Star Trek: Discovery may have revealed who the titular ship’s final captain will be – Michael Burnham’s mother. In the Short Treks mini-episode “Calypso,” a man in an escape pod named Craft is rescued by the Discovery, but there’s a twist; a thousand years have passed since the events of Discovery, and the ship is deserted, controlled only by an incredibly advanced artificial intelligence called Zora. It’s eventually revealed that the Discovery has been sitting idle for centuries, obeying the final order of its captain to maintain its position. A sort of romance ensues between Craft and Zora, and “Calypso” – written by award winning author, and upcoming contributor to the Picard series, Michael Chabon – became one of the most warmly received entries in the first batch of Short Treks.
There are obvious thematic connections between “Calypso” and what’s unfolded in Star Trek: Discovery season 2. Zora is something of a benevolent mirror to Control, the Section 31-created artificial intelligence that could threaten all organic life in the universe. Time travel also likely plays into “Calypso,” even if it’s never made explicit – the notion of the Discovery surviving in pristine condition for a thousand years just seems far-fetched. We’ve also previously seen evidence of Short Treks setting up stories in season 2, like the Saru-centric “The Brightest Star,” which has factored heavily into Saru’s arc this season.
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At the end of “The Red Angel,” it’s revealed that the time traveling entity that the Discovery crew has been tracking all season – the eponymous Red Angel – is actually Michael Burnham’s mother, who was thought to have died in a Klingon attack when Michael was a child. It turns out that Burnham’s mother was a brilliant engineer and was working on technology that could eventually be used by Section 31 for time travel. She somehow survived the attack and has apparently been bouncing around the timeline in an attempt to thwart Control’s plan to decimate the galaxy.
It would make a certain amount of sense for Burnham’s mother to eventually use the Discovery as her own base of operations; it was from a time period she was familiar with, and featured some of the most advanced technology of its day. It’s also not much of a leap to suspect she created Zora given her technological brilliance. If she traveled back in time to the closing minutes of “The Red Angel” to save Michael’s life and ordered the Discovery to stay put until she returned, that would add an entirely new layer to what was already a beautiful, bittersweet vignette.
There’s still much we don’t know about Burnham’s mother and her role in both the Red Angel mystery and Control’s scheme. Was she the Red Angel the entire time? Why did she never reach out to her daughter before? Was it necessary for her to wreck Spock’s life? These answers are almost certainly coming in the home stretch of Star Trek Discovery season 2, but for now it’s impossible not to speculate on the missing pieces of the expanding time travel puzzle the show has offered up this year, and how Short Treks might factor into the events of the main series.
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