The following analysis discusses the third season of Discovery and contains potential spoilers.
On Thursday Star Trek: Discovery returns in an entirely new setting. The show has jumped forward to the late 32nd century via a time travel wormhole opened up at the end of season two. This new era has been touted as taking the show to where canon has not gone before, and for the most part that is true. This analysis takes a look at what we know about the setting to season three and how that might fit in with what canon has established about out Trek’s future history.
Discovery is going “beyond canon”
At NYCC last week co-showrunner Michelle Paradise said moving the show from the 23rd century into 32nd puts the show “beyond canon.” It certainly sets the show well beyond any previous Trek series. The TNG-era shows (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager) and movies were set in the mid-to-late 24th century (as is the new animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks). The first season of Star Trek: Picard is the latest, set in 2399.
Discovery season three takes us to 3188, almost eight hundred years later. As Paradise said last week, this is “some really fresh snow” for them to play in. However, she also noted, “while we are going past it, we also have to honor everything that came before.” Obviously, Discovery cannot ignore the rich history laid out from the 22nd through to the end of the 24th century, and in fact, we know that it will explore at least one element, specifically the Trill (see a previous analysis for our prediction on how that will play out).
But Star Trek canon has also established some of the future history between the 25th and 32nd century, and beyond, especially coming from time travel elements from Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. There are few elements of this that we think are worth discussing, including ideas that fans have suggested could play a part in season three.
The Federation thrives for centuries
It has been confirmed that by 3188 the United Federation of Planets, the unifying multi-planetary organization at the heart of the Star Trek franchise, is “much diminished,” with the stated goal for of season three “trying to bring it back.” However this state of affairs “didn’t happen because of the Federation collapsed in on itself because of disagreement or strife,” but due to an external event called “The Burn” (see a previous analysis for our theory on that).
According to Kurtzman, until this “cataclysm,” The Federation “was as strong as ever.”And Star Trek’s future history bears this out. Via time travel, Enterprise’s Captain Archer witnessed a 26th century with a powerful Federation that included Klingons and Xindi serving onboard a USS Enterprise-J. (ENT “Azati Prime“) The Federation was still going strong in the 29th century, by which time Starfleet even included “timeships,” operated by the Temporal Integrity Commission which was tasked with protecting the timeline. (VOY “Relativity“)
Time travel was commonplace by 31st century
Time travel has been part of Star Trek since The Original Series, but through to the 24th century, it was something usually presented as difficult. By the 28th century time travel became a political problem until the signing of an interstellar Temporal Accord, where the Federation and others agreed to not use time travel to alter history. (ENT “Cold Front“)
However, not all adhere to these accords, and some factions engaged in a Temporal Cold War, including Federation Temporal Agents based in the year 31st, where it was said that the fundamentals of time travel were taught in high school. (ENT “Shockwave, Part II“)
Michelle Paradise alluded to the Temporal Cold War when asked about why they specifically chose to jump forward 930 years for the new season, saying “There are some stories in Enterprise where there is some time travel-y stuff, and this takes us beyond.” Based on what we have seen of season three and these canon events, it’s a good guess that “The Burn” happened sometime around the dawn of the 32nd Century, plus or minus a few decades.
The issue of commonplace time travel is also important. The crew of the USS Discovery are jumping into the future to get the sphere data stored in the Discovery away from Section 31’s Control AI. The method they are using is a “red angel” time travel suit, but it is presented as a one-way trip, so it’s likely the suit won’t be able to take them back. Once the Discovery is safely in the 31st century they will have to establish a reason for the crew to stay, especially if all they need to do is ask the nearest high school student for a lift home.
It does look like they will take on the mission of restoring the Federation, but actors and showrunners have talked about the trauma the crew face leaving everything behind. Surely some will want to return, at least after they get the Federation back up on its feet. So perhaps “The Burn” has somehow prevented time travel, or at least made it far less commonplace.
The Doctor’s backup is also around in the 31st century
There is another piece of 31st century Star Trek history to consider and that is the fate of Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram. Or more specifically, the backup for The Doctor. Around the year 3074 (114 years ahead of Discovery’s arrival), a backup module of The Doctor was activated in a museum on a planet in the Delta Quadrant. (VOY “Living Witness“)
After helping resolve some issues between two warring races on that planet, he was given a vessel to find his way home to the Alpha Quadrant. Assuming time estimates are right, it appears “The Burn” is not a galaxy-wide phenomenon, so it’s entirely reasonable he made it back in time for the Discovery to show up, possibly decades ahead of them.
We know that actor Robert Picardo is game to play the character again, he said so in his most recent TrekMovie interview, giving no hint if he had actually already shot something. However, we don’t rate a Doctor appearance as very likely. While the 31st-century timing creates a thread of a connection, it’s hard to see a story reason to bring in this version of the Doctor. If Discovery’s creative team really wanted a Picardo cameo, there is no reason why the original Doctor’s program (who returned to the Alpha Quadrant in the 24th century) couldn’t be around in the 32nd century in some form. And if they wanted a witness to Federation history, the original would be the better choice. Although, we have already suggested another character could be even better at providing that exposition.
Craft and the V’draysh are in the far future
Another bit of future history fans have been pondering is when the USS Discovery was found abandoned by the future soldier named Craft. At this point, the ship was being run by an AI named Zora who claimed the ship had been sitting empty for a thousand years (Short Treks “Calypso“). Based on all of that, these events seem to be into the far, far future, possibly even the 42nd century or beyond.
But there are still things to glean. It appears that the ship remains functional for quite some time, so even though the USS Discovery is essentially an antique relic when it arrives in the 32nd century, it isn’t going to be scrapped or destroyed. And with co-creator Alex Kurtzman talking about “years” of Discovery to come, it’s not likely we will see the ship be abandoned by this crew in season three… it is in the name of the show after all. Then again, there are always other letters in the alphabet.
More significantly Craft spoke of a war from his time involving a group called the “V’draysh.” Writer Michael Chabon later indicated the “V’draysh” was a term in that time for the Federation, although that isn’t strictly canon. But if the Discovery team chose to treat it as such, it could be that following “The Burn” at least in some parts of the galaxy The Federation changed and evolved, even to the point where it wasn’t even called The Federation anymore.
What say you?
The season 3 premiere of Star Trek: Discovery arrives on Thursday. Are there other elements of future Star Trek history you think may play into season three? Let us know in the comments below.