Star Trek: Discovery theories – week 8

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4, Star Trek: Picard Season 1, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

After an unexpected sabbatical, Discovery Season 4 returned with the episode All In. If you read my review of the episode, you’ll know that I didn’t think it was the strongest one of the season so far, but it was interesting in some ways and certainly contained some excellent performances from all of its leading stars. Because All In was, in large part, a detour as Book, Burnham, Owosekun, and Tarka scrambled to get their paws on a magical macguffin molecule called isolynium, most of our big ongoing theories didn’t see significant movement this week. That said, there’s still a lot to talk about and a few updates to get through!

There are still some big open questions, and with five episodes left I’m expecting at least some of them to start moving in pretty big ways in the next week or two! For me, the biggest point of interest right now is whether the season’s big stories will connect in a major way with past iterations of Star Trek. There are a few different ways this could happen, but a big part of me suspects that, as with the Burn in Season 3, we’re going to get something altogether new.

This week we have one confirmed theory and one theory on the production side of things that I’m very pleased to see has been debunked! As always, we’ll start there before moving into the main theory list.

Confirmed theory:
The DMA isn’t a super-weapon.

Burnham, Stamets, and Rillak examine Unknown Species 10-C’s point of origin.

Although I felt that the sequence which contained this revelation was cut rather short, Captain Burnham, Stamets, Zora, and Saru managed to figure out between them what the DMA’s true purpose is. Rather than being a super-weapon, as had been originally assumed, the DMA is a glorified piece of mining equipment, or as Captain Burnham put it, a dredge.

Its purpose appears to be to scour the galaxy for the rare isotope boronite – something that was first mentioned in the Voyager Season 4 episode The Omega Directive. Boronite can be used to synthesise omega molecules – one of the most powerful substances in the known galaxy – but Unknown Species 10-C appear to be using it to power their hyperfield – a kind of forcefield or cloak which is concealing their base or star system.

The DMA’s purpose is to harvest boronite, a rare molecule first mentioned in the Voyager episode The Omega Directive.

I really like this angle. If the DMA isn’t a natural phenomenon, which it seemed to be at first, then having it be something other than a weapon adds a different dimension to the story, one which takes it away from being a fairly typical conflict into something more complex – and, I would argue, more “Star Trek.” We’ve talked about the “it was only trying to communicate!” trope in relation to the DMA before, and how misunderstandings have long been part of Star Trek’s storytelling tradition, highlighting the complexities of dealing with very different cultures and the dangers of making assumptions. This side of the story seems to be cut from the same cloth.

This also seems to rule out other theories about the DMA, such as it being an experiment gone wrong. There’s still room for further twists and turns in the DMA’s story, though, so let’s wait and see what happens, and just what purpose Unknown Species 10-C has in mind for all of this boronite!

Debunked theory:
Star Trek: Discovery isn’t going to be renewed for a fifth season.

Phew! I was getting genuinely worried when we passed the season’s halfway point with no indication of a Season 5 renewal. In past years, we’d always known either before the season kicked off or within a week or two of its premiere that the show had been renewed, so when we got further and further in with no official news – and no rumours of production starting quietly – I began to get worried for Discovery’s future.

But in January, while the show was on hiatus, ViacomCBS confirmed that Discovery will indeed get a fifth season – making it the first show since Voyager to make it that far! (Sorry, Enterprise) This is great news, because I’m not ready yet to say goodbye to Captain Burnham and the crew. There’s so much scope for more adventures in the 32nd Century, and I feel like Discovery could continue to expand and explore this setting, perhaps laying the groundwork for more 32nd Century shows.

So those theories were confirmed and debunked.

Now we can jump into the main theory list! As always, we’ll begin with those theories that are either new or that saw significant movement in All In, before rounding out the list by recapping the rest of them.

Theory #1:
Tarka will realise that there’s a tracker on the isolynium.

Captain Burnham placed a tracking device (highlighted) on the container of isolynium.

Tarka is sharp, and more than that he has access to – and the ability to build – clever pieces of tech. We saw this week that he was able to create a changeling-capturing machine out of a low-quality Devore scanner. It stands to reason he’d want to scan the isolynium that Book procured, and if he’s as thorough as we’ve seen him be so far, perhaps he’ll figure out that Captain Burnham placed a tracking device on it.

If so, the signal that Captain Burnham showed off at the end of All In may lead to a dead-end! I’m sure that the USS Discovery will catch up with Tarka and Book – if not, the story would be fairly short and boring, after all – but it may not be as simple as following the map to the cleverly-placed tracking device.

Theory #2:
Tarka’s weapon will be successful.

Isolynium – a key component of Tarka’s weapon.

President Rillak has tasked Admiral Vance and Captain Burnham with stopping Book and Tarka before they finish work on their weapon and use it against the DMA, fearing that destroying the DMA will lead to all-out war with Unknown Species 10-C. The obvious story route from here is that Captain Burnham and the crew will track them down and either talk them out of it or destroy the weapon before it can be used. But that may not be the direction that Discovery plans on taking us.

It could be more interesting in some ways if Tarka and Book succeed in their aim of launching and detonating the weapon, destroying the DMA and attracting the attention of Unknown Species 10-C. Such a highly advanced species – if they’re as advanced as everyone is assuming, anyway – would be a formidable opponent, but they could also be willing to listen to diplomatic overtures. Perhaps Tarka and Book would have to be sacrificed, imprisoned with Unknown Species 10-C as punishment for their crime.

Tarka and Book.

Speaking of diplomacy, in the mad rush to stop Book and Tarka, I certainly hope that President Rillak hasn’t forgotten about trying to contact Unknown Species 10-C. At the very least, now the Federation knows where they are they should send a message warning them of Book and Tarka’s intentions. It might have to be more of a rush job that the Federation would have preferred – but it would be better to at least make an attempt at first contact in case Captain Burnham can’t stop the weapon in time.

Discovery is definitely unpredictable right now, and I could easily see the series taking its main story to unexpected places. Book and Tarka successfully deploying their weapon would be just one example, and it could make the introduction of Unknown Species 10-C all the more intense, exciting, and edge-of-your-seat thrilling.

Theory #3:
Unknown Species 10-C is extinct.

R.I.P.

We’ll talk in a moment about what All In might mean for my Unknown Species 10-C suspects! But there’s one possibility that I hadn’t really given much thought to that suddenly came to the fore in light of the fact that Unknown Species 10-C is still a mystery and, more significantly, that Starfleet has no way of scanning their base/star system. What if Unknown Species 10-C has already gone extinct?

Perhaps they went extinct recently, or perhaps it was millennia ago. The DMA might be Discovery’s equivalent of the Planet Killer from The Doomsday Machine; an automated device left behind, a warning to the real world about the dangers of some of our long-lasting environmental and technological impacts.

Is the DMA going to turn out to be similar to the Planet Killer?

The DMA could even be Unknown Species 10-C’s last-ditch effort to prevent their own extinction. Having used up their entire power supply, they had to build such an imprecise, devastating machine to harvest all of the boronite they could possibly find just to keep the lights on and their machines powered. There could be an interesting analogy there, too.

Because Unknown Species 10-C remains hidden from us going into the next episode, all sorts of possibilities remain on the table. This could certainly be a different and unexpected way to take the story, and perhaps the culmination of the plot would be more of a technological puzzle than a conflict against an adversary, with Captain Burnham leading Starfleet’s efforts to figure out Unknown Species 10-C’s technology in order to deactivate the DMA.

Theory #4:
Nhan works for Section 31.

Nhan.

Spoiler warning for the next episode, Rubicon, but Nhan will be making a return to Discovery! I thought it was unfortunate that she was shuffled off the ship at such an early stage in Season 3; there was scope, I felt, for more Nhan stories. So it’ll be great to welcome her back to the show in just a few days’ time!

