HomeStar Trek FranchiseDiscoveryStar Trek: Discovery – Theories Behind The Melody

Star Trek: Discovery – Theories Behind The Melody


Discovery season three has introduced another element to its season narrative. Not only do the crew need to solve the mystery of the burn, but that of a strange melody as well.

The writing team behind Discovery have become experts on crafting season-long mysteries that are built upon with each new episode. In Season two it was the Red Angel and the seven signals spread across the galaxy. Season three has brought us to a future that has been decimated by an event called the Burn, a catastrophe that impacted the dilithium crystals in warp drives causing starships to explode killing millions of people and cutting off civilizations and systems, unleashing lawlessness, mistrust and isolation. If that wasn’t enough, a blink and you will miss it piece of music, nothing more than a pleasant melody introduced in episode 4 ‘Forget Me Not’ as played by newcomer Adira on her cello, has suddenly become a potentially key piece of the puzzle. The big question is though, does the melody actually have anything to do with the Burn?

As it stands we don’t know. Of course, we don’t and we won’t until it plays out over the course of season three. However, we do know one thing and that is it will be an important part of the narrative going forward. We know this because Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) picked up on the music in episode 5 ‘Die trying’ when she noticed the Barzan family humming the melody, then again later on with some of the 32nd-century Starfleet officers who seemed do have no knowledge that they were even doing it or where it came from. So if it is somehow in their subconscious, how did it get there and why? There is only one thing for it. Its time for some speculation.

We have put together some of the best theories we have seen online, as well as drafting one of our own. So let’s have a look at them.


This seems to be the most popular theory that is being discussed online. Someone or something created the music specifically aimed at disrupting and destabilizing the properties of dilithium crystals in order to make them unstable and eventually explode. It’s possible that the frequency was layered with the music so it didn’t resonate with humanoids across the galaxy, instead, it manifests itself as a musical earworm, nothing more than a melody that’s stuck in your head. If this is the case then it’s very unlikely that the music/frequency was a natural formation and is much more likely that it was created by someone. It could well have been an accident but the mechanics needed to pull something of this scale of means it more probable that it was premeditated.


How the melody was delivered across the galaxy will take someone with a better understanding of the physics of the Star Trek universe than I, however, I have seen mentioned the mycelial network (the same network used for the USS Discoveries black alert jumps) but this would require someone with knowledge of the network in the first place. Maybe a former member of the Federation. Another way could be via sub-space which is described by Memory Alpha as an infinite number of domains. This actually has some precedent as the emitting of frequencies from sub-space has been detected by the USS Enterprise D in the Star Trek The Next Generation episode ‘The Loss’. The final theory I have seen is that there was an intrusion/invasion into our space from something from another dimension although this one to me actually seems the least likely option.


This one is mine and to be honest, even I think it’s a bit of a stretch but there is some logic behind my theory so please bear with me. I am a huge sci-fi fan and one of the series I love is Doctor Who. When David Tennant played the Doctor he came across his arch-nemesis the Master who had taken control of the UK by becoming Prime Minister. He’s managed this by creating a network of mobile phone satellites which fed a subliminal message to its users on the ground. The message was to get people to vote for him which they ultimately did, however, something was left behind. In Doctor Who’s case, it was the sound of 4 drum beats. Like Star Trek, no one could remember where it came from and was almost unaware that they even had it in their heads in the first place. It’s possible that a similar plot point is happening in Star Trek: Discovery for the melody.


What if someone sent this melody out into the universe and embedded in that music was the subliminal message to destabilize the dilithium, to intentionally sabotage the active warp cores of starships across the galaxy. It has been brought up that the music featured in the show has only cropped up since Burnham and the crew got closer to the Federation. Burnham spent a year in the future before Discovery caught up with her and she was surprised by the sound in episode 5. Meaning she has never heard it before. The music could have initially been a targeted attack on the Federation and Starfleet which makes sense when you put these clues together. The music lingering as an earworm following the attack is just an unexpected side effect which could end up being the undoing of whoever is responsible.


Finally, we have Burnham’s mother who has gone missing. Gabrielle Burnham played by Sonja Sohn was the Red Angel seen in season 2. Following their leap into the future, the plan was for Michael and the USS Discovery to arrive at the planet Terralysium to rendezvous with Gabrielle. We know from the events of the first two episodes that this didn’t happen. Michael explains that in the year between episode one and two, she sent a message to Terralysium but her mother was not there. Not too much emphasis has been put on finding mama Burnham so far this season but it a safe bet that the writers have not forgotten about her. Travelling through space and time via a wormhole isn’t an exact science and the exit points for those travelling through can be a little erratic. There was a year’s difference between Burnham and USS Discovery with both arriving at different locations in the galaxy. It was also made a point of in episode one, that the time difference could have been even worse, decades worse. This can be demonstrated by the 2009 Star Trek Kelvin timeline film that saw a 25-year gap between Nero’s arrival compared to that of Spock.


What if Gabrielle came out of the wormhole many years earlier than Burnham and she is lost in some desolate part of the universe. Unable to communicate using traditional methods but somehow managing to send out a musical melody across the universe. Either knowing that Burnham’s inherent curiosity to discover its true meaning will lead her to rescue her or most likely it’s actually a melody from Burnhams youth that at some point she will remember and know it’s from her mother. All of this could actually be planting the seeds for the narrative for season 4 and it won’t be till the last episode of this season when we discover its true meaning. This theory means that it actually had nothing to do with the Burn and that the melody is not malicious. Of course, a flip side could be that Gabrielle came out of the wormhole over 100 years prior and by sending this message of help, inadvertently was the cause of the Burn but I doubt very much that this would be the case.

What do you think of the above theories? Do you have a separate theory? Let us know on our Facebook page and other social media outlets

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David Milburn
David Milburn
Illustrator and writer, David Had plans for world domination at the age of 17 then discovered recliner sofas and then became too comfy for all that nonsense. Powered by his love of all things Star Trek.

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