The third season of Star Trek: Discovery has some big mysteries, spawning many fan theories including some TrekMovie.com theorizing. There are a couple of prominent fan theories which have come up on our All Access Star Trek podcast that have some evidence in their favor but we are hoping won’t come to fruition.
Theory #1: Detmer is being taken over by Control
Background: Since arriving in the 32nd century there has been something a bit off with the USS Discovery’s helmsman, Lt. Keyla Detmer. In episodes two and three she has appeared distracted and even a little insubordinate. This began after the ship crash-landed and she suffered a blow to the head which left her bleeding. The injury was to the same side of her head as her cybernetic implant, which itself was the result of injuries sustained when she served on the USS Shenzhou in the series premiere.
In episode two, Dr. Pollard released Detmer from sickbay, but she didn’t appear to have fully recovered psychologically. This got the notice of Dr. Culber, possibly foreshadowing him acting as ship’s counselor. Of course, the crew is also dealing with the loss of everyone they left behind in the 23rd century, along with the aftermath of Klingon War, traveling to the Mirror Universe, and taking on Section 31. In episode 3, Saru acknowledges some members of the crew are coping “better than others.”
So, TrekMovie has assumed Detmer is acting a bit off due to suffering from PTSD. But some fans think there is something more going on…
The fan theory: Detmer’s odd behavior is due to the last vestige of the Control AI finding a refuge in her implant after Leland (who had been possessed by Control) was destroyed in the spore chamber. As her implant isn’t an ideal host, the Control AI has yet to be able to take complete control of Detmer.
The evidence: All of Detmer’s odd behavior in episodes two and three could be seen as someone who is struggling to maintain control. And speaking of control, Detmer’s first line of dialogue this season (during the crash-landing sequence in episode 2) was: “Commander, I can’t get control.”
There is also in-universe precedent. Control had previously taken over the cybernetic character Airiam in season two, which lead to that character’s death.
Zooming out to how Discovery has told stories before, when the show starts to pay special attention to a less prominent character, something nefarious could be afoot. PTSD has also been used as a cover story before. In season one Tyler was supposed to be suffering from PTSD after being a prisoner of the Klingons, and Lorca was supposed to have it after his ship was destroyed, but neither was true: Tyler was a Klingon who’d been turned into a human, and Lorca was an imposter from the mirror universe.
CBS themselves are also fueling this speculation on social media.
Detmer took a rough tumble during the crash. Do you think she's just recovering from the trauma of the trip to the future or do you think there's more going on? #StarTrekDiscovery pic.twitter.com/pI5jiQ33V0
— Star Trek on Paramount+ (@StarTrekOnPPlus) October 27, 2020
Why we hope it’s not true: The whole in-universe reason to jump the show into the 32nd century was to leave Control behind and keep it from getting its hands on the sphere date. If Control followed the crew to the 32nd century, the whole journey was pointless, negating all of their sacrifices.
And we know the storytelling reason for taking the show into the future: to free Discovery of both canon and baggage. “Fresh snow,” is how showrunner Michelle Paradise has described it, and we very much want this to be true.
Also, turning Keyla’s story into a villain’s cliched return after apparently being defeated takes a potentially interesting character arc about dealing with trauma and the consequences of the 930 year jump and turns it into a tired monster-movie trope.
Theory #2: The Burn was caused by a Burnham
Background: The USS Discovery jumped to the 32nd century after receiving warnings from the “Red Angel,” which turned out to be Dr. Gabrielle Burnham, Michael Burnham’s mother who invented the Red Angel time-traveling suit and was stranded in a lifeless 32nd century. Eventually Michael also had her own Red Angel time travel suit made, and used it to lead the Discovery into that future after defeating Control, and changing the timeline.
When Burnham and the Discovery arrived in the future, they learned of “The Burn,” a catastrophic event that occurred over a century prior. Through the first three episodes we have learned that The Burn happened after dilithium supplies dried up, followed by remaining dilithium going inert, leading to the destruction of most starships, the deaths of millions, and the fall of the Federation. Michael Burnham and the crew have set themselves the goal to finding out what caused The Burn, finding what’s left of the Federation and restoring it.
Based on what we have seen, along with commentary from the showrunners, TrekMovie has concluded that The Burn was intentional, and caused by some group or race that at one time was considered an ally of (or possibly a member of) the Federation. But some fans think the culprit was closer to home.
The fan theory: The Burn was caused by Michael Burnham (or her mother), through their use of the Red Angel time travel suit.
Evidence: The first clue comes from the name itself: that “The Burn” is a derivation of Burnham. Perhaps the causal link between Burnham and The Burn was lost over the decades, or it is simply a clue from the writers. Beyond this bit of speculation, there is inference via precedent, based on Michael Burnham’s importance to the show itself.
Season 1 was all about the war with the Klingon, along with a diversion into the Mirror Universe. And Michael started the war, and became famous as a mutineer. She was also recruited by Captain Gabriel Lorca who wanted her with him when he returned to his true home in the Mirror Universe. As Michael was a pivotal character there, he figured he could use her as Emperor Georgiou’s weak spot.
Season 2 was all about the Red Angel, and the person who held the key to the mystery of Angel’s seven signals was none other than Michael’s foster brother Spock. Bigger still, the Red Angel turned out to be Michael’s own mother, Gabrielle Burnham. And when someone had to use a Red Angel suit to lead Discovery into the future, Michael was literally the ONLY person who could do it. In the end it was Michael who sent out all but one of the seven red burst signals, tying her even closer to season’s foundational mystery.
“What is the Burn?” is the stated central mystery of this current season. Therefore—the theory goes—the writers won’t be able to stop themselves from once again making Michael Burnham directly linked to its origins. And if not Michael herself, then her mother, Gabrielle Burnham, keeping it in the family. And let’s not count out dad: Like Gabrielle, Mike Burnham is presumed dead, but maybe he is out there too with his own time travel suit.
Another possible variation on this theory is that even if another party caused The Burn, they were motivated in some way related to Michael Burnham, perhaps in an attempt to thwart her use of time travel. So even if she didn’t do the deed, she was still responsible for it, albeit indirectly.
Oh, and if you want to stretch it a bit more, you can look at how CBS promotes their “What Is The Burn?” mystery by putting Michael Burnham herself right into the question (see social media post below).
— Star Trek on CBS All Access (@startrekcbs) October 20, 2020
Why we hope it’s not true: Simply because it’s just bad storytelling to AGAIN make Michael the reason for everybody’s actions and everybody’s despair. Because it’s a bad play on words. Because it’s boring.
What’s your theory of the case?
Are you a believer in one of these fan theories? Or do you have another to suggest. Let us know in the comments below.
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