Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4, Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers and teasers for Season 2, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.
Well, that was unexpected! I wrote last week that I expected the theory list to continue to thin out as we edge closer to the end of Season 4, but this week’s episode, The Galactic Barrier, has actually provided several new theories while only debunking one existing one. I really enjoyed what The Galactic Barrier had to offer. Its semi-standalone adventure took Captain Burnham and the USS Discovery to the outer edge of the galaxy, while still finding time for Book and Tarka to explore the latter’s mysterious past.
I’ll be happy to return to The Galactic Barrier when the season is over and enjoy its dangerous adventure storyline for the sci-fi fun that it was. There were still plenty of smaller character moments – the developing relationship between T’Rina and Saru, for example, is incredibly sweet – but overall, I think I’ll remember the episode for its mission through the titular Galactic Barrier. And for the many new theories that it kick-started for me!
Let’s start with the theory that’s been debunked before we jump into the main list.
Tarka’s mysterious friend is a character we’ve already met.
As I said in my review of The Galactic Barrier, I like Oros as a character and his relationship with Tarka seems very sweet. But the way we arrived at that moment was rather odd, and almost feels like it was designed to be an unsatisfying end to an unnecessary mystery.
Think about it like this: what would have changed in But To Connect if Tarka had named his friend when Book asked? Absolutely nothing about this storyline would have been any different in any of the four episodes in which it featured if we’d known from the start that the character’s name was Oros. Keeping the name hidden was a deliberate choice by Discovery’s writers… but it’s one that didn’t add anything to the mystery while encouraging speculation like this. And because that speculation ultimately went nowhere, there’s now a slightly underwhelming edge to what should’ve been a perfectly fine storyline.
I always caveat all of my theories by saying that they’re unlikely to pan out, and that they aren’t worth getting too invested in or worked up over. And to be fair, I said from the start that Tarka’s friend being a familiar character felt like somewhat of a long-shot. But the way in which this storyline was written and dragged out across But To Connect, All In, and Rubicon seems like it was designed to conceal something incredibly basic – Oros’ name – that just didn’t need to be concealed.
As Trekkies, we like to speculate and theorise, and in this case the reveal of Oros as a new character is slightly less fun than it should’ve been because of how it was set up. All it would’ve taken to avoid that was Oros’ name being dropped in But To Connect.
So that theory was debunked!
We have no confirmations this week, so now we’ll get into the main theory list, beginning with those theories that were new or saw movement in The Galactic Barrier.
Dr Kovich works for Section 31.
I struck this theory off the list a few weeks ago, when it seemed like Dr Kovich’s role was a more conventional one within the hierarchy of the Federation. But it’s back this week because of his mysterious behaviour!
Section 31 is the Federation’s off-the-books black ops organisation, and with Dr Kovich seeming to occupy a powerful position, it makes sense that he could be running it – or a senior figure within it. I’m not sure at this stage whether his line about having something more important to do will actually be paid off in a significant way; it felt like one of those seemingly-important lines that Discovery sometimes throws out only for it to come to naught in the end. But if Dr Kovich is going to have a significant role to play later on, perhaps we’ll finally learn exactly who he is and why he’s so influential.
If Dr Kovich is involved with Section 31 – or a similar organisation – we arguably saw hints as far back as his first appearance in Season 3. The way that he debriefed Georgiou, and later declined to reveal her impending health condition until after it manifested, could indicate that Dr Kovich is rather cold and calculating – traits we would associate with Section 31.
Dr Kovich is the Federation Vice President.
If there’s a President there must also be a Vice President, and in The Galactic Barrier we got confirmation of this when President Rillak stated her intention to transfer power to the VP while she was away. As above with Tarka’s friend, the name of the Vice President was kept deliberately hidden during the conversation between Rillak and Admiral Vance, which could mean nothing – or it could mean we’re set for a revelation later on!
There aren’t any other named characters – or even background characters – that we’ve seen with President Rillak or around Federation HQ who could be the Vice President, so unless it’s a brand-new character – which is definitely a serious possibility – Dr Kovich is pretty much the only candidate I can think of! It’s possible that this character won’t have any bearing on the rest of the season and was just mentioned in dialogue, but it’s also possible that the VP will have to take significant decisions in the President’s absence.
Dr Kovich is preparing a weapon of last resort to strike Unknown Species 10-C.
What could be more important than making peaceful first contact with an advanced alien race who have the power to destroy entire planets? No one at the meeting seemed to know – or at least chose not to speculate out loud. One possibility that I can think of, though, is that Dr Kovich is putting contingency plans in place to attack Unknown Species 10-C in the event that President Rillak and Captain Burnham fail in their mission.
