Star Trek Guide

Discovery Season 3 Changes Star Trek's Original Mission

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 6, "Scavengers".

Star Trek: Discovery has changed its mission and it no longer will boldly go where no one has gone before but this is out of necessity due to the state of the galaxy in the 32nd century. As Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery learned when they time-traveled to the year 3189, the galaxy has been irrevocably altered by an event called the Burn, which led to a catastrophic shortage of dilithium, ending widespread starship travel by warp and causing the collapse of the United Federation of Planets.

Click the button below to start this article in quick view. Start now

Starfleet's primary mission since Star Trek: The Original Series has been exploration - "to boldly go where no one has gone before" - and, for many Trekkers, it isn't really Star Trek unless it's about a starship (preferably the U.S.S. Enterprise) seeking out new life and new civilizations in the final frontier. Star Trek: Discovery never really embraced that mission; in season 1, Discovery was originally a science vessel that got repurposed to fight in the Klingon War. In Star Trek: Discovery season 2, Michael Burnham and her starship had a new challenge: to learn the purpose of the red signals in space, which led them to uncover a plot by a rogue A.I. called Control to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy.

However, since jumping to the 32nd century and rejoining Starfleet, the U.S.S. Discovery's new job is serving as Admiral Charles Vance's (Oded Fehr) "rapid responder". This is a crucial role only the Disco can fulfill since it possesses an advantage no other vessel in the galaxy has: the spore displacement hub drive which allows Captain Saru's (Doug Jones) starship to jump anywhere in the galaxy instantaneously. The Discovery boasted this unique edge even back in the 23rd century when warp travel was widespread. In the post-Burn reality, dilithium supplies are extremely limited and Starfleet is forced to conserve what little it has. Most Starfleet ships travel under impulse power and their missions can take months, which severely limits the range of planets Starfleet can reach. In addition, the rest of the galaxy is forced to resort to using generation ships when attempting long-distance travel in deep space.

While Captain Saru would like to serve the Federation by having Discovery perform as many missions as possible, this is a dangerous proposition that Admiral Vance has nixed. The Admiral's logic is sound because when word eventually gets out that the Discovery has the spore drive, technology no one else in the galaxy has, the starship will become a target and every enemy (and even friend) of the Federation will want to possess it. The safest and best way for Discovery to help Starfleet is to be an instantaneous rapid responder that can jump in and out of hotspots.

Star Trek: Discovery having a new mission isn't unusual and, in fact, every series that isn't about one of the Starships Enterprise has created a new mission to make their shows distinct. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's job was to guard the wormhole to the Delta Quadrant and protect Bajor. InStar Trek: Voyager, Captain Katheryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) had to get her titular starship home from the Delta Quadrant. Star Trek: Picard's mission was unlike any of the previous series while Star Trek: Lower Decks was about the U.S.S. Cerritos making Second Contact.

The wrinkle in the Discovery's new undertaking is Commander Michael Burnham. As Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 6, "Scavengers" showed, Michael's overriding concern is her agenda of learning the cause of the Burn, which she believes is the only way the Federation can become whole once again. Meanwhile, Admiral Vance's responsibility is to hold what's left of the Federation together and use Discovery as he sees fit to best to achieve that purpose, but Burnham has proven to be a loose cannon who puts her personal mission above Starfleet's. Naturally, her insubordination cost Commander Burnham her role as Discovery's First Officer and it remains to be seen if Michael will toe the line with Discovery's assignment as Starfleet's rapid-responder.

About The Author