One thing struck me about Nhan based on a couple of photos that the official Star Trek social media channels released, and that’s her uniform. Nhan isn’t kitted out in the standard Season 4 Starfleet uniform that the rest of the crew wear. Hers appears to be a new variant, possibly in a similar style to Lieutenant Willa’s from Season 3. There are many possible explanations for Nhan’s uniform, including an assignment at Federation HQ or a continuation of her service aboard the USS Tikhov, but one interesting possibility comes from Nhan’s background as a security officer. Maybe she’s been recruited by the 32nd Century equivalent of Section 31.

Theory #5:
Tarka’s mysterious “friend” is someone we’re already acquainted with.

All In saw a brief conversation between Tarka and Owosekun in which the subject of his mysterious friend came up. There seems to be more going on with this character than meets the eye, though whether Tarka was being genuine in his emotional reaction isn’t 100% clear! It’s a distinct possibility that his friend is, in fact, a love interest or even a spouse, and that could certainly be an interesting development.

The fact that Discovery has gone out of its way to keep this character’s identity a mystery is interesting as well, and one reason for doing so could be that Tarka’s friend is someone who we as the audience have already met. If it wasn’t a big deal, why not just have Tarka say the individual’s name? The more appearances Tarka makes without revealing this character’s identity, the more strongly I feel that it will turn out to be someone we’ve already met.

I put together a short list of possible candidates for being Tarka’s mysterious friend, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #6:
Book and Burnham will get back together.

Burnham and Book in All In.

I have to be honest: I’m not interested in more Burnham Relationship Drama™. Discovery has already done this with Ash Tyler in Seasons 1-2, and it was okay then, but it’s overdone by now. I get where the central conflict with Book has come from, but I don’t feel that the show needs this additional injection of drama to make Season 4’s story work. If I were to cut one aspect of the Season 4 story that we’ve seen so far, it would be this.

So with that in mind, my hope is that the Book-Burnham feud will be brought to an end – and hopefully within the next couple of episodes. Ideally I’d like to see them get back together, although some of the things they said to each other in All In might make that more complicated. If Burnham manages to stop Book and Tarka, perhaps he’ll come around to her way of thinking. If they’re successful in using the weapon, the argument they had will become a moot point. So there are different ways this could go, but I’m hopeful that it will be resolved soon as it’s an aspect of the show that I’m really not wild about.

Theory #7:
The DMA is a life-form.

“It’s alive!”
Frankenstein (1932)

The revelation that the DMA is a mining tool or dredge would seem to make this theory a lot less likely – but I’m not yet willing to strike it from the list. There are several ways it could unfold, but one possibility is that the DMA is a self-aware piece of technology, comparable to Zora. Perhaps it’s carrying out its orders, unaware of the damage it’s doing, and will be able to be reasoned with even if Unknown Species 10-C won’t back down.

Or perhaps the DMA has gone rogue, operating without Unknown Species 10-C’s permission. That would also be an interesting angle, as it could mean that Captain Burnham and Starfleet will have to ally with Unknown Species 10-C to stop the DMA. Some aspects of this theory as I originally formulated it – such as coming to an understanding with the DMA in a story comparable to V’Ger’s in The Motion Picture – seem to be off the table entirely. But the DMA being a self-aware, conscious machine isn’t… at least, not yet!

Theory #8:
Unknown Species 10-C is a faction from a past iteration of Star Trek.

Could it be the Borg?

The revelation of the hyperfield at Unknown Species 10-C’s point of origin was an interesting one. A field that size could conceal a small star system, as Admiral Vance suggested. But it could also hide something like a huge fleet of starships – or giant mechanical aliens. In my view, there are only a few likely candidates remaining from the long list I put together before Christmas. The technology required to create the DMA and the hyperfield seem to rule out factions like the Klingons, the Gorn, and others.

But there are still some known Star Trek factions with the potential capability of building something like this. I would point to the Borg, the super-synths from Picard Season 1, Enterprise’s Sphere-Builders, the Kelvan Empire from The Original Series (who are also an extragalactic faction), and possibly others like Species 8472, V’Ger, the Q Continuum, or the Terran Empire.

How about Species 8472?

I confess that I feel a sense of déjà vu right now. In Season 3, I theorised and speculated about possible culprits behind the Burn, and a lot of the same names and factions were in the frame then, just as they are now. The Burn ultimately went in a very different and unpredictable direction, and I feel that Unknown Species 10-C could end up in a similar place as a brand-new faction altogether. Because of the mysterious nature of the story, and how long it’s been rumbling on, would that feel like an anticlimax? If Discovery encouraged fans to guess and speculate about who Unknown Species 10-C are, would it be disappointing if the answer was “someone new that you could never have guessed?” I can’t shake the feeling that it might be.

For a more detailed look at the suspects mentioned above, as well as a few less-likely contenders, check out my full list by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #9:
President Rillak knows what the DMA is and may be implicated in its creation.

President Rillak, leader of the United Federation of Planets.

I will admit that, as things stand at the end of All In, President Rillak is looking less and less likely to be involved directly with Unknown Species 10-C and the DMA. But there’s still time for a connection to be revealed!

In short, President Rillak’s single-minded goal of reuniting the Federation may be well-served by providing the disparate members with an enemy or a problem to unite against. The DMA has already accelerated Ni’Var’s membership, and President Rillak even got to speak with a representative from Earth – so if she is involved somehow, her scheme is already paying dividends. At the very least, I think it’s fair to say that this complex, somewhat Machiavellian character is not letting the crisis go to waste, and is politicking off the DMA’s trail of destruction.

President Rillak with Captain Burnham on Ni’Var.

In her dealings with Captain Burnham, I’d argue we’ve seen this Machiavellian edge to President Rillak. In the Ni’Var negotiations depicted in All Is Possible, and again for a second time in But To Connect, President Rillak used Captain Burnham to advocate positions that would’ve been politically or diplomatically difficult for her to do openly – effectively manipulating those events from behind the scenes.

In light of all of this, I would hope that Captain Burnham will tread carefully with President Rillak. She seems the type who would happily throw Burnham and the USS Discovery under the bus if it suited her political and/or diplomatic ends. If someone like that felt that unleashing the DMA, or failing to warn everyone that it was coming, would be to her advantage, I can absolutely see her seizing on that opportunity, too. There are myriad ways in which we could connect her to the DMA, even if she didn’t order its creation. She could be in cahoots with Unknown Species 10-C, she could have learned about the DMA and chosen to cover it up, or something else that she believed was in the Federation’s long-term interests.

Theory #10:
Michael Burnham won’t remain captain of the USS Discovery.

Captain Burnham.

One of the unique aspects of Discovery within Star Trek’s broader canon is that the ship has been commanded by four very different individuals across its four seasons. Captain Burnham is different from Saru, Saru was different from Pike, and Pike, in turn, was different from Lorca. It has to be considered at least a possibility – albeit a remote one, perhaps – that the series will continue this trend.

Now that we know that Season 5 is definitely happening, one possibility is that Captain Burnham will somehow leave the ship at or around the end of Season 4, making way for a brand-new commanding officer to take over. Because she’s been the show’s protagonist since Season 1, it seems unlikely, and the overall arc of Discovery between Season 1 and Season 3 can be read as Burnham’s redemption and ascent to the captaincy. But the show’s revolving door of captains may continue.

Burnham in The Examples.