With Earth and Ni’Var – two of the Federation’s founding worlds – now under direct threat, the time may have come to step up plans for a major attack. This could take the form of a preventative strike, designed to stop Unknown Species 10-C or dissuade them from continuing with the DMA, or it could be a “weapon of last resort,” designed to retaliate in the event that Earth and Ni’Var are destroyed.
If Dr Kovich is involved with an organisation like Section 31, the possibilities for weapons are almost unlimited – we have no idea what kind of weapons could have been developed by the 32nd Century, and super-weapons with huge destructive potential could exist, even if they have been banned by certain treaties.
Dr Kovich could also be preparing to violate the ban on time travel, travelling back in time to attack Unknown Species 10-C before they have a chance to deploy the DMA. This could lead to us finally getting a bit more detail about how the ban on time travel works!
One final possibility is that Dr Kovich is working on a way to weaponize the Burn – the devastating event that damaged the galaxy in the 31st Century. If a way could be found to use the principles of the Burn to target a specific area, it could be one of the most powerful weapons ever seen in Star Trek – and could be used to try to stop Unknown Species 10-C.
Dr Kovich is involved with the DMA and/or is using the situation to gain power.
Thus far, Dr Kovich has been morally ambiguous at worst. In episodes like But To Connect, we even saw how he holds Federation values dear, which could certainly count against him turning out to be a villain. But once again, the mysterious line about having “important things” to do makes me wonder what he’s really up to.
If Dr Kovich is the Vice President, or if he’s a senior figure in an organisation like Section 31, this could all be a power play on his part. He could either be directly involved with the DMA, or else taking advantage of the situation to attempt to gain power for himself. This kind of story could be interesting if it’s well-written, but it would be difficult to pull off turning any Federation leader into an all-out villain!
Dr Kovich is a Q (or Q-like alien).
With Q making a return in Picard Season 2 (which also kicks off this week), perhaps the Star Trek franchise trying to run two Q stories is out of the question! But something about Dr Kovich again makes me wonder if we could be in for a big surprise. It could be revealed that Dr Kovich is from an alien race and has been observing the Federation while trying to offer limited help and guidance – not dissimilar to how Q operated.
This would certainly be a very big twist! It could even be that the reason for Dr Kovich recusing himself from the mission through the Galactic Barrier was to allow him to contact his people, requesting their help to stop the DMA from destroying Earth and Ni’Var. A long-shot? Maybe…
Bryce is going to die.
Something about Bryce’s goodbye with Saru – a wonderful, very emotional scene – felt incredibly permanent. I’ve since learned that actor Ronnie Rowe Jr. is going to take up a role on Canadian series The Porter, which could mean he’s about to make a permanent exit from Discovery. Bryce could be written out of the show by being transferred to Federation HQ, perhaps, continuing his new role with Dr Kovich. But he also feels like a prime candidate for being killed off.
Given that Bryce isn’t actually on the dangerous mission outside of the galaxy, I’m not sure how he could meet his end. Perhaps an enranged Dr Kovich will kill him if he interferes in his nefarious plans! Or he could be killed by the DMA while trying to evacuate Earth and Ni’Var. There are possibilities – but suffice to say that the likelihood of Bryce surviving the season just dropped dramatically!
Admiral Vance’s holo-message about Earth and Ni’Var was fake or has been tampered with.
As I said in my review, this is the one part of The Galactic Barrier that I wasn’t wild about. Earth being in trouble is a cliché, and one which really makes the ending of the season feel like an inevitability – with Earth, Titan, Ni’Var, and the rest of the Sol and Vulcan systems in danger, it’s unfathomable that the DMA won’t be stopped in time. But I digress!
If there are other plans afoot at Federation HQ – such as Dr Kovich making a move, for example – it’s plausible to think that someone either faked or tampered with Admiral Vance’s holo-message, meaning that the information Captain Burnham and the crew received wasn’t correct. It could lead to an attempt at a dramatic finale, with Captain Burnham thinking she’s too late to have saved Earth… only to discover that Earth is fine because it was never in danger to begin with!
Book and Tarka will successfully cross the Galactic Barrier.
This one feels like an inevitability – Book and Tarka are clearly building up to making their own attempt to cross the Barrier in the next episode. If Captain Burnham and Discovery get into trouble, Book and Tarka could arrive at the last minute to help out.
After going to all the trouble of locating programmable antimatter for Book’s ship this week, I’d be shocked if Book and Tarka didn’t immediately deploy it and find their own way across the Galactic Barrier.
Oros is still alive – and we’ll see him soon!
Tarka certainly believes that Oros is still alive, and has been working for years to find a way to reach his friend. It would be quite a depressing end to this story if Oros ultimately turned out to have died in that Emerald Chain prison camp years earlier, and a big part of me is rooting for Tarka – despite his flaws.
