Star Trek theory: Q the saviour

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the trailers and teasers for Star Trek: Picard Season 2. Spoilers are also present for the following Star Trek productions: The Next Generation, First Contact, Voyager, and Enterprise.

Today we’re going to take a look at Q, the immortal trickster who has tangled with Captains Picard, Sisko, and Janeway – and who will soon be returning to the Star Trek franchise! Q is an unusual character in many ways. He seems to have practically unlimited knowledge of the galaxy, and may have been alive for billions of years. Yet he has an impish, almost childish sense of humour that sees him tease and mess with Starfleet – and many other people too.

I wouldn’t call Q a “villain” in any of his appearances to date. In fact, I would argue very strongly that Q sees himself as a friend, an ally, and a guide to Captains Picard and Janeway in particular, having offered his services more than once. He’s certainly selfish – forcing Starfleet officers to undergo tests and trials of his own devising – but there’s usually more to his games than meets the eye.

Q in his judge’s robe.

On several occasions – going all the way back to his first appearance – Q has presented Starfleet with puzzles to solve. These puzzles can be dangerous, and more than once Q has gotten people killed. But even so, I wouldn’t characterise him as a typical “villain” for Captain Picard or Captain Janeway to “defeat.”

The puzzles Q has presented – especially to Captain Picard – have actually proven to be deeply satisfying, and arguably helped Picard and Starfleet grow. Recognising that life can take very different forms – as Q helped Picard to see in Encounter at Farpoint – is one such puzzle he presented. He also taught Picard how to view time in a non-linear fashion – understanding that events in the future could have a causal link to events in the past in All Good Things.

All Good Things saw Q present Picard with another puzzle to solve.

Even the teasers and trailers for the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Picard may not be all they seem. Picard says he blames Q for disrupting or changing the timeline, but I think we’ll have to see that story play out before we can assign all the blame to Q. Even if Q is responsible, the question of motivation comes up. Is it really just a game; a trick to mess with Picard? Or is there something bigger going on?

That’s one of my big Picard Season 2 theories! But I’ll save the full write-up for another day. Today we’re not looking ahead to future Star Trek, we’re going to look back at past iterations of the franchise and try to answer a deceptively simple question: did Q save the Federation?

Q will soon be returning to Star Trek…

Star Trek has made a mess of the early history of Borg-Federation contact. The Raven, from Voyager’s fourth season, told us that the Borg assimilated humans and a Federation vessel in the 2350s. Regeneration, from Enterprise Season 2, showed the Borg battling against Captain Archer and his crew – and sending a message to the Delta Quadrant that would be received in the 24th Century. So the question of how the Borg first became aware of the Federation is an open one. Did they receive a message from across the galaxy? Did they first discover humanity when they assimilated Seven of Nine and her family?

Either of these explanations could account for the Borg’s interest in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants in the mid-late 24th Century. Season 1 of The Next Generation first teased the Borg’s appearance with the episode The Neutral Zone, in which both Federation and Romulan colonies had gone missing – “carried off” the surface of their planets, as Romulan commander Tebok put it. The Borg’s responsibility for these attacks would be confirmed in The Best Of Both Worlds – though the connection is easily missed, in my opinion, as it doesn’t take up much screen time.

The Borg were responsible for the destruction of several Federation colonies in the 2360s.

Regardless, one thing is certain: the Borg knew of the Federation’s existence well before the Federation knew of theirs. They had even begun to send scouting vessels relatively close to Federation space; system J-25, where the Enterprise-D first encountered a Borg Cube, was a mere two-and-a-half years away from Federation space at high warp, placing the Borg tens of thousands of light-years away from their Delta Quadrant home.

Were the Borg actively scouting for the Federation, or was it just a coincidence that one of their vessels was operating so far away from their own space? We may never know the answer to that, but someone almost certainly does: Q.

Q was responsible for this encounter.

In brief, here’s my theory: the Borg and the Federation were already on a collision course, but the Federation didn’t know it. Whether it was because of the First ContactRegeneration time travel loop, the assimilation of the USS Raven, the attacks along the Neutral Zone, or simply the Borg’s continued exploration of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, they had humanity and the Federation firmly in their sights long before Starfleet was aware that there was a problem.

Recognising this, and seeing potential in humanity thanks to his earlier run-ins with Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D, Q chose to intervene. He knew that if the Federation became aware of the threat the Borg posed, their ingenuity would lead to better defences and they’d be able to protect themselves, so he chose to deliberately introduce them to the Borg for that reason.

A Borg Cube hovering ominously over Earth. The Borg came very close to assimilating humanity’s homeworld.

The events of The Next Generation Season 2 episode Q Who can be reinterpreted through this new lens. Rather than Q trying to frighten Picard for the sake of it or to prove his own superiority, he was – in his own twisted way – helping Picard and the Federation. The events of Q Who led the Federation to begin serious preparations for a Borg incursion, and without that tactical readiness it seems likely that the Borg would have been able to cruise to victory during the events of The Best of Both Worlds.

This fits with how Q operates. In stories like Encounter at Farpoint, Tapestry, and All Good Things, as well as Voyager’s The Q and the Grey, Q never explains everything he knows. Instead he obfuscates, talks around the issue, and forces Starfleet figure out what’s going on for themselves. Sometimes he pushes Picard or Janeway in a certain direction to get things moving, or even devises a puzzle or test of his own, like he did in Hide and Q. But what he never does is simply communicate – he doesn’t just sit down with Picard and tell him about Farpoint Station or the anti-time problem. He pushes Picard to figure those things out for himself.

Q appeared in Season 1 of Lower Decks.

And so it is with the Borg – according to this theory. Rather than contacting Picard and explaining what he knows about the Borg and their intention of targetting Earth, he sends the Enterprise-D to a location where he knows a Borg vessel will be and allows the crew to discover the threat for themselves. He does so knowing that the consequences will be Starfleet ramping up their defences in preparation of a Borg attack.

In All Good Things, Q told Picard that the Q Continuum saw potential in humanity – the potential to one day understand more about the universe than they ever thought possible. From Q’s point of view, perhaps he believed that seeing the Federation attacked and humanity assimilated would be a net loss to the galaxy because that potential would never be realised.

Q has his reasons for “testing” Picard and humanity – even if he chooses not to explain himself.

Q’s motivation for putting Picard and humanity “on trial” seems to be connected to this. In Encounter at Farpoint he accused humanity of being “a dangerous, savage, child race.” Yet even by the end of the episode, Q appeared to be impressed rather than disappointed that Picard and the crew could solve his puzzle. Rather than believing humanity to be dangerous and savage, as he asserted, Q almost certainly sees humanity as something more than that – and thus would feel humanity’s assimilation by the Borg would be a loss. His desire to avoid that fate could have motivated him in Q Who.

All of this could tie into Picard Season 2. Q may feel that Picard and the Federation are ungrateful for his “assistance” over the years, and he could cite the events of Q Who as one example of how his intervention saved the Federation from assimilation. While the latter part is up for debate, I definitely believe that Q feels underappreciated by Picard in particular, and sees his interactions with the former captain of the Enterprise-D as helpful rather than antagonistic.

Q looks annoyed with Picard in the trailer for Star Trek: Picard Season 2.

So let’s recap! The Borg became aware of the existence of the Federation by the mid-24th Century. The Federation had technology and resources that the Borg considered valuable, and they began targetting outlying Federation colonies, including those near to the Romulan Neutral Zone. All the while, the Federation remained ignorant of the Borg’s existence – considering them to be little more than rumour.

Foreseeing disaster and either the total assimilation of humanity or the devastation of the Federation such that humanity could not achieve its full potential, either the Q Continuum or Q independently decided to intervene. Instead of simply contacting the Federation to share his knowledge, Q transported the Enterprise-D to the star system J-25, where they encountered the Borg. This encounter led to the Federation developing anti-Borg strategies and defences that would ultimately save them from assimilation.

Unusually, Q has never taken credit for this. However, it’s at least possible that he considered Picard and the Federation as a whole to be ungrateful for his help, and this could tie in somehow to the events of Picard Season 2 where Q will be making a return to the Star Trek franchise.

Did Q save the Federation from assimilation?

What I like about this theory is that everything feels like it fits together. This theory connects the message sent in Regeneration and the early assimilation of Seven of Nine’s family to the events of The Neutral Zone, giving the Borg a reason to be operating so far outside of their territory. It also fits in perfectly with the way Q behaves – never sharing everything he knows and presenting dangerous and often deadly puzzles to Picard and Starfleet.

Whether it’s true or not is open to interpretation! I would say that Q Who wasn’t written with any of this in mind, and a straight watch of the episode strongly suggests that Q’s motivation is simply to frighten Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D after his offer to join the crew was rejected. Q felt that Picard was arrogant in assuming that Starfleet could handle any threat the galaxy contained, and wanted to prove him wrong. While that explanation works in the context of the episode, it doesn’t preclude anything included in this theory from also being true; Q could still have been annoyed at Picard’s assertion that the Federation was prepared for anything while also intending to provide them with advance warning of the Borg.

So that’s it for this one! As with all fan theories, anything we see on screen in a future episode or film could render the whole thing invalid. But for now, I think it’s at least plausible that the events of Q Who represent Q trying – in his own unique and twisted way – to help Picard and the Federation. Q has always seen himself as a friend of Picard’s, and based on what we know of both Q and the history of Borg-Federation contact, it seems to me that everything arguably fits together!

The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and 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.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 theory: The abandoned Borg origin story

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!

We’re revisiting Season 2 on this occasion!

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.

Captain Leland being “assimilated” by Control.

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.

Admiral Patar – one of the senior figures involved in the Control AI project.

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.

The Artifact in Picard Season 1.

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.

Borg assimilation in the 24th Century.

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 used nanites to “assimilate” Captain Leland.

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.

Perhaps the Borg had forgotten their origins by the time they encountered the Enterprise-D.

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.

The Borg Queen could be a new avatar for the evolved Control AI.

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.

Borg drones from First Contact.

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.

Ten great Star Trek starship designs

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Picard Season 1, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

The Star Trek franchise has an aesthetic all its own, and a big part of that is the way starships are designed. Many Trekkies have said over the years that a ship is like an extra member of the cast; a vital part of any Star Trek series or film. While there have been some visual misses, of course, for the most part Star Trek’s ships have been fantastic to look at.

Aesthetics are always going to be a matter of personal taste, and there are many factors at play in considering what makes for a “good-looking” starship. Because the ships and most of their technologies are wholly fictional, designers and artists have a fair amount of leeway when it comes to designing a new starship. Technobabble can always be employed to explain away inconsistencies – like how the USS Defiant’s warp nacelles work, for example.

The USS Defiant.

Over more than half a century, Star Trek has featured many different designs of starship. Many of these, even the newest ones, take inspiration from the original USS Enterprise, which was designed by Matt Jeffries (with some input from others, including Gene Roddenberry) for The Cage in 1964. The basic saucer section, drive section, plus two nacelles on pylons style has been present in most Federation ships – and, in some form, all of the “hero” ships – ever since.

On this list I’m going to pull out ten of my favourite designs of both Federation and non-Federation starships. The list is by no means exhaustive, and it may be a topic I revisit in future as I can already think of several more I could have easily included! As indicated, this whole thing is entirely subjective. So without further ado, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order.

Number 1: The Klingon Bird-of-Prey

A Bird-of-Prey seen in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The Bird-of-Prey is absolutely iconic as a Klingon vessel, at least on par with the D-7 battlecruiser from The Original Series. The vessel debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, before going on to appear in four more films, all of the 24th Century shows, and even recently in Lower Decks. Few non-Starfleet ships are as iconic or recognisable, and even many non-fans would easily identify the design.

In cinema, the Bird-of-Prey has had starring roles in five films, making it one of the most well-known enemy or villainous ships. Iconic adversaries like General Chang and Dr Soran used Klingon Birds-of-Prey in their nefarious schemes. But as Klingon-Federation relations improved in The Next Generation, we began to see the iconic vessel as an ally; a workhorse of the Klingon fleet. By the time of the Dominion War in Deep Space Nine we were rooting for the Klingon-Federation alliance, and some of the ships most often seen on the front lines were these wonderful Klingon ships.

Based loosely on the earlier Romulan Bird-of-Prey, the winged design captures the warrior philosophy of the Klingons perfectly. The small ship is incredibly powerful, armed to the teeth with disruptor cannons and photon torpedoes. The way the wings change position for combat or while at warp is clever, too, and the green colour scheme makes the craft stand out when compared to Federation ships.

Number 2: The Excelsior Class

The USS Enterprise-B.

Another starship that would be a workhorse for decades, the Excelsior is a really neat, futuristic design. It manages to look smarter and newer than the Constitution class that it would eventually replace, yet at the same time is clearly manufactured by the same organisation. It retains the saucer, drive section, and nacelles on pylons of older Federation ships, but switches up the design too. The ship is flatter, with a shorter “neck,” and has nacelle pylons that are shorter and have a ninety-degree bend instead of coming out of the drive section on a diagonal.

The Excelsior class also debuted in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – the film succeeded at introducing us to two of the most iconic designs in the franchise! Though we’ve never seen a show or film set entirely aboard an Excelsior class starship, Excelsiors have been featured in five films and all three of the 24th Century shows.