I’m not really in favour of this, but it’s certainly interesting to consider. The episodes But To Connect and All In definitely showed us how conflicted Burnham feels with regards to Book; she’s torn between her duty and the person she loves. Maybe she will have the strength to do what she believes is right during the DMA crisis, but will resign afterwards, unable to contemplate doing the same thing again and wanting to return to her simpler life with Book. This wouldn’t be a bolt from the blue, as we saw her wrangling with these feelings in Season 3.

Alternatively, Burnham could be promoted, taking up a senior role within Starfleet either at Federation HQ or on a new flagship. We already know that she had been in the running for the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J, so maybe she’ll convince President Rillak, through her work on the DMA, to reconsider her for that role. In short, there are ways her departure could be handled in a way that would feel natural – just like Tilly’s departure did earlier in the season.

Theory #11:
The Guardian of Forever will be back.

The Guardian of Forever as it originally appeared.

I’m close to retiring this theory. In short, I had suggested that the reintroduction of the Guardian of Forever in Season 3 could mean that we’ll encounter the timeless entity again in Season 4. It would be nice to bring back Paul Guilfoyle, who played the Guardian’s humanoid avatar in the Season 3 two-parter Terra Firma.

However, it seems as though the DMA/Unknown Species 10-C story isn’t going in that direction. It would make sense, in a way, for Captain Burnham to seek out the Guardian to ask it about the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C – it may well know something about what’s going on that could be helpful. But the best time to have done that would have been earlier in the season. There are still ways in which the Guardian of Forever could be included, though, so although I’m close, I’m not dropping it just yet.

Theory #12:
Tarka will create his own DMA.

Tarka and Stamets with their DMA model.

In The Examples, Tarka – aided by Stamets – created a working replica of the DMA, albeit on a smaller scale. According to Reno, this recreation came very close to destroying the entire ship! Now that Tarka has isolynium, could it be possible that he will create the DMA – either intentionally or accidentally?

Because of the DMA’s wormhole technology, it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to think it could travel through time as well as space, meaning a possible time-loop story is on the cards. It’s got to be at least possible to think that throwing a massive bomb at the DMA could have unintended consequences – if, that is, Tarka actually intends to build a bomb! He might see the DMA’s technology and seek to replicate it, creating his own DMA as a means to break through into the parallel universe he’s aiming to reach.

Theory #13:
Tarka’s “friend” is directly involved with the DMA.

Stamets, Tarka, and Saru with the DMA model.

Though we didn’t learn a lot more about Tarka’s friend in All In, from what we do know about them – their scientific background and desire to travel to an alternate reality – they could be a candidate for building the DMA. Unknown Species 10-C could, perhaps, be a single person, or Tarka’s friend could have worked with them, trading their scientific knowledge for Unknown Species 10-C’s power-generating technology.

Like with President Rillak, there are different ways this involvement could work, and different degrees to which Tarka’s friend could be implicated. But one thing is clear: Tarka knows a lot about the DMA, probably more than he’s been willing to share. That knowledge has to have come from somewhere, right? Maybe his friend told him about this technology before they got separated.

Theory #14:
Book will find Kyheem and Leto on the other side of the DMA.

Book with Leto and Kyheem shortly before the destruction of Kwejian.

In Star Trek: Generations, Captain Picard encountered Captain Kirk inside the Nexus – despite Kirk being declared “dead” after the Enterprise-B encountered the energy ribbon almost eighty years earlier. Now that we know a little more about how the DMA operates, it seems at least faintly possible that, just like Captain Kirk, the inhabitants of Kwejian may not be as dead as they first appear.

This theory is, I freely admit, a bit of a long-shot. But the wormhole technology that we know the DMA uses seems to be capable of sending some of what it harvests or mines back to Unknown Species 10-C’s base of operations. Maybe that means that some of the people from Kwejian were transported there instead of being killed.

So those theories are new or saw movement this week.

Now we’ll recap all of the other theories currently in play! It helps to keep the list complete and in one place, so that we can update and cross off theories as we go!

Theory #15:
Tarka aims to travel to the Kelvin universe.

This scene in Terra Firma, Part 1 referenced the Kelvin universe.

There are many parallel universes, as Tarka reminded us in But To Connect. Though Star Trek has shown us a number of different parallel universes before, the biggest one that comes to mind (aside from the Mirror Universe) is the Kelvin timeline, in which the three reboot films were set.

A fourth Kelvin film may or may not be happening, but even if it does the setting remains ripe for further exploration. We don’t know how far the Kelvin timeline and the prime timeline will have diverged, and whether it operates like the Mirror Universe with every character getting their own alternate counterpart. If it does, perhaps Tarka met his own Kelvin timeline counterpart and that’s how he cooked up this scheme. If the Kelvin timeline diverged significantly from the prime timeline it stands to reason that the Burn never happened there. We also got an oblique Kelvin timeline reference in Season 3 – could that have been a hint?

Theory #16:
Some areas of the galaxy – such as the Delta Quadrant – avoided the worst effects of the Burn.

Adira and Stamets with a map of the Milky Way galaxy.

In But To Connect, President Rillak told us that the diplomatic summit she convened would bring together races from “all four” quadrants. Assuming she was referring to the familiar Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta Quadrants that make up the Milky Way galaxy, this would count as our first mention of the Delta Quadrant in the 32nd Century. I didn’t spot any familiar Delta Quadrant races (or their emblems) amongst the assembled delegates, however!

I had previously speculated that the Burn may not have affected the entire galaxy equally, and that regions farthest away from the Verubin Nebula may have survived without much damage. I still think that this is a possibility – though whether Discovery will revisit the Burn in any depth, or visit the Delta Quadrant at all, remains unclear.

To see a full write-up of this theory, click or tap here.

Theory #17:
There will be a character crossover from a past iteration of Star Trek.

Star Trek has had some wonderful crossovers in the past.

Tarka’s friend could, as mentioned, be someone we’ve already met. But there are other ways to bring back a character from a past iteration of the franchise – and there would be many potential benefits to doing so! I had initially proposed a version of this theory in the run-up to Season 3 that centred on the Doctor from Voyager – but with some creative technobabble, practically anyone could be included, despite the leap forward in time.

Choose To Live showed us the Abronians in cryo-sleep, and Stormy Weather saw the crew of Discovery use the transporter buffer to survive – just like Scotty had done in The Next Generation Season 6 episode Relics. Could these be hints at something to come?

It would also be possible for Captain Burnham to discover the logs or a holographic recording of a long-dead character – and while this would be less of a “crossover,” it could still be a ton of fun and great fan-service!

Theory #18:
Season 4 will connect with the Short Treks episode Calypso.

Zora dancing with Craft in Calypso.

Zora’s status as a member of the crew was confirmed in But To Connect, and this followed her developing emotions and sentience earlier in the season. Zora is now much closer to her presentation in Calypso, potentially bringing the story of the Short Treks episode one step closer.

There are still significant hurdles to overcome if the story of Calypso is to be wrapped up in Season 4, though. Obviously we have the timeframe issue: will the USS Discovery be sent back in time, be abandoned, or is Calypso taking place centuries in the future? Then we have the USS Discovery itself – it’s been retrofitted since arriving in the 32nd Century, and now looks very different to how it did in Calypso. I’m not sure how Discovery will overcome these hurdles – but it’s possible. It feels like a proper link-up with Calypso is edging closer week by week.

Theory #19:
A major character will be killed off.

Spock’s funeral in The Wrath of Khan.

Lieutenant Tilly’s departure in All Is Possible definitely shook up the cast. And Gray’s departure in But To Connect may do so as well. However, I stand by what I said before the season aired: killing off a character can be a great way to demonstrate the dangerous nature of the circumstances that the crew have found themselves in. So far, despite tangling with the DMA on several occasions, only a couple of redshirts have lost their lives.