So is this one a theory or a hope? I guess it’s a mix of both right now! I can think of other ways for Tarka to find a way to cross over to an alternate universe even if he can’t find the DMA’s power source or anything like that to fire up his version of the interdimensional transporter, so there are multiple ways that this theory could pan out.
One alternative, though, would be for Tarka to achieve his goal of leaving this dimension behind… but his destination and Oros’ survival being left ambiguous, similar to what happened with Georgiou in Season 3. This would be less satisfying, at least in my opinion, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Tarka to find a way back to Oros!
The Guardian of Forever will be back.
Forget about the interdimensional transporter for a moment. It’s possible that Tarka won’t be able to get it to work or won’t be able to find a sufficient power source to even try. But if that’s the case, there are still ways he could cross the divide between dimensions – and we saw one such method last season.
The Guardian of Forever used its portal to send Georgiou to an alternate reality based on the 23rd Century Mirror Universe in Season 3, and Captain Burnham is aware of the Guardian’s location. If Tarka is unable to find another way, and his plight becomes known to Burnham, perhaps she’ll suggest the Guardian of Forever as an alternative. This would be a great way to bring the Guardian back into the story.
The interdimensional transporter works!
While there are other ways for Tarka to reach Oros, the simplest would be for him to get the interdimensional transporter working. Oros may have managed to do so – and I think he probably did, based on what Tarka told Book in The Galactic Barrier – so I’m going to put it out there and say that this piece of technology works, even though it requires a terrific amount of power!
It was implied in The Galactic Barrier that Oros needed the power of an entire planet and a warp core to get it operational, and even then it may have only had enough power for a single one-way trip. But if Oros and Tarka were right in their calculations, using the transporter may be possible, and we could see Tarka use it before the end of the season. Or could we see someone else commandeer the technology…?
Captain Burnham will use the interdimensional transporter to reach Unknown Species 10-C.
Right now, the stories of the DMA and Tarka’s quest to reach Oros are only tangentially related. But a bigger connection could be made, and there could be a reason why the concept of an interdimensional transporter has suddenly appeared in the story! If Captain Burnham and Discovery arrive at Unknown Species 10-C’s base only to find that the mysterious race inhabit an alternate dimension or parallel universe, perhaps the interdimensional transporter could be the only way to reach them.
This would tie the two sides of the season’s story together, and there could even be a meeting of the minds between Book and Tarka on one side and Captain Burnham on the other, as they realise that they need to work together and share their resources in order for everyone to accomplish their goals. For Tarka, giving up the transporter would be a wrench given everything he’s been through, but having spent time with Book he might be empathetic enough to the plight of Earth and Ni’Var to share it if there are no other options. Alternatively, Captain Burnham could offer to take him to Kayalise using Discovery’s spore drive, or through the aforementioned Guardian of Forever, leading to a trade.
Unknown Species 10-C’s base will be empty or abandoned.
Connected to the theory above, it’s possible that Unknown Species 10-C may not be native to this universe or this dimension, and their hyperfield may be shielding a base or an area of space that’s uninhabited. The mining operation could be transporting boronite to their native universe, and they could be entirely unaware of the damage they’re doing to sentient races – or they may simply not care.
If this is the case, there are several ways the story could go. The interdimensional transporter could very well come into play as a method of trying to reach Unknown Species 10-C in their native realm, or Captain Burnham could try to figure out a way of shutting down the DMA and/or the hyperfield from this universe.
Unknown Species 10-C is extinct.
Connected to the theory above, rather than simply their mining base being abandoned, Unknown Species 10-C may have already gone extinct. The DMA might represent a last-ditch attempt to save themselves from that fate, and the story could proceed in a similar fashion to The Doomsday Machine, in which the planet-killer was an automated system roaming the galaxy long after its creators disappeared.
There could be an interesting environmental message if such a story were to play out: the impact we have on the environment with things like carbon emissions, climate change, and so on will continue to resonate long after we’re gone. Some of these problems will fall to future generations to solve – and perhaps this time, that task will fall to Captain Burnham.
Michael Burnham won’t remain captain of the USS Discovery.
As suggested above, it’s possible that Captain Burnham will have to go to extreme lengths – such as leaving this universe behind – in order to stop the DMA and resolve the conflict with Unknown Species 10-C. If that’s the case, it could set the stage for her departure from the series. I don’t expect Burnham to be killed off, but she could find herself stranded on the wrong side of a one-way portal.
Alternatively, the developing situation between Captain Burnham and Book could end up with her choosing to resign her commission or taking a new job within Starfleet. Her role as captain of Discovery forced her to choose her responsibility to the Federation over her relationship, and after she was almost forced to kill Book, it would be understandable if Captain Burnham never wanted to be put in that position ever again!
