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 3 – my worst theory failures!

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

During Star Trek: Discovery’s third season, I wrote a weekly series of theories, speculating about what may be going on with the show’s various storylines. I had some successes in my theories and predictions, but there were more than a few misses as well! Now that the season is in the rear-view mirror, I thought it could be fun to go back to some of my theories and see how wrong I was!

All of these theories seemed plausible at the time – for one reason or another – yet ultimately proved to be way off base. One thing I appreciate about Discovery – and a lot of other shows and films too, both within the Star Trek franchise and outside of it – is that sense of unpredictability. Nothing in Discovery Season 3 was mundane or felt like it had been blatantly telegraphed ahead of time, and the fact that the narrative took twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting was, on the whole, great! There were a couple of storylines I personally didn’t think were fantastic or handled very well, but on the whole, Discovery’s third season was an enjoyable ride.

Book’s ship at warp in the season premiere.

Some of the theories I had were pure speculation based on nothing more than guesswork and intuition, and others seemed truly reasonable and plausible. While the season was ongoing I tended to just write up any theories I had, no matter how wild or out of left-field they seemed to be! Whether that was good or not… well the jury is out! The theory lists I published were well-read, so I assume at least some folks found something of interest!

I like to caveat these kinds of articles by saying that no fan theory, no matter how plausible or rational it may seem to be, is worth getting too attached to or upset about. The internet has been great for fan communities, allowing us to come together to discuss our favourite franchises and engage in a lot of theory-crafting. But there is a darker side to all of this, and some fans find themselves getting too attached to a particular theory to the point where their enjoyment of the actual narrative is diminished if that theory doesn’t pan out. Please try to keep in mind that I don’t have any “insider information,” and I’ve never tried to claim that a particular theory is somehow guaranteed to come true. I like writing, I like Star Trek, and writing about Star Trek is a fun activity for me – that’s why I do this, and if I ever felt that theorising about Discovery or other shows was harming my enjoyment, I would stop. And I encourage you to take a step back if you find yourself falling into that particular trap.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at ten of my least successful Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 theories!

Number 1: Cleveland Booker is a Coppelius synth.

Book and his adoptive brother in the episode The Sanctuary.

When we met Book in That Hope Is You at the beginning of the season, it wasn’t at all clear who he was. However, there were inhuman elements to Book, such as his ability to heal, to use a holographic interface seemingly attached to his body, and glowing, almost electronic-looking areas on parts of his skin. With Book’s origin somewhat of a mystery, I wondered if he might turn out to be a synth – and specifically, a synth from the planet Coppelius (or one of their descendants).

We met the Coppelius synths in Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and I was hopeful as Discovery’s third season got underway that there’d be a serious attempt to connect the two shows – as this was something Picard wholly failed to do in its debut season. I’ve said numerous times that Star Trek needs to do more to bind different parts of the franchise together, and after Picard basically ignored Discovery, I was hoping for some kind of connection to manifest in Season 3. Booker being a synth could have been one way to do that.

Book’s telepathic abilities caused glowing areas to appear on his face.

So really, it’s not unfair to say that this theory was concocted more for production-side reasons than anything we saw on screen. Book’s abilities as we saw them in That Hope Is You (and subsequently in episodes like The Sanctuary, There Is A Tide, and That Hope Is You, Part 2) were clearly more organic and telepathic than anything artificial or technological in origin – except for his holographic computer interface. So perhaps this was always a bit of a stretch!

Booker turned out to be a Kwejian native – though what exactly that means is unclear. Given Book’s human appearance, it’s possible that the people of Kwejian are descendants or offshoots of humanity, or perhaps, given their telepathic nature, they’re somehow related to the Betazoids. In the season finale, Book promised Burnham he’d tell her more about his background, and how he came to use the name Cleveland Booker, so perhaps we’ll learn more about Book’s people in Season 4. He was a wonderful addition to the season, even if I was way off base with my theory about his possible origin!

Number 2: The Burn is connected to Michael Burnham – and/or the Red Angel suit.

Michael Burn-ham.

The Burn’s origin was not definitively revealed and confirmed until the season finale, so for practically the entire season I was talking about some form of this theory! There seemed to be a few possible clues that Discovery gave us – which ultimately turned out to be red herrings as the Burn was unconnected to any of them – about the ultimate answer to the Burn, and several of them could have been interpreted to mean that Burnham was, in some way, connected to the event that shares part of her name.

The main reason I considered this theory plausible, though, was because Discovery has always been a series that put Burnham front-and-centre in all of its main storylines. Having a connection to the biggest story of the season thus seemed possible. When the event’s name was revealed, the fact that it shared part of her name seemed to lend credence to that idea – at least it did considering I’d already started down that rabbit hole!

One of two Red Angel suits seen in Season 2.

That Hope Is You saw Burnham arrive in the future immediately following the events of Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2 – the Season 2 finale. She took off her Red Angel suit and set it to self-destruct, but as we never saw the self-destruction for ourselves on screen, it was a bit of a mystery as to what became of the suit. In a future where time travel technology had been prohibited, the Red Angel suit may have been one of the last extant ways to travel through time, and would be incredibly valuable to factions like the Emerald Chain, so I reasoned that perhaps someone had intercepted the suit, and either intentionally or unintentionally caused the Burn.

I’m glad this one didn’t pan out, because it was nice to give Burnham a break! In the end, Burnham wasn’t strongly involved in the resolution to the Burn’s storyline, with that task being given to Saru, Dr Culber, Adira, and of course Su’Kal. After Burnham had just saved the galaxy by defeating the Control AI, there would have been an interesting ethical and philosophical dilemma for her if she had learned that her actions and/or the Red Angel suit had been responsible for the Burn – but it would’ve been hard to pull off and arguably too similar to the guilt she felt at the outbreak of the Federation-Klingon War in Season 1. So overall, it was an interesting theory well worth considering, but I’m glad it wasn’t true!

Number 3: The USS Discovery could arrive in the future before Burnham.

The USS Discovery had a rough landing in the 32nd Century!

Time travel stories are complicated. Once the link between cause and effect is broken, almost anything becomes possible. Even though Burnham and the Red Angel suit were leading the way into the future, the mechanics of the time wormhole were not explained, and it was at least plausible to think that the USS Discovery might’ve arrived first.

I first posited this theory after the season premiere, and it seemed plausible for practically all of Far From Home too. One thing that could’ve happened, had this theory been correct, would be that Burnham would’ve been out of her element for a lot longer than just one episode. In That Hope Is You, we saw her completely awed by everything she saw, experiencing a completely new world for the first time. And that premise meant that we were seeing Burnham in a whole new way, not in control of the situation and having to rely on others instead of trying to shoulder all of the burden all of the time. Had the USS Discovery found her after the ship and crew had spent a year in the future instead of the other way around, Burnham could’ve been our point-of-view character for learning what was new and different, instead of reverting to type.

We missed a year of Burnham’s exploits in the 32nd Century.

With both Red Angel suits gone, I doubt we’ll see the time-wormholes they could generate ever return either. But it would be interesting to get to know a little more about how that technology worked – would it even have been possible for the USS Discovery to arrive earlier than Burnham? Burnham arrived on the planet Hima, and Discovery arrived near a planet called the Colony, so considering the wormhole had two different exit points it seems possible to me anyway!

Because of the one-year time skip, we didn’t get to see much of Burnham’s exploits with Book in the 32nd Century prior to Discovery’s arrival. It would have been interesting to see either Burnham or the crew trying to learn more about their new home and the origins of the Burn, because in some ways it could be argued that we as the audience arrived with the first part of a story already complete. I kind of want to see that part for myself – and maybe we will in flashbacks in future seasons!

Number 4: Lieutenant Detmer is going to die.

Lieutenant Detmer in People of Earth.

One of my hopes going into Season 3 was that Discovery would finally spend some time with other members of the crew, and I was pleased that it happened. After two full seasons I felt that we hadn’t really got to know anything about people like Owosekun, Rhys, and Detmer, despite their being permanent fixtures on the bridge. Though not all of the less-prominent officers got big storylines this season, one who did was Detmer.

In the episode Far From Home, Detmer was thrown from her seat following the ship’s crash-landing. Concussed, she was sent to sickbay where, after a once-over, she was patched up and returned to work. However, there were hints – at least, what I considered to be hints – that all was not well with Discovery’s helm officer, and I wondered if her first significant storyline might in fact be the setup to her death. There just seemed to be so much foreshadowing!

Detmer eventually survived the season.

Ultimately, however, Detmer’s storyline took a different path. I appreciate what it was trying to be – an examination of post-traumatic stress that ended with a positive and uplifting message showing Detmer “getting over it,” for want of a better expression – but because it wasn’t properly fleshed-out after Far From Home, with Detmer only given a handful of very brief scenes before her big turnaround in The Sanctuary, I just felt it was underdeveloped and didn’t quite hit the notes it wanted to. So despite a potentially interesting premise, the execution let this storyline down somewhat.

