Last week we detailed a theory about “The Burn,” and this week we take on another fan theory that we think has some merit. We’re going to go through it step-by-step, building up to the conclusion we think is a pretty good bet.
NOTE: The following analysis speculates about the third season of Star Trek: Discovery and contains SPOILERS.
Who could we meet in 3188?
Via the magic of time travel, Star Trek: Discovery jumped forward 930 years for season three. During two seasons spent in the 23rd century, we saw a number of familiar faces, but all of them were left behind as they flew into that wormhole. The 32nd century has been touted as a blank slate when it comes to canon, giving Discovery room to maneuver.
But the jump into the future doesn’t mean everything is new. Canon still allows for some potential familiar characters to still be around in the 32nd century. And there are a number of intriguing possibilities, but we have one particular fan-favorite candidate in mind. The trailers released so far have shown a number of familiar races including Andorians, Vulcans, and Orions. But there was one race which is new to Discovery and is our first clue for a character that we think is going to make a come back.
Discovery season 3 is bringing back the Trill
When the first trailer for season 3 trailer was released at NYCC last fall, there were a couple of shots of a familiar Federation member race, the Trill. A humanoid species, the Trill were introduced in one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and then became fully realized members of the Federation (with some slight changes) on Deep Space Nine, mostly through the experiences of Jadzia (Terry Farrell) and Ezri Dax (Nicole de Boer), both “joined” Trill who each carried the Dax symbiont.
At the 2019 NYCC panel, co-showrunner Alex Kurtzman confirmed the show would be visiting the Trill homeworld in season three, noting some of the show’s new characters will have to go there for a “very specific reason.”
The Trill are a mysterious symbiotic race
So in the 24th century, the Trill were members of the Federation, but it isn’t yet clear if they are part of the “diminished” Federation of the 32nd century we’ll be seeing in season three. Even within the Federation, the Trill kept their secrets, including initially hiding that a rare few of their race hosted symbionts; a special commission decides who gets to be joined, generally choosing from a group of very young adult volunteers.
The symbionts can live outside of hosts in special pools where they procreate and communicate telepathically (seen as zaps of lighting) with each other and with unjoined Trill “Guardians.”
Two new characters join Season 3, at least one is a Trill
Earlier this month, those “new characters” in season 3 mentioned by Kurtzman were revealed as a non-binary character named Adira (Blu del Barrio) and a transgender male Trill named Gray (Ian Alexander). Gray is described as “empathetic, warm, and eager to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a Trill host, but he will have to adapt when his life takes an unexpected turn.” This means Gray will be introduced as an unjoined Trill. We got our first good look at the character in the Star Trek Day 2020 trailer.
While Adira appears to be human, they still have some kind of connection to Gray. In an interview with GLAAD, Blu del Barrio talked about working closely with Ian Alexander, saying, “It was a joy having him as a partner.” And at the Star Trek Day 2020 Discovery panel, co-showrunner Michelle Paradise revealed that Adira (who gets introduced in episode 3) and Gray (introduced in episode 4) have a “very unique and specific relationship.”
A different take on the Trill, but also “very familiar”
In the Star Trek Day panel, Michelle Paradise talked more about Gray, revealing how the Trill will play a significant part in season three:
Gray is Trill so there’s a whole Trill mythology in Trek that we’re going to be leaning into with this… What’s interesting about being one thousand years ahead is that we can play them in new ways. So you may think that you know a particular species to be a certain way and maybe a thousand years later, they’re a little bit different than you might expect. But at the end of the day, I think it will still feel very, very familiar.
We can see what appear to be symbiont pools in both of the season 3 trailers, likely the Caves of Mak’ala on Trill, first shown in Deep Space Nine. There is also a publicity photo, a nice shot of Michael Burnham in a cave with one of these pools. One detail of note for this image is that Burnham still has her 23rd-century Starfleet badge, so this scene is likely from earlier in the season before she starts wearing the 32nd-century Starfleet badge. A good guess would be it comes from episode 4, which introduces Gray.
Trill symbionts can be very old
It has been established that the third season of Discovery will be set in the year 3188, with the crew jumping 930 years into the future via a wormhole. This also sets the show over 800 years after the TNG era.
Unjoined Trill appear to have lifespans similar to humans. However, while it was shown they can be vulnerable without being joined or within their special pools, there is no established limit to the lifespan of Trill symbionts if properly cared for. In 2367 when Jadzia was joined with the Dax symbiont it was 349 years old, and it was then transferred to Ezri seven years later. Ezri was Dax’s ninth host.
Conclusion: Gray Dax! (or maybe Adira Dax)
So we have an unjoined Trill who wants a symbiont who will be introduced early in the season. The only announced name for that character is “Gray,” with no second name. (Joined Trill take on the symbiont’s name after joining.) Gray is also in the age range that the Trill prefer for hosts. We have a visit to the Trill homeworld and the pools where symbionts live. We have the promise of something “very familiar.” And we have no known upper limit on the age of symbionts.
