Star Trek theory: Q the saviour

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

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

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

Q in his judge’s robe.

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

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

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

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

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

Q will soon be returning to Star Trek…

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

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

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

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

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

Q was responsible for this encounter.

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

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

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

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

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

Q appeared in Season 1 of Lower Decks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Q save the Federation from assimilation?

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

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

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

The Star Trek franchise – including all episodes and other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Factions of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 1: The Andorians

Ryn, an Andorian seen in Discovery Season 3.

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

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

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

One of the only Arcadians ever seen in Star Trek.

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

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

Number 3: The Bajorans

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

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

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

Number 4: The Barzan

Nhan, a Barzan character in Star Trek: Discovery.

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

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

Number 5: The Benzites

Mordock, a 24th Century Benzite.

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

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

Number 6: The Betazoids

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

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

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

Number 7: The Borg

A Borg drone seen in First Contact.

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

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

Number 8: The Bynars

A pair of Bynars seen in The Next Generation.

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

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

Number 9: The Caitians

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

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

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

Number 10: The Cardassians

A Cardassian seen in The Next Generation.

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

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

Number 11: Chameloids

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

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

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

Number 12: The Deltans

Ilia, a 23rd Century Deltan Starfleet officer.

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

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

Number 13: The Denobulans

Dr Phlox, a 22nd Century Denobulan.

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

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

Number 14: The Edosians

An Edosian seen in Lower Decks.

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

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

Number 15: The El-Aurians

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

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

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

Number 16: The Kalar

A Kalar warrior in The Cage.

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

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

Number 17: The Kelpiens and Ba’ul

Captain Saru was the first Kelpien to serve in Starfleet.

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

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

Number 18: The Klingon Empire

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

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

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

Number 19: The Lurians

Morn, a 24th Century Lurian.

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

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

Number 20: The Malurians

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

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

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

Number 21: The Miradorn

A pair of Miradorn twins in the 24th Century.

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

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

Number 22: The Nausicaans

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

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

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

Number 23: The Nibirians

A Nibirian in the alternate reality.

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

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

Number 24: The Orions

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

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

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

Number 25: The Pahvans

A noncorporeal Pahvan.

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

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

Number 26: The Q Continuum

Q in his famous judge outfit.

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

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

Number 27: The Romulan Star Empire

Narek and Rizzo, two 24th Century Romulan operatives.

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

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

Number 28: The Saurians

Linus, a Saurian Starfleet officer.

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

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

Number 29: The Selay

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

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

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

Number 30: The Skagarans

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

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

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

Number 31: The Suliban

Silik, a 22nd Century Suliban commander.

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

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

Number 32: The Talosians

Talosians seen in Discovery Season 2.

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

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

Number 33: The Tellarites

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

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

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

Number 34: The Tholians

A 23rd Century Tholian captain.

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

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

Number 35: The Trill

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

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

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

Number 36: The Vulcans

Spock!

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

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

Number 37: The Xindi

Degra, a 22nd Century Xindi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will be broadcast on Paramount+ in the United States (and other regions where the platform is available) in 2022. Further international distribution has not yet been announced. The Star Trek franchise – including Strange New Worlds and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

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

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-3 and the teaser for Season 4. There are further spoilers for the following: Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Picard.

Now that we’ve seen the first teaser for Star Trek: Discovery’s upcoming fourth season, and learned that a release later this year is on the cards, I thought it could be a bit of fun to consider some of the factions from past iterations of Star Trek that may – or may not – still be around in the 32nd Century! We know that at least part of the story of Season 4 will look at some kind of gravitational anomaly, and if you want to check out a few of my theories on that you can do so by clicking or tapping here. Even if the gravitational anomaly is the overarching season-long story, Discovery is likely to still find at least some opportunities to step away and spend a bit more time exploring the 32nd Century.