It wouldn’t be the first time Captain Burnham has been unsure of her place in Starfleet and what role she wants to have. We saw this in Season 3 as part of the background that set up her eventual ascent to the captaincy, and while it seems unlikely that it will come back into play in a big way, the situation with Book could be a catalyst for Captain Burnham wanting to have a simpler life either outside of Starfleet or, at the very least, out of the captain’s chair.
This would also continue a trend that Discovery has had across all four seasons thus far: the rotating captaincy of the ship. Each season has seen a new captain in command, and with Season 5 in the offing, it’s got to be at least possible that this trend will continue. I’m not really in favour of this, but it’s certainly interesting to consider. Because Captain Burnham has been the show’s protagonist since Season 1, it seems unlikely, and the overall arc of Discovery between Season 1 and Season 3 can be read as her redemption and ascent to the captaincy. But the show’s revolving door of captains may continue, and her conflict with Book and the difficult emotional situation it put her in could be the trigger to make this happen.
A major character will be killed off.
As mentioned above, if I had to pick one character to bet on to not survive the season, it would have to be Lieutenant Commander Bryce! But with Captain Burnham leading the ship and crew into uncharted, dangerous territory, there’s the possibility of someone else ending up on the chopping block!
Discovery can feel as if it’s providing even its secondary characters with some pretty heavy plot armour sometimes. Dr Pollard in Stormy Weather, Saru and the shuttle crew in Rubicon, and going back to Season 3, Tilly and the bridge crew in That Hope Is You, Part 2 were all in very serious danger – yet they all survived. The departures of Tilly and Gray so far this season have certainly shaken things up – but a well-placed character death could be incredibly impactful.
Kayalise is the Kelvin universe.
Oros didn’t make clear, in the flashback sequences we saw, exactly what Kayalise would be like. He only believed that it would be better than the prime universe, and talked about it in mythological, almost religious terms. That could mean something significant, or it could simply be Oros being poetic!
Tarka had previously suggested that the universe he hopes to escape to is one where the Burn didn’t happen and the Emerald Chain never rose to power. Because of the unique circumstances of the Burn, it seems at least possible that it didn’t occur in the Kelvin timeline – the one established by 2009’s Star Trek. We’ve already had at least one Kelvin reference in Discovery’s 32nd Century, confirming that the universe was known to exist and was reachable. With a fourth Kelvin film in early production, it’s possible that Kayalise is actually the Kelvin universe!
President Rillak knows what the DMA is and may be implicated in its creation.
President Rillak’s decision to personally accompany the USS Discovery and Captain Burnham could play into this theory that I’ve been running all season long! I will admit that, as we’ve spent more time with President Rillak she at least appears to be a friendly character, willing to learn from her mistakes and compromise – so that could mean this theory is less likely.
However, as I’ve argued in the past, President Rillak has a manipulative, almost Machiavellian quality. She’s been quite happy to use Captain Burnham to advance positions that it would have been diplomatically or politically difficult for her to do openly – effectively pulling the strings behind the scenes to get a particular outcome that she believes will be favourable to the Federation.
We’ve also seen President Rillak taking full advantage of the DMA situation – not allowing the crisis to go to waste, to use a contemporary political phrase! The emergence of the DMA arguably accelerated Ni’Var’s Federation membership, and President Rillak even used the diplomatic summit about the DMA to reach out to Earth’s General Ndoye – something that would have been far more difficult had the crisis not brought them together.
None of that necessarily means that President Rillak did all of this on purpose… but she may know more about it than she’s been willing to share thus far, and may have known that the DMA was coming long before it hit Kwejian. It’s possible she has some kind of relationship with Unknown Species 10-C, and travelling with Captain Burnham is a ploy to help her meet them.
The ban on time travel will be explained in more detail.
As mentioned above, there may be plans afoot within the Federation and Starfleet to strike Unknown Species 10-C, and a weaponised form of time travel could be a last-resort weapon that the Federation – and other galactic races – might consider using. If so, perhaps the ban on time travel that was introduced in Season 3 will be explained in more detail or expanded upon.
The ban made storytelling sense; it was a way to avoid questions about how the 32nd Century was so different to the far future glimpsed in past iterations of Star Trek, it prevented an easy fix to Georgiou’s health condition, and it prevented any of the main cast returning to the 23rd Century. But it also raised some issues for nitpicking Trekkies like us! The biggest one was how something like this could possibly be enforced; it isn’t possible to un-invent a powerful, weaponisable technology, and even if every single race in the galaxy agreed to the ban in theory, it seems like it would need an incredible level of oversight to enforce it. Finding out more about how the ban works is as much a hope as a theory in some respects, but I think it’s something Discovery should at least attempt to do!