Especially after the way she was acting in Far From Home, I can’t have been the only one to predict an untimely end for Detmer! I heard several other theories that I considered to be very “out there,” such as Detmer’s implant being possessed by Control in the same manner as Ariam had been in Season 2, but I firmly believed the setup was foreshadowing her death due to injury rather than something of that nature. It’s probably good that it didn’t happen, as it leaves her a slightly more rounded character if the show wants to do more with her in future. However, there were several officers in the final trio of episodes who could’ve been killed off after the ship was captured by the Emerald Chain, including Detmer, and it feels somewhat like Discovery was playing it safe by not doing so. Aside from Ryn, no major hero characters lost their lives in Season 3, and while character deaths aren’t something I desperately want in a show like this, they can certainly raise the stakes.

Number 5: The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager (or rather, a backup copy of him) will make an appearance.

The Doctor.

This was my most popular pre-season theory! I stuck with it practically the whole time, and branched out to include a handful of other characters from past iterations of Star Trek who could, in theory, still be alive by the 32nd Century. By the standards of my modest website, an absolutely huge number of you read this theory – and it continues to be popular even today, despite the season having concluded months ago. So I wasn’t the only one half-guessing, half-hoping that the Doctor might be included in Discovery!

The reason why I considered the Doctor to be one of the most plausible characters who could make an appearance is because of an episode from Voyager’s fourth season: Living Witness. In that episode, a backup copy of the Doctor was activated sometime in the 30th or 31st Centuries after being discovered among museum artefacts, and while the story was interesting in its own right and a critique of how things we consider to be “historical facts” can shift over time, what really interested me was its timeframe and its ending.

A picture of the Doctor seen at the end of Living Witness.

At the end of Living Witness, in a scene set even farther into the future, it was revealed that, after living with the Kyrians and Vaskans in the Delta Quadrant for decades, the Doctor eventually took a small ship and set out to try to reach Earth. If he had survived and completed his journey, he could’ve reached Earth in the years prior to the arrival of Burnham and Discovery. The timelines lined up for a possible crossover.

However, it wasn’t to be! Though we did see the return of the Guardian of Forever, which had originally appeared in The Original Series, no major characters from any other Star Trek show made an appearance. Perhaps the producers and writers felt that, with Seven of Nine carrying the torch for Voyager with her appearances in Season 1 of Picard, including a second main character from Voyager in a new show would’ve been too much, or at least that the timing was wrong. Regardless, I think it would’ve been amazing to see, and despite this theory failing to pan out in Season 3, it’s one I may very well bring back in time for Season 4!

Number 6: There will be a resolution to the story of the Short Treks episode Calypso.

Craft, the protagonist of Calypso.

Poor Calypso. I’m beginning to feel that the Short Treks episode is doomed to be a permanent outlier in the Star Trek canon, evidently connected to a version of Season 2 that never made it to screen. Broadcast in the months before Discovery’s second season, Calypso introduced us to Craft, a soldier from the far future fighting a war against the “V’draysh.” We also got to meet Zora, an AI who was the sole inhabitant of a long-abandoned USS Discovery.

Here’s where things get confusing. Season 3 saw some moves toward Calypso, including the apparent creation of Zora from a merger of the Sphere data with Discovery’s computer. The voice actress from Calypso even reprised her role, although the name “Zora” wasn’t mentioned. We also heard the villainous Zareh use the term “V’draysh” to refer to the rump Federation – seemingly confirming that Calypso must be set in roughly this same era.

The unmanned USS Discovery tows Craft’s pod.

However, we also saw some big moves away from Calypso as well. The most significant one is that the USS Discovery has undergone a refit. While this isn’t readily apparent from the ship’s interior – something I really hope changes in Season 4 – it was very apparent from the exterior of the ship. Calypso showed off a pre-refit Discovery, which means that resolving the story of this short episode feels further away than ever.

As I mentioned in the intro, it seems clear that Calypso was originally written with a different version of Season 2 in mind – perhaps even to serve as a kind of epilogue in the event that Season 2 would be Discovery’s last. Even going into Such Sweet Sorrow – the two-part finale of Season 2 – the possibility of hiding the ship in a nebula, as depicted in Calypso, existed, and with a few changes and tweaks to the season finale, Calypso would have been a natural epilogue to that story. That’s what I think happened on the production side of things, anyway. With the storyline of Season 2 up in the air, a somewhat ambiguous short episode was created to serve as a potential epilogue if the show was cancelled. Discovery wasn’t cancelled, though, and now the writers have to find a way to square this particularly tricky circle. Or they might just try to ignore it!

Number 7: The Spore Drive will become Starfleet’s new method of propulsion.

The USS Discovery making a Spore Drive jump.

When it became apparent that warp drive in the 32nd Century was very difficult due to the lack of dilithium and the aftereffects of the Burn, I thought the writers and producers of Discovery had played a masterstroke by finally finding a way for the show’s most controversial piece of technology to play a major role.

The Spore Drive, which was introduced in Season 1, received a mixed reaction from fans. Some insisted that it “violates canon” by allowing a 23rd Century starship to effectively travel anywhere in the galaxy, and others wondered why the technology had never been mentioned in settings where it would have logically been useful – such as to the crew of the USS Voyager, stranded tens of thousands of light-years from home! Though I would suggest that many of the fans who felt this way about the Spore Drive also had other gripes with Discovery, by pushing forward in time there was an opportunity to expand the role of the Spore Drive in a way that wouldn’t undermine anything in Star Trek’s established canon.

Captain Saru orders Black Alert and initiates a Spore Drive jump.

The dilithium shortage the galaxy is experiencing, made a hundred times worse by the Burn, seemed to offer an opportunity to expand the role of the Spore Drive. And at first, Starfleet did seem to be keen on making use of it. However, despite Discovery’s extensive retrofit, the Spore Drive remained aboard the ship and Starfleet seems to have made no attempt to copy it or roll it out to any of their other vessels. The huge planet-sized cache of dilithium in the Verubin Nebula has also solved – at least in the short-term – the galaxy’s fuel problem, so there’s less of a need from Starfleet’s perspective to invest in recreating the Spore Drive, despite its seemingly unlimited potential.

Perhaps this will be picked up in Season 4, especially with Book’s ability to use the Spore Drive getting around the last hurdle in the way of a broader rollout. There was potential, I felt, for the dilithium shortage and Burn storylines to parallel real world climate change and how we’re slowly running out of oil, but the Verubin Nebula’s dilithium planet kind of squashed any real-world analogy! Again, though, this is something that could potentially return in Season 4.

Number 8: Dr Issa is a descendant of Saru’s sister Siranna.

Dr Issa’s holographic message.

The Short Treks episode The Brightest Star was broadcast in between Seasons 1 and 2, and introduced us to Saru’s sister Siranna. She returned in Season 2, in the episodes The Sound of Thunder and Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2. In Season 3, the same actress who played Siranna also appeared as Dr Issa – the commander of the crashed Kelpien ship in the Verubin Nebula and the mother of Su’Kal.

Because of this production-side coincidence, as well as Saru’s incredibly strong reaction to seeing Dr Issa in holographic form, I speculated that Dr Issa could be a descendant of Siranna, and thus a great-great-niece to Saru. That familial tie could have explained why Saru found himself so emotionally compromised during the final few episodes of the season, and why he risked everything to help Su’Kal.

It seemed that Saru was seeing something more in Dr Issa than just a fellow Kelpien.

However, it seems that this was little more than casting coincidence! Perhaps it was easier for the producers to work with someone who was already familiar with the Kelpiens – and Kelpien prosthetic makeup – instead of casting a new actress for the role. Or perhaps it was deliberate – presenting Saru with someone superficially similar to Siranna to push him emotionally. Regardless, this theory didn’t pan out.

It could have been interesting to see Saru coming face-to-face with a distant relative, and it could’ve added to the Su’Kal storyline. However, in the time allotted to Saru’s exploits in the Verubin Nebula, it would have been difficult to add this additional emotional element and have it properly developed, so perhaps it’s for the best!

Number 9: The holographic “monster” is either Dr Issa or the real Su’Kal.

The holographic “monster.”

The episode Su’Kal pushed hard for a creepy “haunted castle” aesthetic when depicting Su’Kal’s holographic world, and a big part of that was the holographic “monster.” The monster seemed like a very odd inclusion in a holo-programme designed for a young child, and even though an attempt was made to excuse it by saying it was an old Kelpien legend, I wasn’t convinced that there wasn’t something else going on.