Season 3 was our first introduction to this time period in all of Star Trek, and as such we as the audience were learning about the state of the galaxy as Burnham, Saru, and the rest of the crew had their adventures. We met a couple of major factions outside of the rump Federation, but many familiar factions and races from past iterations of Star Trek were entirely absent – including some that might prove interesting from a story perspective. So in this article I’m going to take a look at a few of my favourites and speculate about where they might be in the 32nd Century.

The USS Discovery in the Season 4 teaser.

With Burnham and the crew having originated in the 23rd Century, they’ve missed most of what happened in past iterations of Star Trek! Major events like the V’Ger cloud’s arrival at Earth, two Borg incursions, and the Dominion War will all be unfamiliar to them, and there’s storytelling potential in re-introducing a faction from Star Trek’s past to a character or group of characters who are entirely unaware of their existence. Such a story could be interesting and fun, as well as providing new Trekkies – those who haven’t seen much of “classic” Trek – with an easy introduction to an older faction.

My usual caveat applies: I have no “insider information.” I’m not suggesting that any of these factions will definitely show up, or even be mentioned, in Discovery Season 4. This is simply a chance to have a bit of fun and speculate about the future of some of the factions we’re familiar with from past iterations of Star Trek by imagining where they could be by the 32nd Century.

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

Number 1: The Bajorans

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

We’re going in alphabetical order, so the Bajorans are up first! Even though they weren’t a Federation member, a number of Bajorans were known to have served in Starfleet in the mid-late 24th Century, including Ro Laren, Sito Jaxa, and Lieutenant Shaxs. The Bajorans were in the process of applying to join the Federation when the Dominion War broke out; it has long been assumed by many fans that they would ultimately be successful, perhaps even becoming a fully-fledged member by the time of Picard Season 1.

Bajorans were familiar to the Federation in the 31st Century at least, because Dr Issa programmed a Bajoran physical appearance into the holoprogramme she made for her son, Su’Kal, aboard their crashed ship in the Verubin Nebula. It seems very likely that the Bajorans were a Federation member in the years before the Burn – whether they remained in touch with the rump Federation afterwards is unknown, but if they did they may very well be welcomed back into the fold following the discovery of a huge dilithium cache.

It’s also worth pointing out that Bajor is at a very strategic location – the Bajoran wormhole connects the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants. Whether that will matter quite so much with the advent of new, faster methods of travel is unclear, but Bajor could very well still be an important location.

Number 2: The Borg Collective

A Borg Cube seen in The Best of Both Worlds.

Since their official first contact with the Federation – which came in either the 2350s or 2360s depending on how we consider such things – the Borg have attempted to invade Earth twice. Though a time-travelling Admiral Janeway did some damage to the Collective in the late 2370s, I never felt convinced that the events of Endgame would have led to the complete destruction of the Borg.

With the Federation – or at least humanity – firmly in their sights, would the Borg have simply given up? It stands to reason that they made subsequent attempts to attack the Federation, taking advantage of their superior technology and greater numbers. However, the existence of the Federation in the 32nd Century means that any such attempts were met with failure! Perhaps the Collective is no longer around, having been decisively defeated.

The Burn would have presented an ideal opportunity for a faction like the Borg to attack the shattered Federation – yet they don’t appear to have done so. Could that mean that they have already been defeated, or could they be waiting just beyond Federation sensor range for Burnham and Discovery? Maybe the Spore Drive is something they want to acquire – and they could even be responsible for the gravitational anomaly seen in the Season 4 teaser!

Number 3: The Breen

Thot Gor, a Breen commander.

The Breen were initially thought up as an unseen faction, able to be referenced without ever making an on-screen appearance. That changed toward the end of Deep Space Nine, when they joined the Cardassian-Dominion alliance and came close to turning the tide against the Federation in the Dominion War.