The Federation has flouted the ban on time travel (or is about to).
As above, it may be possible that the Federation is about to make a move using time travel to attack Unknown Species 10-C. If so, we may be about to learn that it isn’t the first time that they have failed to abide by the rules set out in the ban on time travel.
It doesn’t seem likely that the DMA is directly related to time travel, as I had previously suggested. But if time travel is about to come into play, we could learn more about the ban and the Federation’s relationship to it.
We haven’t seen the last of the Abronians.
I currently have four ideas for different ways that the Abronians – the non-humanoid race that Captain Burnham, Tilly, and the Qowat Milat helped save from cryo-sleep in the episode Choose To Live – could play a further role in Season 4.
The Abronians’ homeworld was destroyed by the DMA.
After arriving at the Abronians’ cryo-ship, Captain Burnham found a stone carving that seemed to depict the destruction of the Abronians’ homeworld. This carving was only shown on screen briefly, but it seemed to show the planet being damaged or destroyed in a large explosion. Burnham credited the planet’s destruction to a “supernova,” and the story then raced ahead.
Considering that the main thrust of the season so far has been about the DMA, perhaps Burnham was incorrect: the Abronian homeworld was destroyed by the anomaly, not a supernova.
The Abronians’ homeworld was on the other side of the DMA.
Now that we know a little more about how the DMA works, this theory seems a little more plausible. Its powerful wormhole technology seems capable of transporting matter over many light-years, meaning it doesn’t seem to be a complete stretch to think that the Abronians may have originated in the vicinity of Unknown Species 10-C. They could even be Unknown Species 10-C!
One thing struck me as odd about the Abronians: the Federation was entirely unaware of them, despite the Abronian cryo-ship being relatively close to Federation space – such that Captain Burnham could reach it using Book’s ship in a short span of time. It’s possible that the Abronians had been asleep for millennia, unnoticed by the Federation and the wider galaxy for all that time. But it’s also at least possible that their cryo-ship is a newcomer to the area. If so, perhaps it arrived here via the DMA.
With Captain Burnham and the crew about to visit the hyperfield, we could be about to find out if the Abronians originated in this region of space.
The Abronians will return to help the Federation later in the season.
One of the themes of Discovery since Season 3 has been connection, including building connections between the Federation and other races and organisations. The Abronians were awoken from cryo-sleep thanks to the interventions of Captain Burnham and Tilly – at least in part – and they may seek to repay the Federation, or Captain Burnham personally, for that help.
We saw this play out last season with Ni’Var; in the season finale Ni’Var ships raced to the Federation’s aid as the Emerald Chain attacked. Perhaps the Abronians will likewise step up to help when the Federation needs allies.
The Abronians’ moon-ship may be useful in a later story.
The cryo-ship used by the Abronians was huge, and appeared to have the mass of a planetoid or small moon. With Earth and Ni’Var now under threat and an evacuation necessary, perhaps the Federation will ask the Abronians to borrow their moon-ship. This could even be what Dr Kovich was planning to do and why he couldn’t join Discovery on the mission through the Galactic Barrier.
The moon-ship was fully operational thanks to the new dilithium that J’Vini “procured,” so it could be commandeered by Starfleet for the purposes of an evacuation. That would be one way to pay off what is, at the moment, a side-story.
Oros built the DMA.
There are similarities in the power generating technology used by the DMA and by Oros’ interdimensional transporter. At the very least, Oros seems capable of creating a power source on that scale, and thus he could be involved with Unknown Species 10-C… for some reason. The question of motive comes up – it doesn’t seem like a good way to attract attention, for example. But it’s possible that an explanation could be found!
Unknown Species 10-C could be native to Kayalise – the universe that Oros hoped to travel to. If so, Oros travelling there could have led to them learning about the prime universe – and that it’s a rich source of yummy boronite! They could have captured Oros, forcing him to build the DMA for them. Or he could have built it voluntarily.
So those theories are new or saw movement this week.
As always, I like to keep the entire theory list in one place, so I’ll recap the remaining theories that I have in play now.
Unknown Species 10-C built the Galactic Barrier.
Given their technological capabilities, it doesn’t seem impossible that Unknown Species 10-C constructed the Galactic Barrier – perhaps as a way to shield themselves from the races of the Milky Way, or perhaps to keep anyone from exploring too far and discovering their location. There are many reasons why a technologically advanced race might want to build something on this scale – and we could even learn that the harvested boronite is being used to fuel the Galactic Barrier itself.