Additionally, the monster didn’t behave or appear like any of the other decaying holograms. After decades of continuous use, Su’Kal’s holographic world was falling apart. Many of the holograms were flickering or fading, and they were quite basic in what they could say or do. In contrast, the monster moved with a natural, organic fluidity, and didn’t flicker or appear in any way artificial – even as the holographic world disintegrated around it.

The monster turned out to be just part of the holo-programme.

The Verubin Nebula’s radiation was said to be fatal, but in horror and sci-fi radiation is often seen to cause mutations. Given the monster’s vaguely Kelpien appearance and dishevelled, decrepit, morbid look, I wondered if it was actually the real Su’Kal – or Dr Issa – having mutated and decayed after decades in the hostile nebula. The final piece of evidence I added to this little pile was the strange way that the monster interacted with Burnham in the episode Su’Kal – it seemed curious about her, perceiving her in a way I thought was almost human.

Despite all of that, however, the monster turned out to be exactly what the crew believed it to be: just another part of the holo-programme. This theory was quite “out there,” as it would’ve been a big twist on what we as the audience were expecting. There were hints that I felt could have built up the monster to be something more, but ultimately these turned out to be red herrings!

Number 10: Season 3 is taking place in an alternate timeline or parallel universe.

“An alternate reality?”

Over the course of the first two-thirds or so of Season 3, there seemed to be breadcrumbs that at least hinted at the possibility that Burnham and Discovery had crossed over to a parallel universe or alternate timeline. The biggest one was the initial absence of Dr Gabrielle Burnham, but there was also the strange piece of music that seemed to be connected to the Burn, the fact that the time-wormhole didn’t take Burnham and the ship to their intended destination of Terralysium, and a couple of hints from Voyager (as mentioned above) and Enterprise that could have been interpreted to mean the Burn never happened in the timeline depicted in those older shows.

There was also the possibility that the Burn was caused by the interference of time travellers. The resolution to that storyline could have been for Burnham and Discovery to go back in time and prevent the Burn from ever happening – restoring the “true” timeline and undoing the Burn. Both of these theories seemed plausible for much of the season.

It seemed possible, for a time, that Discovery Season 3 was taking place in a parallel universe.

I’m glad, though, that neither theory came to pass! “It’s a parallel universe” is almost akin to “it was all a dream” in terms of being a pretty lazy excuse for storylines in sci-fi, and the idea of undoing the Burn, while interesting in theory, would have effectively wiped out all of the good deeds Saru, Burnham, and the crew did across Season 3, like helping the peoples of Trill, Earth, Ni’Var, and Kwejian. So it was to the show’s overall benefit to stick firmly to the prime timeline.

Doing so is actually rather bold. Discovery took Star Trek to some very different thematic places in Season 3, largely thanks to the Burn and its lingering effects, and I could understand the temptation to brush all of that aside. We still got some parallel universe action in the two-part episode Terra Firma, which revisited the Mirror Universe. With the Burn now in the rear-view mirror and Discovery moving on to new adventures, perhaps it will be possible for Star Trek to establish the 32nd Century as a major new setting, allowing Discovery Season 3 to be the springboard for a host of new shows and films.

So that’s it. Ten of my worst Discovery Season 3 theories!

I had some pretty significant theory misses last season!

Though we can debate some of the story points across Season 3 – and I still haven’t written my big piece about the Burn yet – overall I think Season 3 did a good job of establishing the show in its new setting. The Burn presented a tantalising mystery to solve, and for the first time in the series, it felt as though more members of the crew had significant roles to play in the season’s main storylines.

With Burnham having ascended to the captain’s chair, and a new threat seemingly having reared its head, Season 4 is going to take Discovery to different places yet again. And if there are theories to be crafted – and I daresay there will be – I’ll be writing them up! Even though a lot of the theories I came up with in Season 3 didn’t pan out, I had a blast thinking them up and writing them down. At the end of the day, it’s an excuse to spend more time thinking and talking about Star Trek.

So I hope this look back was a bit of fun! Stay tuned, because as and when we get news about Season 4 I’ll be taking a look here on the website, and when the season premieres later this year I’ll be reviewing every episode… and probably coming up with a few more theories!

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 is available to stream now in its entirety on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery review – Season 3, Episode 11: Su’kal

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

Until three days before its broadcast, Su’kal went by the title The Citadel. It wasn’t immediately obvious why the name was changed – or why the producers at ViacomCBS felt a need to conceal that fact. After all, they let us know every other episode title before the season premiered, even spoiler-ish ones like Unification III. So it was a bit of a surprise to learn that we’d be watching Su’kal this week!

The twopart episode Terra Firma largely took us away from progressing the overall story of the season and focused on the departure of Mirror Georgiou to a still-unknown destination. With only three episodes left before the season is over, Discovery really needed to begin bringing its storylines together and wrapping them up, lest it repeat the mistake made by Star Trek: Picard earlier in the year and rush through a lot of potentially interesting plots. This was the moment where the season needed to enter its endgame, and for better or worse it seems to have done so.

Discovery finally took us to the Verubin Nebula after a few episodes of doing other things.

My first thought when the credits rolled was “hmm.” What had we all just watched? The two major storylines both had ups and downs, and we’ll have to deal with them in turn. I liked the idea of the holographic world. Both as an interesting setting and as a metaphor for isolation – something many people dealing with mental health issues will experience – it worked very well. Tilly sitting in the captain’s chair for the first time was great to see, and we can see why she was chosen ahead of, for example, Stamets to serve as first officer given that the conflict with Osyraa needed someone less experienced at the conn. I also liked the standoff between Discovery and Osyraa’s ship; it had a familar feel that anyone who’s seen the Battle of the Mutara Nebula in The Wrath of Khan can appreciate.

Now let’s get into the big disappointments. Discovery being captured so easily by Osyraa, whose ship had been simple to defeat a couple of episodes ago, was poor. Yes, it showed how Tilly’s inexperience at the conn was an issue, but even then it felt too easy. Osyraa’s ship, with its ability to transport huge numbers of troops and its weird grappling arms, just felt overpowered. Next – and I will admit this is perhaps more of a personal pet peeve – the cliched story of “the heroes’ ship/base is captured” just doesn’t really work for me. It’s annoying more than anything, and since we know Tilly, Burnham, and the crew will retake the ship it just feels like forced tension.

Discovery was very easily captured by Osyraa.

Now we come to the point of the season, and the main storyline which underpins all of the others: the Burn. If Burnham and Culber are correct in their assessment of Su’kal, he caused the Burn telepathically when his fears destabilised dilithium across the known galaxy. Though my initial reaction to that was some form of “what the actual fuck,” I’m prepared to wait and see what the next two episodes have in store, and whether they can better explain how this happened. Burnham and Culber’s analysis of the situation was short, and if all the explanation we’re going to get is some technobabble about dilithium and DNA cells in an unborn child, I think that’s poor.

But I’m hopeful that won’t be the entirety of the explanation that we get! The Burn had been set up across the season (and even before if you count the trailers) as a huge mystery, something galactic in scale. Perhaps the reason this answer feels like such a non sequitur – aside from the fact that it only consisted of a couple of lines from Burnham and Culber in the midst of a bigger crisis – is that the explanation for this colossal apocalyptic event being a mentally ill man with the mind of a child is some combination of anticlimactic and small.

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it line from Dr Culber surely cannot be all the explanation we get for how Su’kal caused the Burn.

Huge events in fiction typically need causes that are comparable in scale, and there’s a disparity between the truly epic, cataclysmic nature of the Burn and Su’kal, a mentally challenged man who’s led a horrible life trapped in a weird educational holoprogramme. That’s before we get into the frankly upsetting real-world implications of this metaphor: a mentally ill person ruining the galaxy.

When dealing with significant events, we can typically point to powerful characters or forces of nature setting those events in motion. We can point to Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, for example, or Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. Or we could look at the zombie virus in The Walking Dead as a force of nature – a powerful, planet-wide force. Su’kal doesn’t fit the bill, and while the idea of the Burn being something accidental rather than something intentional like a weapon may indeed be a good one – and one I’d support – this particular way of explaining it feels like an anticlimax right now.

Su’kal – the cause of the Burn?

On the other hand, if this is the explanation for the Burn, it would be in line with certain other Star Trek stories. The V’ger probe in The Motion Picture was similarly described as “a child” as it caused chaos en route to Earth. The Star Trek franchise has always been about exploring the unknown and offering help – and Su’kal clearly needs the Federation’s help.

Any time a mystery is created in an ongoing story, there’s a risk of the explanation jarring with what some members of the audience expected. I’m not criticising Su’kal from that point of view, though – or at least I’m consciously trying not to. I’m not saying that the Burn needs to have some other explanation, like one of the ones I postulated before the season began. What I am saying, though, is that if this is all the explanation we’re going to get – that Su’kal’s body somehow adapted, connecting him on a quantum level to dilithium, and that he accidentally caused the Burn as a child while upset – it feels anticlimactic.