What does that add up to? Gray will become host to the Dax symbiont.
It has also been suggested that even though Gray is the one who has dreamed of being joined, somehow it is Adira that joins with Dax. It’s possible that even though Adira appears human, they are partially Trill or in some other way able to join with Dax. And like with Gray, the character was only announced with one name. There may also be a hint to this twist with that original announcement, which noted Gray will have to “adapt when his life takes an unexpected turn.” That turn could be Dax joining Adira.
The latest season three trailer also shows a young person that could be either Gray or Adira in one of the Trill pools, surrounded by those telepathic zaps of the symbionts.
Dax is our tie to canon past
All the pieces are in place to join Gray (or Adira) and Dax on Discovery. Of course, there is no definitive proof, that is why this is a theory. However, just like there was a narrative reason behind the theory for “The Burn,” the same is true for bringing back Dax.
Jumping into the 32nd century was done to free the show from the constraints being a prequel. Over the first two seasons, the show often ran into conflicts with established elements of 23rd-century canon, although in both seasons, the creatives on the show reintroduced many canon characters, including Sarek, Amanda, Harry Mudd, Captain Pike, Spock, Number One, and Vina.
The show has always wanted the freedom to do their own thing but also get the benefits of playing with familiar elements of Trek canon, including characters. Assuming they don’t want to entirely give this up, then choices become a bit more limited in the 32nd century, with the exception of immortals like Q (or perhaps some longlifers like Guinan, although we don’t know just how long El-Aurians live).
One of the few possibilities would be Dax. Jadzia and Ezri Dax are very popular characters and the whole nature of the Trill allows for a single character to help tie the past to the new future via the memories of their past hosts. Deep Space Nine often used this narrative device to help fill in elements of Dax’s past lives and introduce us to her past hosts.
There are even multiple ways to allow for the new host to meet past ones. This introduces the possibility of guest-star appearances by either Terry Farrell or Nicole de Boer, so Jadzia Dax or Ezri Dax could meet Gray (or Adira) Dax.
Dax has already appeared in Discovery (sort of)
If we go beyond the television show to the extended universe, then bringing Dax into season 3 would actually be a return for the character. Emony Dax, the gymnast and third host to Dax, was a major character in the latest Star Trek: Discovery novel, Die Standing, by John Jackson Miller. In the novel set in between seasons one and two, Admiral Cornwell pairs Emony up with Section 31 operative Phillipa Georgiou. Over the course of the novel, the former Terran emperor figures out that the Trill are a joined species, something that was still a secret during the 23rd century and wouldn’t be known to other members of the USS Discovery crew.
Of course, the extended universe of Star Trek books are not official canon, but it is worth noting that Star Trek: Discovery: Die Standing was released in July, which is likely around the time that season three was originally planned before the pandemic slowed down post-production.
Nothing says diversity like a Dax
One of the unique characteristics of Dax, especially Jadzia, was flexibility when it came to her sexual identity and preferences. Throughout the series, we saw Jadzia was very open-minded in terms of partners, romantically or sexually interested in people from a number of species (including a Klingon, whom she married). And of course gender wasn’t an issue either, as evidenced by the famed first lesbian kiss in Star Trek history.
Actress Terry Farrell takes pride in this aspect of the character. We reported how at Star Trek Las Vegas 2019 she described the character as “pansexual.” And by the way—she said this a few weeks after production on the third season of Discovery began.
— TrekMovie.com (@TrekMovie) August 1, 2019
And let’s not forget how much the creative team behind Discovery likes to showcase diversity on the show. CBS even sent out a press release announcing the introduction of Gray and Adira, highlighting how they were the first transgender and non-binary regular cast members in the franchise.
And on Star Trek Day, executive producer and co-showrunner Alex Kurtzman had this to say about the Trill:
The Trill have always been a very interesting case study on questions of identity, because you’re carrying so many different identities within one consciousness. And we explore that a lot with both characters. It felt, for a show called Discovery, you always want to be applying that idea to all your characters. Everyone is constantly in a state of self-discovery
Why not Dax?
The bottom line is that introducing Dax ticks a lot of boxes for the show. There are pitfalls, especially with a young actor taking on a role that will get a lot of attention and fan scrutiny. But Discovery has already seen success in introducing canon characters, including giving one a Short Treks episode and three others their own series. And there is even more leeway in this case, as it is well-established that every joined Trill is a new and unique individual, who happens to also share the memories of all those past hosts.
When you really think about it, why wouldn’t they bring back Dax?
What say you?
The season 3 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery arrives in three weeks. Do you buy into the Dax hypothesis? Do you have your own theory for the Trill in season 3? Let us know in the comments below.
Keep up on all the Star Trek: Discovery news and analysis at TrekMovie.com.