One possible explanation for why Unknown Species 10-C might want to build something like the Galactic Barrier is to keep the Milky Way’s inhabitants in… but it could also be a shield designed to keep someone else out. That raises a very frightening question: what could be so powerful that a barrier is needed around the entire galaxy? And what could be so dangerous that being locked inside a galaxy with the Borg would be preferable?
With Unknown Species 10-C seemingly being very secretive, I think the idea of them building it to shield themselves is more likely… but there are definitely a lot of ways this theory could go!
Someone else built the Galactic Barrier to keep Unknown Species 10-C out.
If the Galactic Barrier is an artificial construct, perhaps it was created by another race or faction as a shield against Unknown Species 10-C. It could be the case that Unknown Species 10-C has used DMA technology against the Milky Way in the distant past, and some other race or faction constructed the Galactic Barrier to keep them out. If Unknown Species 10-C are belligerent and interested in conquest, it might take something on a galactic scale to keep the Milky Way safe. A race like the Q could be responsible if that’s the case.
Obviously this theory and the one above can’t both be right! And it’s a distinct possibility that the Galactic Barrier element of the story is just a convenient macguffin to blind Starfleet to Unknown Species 10-C and prevent easy travel to their region of space, dragging out the story and prolonging attempts at communication so other narrative threads could play out.
If that’s the case, we may learn nothing about the Galactic Barrier in the episodes that lie ahead! However, I still think it’s interesting to consider the possibilities, and it could be fun to finally get some more detail on this lesser-known but significant aspect of the Star Trek galaxy.
Unknown Species 10-C is a faction from a past iteration of Star Trek.
Recent comments from Discovery’s showrunner during a social media event may indicate that this theory isn’t going to pan out, despite the mysterious elements and references to past Star Trek shows scattered throughout the season. In short, Michelle Paradise spoke about “designing” Unknown Species 10-C and how they’re “unlike any species we’ve seen before.” It’s still possible that we’re dealing with a faction like Picard Season 1’s super-synths, who were only seen on screen very briefly, or an extensive redesign of a race like the Borg to reflect centuries’ worth of technological progress.
I said last time that I was beginning to get a sense of déjà vu. Many of the suspects for Unknown Species 10-C also felt like plausible culprits for the Burn in Season 3 – and the way that storyline ultimately wrapped up was unpredictable (to say the least).
All that being said, there are still some plausible suspects, even if the DMA’s level of technology would seem to rule out many familiar races. The Borg, Enterprise’s Sphere-Builders, the extragalactic Kelvan Empire, V’Ger, Species 8472, the Q Continuum, and the Terran Empire are all high on my list! For a more detailed look at them, as well as a few less-likely contenders, check out my full list by clicking or tapping here.
Book and Burnham will reconcile and get back together.
We saw a big step toward reconciliation – at least on Book’s part – in Rubicon, when he agreed to stand down and give Burnham and Starfleet a week to attempt to make peaceful first contact and convince Unknown Species 10-C to deactivate the DMA. Book was willing to take a risk by trusting that Burnham would permit him and Tarka to go ahead with their plan at a later time, and even though it didn’t pan out, the way he offered her his trust could open the doorway to reconciliation later on.
I haven’t enjoyed this aspect of the season’s storyline, so this is definitely a hope as much as a theory! But there is a way for Book and Burnham to reach a middle ground, and to find a way to set aside their differences and get back together. As mentioned above, doing so could lead to big changes for both of them – and even for Discovery itself.
Tarka will create his own DMA.
In The Examples, we saw Tarka – aided by Stamets – building a scale model of the DMA. Now that his plan to destroy it and seize its controller has failed, perhaps he’ll attempt to recreate the device using the knowledge he acquired. If so, he could inadvertently create a new DMA. Or, through time travel shenanigans, Tarka could turn out to be the creator of the original DMA!
If Tarka isn’t able to find a power source for his interdimensional transporter on the far side of the Galactic Barrier, he may feel he has no choice but to try and recreate the DMA’s original power source.
The Red Angel suits from Season 2 are connected to the DMA.
Unknown Species 10-C seem to be responsible for building the DMA… whoever they ultimately turn out to be! But the DMA isn’t the first wormhole-creating technology that Discovery has introduced us to. The Red Angel suits in Season 2 were also capable of creating powerful wormholes… so could it be possible that Unknown Species 10-C built their device around or based on the same technology?
This revelation would greatly affect Captain Burnham, as she’d feel a degree of responsibility even though she wasn’t directly involved. It would also be the second disaster in a row (following the Burn) in which the Federation was implicated – albeit in an oblique way. I’m not convinced that Discovery will go down this route… but the similarities in the wormhole-creating technology gives me pause, at least.
Saru will be given the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J.
