The big mystery for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery has surrounded the seven red bursts and associated appearances of the entity known as the “Red Angel.” There are only five episodes left in the season and this Thursday’s episode is titled “The Red Angel,” indicating some answers may be forthcoming. So we thought we would take a look at some of the theories.
The Red Angel…
For the purposes of this article, we are assuming the Red Angel is a single individual and it is some known entity from within Star Trek. Why else obscure its identity? Early on, speculation about the Red Angel was all over the place. Possibilities included many classic Trek characters and races including Q, Iconians, Romulans, Borg, Preservers, Organians, Metrons and more. However, these have all been ruled out by observations from Saru and Spock, revealing the Red Angel is time-traveling human, using an advanced suit which obscures its identity. While a number of appearances of the Red Angel suggest it could be female due to its shape, we have also seen representations that Red Angel could be male. So, for our assessment of the various theories, we will not be factoring in gender, and just focusing on a number of human suspects for the Red Angel.
According to Spock, the Red Angel has been traveling through time in order to change the timeline, preventing the impending destruction of all sentient life in the galaxy. While this galactic destruction seems imminent—and possibly linked to Section 31’s emerging AI “Control”—it is not yet known from when the Red Angel is traveling back in time. The only clue so far comes from the episode “Saints of Imperfection,” where it was stated that the probe from the USS Discovery was pulled into a time vortex and sent back from 500 years in the future, then attacked the shuttle that launched it—and it resembed the ‘squid ships’ seen in Spock’s vision of the destruction of all sentient life. Like any investigation, we will be looking at means, motive, and opportunity.
Gabriel Lorca (Prime)
One character who dominated the first season of Star Trek: Discovery was Captain Gabriel Lorca, who led the crew through the Klingon War with his own brand of tough love. However, after a trip into the Mirror Universe, we learned that the Lorca we knew wasn’t the true Lorca, but a Terran who had been swapped with the Prime Universe’s Gabriel Lorca a few years earlier. We never learned the fate of Prime Lorca and while it was implied he was killed on the ISS Buran, his death was never seen. Jason Isaacs’ Lorca was quite popular with a number of fans and he continues to talk up his experience on the show. Bringing him back would be a buzzworthy moment, and showrunner Alex Kurtzman has not ruled out his return to the show eventually. However, Kurtzman has said fans “should not expect to see him this season.”
Judgment: Alibi checks out.
Harcourt Fenton ‘Harry’ Mudd
Harry Mudd has been known to interfere with the crew of the USS Discovery and has a talent for utilizing different forms of technology for his own purposes, be they drugs that make you more attractive, androids, or even devices that manipulate time. He is also known to obscure his identity through masks—or again, with androids. However, traveling through time to issue warnings is off-brand for the known criminal And more importantly, over this recent weekend at Emerald City Comic Con, Mudd actor Rainn Wilson confirmed he will not be appearing in the second season of Discovery.
If a mysterious entity projecting themselves back through time on a prequel Star Trek series sounds familiar, you are probably thinking of the “humanoid figure” (better known as “Future Guy”) who was an important part of the Temporal Cold War in Star Trek: Enterprise. This 28th-century person would project images of himself back through time, using the Suliban to change events in exchange for future technology. Coming from the same century as the modified squid probe brings Future Guy into focus. His motivations were never fully clear, and at times helped Captain Archer. There was even some theorizing that Archer himself was Future Guy. A strike against Future Guy is that at least as seen on Enterprise, he was not able to physically manifest himself back in time, unlike the Red Angel. In addition, it just seems highly unlikely that the powers behind Discovery would make a character from Enterprise as the central focus of the season, with the only caveat that bringing Scott Bakula into Discovery could offer some corporate cross-promotion with the CBS hit series NCIS: New Orleans.
Judgment: Free to go, but don’t leave town.
If you are looking for someone from the future tied to the USS Discovery, you have to consider Zora, the artificial intelligence that became the ship’s sole occupant by the 33rd century, as seen in Michael Chabon’s Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Calypso.” While Zora’s origins were never fully revealed, she appeared to have evolved over the centuries, but possibly not until after the ship had been abandoned by the crew for unknown reasons. While it could provide an interesting connection to Short Treks and offer some balance with Control, who appears to be a malevolent entity, being an AI seems to keep Zora out of the running. One caveat is that in “Calypso” we did see Zora learn to manifest herself as a holographic human with her own identity, and it is possible that in the 33rd century some technology would be available to her to take it to the next step with an actual human body.