By the 24th Century the Excelsior class was still in use, and while it had taken a back seat to the likes of the Galaxy class and other newer ships, many Excelsior class vessels were still in service in a variety of roles. Some would even see action in the Dominion War, meaning that the Excelsior class was still being deployed almost a century after its inception. That must be one solid ship!

Number 3: The Runabout

A Runabout seen in The Next Generation.

I adore the Runabouts that debuted in Deep Space Nine. They remind me of camper vans (or RVs) in terms of size and design, incorporating most of the mod-cons a 24th Century Starfleet officer might expect – just in a much more compact vessel. If I could pick any starship for myself (and the cats) to have for cruising around the galaxy, I’d definitely pick a Runabout.

When Deep Space Nine was being developed, there was a sense that setting a series on a static space station might be too far removed from Star Trek’s past, and thus there was a need to give Commander Sisko and the crew something to keep them mobile. From an in-universe perspective, too, the station needed to have some way for the crew to leave in an emergency – or just to make routine visits to nearby planets. Hence the Runabout was born – larger than a shuttlecraft but smaller than any starship we’d seen before.

These cute mini-starships each have their own name and registration, but from what’s shown on screen they seem to be assigned to bases and starships as auxiliary craft rather than being fully-independent vessels in their own right. Despite that, Runabouts are depicted as highly capable, versatile vessels. Early exploration missions into the Gamma Quadrant often utilised Runabouts based at DS9, and the ships were more than capable of surveying planets and charting star systems.

Number 4: The Constitution Class (original configuration)

The USS Enterprise from The Original Series.

The original Constitution class has to make any Trekkie’s list of great starship designs, right? Though it may feel dated in some respects, this is the source from which basically all of the other designs on this list were created. Federation starships are pretty much all designed with the Constitution in mind – the saucer, drive section, and nacelles design is emblematic of Starfleet, and thus of Star Trek. Even non-Federation ships are designed to stand in opposition to the Constitution (and the ships derived from it) so it’s undeniably the most significant and important starship design in the franchise.

The original design was simple, mid-60s futurism at its finest. The saucer is a design that had been synonymous with spaceships for decades thanks to myths of UFOs and flying saucers, so the decision to incorporate that kind of design was genius. The ship’s engines with their glowing tips became inseparable from warp speed and faster-than-light travel. And of course the deflector dish was reminiscent of satellite dishes – a new technology at the time.

Most importantly, this is where Star Trek began. The Constitution class USS Enterprise kicked off the franchise and became one of the most iconic sights in all of science fiction. Even today it’s instantly recognisable, even to folks who don’t watch Star Trek or know anything about the franchise.

Number 5: The Constitution Class (refit configuration)

An iconic moment in The Motion Picture.

As much as I love the original Constitution class, I think I like the refit even more. The refit Constitution class is the subject of one of my favourite sequences in all of Star Trek – where Admiral Kirk and Scotty approach the newly-refitted Enterprise when it’s still in drydock in The Motion Picture. That sequence is so beautiful (and with an amazing musical score to boot), showing off the starship in all its glory.

If the original configuration of the Constitution class had design features emblematic of its 1960s space race origins, the refit is much more “up-to-date,” replacing the satellite dish-style deflector with a glowing light, toning down the grey colour, and generally adding more lights and more features that make it an icon of the ’80s. In fact, I’d argue that many ’80s and ’80s-inspired sci-fi ships can trace some part of their design back to the refit Constitution class.

At the same time, though, the refit doesn’t completely abandon what made the original starship so iconic. The saucer section, drive section, nacelles, and pylons are all still present. The domed bridge is still there at the top of the ship, and even though a lot as been changed, it’s still clear that this is supposed to be an updated design, not a wholly new one.

Number 6: The Galor Class Warship

A Galor class ship under fire from a Maquis fighter in the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager.

The Cardassians – and their Galor class warships – debuted in The Wounded, a fourth-season episode of The Next Generation which, in many ways, began to lay the groundwork for Deep Space Nine. And it was in the latter show that the Galor class would be seen most often; a vehicle for the villainous Cardassians.

Its design is, in some respects, a blend of Starfleet and non-Federation ships. The semi-circular “mini saucer” that juts out at the front, as well as the deflector array it sits atop, kind of resemble Starfleet designs, but the wings and elongated “tail” – as well as the yellow colour scheme – make it clear that this is definitely not a Federation starship!

The Galor class would be seen as the mainstay of the Cardassian fleet, serving in combat roles before and during the Dominion War. Some engagements during the Dominion War would see dozens – perhaps hundreds – of Galor class vessels deployed alongside their Dominion and Breen allies, and they could look incredibly intimidating en masse. Seeing Galor class ships open fire on the Breen and Dominion indicated that the Cardassians had switched sides during the war’s closing hours, and that sequence is absolutely outstanding; one of the best space battles in the entire franchise.

Number 7: The USS Pasteur

The USS Pasteur.

Unlike the ships mentioned above, the USS Pasteur was only seen in one episode – All Good Things, the season finale of The Next Generation. Despite its limited screen time, however, I like the design. Its spherical “saucer” section is distinctive, and gives it a look all its own. The spherical design was based on an unused concept Matt Jeffries had for the original USS Enterprise during early development on The Original Series, which is a cool little fact!

As I’ve said before, I really like the concept of a hospital ship in Star Trek. I’d be quite happy to see a “Star Trek-meets-ER” series one day, and such a series would surely make use of a ship like the USS Pasteur. Modern navies have hospital ships, so it stands to reason that Starfleet would too, and the USS Pasteur was our first up-close look at such a support vessel.

A Pasteur-type ship was seen in Season 1 of Lower Decks (albeit in a flashback) so the design isn’t dead. Perhaps one day we’ll see more of these ships and get to know a little more about them. Regardless, I love the design.

Number 8: The Borg Cube

A Borg cube in orbit of Earth.

Few adversaries in Star Trek are as genuinely frightening as the Borg – for reasons that I discussed in my essay on the faction. An intimidating villain needs an intimidating starship, and the Borg cube delivers. There’s something frighteningly mechanical about a plain cube. There are no engines, no obvious bridge or command centre… everything about the vessel from all sides looks the same.

The Borg’s hive mind sees them operate as one entity, and their ships are part of that. The “philosophy” of the Borg – for want of a better term – is perfectly expressed in the design of their most commonly-seen starship. Every part of the ship is the same, just as every Borg drone is the same.

When we first see a Borg cube in Q Who, the sheer scale of the ship is impressive, too. The Borg vessel dwarfs the Enterprise-D, and then its powerful weapons and tractor beam overcome the Galaxy class ship’s defences with ease. Even though we’ve seen Borg cubes defeated in subsequent stories, remembering that a single vessel was able to destroy 39 Federation ships and almost succeed at assimilating Earth reminds us that these ships are incredibly powerful. Even by the time of First Contact, defeating a single Borg cube was a tall order for Starfleet.

Number 9: La Sirena

La Sirena in The Impossible Box.

Captained by Chris Rios and chartered by Admiral Picard, La Sirena made its debut in Star Trek: Picard Season 1. Everything I said about the Runabout feeling like a fun-sized ship could also apply to La Sirena, but the visual style makes it distinctive. La Sirena is basically a Runabout mixed with a hot rod!

The red and white colour scheme suits the ship perfectly, and there are even echoes of Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon in La Sirena’s design and concept. It’s the perfect vessel for Picard; small enough to be run by a skeleton crew (plus holograms!) but large enough not to feel cramped. It’s definitely not Starfleet, but there are Federation design elements present throughout.

Star Trek hasn’t really had many opportunities to showcase civilian starships, so La Sirena represents a look at a completely different side of the Star Trek galaxy, one we haven’t seen before. Though the franchise keeps these things deliberately vague, there must be a great deal of interstellar traffic, including transporting passengers and cargo. People like Captain Rios – and also others like Kassidy Yates – show us a glimpse of that world.

Number 10: The Sovereign Class

The first shot of the Enterprise-E in First Contact.

Perhaps it’s because Nemesis was the furthest forward the Star Trek timeline had got for almost twenty years, but to me the Soverign class has always seemed like one of Star Trek’s most modern and futuristic starships. The design represents a complete overhaul from the previous Galaxy class, flattening the “neck” of the ship again so the elongated saucer is almost contiguous with the drive section.

It’s a shame that the Sovereign class Enterprise-E only had the opportunity to make three appearances, as I would have dearly liked to see more of it in action. In some ways it has more of a militarised feel than the Galaxy, especially in terms of its interior, and perhaps we can say that’s a response to Starfleet taking on board threats from the Borg and Dominion during the design process.

The most iconic Sovereign class moment for me is the Enterprise-E’s arrival at the Battle of Sector 001. Swooping in to take on the Borg cube when the Starfleet armada was falling apart – accompanied by another beautiful piece of music – is one of the best moments in First Contact!

So that’s it! Ten great Star Trek starship designs.

Star Trek: Discovery’s new take on the Constitution class.

There were many other ships I could’ve picked for this list, so stay tuned for “part two” in future! The Star Trek franchise has some great starships, and by keeping a relatively consistent aesthetic – generally speaking – has carved out a niche within sci-fi. Star Trek’s starships are almost always distinctive, and seldom feel like they could easily be part of some other film or franchise.

Everybody has their own favourites, though! There are some starships that we see often, either because they’re a “hero” ship or because they’re a frequently-used secondary design, and some of these have become iconic and emblematic of the whole Star Trek franchise. Other ships only make a handful of appearances, yet still manage to leave a lasting impression.

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.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 – wacky ideas

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.

Ni’Var had left the Federation by the 32nd Century.

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.

Weyoun was one of the Dominion’s leaders during the Dominion War.

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?

Odo returns to the Founders.

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.

Rojan, the leader of a Kelvan expedition to the Milky Way.

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.

The Kelvan Empire is native to the Andromeda galaxy.
Picture Credit: NASA

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.

A Klingon commander seen in Lower Decks.

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.

Discovery Season 1 featured a Federation-Klingon conflict.

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!

The cast of The Next Generation Season 4.

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.

Scotty aboard the Enterprise-D in Relics.

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.

A battle between Borg and Romulans as seen in the Lower Decks title sequence.

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?

A Borg Cube over Earth in The Best of Both Worlds.

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!

What kind of stories will Season 4 tell?

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.

Factions of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3, Short Treks, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Though Strange New Worlds Season 1 is still probably a year or more away from being broadcast, it’s never too soon to start thinking about the next live-action Star Trek show! Each Star Trek project brings something new and different to the table, but Strange New Worlds’ purported return to a more exploration-focused, episodic kind of storytelling is something I’m incredibly interested in and excited for. When I think about upcoming television series that I’m most excited about, Strange New Worlds has to be very close to the top of the list!

In addition to the three cast members reprising their roles from Discovery, we learned earlier in the year that five other major roles have been cast – but we didn’t learn anything about the characters, nor about any recurring or returning characters either. Strange New Worlds is currently in production, but was entirely absent from Star Trek’s First Contact Day digital event in April. We haven’t really heard much solid news from the production for a while!

Strange New Worlds is in production, and looks set for a 2022 broadcast.

Despite that, I thought it could be fun to look ahead to Strange New Worlds’ premiere, and this time we’re going to consider some of the factions present in the Star Trek galaxy that Pike and his crew could encounter! This isn’t going to be a comprehensive list of every Star Trek race or species, just those that I personally consider plausible for the new show.

As always, please keep in mind that I don’t have any “insider information.” I’m not stating that any of these factions will definitely appear in Strange New Worlds, all we’re going to do today is look at some factions from past iterations of Star Trek and think about where they could be in the mid-2250s. That’s all!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the list!

Number 1: The Andorians

Ryn, an Andorian seen in Discovery Season 3.

As a founding member of the Federation, the Andorians are a firm ally in this era. Despite that, however, episodes like Journey to Babel in The Original Series showed that there is still a degree of mistrust particularly between Andorians and Vulcans. Much of what we know about the Andorians actually comes from Enterprise, where they featured far more prominently than in any other Star Trek series to date. After appearing in The Original Series and in the background in a couple of films, the Andorians were absent for practically all of The Next Generation era.

It would be amazing if one of Strange New Worlds’ main or recurring characters were Andorian! Having an Andorian crew member would be a first for any Star Trek show, and that could be a lot of fun. It would also be possible for the series to delve into Federation politics in a similar way to Journey to Babel, looking at how Andorian relations with other Federation members have improved – or not – over the years. Though he would be well over 100 years old by this point, it’s not inconceivable that Shran, the Andorian commander who tangled with Captain Archer in Enterprise, could still be alive in this era, and perhaps he could make an appearance.

Number 2: Arcadians, Ariolos, Arkenites, and others!

One of the only Arcadians ever seen in Star Trek.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – and several other films starring the cast of The Original Series – followed the Star Wars trend of designing cool-looking aliens and then leaving them in the background or in minor supporting roles. The higher budget afforded to the films allowed for more aliens and different-looking aliens, but subsequent Star Trek projects haven’t brought back races like the Arcadians, Ariolos, Arkenites, and more.

