950 Years: Where No Star Trek has Gone Before
RED ALERT: Spoilers for Discovery season two to incoming.
950 years is a lot of time to think about. I mean, 950 years ago, the Byzantine empire was around and kicking. Who knows what we will be doing 950 years from now?
But when it comes to a science fiction franchise, 950 years into the future is common-place; the bulk of Star Trek already takes place around 300 years in our future. But when the current iteration of the franchise returns to our screens, it will have jumped from year 2257 all the way to somewhere around year 3200. 950 years is one hell of a time jump for any franchise. And it is somewhere that this franchise has not yet gone before.
For reference: the future scenes of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s most future-reaching episode- “All Good Things”- take place in 2395. Star Trek: Voyager’s finale, “Endgame,” takes place (in part) in 2404.
Discovery’s third season will take place roughly 325 years after the Federation Timeship Relativity helped Voyager thwart Captain Braxton. It will take place roughly 150 years beyond the furthest reaches of Star Trek: Enterprise’s Temporal Cold War.
This is the new frontier for Star Trek. The possibilities are, frankly, endless.
Before we really think about what our intrepid crew will be getting up to, we have to ask ourselves who went to the future in the first place?
Obviously, Michael Burnham was leading the charge into the future, as she guided her ship through the wormhole in her specially-designed suit. And in command of Discovery is, of course, Saru (but will he be the captain in season three?). The bridge crew all signed on to join Burnham in the new frontier- including Detmer, Owosekum, Rhys, Bryce, and Nilsson (who originally played Airium in season one). And Michael couldn’t really go anywhere without Tilly tagging along- and we’d all probably stop watching if Tilly was no longer a main character.
Below-decks, we have Stamets (who is critically injured) and Hugh, the latter who decided at the last minute to remain with his former husband on Discovery. We also have newcomer Jet Reno- who was probably my favorite new addition this season (at least who wasn’t named Pike or Spock)- and Dr. Pollard, who proved a fantastic replacement for Hugh while he was temporarily indisposed (read: deceased). Commander Nhan also joined the crew, coming from the Enterprise.
But the most curious time traveler, however, has to be Phillipa Georgiou, as she is supposed to be heading up the upcoming Section 31 TV show. Of course, before this time-traveling twist, we assumed that Section 31 would be taking place in the 23rd century, but now Georgiou is in the 33rd, who knows?
Those Left Behind
On the flip-side, with this massive time jump, we are losing more than a few fan-favorite characters. We all knew Pike and Spock wouldn’t make the jump (although Spock tried his best to go with his sister… imagine how Star Trek would have been different without him), as they have too much to do in franchise canon in their own time.
Ash Tyler, surprisingly, remained behind, and will be overseeing the overhaul of Section 31 (and possibly helping shape the organization to fit more what we’ve seen of it in Deep Space Nine).
Other recurring characters we have to say goodbye to (at least for now) include L’Rell and Po, Harry Mudd, and, of course, Sarek and Amanda Grayson.
Of all of those, the loss of Pike and Spock- while understandable and completely necessary- is the most devastating, as those two characters really went a long way to making season two of Discovery as fantastic as it was, and thanks in no small part to the performances of Anson Mount and Ethan Peck, who elevated those characters to new heights (and that’s especially high praise for Peck, who not only had to compete with the recent performance of Zachary Quinto in the movie franchise, but had to build upon the iconic portrayal of Spock that Leonard Nimoy brought to us over decades-worth of shows and movies).
Of course, we can’t write these characters out entirely. There’s still a lot of hope for a Pike series to continue his and Spock’s adventures before the keys to the Enterprise are handed to Kirk. And we can expect to see Ash Tyler in the Section 31 series, and, through that (assuming it does take place in the 23rd century) we could run into any of these characters again. But on Discovery, at least for now, don’t count on seeing any of these familiar faces anytime soon.
Star Trekkin’ Across the Universe
Transitioning Discovery to the 33rd century must be a daunting task. In essence, when we return, the training wheels will be off. This will be an entirely different show from what we’ve seen before.
For two seasons, Discovery has been buffered by- and hasn’t always played will with- franchise canon. Set ten years before The Original Series and roughly eighty years after Enterprise, Discovery has more or less had to color within the lines that the preceding shows had drawn.
Now, Discovery gets to draw those lines. It gets to write franchise canon, and it gets the freedom to explore the galaxy in a new way- a way in which the franchise hasn’t experienced since Voyager came to an end.
With this on the horizon, it is truly a fascinating time to be a Star Trek fan.
Boldly Going Forward, Cause We Can’t Find Reverse
According to Memory Alpha, the only event we have recorded in the 33rd century comes from Discovery itself: in the Short Trek “Calypso,” the ship is found abandoned somewhere in the 33rd century.
And this leads to more questions than answers. We know the ship was abandoned, but we don’t know when; it has clearly been abandoned for a while when Craft found it, long enough for the computer interface (probably along with the Sphere data that Control was so hell-bent on collecting) has developed a consciousness.
When the Short Treks first aired, we didn’t think they were anything more than fun little mini-episodes to hold us until season two premiered. But as season two unfolded, two of the four Short Trek episodes found themselves mattering a great deal to the story line. First Saru’s backstory in “The Brightest Star” connected directly into “The Sound of Thunder” when one of the seven signals brought Discovery back to Saru’s home planet to help his people break free of the control of the Ba’ul. Then, in the first part of the season finale, Tilly’s adventure in “The Runaway” came into sharp relief when the friend she made, Po, turned out to be one of the few people who could help Michael and her friends make the jump into the future.
It stands to reason that the Harry Mudd Short Trek was purely for fun- it was announced early on that Mudd wouldn’t be featured in season two- but as the time-traveling finale began to come into focus, I couldn’t help wondering if “Calypso” would end up coming into play as the other Short Treks had throughout the season.
What we don’t know is when in the 33rd century “Calypso” takes place; did Craft find the ship towards the end of the century, or the beginning? When did the crew abandon the ship? Obviously, they did so to make sure that nothing like Control (or down the road, the Borg) could find it and utilize it’s technology, as that was the entire reason for sending the ship into the far distant future. But do they abandon it right when the arrive? Do they ever travel back to the 23rd century?
I’m also curious as to whether this far-flung future will be Discovery’s setting for the remainder of the series, or if this will be another season-long arc, one that- like the Klingon War or the Red Angel- will be resolved by season’s end. And whether they are there for one season or ten, I’m extremely curious about what they will discover.
What is the state of the Federation? The Klingons? The Vulcans? Who are allies, who are enemies?
There was a pitch (made X-Men’s Bryan Singer) for a series a few years ago that was meant to take place around the same time that Discovery now finds itself in. While it is unlikely that this concept (which was never actually pitched to Paramount/CBS) will have any bearing on what the showrunners have in store, it’s an interesting read, detailing a Starfleet that is stretched thin and, humanity becoming self-centered and complacent, Romulans and Vulcans that have merged their cultures, and Klingons and Ferengi that have swapped their galactic roles (Klingons becoming mainly peaceful, while Ferengi becoming a powerful race). This probably isn’t what we will find in season three, but it shows just how much can change in 950 years.
Whatever Discovery gives us next season, it will be fresh, it will be bold, and it will be what Star Trek is all about: Discovery, and going where no one- and no franchise- has gone before.