Judgment: Person of interest.
No other Star Trek: Discovery character has had their future discussed more than Sylvia Tilly. Her destiny as a future leader has been woven into the show since the beginning, with the second season showing her training as the youngest person ever to make it into Starfleet’s Command Training Program. What better way to show this destiny than to have a future Tilly be the one to reach back through time to save the Discovery and the galaxy? It’s possible this role as the Red Angel is something she pursued instead of Starfleet, as we know subverting expectations is something writers love to do. Besides being an interesting notion, however, there is no actual evidence Tilly is the Red Angel, unless you are counting hair color.
Judgment: Subject for further inquiry.
Last week’s episode “Project Daedalus” was quite the tearjerker, ending with Airiam sacrificing herself as the only way to break the hold that the Control had on her. There is a nice poetry to Airiam being the one to lead the fight against Control. Through the episode, we learned that Airiam used to be fully human into her young adulthood, but was augmented with cybernetics following an accident. While last seen floating in space, the preview for “The Red Angel” hints her body is recovered for a formal burial in space, with the traditional torpedo-coffin launch. Being both dead and not entirely human seems to be two strikes against Airiam; however, this is Star Trek and so resurrections do happen. And it is possible some unknown entity, possibly in the future, is able to revive Airiam and maybe even return her to being fully human.
Judgment: Under surveillance.
We have been mostly been looking at a lot of characters directly related to Star Trek: Discovery, but of course, the world of Star Trek is much wider, with too many human characters to count. However, there is one that is worthy of serious consideration and that is Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Jean-Luc Picard, and not just because he wore command red. Picard is known to have traveled through time on a number of occasions, perhaps most notably to thwart the plans of the cybernetic Borg to prevent them from interfering with human first contact with the Vulcans. Of course, many other characters in Trek are known to dabble in time travel—including James T. Kirk who was considered a temporal “menace”— however, Picard is the only character known to be coming back to headline his own TV show on CBS All Access. One way to hype Alex Kurtzman’s expanding Star Trek Television Universe is to directly tie the season finale of Discovery to the Picard show, coming at the end of this year. Picard might top the list of suspects if it weren’t for Kurtzman dismissing the idea of Patrick Stewart showing up during season two at the New York Comic-Con panel last fall.
Judgment: Known to be in the vicinity.
The Red Angel’s first known connection to any character was to Spock, traveling back through time to his childhood to tell him how to save his foster sister Michael Burnham. The Angel again appeared to Spock as an adult, giving him the vision of the apocalyptic future. The Angel also appeared to Michael Burnham in the season opener “Brother,” giving her hope at a moment of desperation. One could say the Angel has a deep connection to these two, possibly even a maternal connection? Could Spock and Michael’s mother Amanda be reaching back through time to protect her children? This connection gets stronger when rewatching “Brother”; during the flashback of when Michael first met her adoptive mother, Amanda emerges from the house wearing red and tells the traumatized child she “blesses” her. While there can be no doubt that Amanda has the motive, it’s not clear she has the means or opportunity, but one never knows what is lying around on planet Vulcan.
Judgment: Target of investigation.
It is important to remember that the focus of Star Trek: Discovery is always through the lens of the lead character Michael Burnham. The first season explored her redemption arc, from her mutiny through to restoration after ending the war with the Klingons. The second season has explored the relationships with her family, with promises that in the end, it will all explain why she was never mentioned again by Spock, Amanda or Sarek. Throughout the second season, we have seen how many things link back to Burnham, including how Section 31 appears responsible for the death of her parents. The reasoning behind Amanda being a suspect apply just as much to Michael. And let’s not forget Airiam’s final words to Michael before telling her to “seek out Project Daedalus.” Speaking presumably of Control, Airiam told Michael: “It wanted me to kill you. Everything is because of you.” This all adds up to the Red Angel having some connection to Burnham, and there could be no greater connection than it being Burnham herself.
Judgment: Likely culprit.
Who do you suspect?
What do you think of our rundown of the suspects for the Red Angel? Are there any you warrant more scrutiny? Sound off in the comments below.
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