However, Discovery Season 3 briefly featured a Betelgeusian character – the Betelgeusians were another race seen in the background of a film before being ignored in subsequent Star Trek projects. So I think there’s the possibility that one or more races only ever seen in films like The Voyage Home could appear in Strange New Worlds. Perhaps Captain Pike and the crew make first contact with one of them!

Number 3: The Bajorans

Major Kira was a 24th Century Bajoran – and a major character in Deep Space Nine.

The Cardassian Empire would not occupy Bajor until the late 23rd or early 24th Century, meaning that in the 2250s Bajor and the Bajorans will be very different to the way we remember them from Deep Space Nine. Pre-occupation Bajor operated a strict caste-based hierarchy, with very little mixing between castes. Bajorans were known to be artistic, creative, and deeply spiritual, as well as pioneers of space exploration.

This is tied to a pet theory I have that Captain Pike will make first contact with a previously-established Star Trek faction! I feel that the Bajorans are absolutely one of the contenders for such a mission of first contact, and it could be absolutely fascinating to learn more about the Bajorans and how they were prior to the Cardassian occupation. The Bajorans have recently been referenced in Discovery Season 3, so the creative team behind Star Trek clearly haven’t forgotten all about them! Perhaps that could be a hint at a more significant role in an upcoming project?

Number 4: The Barzan

Nhan, a Barzan character in Star Trek: Discovery.

By the mid-23rd Century, at least one Barzan – Nhan – served in Starfleet. Nhan served under Pike’s command on the Enterprise, and though Pike and some other members of the crew know her true fate – that she left the 23rd Century behind to head into the far future with the crew of Discovery – officially she was killed in action during the battle against Control.

I wonder whether Pike might visit Barzan II to pay respects to Nhan, or to convey the news of her being lost to her family. That could be an interesting story, as well as a way for Strange New Worlds to keep a thread of continuity going with Discovery. Despite Nhan’s departure from Discovery midway through Season 3 I’m hopeful she could return. The Barzan were not a Federation member by the mid-23rd Century, so there’s the possibility that Nhan’s death could complicate Federation-Barzan relations.

Number 5: The Benzites

Mordock, a 24th Century Benzite.

The Benzites have only appeared on a few occasions, so I think there’s scope to explore more of their culture and perhaps even show how they came to make first contact with the Federation. The first Benzite we met in Star Trek was in The Next Generation Season 1 episode Coming of Age, where Mordock beat Wesley Crusher to a place at Starfleet Academy. A couple of other Benzites were seen later in The Next Generation and in the background in Voyager and Lower Decks.

All we know about the Benzites is that they were not members of the Federation, and that they had maintained relatively limited diplomatic contact prior to the 24th Century. They’re another possible candidate for a mission of first contact, in my opinion!

Number 6: The Betazoids

Deanna Troi – a half-Betazoid – recently returned in Star Trek: Picard Season 1.

Betazed – the Betazoid homeworld – appears to be relatively close to Earth and Vulcan, at least according to dialogue in Deep Space Nine. If that’s the case, it stands to reason that humans and Betazoids may have already been in contact with one another prior to Captain Pike’s mission of exploration. They were also known to be a Federation member by the mid-24th Century. Another possible candidate for a mission of first contact? Maybe!

Betazoids have telepathic and empathic abilities which have been shown to be very useful to Starfleet in other Star Trek shows, so perhaps a Betazoid main or recurring character could fill a Troi-like role aboard the Enterprise. I think this is less likely, but it’s a possibility!

Number 7: The Borg

A Borg drone seen in First Contact.

Star Trek has made a mess of Borg-Federation contact thanks to revelations in Generations, Voyager, and Enterprise that humanity had contact with (or knowledge of) the Collective prior to Captain Picard making “official” first contact with them. I think it would be very difficult for Strange New Worlds to successfully pull off a Borg story without treading on too many toes, but at the same time I think it could be amazing to see Captain Pike face off against the Borg!

Perhaps this would work best as a time travel or even parallel universe story; perhaps Pike and the Enterprise accidentally cross into an alternate reality where the Borg were successful in assimilating Earth in the 21st Century (as seen in First Contact). They would need to find a way to get home, and may not even be aware of the name of their adversary. A long-shot for Season 1, perhaps, but a possibility! In the 23rd Century in the prime timeline, the Borg should be confined to the Delta Quadrant. They may not have transwarp technology by this point, though their technology should still outpace the Federation considerably.

Number 8: The Bynars

A pair of Bynars seen in The Next Generation.

Interestingly, though the Bynars were only ever seen on screen in The Next Generation Season 1, they were mentioned by name in Enterprise. The Federation were thus at least aware of the Bynars’ existence by the mid-23rd Century, and it’s possible that they had attempted to make first contact with the semi-synthetic race.

Given that modern Star Trek has dedicated a fair amount of time to exploring the relationship between organic and synthetic life, and how the possibility exists for that relationship to turn into conflict, bringing back the Bynars – who are a race connected to a “master computer” on their homeworld – could make for an interesting continuation of that theme.

Number 9: The Caitians

Caitians served in Starfleet since at least the mid-23rd Century.

This feline-inspired species initially appeared in The Animated Series, and has recently been seen in Lower Decks, where Dr T’Ana is a Caitian. Their only live-action appearance to date has been in The Voyage Home, but with the Caitians returning to Star Trek in a big way thanks to Lower Decks, perhaps the time is right for them to make a major live-action appearance again.

The Caitians were presumably Federation members – or at least allies – by the time Kirk assumed command of the Enterprise, so it’s at least plausible to think that there could be other Caitian Starfleet officers during Pike’s tenure. It would be an interesting opportunity to learn more about a race that Star Trek has shown off on a few occasions but never really dug into.

Number 10: The Cardassians

A Cardassian seen in The Next Generation.

As with the Bajorans above, the Cardassians are a faction we know very well from their appearances in Deep Space Nine. What we haven’t seen, however, is first contact between the Federation and the Cardassians, which is something Captain Pike and the Enterprise could be responsible for! There was conflict between the Cardassians and Federation in the early or mid-24th Century, but aside from that – and their occupation of Bajor – much of early Cardassian history is unknown.

Cardassia Prime and Bajor are relatively close to one another, so it’s possible Captain Pike could encounter both if the Enterprise finds itself in that region of space. I really like the idea of Strange New Worlds showcasing first contact between the Federation and a race that we got to know in the 24th Century, so I think the Cardassians could be a great inclusion in the new series.

Number 11: Chameloids

A Chameloid taking humanoid form in the late 23rd Century.

Chameloids were shape-shifters, but were not affiliated with the Dominion. The only known Chameloid seen in Star Trek appeared on Rura Penthe in The Undiscovered Country. This individual played a role in Captain Kirk and Dr McCoy’s escape from the Klingon prison colony.

Shape-shifting aliens have been seen on a few different occasions in Star Trek (excluding Odo and the Founders, of course) and make for interesting adversaries. Perhaps Pike and his crew could encounter a Chameloid – they may even be responsible for “Martia” ending up on Rura Penthe!

Number 12: The Deltans

Ilia, a 23rd Century Deltan Starfleet officer.

We’ve only ever met one Deltan in Star Trek: Ilia, a Starfleet officer in The Motion Picture. The Deltans – and Ilia – were originally created for Phase II, the project which would eventually morph into The Motion Picture in the late 1970s. They were intended to be a somewhat ethereal race, older and wiser than humanity and offering a different perspective on the galaxy.

Deltans were also presented as very sensual, both in their sole appearance in The Motion Picture and when they were referenced in Enterprise’s fourth season. Considering that second mention in Enterprise, Deltans and humanity had encountered one another long before the events of Strange New Worlds. Perhaps Pike and the crew could lead a diplomatic delegation, or witness the Deltans joining the Federation?

Number 13: The Denobulans

Dr Phlox, a 22nd Century Denobulan.

The Denobulans are a race only ever seen in Enterprise, and perhaps Strange New Worlds could tell us why that is! Though I wouldn’t want to see any harm come to Dr Phlox’s people, it’s possible that some kind of disaster befell them in the years after Enterprise, accounting for their absence in the 23rd and 24th Centuries.

If that’s not the case, it would be great to learn what became of them! It seems likely that the Denobulan homeworld was relatively near to Earth and Vulcan, and given their friendly relations with Earth in Enterprise, perhaps the Denobulans became a Federation member relatively early on. A Denobulan could even join Pike’s crew as a main or recurring character!

Number 14: The Edosians

An Edosian seen in Lower Decks.

This three-legged, three-armed race were originally seen in The Animated Series, where Lieutenant Arex was an officer under Kirk’s command. Like many elements from that show, the Edosians seemingly vanished – until Lower Decks brought back an Edosian character last year! It was great fun to see another Edosian Starfleet officer then, and it may be the first of many Edosians that we’ll see going forward.

It was prohibitively expensive in the late 1970s and 1980s to bring an Edosian character to life in live-action, but times have changed and I’d argue that it’s more than achievable in 2021! It’s possible that Arex himself could make a return, serving under Pike’s command on the Enterprise, or perhaps Pike and the crew will encounter other Edosians out in space. Whether they’re Federation members or not is unknown, but maybe Strange New Worlds can clear that up!

Number 15: The El-Aurians

Dr Tolian Soran, an El-Aurian who lived in the 23rd/24th Centuries.

At least one El-Aurian – Guinan – visited Earth in the 19th Century, and based on the fact that the Federation came to the aid of El-Aurian refugees in Generations, they must’ve either been relatively near to Federation space or been able to travel there easily. The El-Aurians were assimilated by the Borg in the late 23rd Century, but Strange New Worlds potentially offers the opportunity to see the El-Aurians in their prime, before the Borg decimated their people.

Guinan is going to be making a return in Picard Season 2, so the El-Aurians are clearly still a factor in upcoming Star Trek projects! Having Pike and his crew encounter the El-Aurians could be a way for Strange New Worlds to tie itself to Picard and the 24th Century.

Number 16: The Kalar

A Kalar warrior in The Cage.

Captain Pike has already encountered the Kalar once! During the events of The Cage, Pike recalled an attack by Kalar warriors during a mission to Rigel VII, blaming himself for the deaths of three officers under his command. In Discovery we saw Pike revisit events with the Talosians and Vina, so perhaps it’s possible to bring back the Kalar too!

The Kalar were depicted as an un-advanced race incapable of spaceflight with technology that looked similar to the early medieval period or dark ages on Earth. It seems unlikely they’d have made any significant advancements since Pike’s earlier encounter with them, but it’s not impossible to devise a compelling reason to revisit Rigel VII.

Number 17: The Kelpiens and Ba’ul

Captain Saru was the first Kelpien to serve in Starfleet.

Captain Pike played a huge role in the development of the Kelpiens and Ba’ul in Discovery Season 2, arguably violating the Prime Directive to aid the Kelpiens by putting the entire species through vahar’ai – a biological evolution which transformed the meek, fearful Kelpiens into apex predators.

There will be massive consequences for what Pike did, and while Saru is arguably the best character for close examinations of the Kelpiens, Pike’s monumental role in shaping their future – and that of the Ba’ul, with whom the Kelpiens share a homeworld – could mean that a revisit to Kaminar is on the cards. The Ba’ul may blame Pike and the Federation for upsetting the delicate balance they had worked so hard to establish, seeking revenge. Or Kaminar may have descended into war, with the Kelpiens and Ba’ul at each others’ throats requiring Pike’s intervention.

Number 18: The Klingon Empire

Chancellor L’Rell was the Klingon leader in this era.

Even if it doesn’t happen in Season 1, I feel certain that Strange New Worlds will eventually feature some Klingon stories! Federation-Klingon relations are rocky after the end of the war seen in Discovery’s first season, and it would be interesting to see how Pike, L’Rell, and others try to maintain the peace in the years before Kirk’s five-year mission.

When considering Pike’s personal story, it was on the Klingon world of Boreth where he secured his fate – his impending disability – in exchange for a time crystal. Pike’s own views and relations with the Klingons are thus particularly complex, and as he comes to terms with what he saw in the vision the time crystal gave to him he may seek out advice from Klingons, or he may even try to revisit Boreth.

Number 19: The Lurians

Morn, a 24th Century Lurian.

The best-known Lurian in Star Trek is Deep Space Nine background character Morn. The first trailer for Discovery Season 3 in 2019 seemed to imply we’d see the Lurians return, as a Lurian guard was shown chasing after Booker and Burnham, but it turned out to be just a cameo! The Lurians were not Federation members as of the mid-24th Century, but appeared to maintain reasonably good relations.

Morn became a Star Trek icon during Deep Space Nine’s run, and I can’t decide if that means bringing the Lurians back in a major way would be a good thing or not! Perhaps it would be best to leave them be, a somewhat mysterious, enigmatic people, rather than bring them into the modern day and risk overexplaining them and losing the magic.

Number 20: The Malurians

A Malurian (wearing a disguise) in the 22nd Century.

The Malurians suffered a tragic fate in The Original Series, being wiped out by a self-aware probe. They also appeared in Season 1 of Enterprise, and seemingly conducted morally questionable actions! The Malurians were visited by the Federation shortly before they were rendered extinct, so it’s possible that the Federation in this era had some kind of relationship with them.