In Stormy Weather, Dr Pollard raced through the corridors of the USS Discovery to reach a hull breach. Shortly after she arrived, a redshirt was blown out into space – but Dr Pollard survived. Although moments like this can make it feel that Discovery is shielding its main and secondary characters with some pretty heavy plot armour, I still feel that there’s scope to see a major character death before the season ends.

If you want to check out my pre-season “death predictions,” in which I speculated about which characters may or may not be in danger, you can find that by clicking or tapping here.

Theory #20:
The crew will have to defend the Verubin Nebula.

The dilithium planet is vital to the Federation.

Despite having grown to sixty member worlds, the Federation is still in a weakened state and isn’t yet back to full strength. The Verubin Nebula is thus a very tempting target for anyone looking to gain an edge in a galaxy where dilithium is still in short supply. As the only known significant cache of the valuable fuel, whoever controls the Verubin Nebula will have a massive tactical advantage.

It would begin to stretch credulity to think that everyone in the known galaxy would see the Federation rebuilding and having access to dilithium and not want to find out for themselves what’s going on. Once the Verubin Nebula’s existence becomes known, even if the Federation promises to share its bounty with all comers, it seems very likely that someone would want to take control of the dilithium supply for themselves.

Theory #21:
The ban on time travel will be explained in more detail.

The USS Enterprise was able to travel through time using the “slingshot method.”

This one is as much a hope as a theory right now! In short, the ban on time travel was introduced early in Season 3 primarily as a way for the writers and producers to avoid questions about why the 32nd Century was so different from how the far future had been depicted in earlier Star Trek productions, as well as to explain things like how the Burn was able to catch the Federation off-guard and why Georgiou couldn’t simply be sent back in time when she needed to.

But the ban itself raises some issues – the biggest one being the lack of detail on how it works and how something like this could possibly be enforced. As I said several times last season, it isn’t possible to just un-invent a technology so useful and powerful as time travel. Even just a few lines of dialogue going into a little more detail on the mechanisms involved in the ban would be really useful.

Theory #22:
The Federation has flouted the ban on time travel.

President Rillak may have tried to circumvent the ban if she felt doing so would be in the Federation’s interests.

Sticking with the time travel ban, another theory I had last season was that the Federation – and Section 31 in particular – might have deliberately flouted the ban and failed to abide by the rules. Someone as straight-laced and committed to Starfleet ideals as Admiral Vance is highly unlikely to have sanctioned such a move, but there are other Federation leaders – such as President Rillak – who could be implicated.

I don’t think it’s possible any more that the DMA story will be connected to the time travel ban, as I had previously proposed. But that doesn’t mean that a closer look at the ban, and the potential for the Federation to have tried to work around it, isn’t going to happen.

Theory #23:
Saru will be given the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J.

Captain Saru in command of the USS Discovery in Season 3.

Saru’s future was briefly discussed before he offered to serve as Captain Burnham’s first officer in the episode Anomaly. He has already been offered a command of his own, so Starfleet clearly values his command abilities and experience. President Rillak was seen to be assessing Captain Burnham’s suitability for the captaincy of the USS Voyager-J in Kobayashi Maru… and she mentioned having a shortlist of candidates. Could Saru be on her list?

Several of the qualities that President Rillak said she was looking for in a potential captain seem to apply to Saru. He’s more level-headed, less likely to put himself in a dangerous situation, and more inclined to think of the big picture. He has a weakness when it comes to Kaminar, as we saw toward the end of Season 3, but generally speaking he isn’t someone who lets his emotions get the better of him. His wisdom and calm demeanour could be valuable in the captain’s chair of the Federation flagship. This could also set the stage for his departure from the show, or possibly even for a new show following his adventures aboard his new ship.

Theory #24:
The Red Angel suits from Season 2 are connected to the DMA.

Captain Burnham’s Red Angel suit at the end of Season 2.

Unknown Species 10-C seem to be responsible for building the DMA. But it isn’t the first wormhole-creating technology that Discovery has introduced us to! The Red Angel suits in Season 2 were also capable of creating powerful wormholes… so could it be possible that Unknown Species 10-C built their device around or based on the same technology?

This revelation would greatly affect Captain Burnham, as she’d feel a degree of responsibility even though she wasn’t directly involved. It would also be the second disaster in a row (following the Burn) in which the Federation was implicated – albeit in an oblique way. I’m not convinced that Discovery will go down this route… but the similarities in the wormhole-creating technology gives me pause, at least.

Theory #25:
We haven’t seen the last of the Abronians.

I currently have four ideas for different ways that the Abronians – the non-humanoid race that Captain Burnham, Tilly, and the Qowat Milat helped save from cryo-sleep in the episode Choose To Live – could play a further role in Season 4.

Theory #25 A:
The Abronians’ homeworld was destroyed by the DMA.

Captain Burnham believes this image depicts a “supernova.”

After arriving at the Abronians’ cryo-ship, Captain Burnham found a stone carving that seemed to depict the destruction of the Abronians’ homeworld. This carving was only shown on screen briefly, but it seemed to show the planet being damaged or destroyed in a large explosion. Burnham credited the planet’s destruction to a “supernova,” and the story then raced ahead.

Considering that the main thrust of the season so far has been about the DMA, perhaps Burnham was incorrect: the Abronian homeworld was destroyed by the anomaly, not a supernova.

Theory 25 B:
The Abronians’ homeworld was on the “other side” of the DMA.

Abronian stasis pods.

Now that we know a little more about how the DMA works, this theory seems a little more plausible. Its powerful wormhole technology seems capable of transporting matter over many light-years, meaning it doesn’t seem to be a complete stretch to think that the Abronians may have originated in the vicinity of Unknown Species 10-C. They could even be Unknown Species 10-C!

One thing struck me as odd about the Abronians: the Federation was entirely unaware of them, despite the Abronian cryo-ship being relatively close to Federation space – such that Captain Burnham could reach it using Book’s ship in a short span of time. It’s possible that the Abronians had been asleep for millennia, unnoticed by the Federation and the wider galaxy for all that time. But it’s also at least possible that their cryo-ship is a newcomer to the area. If so, perhaps it arrived here via the DMA.

Theory #25 C:
The Abronians will return to help the Federation later in the season.

A deceased Abronian.

One of the themes of Discovery since Season 3 has been connection, including building connections between the Federation and other races and organisations. The Abronians were awoken from cryo-sleep thanks to the interventions of Captain Burnham and Tilly – at least in part – and they may seek to repay the Federation, or Captain Burnham personally, for that help.

We saw this play out last season with Ni’Var; in the season finale Ni’Var ships raced to the Federation’s aid as the Emerald Chain attacked. Perhaps the Abronians will likewise step up to help when the Federation needs allies.

Theory #25 D:
The Abronians’ moon-ship may be useful in a later story.

“That’s no moon…”

The Abronians’ cryo-ship is huge, and at least superficially seems to have the mass of a moon or small planetoid. If Captain Burnham and the crew needed a starship that large, such as to aid in the evacuation of a planet threatened by the DMA, for example, perhaps they’ll return to the Abronians and ask to borrow it.

As we saw in Choose To Live, the moon-ship was in full working order. All it needed was some extra dilithium to power up and it was perfectly capable of moving under its own power, and its computer systems were still functional. The only system that seemed to have failed was the wake-up timer! Discovery has precedent when it comes to telling seemingly one-off stories that have a pay-off later on, so watch this space. If Captain Burnham and the crew need a huge starship urgently, we may not have seen the last of the moon-ship!

So that’s the main theory list.

There is still one production-side theory in play, so we’ll recap that now before we wrap up.

Production-side theory:
Tilly’s departure will be permanent.

Tilly’s departure feels permanent.