Following the war’s end, we know nothing of the Breen. The peace treaty that they signed after their final defeat over Cardassia may have seen a loss of territory for them, or it may simply have seen them retreat to their own borders. Regardless, the Breen were a major power in the Alpha Quadrant in the mid-late 24th Century, with technology capable of matching and even outpacing the Federation. Their defeat in the Dominion War was a setback, but with their homeworld untouched by the conflict it stands to reason they were able to recover quickly.

Would they have pursued peace with the Federation in the decades and centuries after? Would their technology have continued to keep up? Did the expanding Federation come into conflict with the Breen again? Any and all of these things are possible, but as we didn’t see or hear of the Breen in Season 3, perhaps we will never know.

Number 4: The Cardassian Union

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

Discovery’s first Season 3 trailer tricked us last year! By showing off a Cardassian among a group of what we now know to be Emerald Chain guards, a lot of Trekkies wondered what sort of role the Cardassians might play. The answer, of course, was “none at all!” However, there was a second Cardassian seen in Season 3 – a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in the episode Scavengers. This is arguably the most interesting post-Deep Space Nine Cardassian appearance to date, as the individual in question was a senior Starfleet officer, perhaps even a captain.

As noted above with the Bajorans, non-Federation members were eligible to join Starfleet under certain circumstances, and the post-Burn Federation was hardly in a position to turn away qualified candidates! But the existence of a Cardassian in what seems to be such a senior capacity suggests that they may have been a Federation member in the years before the Burn.

In a way, despite what happened during Dominion War, this makes a lot of sense. The Federation were in a position to offer help to the Cardassians as they rebuilt following the Dominion occupation of their world, and perhaps that help turned into an alliance over time, culminating in their joining the Federation.

Number 5: The Coppelius synths

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

The (relatively) short lifespan of humans and other organics means that, barring time travel shenanigans or being put in stasis, no one we met in the 23rd or 24th Centuries could reasonably have survived to the 32nd Century. However, synths don’t have such limitations, and as such it’s possible that some or all of the Coppelius synths from Picard Season 1 are still alive in this era.

What happened to them after the events of Picard Season 1 is not clear, and it may be something that Discovery’s sister show plans to revisit. If that’s the case we may not see anything of the synths in Season 4. However, if Picard Season 2 is going in a different direction – as its teaser indicated it might – there could be scope to pick up the synths’ story in Discovery.

The Coppelius synths were under Federation protection by the end of Picard Season 1. But with the Romulans hell-bent on exterminating them, they still appeared to be in danger. It would be very depressing to learn that a subsequent Romulan attack wiped them out, especially after Picard and Soji worked so hard to help them. So I hope that the synths are still around – even if they had to relocate to a new homeworld. They could have joined the Federation by this time, too.

Number 6: The Denobulans

Dr Phlox, a 22nd Century Denobulan.

The Denobulans have thus far only appeared in Star Trek: Enterprise, where main character Dr Phlox was a member of the species. Though friendly toward humanity by the mid-22nd Century, the Denobulans were not strictly “allies,” nor were they a founding member of the Federation – which consisted of Andorians, humans, Tellarites, and Vulcans in its original incarnation.

However, the Denobulan homeworld must have been in relatively close proximity to Earth and Vulcan, and with the Federation coalescing and growing it seems at least plausible that they joined up at some point, especially given their friendly history. If Federation HQ relocates back to Earth in Season 4, perhaps we’ll see more of the Denobulans, who might still be in the vicinity.

Number 7: The Dominion

A Jem’Hadar ship.

The Dominion were the dominant power in at least part of the Gamma Quadrant, and according to their own history, had been so for over two millennia as of the mid-24th Century. After a years-long cold war between the Dominion and Federation following first contact, armed conflict broke out in the 2370s. The Dominion War was arguably the most significant event of the latter part of the 24th Century from the Federation’s point of view, proving far more devastating than incursions by the Borg or earlier wars with the Klingons and Romulans.

Following their failed attempt to invade the Alpha Quadrant, the Dominion agreed to return to their own space beyond the Bajoran wormhole. Odo, a Founder who had lived among Bajorans and humans for decades, reunited with his people, hoping to communicate to them that the Federation would not try to wipe them out nor conquer them. If Odo was successful, this could have set the Dominion on the path to peace.