We don’t know very much about the Malurians, but their ultimate fate puts them in a rather unique position in this era. Perhaps we’ll learn that Pike and the crew helped the Malurians settle a small colony somewhere, paving the way for their survival!

Number 21: The Miradorn

A pair of Miradorn twins in the 24th Century.

The Miradorn made an appearance in Deep Space Nine, and were shown to be a race of twins – or at least where twins were commonplace. These sets of twins operated as two halves of a single person, with a very deep connection to one another. As of the mid-24th Century they appeared to be an independent power, maintaining relations with both the Federation and the Ferengi.

The Miradorn are another interesting race that I consider to have first contact potential. The twin aspect of their culture makes them different from many other Star Trek races, and they have a neat design that’s different without being excessively complicated.

Number 22: The Nausicaans

A Nausicaan was responsible for injuring a young Ensign Picard in the early 24th Century!

In the late 23rd and 24th Centuries, the Nausicaans were known as a violent people, often seen as pirates or criminals. They operated in an area of space relatively close to Earth and Vulcan, as they had been encountered by humanity in the 22nd Century. In addition to their criminal activities, Nausicaans in the 24th Century were occasionally seen as mercenaries and bodyguards.

The Nausicaans could appear in their typical pirate role in Strange New Worlds, becoming an adversary for Pike and the Enterprise to overcome. Or we could see them step out of that role for a change, with the show exploring more of Nausicaan culture.

Number 23: The Nibirians

A Nibirian in the alternate reality.

The Nibirians were seen in Star Trek Into Darkness – and thus their only appearance is in the alternate reality. However, given how similar the two realities are, it’s a safe bet that the Nibirians exist in the prime timeline. In Into Darkness they were shown to be a stone age people, very early in their development.

Given that the Nibirians were under threat from a volcano in Into Darkness, maybe Pike and the crew will have to come up with a creative way to save them, just as Kirk did in the alternate reality. If a return to the Kelvin timeline is on the agenda – which I doubt, but you never know – this could be a way to connect current Star Trek to the alternate reality.

Number 24: The Orions

In the 32nd Century, Osyraa had become the leader of the Emerald Chain – a major faction.

The Orions have recently featured in Season 3 of Discovery, and of course with Tendi in Lower Decks! In addition, Captain Pike has somewhat of a history with them, having encountered Orion slaves during the events of The Cage. For both of those reasons they seem like a contender to make an appearance in Strange New Worlds!

The Orions were an independent power in the 23rd Century, with at least some Orions involved in criminality, slavery, and the Orion Syndicate – a major organised crime outfit. They seem like they could be villains, then, but an interesting twist could be to make an Orion a crew member on the Enterprise, or an ally of Pike and the crew.

Number 25: The Pahvans

A noncorporeal Pahvan.

Captain Pike wasn’t involved in the USS Discovery’s mission to the planet Pahvo during the Federation-Klingon war, but I feel there’s scope to revisit these noncorporeal, pacifist aliens. Pahvo had a unique “transmitter” which allowed Discovery to detect cloaked Klingon ships, and thus the planet unintentionally played a role in the war.

It’s possible that Pahvo was attacked by the Klingons in retaliation, but the planet was marked on a star chart seen in Picard Season 1, which suggests the Federation may have maintained some kind of diplomatic relations with the Pahvans into the 24th Century. Regardless, there are perhaps leftover story threads from Discovery that Strange New Worlds could potentially pick up with the Pahvans.

Number 26: The Q Continuum

Q in his famous judge outfit.

It seems as though the Federation’s first encounter with the Q was when Picard and the Enterprise-D met Q during the events of Encounter At Farpoint, but we also know that members of the Q Continuum had visited Earth in the past, including during the American Civil War in the 19th Century. It’s thus possible that Pike and the crew could encounter a Q without realising who or what they’re dealing with!

With Q coming back in Picard Season 2, having the Continuum appear in some form in Strange New Worlds would be a way for the two shows to work together. This one is definitely more of a long-shot, but it’s not impossible!

Number 27: The Romulan Star Empire

Narek and Rizzo, two 24th Century Romulan operatives.

Any story involving the Romulans in Strange New Worlds would have to keep their true nature – as descendants of the Vulcans – a secret. Because no Romulan characters could appear on screen alongside Pike and the crew that naturally constrains the kinds of stories that can be told. However, in the episode Minefield, Enterprise managed to pull off an interesting Romulan story without going too far, so it can be done!

The Romulans were a belligerent power in this era, having already fought a major war with Earth less than a century earlier. Though there is peace between the Romulans and Federation, there are no formal diplomatic relations and there seems to be a lot of tension. The Romulans have recently been explored in a major way in Picard Season 1, and to a lesser extent in Discovery Season 3. They’re a major Star Trek faction, up there with the Klingons and Borg, so I can’t help but feel Strange New Worlds might try to find a way to include them – somehow!

Number 28: The Saurians

Linus, a Saurian Starfleet officer.

Linus, a secondary character in Discovery, is a Saurian – a race first seen in the background in The Motion Picture. The Saurians may well be Federation members by this time, and if they’re serving in Starfleet there could be other Saurian officers aboard the Enterprise. Despite Linus having made a number of appearances, we don’t know very much about his people.

The Saurians are a faction we could learn more about in Strange New Worlds. Pike and the crew could even visit the Saurian homeworld, perhaps to convey news about Linus being declared killed in action. It would be interesting to see more Saurians and learn more about their place in the Federation.

Number 29: The Selay

A group of Selay delegates in the transporter room of the Enterprise-D in the 24th Century.

We don’t know very much about the Selay. They appeared once in The Next Generation Season 1, and had a couple of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it background appearances in a couple of other episodes, but that’s it. Their appearance in Tapestry means that they had encountered the Federation by the early 24th Century, so perhaps they could appear in Strange New Worlds.

Modern Star Trek has taken several races that we don’t know much about and expanded on them. The design of the Selay – snake-like and very reptilian – is interesting, and the faction is ripe for an in-depth look!

Number 30: The Skagarans

Draysik, a 22nd Century Skagaran in the Delphic Expanse.

In Enterprise we learned that the Skagarans had visited Earth in the 19th Century, where they had abducted a group of humans to use as slave labour. There’s potential in that kind of storyline to either see Pike and the crew come up against an enemy who uses slaves, or to explore a post-slavery society and look at some of the long-lasting implications of keeping slaves in the past. This would allow Strange New Worlds to do something Star Trek has always done: use science fiction to examine real-world issues.

It would also be neat to bring back a faction from Enterprise in a major way, as this is something that hasn’t yet been done in modern Star Trek.

Number 31: The Suliban

Silik, a 22nd Century Suliban commander.

Speaking of factions from Enterprise that could return, how about the Suliban? Though initially antagonistic toward Earth, this was mostly driven by the interference of time-travellers from the future. Without that undue influence, perhaps Suliban-Federation relations have improved. I wrote once that it was possible that the Suliban had gone into some kind of isolation – which would account for their absence in the 23rd and 24th Centuries – so perhaps we could see that happen in Strange New Worlds.

I’d love to see an expanded role for the Suliban in Star Trek. Perhaps they could even be Federation members by this era, with Suliban officers serving aboard the Enterprise. It would be great to revisit a faction we only encountered in Enterprise, at any rate.

Number 32: The Talosians

Talosians seen in Discovery Season 2.

Discovery Season 2 brought back the Talosians in a big way, and Captain Pike played a major role in that storyline. Considering Pike’s feelings for Vina – a human inhabitant of Talos IV – it’s at least possible that he may keep in contact with the Talosians, even though he’d have to do so in secret for fear of breaching Starfleet regulations.

In this era, Talos IV was off limits to Starfleet due to the Talosians’ attempts to kidnap Pike and their powerful telepathic abilities. Revisiting the planet isn’t entirely impossible, though, as I reckon Pike would head there if the Talosians asked for his help.

Number 33: The Tellarites

Two Tellarite delegates aboard the Enterprise in the 23rd Century.

Along with the Vulcans, Andorians, and humans, the Tellarites were the fourth founding member of the Federation. Despite that, however, they had a complicated relationship with the other races, particularly the Vulcans.

The Tellarites are the one Federation founding member that we know the least about. They’ve only made a few appearances in Star Trek, often in minor or background roles, and aside from a few episodes in Enterprise and their first appearance in The Original Series, we haven’t seen much of them at all. I’m not sure how well a Tellarite main character would work simply because their deliberately unkind aesthetic doesn’t lend itself well to fitting with a character audiences want to root for – but in a way it would be interesting for Star Trek to try to overcome that hurdle!

Number 34: The Tholians

A 23rd Century Tholian captain.

The Short Treks episode Ask Not confirmed that the Tholians and Federation had been in conflict during this era. If Cadet Sidhu appears in Strange New Worlds as a significant character, including the Tholians could be an interesting story for her as she was the sole survivor of a Tholian attack.

The Tholians are one of the more “alien” races that we know of in Star Trek, being insectoid in appearance and coming from a high temperature environment that leaves them unable to tolerate standard environments. They could certainly appear in an adversarial role in Strange New Worlds.

Number 35: The Trill

Michael Burnham and Adira meeting a group of Trill in Discovery Season 3.

The Trill are a conjoined species – one part is humanoid, the other a symbiont. The symbionts are longer-lived than their hosts and can easily live for centuries. Discovery Season 3 recently revisited the Trill homeworld, and it would be neat to see the Trill return in Strange New Worlds as well.

It would even be possible for Dax to make an appearance. The Dax symbiont had a number of hosts before Jadzia and Ezri in Deep Space Nine, and it was certainly alive in the mid-23rd Century. Regardless of whether that happens, we know that the Trill were Federation members by the 24th Century, and Strange New Worlds could depict their early interactions with the Federation.

Number 36: The Vulcans

Spock!

Obviously we know that Spock is going to be a major character in Strange New Worlds! Over the course of Star Trek’s history we’ve already learned a great deal about the Vulcans, their history, and their culture. There’s still scope to expand that, though, and with Spock as a potential way into new Vulcan stories, I wonder if we’ll get to see more.

Spock’s relationship with Sarek could be explored, and it would be a way for James Frain to reprise his role from Discovery. We could also see more Vulcans joining Starfleet and serving in a wider variety of roles than just “science officer!”

Number 37: The Xindi

Degra, a 22nd Century Xindi.

As with the Suliban above, the Xindi have only appeared in Enterprise so far. We know a little more about their future, however, including that they eventually joined the Federation. Though their absence from Star Trek shows set in the 23rd and 24th Centuries suggests that may not have happened for a while, it’s possible that it happened earlier than we think!

Otherwise we could see the Xindi as another race that have isolated themselves and cut off diplomatic ties. Perhaps one of Pike’s missions will be to re-establish relations with the Xindi after decades without contact. The Xindi are five different races sharing a homeworld, and there’s potential to use that setting to explore the way different cultures interact and work together.

So that’s it! Some factions from Star Trek’s past that could appear in Strange New Worlds.

Hopefully it won’t be long before Captain Pike returns!

This has been a long one so I won’t drag things out much longer! Suffice to say that there are many different races, cultures, and factions from past iterations of Star Trek that could appear in some form in the new series. Obviously the show can’t fit all of those on the list above into its first season, but I hope there’ll be some attempts to revisit at least one or two factions we got to know in other Star Trek shows and films.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we get to hear more news about Strange New Worlds – or even see a trailer! Whenever that happens make sure to check back as I daresay I’ll break things down here on the website. The show is definitely one I’m looking forward to!

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States (and other regions where the platform is available) in 2022. Further international distribution has not yet been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including 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.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4: Factions of the far future

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.

The USS Discovery in the Season 4 teaser.

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

Kai Winn, the Bajoran spiritual leader in the 2370s.

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

A Borg Cube seen in The Best of Both Worlds.

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

Thot Gor, a Breen commander.

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

Gul Evek and his aide – two of the first Cardassians ever seen in Star Trek.

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

A group of Coppelius synths seen in Star Trek: Picard Season 1.

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

Dr Phlox, a 22nd Century Denobulan.

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

A Jem’Hadar ship.

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

Rom became Grand Nagus of the Ferengi Alliance in 2375.

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

A 23rd Century Gorn captain.

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

Index, a hologram seen in Star Trek: Picard.

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

An Iconian Gateway – one of the few surviving relics of their civilisation by the 24th Century.

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

Maje Culluh, a Kazon leader in the 2370s.

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

Rojan, a 23rd Century Kelvan leader.

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

Klingon Chancellor L’Rell.

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

Chakotay, a Maquis commander.

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

Q, a member of 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

Romulans, Vulcans, and Romulo-Vulcans in Season 3.

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

The super-synths almost arrived in the Milky Way… but their portal was closed at the last second.

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

Neelix, a Talaxian chef.

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

Talosians in Season 2 of Discovery.

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

A 23rd Century Tholian commander.

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

A trio of Vidiians form a boarding party in the 24th Century.

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

A Xindi-Aquatic in the 22nd Century.

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!

Captain Burnham in the Season 4 teaser.

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.

Star Trek: Discovery – eight “gravitational anomaly” theories

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!

Sonequa Martin-Green plays Captain Michael Burnham in Discovery, and introduced the Season 4 teaser during the First Contact Day event.

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!

