When Star Trek: Discovery debuted in 2017, it was billed as a show that followed “the adventures of Starfleet.” The show wasn’t just about the voyages of the starship Discovery, but also the USS Shenzhou and, eventually, the USS Enterprise. But now, in season 3, it looks like Discovery is all that is left of Starfleet, and the Federation is down to just a handful of member planets. At New York Comic Con, a new trailer gave us the first glimpse of the wilder, grittier Discovery. Now that the crew has landed 930 years in the future (they jumped from 2257 to 3187 in the blink of an eye) the landscape of Star Trek is suddenly very different.
Based on the short trailer, here are the six biggest questions about Star Trek: Discovery season 3, and what the answers to those questions might mean for the future of the franchise.
Trailer spoilers ahead!
6. Six planets are left in the Federation, but what are they?
In what is probably the most shocking part of the trailer, Burnham encounters someone who appears to be a lonely survivor of the United Federation of Planets. But now, the flag of the Federation only has six stars on it, whereas in the 24th Century there were about 150 planets in the Federation. In old-school canon, the three biggest stars on the Federation flag used to represent Earth, Vulcan, and Andoria, since those were a few of the founding planets of the Federation. But, now that there’s only six, which planets are these stars supposed to represent? And is Earth even one of them?
5. Are the Andorians the bad guys now? (And are those even Andorians?)
Speaking of Andorians, we see the classic original series aliens at several points in the trailer brandishing what seems like a new kind of sonic weapon. This might suggest that the Andorians are no longer part of whatever joke-version of the Federation still exists. But, upon closer inspection, there’s a bigger question: Are those Andorians? Sure, they’ve got the blue skin and the antennae made famous in “Journey to Bablel” and the series Enterprise, but there’s something about them that feels different. In one shot it almost looks like they are wearing Klingon sashes while being flanked by human support soldiers. So: Are these genetic mash-ups? Did the Andorians merge with the Klingons? This is Discovery, so stranger things have happened before.
4. How much time passes during this season?
Throughout the trailer, we see Michael Burnham with various different hairstyles, and her voiceover implies she’s been doing something for “a year.” Does that mean more than a year will pass during this season? And if so, why? What has Michael Burnham been doing and has it kept her away from Discovery? And will the season really keep her separated from her best friends?
3. Who is the new captain of the USS Discovery?
One of the biggest questions every fan has about the new season is who will become the new captain of the ship now that Captain Pike has been left behind, where he belongs, in the 23rd century. One very quick shot shows Georgiou wearing a Starfleet uniform, suggesting that perhaps, she tries to take command of the ship. It wouldn’t be the first time, either. Back in season 1, Starfleet had Georgiou pretend to be her Prime universe counterpart, and for all we know, a lot of people on Discovery might still think she is Prime Georgiou. Obviously, Michael, Tilly, Stamets, and Saru know she’s not “really” Captain Georgiou from the good universe, but what if no one else knows that? And what if the lower-ranking crew members can’t prove it? Also, because the trailer strongly suggests Michael is separated from Discovery for part of the season, maybe Georgiou takes command in her absence.
2. Why are the Trill back? (And Is Burnham about to be joined?)
Though the new future of Star Trek is largely different than we’ve ever seen before, there is one thrilling Easter egg here for fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: those Trill spots are back! In several scenes, we see people who are clearly members of the Trill race, and it even looks like Michael Burnham is headed into some familiar Trill caves. As a refresher: Trill are a race of aliens composed of a humanoid body and a slug-like symbiont. The most famous Trek Trill is Dax, who took the form of Kurzon, Jadzia and Ezri Dax during the run of Deep Space Nine. So, if the Trill are back, Dax could conceivably be there, albeit in a different body. (That guy right there could be Dax! Really!) Plus, because the Trill symbionts are so long-lived, this could imply they’re the only people who know what’s happened to the galaxy in the past 930 years.
Finally, one scene really makes it look like Michael Burnham is wading in those Trill pools. Does that mean she’s about to be joined? Are we looking at Michael Burnham Dax? Even if it was temporary, this kind of thing has happened before. Riker carried a little Trill in his belly for a while back in the very first Trill episode ever, “The Host.”
1. Is this Gene Roddenberry’s Federation?
So, because the “utopian” United Federation of Planets seems to be either defunct or in a serious slump, some supposed Trek purists may cry foul and say that without the Federation, you can’t have Star Trek and that Disocovery is somehow desecrating Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful idealized future. This argument will be floated a lot and in all cases, it will be wrong. The idealized Federation has always been fraught and has had a hard time justifying its own rules. (See: all cases of the Prime Directive.) Plus, the entire premise of this season of Discovery feels very-much in line with another series created by Gene Roddenberry and produced posthumously. In the 2000-2005 series, Andromeda, a lone starship finds itself in a future where a benevolent government called “The Commonwealth” no longer exists. Sound familiar? Discovery is basically pulling an Andromeda, meaning this is about as Gene Roddenberry as any new version of Star Trek can get.
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 debuts sometime in 2020.
Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com. His other science fiction essays and journalism have been published by SyFy Wire, Den of Geek!, Inverse, Vulture, and StarTrek.com He is the author of the essay collection Luke Skywalker Can’t Read (Penguin Random House) and an editor at Fatherly.