The return of Captain Pike, a high-speed dash across an asteroid field, a generous dose of humour: the opening episode of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 was packed with pretty much everything fans could want.
But amid all the action, the show also fired plenty of unanswered questions at warp speed.
From a potential new deadly threat to a key missing character, here are the major mysteries that materialised in episode one.
Just what are those mysterious red signals?
As we saw in the trailers for this season, Starfleet’s latest big puzzle revolves around seven mysterious red signals that have popped up throughout 30,000 light years of space.
As the newly-appointed Captain Pike (Anson Mount) sums up: “These mysterious signals are unlike anything we’ve encountered. The energy needed to create them is beyond anything we understand.”
Remember, Starfleet has every reason to be sceptical about approaching an unidentified object. The last time they did so – when Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the USS Shenzhou explored an unknown mass in Discovery’s first episode – it kickstarted a war with the Klingons.
Fortunately, these signals don’t appear to be a cloaked ship. Unfortunately, they seem much more mysterious.
“The signals don’t appear to be moons, stars or any other type of planetoid,” summed up one Enterprise officer. “The truth is we can’t detect anything about them or engage with them in any way. Every time we tried to scan, the computer went haywire.”
Are these signals greetings from a new form of life? Or something more sinister?
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What’s Spock’s connection to the red signals?
The episode’s close saw Burnham aboard the Enterprise, sifting through her adoptive brother Spock’s personal logs. Here she discovers he has been dreaming about those puzzling red signals, probably before Starfleet ever knew about them.
This suggests that Spock has some mysterious connection to these crimson spots, a link we can’t put down to his Vulcan mind abilities alone. After all, his father, Sarek – currently aboard Discovery – apparently hasn’t seen the same visions.
For reasons currently unclear, Spock has been singled out. Which makes our next question very important indeed…
Where in the galaxy is Spock?
After Pike revealed he had left the Enterprise on leave, the search for Spock is now on. We know a beautifully-bearded version of the Vulcan (played by Ethan Peck) is going to appear at some point in the series, but at this moment we can’t exactly be sure where, when or how.
We can say with some certainty that Spock isn’t just sitting around brooding over his visions. The man Vulcan has a plan, declaring in the audio logs Burnham discovers: “I now understand its meaning and where it must lead me.”
Let’s just hope it leads him towards the USS Discovery – and soon.
Who or what was the red angel that Burnham saw?
After Burnham became momentarily stranded on an “impossible” asteroid (more on that below) with a chunk of shrapnel in her leg, her imminent death appeared highly logical. However, at the last second, she was rescued in the strangest of circumstances.
As the science officer lay on the ground, Burnham seemed to be visited by a silhouette of a winged angel – the same one that appeared in the new opening credits – before Captain Pike miraculously appeared to beam her aboard the Discovery.
What exactly was this vision? Fortunately, since this moment featured heavily in the season’s second trailer, Trekkies have had plenty of time to mull this over. A leading theory is that it’s an alien known as an Iconian.
That’s right, an Iconian. Believed to be wiped out 200,000 years ago by orbital bombardment, the species – intriguingly known as the “demons of air and darkness” – have the ability to travel vast distances instantly thanks to their advanced gateway technology. Just the sort of technology that you could use to lay down seven signals across space all at once.
Although they played a big part in some Next Generation episodes (set several decades after Discovery), the mysterious aliens have never actually appeared on screen before. However, they did feature in the Star Trek Online game, looking very similar not only to the creature in Burnham’s vision but also the sketch of a red humanoid figure you can see in the season trailer.
Interestingly, the Iconians were name-checked in Discovery’s first season. Although the aliens are considered merely a myth to Starfleet at the time of Discovery, a tactical map in episode Choose Your Pain marked one area as “Iconian space”. Were the designers quite literally laying the territory for the show’s second run?
What is the asteroid made out of?
Just to make those red signals even more perplexing, the one Discovery approached was suddenly torn apart by an asteroid. And not just any asteroid, but one “not composed of non-baryonic matter,” as Tilly put it.
That means the asteroid is made out of dark matter, undiscovered subatomic particles. But just how is this new material connected to those red signals? Hopefully we’ll find out more next episode with a chunk of the asteroid now strapped into the Discovery’s cargo bay with the help of a gravity simulator.
What’s the beef between Spock and Burnham?
That’s a nicer way of putting the question we really want to ask: why was Spock such a jerk as a kid?
Actually, even jerk might be too nice a word here: through a flashback we saw that Spock met his adoptive sister, Michael Burnham, a girl whose parents had just been brutally murdered by Klingons – and slammed a door in her face.
Worse still, we learned that Spock hasn’t contacted Burnham in years. Is he ashamed of his human sibling? Or does this separation have something to do with his mysterious nightmares?
Is Stamets really leaving Discovery?
Well, we wouldn’t blame the ship’s Chief engineer for wanting to leave Discovery to take a teaching position on Earth. Having your partner – in his case, Medical Officer Culber – murdered by a Klingon warlord biologically altered to look like a Starfleet officer would make anyone want to slow things down a bit.
However, despite Stamets declaring his departure to Tilly, it’s very unlikely we’ll be waving goodbye to him soon. Not only do we see plenty of Stamets aboard the Discovery in the season trailers, but Anthony Rapp – the actor who plays him – is part of the main cast this series.
Sure, it wouldn’t be strange for a member of the main cast to exit the show early if they were unexpectedly killed off. But leaving the Discovery to take a post at the Starfleet Academy? That would be too much of an anticlimax.
Our bet is that the enthusiasm Stamets showed for the dark matter in the Discovery’s cargo bay will keep him aboard for the time being.
How did Jet Reno survive on an asteroid for 10 months?
Although Discovery’s crew didn’t cross paths with Spock, they did meet Jet Reno, an engineer trapped aboard the USS Hiawatha, the medical ship trapped in an asteroid’s crater. According to Reno, she’d survived on this rock of dark matter – one plagued by gravity spikes – for 10 months, apparently completely unaware the Klingon war was over.
While it’s very difficult not to warm to the smart-talking Reno, we’ve still got some very big questions about her. Namely, why didn’t the patients who escaped from the Hiawatha alert Starfleet that the ship had crashed on the asteroid? And how could she survive on a hunk of dark matter for so long?
What damage did the Enterprise take?
Throughout the episode, we heard that the USS Enterprise has been damaged in some way, so much so that its captain, Christopher Pike, has been ordered to serve on another vessel. So what exactly has the Enterprise – the ship to be captained by James Kirk in the near future – been up to? What adventures wrecked the ship to such an extent?
Although the franchise has announced a book will document events aboard the Enterprise before it came across Discovery, it’s likely we’ll still learn a lot about the ship from its crew in upcoming episodes. Not only is Spock set to join the series, but actor Rebecca Romijn is set to appear as Enterprise’s Number One.
Here’s hoping they can shed some light on what exactly the Enterprise has been up to.
Does anyone actually care Connolly is dead?
You know, Connolly, the science officer who was beamed aboard the Discovery instead of Spock? Sure, he was incredibly arrogant and baited death by refusing to change the course of his lander pod as he flew towards the dark matter asteroid. But nobody seems to recognise his death – particularly Pike.
Although the Discovery crew’s muted mourning over Connolly is somewhat understandable – they’d only known him for two minutes – his captain doesn’t seem to acknowledge a senior officer under his command was blown up.
We get that sometimes writers might want to kill off somebody to show how dangerous a situation is – just look at any redshirt landing on an unknown planet in the original series. But not recognising when an integral officer dies? You’re better than that, Starfleet.
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are released in the UK on Netflix every Friday