The following analysis has spoilers (and potential spoilers) for Discovery season three.
With eight episodes behind us, we are over halfway through the thirteen-episode third season of Star Trek: Discovery, so we thought we would take a moment to assess where we are in terms of the various mysteries and theories introduced this season.
Before we get into the open questions, let’s first tick off a few mysteries that appear to have already been wrapped up.
- USS Discovery captain: Saru.
- Starfleet and the Federation: Found but diminished.
- Detmer’s condition: Apparently just PTSD and dealing with it.
- Burnham’s mother: Found on Ni’Var, with the Qowat Milat.
- Connection to Temporal Cold War: War long over, time travel now banned.
But there are still a number of mysteries that remain to be solved:
Known: Even before the season began, “What is The Burn?” had been presented as a central mystery for the season, and we had a theory too. Turns out we were right about how The Burn impacted warp travel; it wasn’t The Omega particle, though, but that all dilithium became “inert” sometime in the late 31st century. And this happened after dilithium became very scarce, forcing Starfleet and others to search desperately for alternatives. The Vulcans believe their research into an alternative to warp travel caused it, although Burham’s research indicates this may not be true. And as of episode eight, an origin point for The Burn had finally been located.
Unknown: We can’t yet say we truly know what caused The Burn. It’s not even clear how widespread it was and if it impacted the whole galaxy or just the immediate area around the Federation. We can eliminate some suspects, including Gabrielle Burnham. But it is still not entirely clear if The Burn was a natural phenomenon or something created, or even if it was intentional or an accident. Nor is there any idea yet on if there is a way to reverse the effect or find a viable alternative to bring the Federation back together.
Clues: Right now the biggest clue is that the source of The Burn is in a nebula which emanates a waveform that can be resolved as audible music, which has become part of many cultures in the 32nd century. There is also an unidentified Federation ship sending a distress call from that same location.
The Big Bad
Known: Before season one co-showrunner Alex Kurtzman confirmed there will be a “big bad” villain for the season, adding that in the 32nd century “people who used to be allies are now enemies and vice versa.” In episode one we were introduced to the Emerald Chain, a brutal alliance of Orions and Andorians who are in opposition to what remains of the Federation. The Chain is controlled by an Orion named Osyraa. The Chain also controls trade in dilithium, but Osyraa’s big secret is that they are running out of it.
Unknown: Is there another entity that will emerge, possibly backing up The Emerald Chain. Did the Andorians or Orions have anything to do with The Burn? If some other group was responsible for The Burn, will they show up to try to stop it being reversed and/or the Federation from being reconstituted?
Clues: There have been a number of references to Bajorans (who were high on our list of suspects) working with the Emerald Chain, which included Osyraa recently using a Bajoran form of measurement when threatening Book’s homeworld. Many characters who claim to not know the origins of The Burn have negative views of the Federation itself, so it’s possible Admiral Vance and Kovich (we will get to him next) are hiding something. Then again, maybe a green cigar is just a green cigar, and the Emerald Chain is the big bad for season three, as the Andorians do qualify as a former ally turned enemy.
Georgiou… and Kovich
Known: Former Emperor Phillipa Georgiou was debriefed at Federation HQ by a mysterious person named Kovich. Since that time she has been suffering debilitating blackouts (that include flashbacks to her time in the Mirror Universe), but a clip for this week’s episode indicates Kovich isn’t responsible. He explained that her condition is terminal is due to her jumping through both time and alternate universes. From a production point of view, Michelle Yeoh has been tapped to lead her own Section 31 Star Trek show, which was initially going to go into production after season 3 of Discovery. Work on that show continues, but it isn’t clear if or when it will move forward.
Unknown: Regarding Georgiou, we don’t know if or how her condition can be cured. Also, what is the connection to the visions of her past? As for Kovich himself, it isn’t known what position he holds with the 32nd century Federation and Starfleet. And the big question: will season three of Discovery set up the Section 31 show? An even bigger question: does Kovich know more about the Kelvin universe and will that somehow tie into his story, or Georgiou’s.
Clues: The preview trailer for episode 309 indicates that Michael and Georgiou will go on a mission to find a cure to her condition on some kind of ice planet. The clip for this week combined with his first appearance indicates that Kovich has access to classified information, which coincides with our theory that he is part of Section 31 and/or Starfleet Intelligence.
Known: The characters of Adira and Gray were announced before the season started, along with hints that they would be tied into Trill mythology. Adira was revealed to be a teen human who had joined with the Trill symbiont Tal after Tal’s Trill host—and Adira’s boyfriend—Gray died on a generation ship. After finding a way to communicate with Tal on Trill, Adira has seen visions of Gray; however, those visions have since stopped. Adira has also become close to Paul Stamets, who has become something of a surrogate parent. While awkward, Adira has genius-level intelligence and has become an important part of the science team. From a production point of view, we know that Adira and Gray will continue to be characters in season 4.