We simply don’t know what became of the Dominion. The Guardian of Forever was seen in Discovery Season 3, and had relocated to a planet near the Gamma Quadrant. Admiral Vance didn’t mention the Dominion when Burnham and Saru planned to travel there, so perhaps we can infer from that that the two powers are at peace. However, the Burn may have disrupted that peace, especially if it resulted in serious damage to the Dominion – might they hold the Federation responsible for that disaster?

Number 8: The Ferengi Alliance

Rom became Grand Nagus of the Ferengi Alliance in 2375.

The Ferengi initially appeared to be antagonistic toward the Federation following (official) first contact in the mid-24th Century, but they soon revealed their true nature: hardcore capitalists for whom war was simply not worth participating in as it was usually unprofitable. Ferengi society was strictly segregated, with men participating in business while women were expected to remain at home and raise their families.

There were seeds of change in the 2370s, with women’s rights issues coming to the fore in Ferengi society. There were also moves away from unregulated capitalism, with some Ferengi even forming unions and advocating for more rights and welfare. Though such changes surely led to pushback from conservative Ferengi, the appointment of Rom as Grand Nagus may have cemented at least some of these reforms.

Though hardly allies of the Federation, at least one Ferengi – Nog – would serve in Starfleet in this era, bringing a different perspective to the organisation and perhaps bringing the factions closer together. The existence of a USS Nog in the 32nd Century – while intended to be a tribute to actor Aron Eisenberg – could also be seen as an indication of continued warm relations in this time period.

Number 9: The Gorn

A 23rd Century Gorn captain.

The Gorn were neighbours of the Federation by the 23rd Century, and may have been involved in border disputes and skirmishes. There was no indication that they ever joined or even considered joining the Federation, and appeared to maintain a closed-border policy well into the 24th Century.

In the Lower Decks episode Veritas, Ensign Rutherford’s arrival at a Gorn wedding led to him coming under immediate attack by the Gorn who were present, and while this was (of course) part of an extended joke, it certainly suggests that the Gorn were not in any way friendly toward the Federation by the 2380s.

In That Hope Is You, the Discovery Season 3 premiere, Book told Michael Burnham that the Gorn had “destroyed subspace” somewhere in the vicinity of Hima. Perhaps that indicates that they were not allied to the Emerald Chain, nor the Federation – retaining their status as an independent power.

Number 10: Holograms

Index, a hologram seen in Star Trek: Picard.

We saw a number of holograms in Discovery’s third season, confirming that the technology is still in use in the 32nd Century. At least one of these holograms appeared to be intelligent, perhaps even sentient, but that was never confirmed.

In the late 24th Century, the Doctor – the USS Voyager’s Chief Medical Officer – was involved in a court case regarding his ownership over a work of fiction he had created. The court case was resolved in his favour in the episode Author, Author, and Captain Janeway suggested that he might have “struck the first blow for the rights of holograms.” There were other sentient holograms in the 24th Century as well, including a holographic version of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Professor Moriarty. What became of them is unclear!

As with the Coppelius synths, there’s no reason why holograms from the 24th Century couldn’t have survived this long, and one of my most popular theories here on the website has been that Voyager’s Doctor – or rather, a backup copy of him – will make an appearance in Discovery.

Number 11: The Iconians

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

Iconian civilisation flourished more than 200,000 years ago, and by the 24th Century they were believed to be extinct. However, their powerful technology utilised “gateways” to travel vast distances, and it was implied by the extent of the archaeological evidence that they maintained outposts or colonies on many other planets.

The destruction of their homeworld by an alliance of their enemies may have rendered the majority of Iconians extinct, but such a widespread civilisation could have avoided total annihilation, perhaps. The reason the Iconians are on this list is because of their popularity in non-canon works, particularly the video game Star Trek Online. Some elements from non-canon Star Trek publications have ended up crossing over to the main series, so perhaps the intervening centuries saw some kind of re-emergence of the Iconians.