Michael Burnham in Season 3, trying to figure out what caused the Burn.

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.

A determined-looking (and armoured) Burnham in the Season 4 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.

Stamets in the Season 4 teaser. He told us about the “gravitational anomaly.”

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

The Nexus approaching the planet Veridian III.

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 Enterprise-B trying to manoeuvre inside the Nexus.

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

The super-synths in 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!

Jean-Luc Picard managed to prevent the arrival of the super-synths, along with Soji.

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 USS Voyager once encountered 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.

The Delta Flyer inside a graviton ellipse.

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

A Delphic Expanse sphere.

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!

Captain Archer looks at a projection of spheres in the Delphic Expanse.

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

Data explains how a Tyken’s Rift works to the crew of the Enterprise-D.

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!

A Tyken’s Rift was mentioned by Kestra Troi-Riker in Picard Season 1 last year.

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

A member of Species 8472.

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 USS Voyager being pulled toward a fluidic space portal.

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

Borg drones seen in First Contact.

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.

The Borg were known to possess powerful technology.

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

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.

Su’Kal caused the Burn.

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!”

Yes, Season 4 is scheduled to premiere this year!

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.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 – what is the Burn?

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery, including the two Season 3 trailers and the ending of Season 2. There are also spoilers for Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and other iterations of the franchise.

The most recent trailer for Star Trek: Discovery’s imminent third season dropped a bombshell: the Federation has mostly collapsed! In my breakdown of the trailer I covered my thoughts on that story premise, so we won’t get into the ins and outs of it again today. Instead, we’re going to look at the event that triggered this collapse and postulate a few theories as to what it could be! As always with any fan theories (mine or someone else’s) please take all of this with a grain of salt. No fan theory is worth getting worked up over!

Discovery has a new trailer… and a new logo!

All we really know for certain is that the event in question is called “the Burn.” Booker, the new character who’s native to this time period, tells Michael Burnham that the event was when “the galaxy took a hard left.” And that’s all the explanation the trailer gave us. However, some images and scenes from the trailer add context to this, so we should run through some of them briefly.

Firstly, we had one very short scene of an explosion aboard a starship or space station that appeared to blow a number of people out into space. This could be a flashback to the Burn, but as I noted when I looked at the trailer, it could also be something happening after Discovery’s arrival in the future. Even if it is taking place during the Burn, however, all we can gleam from this scene is that it was a violent event – which may mean it took place over a relatively short span of time.

This violent event glimpsed in the trailer could be the Burn.

Next we have two glimmers of hope: a futuristic starship, space station, or facility which Saru and Burnham visit at some point, and a black-uniformed woman who I suspect may be a Starfleet officer.

Is this character a Starfleet officer?

The woman’s uniform was at least a little reminiscent of the uniforms used to depict 29th Century Starfleet seen in the Voyager fifth season episode Relativity. The texture and pattern used for the dark upper part of her uniform reminded me of that episode, and I’m sure that must have been intentional!

Captain Braxton wearing the 29th Century Starfleet uniform.

If this woman in Starfleet, it lends credence to the idea that the facility mentioned above could be a Federation vessel or even a Starbase. Add into the mix Booker’s line that the Federation “mostly” collapsed following the Burn, and I think we can make a solid case for Starfleet being around in some form; last time I called this remaining faction “rump Starfleet.”

The final thing to look at from the trailer are the scenes set in its aftermath. Away from the woman in uniform and the futuristic facility we see what could be a shanty town or post-apocalyptic markeplace as an Orion or other green-skinned alien guides Burnham. One possible implication from this scene is that we’re seeing how the majority of people in the collapsed Federation live. In the aftermath of the cataclysm, they may all be reduced to this kind of hand-to-mouth existence.

The possible shanty town.

On the flip side, we have seen settings like this in other iterations of Star Trek, even on human-populated worlds. One that springs to mind is Turkana IV, the birthplace of Tasha Yar in The Next Generation. Described as a “failed Earth colony”, the planet was in a state of disarray in the 24th Century. In short, the existence of a shanty town like the one depicted above may not mean that everyone in the 32nd Century lives that way.

The reason I brought up Turkana IV and the like is to demonstrate that the Federation, even in the eras we’re familiar with, wasn’t always perfect and wasn’t one homogeneous bloc. Just as there seems to be a great contrast between the sleek facility and the shanty town in the 32nd Century, so too is there a contrast between different locations in the 23rd and 24th Centuries. I wonder if Discovery plans to use this dichotomy to make a point about wealth inequality.

The facility visited by Burnham and Saru.

One final point of note is that, when discussing the Burn, Booker referred to it as when “the galaxy” took a hard left. Let’s be clear about that – the galaxy as a whole, not merely the Federation. That was a deliberate choice of words, and I think what we can infer is that the effects of the Burn extend far beyond the borders of the Federation.

It’s possible that the Burn didn’t affect literally the entire galaxy; some regions and worlds may have escaped. Booker may have used the word “galaxy” in this context to mean something that impacted more than just one region and that went beyond the Federation’s borders. Even if that’s the case, we’re still dealing with what is arguably the biggest disaster we’ve ever seen in Star Trek.

Booker is the one who told us about the Burn.

That’s all we know from the trailer. It’s unclear how many people survived the Burn. Some disasters destroy infrastructure and technology, but leave organic lives intact, whereas others cause massive loss of life. There are clearly some survivors of the Burn, but how many is simply unknown right now. It’s highly likely that in the aftermath of such a catastrophe, more lives would be lost due to things like disease and starvation – especially if the Burn triggered the kind of collapse we seem to be seeing. The scene in the shanty town or junkyard seemed to show people barely surviving, living a hand-to-mouth existence without much of the familiar technology we’re used to in Star Trek. Such a loss of technology could cause even more deaths in the months and years following the Burn than the event itself.

This character could be some kind of warlord or faction leader.

We’ve seen at least one anti-Starfleet faction, which in the first trailer appeared to comprise of Andorians, Lurians, Cardassians, and humans. We also met a character in the second trailer who could be the leader of a faction or perhaps a warlord. I think this shows how, in the aftermath of the Burn, the survivors banded together into smaller groups. As with the number of survivors, we don’t know how many of these groups exist or what their relationships are with one another.

This group appear to be antagonists; opposed to the Federation.

We also don’t know for sure whether faster-than-light travel, warp speed, and time travel are still possible in this era, or whether the Burn caused such a catastrophic collapse in the Federation – possibly combined with damage to the galaxy and spacetime and/or subspace in general – that such things are no longer possible. We saw in the second trailer the USS Discovery using its spore drive, so at least travel via the mycelial network remains viable. But everything else is unclear, and if it were to be the case that warp speed and faster-than-light travel are impossible, the fractured Federation will be very difficult to bring back together.

There’s also the question of timing. When did the Burn take place? We’ve already made one assumption – that it was a relatively fast event, perhaps taking place over less than a year – but when it happened relative to Burnham and the USS Discovery’s arrival in the year 3188 is not known. I wrote last time that the furthest forward in time Star Trek has previously gone in canon is the 31st Century. However, in both stories which took place in that era the dating was very vague, and we only have terms like “years” and “centuries” to go on rather than something more precise. As a result, Discovery’s third season could be anywhere from 90 years ahead of what we saw in Enterprise and Voyager all the way to 180 years ahead of those stories. Picking a halfway point, and saying that Discovery takes place 130-140 years further on from anything we’ve ever seen still gives a huge amount of time for the Burn to have taken place.

A backup copy of The Doctor was reactivated in the Delta Quadrant in the 31st Century.

Based on the warlord/faction leader seen above, and the scene set in the shanty town/junkyard, I’m assuming it wasn’t recent. It certainly didn’t look like something that had only just happened in those scenes; the faction leader in particular seems confident in his position. Booker also didn’t appear to be speaking about something very recent when discussing the Burn; he almost seemed to be recalling history. I also noted something from the Star Trek Day panel: showrunner Michelle Paradise stated that characters like Booker had been “born” into this new future. While she could have meant simply that Booker was born in the 32nd Century, in the context of a discussion about the new season’s setting it could also mean that the Burn took place decades previously; before Booker was even born.

Did Michelle Paradise drop a hint at the timing of the Burn?

So it’s clear that at this stage we’re missing a lot of information! We don’t know when the Burn happened. We don’t know what effect it had other than the near collapse of the Federation. We don’t know how many casualties were directly and indirectly caused, or how many survivors remain.

Perhaps most importantly, we don’t know what the Burn is or what caused it. Fixing a problem requires understanding what the problem is and why it happened, so it will be absolutely essential for Burnham and the crew to figure this out. Even though we have practically no evidence to go on, I do have a few ideas! Let’s look at them in turn.

Possible cause #1: The super-synths from Star Trek: Picard

I’ve already written up this theory in more detail, and you can find that article by clicking or tapping here. But now that we know a little more about the Burn thanks to the new trailer, I was pleased in a way that it hasn’t been debunked already! Star Trek: Picard introduced us to an unnamed race of super-synths that I nicknamed the “Mass Effect Reapers” due to their similarities to that video game faction.

The “Mass Effect Reapers” left behind a beacon on the planet of Aia, explaining that synthetic life is under threat from organic life, and promising to come to the aid of any synths who ask for their help. The Zhat Vash – a secretive Romulan faction – found the beacon and interpreted it as something apocalyptic; they believed that if synthetic life were ever created, the “Mass Effect Reapers” would exterminate all organic life in the galaxy.

The Reapers, from the Mass Effect video game trilogy, are similar in some respects to the faction of super-synths in Star Trek: Picard.

During the events of the season finale, Soji and Sutra constructed a beacon to contact the “Mass Effect Reapers”, and opened a portal to the location in deep space where they reside. After being convinced by Picard – and the timely arrival of a Starfleet armada led by Riker – Soji closed the portal and shut down the beacon. The “Mass Effect Reapers” never arrived – but they are now aware of a race of synths in the Milky Way galaxy, as well as being aware of the existence of the Romulans and the Federation.

From the point of view of this race of super-synths, here’s what they saw: a race of synths who found their beacon called on them for help, and when the portal was opened they saw a handful of synths on a planet with two massive fleets of starships populated by organics. Then, with no explanation, the portal was closed. If I were them, I would have major concerns!

Picard talked Soji into closing the portal – but the “Mass Effect Reapers” probably don’t know that.

We know hardly anything about the “Mass Effect Reapers” – which in itself makes them a good candidate for Discovery’s writers to play with – including how far away from the Federation they are. If they decided that they needed to intervene on behalf of the Coppelius synths, it could have taken them centuries to travel to the Milky Way from wherever they’re based.

When they finally did arrive, they would have likely found Coppelius abandoned, as I feel certain the safest thing to do for the synths who live there would be to relocate them to a new home where the Romulans can’t touch them. Again, from the “Mass Effect Reapers” perspective, the last thing they saw was two massive fleets in orbit of this planet that asked for their help, and when they arrived, the synths who asked for that help were gone. Put two and two together and it’s not hard to imagine they would assume the organics wiped out the synths. If they were minded toward revenge, they could go on the rampage, using their superior technology to destroy the Federation and Romulans in an event that would become known as the Burn.

These two fleets – one Romulan, one Federation – were the last thing the “Mass Effect Reapers” saw before the portal closed.

From the production side of things, this theory brings together the two live-action series currently in production, which is something that hasn’t happened yet. I’ve written many times that modern Star Trek shows being split up in this way isn’t a good idea, and finding ways to bring them together will be important to the franchise going forward. Having this faction from Picard also be important in Discovery – as well as the events of one series directly leading to events in the other – would bind the two shows together and strengthen the franchise.

Possible cause #2: Michael and/or Gabrielle Burnham

The Burnhams.

I can’t be the only one who noticed that the “Burn” happens to be three letters different from “Burnham”, can I? While it may seem absolutely preposterous to assume that Burnham or her mother somehow caused this galaxy-wide calamity, there are some points we could argue are in its favour.

Gabrielle Burnham, Michael’s mother, was the original Red Angel in Discovery Season 2. At several points in the story she intervened, including to save Burnham’s life and Spock’s life in their youth, as well as ensuring that the USS Discovery would be on hand to save the data from the “Sphere” – the planetoid-sized lifeform whose data was vital to the Control AI. Gabrielle Burnham was tied to a point in the future around the same time as Season 3 is set and returned there after her many visits to the 23rd Century. But in both of the trailers we’ve seen, she’s nowhere to be found. Why is she missing, and could her absence have something to do with the Burn?

Where is Dr Gabrielle Burnham?

Discovery has been a series that places Michael Burnham at the centre of its stories. Burnham was the Red Angel. Burnham was the one who led the ship and crew home from the Mirror Universe and ended the Klingon War. Every story so far has been a Burnham-centric one, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn she has some involvement with the Burn – an event which shares part of her name.

How could this work? There are a few possibilities, but I would say that all of them have to do with the Red Angel suit and its time travel abilities. The suit was very powerful, capable of detonating powerful “red bursts” that Starfleet could detect from thousands of light-years away. It was also capable of moving the Sphere, so the idea that it could – intentionally or otherwise – be used as a weapon or cause a natural disaster is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Could Michael Burnham be guilty of causing the Burn?