Mary Wiseman confirmed in an interview with Wil Wheaton on The Ready Room (Discovery’s social media aftershow) that Tilly will be seen again before the end of Season 4, and we glimpsed her in the trailer for the second half of the season as well. But that doesn’t mean she will return as a main character on the show going forward, and her departure in All Is Possible felt permanent. Despite that, I’ve seen quite a lot of folks online who don’t believe that Tilly is actually leaving the series – so I wanted to put it out there officially and say that, in my opinion anyway, she is.

Maybe those people know something that I don’t! As I always say, I don’t have any “insider information;” all of this is just speculation on my part. However, I feel that the manner of Tilly’s departure, the fact that she got that emotional sequence with Captain Burnham, a montage showing her leaving the ship, Adira seeming to take over several of her roles, and her departure feeling like the culmination of her arc going back to the latter part of Season 3 all come together to strongly indicate that she won’t be back as a major character. She may yet have a significant role to play in a future Season 4 episode, as has been suggested, but unless Discovery’s writers are really playing with our emotions I believe we’ve seen Tilly’s end as a main character on the show. She may come back in a future Starfleet Academy series, though… so watch this space!

So that’s it!

Owosekun in the combat arena in All In.

It’s all still to play for as we move into the final five episodes of the season. There are several key stories to find resolutions to: the DMA, Unknown Species 10-C, the Book-Burnham drama, and more. There’s also plenty of time, in five episodes, for Discovery to take off on a side-mission or two, as well as to introduce completely new and unexpected story elements. It’s even possible that Season 4 will end on a cliffhanger now that we know Season 5 is happening… so perhaps none of the big stories will be resolved until 2023. Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Before we go, one final point. I write up these theories because I like Star Trek and I like writing. But for some folks, fan theories can hamper their enjoyment of a film or television show. It’s worth keeping in mind that most of these theories probably won’t pan out, and we have to be prepared for the fact that even the most well-constructed fan theory, no matter how fun and plausible it seems, simply won’t turn out to be true. If you find that speculating and reading theories is beginning to detract from your enjoyment of Star Trek: Discovery – or any other television show or film – it might be a good idea to take a break for a while.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of 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 – Unknown Species 10-C: The Suspects

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4, Star Trek: Picard Season 1 and the trailers for Season 2, Short Treks, Star Trek Online, and for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise.

Are you as curious as I am about Unknown Species 10-C? Right now, this is one of the biggest mysteries in Star Trek: Discovery’s fourth season – and one of the most tantalising storylines that the series has ever teased us with. We don’t have much to go on when it comes to figuring out who Unknown Species 10-C might be… but don’t worry, that hasn’t stopped me from putting together a list of suspects!

Part of me feels that because Discovery has teased us with so many references and callbacks to past iterations of Star Trek so far this season, Unknown Species 10-C will be someone we’re already familiar with. But at the same time, I keep thinking back to Season 3 and the Burn storyline, and how the ending to that story was something completely unpredictable and brand-new to the franchise. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Discovery go down that road again.

Who is responsible for the DMA?

I successfully predicted that the dark matter anomaly – or DMA for short – was an artificial construct. Even though the DMA was initially teased as a scientific puzzle, it felt plausible verging on likely that Discovery would choose this direction for its main story, so I wasn’t stunned to get confirmation of that in the episode The Examples. The crew are now working on the assumption that the DMA is some kind of super-weapon… but that may not be the case. This is Star Trek: there’s always the possibility that this is an accident, an experiment gone wrong, or other such things!

Caveat time! I have no “insider information,” and I’m not trying to claim that any of the theories on the list below will pan out. I love being surprised by stories that go in unpredictable directions! This list is pure speculation from a fan of Star Trek, and nothing more. It’s also wholly subjective; if you hate all of my ideas or I don’t include your pet theory, that’s okay! We all have different ideas about what would make for a fun and exciting story, and there’s no need for fans to get into arguments about these kinds of things. This is supposed to be just for fun!

With all of that out of the way, let’s jump into the list – which is in no particular order.

Suspect #1:
The Borg Collective

The first Borg drone ever seen in Star Trek.

In The Examples, Admiral Vance listed several factions that Starfleet Intelligence believed would have the technological capability to create the DMA. One notable omission from his list was the Borg Collective – and at this point, we don’t know why that is. The Borg’s technology (at least as of the late 24th Century) was light-years ahead of the Federation’s, and when I think about the most powerful factions in Star Trek and someone capable of creating something like the DMA, the Borg are quite literally at the top of my list.

Admiral Vance may know something that we don’t; the Borg Collective may not exist in the 32nd Century, for example. But the omission of the Borg from his list may be a misdirect, with Discovery’s writers trying to keep the faction hidden until the right moment. A conspiracy theory? Maybe! But it may yet pan out. There have been several direct references to Star Trek: Voyager in Discovery’s fourth season, and Voyager was the most Borg-y Star Trek series. That could be a possible hint!

The Borg are very powerful, capable of building a galaxy-spanning transwarp network and assimilating trillions of individuals across thousands of races. Their ships, weapons, and technology far outpaced the Federation as of their last appearance, and while the DMA wouldn’t necessarily fit with their usual method of attack, we can’t rule out that the Borg’s tactics have changed.

Suspect #2:
The Gorn Hegemony

A 23rd Century Gorn captain.

This stems from something we heard right at the beginning of Season 3 more than a year ago. In the episode That Hope Is You, Part 1, Cleveland Booker told Michael Burnham that the Gorn had “destroyed subspace” for several light-years in the area around the planet Hima. Clearly, then, the Gorn possess powerful weaponry in the 32nd Century, capable of damaging subspace – and we know that the DMA is capable of tearing subspace too.

This was a throwaway line – but it proves that the Gorn are still active in the 32nd Century, and that while the Burn may have impacted their society, it clearly wasn’t stopping them from conducting experiments or weapons tests – whatever it was they did that “destroyed” part of subspace. The Gorn have also been shown as antagonistic toward the Federation in their handful of appearances to date, meaning that they can certainly be argued to have motive.

On the production side of things, the Gorn are a relative unknown. They could thus be brought into a range of different stories in very different ways, allowing Discovery’s writers and producers a lot of wiggle room to tell the kind of story they want to tell while simultaneously harkening back to the very first season of The Original Series. Interestingly, Admiral Vance proposed the Metrons as one of the suspects on his list – and it was the Metrons who pitted Captain Kirk against the Gorn captain in Arena.

Suspect #3:
The Kelvan Empire

Hanar, a member of a 23rd Century Kelvan Empire expedition.

The Kelvan Empire’s first and only appearance to date came in the second season of The Original Series. A powerful faction from the Andromeda Galaxy, the Kelvan Empire was in search of a new home due to an environmental disaster – and they had their sights set on the Milky Way for conquest.

Captain Kirk was able to convince a Kelvan delegation that peaceful co-operation might be better, and promised Federation aid to help them find new worlds to settle. This offer was transmitted to the Andromeda Galaxy via an unmanned starship that would take centuries to complete the intergalactic voyage. Whether the leaders of the Kelvan Empire would be open to such co-operation, however, isn’t clear.

If the Kelvan Empire rejected the Federation’s offer and set out to conquer the Milky Way, the timelines kind of line up for this faction to return. In The Original Series their technology was incredibly powerful, giving them the ability to reduce organic beings down to their base minerals – then restore them to life – using a powerful field projection weapon. The Kelvan Empire was clearly far more advanced than the 23rd Century Federation, and may be capable of creating a weapon on the scale of the DMA.

Suspect #4:
The Dominion

Weyoun, a 24th Century Dominion leader, with a Jem’Hadar warrior.