Number 12: The various Kazon sects

Maje Culluh, a Kazon leader in the 2370s.

Discovery Season 3 didn’t establish whether the Federation were able to travel to the Delta Quadrant, nor if they had ever revisited the region since the USS Voyager’s transit in the late 24th Century. Given that warp drive was still the main way of travel, and that maximum warp speeds (as understood in a 24th Century context) meant that the Delta Quadrant would take decades to reach, perhaps they never did.

So we may not find out what became of the Kazon! Similar in some ways to a less technological, less organised Klingons, the Kazon were major antagonists across the first couple of seasons of Voyager. We know that the Borg considered them “unworthy” of assimilation – the only species we know of that the Borg couldn’t be bothered with!

It seems unlikely that the Kazon will have had much impact on the Federation given their distance. However, if they ever succeeded in unifying their disparate sects, perhaps they could have become a regional power in the Delta Quadrant. The USS Discovery’s Spore Drive could take the ship anywhere – even 70,000 light-years away. So maybe if they’re able to travel there, we’ll find out!

Number 13: The Kelvan Empire

Rojan, a 23rd Century Kelvan leader.

The Kelvans are an interesting – and potentially alarming – faction. Extragalactic aliens from the Andromeda galaxy, their technology was far superior to the 23rd Century Federation, and arguably to anything the Federation subsequently developed! They only appeared once, in The Original Series Season 2 episode By Any Other Name, but that shouldn’t stop them making a comeback.

The Kelvan Empire’s home galaxy was facing an extinction event due to rising radiation levels, and they sent out scouting parties to look for new homes. One of these parties encountered the USS Enterprise upon arriving in the Milky Way. Though initially interested in conquest, Kirk was able to convince the Kelvans to consider an alternative proposal, allowing the Federation to help them find new worlds to settle.

If the Federation’s proposal was accepted, perhaps there are millions of Kelvans living somewhere in the Milky Way in this era. Or if it was rejected… perhaps the Kelvan Empire is about to descend upon the Federation en masse!

Number 14: The Klingon Empire

Klingon Chancellor L’Rell.

The Klingons, despite having made so many appearances in Star Trek already, are perhaps the most interesting faction to see return in Discovery. Burnham and the crew are veterans of the Federation-Klingon war, and while I wouldn’t say any of them “hate” Klingons, they certainly would be distrustful of them. How would they react to learning that the Klingons had been allies with the Federation – or even Federation members – for centuries?

I think there’s a lot of potential for conflict, drama, and for Star Trek to do what it’s always done best: use its sci-fi setting to examine real-world issues, in this case, the way we can be guilty of judging groups of people. Characters like Culber, who was “murdered” by Voq, or Stamets, who had to deal with the fallout from that loss, could be front-and-centre in such a story, and it would be absolutely fascinating to see it unfold.

Rather than Discovery making the Klingons antagonists again, like in Season 1, it would be great to learn that the alliance of the 24th Century continued, and that if the Klingons remain an independent power – which they may well be – they’re at least on friendly terms with the Federation.

Number 15: The Maquis

Chakotay, a Maquis commander.

Although Maquis forces were said to have been almost entirely wiped out by the Cardassian-Dominion alliance during the early stages of the Dominion War, at least some Maquis were known to have survived the initial attack. In addition, the USS Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant with a contingent of 40-ish Maquis, including Chakotay and B’Elanna Torres.

It’s at least possible that the Maquis, who were breakaway colonists attempting to secede from the Federation, recreated their society in the aftermath of the Dominion War. While their soldiers may have been killed, we saw no confirmation of the fate of other Maquis colonists. If they survived the war, even in captivity, perhaps they attempted to continue their quest for independence afterwards.

