Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: The Real Reason Why Discovery's "Antique" Technology Is So Valuable

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 1 - "That Hope Is You, Part 1"

In Star Trek: Discovery season 3, the Starfleet technology Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) brought with her has great value, even though they're considered "antiques" in the 32nd century, because they're made of tritanium. After wearing the Red Angel time suit to escape the 23rd century, Burnham arrived 930 years in the future — but she seemingly landed solo. Even though Michael's friends were right behind her in the wormhole, the U.S.S. Discovery didn't materialize in the year 3188.

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In deep space, Michael collided with a different starship piloted by Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala), a courier carrying stolen cargo. They both crash-landed 0n the planet Hima, and despite their initial animosity, Burnham had to trust Book since he was literally the only person she'd met in the 32nd century. Michael soon learned about the Burn, a catastrophe that destroyed the dilithium in every starship's warp core over a century prior, which led to the downfall of the United Federation of Planets. This left Michael in a dire predicament since, without the Discovery, she was stranded with no resources in 3188. But Michael did have the Starfleet equipment on her person and her tricorder, for instance, turns out to be worth trading for because of the metal they're made of. Book took Michael to the Mercantile in Requiem in order to bargain with her ancient Starfleet tech for the dilithium he needs to power his starship's warp drive.

As Book told Michael, her "rocket girl" uniform and her Starfleet tech scanned as being made of tritanium alloy but "there hasn't been anything like that in years." As such, tritanium is a valuable commodity in the 32nd century. However, in the time Michael came from, tritanium was a widely-used construction material. Tritanium was 21.4 times as hard as diamond and in the 23rd and 24th centuries, the hulls of most starships were made of tritanium alloy. In fact, the bulkhead of the 22nd century NX-01 Enterprise commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) was made of tritanium, as was the bulkhead of Captain Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) Galaxy-class Enterprise-D in the 24th century.

In Michael Burnham's time, Crosssfield-class starships like the U.S.S. Discovery were also constructed out of tritanium. However, numerous small objects including projectiles used for weapons were made from tritanium as well. In Michael's case, her Starfleet equipment like her tricorder had tritanium components. Since Book intended to trade her 900-year-old tricorder for dilithium crystals, this speaks to their value.

The question is, what happened in the eight hundred-plus after the 24th-century TNG era that caused tritanium, which was once found all over the galaxy, to become a rare commodity? Did a calamity like the Burn also happen to tritanium, or was it a case where an even stronger base material was found and proliferated, which made tritanium obsolete and an affectation for collectors? It also begs the question of what 32nd-century starships are made of instead of tritanium.

Tritanium becoming a valuable and little-seen material in 3188 is just one of the numerous changes in the 32nd century Michael Burnham has to get used to now that's she permanently resides there. It was also amusing how Star Trek: Discovery's season 3 premiere smoothly winked at how Michael's antique Starfleet tech is sought after by collectors the way Star Trek collectibles are prized by real-life Trekkers.

Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Netflix.

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