The introduction of Federation President Rillak – who is part-human, part-Bajoran, and part-Cardassian – has given us the first tidbits of information about what happened in the aftermath of the Dominion War. Though not stated outright, Captain Burnham’s comments in the episode All Is Possible seem to confirm that the Cardassians, Bajorans, and Federation have been at peace. But what of the Dominion?

The Dominion had existed for millennia prior to first contact with the Federation, and in many ways possessed technology that was at least slightly superior. It took the combined forces of the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans (with no small amount of help from the Prophets) to push the Dominion out of the Alpha Quadrant, so they’re clearly a strong and powerful faction. But after their defeat in the Dominion War, we don’t know what became of them.

Behind the Bajoran Wormhole, the Dominion may well have retained much of its territory. Perhaps, despite the best efforts of Odo, they sought to regroup and focused on developing new and powerful weapons. Or perhaps their dreams of peaceful coexistence were shattered by the Burn – an event emanating from Federation space and for which they may blame the Federation.

Suspect #5:
The Sphere-Builders

A Sphere-Builder seen in Star Trek: Enterprise.

The Sphere-Builders were an extradimensional faction who fought in one of the Temporal Wars. They attempted to use a large network of spherical space stations in a region of space called the Delphic Expanse to convert a large swathe of the Milky Way to match their native realm; they were unable to survive in our dimension.

Crewman Daniels told Captain Archer that the Sphere-Builders were eventually defeated in the 26th Century, but it’s not impossible to think that they were able to rebuild in the centuries after that climactic battle. It’s also interesting to note that the scale model of the DMA controller that Stamets and Ruon Tarka built in the episode The Examples was spherical in shape.

The DMA isn’t a perfect match for what the Sphere-Builders were trying to do in Enterprise – but we still don’t know exactly what the DMA’s purpose is, and it may have some hidden function that we aren’t aware of yet. The Sphere-Builders were clearly a very powerful faction, capable of constructing huge self-powered space stations, meaning that the DMA is certainly something they would be capable of creating.

Suspect #6:
The super-synths from Star Trek: Picard

Some very menacing synthetic tentacles.

Because of the somewhat rushed ending to Picard Season 1, we never got to find out much about the faction I’ve dubbed the “super-synths.” Similar in some respects to the Reapers from the Mass Effect video games, this powerful alliance of synthetic life claimed to want to help other synthetics… but was their offer genuine?

The super-synths possessed very powerful technology, and when considering the DMA, which has powerful gravitational effects, one very important thing to note is that the super-synths have experience with gravity and with huge power sources. They were capable of literally moving stars, creating an artificial eight-star octonary system to serve as a guide for synths.

In the Picard Season 1 finale we caught a very brief glimpse of some menacing-looking synthetic tentacles… but that was all we saw. One thing I find very interesting in the aftermath of Picard Season 1 is that the super-synths may now be aware of the existence of the Milky Way, the Federation, the Romulans, and the Coppelius synths – potentially giving them a reason to come here.

Suspect #7:
The Klingon Empire

Kol, a 23rd Century Klingon warrior.

We haven’t heard so much as a growl from the Klingons since Captain Burnham and Discovery arrived in the 32nd Century, so we don’t know what became of the Federation-Klingon alliance that we saw in the late 24th Century. Did it endure? Did the Klingons perhaps even join the Federation at some point? Or did the two powers drift apart and resume their rivalry?

We’ve seen the Klingons as villains in Discovery before, during the Federation-Klingon War depicted in Season 1. It would be interesting in some ways to return to that, and as veterans of that conflict the crew of Discovery could play a key role in battling the Klingons if the Federation hadn’t had to fight them for a long time.

As above with the Dominion, the Klingon Empire may blame the Federation for the Burn. The DMA could be their way of retaliating – or beginning to retaliate. The DMA could be seen as a kind of artillery barrage, designed to soften up the Federation before a larger-scale attack or invasion. The Klingon Empire may well employ tactics like that.

Suspect #8:
The First Federation

The USS Enterprise and a First Federation starship.

Another classic faction from The Original Series, the First Federation was first encountered by Captain Kirk in the episode The Corbomite Maneuver. The faction was clearly very powerful, possessing technology that far outpaced Starfleet in the 23rd Century. A single member of the First Federation was able to control a massive starship and disable the USS Enterprise during their first encounter.

The First Federation was implied to be much older than Starfleet and the Federation, and I’ve always had the sense that we only saw a fraction of the power Balok had at his disposal; the First Federation seem capable of far more destructive feats than we ever saw. Though relations with the First Federation seem to have been good, with trade happening well into the 24th Century, it’s possible that things changed.

The Burn is one potential catalyst for a souring of relations with the First Federation, and if they wanted to attack, they would appear to be more than capable of creating a weapon on the scale of the DMA.

Suspect #9:
Species 8472

A Species 8472 pilot seen in Star Trek: Voyager.

Species 8472 (also known in non-canon works as the Undine) are a race native to an extradimensional realm known as fluidic space. Fluidic space was notable for being entirely comprised of organic compounds, and Species 8472 were the only known native inhabitants. In the late 24th Century the Borg attempted to assimilate them – but they were able to fend off the attempt with ease.

There have been several references to Star Trek: Voyager in Discovery’s fourth season so far, so maybe those are teasing us with a more significant crossover! The last time the crew of Voyager encountered Species 8472 they were seemingly able to make peace… but was that peace destined to last?

Species 8472 were known to use organic technology that the Federation had a difficult time dealing with. They were also capable of creating non-organic technologies that could rival – or even surpass – 24th Century Starfleet, and they had the ability to change their forms so they could appear to be humanoid. We don’t know what became of Species 8472 after the events of Voyager – but in Star Trek Online they were a major antagonistic faction.

Suspect #10:
The Terran Empire

Planting the flag of the Terran Empire.

In the Season 3 episode Die Trying, Dr Kovich explained to Georgiou that it had been more than five centuries since there had been any contact between the Prime and Mirror Universes; the two universes had been slowly drifting apart. Perhaps the DMA is not so much a weapon as an attempt to re-open that link, one created by the Terran Empire – or their descendants.

The Terran Empire had fallen by the mid-24th Century, with Terrans being enslaved by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance at that time. But it’s been a long time since then, and when we last saw the Mirror Universe, a Terran rebellion was in full swing. Perhaps over time the Terrans re-established their empire.

Alternatively, the Terran Empire of the 23rd Century could have attempted to break through to the Prime Universe, maybe intending to conquer the Federation. But for sci-fi reasons, instead of emerging in the 23rd Century they’ll emerge in the 32nd. After all, these kinds of technologies rarely work as intended in Star Trek!

Suspect #11:
The Q Continuum

“The trial never ends…”

I wouldn’t have placed the Q Continuum under suspicion but for the fact that Admiral Vance rather nonchalantly mentioned them and then immediately ruled them out. Maybe they should be ruled out – this behaviour seems rather un-Q-like, after all – but what if it was a double-bluff from the writers?

Admiral Vance told us in The Examples that there had been no contact between the Q Continuum and the Federation for 600 years – but that doesn’t mean that the Q are gone. They’re essentially immortal and timeless, capable of travelling through time with ease. The fact that they haven’t been encountered for centuries is hardly odd under the circumstances – and no reason to rule them out altogether.

Q – by which I mean the individual who tangled with Captains Picard, Sisko, and Janeway – loved to tease and toy with humanity, but he always seemed to do so with purpose. Presenting humans with a puzzle to figure out wasn’t solely for Q’s amusement – he and the Q Continuum saw potential in humanity and in their own way sought to push us in a particular direction. Perhaps the DMA is another Q puzzle – and figuring it out will lead to some profound moment for Captain Burnham and the entire Federation.