Saru’s future was briefly discussed before he offered to serve as Captain Burnham’s first officer in the episode Anomaly. He has already been offered a command of his own, so Starfleet clearly values his command abilities and experience. President Rillak was seen to be assessing Captain Burnham’s suitability for the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J in Kobayashi Maru… and she mentioned having a shortlist of candidates. Could Saru be on her list?
Several of the qualities that President Rillak said she was looking for in a potential captain seem to apply to Saru. He’s more level-headed, less likely to put himself in a dangerous situation, and more inclined to think of the big picture. He has a weakness when it comes to Kaminar, as we saw toward the end of Season 3, but generally speaking he isn’t someone who lets his emotions get the better of him. His wisdom and calm demeanour could be valuable in the captain’s chair of the Federation flagship. This could also set the stage for his departure from the show, or possibly even for a new show following his adventures aboard his new ship.
The crew will have to defend the Verubin Nebula.
This one is definitely hanging by a thread right now, at least in terms of Season 4! The story continues to unfold in a very different direction, largely ignoring the main story beats from Season 3. But the dilithium shortage has been mentioned more than once, and as things stand right now, the Federation is in control of the galaxy’s only significant dilithium supply. The Verubin Nebula is almost certainly going to be a target for somebody – even if Unknown Species 10-C don’t care about it.
It begins to stretch credulity to think that all of the belligerent factions and races present in the galaxy would become aware of the Federation controlling this impossibly valuable resource and wouldn’t want to take it for themselves. And while it may not happen now until after the DMA storyline has run its course, I think sooner or later someone is going to want to steal the Verubin Nebula and its dilithium. Maybe it will be at the end of Season 4, maybe it will be in Season 5… who knows?
Season 4 will connect with the Short Treks episode Calypso.
Zora’s status as a member of the crew was confirmed in But To Connect, and this followed her developing emotions and sentience earlier in the season. Zora is now much closer to her presentation in Calypso, potentially bringing the story of the Short Treks episode one step closer.
There are still significant hurdles to overcome if the story of Calypso is to be wrapped up in Season 4, though. Obviously we have the timeframe issue: will the USS Discovery be sent back in time, be abandoned, or is Calypso taking place centuries in the future? Then we have the USS Discovery itself – it’s been retrofitted since arriving in the 32nd Century, and now looks very different to how it did in Calypso. I’m not sure how Discovery will overcome these hurdles – but it’s possible.
Zora hasn’t had a significant role to play in the last few episodes, but earlier in the season we definitely saw movement in this direction.
There will be a character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.
There are many ways to bring back a character from a past iteration of the franchise and incorporate them into the story of Season 4 – and there would be many potential benefits to doing so! I had initially proposed a version of this theory in the run-up to Season 3 that centred on the Doctor from Voyager – but with some creative technobabble, practically anyone could be included, despite the leap forward in time.
Choose To Live showed us the Abronians in cryo-sleep, and Stormy Weather saw the crew of Discovery use the transporter buffer to survive – just like Scotty had done in The Next Generation Season 6 episode Relics. Could these be hints at something to come?
It would also be possible for Captain Burnham to discover the logs or a holographic recording of a long-dead character – and while this would be less of a “crossover,” it could still be a ton of fun and great fan-service!
Some areas of the galaxy – such as the Delta Quadrant – avoided the worst effects of the Burn.
In But To Connect, President Rillak told us that the diplomatic summit she convened would bring together races from “all four” quadrants. Assuming she was referring to the familiar Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta Quadrants that make up the Milky Way galaxy, this would count as our first mention of the Delta Quadrant in the 32nd Century. I didn’t spot any familiar Delta Quadrant races (or their emblems) amongst the assembled delegates, however!
I had previously speculated that the Burn may not have affected the entire galaxy equally, and that regions farthest away from the Verubin Nebula may have survived without much damage. I still think that this is a possibility – though whether Discovery will revisit the Burn in any depth, or visit the Delta Quadrant at all, remains unclear.
To see a full write-up of this theory, click or tap here.
Book will find Kyheem and Leto on the other side of the DMA.
In Star Trek: Generations, Captain Picard encountered Captain Kirk inside the Nexus – despite Kirk being declared “dead” after the Enterprise-B encountered the energy ribbon almost eighty years earlier. Now that we know a little more about how the DMA operates, it seems at least faintly possible that, just like Captain Kirk, the inhabitants of Kwejian may not be as dead as they first appear.
This theory is, I freely admit, a bit of a long-shot. But the wormhole technology that we know the DMA uses seems to be capable of sending some of what it harvests or mines back to Unknown Species 10-C’s base of operations. Maybe that means that some of the people from Kwejian were transported there instead of being killed. With Discovery now en route to the hyperfield, perhaps a reunion with Kyheem and Leto is possible!
So that’s the main theory list!
