Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery - What Is the Burn, and Why Is It So Catastrophic?

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 1, "That Hope is You, Part One" now streaming on CBS All Access.

Season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery promised to kick off a whole new era for Star Trek by taking the franchise further into the future than it has ever gone. Trailers indicated that in the time between Discovery's journey, the Federation had fallen into legend, and during the premiere, "That Hope Is You, Part One," Burnham struggled to understand how this could happen, learning that it is largely due to a cataclysmic event called The Burn.

Burnham learns that The Burn was a calamity of unknown origins, but with nearly immediate and tangible effects. Something occurred across the galaxy that caused Dilithium crystals, a precious commodity for warp core construction, to spontaneously explode. This affected countless species and starships, but the Federation was affected the most.

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While other methods of warp travel were available, Dilithium power was the key component of all Federation warp cores. In the blink of an eye, the Federation fleet was destroyed almost entirely. Lacking resources and manpower, the Federation never found the cause and could not prove that an event like The Burn would reoccur. The galactic community lost faith in the Federation, and because of its reduced forces, the organization collapsed.

However, some Dilithiun still remained, and it took time to develop alternative fuels. This made the still existing Dilithium a precious commodity, with even the smallest crystal becoming very valuable. Book's ship used the once highly unstable and dangerous Trilithium as a fuel source but he had to barter and scrounge to get the tiniest piece of Dilithium, just enough to leave the system.

Much like the android uprising on Mars that was explored in Star Trek: Picard, The Burn is a brand-new, status quo altering event in the main Star Trek continuity. The consequences of The Burn are clearly devastating, and it seems that viewers have only seen a hint as to how much it really changed the galaxy.

Streaming on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, David Ajala as Cleveland "Book" Booker, Blu del Barrio as Adira, Ian Alexander as Grey, Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno, Ethan Peck as Spock and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes of Season 3 air on Thursdays.

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