaminar.
Not only would such a story allow Saru to catch up with his people, but we could see how the Kelpiens and Ba’ul have developed since we saw them in Season 2. The episode Su’Kal suggested that the Kelpiens and Ba’ul joined the Federation jointly, and the way their conflict ended would be interesting to explore.
Given the cataclysmic nature of the Burn, though, which I expect to see the lingering effects of for years to come, one storyline that would be potentially interesting is how Kelpien society would react. Knowing that one of their own is responsible for this disaster is going to have some kind of effect on Kaminar and the Kelpiens. If Bill Irwin could return to play Su’Kal, we could see this explored in depth. Would Su’Kal be welcomed by everyone in the way Saru welcomed him? Or will he be shunned by some for his unintentional role in the Burn?
Such a storyline could be timely. In the real world, China is struggling with the fact that the coronavirus pandemic seemingly originated there, and I think that a storyline which looked at how Kaminar deals with its unwitting role in the cause of the Burn could be an interesting way for Star Trek to do what it does best: using its sci-fi setting to look at real-world issues.
Number 2: A new villain or adversary will rise.
Over its first three seasons, Discovery introduced us to several different villains. It seems unlikely that Season 4 will break that pattern, and it feels almost certain that there will be a significant adversary or villain for Captain Burnham and the crew to defeat. Whether such a character will be a galactic threat like Control or a playground bully like Osyraa is not obvious; the Emerald Chain was basically the only antagonistic faction we met in Season 3. However, there are bound to be others!
This could be where a race or faction from Star Trek’s past comes back to the fore, though going down that route would be a bit of a constraint. I think we’re more likely to see an original creation for Season 4, someone whose motives are tied in some way to preventing the Federation reestablishing itself, perhaps.
If the theme of the season as a whole will be reconnecting the Federation, it stands to reason that any villain or adversary would be someone who seeks to prevent that. However, it isn’t just Burnham and Discovery working on this task, so any such villain would have to be powerful enough to wield a fleet of starships. They may have their own motivations, and the Federation are simply in the way of whatever they’re trying to do.
This could also be a way to introduce time travel to the season, assuming that the producers want to do so. A villain could be someone flouting the ban on time travel for some reason – and could even be someone working inside the Federation, such as Section 31.
Number 3: A connection or crossover with Star Trek: Picard.
After Picard Season 1 came and went with nary a hint at the existence of Discovery, I was worried that Discovery would reciprocate in Season 3. Luckily that didn’t happen, and not only did we get to see the Qowat Milat – a faction introduced in Picard – we also got a mention of Admiral Picard himself in the episode Unification III.
At this point we don’t know whether Discovery Season 4 or Picard Season 2 will be broadcast first – and it’s possible that, with the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic and the uncertainty around the two productions, the team at ViacomCBS aren’t 100% sure either! However, both shows are up and running, and Picard has at least one season under its belt – a season which had several factions, new characters, starships, story points, etc that could in theory cross over to Discovery.
I got the impression from the Season 1 finale of Picard that the show would be moving on to a different adventure in Season 2, perhaps leaving behind the Coppelius synths altogether. If that’s the case, Discovery Season 4 could pick up this story and show us what became of the synths in the centuries after Soji and Picard came to their rescue. Did they stay on Coppelius or relocate? Are some of the synths we knew, such as Soji, still alive in this era?
As I said numerous times during the runs of both Picard and Discovery, these sister shows could do more to work together, reminding viewers that they’re two parts of a greater whole. The difference in time periods is an issue, but as we saw with the Qowat Milat it doesn’t have to completely prevent the two series from teaming up.
Number 4: The return of a classic race or villain.
Season 3 brought back the Trill, Orions, Andorians, and the Romulans and Vulcans on Ni’Var. There were very brief scenes which showed off Cardassians and a couple of other races, and we saw the Bajorans and Xaheans in holographic form too. So Season 3 crammed a lot into its thirteen episodes in terms of revisiting races from Star Trek’s past. This is something I hope Season 4 will continue to do.
Though the Dominion War ended more than 800 years ago, finding out what became of the Cardassians, Bajorans, Breen, and the Dominion themselves is perhaps what I’d choose if it were up to me. The Dominion War arc, though controversial in some Trekkie circles, is a story I find myself revisiting often, and it’s always a thoroughly enjoyable ride. Deep Space Nine ended right when the war did, and we don’t really know anything about what became of the factions involved afterwards.
There’s also the potential to learn what became of the Borg. They didn’t take advantage of the Burn and the Federation’s collapse to assimilate the Alpha Quadrant, so could we infer from their absence that they’ve been destroyed, pacified, or severely reduced? Could the Borg have been presumed defeated centuries ago but make a big recurrence in Season 4 – perhaps looking to acquire the Spore Drive technology?