Suspect #12:
V’Ger

An away team from the USS Enterprise at the heart of V’Ger.

First encountered in The Motion Picture, V’Ger was a being of immense power – unparalleled at the time, and far beyond the scope of many civilisations. Much like the DMA, V’Ger was also massive in size, weighing in at a whopping 2AU – double the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

After its encounter with Admiral Kirk, Captain Decker, and Ilia, V’Ger evolved and disappeared – but at the end of the film, Captain Kirk very prominently chose to list Decker and Ilia not as “killed in action,” but simply as “missing,” hammering home the point that we don’t really know what became of them – nor of V’Ger itself.

The Motion Picture is one of my favourite Star Trek films for its deliberately slower pace and more ethereal storyline. The return of V’Ger after almost a millennium would be fascinating – where might it have gone, and what could it have learned in all those years? What were the outcomes of its merging with Decker and its evolution? These questions were left open as the credits rolled on The Motion Picture… maybe we’re about to get some answers.

Suspect #13:
Section 31

A black Section 31 badge in the mid-23rd Century.

Section 31 is the off-the-books division of Starfleet Intelligence, a powerful but hidden faction that we’ve seen do some very questionable and even evil things on occasion. Section 31’s technology has always been depicted as being streets ahead of Starfleet’s – they got combadges in the 23rd Century, for example, decades before those communicators would be available to the rest of Starfleet.

A return to Section 31 would connect Season 4 back to the events of Season 2, which featured the shadowy organisation prominently in its storyline. Section 31 seems more than capable of creating something like the DMA – but at the moment we don’t know what motive they would have. If it was intended as a weapon, why target friendly worlds?

Perhaps the DMA is a Section 31 experiment or weapon that has gotten out of control – but this would arguably be too similar to the Control storyline from Season 2. Regardless, Section 31 seems quite capable of creating something like the DMA.

Suspect #14:
Dr Kovich

Dr Kovich in The Examples.

This is directly connected to the theory above, as part of me is still convinced that the mysterious Dr Kovich works for – or is perhaps the head of – Section 31.

Kovich’s presentation in Seasons 3 and 4 of Discovery is rather unusual by Starfleet standards. He seems to be skilled in a number of fields from psychology to intelligence, and we’ve seen him in a variety of different roles. The one thing his positions seem to have in common is power – he’s connected to Admiral Vance right at the head of Starfleet, he’s able to appoint Starfleet Academy instructors of his own accord, he’s seen debriefing powerful people for Starfleet Intelligence… the list goes on.

If Section 31 is involved with the DMA, I would bet money that Dr Kovich is, too. In fact, he isn’t really a suspect on his own unless Section 31 is behind the DMA, so we really have to take these two entries together!

Suspect #15:
The Control AI

Captain Leland became the Control AI’s human avatar.

Control was the main villain during Discovery’s second season. A powerful artificial intelligence, Control coveted the Sphere data that now resides aboard the USS Discovery, believing that merging its programming with the data would allow it to achieve true sentience. It became murderous during its single-minded pursuit of the Sphere data – and is responsible for Captain Burnham and the crew travelling forward in time.

The exact circumstances of Control’s defeat are somewhat muddled, and the Season 2 finale seemed to imply that the death of Leland – who had been “assimilated” by Control’s nanites – crippled or even killed Control. Its servers will have been taken offline by Captain Pike, Ash Tyler, and the survivors of the battle… but could there be a way for Control to have survived?

From a storytelling point of view, there’s something interesting about a narrative that comes full-circle. Defeating Control saved the future – but perhaps its defeat was less final than we might’ve thought. We still don’t really know why Control wanted to exterminate all sentient organic life in the galaxy, either – was there a flaw in its programming, or was there something else going on?

Suspect #16:
Zora

Zora is the USS Discovery’s AI.

Sticking with an AI theme, we first met Zora in the Short Treks episode Calypso. Zora was created by the merging of the Sphere data with the USS Discovery’s computer, and we’ve since had several very interesting moments with Zora making decisions independently.

In the episode There Is A Tide, Zora teamed up with Tilly and the bridge crew to help retake the USS Discovery and defeat the Emerald Chain. But was this as altruistic as it seems – or was it simply the AI’s attempt at self-preservation? The mere pursuit of the Sphere data was enough to send Control into a murderous rampage… and the truth is that Captain Burnham and the rest of Starfleet simply don’t know what the long-term effects will be of the Sphere data’s merger with Discovery’s computer.

In The Examples we learned that Zora has begun to develop emotions – and emotions can lead to instability, especially when brand-new. Look at what happened to Data, for example, when he first received his emotion chip. Or look at Lore and Sutra as examples of AIs with “evil” personalities.

Suspect #17:
A faction from the Temporal Wars

A Na’kuhl, one of the participants in the Temporal Cold War.

Season 3 introduced us to the Temporal Wars, a series of conflicts that wrapped up in the years prior to the Burn. The Temporal Cold War – which seems to be connected – was depicted in Star Trek: Enterprise, with the time-travelling Crewman Daniels enlisting Captain Archer’s help on several occasions.

There have been several references to Enterprise this season, with the familiar musical sting from Archer’s Theme bringing a tear to my eye in the episode Kobayashi Maru. Perhaps these callbacks have, in fact, been teasing something big in the story that lies ahead?

There are several different factions that participated in the Temporal Cold War that we saw in Enterprise, and the Temporal Wars themselves may well have introduced others. Any of these could be implicated in the DMA – it may represent an attempt to weaponise time travel and circumvent the time travel ban.

Suspect #18:
The United Federation of Planets

A group of 32nd Century Starfleet cadets.

I don’t believe for a moment that the Federation would deliberately create the DMA as a super-weapon. Section 31 absolutely would, but not Starfleet. However, the DMA may not be a weapon. One thing Discovery has come back to time and again since Season 3 is the dilithium shortage. The discovery of the Verubin Nebula may provide a short-to-medium term fix, but eventually the galaxy is once again going to run out of dilithium; it’s a finite resource.

In addition to the SB-19 project that we heard about in the episode Unification III, we’ve heard of several other Federation experiments to create alternatives to warp drive – some of which are still ongoing as of Season 4. The DMA appears to have some kind of connection to wormholes, as it was able to disappear and reappear more than a thousand light-years away in an instant. What if the DMA is an out-of-control experiment?

If this is the case, we’d expect someone to realise what was happening sooner rather than later. But it would be a very interesting story indeed if the DMA was the Federation’s responsibility – even if they didn’t intend to unleash it.

Suspect #19:
President Laira Rillak

President Rillak in the episode Choose To Live.

President Rillak is a wonderfully complex character who’s made a fine addition to Discovery. She’s also the kind of hard-nosed politician whose schemes border on the Machiavellian. Despite a recent détente with Captain Burnham, be under no illusions: President Rillak will happily throw Burnham and the USS Discovery under the bus if she believes doing so will suit her purposes.

A leader like that might very well sanction a dangerous experiment if she believed doing so would be to the Federation’s advantage. Maybe the DMA was intended to be a defensive weapon, maybe it was intended to destroy a threat to the Federation’s very existence, or maybe it was an attempt to travel faster-than-light without dilithium. Regardless, if such an experiment got out of control, you can bet your boots that President Rillak would try to cover it up.

If we think even more cynically – like a Covid-denying, flat-earther conspiracy theorist – maybe President Rillak ordered the creation of the DMA on purpose. Re-unifying the Federation is her main goal, and one way that people are known to come together is in the face of imminent danger. By unleashing the DMA onto the galaxy, perhaps President Rillak sought to bring ex-Federation members back into the fold. If so, it’s already paying dividends for her.