When Burnham arrived in the future, she took off the suit. But in scenes that seem to be set around the same time, she doesn’t appear to bring it with her. It’s possible she abandoned the suit at her crash site, in which case anyone could stumble upon it. It’s also possible that the suit was stolen. And finally, it’s possible that some other faction who was aware of changes to the timeline could have been waiting for Burnham’s arrival and took that opportunity to take possession of the suit.

I don’t believe Burnham or her mother would voluntarily cause the Burn. In fact I’d argue that both would go out of their way to avoid it – even putting their lives on the line to prevent it ever happening. But it could have been accidental, such as a by-product of the suit’s time travel abilities. Or they could have done something while under duress – perhaps it was the least bad option if they were given a choice between the Burn and something far worse.

One thing is for sure, though. If it was Burnham’s fault, calling the event “the Burn” sounds way better than calling it “the Ham!”

Possible cause #3: The Borg

We haven’t had a Borg story in Star Trek since Enterprise’s second season way back in 2003. For a time it seemed as if Discovery’s second season was setting up a Borg origin story with the Control AI, but for whatever reason that didn’t pan out. We could still see the Borg in Discovery, though, if they turn out to be the nefarious villains who caused the Burn.

Booker said that the Burn affected the whole galaxy, and if that’s literally true perhaps it impacted the Borg as well. But it could be that the Borg either are the Burn or are the cause of it, striking out in all directions from their Delta Quadrant home and attacking multiple areas of the galaxy simultaneously.

A Borg drone seen in The Next Generation.

Though it was implied, perhaps, that the Burn was a relatively short event, it could be that it was a war. Even a year-long conflict against the Borg on all fronts could have seen the Federation on the verge of collapse, and we could be looking at the aftermath of a Pyrrhic victory, one in which the Federation and their allies were only able to defeat the Borg at a catastrophic cost to themselves.

How exactly this would work is unclear, but perhaps the Federation used a weapon of last resort that not only destroyed the Borg but also crippled themselves in the process. We’ve seen this kind of story in science fiction before, and the idea that the Federation’s collapse is in part the Federation’s fault is an interesting one. Alex Kurtzman said that the Federation’s collapse wasn’t due to infighting but was something external – and a Borg invasion is definitely an external threat.

Borg drones from First Contact.

When considering an event that has the potential to impact not only planets and star systems but Starbases and fleets of ships, a large-scale war is one of the few possibilities that I can think of. We’re talking about devastation across not only the whole Federation but far beyond its borders too, meaning the Burn has to be something immense in scope. A massive invasion could be such an event, and I can’t think of any known faction in Star Trek able to pull off something like that other than the Borg.

By their later appearances in Voyager, I think it’s not unfair to say that the Borg were becoming stale. Having seen our heroes prevail against them time and again, they definitely needed a rest. Enterprise, while it added an extra complication to the history of Borg-human contact, managed to tell an exciting and tense story, but I think it’s to the franchise’s overall benefit that the faction then took a break. However, seventeen years is a decent length of time for such a break, so could we be on the verge of seeing the Borg make a comeback?

Possible cause #4: Time travel and the Temporal Cold War

Oh no! Alien Nazis!

Star Trek stories that took place in the 29th Century and beyond depicted time travel as something the Federation routinely engages in, despite it seemingly being prohibited by the 24th Century. Preserving the timeline intact is something Starfleet of this era seems to have been concerned with, but there were other factions opposed to the Federation who made attempts to use time as a weapon.

In Enterprise we saw a Temporal Cold War play out, with several different factions all vying for control of the timeline. The mechanics of this were vague – deliberately – but by the 31st Century, which is the home era of temporal agent Daniels, the Temporal Cold War was a major issue.

Daniels was a temporal agent who made multiple appearances in Enterprise.

As I mentioned when I looked at the trailer, one issue I can see coming up if Discovery goes headfirst into another time travel story is the question of why the Federation didn’t see the Burn coming. If they explore the timeline in the same way that the 24th Century Starfleet explore space, surely they look at the future timeline too, not just the past. If they do, they should have foreseen the Burn, right?

The problem with that assumption is that time travel muddies the waters. Even in a perfect world where Star Trek had always been consistent in its depiction of the rules and laws governing time travel (which it hasn’t been at all), the concept itself still generates all manner of possibilities, loops, and paradoxes. Part of the Temporal Cold War story arc involved factions travelling to the past to attempt to undermine their adversaries before they could even develop time travel – knocking them out of the war entirely. If someone were able to travel to a point in the timeline that the Federation could not observe, or were able to operate outside of normal spacetime, the Burn could have been triggered before the Federation even knew it was coming.

The USS Relativity was a 29th Century Federation timeship.

I’d like to pick one more hole in a time travel story. If the cause of the Burn is related to time travel, it’s arguable from the perspective of Starfleet that the timeline in which it occurred is not the “real” timeline. Logically they’d want to work to undo it, and if successful it would remove this timeline – and thus Discovery Season 3 – from existence. We have seen stories in Star Trek that “never happened” for reasons of time travel, but they were single episodes, not entire seasons, and I would make the case that having an entire season’s story arc being effectively wiped out of existence wouldn’t be the best way to go.

Possible cause #5: Something related to coronal mass ejections and stars

One frame of the trailer showed Tilly, Stamets, and Reno with the woman shown above who may be a 32nd Century Starfleet officer. On the display at the console where Tilly and Stamets were standing, it was possible to make out the words “CME Detected” and “coronal mass ejection [something] magnitude.”

The frame from the trailer, cropped and mirrored for clarity.

A coronal mass ejection, or CME, is a real-world phenomenon. I’m not a scientist, but as I understand it, a CME is where a small portion of a star’s plasma is shot into space. The phenomenon is associated with sunspots and solar flares, and can cause damage to technology like phone and power lines.

There is no known way to trigger a CME or for them to occur naturally on a galaxy-wide scale. But as we leave the real world behind and head into the realm of science fiction, either of those possibilities could exist.

A real-life coronal mass ejection that occurred in 2012. The blacked-out circle in the centre is the sun.
Picture Credit: NASA via WikiMedia Commons

“The Burn” is a very evocative name, drawing on a primal fear of fire. But it could be more than just a moniker adopted by survivors of the event: it could describe the event itself, and when a star undergoes a CME it’s literally shooting burning plasma into space – space fire. The Burn could be the very literal burning of spacecraft, planets, and even whole solar systems by some kind of massive wave of coronal mass ejections.

The interesting prospect this raises is that the Burn wouldn’t require an evil villain; it could be an entirely natural occurrence. How and why millions of stars all suffered the same fate is unclear, but it would change the dynamic of the story from one that requires the crew to defeat an adversary to one which requires scientific investigation – something which is arguably at the heart of Starfleet.

The USS Discovery could engage in a scientific expedition to determine the cause of the Burn.

Equally, even if the Burn refers to a tsunami of CMEs, there could be a cause. It could even be one of the four we’ve already listed: the Borg, the Burnhams, a time travelling faction, or the super-synths from Picard. Any of these could have intentionally or accidentally triggered some event that led to millions of stars all undergoing CMEs.

The next part of this gets very deep into lore, so it’s perhaps less likely, but I like to include these things because c’mon… we’re Trekkies. It’s what we do!

Whether the Burn is natural or artificial in origin, if it’s something which causes stars to undergo massive CMEs it could also be something which triggers supernovae. And there has been one recent supernova that had a massive impact on the Star Trek galaxy: the Romulan supernova. First shown in 2009’s Star Trek, the supernova appeared to move faster-than-light and destroyed the Romulan homeworld. Spock was able to stop it by using Red Matter, but the supernova would have a lasting impact, part of which was seen earlier this year in Picard.

A supernova destroyed Romulus in 2009’s Star Trek.

Though it may seem a long-shot, tying the Burn to the Romulan supernova would bring together several different Star Trek stories in a very neat way, which is important for reasons I’ve already outlined. If the Burn is natural in origin, the Romulan supernova may have been a precursor to it. And if it’s artificial in origin, the Romulan supernova may have been a preliminary test of whatever weapon caused the Burn.

So that’s it. A look at what the Burn could be as well as some possible triggers and causes. Though the existence of the Burn poses a big challenge for Discovery – as it fundamentally changes the underlying premise of Star Trek’s optimistic future – I’m absolutely fascinated by it. What is it? What caused it? When did it happen? Why did no one intervene to stop it? There are so many questions rattling around in my head, and this article has barely scratched the surface!

I am at least a little concerned about Star Trek: Discovery choosing a post-apocalyptic setting. But at the same time the series has been great so far, especially in Season 2, and I would love to see it build on what was accomplished last year to tell a fascinating and engaging story. The Burn is going to be part of that. Figuring it out and perhaps even working to stop it could be important story elements, and I’m absolutely fascinated to learn whether any of these ideas even come close!

Figuring out what could have caused such devastation is genuinely interesting.

As I mentioned at the beginning, these are just fan theories and speculation. I don’t have any insider information – and if I did I wouldn’t share it! Several recent shows and films have suffered backlash from fans who got a little too attached to certain pet theories, and as fun as theory-crafting is, I don’t want that to be the case here. This is a bit of fun and a chance to spend more time thinking about Star Trek, and that’s all. I want to know what happens, and if it’s something I didn’t expect then that’s fantastic!

When Discovery Season 3 kicks off in mid-October, I hope you’ll join me for episode reviews and perhaps even more theory-crafting!

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 premieres on the 15th of October on CBS All Access in the United States, and on the 16th of October on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other 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.

The Borg – space zombies

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers for various Star Trek series, including the most recent season of Star Trek: Discovery and the first three episodes of Star Trek: Picard.

As part of a series of articles I wrote leading up to the release of Star Trek: Picard, I covered the Borg from an in-universe perspective, as well as looking at some possible options for their role in the new series. You can read that article by clicking or tapping here. While Star Trek: Picard remains a mysterious show even now that we’re three episodes in, the Borg’s role has been somewhat on the sidelines so far, as we’ve really only seen a few former Borg and the disabled Borg cube used as a setting.

For a while I’ve been wanting to look at the Borg from a storytelling perspective, because I think they’re one of Star Trek’s most interesting villains. Not only that, but they have an analogue outside of the franchise which we can compare them to – zombies. Both the Borg and zombies fill a similar role in the stories they appear in, and both can fall victim to the same storytelling pitfalls.

Let’s start with the most obvious comparison – and why both the Borg and zombies are a frightening adversary for any heroes to be pitted against. With the exception of the Borg’s first appearance in The Next Generation’s second season episode Q Who, the Borg’s sole purpose has been assimilation. By forcibly injecting their nano-technology into both machines and living organisms, practically anything they touch can become part of the Borg Collective in a matter of moments. Zombies are a low-tech, biological version – in almost every zombie story, the zombie infection spreads through biting. Thus both Borg and zombies don’t just kill, they turn everyone the heroes lose into another enemy to fight. And the infection or invasion can never be truly over until every last individual is defeated, because if even one Borg drone or one zombie remains, there’s the possibility for them to attack others and start all over again.

The Borg take on a similar role in some respects to zombies – such as those in The Walking Dead.

This one factor – that every friend lost doesn’t just reduce the numbers on the heroes’ side, but increases the number of enemies to fight – is huge. It means that a story featuring a Borg or zombie attack is completely different in tone and scope from any other war or invasion or battle that we might see in science fiction. And it’s a frightening prospect, seeing allies quite literally turned into enemies before the very eyes of the heroes. In fact, it’s arguable that the Borg’s appearances are as close as Star Trek as come to crossing over into the horror genre. The underlying premise, certainly, would be at home there. And if ViacomCBS ever chose to go down that route, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a Borg-themed horror film or series.

One of the great things about entertainment and storytelling is that it’s subjective. The audience can interpret themes and points in a story in different ways, and anyone who’s ever taken a literature class can attest that! When I was in school and in the few literature classes I took at university, my teachers were always talking about analogies and themes and metaphors. And when it comes to the Borg, there are different interpretations as to a real-world analogue.

One of the most obvious is communism. Despite what’s often been said, Star Trek doesn’t really depict a “communist utopia”. The economy of the 23rd and 24th Centuries has always been deliberately ambiguous, and really I think it’s fairer to describe it as a post-scarcity economy, thanks in large part to technologies like food replicators and interstellar travel. Humans in Star Trek can still, for example, own and inherit property – like we see Joseph Sisko and the Picard family do – something which indicates that we’re not looking at communism. But that’s rather beside the point. The Borg, to get back on topic, with their lack of individuality and aggressively expansionist mindset, are arguably a metaphor for Western fears of communist states during the latter part of the Cold War. The history of Star Trek is littered with Cold War metaphors, and at the time the Borg were created and debuted on screen in 1989, the Berlin Wall hadn’t yet fallen and the Soviet Union was still the world’s “other” superpower.

Since the concept of the “walking dead” came to mainstream attention in the 1960s, critics have said the same thing about zombies, too – that they’re a metaphor for America’s communist adversaries. The comparison plays on a crude stereotype – that all people in a communist state are brainwashed and forced to do the state’s bidding. However, my intention isn’t to critique the concept, merely to acknowledge its existence. In a very real sense, part of what makes zombies and the Borg so frightening is the idea of losing oneself, and suffering “a fate worse than death”. For many in the Cold War era, ideas like communist infiltrators and brainwashed citizens returning from overseas – including former prisoners of war – were genuine concerns, if somewhat overstated and exaggerated.