I’d also love to see the inclusion of a Suliban or Xindi, or perhaps a Talaxian or Kazon from the Delta Quadrant. I know Discovery can’t possibly cram all of these disparate factions and races into one season, but the 32nd Century offers so many interesting story possibilities for practically everyone we’ve met in past iterations of Star Trek. The potential is unlimited!
Number 5: Will Burnham remain Captain?
Discovery worked hard over the back half of Season 3 to make Burnham’s ascent to the captain’s chair feel genuinely earned. Some of the criticisms I’ve made of her character, both in Season 3 and previously, stem from her position as a junior officer making big decisions that go against her orders, so putting her in the captain’s chair and backing her up with a helpful crew should see her continue to grow. I want to see that, and I hope that she will continue to be a Starfleet captain who lives up to the ideals of the Federation in Season 4 and beyond.
But Discovery has never found the right fit for its captain’s chair for one reason or another. I’ve actually enjoyed what all three captains – Lorca, Pike, and Saru – brought to the role, but none of them stayed in that role beyond a single season. One of my hopes for Season 4 would be that we’d get some stability in the captain’s chair, and in a way I’m hopeful Burnham will retain the position going into Season 5 and potentially beyond – but what if that isn’t the plan?
Perhaps one of Discovery’s unique points is going to be the season-long captaincies of different people, each giving the ship and show a distinct feel. Lorca was the hardball who turned out to be a traitor. Pike was the classic character who embodied the spirit of adventure. Saru was the calm and collected diplomat. Burnham may be a Kirk-style action hero, a bit of a renegade but someone who always comes through for Starfleet when it counts.
How or why she might leave the role is unknown, and given Discovery’s approach to storytelling across Seasons 1 and 2 in particular, I’m not sure how likely it is that, having gone to the trouble of promoting her, they’ll replace her within a single season. But that exact thing happened to Captain Saru this season, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented.
Number 6: The lingering effects of the Burn.
Having resolved the Burn and found a huge dilithium planet to negate its destructive effects, there may be a temptation to shelve the Burn, especially if the writers and producers of Season 4 are taking on board fan feedback – which has been mixed to say the least on that particular story point. However, I think doing so would be a mistake.
If we start off Season 4 with a one- or two-year time skip, I can already predict that the legwork of rebuilding the Federation will have already happened off-screen. Resetting the Federation to a state much closer to how it has always been shown in Star Trek may be what some fans want, and in some ways I do too – but I think that after seeing the Federation at such a low ebb in Season 3, we need to see at least some of the rebuilding process for ourselves.
I already discussed one way the Burn’s effects could still impact the story with the Kelpiens, but there are a million-and-one others. Captain Burnham could lead the ship to revisit parts of the Federation that no one has heard from since the Burn only to find them under occupation or in the midst of civil war, for example. Or we could see an ex-Federation member that completely ran out of dilithium and has had no way to power itself for a century.
Season 3 focused largely on the Federation and ex-Federation members. But there’s scope to see how the Burn impacted other powers in the galaxy – depending on which ones existed at the time! If the source of the Burn is revealed as a Federation member (i.e. the Kelpiens) would, for example, the Dominion or Klingon Empire want to exact revenge or get reparations from the reunited Federation? There are so many ways that the Burn could have impacted the galaxy that we need to see. It hasn’t all gone away with the uncovering of its source and the discovery of the dilithium planet.
Number 7: A time travel story featuring the Guardian of Forever.
It was a very deliberate choice to bring back the Guardian of Forever in Season 3, and it would be a shame to only use them once! Not to mention that guest star Paul Guilfoyle was just fantastic as Carl, the Guardian’s humanoid avatar, and would make a thoroughly welcome return to Discovery.
One way the Guardian of Forever could be included would be to send the USS Discovery back in time – for some reason – in order to tie into the Short Treks episode Calypso. That would likely need to be a multi-episode story arc, but it would be one way to include the Guardian and resolve Calypso – two birds, one stone!
If it were discovered that some nefarious villain or antagonistic faction were using time travel, the Guardian of Forever could be Captain Burnham’s ace in the hole to counteract them. That would be another way to make use of the reintroduction of this entity. Season 3 expanded on the Guardian of Forever by showing us that it can transport people between parallel universes, so this could in theory allow for another Mirror Universe story (please no) or for the Discovery crew to travel to any of the other alternate realities seen in Star Trek.
Speaking of which…
Number 8: A Kelvin timeline reference.
This is something else that Season 3 touched on briefly, with Kovich making note of a time war soldier who crossed over from the alternate reality. The Guardian of Forever, as mentioned, could be one way to literally cross over, but unless a new Kelvin timeline film is in development – and it doesn’t seem to be at this stage – there’s not as much to be gained by doing so when compared to a tie-in with Star Trek: Picard or other ongoing projects.