We’re being asked to buy into a story that says one mentally ill person caused all of this destruction.

The discovery of the Verubin Nebula and its dilithium planet is likewise a little odd. This is perhaps more of a nitpick, but in the 32nd Century, when the Federation and other spacefaring cultures have had a millennium to explore and chart the galaxy, how could they have been unaware of this dilithium nursery/dilithium planet? A few weeks ago I wrote that the discovery of a huge cache of dilithium at the end of the season, allowing the Federation to get back on its feet and rebuild, could feel like a deus ex machina – and that’s kind of how this planet feels right now. The story from here seems predictable: save or neutralise Su’kal to prevent another Burn, use the dilithium planet to power the Federation and Starfleet, and retake Discovery from Osyraa.

There may be twists and turns along the way, but that seems to be the direction of travel. Simplifying a story as it approaches its end is inevitable, perhaps, but coupled with what I have to call an unsatisfying explanation for the Burn, it risks the end of the season feeling formulaic. Having made those criticisms, two caveats: there are still two episodes to go in which the Burn’s explanation can be padded out or even changed entirely, and if this is the real explanation for what happened, it avoids many of the pitfalls I feared a 32nd Century post-apocalyptic story would. It isn’t as epic in scope as perhaps I was hoping, nor does it seem to connect to other iterations of the franchise. But it is a very “Star Trek” way for an apocalyptic event to play out.

The titular Su’kal seems to have caused the Burn.

By that I mean it’s closer to some stories from The Original Series or even The Animated Series in terms of pure science-fantasy. Su’kal being the cause of the Burn because he has some kind of telepathic link to dilithium is a weird story, and that weirdness and quirkiness is what made many fans – myself included – fall in love with Star Trek to begin with. So I’m hot and cold on the Burn right now, as you can tell. I’m not 100% convinced that it’s the right way for this story to conclude, given that it’s taken us eleven weeks to get here and the Burn has been presented as this epic cataclysm with mysterious origins. But as a pure Star Trek story, I can’t deny that it works.

If you’re a regular around here, perhaps you’ve read my methodology. If not, you can find it via the menu at the top (top-right on mobiles). To make a long story short, I never read other reviews before writing my own, and I do my best to avoid any and all critical opinion and even responses by people involved with whatever I’m reviewing until I’ve got my own piece published. So I have no idea if I’m alone in my feelings about Su’kal offering an unsatisfying end to the season’s biggest mystery or not.

Is this how the Burn happened?

I feel like I’ve deconstructed the titular Su’kal and his relationship with the Burn as much as I’m able to at this stage. Like several ongoing storylines that saw major developments in Su’kal, my thoughts on this point can and likely will shift depending on the way that the remainder of the story progresses. So let’s look at a few other points from the episode.

Tilly becoming first officer was a point of contention in earlier episodes, and I do understand that. While I defended Saru’s reasoning at the time, as he felt Tilly had adapted best to the future which was a significant consideration in his XO search, what I’d say now is that that storyline feels as if it was constructed deliberately to reach a specific goal. The first part of that goal is, as we saw this week, the capture of Discovery by Osyraa, which we’re to understand came about in part through Tilly’s inexperience. But there may be a further plan for this storyline – effectively cornering Saru and forcing him to reinstate Burnham as first officer.

Tilly in command.

So what we got with Tilly this week was a deeply emotional and very touching scene between her and Burnham. As Saru prepared to lead the away team, it was her turn in the big chair for the first time, and she was nervous. Burnham tried to comfort her, and in this moment she was back to the older, more nervous character from earlier episodes. A lot of us have been nervous or anxious about taking on a big task, and Tilly’s reaction to what was going on was very human.

Likewise, the scene where she took the captain’s chair for the first time was also very well done. Though clearly still nervous she sat down for the first time with determination – and with a plan for what to say and do. She handled herself well, and she clearly had the respect of the other officers on the bridge. But there was a different kind of respect that they showed Tilly compared to Saru, or past commanding officers like Pike. Tilly was almost being treated as a child, judging by some of their expressions: “aww, it’s so sweet they’re letting her have a go in the big chair,” some of their faces seemed to say. While the crew followed their orders, there was a sense among some on the bridge – at least in the moment Tilly assumed command – that they didn’t hold her to the same standards as Saru or Pike.

Tilly regards the captain’s chair.

When confronted by Osyraa, Tilly played a role comparable to Sulu in Star Trek Into Darkness – sitting in the big chair for the first time talking to an enemy. In Sulu’s case he was broadcasting a message to someone rather than having a two-way conversation, but like many things in modern Star Trek I appreciate the symmetry that exists between wholly different stories.

As I said, though, the ultimate payoff to this storyline was Osyraa’s incredibly easy capture of the ship. We can argue that Su’kal’s telepathic tantrum damaged all the ship’s systems and thus probably knocked the shields down, which is how Osyraa’s goons could so easily beam over. But as a point of drama, the standoff between the ships was far too short before we got to this point. When Detmer took Book’s ship and completely disabled Osyraa’s flagship a couple of weeks ago, Osyraa’s flagship was shown to be big but flawed, and Osyraa herself made no moves against Discovery. This time, she was able to defeat Discovery in seconds using powers we’d never seen her vessel have before. There were low stakes at the beginning of the engagement – because Detmer had so easily beaten her using Book’s ship a few weeks ago – and thus Osyraa’s victory seems to come from nowhere.

Osyraa’s flagship proved a very difficult opponent… this time.

If we had seen some more of her ship before Su’kal to know what its capabilities were, that feeling would not persist. But despite its vaguely menacing appearance, the only time we encountered Osyraa before this episode showed her ship to be vulnerable even to Book’s glorified shuttlecraft. The turnaround was only explained by a single line from Osyraa, as she claimed to have fixed the vulnerability Detmer had exploited – but that just wasn’t good enough, in my opinion.

There’s also the big question of how Osyraa came to know about the Spore Drive. This seems to have happened entirely off screen, and while it may be shown in a flashback later on, it’s something we as the audience needed to know. What is Osyraa’s plan now she has control of Discovery? What will she use the Spore Drive for? Who told her about it/how did she find out? None of these points were touched on, and while we can construct theories based on Book’s macguffin from last week that concerned Admiral Vance, nothing was explained on screen in a satisfactory way.

Discovery jumped to the Verubin Nebula with its Spore Drive.

As this is an ongoing story, these points may be addressed, and if so I will gladly withdraw my criticisms. But right now it feels like Osyraa knew about the Spore Drive almost by magic – she even knew its name, despite having never heard of it the last time we met her. She also managed to turn her ship from an easily-beaten wreck into an invincible powerhouse and defeat Discovery with a snap of her fingers. And after all that, we don’t know her intentions. There are too many unknowns for the stakes to feel particularly high.

I mentioned at the start that this storyline – the heroes’ ship being captured – has never been one I enjoyed, and that’s a factor in how I feel about Su’kal too. I tend to feel that any time a story goes down this route the ending is usually known, and as a result the drama and tension just feel forced. Whereas we could see any one of a hundred different endings to Su’kal’s story or even Georgiou’s Mirror Universe story over the last couple of weeks, it’s obvious that Burnham and Book will retake the ship from Osyraa, just as it’s obvious in any comparable story that the heroes will reclaim their starship or base. It’s not exactly a cliché, but it’s a basic narrative that I’ve seen play out dozens of times at this point – including within Star Trek.

These stories have never been a favourite of mine.

Enough about Tilly, Discovery, and Osyraa for now. The sequences set in Su’kal’s home were interesting. The setting itself was reminiscent of the castle Captain Pike encountered on Rigel VII – as seen in Star Trek’s original pilot, The Cage. Castles and Star Trek have an association going back a very long time, and the dark, abandoned castle – with a monster to boot – gave the sequences set there a very creepy, almost horror vibe.

The cinematography for some of these scenes was outstanding, too, and shots of the fortress and its surrounding landscape were beautiful and immersive. There were some amazing overhead angles that gave the stepped structure a deeply confusing feeling, one which helped us get into the mindset of Burnham, Culber, and Saru.

Some of the shots here were beautiful. The set design and animation work were absolutely outstanding.

Speaking of the away team, the choice of makeup was interesting. Having Burnham and Culber be a Trill and Bajoran respectively really didn’t do much, and in a lot of scenes where they were seen from a distance the makeup wasn’t even noticeable. Saru being portrayed as human, however, was far more visually interesting, and the reveal of Doug Jones without makeup was perhaps the biggest shock moment of the whole episode. Everything about that moment was perfectly set up, from Burnham and Culber noting their appearances first to build up the mystery to Saru’s voice being heard before the camera panned to him. It was a very well-constructed moment.