If so, the Maquis colonies may have been independent of the Federation for centuries by the 32nd Century. What kind of society they might’ve developed in that time is not known.

Number 16: The Q Continuum

Q, a member of the Q Continuum.

The Q Continuum are returning in Season 2 of Picard – or at least, their most well-known member is. Perhaps that means we won’t see or hear anything about them in Discovery, nor learn what became of them in the far future. But it’s possible!

The Q are as close to immortal as any faction we’ve seen in Star Trek, so they should certainly still be in existence by this time. Their incredible powers are, as a famous quotation puts it, “indistinguishable from magic,” and Q suggested that the Continuum has existed for at least as long as the universe itself.

The Q seemed to view humanity and the Federation with curiosity rather than animosity, with Q even trying to help Captain Picard to solve puzzles that required different ways of thinking. If this kind of intervention continued, and humans continued to develop their reasoning skills, perhaps they might be on friendly terms with the Q by this time. However, if the Q are able to create matter, they would have been very useful friends to have as the Federation began to run out of dilithium! Perhaps the Q have instead stepped back from actively intervening in Federation affairs, content to watch from the outside.

Number 17: The Romulan Star Empire

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

The existence of Romulans on Ni’Var – the planet formerly known as Vulcan – suggests that the Romulan Empire has disbanded following reunification. It was certainly implied heavily in the episode Unification III that reunification involved all Romulans and Vulcans. But it’s possible that a breakaway faction exists in some form; a “New Romulan Empire” claiming the mantle of the disbanded one.

We’ve already seen what was perhaps the biggest possible reveal for Burnham and the crew – learning that the Romulans are an offshoot of the Vulcans. However, with Ni’Var seemingly on the verge of rejoining the Federation, perhaps there is scope to see more from them. The Romulans remained a distinct group on Ni’Var, with full integration with the Vulcans having not occurred, and there are clearly internal tensions between the three main groups. This could be a story thread that Season 4 picks up.

Number 18: The super-synths

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

We know practically nothing about this faction, despite them playing a major role in the conclusion to the story of Picard Season 1. They don’t even have a proper name! Claiming to be “an alliance of synthetic life” existing beyond the Milky Way, this faction offered to come to the aid of any synthetics who needed them. It was not clear if this offer was genuine or part of an elaborate trap.

I suggested in the run-up to Season 3 that the super-synths could have been involved with the Burn, but that turned out not to be the case. However, if they became aware of the Federation following the events of Picard Season 1, they could still be planning to travel to the Milky Way – perhaps with conquest on their minds.

The super-synths could thus be responsible for Season 4’s gravitational anomaly – perhaps it’s a weapon; an artillery barrage to soften up the Federation before the troops arrive! It would be fantastic for the creative team in charge of Star Trek to find a major way to tie Picard and Discovery together. Whether this is the right way to do it is certainly up for debate, but in principle I like it.

Number 19: The Talaxians

Neelix, a Talaxian chef.

Although the Talaxians are native to the Delta Quadrant, there was at least one Talaxian colony in or near the Beta Quadrant, significantly closer to Federation space. This seems to increase the likelihood that the Federation would have been able to remain in contact with them at least in the late 24th Century.

The Talaxian homeworld had been conquered sometime in the mid-24th Century by the Haakonian Order. Perhaps the Federation, if they remained on friendly terms with the Talaxians, would have wanted to aid them in liberating their homeworld. If the Federation developed the ability to travel to and from the Delta Quadrant at some point in the future, perhaps the Talaxians even joined the Federation!

Number 20: The Talosians

Talosians in Season 2 of Discovery.

The Talosians were a very dangerous people whose telepathic powers were able to trick humans, Vulcans, and other known races into seeing things that weren’t there. As a result of their attempt to kidnap Captain Pike and other Enterprise officers, Talos IV was declared off-limits to Starfleet personnel and the Federation.