However, a Kelvin timeline reference would be neat, even if it were little more than a throwaway line akin to Kovich’s in Season 3. The 32nd Century, with its superior technology and better understanding of time and timelines, is the only Star Trek setting aside from the alternate reality itself that really can make the connection between Star Trek’s two major universes.
Number 9: Who is Kovich?
Famed director David Cronenberg, who plays Kovich, has said that the character will return in Season 4 in some way, so there’s the possibility to learn more about this mysterious character. I’d been speculating since his first appearance that his distinctive uniform, high security clearance, and un-Starfleet lack of morality could hint at his being an operative of Section 31 – or even its leader.
Another theory I’ve heard fans kicking around is that Kovich is the Federation’s president. That would be an interesting way to go too, as a storyline which involves rebuilding the Federation could require serious diplomatic efforts. The Federation President would surely be involved in bringing key worlds like Earth back into the fold.
Number 10: Admiral or President Saru.
As I said earlier, I was disappointed in the way Saru was dumped at the end of the Season 3 finale. He didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to his crew, to offer Burnham her promotion in person, and his decision to leave the ship was only briefly touched on by Burnham in a voiceover. Though Saru is coming back, his role is unclear with Burnham now in command.
I can think of a couple of ways he could be included, though. The first would be a promotion to the rank of Admiral, joining Vance at the head of Starfleet. As the Federation grows, Starfleet will need to grow too, and with a new source of dilthium – and the potential for new Spore Drive ships too – and that will mean the need for new Admirals to command the expanding fleet. Saru proved himself as a good captain across Season 3, and while he did make some mistakes, I would argue he’s an excellent Admiral candidate.
However, we also saw Saru’s diplomatic side in Season 3, particularly with the President of Ni’Var. Saru could continue in this role as a diplomat, but if worlds like Trill, Earth, and Ni’Var all rejoin the Federation, might some of them want to see him become Federation President?
If the story of Season 4 looks at the Federation re-unifying, I could see why some of the aforementioned worlds might want to support the candidacy of Saru. Early Federation politics seemed to involve balancing the Vulcans and Andorians, but this led to almost all of the Federation’s key institutions being on Earth and dominated by humans. The reunited Federation may be less keen on giving humanity all of the top jobs, especially given Earth’s century of isolationism, so someone like Saru may be a compromise candidate among the Federation’s members who are coming back together for the first time in a long time.
Number 11: A redesign of the USS Discovery internally.
One aspect of Season 3 that didn’t quite sit right with me was the redesign of the USS Discovery. I adore the redesign, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t quite buy into it as “believable” considering the ship didn’t change on the inside. We saw a few changes, like the programmable matter and holographic elements in many bridge consoles, and of course the big empty space in the engineering/drive section that we saw during Book’s turbolift battle against Zareh. But aside from a few small touches, a few lines of technobabble, and one CGI-heavy action sequence, the ship looks the same from the inside.
This undermines the decision to have the ship undergo a major refit, and I’d love to see some more aesthetic changes inside the USS Discovery to match its external appearance. It wouldn’t mean completely tearing down old sets, but tweaking and changing them to indicate that the ship has been heavily altered. Lighting is one way that the designers could make an immediate, obvious, and unobtrusive change. Ditching some of the blue lighting and generally upping the brightness of other lights – especially on the bridge – would transform the way Discovery looks.
The USS Enterprise, after its refit in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, looked like a different ship inside and out. The USS Discovery nailed the outside look in Season 3, but its inside hasn’t caught up. Even a handful of changes here and there would go some way to making good on the refit idea, and I’d love to see the bridge, the ready-room, and engineering given a facelift in time for Season 4.
This would also be a great moment to show off a new area of the ship, either something that was improved during the retrofit or a brand-new addition. We saw the data core at the end of Season 3, but I don’t see a pressing need for the crew to spend a lot of time there. What we could see, however, is some kind of holodeck or recreation area, an improved mess hall that had more of a Ten Forward lounge vibe, an observation deck or briefing room, a battle bridge or secondary command centre, or an additional science lab.
Number 12: Defending the Verubin Nebula.
In a galaxy devoid of its most significant source of fuel, the discovery of a massive cache of dilithium will not go unnoticed – or unopposed. The Emerald Chain may have “fractured” according to the Season 3 epilogue, but it seems unlikely that they’d be the only ones interested in acquiring the dilithium planet in the Verubin Nebula.
As such, part of the Season 4 storyline may involve Discovery having to defend the Verubin Nebula from someone looking to seize it for themselves. After the Emerald Chain did essentially the same thing at the end of Season 3, if I were writing it I wouldn’t make this the main point of Season 4, but it seems like something that could be included – or at least explained. How will the Federation defend what seems like the galaxy’s most valuable resource?
