Star Trek Guide

Discovery Turns Star Trek's Delta Badges Into 32nd Century iPhones

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

Star Trek: Discovery has given a major technological upgrade to Starfleet's iconic delta badges, essentially turning them into 32nd century iPhones. Now that Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery are living in the year 3189, they (and Trekkers) are dazzled by the advanced technology available. Discovery reestablished itself as part of Starfleet in this new era, which means the crew gets the benefit of the 32nd century's wonderful toys - like incredible new delta badges.

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In Star Trek: The Original Series, the delta badge was merely a patch worn to denote that you were a crewmember of the U.S.S. Enterprise. (In TOS, other starships had different shaped badges and the delta became the symbol of all of Starfleet later before being retconned in the prequel series). The delta badge became a pin in the Star Trek TOS movies, but Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a big leap forward when the delta badge became the communicator pin (or combadge), which replaced handheld communicators. The combadges had to be tapped to be activated but they also functioned as universal translators. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and Star Trek: Picard, the combadges often changed shape but their basic function as a communicator pin remained the same throughout the 24th century.

Star Trek: Discovery began as a prequel set in the 23rd century so their delta badges were decorative but had a notable design incorporating dots to denote rank. However, like TOS, Discovery's crew had separate handheld communicators and tricorders, and this gear became valuable antiques after the U.S.S. Discovery time-traveled to 3189. However, the new Starfleet delta badges that the crew received in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 6, "Scavengers" are a revolutionary multi-tool: While still functioning as communicators and universal translators, the new delta badges now project holographic displays, act as tricorders, and become each Starfleet Officer's personal transporter. In short, the new delta badges replace several iconic Star Trek devices. This is as big of a breakthrough as iPhones and other smartphones have been in reality, wherein thousands of apps have modern made life much easier in countless ways.

Star Trek's technology has always been forward-thinking and influenced real-world inventions. For instance, Star Trek's handheld communicators are said to have inspired cell phones and the Enterprise's giant viewscreen is the forerunner to the enormous flat screen HDTVs found in people's homes. However, as real-world tech became smaller and more versatile, Star Trek's vision of the future's devices now began to look antiquated. Todays' iPhones are much smaller and have infinitely more features and advantages than single-purpose devices like Star Trek's communicators and tricorders that are supposed to be pinnacles of technology 300 years in the future.

Visually, Star Trek: Discovery is an eye-popping upgrade from how Star Trek had been presented in the past but as a prequel, they still had to heft the same bulky tech that Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) had in order to maintain continuity. But now that Discovery is in the 32nd century, Star Trek is once again free to innovate technology without worrying about disrupting established canon. Instead, Star Trek: Discovery is writing the new canon by introducing imaginative new concepts like programmable matter. Meanwhile, Discovery's cool new delta badges are finally as versatile as the iPhone is to a present-day person. And, of course, Star Trek still has technology that the real world lacks, especially personal transporters and warp drive.

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