Unknown: Why has Gray stopped communicating? When Gray returns, will he remain solely visible to Adira? Even though it turned out to be Tal and not Dax as we theorized, will Adira be able to tap into Tal’s memories, as Jadzia and Ezri did with Dax?
Clues: When on Trill, Adira was welcomed into the circle of Tal’s hosts, including some who were in the Federation and Starfleet—notably Senna Tal, a 32nd-century Starfleet Admiral who sent the message that brought the USS Discovery to Earth. Adira says they can still feel Gray, indicating Gray may not be communicating by choice.
Known: From the Short Trek’s episode “Calypso,” we know that the USS Discovery will someday be abandoned and left under the care of a sentient AI named Zora for a thousand years before being discovered by a soldier named Craft. Zora appears to be an evolution of the ship’s computer combining with the Sphere data picked up in season two, and it has been showing a protective affinity for the crew of the Discovery in season three.
Unknown: When will Zora fully emerge and take over control of the USS Discovery computer? What impact will it have for the ship to controlled by a sentient AI? How does the 32nd-century refit of the USS Discovery mesh with the USS Discovery seen in “Calypso” that includes Zora, but not the upgrades? And what happens to the crew to make them abandon the ship?
Clues: Admiral Vance (and Kovich) have mentioned the Temporal Cold War and Temporal Accords, and it’s possible the ship will eventually be “de-fit” to protect the timeline.
Known: With dilithium scarce and no alternatives found, Starfleet has designated the USS Discovery with its unique spore drive as a rapid response asset, giving the ship a 32nd-century refit and new designation as NCC-1031-A. Even though Starfleet is now aware of the technology, there is still the limiting factor of Paul Stamets being the only person in the universe capable of navigating the ship due to his infusion of tardigrade DNA.
Unknown: Will Starfleet find a way to replicate the technology, leading to a restoration of the fleet and the Federation itself?
Clues: Early on in the season, Captain Saru tasked Stamets with finding a way to use the drive that didn’t rely on him as the navigator. Tilly has suggested dark matter picked up in season two could provide a solution. Adira has upgraded Stamets’ interface with 32nd-century tech, which could possibly be a step towards allowing others to navigate the ship.
Known: Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) was introduced in the first episode and has been a major recurring character. He was developed to be the point-of-view guide for the crew into the new century. As an empath, he is capable of communing with some plants and animals, especially the large and dangerous tranceworms of his native planet Kwejian. After the Emerald Chain began harvesting these worms, he left his home, took on a new name, and became a courier with a special mission to rescue tranceworms and bring them to sanctuaries. His closest companion on his ship has been a cat named Grudge, and he has developed a romantic relationship with Michael Burnham.
Unknown: What is the extent of his powers as an empath, and are they unique to his home planet? Are his powers entirely natural or do they involve any technology? After coming to respect Michael and Starfleet, how will he integrate and assist with the USS Discovery crew and their mission to restore the Federation? What is the story behind his name?
Clues: When he (and his friend/brother Khyeem) use their powers, glowing elements on their foreheads can be seen.
Known: After Michael was removed from the position for insubordination, Captain Saru appointed Tilly as acting first officer until he could find a permanent replacement.
Unknown: Will Tilly be that permanent replacement, or will someone else step into the role?
Clues: Tilly’s first episode as XO had some mixed results. There are many potential candidates including: Michael returning to the job, Book, Lt. Willa, or another member of the Discovery crew.
Known: After spending a year apart from the USS Discovery between episodes one and two, it took some time, but by mid-season, she seemed recommitted to the ship and Starfleet, albeit no longer as first officer. Instead of running off with Book, she has brought him into their cause. Her mother has been found and is safe, and her investigation into The Burn is bearing fruit.
Unknown: How will the remaining story of the season be tied into Michael’s character arc? Is it possible that she is somehow connected to The Burn, as has been theorized? And how exactly did her hair grow so long in just a year?
Clues: The lead character of Discovery is Michael Burnham. The primary story arc for the previous two seasons has tied into Michael’s personal character arc. We have seen instances of this in season three, such as the visit to Ni’Var, where again Michael is the quintessential person needed to resolve the story.
Known: She is a queen.
Unknown: Is she just a cat?
Clues: As laid out in our earlier theory, characters and the production treat Grudge as something more than just a pet. However, she continues to mostly act just like a big fat cat, so maybe it’s all just for publicity’s sake.
Any other mysteries?
That’s quite a few mysteries left to resolve in the five remaining episodes. Do you think some of these have already been resolved? And are there any other big questions you are looking to see wrapped up before the end of the season? Sound off in the comments below.
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. Episodes are available on Fridays internationally on Netflix.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.