Within the story, though, I’m sorry to say it makes no sense. Saru is a Kelpien; a species Su’kal is obviously familiar with as he has at least one Kelpien hologram – the Elder. Likewise we saw human holos within the programme, and since Burnham and Culber’s physical appearances were not changed to copy pre-existing holograms, I don’t know what reason there is for changing their appearances in this minimal way. Nor do I understand why – aside from reasons of dramatic effect – the away team’s radiation burns were visible on their holographic bodies.

It feels like the choice of making Saru human was just there for surprise value.

If the roles of Burnham, Culber, and Saru were to be played by three different actors for this story, actors who also took on the roles of three holograms within Su’kal’s programme, I could understand it more. It wouldn’t be good to have this crucial moment acted out by different folks, but it would make sense in-universe, because the programmer of Su’kal’s world would have intended his rescuers to assume a familiar form. But the way it was done here was just odd, and I can only assume it was done for the sake of that one shocking moment – revealing Saru in his human guise. Constructing a story point off of one moment seldom works, and while it was interesting (at least, at first) to see these three characters in different makeup, as a story point I don’t get why it had to happen.

It also arguably detracts from Saru’s storyline, which seems to be building to an emotional climax. This is the first Kelpien he’s met since he left the 23rd Century, and there’s also the open question of a possible familial connection via Dr Issa. Saru being distracted by all things Kelpien is affecting his judgement, and this is a storyline worth pursuing. However, having Doug Jones essentially be out of costume is detracting from that. While it was visually interesting at first, it risks getting in the way of the story as it comes to a head. It’s possible that there may be a moment where Saru snaps out of the way he’s feeling due to being in this human guise, which if well-written could work and would be a payoff of sorts. Discovery tends not to do things randomly – somehow there may well be a reason why the away team ended up in these bodies. It’s just difficult to see right now, and the question of whether it will work as intended is up in the air.

Saru in his human disguise.

Burnham’s work with Su’kal was sweet, and she seemed to be beginning to find a way to get through to him. Saru asked her to remain because of her training in xenoanthropology, but just as she accused him of being distracted by Su’kal, I would argue that she is equally distracted from the mission by Book – she wanted to get back to him, because within the nebula he is in danger. She did seem to make some progress with Su’kal before he cut her off – but is that the real Su’kal?

I’ll save the bulk of this discussion for my theory post, but here goes: the “monster” that inhabits the holodeck is vaguely Kelpien in appearance, and also looks older. Its decayed body could be a result of radiation exposure, and when the monster met Burnham, it seemed to react to her in an almost-human manner – by which I mean, not like a programmed machine. The character we’re calling Su’kal is far too young to be 125 years old – or at least appears to be too young – and no suitable explanation has been given for this. So my pet theory right now is that the “monster” is the real life sign that Burnham and the crew identified before beaming down.

Is this a holographic monster… or Su’kal?

I don’t know for sure if that will pan out, or how it could be made to fit, but it seems interesting so I’ll go into more detail next time. There were a few other little moments in Su’kal that I thought were worth pointing out, such as the little robots being identified as “DOTs” for the first time outside of the Short Treks episode Ephraim and Dot. That was a sweet little inclusion. I also liked seeing Adira and Gray back together, as well as Gray giving Adira the confidence boost they needed to make their first big independent move since joining the crew.

Speaking of Adira, Stamets’ line to them at the beginning about he and Culber coming as a “package deal” was cute, and ties in with the parental theme going on with the three of them. Stamets has gone out of his way to help Adira since they joined the crew, even talking to the unseen Gray – whenever he does that I’m reminded of a parent talking to their child’s imaginary friend. Stamets feels protective of Adira, and helping them settle in has been an unexpectedly sweet turn for his character.

Gray and Adira in Su’kal.

So there we are. That was Su’kal, an episode which will have to be revisited in context once we know the overall outcome of the season’s big storylines. It can be difficult to fairly judge one section from the middle of a story – it’s like trying to review chapter ten of a thirteen-chapter novel – because Su’kal cannot be taken as a standalone piece of television. That said, it’s an episode which made significant developments and perhaps set up one or two more mysteries.

I’m troubled by the fault for the Burn lying with a mentally disabled man. Mental health and learning disabilities are already the subject of considerable stigma in our society today, and while on some fronts that is improving, we still have a long way to go. The episode The End is the Beginning from Star Trek: Picard showed a very crude stereotype of “mentally ill people” earlier in the year, and laying the fault of the Burn at Su’kal’s feet seems to continue an unfortunate theme in this year’s Star Trek productions. It almost feels as though the writers have picked on an easy target in Su’kal.

As mentioned, there are different ways the story could pan out from here. I briefly explained one theory I have about Su’kal, but there are different paths the story could take over the next couple of weeks before the season ends. I’m cautiously interested to see more; I do want a resolution to the Burn, but it needs to be a satisfying one – and ideally one that doesn’t stigmatise people.

Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Star Trek: Discovery theories – week 9

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

Terra Firma, Part I was a fascinating episode. Though there was minimal advancement of the main storyline of the season, there were several new and exciting hints about things to come from which we can construct new theories. Though a couple of theories we had going into the episode now seem unlikely, we’re also not at a point where we can really consider any debunked, and with no confirmations either, this week the theory list will grow longer!

Let’s jump straight into the list, then, beginning with new theories and those which saw movement in Terra Firma, Part I.

Number 1: Dr Issa is a descendant of Saru’s sister Siranna.

A hologram of Dr Issa.

The revelation that a Kelpien ship was responsible for at least part of the Federation distress signal in the Verubin Nebula was interesting, and had a great effect on Captain Saru. It was the first he’d seen of his people since arriving in the 32nd Century. When Dr Issa – the Kelpien scientist who sent the distress signal – first appeared, I genuinely thought we were seeing Siranna, Saru’s sister who was introduced in the Short Treks episode The Brightest Star and who reappeared in Season 2 of Discovery last year.

The reason for this is that Siranna and Dr Issa are both portrayed by the same actress (Hannah Spear) and thus look very similar. It remains a (remote) possibility that the two characters could be one and the same – either through time-travel shenanigans or perhaps because post-vahar’ai Kelpiens are especially long-lived, but what I think is more likely is that a familial connection will be revealed – Dr Issa will be a distant relation to Saru through his sister.

The reason for this is primarily production-side: why bring back the same actress to portray a Kelpien, and have the characters look practically identical, if there isn’t meant to be a connection? From a story point of view it could give Saru a dilemma – saving the Kelpien ship versus aiding Starfleet, for example – or it could give him a deeper emotional connection to the stranded ship than he would otherwise have.

Number 2: The Emerald Chain will attack Federation HQ.

The Emerald Chain’s leader Osyraa.

The Emerald Chain is planning “military exercises,” according to Starfleet. Both Starfleet and Book’s courier friends believe this is code for some kind of larger-scale military engagement, and surely the only target for an Emerald Chain attack would be Federation HQ. Why go to the trouble of telling us as the audience about the Emerald Chain’s movements otherwise?

When Saru shot down Book’s attempt to help, this felt all but confirmed. Though it’s possible that it’s a misdirect, I would question why such a thing would be included. Clearly the Emerald Chain story thread needs to be wrapped up somehow – by defeating them militarily or coming to a negotiated settlement – so perhaps this is the moment they make their move.

I’m not sure that Terra Firma, Part II will see a huge space battle; with Discovery away at Dannus V we may simply see the aftermath when they return. But the Emerald Chain is clearly on the warpath, and while there are other possible targets, Federation HQ seems the most likely to me at this juncture.

Number 3: The Emerald Chain will attempt to steal the USS Discovery and/or the Spore Drive.

The USS Discovery in Terra Firma, Part I.

I mentioned this last week as a continuation of a theory I had that Discovery’s Spore Drive is no longer a secret. If the Emerald Chain is moving, Starfleet HQ seems the most likely target – but there is another significant one, and that’s the USS Discovery itself.

In The Sanctuary, Ryn confided in Tilly that the reason Osyraa – the Emerald Chain’s leader – is so keen to recover him is because he knows their biggest secret: the Emerald Chain is running out of dilithium. This will undoubtedly make the faction more aggressive as it looks to shore up its position, but now that they’ve seen Discovery able to jump to Kwejian, perhaps Osyraa and her people will begin to suspect that the ship has a powerful new method of propulsion.

Admiral Vance told Starfleet’s senior officers about the Spore Drive in Scavengers, and I picked up at least a hint that not everyone was happy about this disruption to the established hierarchy of Starfleet. Could someone within Starfleet – such as Lieutenant Willa – have passed along to the Emerald Chain details of the USS Discovery?

