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.