Number 13: To seek out new… dilithium?
At the moment, the Verubin Nebula is the only major source of dilithium. The USS Discovery with its Spore Drive can jump all across the galaxy, making it a great ship to scout for new sources of the valuable fuel. Part of Discovery’s mission could be to jump around to areas of the galaxy the Federation had previously been unable to reach in search of dilithium.
I see this story point as the catalyst for something else to happen rather than the main event, though… because on its own it doesn’t exactly seem like the stuff of action and excitement!
Number 14: A new first officer.
Last time we looked at the odd Tilly situation and theorised that her uniform may have been altered from command red to science blue in post-production. This could mean she’s being replaced as first officer – a position she only took on a temporary basis to begin with.
If Captain Burnham doesn’t keep Tilly as first officer, that obviously opens the position up to someone else. There are candidates on Discovery’s crew, but I’d also propose Lieutenant Willa, Admiral Vance’s aide-de-camp from Season 3. She would be an interesting addition to the crew; another 32nd Century native along with Book to advise the crew of changes they might’ve missed.
We could also consider the promotion of one of the secondary bridge crew, such as Nilsson, Rhys, or Bryce. Nilsson and Rhys have both been left in charge on the bridge before, so could in theory make good candidates. I wouldn’t pick Stamets or Dr Culber, as they both have roles elsewhere on the ship.
Nhan could make a comeback after she was dropped early in Season 3. I half-hoped to see her return in the season finale, but if she finishes her mission aboard the USS Tikhov, perhaps she could return to Discovery as first officer. If not, maybe a new character could join the crew in that role.
Number 15: A new home for Federation HQ.
I initially wondered if Season 4 might see Federation HQ return to its home on Earth, but I’m not sure if that would be the best option so early in the game. Plus I kind of like the idea of a space headquarters, not attached to any planet and able to be moved.
Perhaps it makes the most sense in the short term for Federation HQ to anchor itself near the Verubin Nebula, able to immediately respond to any threats to its valuable prize. But we could also see Federation HQ move between worlds, visiting new members in turn or just staying on the move. If Starfleet is growing in strength, the need for a secret location will be lessened and perhaps we could see some institutions of the Federation’s government relocate away from the base we first encountered in Season 3.
Number 16: The return of the Klingons.
In Season 1, Discovery depicted a major Federation-Klingon war, and while the Klingons were peaceful by Season 2, they were not exactly staunch allies of the Federation. In Star Trek’s fictional history, the Federation and Klingons would remain at loggerheads for much of the 23rd Century, only to sign the Khittomer Accords at the end of the century, leading to a period of peace. By the 24th Century they were allies, particularly during the Dominion War, and I think it would be interesting to take that line forward in time.
How would the Discovery crew, veterans of the Federation-Klingon war, react to having to work with Klingons? Are the Klingons Federation members, or ex-members? If so, part of the season’s story could be bringing the Klingons back into the Federation – but would everyone on the crew be okay with that?
Alternatively we could see the Klingons as a neutral power, watching the rebuilding of the Federation from the outside. Maybe they, like the Emerald Chain, have gotten used to being a more powerful faction as the Federation have declined, and may not like to see their old adversary getting back on its feet.
Almost anything could have happened to the Klingons both before and after the Burn, and for a faction that had previously been important within Discovery it would be great to see what became of them, and how that information would impact our characters.
Number 17: Aurellio will be back.
Kenneth Mitchell’s Aurellio was one of the high points of the final two episodes of Season 3. As an ex-member of the Emerald Chain and a brilliant scientist, Aurellio could be a valuable ally to the Federation and Discovery’s crew.
Aurellio was tasked with working on the Spore Drive, and in the Season 3 finale figured out that empaths like Book are capable of navigating the mycelial network. He could have switched sides to work for the Federation, perhaps working on a way to give more starships a Spore Drive. There are other scientific roles he could play, depending on the nature of the season.
Number 18: More Spore Drive ships.
Speaking of the Spore Drive and Aurellio, now that the problem of navigating the mycelial network has potentially been fixed, there’s no reason why more Starfleet vessels can’t be fitted with a Spore Drive of their own. In Season 1, Stamets seemed to suggest early on that mycelial spores were difficult to collect or cultivate, but if that could be addressed (or a new source found) there’s no reason why more Spore Drives couldn’t be built.
The Spore Drive has long been Discovery’s most controversial piece of tech, and finding a proper role for it that didn’t get in the way of previously-established canon is one reason for taking the ship and the series out of the 23rd Century. Having arrived in the far future, now is the time to let the Spore Drive shine.