Suspect #20:
Ruon Tarka (and Paul Stamets)

Tarka and Stamets with their DMA model.

In the episode The Examples, Tarka and Stamets constructed a scale model of the DMA for research purposes – and according to Reno, came very close to destroying the entire ship. If they continue these experiments, perhaps they’ll end up creating the DMA by accident.

In order for this story to come to pass, we’d have to go down the dreaded time-loop route – and personally I really don’t like time-loop paradox stories! So I have to admit that I’m not too keen on this one… but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility!

Because we know that the DMA has some kind of impact on spacetime, as well as potentially containing a wormhole, the prospect of time travel arises. It doesn’t seem impossible, based on what we know at this stage, for the DMA to travel backwards through time, perhaps emerging months in the past – kicking off the events that would lead to its own creation. It would be a complicated story, and one that would be difficult to get right, but we’ve seen Discovery tackle time travel on multiple occasions already.

Suspect #21:
Admiral Picard and the crew of La Sirena

Admiral Picard and his new crew in Picard Season 1.

Star Trek: Picard Season 2 is going to have a major time travel element to its storyline, with Picard and his new crew seemingly intent on chasing Q back to the 21st Century. If there’s one thing you can rely on in Star Trek it’s this: time travel seldom goes according to plan!

Admiral Picard would never willingly unleash something like the DMA… unless he had no choice. But if it was an unintended consequence of time travel gone wrong, maybe it’s possible that he and the crew of La Sirena are responsible. Perhaps Captain Burnham and the USS Discovery will break through to the centre of the DMA to find La Sirena sitting there.

If Picard Season 2 unfolds as its trailers suggest, the Admiral and crew will travel back in time to the 21st Century in order to “save the future” from whatever’s gone wrong to damage the timeline. But after their adventures in 21st Century Los Angeles they’ll have to get home – and it’s the return trip that could go awry, somehow sending the DMA – and perhaps them along with it – into the 32nd Century. A long-shot? Maybe. But it would be so interesting to see a proper crossover between Picard and Discovery.

Suspect #22:
Captain Michael Burnham

Captain Burnham in the episode Anomaly.

Captain Burnham has done nothing wrong, and there’s nothing at all in the story to suggest she would intentionally or unintentionally unleash something like the DMA upon the galaxy. But this is Star Trek: Discovery – so there’s always a chance that the show will put Captain Burnham at the centre of its main story!

The only way to really pull this off without dragging Captain Burnham’s character through the mud would be to have the responsibility lie with a parallel universe version of her, or perhaps some kind of evil clone. I don’t necessarily consider these to be likely, but with Discovery and Burnham, I don’t think we can entirely rule it out, either.

From a narrative perspective, having Burnham being in any way responsible for the DMA would have significant implications for practically all of the main characters – especially Book, whose homeworld was destroyed in the episode Kobayashi Maru. Would he hold her responsible, even if the blame lay with someone from an alternate reality?

Suspect #23:
The Red Angel suit

Michael Burnham in her Red Angel suit.

The Red Angel suits were powerful time-travel machines created in Season 2. The first Red Angel suit took Dr Gabrielle Burnham to the 32nd Century, and from there she used it to make numerous interventions back in time, trying to thwart Control. The second suit was built by the crew of the USS Discovery and used by Captain Burnham to lead the ship into the future.

One of the key similarities – at least on the surface – between the Red Angel suits and the DMA is the presence of something akin to a wormhole. The DMA – according to Stamets and Ruon Tarka, anyway – may contain a synthetic wormhole of some kind, and what did the Red Angel suit create at the end of Season 2? A time-wormhole.

For a 23rd Century device, the Red Angel suit was incredibly powerful, capable of dragging an entire starship in its wake. With some modifications, perhaps, or increased power, who knows what it might be capable of? This would be a way to connect the DMA to Captain Burnham without making the damage it’s caused her fault.

Suspect #24:
Independent Earth

The USS Discovery in orbit over Earth in Season 3.

Season 3 took the crew back to Earth – but the planet was not how they expected to find it! In the aftermath of the Burn, Earth had withdrawn from the Federation and was pursuing a policy of aggressive isolationism. Though Saru, Burnham, and the rest of the crew were able to help patch up relations between Earth and a human colony on Titan (which was referenced in the Season 4 episode All Is Possible) there was no indication that Earth was willing to abandon its independent status.

The Season 3 epilogue told us that Trill had rejoined the Federation, and in Season 4 we’ve also seen Ni’Var come back into the fold. But there hasn’t been any mention of Earth – as far as we know at this stage, its self-imposed isolation from the wider galaxy continues.

It’s possible that the leaders of Earth might’ve built a super-weapon for defensive purposes, but equally they could’ve been experimenting with faster-than-light travel or power generation, and the DMA is an experiment that got out of control. There could be an interesting allegory if Earth were to be identified as the culprits, leading to a story about the dangers of such an isolationist policy and trying to go it alone.

Suspect #25:
It’s alive!

Frankenstein (1931)

“They were only trying to communicate!” has become a Star Trek trope at this point, often used to describe how the seemingly-aggressive actions of an alien or entity were not intended maliciously. Perhaps the DMA, despite seeming to be artificial, is in fact a life-form in its own right.

We talked about V’Ger a moment ago, and the DMA could be something similar. Perhaps it was once an artificial construct, but has since become sentient. It may not have intended to cause harm or damage, but was simply exploring or even trying to make contact with the Federation.

This would be an inversion of the story we’re currently expecting. Instead of having a villainous enemy to defeat, Captain Burnham and the crew would instead make first contact with a very different life-form. Perhaps the DMA needs help, and despite the destruction of Kwejian and all the other damage it’s done, the crew would have to step up and offer assistance. There are many, many ways to make an interesting story out of this premise!

Suspect #26:
Someone entirely new

Who could it be?!

It could well be the case that, despite all of the callbacks and teases from past iterations of Star Trek, Discovery will introduce us to someone brand-new. This was the storytelling route taken by Season 3 with the Burn, and also in Picard Season 1 with the introduction of the super-synths. In both cases, a mystery that could have led us to a familiar faction ended up introducing us to someone entirely new.

As mentioned in the introduction, a big part of me feels that this is the way Season 4 will go. Any such faction or individual would naturally be impossible to predict – just like it would’ve been impossible to predict Su’Kal’s involvement with the Burn right up until his introduction near the end of Season 3.

Having had so many references and callbacks to past iterations of the franchise, and with Discovery practically begging us to theorise and speculate about the DMA and Unknown Species 10-C, it might end up feeling a tad anticlimactic if we once again get someone brand-new that we couldn’t have anticipated. But we’ll have to wait and see, and try to keep a lid on the disappointment if the series ultimately ends up here.

So that’s it.

A scale model of the DMA.

We’ve listed a whopping twenty-five possible suspects – and maybe you can think of more! Who would be the weirdest, most left-field culprit that you could think of? Ensign Mariner from Lower Decks, perhaps? Or how about Grudge the kitty cat?

The DMA and Unknown Species 10-C have piqued my curiosity right now, and I truly can’t wait for Friday’s episode to see what other clues we might get. In a way I hope I haven’t guessed the culprit already so that Discovery can continue to take me on a wild and unpredictable ride! Season 4 has been great so far, and its central mystery has proven truly interesting. Hopefully the resolution to the story will do justice to an engaging mystery that has been carefully crafted and beautifully set up.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 is available to stream now on Paramount+ in the United States, Scandinavia, Latin America, and Australia. The show is on Pluto TV in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and other parts of Western Europe at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Individual episodes or the full season can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon Video, and possibly other platforms in the UK, parts of Europe, and select other countries. The Star Trek franchise – including Discovery and all other properties mentioned above – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.