Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3's Future Technology Explained

Star Trek's amazing technology received an imaginative upgrade in Star Trek: Discovery season 3's 32nd century. Since its beginnings, Star Trek has been an appealing vision of the future where starships traverse deep space in warp speed while their crews have food automatically dispensed, can talk to each other with handheld communicators, and can beam on and off planets in seconds. However, as the real world's technology began to catch up to Star Trek's, Discovery was able to up the ante by jumping 930 years into the future.

In Star Trek: The Original Series, the Starship Enterprise's giant viewscreen and communicators foresaw today's flatscreen HDTVs and smartphones. Star Trek: The Next Generation's most provocative new concepts were human-like androids like Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) and the holodeck, which could realistically replicate any person and environment.Star Trek: Voyager took the hologram even further by introducing the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) played by Robert Picardo, who was one of the series' core characters. Yet some of Star Trek's innovations, like the alcohol substitute Synthehol, seem less appealing. But in 2020, Star Trek's 24th-century future technology started to seem a little quaint, although Star Trek: Picard pushed the envelope with more complex holographic characters and synthetics like Soji (Isa Briones) who are indistinguishable from humans.

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Now that season 3 is set in the year 3189 — the farthest Star Trek has ever explored — Star Trek: Discovery's tech indeed raised the game, and the show's most ingenious new invention is programmable matter. Composed of millions of nano molecules that learn and change into pre-determined shapes, programmable matter can become anything from furniture to starship controls that read and adapt to its unique users' bio-signs. Programmable matter feels cool and smooth like glass to the touch, but its varied uses and ultimate potential have only been touched upon by Star Trek: Discovery since programmable matter seems to be in use all over the galaxy in the 32nd-century. Meanwhile, some vessels like Cleveland Booker's (David Ajala) starship, not only boast programmable matter but parts of it are also detachable and reconfigurable.

Transporters are still among Star Trek's technology that the real world hasn't duplicated but, as innovative as beaming on and off of starships is, Star Trek: Discovery now lets everyone teleport at will thanks to personal transporters. No longer needing to rely on transporter rooms or external devices is a tremendous breakthrough in transportation, plus beaming via personal transporters is instantaneous compared to the many seconds it takes to use a transporter (and the potential for accidents) Trekkers have seen in Star Trek's 23rd and 24th centuries. Personal transporters are now standard for Starfleet Officers and are equipped in their delta badges, which are also holographic tricorders and communicators with universal translators.

Star Trek: Discovery's 32nd-century weaponry doesn't seem to have substantially changed: Phasers simply look different and are presumably more powerful. The Andorian and Orion syndicate called the Emerald Chain use phasers that completely cover the hand and they also have a device that emits a pulse wave that blows targets back. Although 32nd-century starships still use phasers and photon torpedoes as armaments, the starships themselves have undergone major upgrades; 32nd-century Starfleet vessels boast hulls made up of combinations of force fields, neutronium, and organic materials, while warp nacelles are now detached for increased speed and maneuverability. The U.S.S. Discovery was retrofitted with this advanced technology, which complements its spore displacement hub drive — a device no one else in the galaxy has.

However, despite all of its technological advancements, the 32nd century is still reeling from the permanent effects of The Burn, which decimated the galaxy's dilithium supplies a century prior. This set the 32nd century backward in crucial ways, from the collapse of the United Federation of Planets to the loss of long-range communications and warp drive, which means planets and star systems are more isolated than they have been in centuries. Without warp travel, long-distance space flight is now conducted via generation ships. This means that even though it's a thousand years old, Star Trek: Discovery's eponymous starship can do what no other vessel in the 32nd century can thanks to its spore drive, which makes it the most important ship of Star Trek's far future.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Netflix.

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