Picard’s transformation into Locutus of Borg was shocking.

It’s those underlying real-world fears that give power to the Borg when they appear. They wouldn’t be so scary if it weren’t for a shared fear we have of losing our identity – stoked by fears from the Cold War era, perhaps, but just as relevant today in the age of radicalisation via social media. How many young men – and it is almost always young men – have been involved in mass shootings or terrorist attacks after being radicalised online? The concept of brainwashing – and our collective fear of it – is still very much alive in society today. The emphasis has shifted from the state to individuals, perhaps, but the basic fear remains the same. And it continues to make villains like the Borg intimidating.

When it comes to turning that into an exciting, heart-stopping story, though, it’s all too easy to fall flat. What we’ve seen in Star Trek, especially in Star Trek: Voyager, is the overuse of the Borg. The same thing has happened to the zombies in The Walking Dead, and can happen to other villains in other series too – the Daleks from Doctor Who come to mind as another example of overuse. The fundamental problem with having the heroes outsmart and defeat the same villain too many times is that they simply lose their fear factor – no matter how powerful it may once have been and what underlying social factors are propping it up.

Every victory over the same opponent adds to a feeling that victory for the heroes is inevitable. And in many cases, we know that. Even in a series like Game of Thrones, which could be utterly unpredictable, nobody was genuinely expecting that the Night King would be victorious – we all knew that somehow, some of the heroes would survive and find a way to win. That didn’t make the story any less exciting, and nor is Star Trek: First Contact any less exciting for first-time viewers who expect Picard and his crew to find a way to defeat the Borg. The tension and drama comes on a moment-to-moment basis, and also, as in many stories, part of the enjoyment comes from the journey even if the overall destination – victory, in this case – is known.

But when the same scenario plays out over and over again – a scrappy Starfleet crew faces off against impossible odds and beats the Borg, for example – it gets less and less tense and less and less dramatic with each new revision. When we see the Borg lose to Janeway for the fourth or fifth time having already seen them bested twice by Picard, they become stale, and the stories in which they appear become uninteresting.

The addition of the Borg Queen is symptomatic of this. After several prior Borg stories, and with their first big-screen appearance looming, there must have been some discussion about how to make the Borg intimidating again. It wasn’t enough to have this faceless mass any more, the Borg needed something new in order to fit the bill as big-screen villains. Part of that stems from the need to keep the story cinematic; to have those moments where Picard is traumatised by his memories of the Borg Queen, to have Data tempted and taunted by her in a way a nameless drone couldn’t, and to be able to have dialogue between heroes and villains which is often a tense yet satisfying part of storytelling in and of itself. But a significant part of the Borg Queen’s role in First Contact and subsequently has been to rejuvenate the Borg as a faction from a storytelling perspective.

The Borg Queen in First Contact.

Telling unique and different Borg stories has become as much of a problem for Star Trek as making the zombies scary again is for The Walking Dead. Unlike that series – which I’d absolutely argue had a natural lifespan (forgive the pun) of about four seasons and should have ended at that point – Star Trek has a much richer galaxy to explore and plenty of other villains to play with. The Borg are not essential to Star Trek in the way that zombies are to zombie stories – and that’s definitely been a saving grace.

With the exception of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode Regeneration in 2003, there hadn’t been any Borg stories in Star Trek since Voyager’s finale in 2001 – and none which were set further forward in the Star Trek timeline. After an absence of close to two decades, then, there’s an argument to be made that enough time has passed for a renewed look at the Borg. For new fans and younger fans who didn’t see every single appearance in order, and for more casual viewers who may not have seen any Star Trek episode or film since the turn of the millennium, that’s probably a fair point. But even then, because the Borg are essentially “space zombies”, in an era where zombie stories have become a television and cinematic genre in their own right with dozens of examples, perhaps we’re still burnt out.

Here’s where the Borg’s trump card comes into play – they aren’t just a metaphor for our fears of communism or brainwashing. Because of their technological nature, they can absolutely be an analogy for our overreliance on technology and for our fears of the evolution of technology in the future. This is what Star Trek: Discovery’s second season did, very successfully in my opinion, with the Control AI. Now I’m absolutely convinced that Control was meant to tie in somehow to the Borg and their origins when the story was originally written. Why that angle was scrapped (if indeed it has been wholly scrapped) is unclear, but it could be related to the Borg being an integral part of the story of Star Trek: Picard. That’s my current theory on that, at any rate.

The whole point of the Control storyline in Discovery was that artificial intelligence might not be a good thing to pursue. When an AI surpasses humanity in its abilities, it becomes inherently unpredictable. It can overwrite its own programming and could turn on us. This isn’t just a science fiction story trope – scientists like Stephen Hawking have expressed genuine concern that an AI could ultimately be harmful. Technological progress has advanced so rapidly from even when The Next Generation was first on the air and computers were basically glorified calculators and typewriters to the modern day where everyone has an internet-enabled super-smart camera-and-microphone connected-to-everything always-on computer-phone about their person 24/7. Those changes have, thus far at least, been a net positive for humanity. In Africa, for example, the rise of mobile phones has meant many of the world’s poorest citizens have access to the internet and information, as well as the ability to send and receive money securely without relying on banking. But with change comes fear, or at least a sense of uncertainty. Discovery played on those fears and concerns about the pace of technological change quite expertly.

The nanobots Control used to “assimilate” Capt. Leland are reminiscent of Borg technology, and play on the same fears of out-of-control AI.

The decision to have Control be an invention of Section 31 was another masterstroke. Since Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (and many others, of course) have demonstrated to the world that major governmental organisations run hidden technological surveillance on, well, everyone, mistrust of technology and technological communication has only grown. The idea that we’re all being watched all the time by “big brother” in the various three-letter agencies, and their international equivalents, has caused a lot of people to be incredibly uneasy about technology in general. Once again, Discovery tapped into this to great effect.

To get back to the Borg, regardless of whether or not Control was meant to be related to them in some way, the same principle is at work. The relentless march of technology could see us literally plugging ourselves into some giant network of machines, or augmenting our bodies with technological upgrades. In a sense, we already do. Our phones and computers are arguably an extension of ourselves, we’re almost constantly networked to billions of others via the internet, with all of their experiences and information only a few keystrokes away, and as medical science advances we’re able to replace defective body parts – like hips, for example – with synthetic replacements. The Borg are simply a few steps further along from we currently are in their embrace of technology.

For many people, the unstoppable march of technology is something they find intimidating. It means that the future is always changing – and people in general have an inbuilt mistrust or fear of change. Thus the Borg stand out in stories that feature them as a kind of nightmarish vision of a future gone wrong.

By playing on these two deep-rooted, almost instinctive fears, the Borg are truly a frightening opponent for the heroes in Star Trek stories to face.

Keeping that fear alive is a task for the new creators of Star Trek. In Discovery, Control hit the reset button by showing us at least a potential precursor to the Borg we’ve seen before. Enterprise threw 24th Century Borg against a 22nd Century crew – not that it was always apparent, but that was part of the goal of that episode. And finally, in Picard we have the Borg absent from their own setting – a derelict cube being slowly picked apart and studied. There’s an inherent creepiness to the aesthetic of the cube – a kind of cold, inhuman feel, amplified by the lack of windows and endless maze of identical rooms and corridors. If the showrunners wanted to play up that aspect they absolutely could, and it will be interesting to see where Picard takes this angle.

What has to be avoided, however, is the trap that ensnared Voyager’s Borg episodes. Repetition leads to a loss of that fear factor, and without it the Borg become stale and boring – it would be better to see the faction utterly defeated in a climactic battle than to have them crop up again and again in random episodes over several seasons. The serialised nature of current Star Trek storytelling, which has replaced the episodic, “monster-of-the-week” format, means that we’re less likely to see individual Borg-centric episodes any more. And that’s probably a good thing overall – despite my personal preference for episodic storytelling in Star Trek.

The episode Q Who introduced the Borg for the first time.

At the end of the day, the question for the Star Trek franchise and its new creative team is what to do with the Borg in future. We saw what I’m certain was an abortive attempt to show some kind of origin story in Discovery’s second season, and now in Picard we have the creepy abandoned cube as a setting, as well as the return of Seven of Nine and Hugh as liberated ex-Borg. Both of these approaches are different, and that’s good. As great as The Best of Both Worlds and First Contact were, those stories were lightning in a bottle – not something that can be recaptured or repeated, at least not to the same effect. And the way stories approach and treat the Borg will have to change if they’re to be as intimidating as we want them to be. That doesn’t mean the Borg have to change in their core outlook or philosophy; doing so would mean they’re no longer the villain we remember, after all. But it does mean they have to be written in a different way and that their inclusion in future Star Trek stories has to be very carefully considered.

In a sense, the Borg’s greatest and most frightening aspect – their relentlessness and faceless nature – is also part of their undoing when considering their inclusion from a storytelling point of view. Because of their philosophy and the way they approach their assimilation targets, the Borg are very much a one-trick pony. They show up, either en masse or on a single vessel, overwhelm their opponents, forcibly assimilate them, and move on. They have one unwavering goal, and essentially only one method of achieving it. There are no Borg spies, no Borg generals to be outwitted, no Borg personalities to provide personal drama and conflict in a story. With the exception of the Borg Queen – who isn’t even really an exception as she is simply the face of the Borg, not a leader – the Borg operate as one entity with one goal and one approach.

The Voyager two-part episode Scorpion, which introduced Seven of Nine, took one of the most interesting looks at how the Borg’s single-mindedness can be their undoing. By presenting them with an opponent in Species 8472 who could not be assimilated, the Borg were on the back foot as the only method they had of information-gathering and conquest – they use assimilation for both purposes – did not work. This was a unique take on the Borg in Star Trek, but it had the unintended consequence of making them less intimidating as a result. As previously mentioned, any time we see a supposedly imposing villain failing in their objective, beaten and in retreat, it lessens the fear factor. As the audience, we know that they can be beaten – changing how we perceive stories. It stops being a question of “will the heroes prevail?” and instead becomes “when and/or how will they prevail?”

We need only look to Doctor Who for a case in point. Since its 2005 reboot, Doctor Who has seen its main villains, the Daleks, so thoroughly overused that they long ago became completely dull and unexciting. And two other villains, the Cybermen and Weeping Angels, have suffered from overuse too. As a result, since the latter half of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Eleventh Doctor, the show has limped along feeling played out. New villains and storylines have fallen flat – a consequence of mediocre writing – and the show is absolutely ready to go back on hiatus as there are no good ideas. It’s a lesson for Star Trek to learn, especially as production ramps up and there are multiple shows (and at least one film) all in various stages of development. Sometimes less is more. And also, when a storyline has run its course, and when a villain has done all they can reasonably do, unless there’s a new way to approach that story it’s time to put an end to it and move on.

The Borg haven’t yet reached that point. There is still space in Star Trek for new and exciting Borg stories, but they will have to be properly planned, not simply thrown in at the last minute. Like Doctor Who’s Daleks, the Borg are an iconic villain, emblematic of the franchise that spawned them. But they aren’t an infallible storytelling device that guarantees a successful film, season, or episode. And mishandled or overused, all the threat, tension, and drama they can bring will melt away leaving a bland, uninspiring film or episode behind.

The Artifact represents a new direction for Borg-related stories in Star Trek.

Between the zombies in The Walking Dead and the Daleks in Doctor Who, we have two great examples of how to mishandle and overuse villains like the Borg. Star Trek is fortunate to have such a rich history of alien races to draw on, and can hopefully avoid those pitfalls as we move into what will hopefully be the franchise’s second “golden age”.

The Borg are a frightening and compelling faction in the Star Trek universe, and there is still scope to learn more about them and see them return – in both big and small ways – in future episodes and films. And I’m looking forward to that, as well as to seeing what Picard has in store for this absolutely iconic faction. As I’ve said many times already, it’s a fantastic time to be a Star Trek fan right now. There’s just so much going on, and so much more to come. Discovery has had hits and misses, but in my opinion at least, Picard has been outstanding so far, and I’m interested to see what will come next. Surely, after the success the franchise has experienced over the last few weeks, this won’t be our last look at the 24th and early 25th Centuries – and unless something major happens to the Borg by the end of Picard’s first season, I’m sure that sooner or later we can expect to see them back once again.

The Star Trek franchise, including all films, episodes, and series mentioned above, is the copyright of ViacomCBS and Paramount Pictures. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Factions of Star Trek: Picard part two – Borg

Spoiler Warning: There will be spoilers ahead for Star Trek, including the most recent season of Star Trek: Discovery, as well as the trailers for Star Trek: Picard.

As Star Trek: Picard gets closer, I’m continuing the series I began last time, looking at some of the factions we seem certain to encounter in the new series. We’ve already looked at the Romulans, as Star Trek: Picard will feature the franchise’s first ever Romulan main character. And today, it’s the turn of the Borg to be under the microscope!

