But who are the Iconians? Although they’ve never actually appeared on a Trek series before, these aliens have been mentioned throughout the franchise, most notably in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
During one episode, Contagion, we learn about this mysterious species – interestingly nicknamed “demons of air and darkness” – that possess technology beyond the reach of Starfleet.
Although the Iconians are believed by many to have been wiped out 200,000 years ago by “orbital bombardment”, the Enterprise crew discover that some still exist and have the ability to travel vast distances instantly thanks to their advanced gateway technology. Just the sort of technology, you might think, that could be used to suddenly lay down seven signals across space.
It also just happens to be the kind of space tech that could be behind Discovery’s most recent adventure.
With the help of the spore drive (which is allowed back in action because, um, plot), Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and his crew leap far into space to explore another red signal, only to find a planet, the so-called “New Eden”, of primitive humans.
After beaming to the surface, Pike and Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) discover these Amish-type folk have been living on the planet for 200 years, apparently beamed there by a mysterious Red Angel.
It’s this being, the people say, that instantaneously transported their ancestors, a church and mix of religious texts from Earth to a home further than humans have ever travelled before. In fact, the planet is so far away it would take Discovery 150 years to reach them without its spore drive.
So, how exactly did this band of Luddites travel to the furthest reaches of the Beta Quadrant? While Pike and Burnham scratch their heads, the answer to Trekkies seems obvious: Iconian technology.
But this isn’t the only new evidence that points to the Iconians. We may have also seen a glimpse of the aliens in episode two.
Remember when we said that the Iconians haven’t been seen on the TV show before? Well, they did make an appearance in the Star Trek online game looking like this…
Which bears a lot of resemblance (minus the wings) to a glass window painting the Discovery landing crew find in a church on New Eden…
And that’s not all. Also possibly significant: the manner that New Eden was almost destroyed.
During the episode, the planet’s radioactive rings suddenly threaten to plunge down to the surface, wiping out all life below. In other words, before Discovery stepped in to save it, New Eden would have been destroyed by “orbital bombardment”, mirroring the way the Iconians were said to have been wiped out.
Anson Mount as Captain Pike; Rachael Ancheril as Lt. Nhan; Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Iconians were name-checked in Discovery’s first season. Although the aliens were considered a myth by Starfleet when season two is set (as outlined in Star Trek: The Next Generation), they are mentioned on a tactical map in episode Choose Your Pain. Not only is “Iconia” marked as a Klingon-occupied planet, but an entire zone of a tactical chart is labelled “Iconian Space, 200,000 years ago”.
Of course, as Discovery is set decades before The Next Generation, this might be seen as a simple canon contradiction. But could it be that the show’s designers were literally laying out the territory for the show’s second season?
At the moment, we can’t say one way or another. So let’s just pray – even to the Red Angel itself – that this theory is proved right or wrong soon.
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery are beamed aboard Netflix every Friday