Even if none of that happens, with Discovery jumping all over the galaxy – to Earth, Trill, Ni’Var, Federation HQ, Kwejian, Dannus V, and the location of the USS Tikhov – how long until the Emerald Chain notices? Obviously this theory and the one above can’t both be true, but I suspect the Emerald Chain has one of these targets in mind.

Number 4: Admiral Vance is going to be killed.

Admiral Vance in Unification III.

When Admiral Vance sanctioned Discovery’s mission to Dannus V, there was a strange air of finality to his scene with Saru, Burnham, and the others. Partly he was attempting to save Saru from making a mistake that he feels he himself made in the past, one which may have led to the death of someone under his command.

The Emerald Chain is clearly planning some kind of attack on Starfleet – Vance and Book appear to have all but confirmed this, as we already looked at. While the addition of a single extra ship may not have a huge impact, Discovery has the Spore Drive which could be a decisive advantage in battle – as we saw in Season 1.

Vance clearly knew that sending Discovery away was a risk, and I feel his line to Saru that Starfleet will “handle the Chain” without them will come back to bite him. It was set up that way, using a trope that’s familiar in action stories. One character will say to another, “don’t worry, we can handle this situation without you” only for that character to be killed when it turns out they can’t, in fact, handle it. That’s what this scene with Admiral Vance felt like, and I’m worried that he may not live to see the end of Terra Firma, Part II.

Number 5: Mirror Georgiou will inadvertently change the future.

Georgiou chose not to execute Mirror Burnham.

I don’t believe that Georgiou has literally travelled back in time and back to the Mirror Universe. We’ll look at some other options in a moment, but suffice to say what’s happening to her on the other side of Carl’s mysterious door may not be all that it seems.

However, if I’m wrong about that, Georgiou has already begun to change the timeline. She killed Mirror Stamets – who was still alive when Discovery entered the Mirror Universe – and refused to execute Mirror Burnham, despite the events surrounding her betrayal and execution being confused somewhat compared to the established story from Discovery Season 1. If Georgiou is literally back in her original timeline, these changes could radically alter the future.

For example, if Georgiou was able to maintain her grip on power by defeating Lorca more easily, and didn’t end up aboard the Prime USS Discovery, all sorts of things would be different in the Prime Universe from the end of Season 1 onwards. The Klingon War would have ended very differently – or may not have ended at all. Captain Leland and his mission to track down Spock would have gone differently. The Control AI may have been more easily able to acquire the Sphere data. And many other moments where Georgiou intervened would have panned out completely differently.

How all of this will be resolved is anyone’s guess right now. Time travel stories are difficult because of the presence of paradoxes, alternate realities, and so forth. They can become complicated and convoluted very easily, so I hope the writers have a solid exit plan for Georgiou!

Number 6: Mirror Georgiou will travel back in time… but she hasn’t yet.

Mirror Georgiou.

For weeks I’ve maintained that Georgiou will travel back in time. But as mentioned, I’m not convinced that what we saw in Terra Firma, Part I actually represents full-blown time travel. If Georgiou hasn’t travelled back in time, though, she may yet do so.

Whatever’s happening to Georgiou may trigger something inside her – a desire to return home. Having experienced a different outcome to certain events, she may wish to return to the Mirror Universe to set things “right” from her perspective.

Alternatively, she may need to travel back in time for some other reason. This could line up with Calypso, the Short Treks episode which saw an abandoned USS Discovery hidden away in a nebula. Georgiou could take the ship back in time – perhaps to hide it from the Emerald Chain, to alert Starfleet to the impending Burn, or for some other reason – then leave it in the nebula for the crew to pick up 930 years later.

Georgiou may even remain in the past – and as we know, the upcoming Section 31 series is supposedly taking place in the 23rd Century.

Number 7: Mirror Georgiou did not travel back in time or to the Mirror Universe.

Where does the door lead?

Whatever’s happening to Georgiou on Dannus V is supposed to cure her of her technobabble ailment. Her condition was caused by travelling from one parallel universe to another and also travelling forwards in time, causing her cells to break down somehow. The mechanics of what’s happening to her and why are a little vague, but there’s enough to work with to say that simply travelling briefly to her own time and universe doesn’t seem like a cure.

Instead, Georgiou may be in a pocket universe (as seen in Star Trek episodes like Remember Me), or the events we’re seeing unfold may be taking place inside her head. It could be a simulation, a holodeck programme, or it could be connected to the mysterious Carl – he could be giving her a vision, like those Captain Sisko received from the Prophets.

We’ll come to Carl in a moment, but to stick with Georgiou’s storyline, one circle that needs to be squared is why the events she’s seeing don’t line up with Season 1 of Discovery. To me, that’s the biggest indication that Georgiou has not travelled back in time and across to the Mirror Universe. As I wrote in my review of Terra Firma, Part I, even though Discovery has taken a somewhat loose approach to the broader Star Trek canon, it has always remained internally consistent. Georgiou’s supposed execution of Mirror Burnham days or weeks before the events of Season 1 would undo that, as would the killing of Mirror Stamets. I sincerely hope that we’re not going to be told that Georgiou is seeing things exactly as they happened, because that would open up a plot hole in the overall story of Discovery.

Number 8: Mirror Georgiou has been tampered with by Starfleet and/or Section 31.

Georgiou was interrogated by Kovich in Die Trying.

Despite what Kovich had to say this week regarding Georgiou’s condition, I’m not 100% convinced that he and his organisation didn’t have something to do with it. Even if they didn’t inflict this ailment upon her, perhaps he and Section 31 accelerated its progress or deliberately worsened it.

Kovich claims to have known that Georgiou would suffer this fate, yet chose to say nothing. That shows us he’s the kind of person who is quite happy to be dishonest – in this case, a lie of omission – and is thus less than fully trustworthy.

His uniform, mannerisms, and the way in which he stands apart from other Starfleet characters suggest he could be affiliated with Section 31, but at present that is unconfirmed. However, if he is with Section 31, that could explain the lack of morals required to either cause or worsen Georgiou’s condition.

The timing of Georgiou’s condition is suspect. She was fine after arriving in the future right up until she met Kovich. In fact the first indication we had that something could be awry was right after she returned to Discovery following her meeting with him, so in that sense there’s still a possible connection.

This could even be some kind of planned mission on Kovich’s part – causing Georgiou to suffer in order to track down Carl and the mysterious door on Dannus V.

Number 9: Carl is a “Guardian of Forever” type of character.

The mysterious Carl.

Who is Carl? And what’s going on with his mysterious door? Those are two of the biggest questions Terra Firma, Part I brought up. When I first saw Carl and the doorway, one thing I really appreciated was the oddness of the situation. Carl and his door felt like something that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy could have encountered in The Original Series, and feels like a mid-century sci-fi concept when compared with things like the Emerald Chain and the Burn, both of which seem like simple enough puzzles to find a technological solution to.

Carl, in contrast, feels kind of like the Guardian of Forever from the iconic episode The City on the Edge of Forever. His door is unexplained yet clearly very powerful – much in the same way as the Guardian of Forever’s portal was in The Original Series. Whatever Carl is, he represents an entity capable of wielding extreme power – or at least, power beyond what the 32nd Century Federation is able to detect.

Perhaps Carl is a Q; we have recently seen the Q referenced in Star Trek: Lower Decks, so the franchise isn’t trying to ignore the Q Continuum. In a way, I would be happy if Carl and the door weren’t over-explained. Leaving behind some elements of mystery that future stories could perhaps pick up would be one way to go.

Number 10: A time-travelling (or parallel universe) USS Discovery is at the centre of the nebula – and may be responsible for the Burn.

The USS Discovery in a nebula.

Should these next three theories about the Verubin Nebula that I posited last week be considered debunked? After all, we have the revelation of the Kelpien ship being in the nebula to contend with now, and that could be the beginning of the end for the Burn mystery.

I’m not convinced, though, at least not yet, that there isn’t more going on in the Verubin Nebula. We don’t know anything about the nebula or what’s inside it, and the existence of a Kelpien ship doesn’t rule out the possible existence of the USS Discovery or any other vessel. We know, in fact, that a Starfleet ship was en route to the Verubin Nebula to assist Dr Issa, so there may be at least one more ship in there, and we don’t know the nature of the “dilithium nursery” the Kelpiens were investigating or what became of it.

In the Short Treks episode Calypso, the USS Discovery was found abandoned in an unnamed nebula by Craft. Craft was a soldier in a war against the V’draysh; an alternate name for the Federation in the 32nd Century. Zora, an AI present aboard the USS Discovery, told Craft the ship had been abandoned for almost a thousand years, and not only have we seen the potential creation of Zora earlier this season (from a merger of Discovery’s computer and the Sphere data) but in addition, Season 3 takes place 930 years in the future from Discovery’s original 23rd Century setting. If Discovery had been abandoned at that time, things begin to fall into place.