History

There’s still a part of me that wonders if the AI named Control, featured in Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, will ultimately turn out to be connected in some way to the origins of the Borg, which thus far are shrouded in mystery. It definitely seemed for a while that the story was going to go that way, but for now we’ll have to treat it as unconfirmed at best.

The nanobots used by Control against Captain Leland are certainly reminiscent of Borg technology…

The Borg originated in the Delta Quadrant – the area of the galaxy farthest from Federation space. Due to the distances involved, the Borg had relatively few encounters with the humanity and the Federation prior to the 24th Century.

The Borg Queen claimed that the collective was developed over “thousands of centuries”, and began as any other organic humanoid species. The addition of their cybernetics came later. By the 15th Century, the Borg were known to other Delta Quadrant races, but they had only a few systems under their control. It’s implied that their technology was also much more limited, comparable to other factions at the time, though they were capable of faster-than-light travel.

Captain Janeway with Gedrin. His people, the Vaadwaur, encountered the Borg in the 15th Century.

Here’s where it gets a little messy – thanks to time travel.

In the 24th Century, as part of a plan to conquer the Federation, the Borg travelled back in time and attempted to assimilate Earth in the past: specifically in the year 2063, the year humans made first contact with the Vulcans. Though this attack was able to be thwarted thanks to the efforts of Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-E, several Borg drones, as well as wreckage from their vessel, crashed on Earth, north of the Arctic Circle.

Earth scientists uncover the remains of 24th Century Borg drones – in the 22nd Century!

These Borg were uncovered over ninety years later by scientists, who inadvertently awakened the drones – and were promptly assimilated. This marked the second “first contact” between the Borg Collective and humanity. Because the drones were few in number, and only had access to a sub-light shuttle, they were ultimately defeated by the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise: but not before they sent a message to the rest of the Collective. In this time period, the Collective was still in the Delta Quadrant, and the message would take over two centuries to reach them – coinciding with the Borg’s later appearances in the 24th Century. Whether this forms a kind of “time loop” paradox, or whether the Borg would always have been interested in the Alpha Quadrant by the 24th Century is unknown.

There was no contact between the Borg and humanity after this incident, and records of it seem to have been lost – or deliberately kept hidden – by the next time humans encountered the Borg in the 24th Century. However, sometime in the 23rd Century, the El-Aurians (Guinan’s species) were attacked by the Borg, and several hundred El-Aurian refugees came to Earth – bringing with them stories of what happened to their homeworld. It was at this time that Starfleet officially began researching the Borg – though no connection was made between the El-Aurian’s conquerors and the Arctic Circle incident.

Pictured on the viewscreen of the Enterprise-B, the ships SS Robert Fox and SS Lakul were transporting El-Aurian survivors of the Borg’s attack on their homeworld when they became trapped in the Nexus.

By the mid-24th Century, some in Starfleet considered the Borg to be a myth, but two exobiologists, a married couple named Magnus and Erin Hansen, took a small exploration vessel to try to track them down. Taking their young daughter, Annika, with them, they would eventually be successful in finding the Borg, and ultimately followed them all the way to the Delta Quadrant, collecting a huge amount of information. Unfortunately they were discovered and assimilated after approximately two years. Annika Hansen would later be better known as Seven of Nine after being liberated from the Collective by Captain Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager.

Because of the distance between the Delta Quadrant and Federation space, the Hansens’ research and knowledge of the Borg was not communicated to Starfleet. Instead, the Federation’s first “official” encounter with the Borg came when Q used his powers to deliberately throw the Enterprise-D into the path of a Borg cube – some 7,000 light-years from Federation space in System J-25. Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D attempted to make contact, and soon found themselves horribly outmatched in a fight with the Borg vessel. Q, after being begged by Picard, saved the Enterprise-D by returning it to Federation space before the Borg could assimilate the ship, but this incident prompted Starfleet to finally take the Borg threat seriously, and a task force was formed to tackle a likely Borg attack.

Magnus and Erin Hansen were the first humans to extensively study the Borg, though their knowledge was lost before it could be sent to the Federation.

The incursion the Federation feared came within a year of the J-25 incident, leaving them little time to prepare. A single Borg vessel was dispatched by the Collective, and after assimilating Captain Picard, used his tactical knowledge against the Federation, destroying almost forty ships and assimilating or killing over 11,000 people – including civilians. With such a large part of Starfleet destroyed, Earth was effectively defenceless, but after the assimilated Picard – now called Locutus of Borg – was liberated by the crew of the Enterprise-D, Data was able to use his link to the Collective’s hive mind to force all the drones aboard the vessel to regenerate – or “sleep” – which ultimately led to the vessel’s destruction.

A year or so later, Third of Five was encountered by the Federation, the sole survivor of a Borg scouting mission near Federation space. Captain Picard wanted to use him as a weapon to send a virus back to the Collective, but as his individuality reasserted itself, the drone, now named Hugh, returned to the collective voluntarily. His newfound identity, however, proved difficult for the collective to handle and Hugh, along with several other rogue Borg, would leave the Collective soon after.

The Enterprise-D makes the Federation’s first “official” encounter with the Borg.

There was then a lull in the Borg-Federation conflict lasting several years, before the Collective again sent a single cube to attempt to assimilate Earth. This ship, commanded by the Borg Queen herself, was the one which travelled back in time to 2063, possibly setting in motion the chain of events which led humanity and the Borg to encounter one another in the first place as part of a “temporal loop” paradox.

A battle took place near to Earth before this cube deployed a smaller spherical ship to travel through time, and several ships, including the Enterprise-E and the USS Defiant – which would normally be stationed at Deep Space Nine – took part in the battle. This was the Borg’s most recent attempt to directly attack Earth.

The Enterprise-E engages the Borg during the Battle of Sector 001.

After the Battle of Sector 001, the only encounters between the Federation and the Borg took place in the Delta Quadrant, where the USS Voyager was making its way home. The Borg were engaged in a losing war with a race known only by their Borg designation – Species 8472. Under the command of Captain Janeway, Voyager and her crew came to the Borg’s aid, trading their tactical knowledge of Species 8472 for safe passage through Borg space. The Collective dispatched Seven of Nine to be their representative aboard Voyager, and the crew would liberate her from the Borg when they broke the alliance.

The Species 8472 war proved incredibly costly to the Borg, and arguably set back any plans they may have had for further expansion at that time. Their space was at least 9,000 light-years across, extending beyond the range of Voyager’s sensors, and even extended to near the Beta Quadrant.

Two Borg cubes under attack by Species 8472 during the conflict between the two factions.

On one occasion the Borg attempted to recapture Seven of Nine, hoping to use her new knowledge of humanity as part of a third invasion/assimilation attempt, but this was thwarted by Voyager, who managed to again liberate Seven from the Collective. Voyager was able to use part of the Borg’s extensive transwarp network to get significantly closer to home.

This feat would be overshadowed, however, thanks to the actions of a time-travelling Admiral Janeway. In her timeline, Voyager had managed to make it back to Earth, but it had taken a long time. By travelling back to a point around seven years into Voyager’s trip through the Delta Quadrant, future Janeway was able to simultaneously get Voyager home much sooner, as well as deal a significant blow to the Collective.

A time-travelling Admiral Janeway infected the Borg – and their Queen – with a potentially devastating virus.

By outfitting Voyager with technology from the early 25th Century, the ship was easily able to overpower a number of Borg vessels, and future Janeway allowed herself to be assimilated in order to infect the Borg – and the Borg Queen herself – with a devastating virus she hoped would spread throughout the Collective.

Voyager was able to use the transwarp network to return to Earth, around 25 years before the era of Star Trek: Picard. It’s unclear what happened to the Collective after this point.

Leadership

For a long time, the Borg were assumed to be leaderless. The nature of their “hive mind” – a mechanical-telepathic link that all Borg are connected to – implied that there was no one individual leader, and that the Borg made decisions as one Collective, operating with one mind.

A Borg Queen during the Collective’s second attempt to assimilate Earth.

While this is true in some respects, the Borg Queen acts as the Collective’s leader, and is the only individual Borg – outside of those liberated by Starfleet or otherwise disconnected from the Collective – who appears to have any semblance of individuality or personality. The Queen describes herself as simply “the Borg” – and the question of whether she is truly a leader in the sense that we would understand, or whether she is in fact a personification of the Collective, is up for debate.

At least two Borg Queens have died – and it is likely that when the physical form of a Borg Queen is destroyed, a new one is created. The loss of a single Queen does not seem to significantly hamper the Collective’s efforts – so it’s at least possible that there may be multiple Queens in existence at any one time.

Technology

The Borg have assimilated thousands of species in full or in part. Their attacks seem to begin with outer colonies – as happened to the Federation – before a significant effort is launched against the homeworld of that race. While Borg efforts to attack Earth have been limited to a single vessel each time – albeit a very large vessel with thousands of drones aboard – assimilation of other races, such as those on the periphery of Borg space in the Delta Quadrant, seem to proceed with multiple ships and millions of drones.

Hugh, a mid-24th Century Borg drone. Hugh was freed from the Collective – and is set to make a return in Star Trek: Picard.

As a result of their conquests and assimilations, the Borg have gained knowledge and technological advancements which – as of the late 24th Century – outmatched and outgunned the Alpha Quadrant powers. Federation successes against the Borg came as a result of Captain Picard’s unique knowledge as someone who had spent time as part of the Collective. Voyager’s successes similarly came from Seven of Nine.

When the Borg assimilated an individual, the sum total of that person’s knowledge would be disseminated across the entire Collective. The same applied to the assimilation of starships – and presumably other technology as well. In practice this meant that if the Borg assimilated an individual with tactical knowledge – such as Picard prior to the Battle of Wolf 359 – they could use that knowledge to adapt.

One of the Borg’s distinctive cube-shaped vessels near the Paulson Nebula in the Alpha Quadrant.

Adaptations were quickly sent out to all Borg. Once they had encountered a weapon setting more than a couple of times, it would have to be altered to remain effective, and the same applied to deflectors and shields. Remodulating phasers and shields became a key tactic of the Federation during Borg engagements.

Borg communications were still limited by subspace technology, as it was noted by the crew of the NX-01 Enterprise that a message sent by Borg near Earth to their home in the Delta Quadrant would take two centuries to arrive – though this may have been related to their use of 22nd Century technology.

Society and Culture

The Borg operate as a single mind – with the aforementioned exception of the Borg Queen. As such, they don’t have what could really be termed a “culture”.

The basic tenet of Borg philosophy is that assimilation of other races brings both the Borg and the assimilated race closer to “perfection”. By merging biological and technological together, they hope to achieve their goal of “perfection”. This seems to be the basic driving force behind the Borg’s activities.

The interior of a Borg cube could hold thousands of drones – all connected to the Borg’s collective consciousness and working as one.

In a sense, an individual assimilated by the Borg can never die, as every memory and experience they had, both before and after assimilation, is stored permanently by the Collective. However, that individual loses all sense of individuality in the process, and exists only as part of the single “hive mind” of the Borg.

The Borg will assimilate anyone they perceive as useful and attack anyone they perceive as a threat. However, they will often ignore the presence of intruders if they are busy or if they don’t consider them a threat. They will assimilate children as well as adults, and the children will be placed in “maturation chambers” until they have grown enough to serve as useful drones. The Borg will also opt not to assimilate a species they perceive as useless or that they feel would detract from the “perfection” they are trying to create.

The interior of a Borg maturation chamber – with an assimilated child.

As of the mid-late 24th Century, the Borg occupied a vast expanse of the Delta Quadrant, and operated an extensive transwarp network which allowed their vessels to be present in at least the Alpha, Beta, and Delta Quadrants. No Borg activity was noted in the Gamma Quadrant, but explorations of that region of space were limited by the Dominion War. There may have been trillions or quadrillions of individual Borg drones at that time – perhaps even more than that.

Conclusion

Because of the events of the Star Trek: Voyager finale, Endgame, it’s hard to know what state the Collective is in. Admiral Janeway, travelling back in time, brought the crew of Voyager technological advantages which the Borg struggled to fight against, but more significantly she infected the Borg Queen with a virus. This virus was disseminated to other ships in the Collective. In addition, the Borg Queen’s entire complex, as well as a significant part of the Borg transwarp network and a number of Borg vessels, were destroyed by Voyager before they arrived back in the Alpha Quadrant.

As a result of these actions, as with the Romulans we simply don’t know how badly affected the Borg may have been, and how long it will have taken them to recover. Assuming they could recover from the virus, we’ve seen the Borg able to repair and rebuild their ships and technology incredibly rapidly, so in theory they could have rebuilt the entire complex and replaced the lost ships without too much hassle.

A damaged Borg cube – seemingly under Romulan control – was seen in the trailer for Star Trek: Picard.

I would assume that the Borg survived what future Janeway tried to do. Two reasons for this: in-universe, the Borg are so adaptable, numerous, and widespread that the losses Voyager inflicted should be survivable, and on the production side, I think that Star Trek needs the Borg to still be around and be a threat, even if their role in Star Trek: Picard Season 1 is limited.

We’ve seen a Borg cube seemingly under Romulan control in the trailers for Star Trek: Picard, and we know ex-Borg Seven of Nine and Hugh will have roles to play in the story. Hopefully the information above will you some background information on this faction, regardless of how significant their presence is on the story of the new series.

The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Picard – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.