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Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 Trailer Might Show The Cause Of "The Burn"

Star Trek: Discovery season 3's trailer may have already revealed - or at least hinted at - the cause of The Burn that ruined the United Federation of Planets. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is set in the year 3188, which is the farthest in the future that a Star Trek series has explored. But when Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the U.S.S. Discovery arrive in this new era, they find that the Federation has "mostly collapsed after The Burn" which was "the day the galaxy took a hard turn to the left," according to new character Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala).

The primary governing body of the Alpha Quadrant in the Star Trek universe, the United Federation of Planets was formed in 2161 and it was initially an alliance consisting of humans, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites. By the time of the U.S.S. Discovery's voyages in the 2250s, the Federation had significantly grown into a mighty galactic power, and it only got larger, encompassing hundreds of worlds, in the years after the Discovery time-traveled to the 32nd century at the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 2. Throughout Star Trek's canon, the Federation has been repeatedly threatened by wars and other calamities, but it always survived thanks to the heroism of Starfleet. However, due to the mysterious event known as The Burn, the Federation's time as the dominant force in the Alpha Quadrant has come to an end by 3188.

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During Star Trek Day, executive producer Alex Kurtzman indicated that The Burn was an external event that impacted the Federation. Kurtzman teased that before The Burn, the Federation was as strong as ever, and that that the alliance of worlds was hit by a cataclysm rather than collapsing from internal political strife. It seems that by the time Burnham and the Discovery arrive in 3188, the Federation has been reduced to a mere handful of member planets - potentially only six according to the stars on the new Federation flag - down from the hundreds of worlds that joined at its peak. So what exactly was The Burn?

A brief moment in Star Trek: Discovery season 3's trailer offers a possible explanation for The Burn: It shows Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Lt. Jett Reno (Tig Notaro), and Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) working a new problem in Engineering. While their dialogue with a new human female character is about the team's "dysfunction", it's what's they're looking at on the screen that's notable: A holographic display of some kind of solar event with the words "CME Detected" above it.

"CME" stands for "Corona Mass Ejection", which is a significant release of plasma and accompanying magnetic field from the solar corona. In short, it's a massive burst of fire that can impact the space around a star and could potentially cause a mass impact event. Could this be "The Burn" and was it an attack on a star within the Federation, possibly even on Sol, Earth's sun? Did someone or something destabilize a star and force the Federation to its knees with the threat of galactic armageddon?

Star Trek has shown stars attacked before. For example, Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) destroyed a star to move the course of the Nexus so he could reenter it on Veridian III in Star Trek Generations. The Romulan sun also went supernova in the 2380s and significantly changed the galaxy, as seen in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek: Picard. It's possible an enemy attacked a Federation star with a weapon that caused a corona mass ejection and did what the Romulans, Klingons, the Borg, and even the Dominion failed to do: break the United Federation of Planets in the 32nd century.

Another possibility for The Burn may point to Michael Burnham. The beleaguered commander has been at the center of the problems of Star Trek: Discovery; in season 1, she instigated the Klingon War and paid dearly for it. In season 2, the Red Angel was centered on her and she ultimately became the time traveler herself. Is the name "The Burn" a clue that somehow, Michael Burnham herself is directly or indirectly linked to or responsible for the Federation's collapse in Star Trek: Discovery season 3?

Star Trek: Discovery premieres October 15th on CBS All-Access.

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