How STAR TREK: DISCOVERY’S Final Season Continues a Classic NEXT GENERATION Story

Star Trek: Discovery has embarked on its final season, presenting Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and her crew with a new mystery that links directly to a classic episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1993 that Jonathan Frakes directed. It’s a mystery that Star Trek canon hasn’t touched on in over 30 years. Let’s unpack how these two stories separated by 800 years connect.

Spoiler Alert

Discovery’s Final Season Ties Directly into The Next Generation Episode “The Chase”

A scene with Dr. Galen (Norman Lloyd) and Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Chase.

In the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a storyline changed everything we knew about the Trek universe. The episode “The Chase,” written by Joe Menosky and Ronald D. Moore, introduced us to Professor Richard Galen (Norman Lloyd). He was a mentor to Captain Jean-Luc Picard when he was a cadet at Starfleet Academy, and Picard’s professor of archaeology. Galen hoped his star pupil would follow in his footsteps and become an archaeologist himself. However, Picard chose a life in Starfleet instead, forcing a wedge between teacher and student. But in this episode, Professor Galen reunited with Picard, who had become captain of the Enterprise. Galen hoped his former protégé would help him solve one last riddle—one with galactic implications.

Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Professor Galen (Norman Lloyd) argue on the Star Trek: Next Generation episode The Chase.

Picard was thrilled to see his old mentor after so many decades. Galen told Picard he made a profound archaeological discovery that would change what everyone knew about intelligent life in the Milky Way galaxy. He requested Picard’s help, as he was too elderly to complete the cross-planet mission alone. But Jean-Luc couldn’t bring himself to leave his command and chose to remain on the Enterprise-D, infuriating Galen. When Galen attempted the mission alone, he died in the process because of hostile forces trying to steal his research. A dying Galen tasked Picard with finishing his work, leaving Jean-Luc with a mission and with a series of number blocks discovered by Galen to decipher.

Captain Picard Discovered All Humanoid Races in Star Trek Share DNA

An ancient hologram reveals to humans, Klingons, Romulans, and Cardassians their common DNA.

After Picard studied the mysterious number blocks, he realized the fragments were all compatible DNA strands, discovered on different worlds across the known galaxy. Picard eventually believed it was an embedded genetic pattern across several different species—human, Vulcan, Romulan, Cardassian, and many others. Captain Picard realized an early interstellar race that pre-dated all other known civilizations by billions (perhaps trillions) of years left the DNA strands on various worlds.

The ancient Progenitor species, as played by Salome Jens in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Chase.

Eventually, the Klingons, Cardassians, and Romulans joined the hunt to solve the riddle of the DNA fragments, thinking it the solution would lead to some powerful weapon. They all convened on a remote, uninhabited world and agreed to link their findings. This triggered a holographic message by an extremely ancient humanoid race, who revealed they seeded most worlds in the galaxy with their genetic code. This advanced species’ DNA exists in all major Star Trek races. That’s why they are all (mostly) humanoid and can cross-breed. The Klingons and Cardassians scoffed at the revelation. But Picard and the Romulan Captain realized how monumental the discovery was. Sadly, Star Trek: The Next Generation never mentioned this huge revelation again, nor did any later Star Trek series. Until now, that is, because it’s come up on Star Trek: Discovery.

Discovery Must Find the Technology of the Ancient Progenitors

Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) on a critical mission for Starfleet in the Discovery season 5 premiere Red Directive.

In the first episode of Discovery‘s final season, “Red Directive,” we learn that centuries after Picard completed Galen’s work, a Starfleet probe finds an 800-year-old Romulan vessel. Starfleet sends Discovery on a top-secret mission to retrieve the ship. Even Captain Burnham doesn’t know what is in the ship that Starfleet needs her to retrieve. But scavengers get there first, and steal a Romulan puzzle box stored in a cloaked vault on the ship. After a wild goose chase across the quadrant, Discovery finds the contents of the puzzle box, the findings of a long-dead Romulan scientist. His holographic message says no one must find what his research has led him to.

Eventually Starfleet’s Dr. Kovich (David Cronenberg) reveals the classified nature of Burnham’s mission to her. The ancient Romulan scientist was Dr. Valec. He was on the landing party with his crew in The Next Generation episode “The Chase.” Dr. Valec was one of only a handful of beings present for Picard’s discovery. Valec eventually found the technology of the Progenitors, as they were now called by Starfleet, and the advanced science they used to design humanoid life in the galaxy.

Star Trek's Captains Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Picard (Patrick Stewart) in their respective captain's chairs.

When the Romulan scientist’s location was lost 800 years prior, all access to that tech was thought lost too. Clearly, Starfleet chose to keep Picard’s findings classified for centuries. But now Starfleet has to find it before it falls into the wrong hands. Whoever has the technology of the Progenitors could reshape life in the galaxy to their liking. And this new chase will serve as the main storyline in Discovery’s final year, finally addressing something Star Trek canon seemingly forgot about. Here’s hoping this long-lost bit of Trek storytelling leads to a truly compelling season of Discovery.

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