The events of The Menagerie, in which the Talosians welcomed Captain Pike back to their world, as well as their general helpfulness toward Spock and Michael Burnham in Discovery Season 2, however, may suggest that General Order 7 – the section of Starfleet’s rules banning travel to Talos IV – may have been reassessed, although no in-universe evidence for that exists.

The surviving Talosians lived underground after their planet was devastated by war, and lost their ability to control their technology, focusing instead on refining their mental powers. In the 23rd Century, Talosian leaders believed their race was doomed to extinction – but maybe the Federation found a way to aid them? If not, perhaps Talos IV is uninhabited by this time period.

Number 21: The Tholians

A 23rd Century Tholian commander.

The Tholians have only made a couple of appearances in Star Trek – once in The Original Series and once in Enterprise. However, they’ve been mentioned on a number of occasions, and despite being antagonistic in the 23rd Century, some kind of diplomatic relations clearly existed a hundred years later.

As one of the few non-humanoid sentient species, it would be really interesting to see the Tholians make a return. An area of space that they claimed as their own seemed to have some kind of gateway to the Mirror Universe – if Discovery were to revisit that setting, perhaps the Tholians could be included.

As to where they might be or what they might be doing by the 32nd Century, that isn’t clear. In the aftermath of the Burn, they could have expanded to conquer border worlds, or they might’ve been a peaceful neighbour or even ally of the Federation in this era.

Number 22: The Vidiians

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

Another Delta Quadrant faction whose reappearance will depend on the Federation’s ability to travel, the Vidiians were an antagonist during the USS Voyager’s journey – but only because a disease known as the Phage was afflicting their society.

In the episode Think Tank, a group of “problem-solving” aliens claimed to have cured the Phage, and if this was true – that was left rather ambiguous due to the way the story progressed – perhaps the Vidiians would have been more peaceful and willing to establish a dialogue with the Federation, especially if they were visiting the Delta Quadrant regularly. Or, due to their relative proximity to the Borg, the Vidiians may have been assimilated!

That may seem like a harsh fate, but in the Picard Season 1 episode The Impossible Box the Borg were revealed to have assimilated at least some members of the Sikarian species, making use of their spatial trajector technology. The Sikarians were present in the same region of space as the Vidiians, so perhaps the expansion of the Borg in the late 24th Century was a problem for them.

Number 23: The Xindi

A Xindi-Aquatic in the 22nd Century.

I recently took a look at the possibility of the Xindi returning – along with fellow Enterprise antagonists the Suliban. Neither faction has been seen since Enterprise went off the air, and their absence suggests that, at least in the 23rd and 24th Centuries, they may have pursued a policy of isolationism.

The Xindi had joined the Federation, however, by the 26th Century, with at least one Xindi serving aboard the Enterprise-J. Whether they remained members in the years after the Burn is not known, and with 90% of Federation members either leaving or being out of contact it seems likely that they would have had to fend for themselves for a while.

So that’s it. A few factions from Star Trek’s past that may be around – in some form – in the 32nd Century!

Captain Burnham in the Season 4 teaser.

This was a long list, so credit to you for making it to the end. Truthfully I can think of at least half a dozen more factions that could have made it, but it was already getting far too long! We don’t know at this stage where Discovery Season 4 is going to go, and thus which factions may or may not be included.

What I would say, though, is that Season 3 had some pleasant surprises, bringing back elements from Star Trek’s past that I genuinely would not have expected. With that in mind, I think there’s potential for any of the factions above to play a role – minor or major – in the upcoming season.

If Discovery Season 4 remains on course, we’ll see it before the end of the year. With Lower Decks Season 2 scheduled to arrive in mid-August and run for ten weeks, we might even see Discovery before Halloween, just like we did in 2020. Time will tell, but I hope you’ll stay tuned for more Discovery news and, when the season is ready, reviews of every episode… and perhaps a bit of theory-crafting!

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is scheduled to premiere on Paramount+ in the United States (and other territories where the service is available) before the end of 2021. The series will arrive on Netflix in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.