There are two possibilities for how it could be the USS Discovery – which, of course, has not been abandoned – in that nebula: the ship will be sent back in time, or it has crossed over from an alternate timeline or parallel universe – it could have even crossed over from the prime timeline if Season 3 is itself taking place in an alternate reality!

Number 11: A familiar starship is at the centre of the nebula – and may be responsible for the Burn.

Could the USS Defiant be trapped in the nebula?

If not the USS Discovery, then who could it be at the centre of the Verubin Nebula? How about one of the hero ships from a past iteration of Star Trek? We could encounter the USS Defiant, the Enterprise-E, Riker’s USS Titan, or Star Trek: Picard’s La Sirena among many others. If such a vessel were caught in a temporal anomaly, that would explain their presence in the 32nd Century – and if time travel is involved, from their point of view the Burn may have only just happened, instead of happening 120 years ago.

It’s more likely, though, that any ship Saru and the crew find in the nebula would be deserted so long after the Burn – either abandoned by its crew or having become their tomb. If it is a familiar ship, we could thus see the ultimate end of a significant character (or multiple characters) from a past iteration of Star Trek.

The one exception to this could be La Sirena. This would be totally out of left-field for the Star Trek franchise, and keeping a lid on a secret this big would be difficult. But it would finally accomplish something I’ve been arguing for for a while: simplifying the Star Trek franchise. If La Sirena were discovered, along with Picard and his crew, Picard Season 2 could join Discovery in the 32nd Century. I don’t consider this likely, but it would be a fascinating way for the Star Trek franchise to go!

Number 12: The Red Angel suit is at the centre of the nebula – and may be responsible for the Burn.

Burnham in the Red Angel suit at the end of Season 2.

Burnham’s Red Angel suit was last seen on Hima when she sent it back in time. She ordered the suit to self-destruct, but as we never saw the destruction on screen, what became of the suit after it sent the final Red Burst is unknown. Was it captured, intercepted, or damaged? Could someone have stolen it with a view to weaponising it? It’s at least a possibility.

The Red Angel suit was known to be incredibly powerful, and in an age where time travel has been outlawed, it may be one of the only ways to travel through time that still exists – making it a lucrative target for all sorts of factions.

If Discovery wants to present the Burn as an accident or disaster rather than a deliberate act, having the Red Angel suit malfunction could be one way of doing that. Rather than requiring a villain, the story of the season could instead see the crew unravelling a scientific puzzle, one which points to Discovery and her crew as the origin of the Burn, but in such a way that they themselves are blameless.

So it’s clear that all three of these Verubin Nebula theories can’t be true. And now that we’ve seen the Kelpien ship, it’s possible that none are true and there won’t be anything else to find if and when Discovery heads to the nebula. I’m not convinced of that yet; the Verubin Nebula and the Burn have been presented as complex puzzles, and I’m sure there will be more twists, turns, and revelations before we uncover the truth about what’s really going on.

Number 12A: The name “Burn” is derived from the name Burnham.

Mirror Burnham.

Connected to the theory above, if indeed the Red Angel suit is the source of the Burn, perhaps the name of the event is derived from the name of the wearer of the Red Angel suit – either Michael or Gabrielle Burnham.

The music within the signal emanating from the Verubin Nebula has – somehow – subconsciously embedded itself in people all across the galaxy. We didn’t hear everything Dr Issa had to say – her message was tantalisingly cut short as a result of decades of radiation and decay. If, somehow, Dr Issa was trying to contact Burnham, or was trying to report on her discovery of the Red Angel suit within the nebula, perhaps that could be how the names are related.

I speculated way back when I looked at possible Burn origins before the season premiered that it was, at the very least, an odd coincidence that in a show all about Michael Burnham there’s a disastrous event called “the Burn.” Could these two seemingly unconnected things actually be related?

I stand by what I said a few weeks ago: if it is somehow Burnham’s fault, calling the event “the Burn” sounds way better than calling it “the Ham!”

Number 13: Discovery Season 3 is taking place in an alternate timeline or parallel universe.

Crewman Daniels in the “time stream” in Star Trek: Enterprise.

Two key pieces of evidence which had seemed to point to this theory have since fallen away: the absence of Dr Gabrielle Burnham and the lack of explanation for the mysterious music. However, it could still pan out… somehow.

Burnham mentioned during her debrief that unexplained “gravitational waves” in the time-wormhole pushed her and Discovery off-course, which is why they didn’t arrive at the planet Terralysium. The acknowledgement of problems within the time-wormhole may indicate that they crossed over into a different universe or reality.

The second half of this theory is that the Burn happened due to the interference of a time traveller or time travelling faction. From Starfleet’s point of view, the timeline in which the Burn occurred is not the “true” timeline, and thus part of the resolution to the Burn may be travelling through time to undo it.

How does the existence of Carl and his mysterious door play into the narrative? Could he be indicative of being in a different reality?

Number 14: The Burn was a superweapon – perhaps one the Federation or Section 31 built.

The Burn.

The discovery of a Kelpien science vessel at the centre of the Verubin Nebula is interesting, but it seems unlikely that such a craft would be carrying a superweapon – if one even existed! However, as discussed, Dr Issa’s craft may not be the only one within the nebula.

The Burn could be a superweapon – one developed by Starfleet or Section 31, perhaps designed to counter a galactic-scale threat like the Borg or the super-synths from Star Trek: Picard.

Both Admiral Vance and Kovich have stated that they don’t know what caused the Burn, and they don’t consider any of the many theories more or less likely than others. Kovich could be lying, but Admiral Vance certainly seemed genuine. However, given how long ago the Burn was, it’s possible the knowledge of what caused it has been lost or deliberately concealed, either by Starfleet, Section 31, or whichever faction was responsible.

It could also have been a revenge attack; some kind of galactic-scale mutually-assured destruction. If the Federation, Section 31, or some other organisation launched an attack against someone, the Burn may be that faction’s retaliation. That would explain the lack of an invader: they were already dead.

We’re edging closer to learning the true nature of the Burn. A superweapon remains on the table as one possibility – but the question it raises is this: were Starfleet and the Federation the target of the Burn, or its perpetrator?

Number 15:There will be a resolution to the story of Calypso (the Short Treks episode).

Craft, the protagonist of Calypso.

We got further confirmation this week that Zora – the AI encountered in Calypso – has been created. Kovich referred to it as “an AI,” and though unnamed right now, Zora herself became involved in the story. It was her intervention that sent Discovery to Dannus V in search of help for Georgiou – perhaps because the Sphere had travelled there or knew about Carl.

One thing that’s definitely interesting right now is that the USS Discovery as it appeared in Calypso no longer exists. The ship was retrofitted in Scavengers, and in addition to features like programmable matter interfaces and detachable nacelles, now sports the designation NCC 1031-A.

My theory is that, if indeed Discovery somehow travels backwards in time this season, the crew will very deliberately un-retrofit the ship first, removing any 32nd Century features to avoid polluting the timeline in case of accidental discovery. Discovery was in a nebula in Calypso – could that be the Verubin Nebula?

Calypso has been an outlier in Discovery’s story since it was broadcast in between Seasons 1 and 2. Having seen some elements from that episode cross over, all that remains is for the mystery at its core – Discovery being abandoned in a nebula – to be resolved. No small task, perhaps, but if this entire storyline from Calypso to Control to the time-wormhole to the Burn has been planned out properly, there’s no reason why we won’t see everything tied up by the end of the season.

Number 16: Tilly is going to go rogue.

Tilly in Unification III.

One line which stuck with me from Unification III was when Tilly asked Saru if he chose her to be his first officer because he believed her to be “compliant.” He ducked the question, but it was at least hinted that he does indeed see her as someone who will do as she’s told. Having experienced the Burnham problem, perhaps that’s a knee-jerk reaction from Saru, and one which, if true, would make me question his judgement. But the line carried with it a potentially serious implication – Tilly may choose, at a certain moment, not to comply.

She may do so to assist Burnham in some way, and if Tilly were to disobey orders – as she stated she would in Scavengers when talking with Saru – I would assume it would be for this reason. But there may be something else that causes her to go rogue, following in Burnham’s footsteps. I can’t say exactly what it could be if not Burnham, but we’ve had two lines that can certainly be interpreted to say that Tilly may be less “compliant” than Saru hopes.

Over the couple of episodes since she accepted the role, we have seen Tilly begin to grow into it. This is undoubtedly a change to her character, but not necessarily a bad one. I still think, however, that there is scope for her to do something significant when faced with a difficult situation, even if that means going against orders.

Number 17: The Spore Drive will become Starfleet’s new method of faster-than-light propulsion.

Discovery makes a Spore Drive jump.