We now have three production-side theories in play, so we’ll look at those too before we wrap things up.
Production-side theory #1:
There will be some kind of crossover with Star Trek: Picard Season 2.
This theory has arisen in large part because of the very odd scheduling for the next three weeks! Picard Season 2 and Discovery Season 4 will run alongside each other for three episodes, and I wonder if that’s because some kind of crossover is on the agenda. With time travel playing a significant role in the story of Picard Season 2, it seems at least plausible to think that some kind of connection is possible!
This could be a complete over-reach, and the ultimate “explanation” for the weird scheduling may turn out to be nothing more than the random illogical spasms of the ineptly-managed Paramount+ and parent company Paramount Global. That would not surprise me in the slightest! But I really do find the scheduling odd.
The shorter seasons of today’s Star Trek shows means that there really isn’t any need for such a pile-up this spring. Discovery has thirteen episodes, Picard and Strange New Worlds have ten apiece – and even with Lower Decks and Prodigy still to come, there are more than enough weeks in 2022 for the entire Star Trek franchise to be evenly spread out. Why have four out of the next ten weeks with two episodes from two different shows, then a gap of several weeks later in the year where no new Star Trek is broadcast? It makes no sense – especially not on a streaming platform.
Finally, with the constipated international rollout of Paramount+ showing no signs of speeding up, it’s looking increasingly likely that Strange New Worlds will be broadcast in the United States weeks or months ahead of its international premiere. If both Picard Season 2 and Strange New Worlds were delayed by as little as 4-5 weeks, this might be able to be avoided – assuming the rollout of Paramount+ “by the end of Q2” happens as planned.
In short, it’s all very strange – but one possible explanation for the weird scheduling could be that there’s a crossover event planned sometime in the next three weeks!
Production-side theory #2:
Tilly’s departure will be permanent.
Mary Wiseman confirmed in an interview with Wil Wheaton on The Ready Room (Discovery’s social media aftershow) that Tilly will be seen again before the end of Season 4, and we glimpsed her in the trailer for the second half of the season as well. But that doesn’t mean she will return as a main character on the show going forward, and her departure in All Is Possible felt permanent. Despite that, I’ve seen quite a lot of folks online who don’t believe that Tilly is actually leaving the series – so I wanted to put it out there officially and say that, in my opinion anyway, she is.
Maybe those people know something that I don’t! As I always say, I don’t have any “insider information;” all of this is just speculation on my part. However, I feel that the manner of Tilly’s departure, the fact that she got that emotional sequence with Captain Burnham, a montage showing her leaving the ship, Adira seeming to take over several of her roles, and her departure feeling like the culmination of her arc going back to the latter part of Season 3 all come together to strongly indicate that she won’t be back as a major character. She may yet have a significant role to play in a future Season 4 episode, as has been suggested, but unless Discovery’s writers are really playing with our emotions I believe we’ve seen Tilly’s end as a main character on the show. She may come back in a future Starfleet Academy series, though… so watch this space!
Production-side theory #3:
Season 4 will end on a cliffhanger!
Star Trek has a long, well-established tradition of season-ending cliffhangers! There have been some truly shocking ones in the past, including The Best of Both Worlds in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine’s Call To Arms, Equinox in Voyager… and many more! With the story of Unknown Species 10-C and the DMA slowly being unpicked, it could be the case that we’ll get a clean resolution – like we did at the end of Season 3. But it’s also possible, in my opinion, that Season 4 will end in similar fashion to Season 2 – on a major cliffhanger!
That could be because the Unknown Species 10-C story didn’t conclude, or a war with the mysterious faction is about to break out. But the Season 4 finale could also set up the beginnings of Season 5’s story, just like how the final moments of Season 1 saw Captain Pike’s Enterprise link up with the USS Discovery.
So that’s it!
Phew, this list is getting longer and longer… and harder and harder to write up in time every week! I surely hope that the upcoming episode – Rosetta – will start whittling down the theory list somewhat! Joking aside, I have a lot of fun putting these lists together, and I’ve even kicked off my Picard Season 2 theories as well. You can check out those by clicking or tapping here.
There’s still a lot on the table as we approach the final three episodes of the season – and so many different directions that the story could take. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen… and I love it!
Before we go, one final point. I write up these theories because I like Star Trek and I like writing. But for some folks, fan theories can hamper their enjoyment of a film or television show. It’s worth keeping in mind that most of these theories probably won’t pan out, and we have to be prepared for the fact that even the most well-constructed fan theory, no matter how fun and plausible it seems, simply won’t turn out to be true. If you find that speculating and reading theories is beginning to detract from your enjoyment of Star Trek: Discovery – or any other television show or film – it might be a good idea to take a break for a while.
Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.