In Star Trek: Discovery season 3’s 32nd century, the Federation was ended by “The Burn”. What is this calamity and what does it mean for the galaxy?
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is set in the far future where an event called “The Burn” led to the collapse of the United Federation of Planets – but what is this new galactic calamity? Star Trek: Discovery season 2 ended with Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) donning the time travel suit of the Red Angel and leading the U.S.S. Discovery into the uncharted 32nd century. As a result, Burnham and the Discovery’s existence were redacted from Starfleet records by Michael’s adoptive brother Spock (Ethan Peck), preserving the Star Trek timeline.
However, Star Trek: Discovery season 3’s trailer reveals that Michael and the Discovery crash land on an unnamed planet, and according to the Red Angel suit’s computer, they arrived in the year 3188 – 931 years from their 2257 departure date. But while the Discovery jumped forward in time to prevent an apocalypse in the 23rd century, they have now landed in an era that is dealing with a different cataclysm altogether: the end of the United Federation of Planets as the Discovery’s crew (and Star Trek fans) know it. Luckily, it seems Burnham and her crew make new allies who help them get the lay of the land in this very different future timeline. Their new friends include Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala), a rugged survivor of this era. Star Trek: Discovery season 3 also introduces Adira (Blu de Barrio), a non-binary human character, and Grey (Ian Alexander), a transgender Trill character.
But it’s Book who informs Burnham of the end of the Federation, a result of an event called The Burn. Book describes The Burn as “the day the galaxy took a hard left and the Federation mostly collapsed”. While that’s not much to go on, The Burn was a devastating external attack on the Federation of some kind, perhaps similar to the Mars attack by synthetics in Star Trek: Picard or even the planned multi-planetary annihilation by the rogue A.I. called Control that Burnham and her crew stopped in Star Trek: Discovery season 2. Before The Burn, the Federation was as strong as it ever was. It’s also unknown at this point when The Burn happened and how long the Federation – and the Alpha Quadrant as a whole – has been in shambles.
Yet the operative keyword in Book’s rundown of the Federation’s fall is that it “mostly” collapsed. This means that some planets still held onto the dream of the Federation and kept it from crumbling entirely. The new Federation flag as seen in Star Trek: Discovery season 3 shows six stars, indicating six remaining member worlds. From the season 3 trailer, it appears that the humans of Earth, the Vulcans, the Andorians, the Trills, the Bolians, and perhaps even an evolved form of Kelpiens from Commander Saru’s (Doug Jones) homeworld of Kaminar make up the remaining vestiges of the once-mighty United Federation of Planets.
This uncertain future is where Michael Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery come in; centuries from what they know as home but united as one indomitable Starfleet crew, Burnham says that “the Federation isn’t about ships… The Federation is it’s people…” and that “The Federation gave us the resources and the mandate to solve the biggest, most troublesome problems in the galaxy.” It’s possible that Star Trek: Discovery season 3 isn’t about the restoration of the original Federation – which would seem impossible to accomplish in one season by a time-displaced starship crew, especially considering the old Federation encompassed hundreds of worlds.
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 looks to have Burnham, Saru, Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), and their talented crew, which also includes Emperor Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), to “solve the biggest problems” in the galaxy, perhaps to restore the Federation’s esteem in the eyes of the rest of the 32nd-century’s galaxy.