SB-19, whether it caused the Burn or not, was an imperfect way to travel when compared to the Spore Drive. At present, only Discovery is capable of using the mycelial network, but that could change. What the implications of that would be on races like the JahSepp, who are native to the mycelial network, is not clear, but assuming it would be safe to use the network to travel, Spore Drives may yet be installed on all of Starfleet’s ships.

At the moment Discovery relies on Stamets as navigator; without him, accessing the mycelial network is not possible. But if, as was hinted at in Forget Me Not, it’s possible to create a non-human navigator, a major obstacle to other vessels using the Spore Drive melts away.

This theory would allow the resolution to the Burn to keep the current timeline intact – there would be no need to go back in time and undo anything, nor would there be a deus ex machina of a sudden discovery of a huge cache of dilithium. Instead, Starfleet could get back on its feet using the Spore Drive – finally finding a proper use for Discovery’s most controversial piece of technology!

Number 18: A character from a past iteration of Star Trek – such as the Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager – will make an appearance.

The Doctor.

Before Season 3 premiered I made the case for Voyager’s Doctor – or rather, a backup copy of him seen in the Season 4 episode Living Witness – being a prime candidate for inclusion. Aside from him, other characters I suggested included Soji (or a synth who looks like her), Lore, Captain Sisko, and Enterprise’s Crewman Daniels – the latter of whom was a 30th/31st Century temporal agent. Any of these could reasonably be alive in the 32nd Century, and characters who have long lifespans or are known to have spent time in the far future are perhaps more likely to appear.

If a starship from a past iteration of Star Trek is somehow within the Verubin Nebula, perhaps that could be how a crossover character is introduced. With time travel, temporal anomalies, and technobabble at their disposal, the writers could find an excuse to bring back practically anybody!

Having seen a tie-in with Picard via the appearance of the Qowat Milat, it gives me hope that Discovery will find more ways to tie itself to the wider Star Trek franchise. A character crossover is a spectacular way of doing that, and as The Next Generation showed with episodes like Relics, the passage of centuries is no barrier to such a crossover in a sci-fi world. Until the credits roll on the season finale, I’ll keep advocating this theory!

Number 19: The ships at Federation HQ represent the majority of Starfleet’s remaining vessels. And they’re all 120+ years old.

Discovery with a few other Starfleet vessels at Federation HQ.

How many ships were present as Discovery arrived at Federation HQ? Ten? Twelve? It wasn’t much more than that, that’s for sure. In a post-Burn environment, one where the Federation has shrunk considerably and where dilithium is in short supply, it’s possible that these ships are all that remain of the once-mighty Starfleet.

In That Hope Is You, Mr Sahil noted two Federation ships in flight, so perhaps we can say from his comment that there are at least two more! But I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that we’ve seen the bulk of Starfleet. Certainly the Federation seems incapable of either building any more ships nor fielding a large armada right now, which is perhaps one of the reasons why they need to keep their base cloaked.

Because of the catastrophic nature of the Burn, it also seems highly likely that shipbuilding facilities would have been damaged, destroyed, or would be inaccessible. That may mean that the Federation’s fleet entirely consists of ageing vessels, each one over 120 years old and probably not designed for being in service this long. In addition, without fuel what would be the point of expending a lot of resources building a new ship?

Number 20: Burnham’s Red Angel suit has been stolen.

Dr Gabrielle Burnham’s Red Angel suit.

As mentioned above, the Red Angel suit – and possibly Burnham or her mother – could be responsible for the Burn, and could be waiting for Discovery at the centre of the Verubin Nebula through parallel universe or time travel shenanigans!

This has been a theory I’ve been pushing since Burnham sent her Red Angel suit back into the wormhole in That Hope Is You right at the beginning of the season. I was struck by a line in Die Trying: Admiral Vance described the Red Angel suit as being “inaccessible.”

Burnham goes on to say she set the suit to self-destruct, but all this did for me is reinforce the fact that we didn’t see the suit’s destruction with our own eyes. The finale of Season 2 confirmed that Pike and Spock received the final red burst in the 23rd Century, but beyond that we simply do not know what became of the suit.

Number 21: The Dax symbiont is still alive.

Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

This one is looking less likely, because the two locations where Dax could have appeared have both seemingly come and gone without them: most notably the Trill homeworld in Forget Me Not, but also Federation HQ in Die Trying. However, there are hints at a lifespan for Trill symbionts that may be exceptionally long, in which case Dax could very well still be alive in the 32nd Century.

Obviously we won’t see Ezri Dax (barring some bizarre time travel/stasis storyline) but the symbiont itself could have lived this long. When Adira “met” the Tal symbiont’s former hosts in Forget Me Not, one was wearing a Star Trek: Picard-era uniform, hinting that Tal may have lived 700+ years. There are production-side explanations for this Easter egg, and as stated the fact that two of the best opportunities so far to meet Dax have come and gone may mean it won’t happen this season. But I’m sticking to my guns on this one: Dax is alive!

Number 22: The ban on time travel is being flouted – possibly by secretive elements within the Federation.

Kirk takes a commandeered Klingon Bird-of-Prey back in time in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

Admiral Vance clearly believes that the ban on time travel is intact and being followed. Kovich indicated that he does too – but I’m not sure how far I trust him. Is he an agent of Section 31?

Even if the ban had been obediently followed thus far, the arrival of Discovery – and more importantly, the Red Angel suit – could have changed that if someone were able to get their hands on it. We know from what Zareh said in Far From Home that Discovery’s arrival in the future did not go unnoticed, and that anyone with a decent sensor array would have been able to detect time travel. Could someone – possibly even someone within the Federation – have tracked down the Red Angel suit or entered the time-wormhole before it closed?

It’s impossible to un-invent a powerful, useful, weaponisable technology, no matter how hard you try. Considering how crappy the 32nd Century seems to be, are we convinced that nobody at all is using time travel to try to give themselves an advantage? Not the Dominion? Not the Borg? Not Section 31? Seems unlikely to me, though for production-side reasons of wanting to keep the timeline intact and to avoid overcomplicating the plot we might be told this is true!

Number 23: Kovich is an agent of Section 31.

Kovich returned in Terra Firma, Part I.

Kovich was a character I wasn’t expecting to see return. Though I’d speculated since his first appearance in Die Trying that he could be a Section 31 operative, his status as a character who seemed unlikely to reappear meant I hadn’t spun out the theory fully. However, now we know that Kovich is back – and may even be returning for Season 4 according to David Cronenberg, the famed director who plays the character.

So the question is this: who is Kovich? He doesn’t wear a normal Starfleet uniform, and doesn’t appear to hold a Starfleet rank. Yet he wears a Starfleet combadge and is clearly a high-ranking intelligence officer as he undertook Georgiou’s debriefing and has access to classified files that pertain to time travel and parallel universes.

It is at least possible – if not outright likely – that this mysterious character works for Section 31. Since we now know he hasn’t just disappeared and may well be coming back, perhaps we’ll learn more about him. We know he has an interest in the Mirror Universe and Terran society, expressing almost an admiration for Georgiou and her way of doing things. Depending on what happens with her after she crossed through Carl’s doorway on Dannus V, she may want to talk to Kovich again. We may learn that he and Section 31 either triggered or worsened her condition, as discussed above.

Number 24: We haven’t seen the last of Zareh.

Zareh in Far From Home.

Despite being quite content to kill all of Zareh’s goons, Saru balked at the idea of killing the man himself in Far From Home. Instead, he and Georgiou let him go, sending him out into the wilds of the Colony – despite being told by the locals that that’s a death sentence. However, we didn’t see Zareh die. And in stories like these, characters like Zareh tend to pop back up looking for revenge. His association with the Emerald Chain could bring him back into the story if they plan to make a move against Starfleet and/or the USS Discovery.

So that’s it. There are twenty-four theories in play as we head into Terra Firma, Part II later this week. The first half of this two-parter brought some genuinely interesting moments for Georgiou in particular, and there are many different ways the story could unfold from here.

There is clearly some kind of connection between the Federation and the Burn, but in what way and how the Kelpiens connect to that is still not known. Also up in the air is the storyline from Calypso; will we see Discovery abandoned in a nebula by the end of the season? And if so, who will abandon it and for what purpose? There are a lot of mysteries still to unpick as Discovery enters the final four episodes of Season 3.

One final note: no fan theory, no matter how plausible it may seem, is worth getting upset or disappointed over. I put these lists together for fun, and as an excuse to spend more time in the Star Trek galaxy, and that’s all. If something goes completely the opposite way I was expecting, far from being annoyed or upset I revel in that. That doesn’t mean writers should make arbitrary and silly decisions, but it means I like being surprised! If we could all remember to take fan theories with a healthy pinch of salt, there’d be less conflict in fan communities.

Star Trek: Discovery is available to stream on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.