Before Star Trek: Discovery was around, back in 2009, J.J. Abrams set up several mysteries during the first Kelvin Timeline movie. The imaginatively named Star Trek. The most significant one of these for the ‘Prime’ Star Trek timeline was the Romulan Supernova. But will Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 explain the Romulan Supernova?
In the 2009 film, this event was the catalyst that made its villain, Nero, embark on his quest for revenge against the Federation. Several explanations from various off-screen sources have emerged over the years. But the mystery has remained very much unsolved (and seemingly intentionally avoided) on screen. Even the Romulan-heavy Star Trek: Picard Season 1 avoided addressing or explaining the supernova in any detail. Choosing instead to focus its narrative on the gargantuan rescue operation that Starfleet ended up getting cold feet on.
In the past few months, we’ve gotten some new information about Star Trek: Discovery Season 5, which hints that the cause of the supernova may finally be established on screen.
The first explanation for the supernova was given in the marketing build-up to the release of Star Trek (2009). The sequence of events leading to Nero’s travel through time to attack the U.S.S. Kelvin was covered through a comic series called Countdown. This 4-issue event was set in the prime timeline eight years after Star Trek: Nemesis. Countdown was based on a story by Star Trek (2009) writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
Tim Jones and Mike Johnson then wrote it. Johnson publicly stated that he considered Countdown to be canon, but in the years since another Kurtzman production (Picard) has confirmed it is not. As Picard actively contradicts the comic in significant ways (such as the fate of B-4).
Another notable divergence is that the Romulan star wasn’t going supernova in the Countdown comics. Instead, it was the Hobus star. The comics and movie combined laid out a (somewhat nonsensical, even for Star Trek) plot about how this star going supernova threatened the galaxy to explain how a supernova seemingly travelled across multiple star systems. These events led to Spock using the MacGuffin Red Matter to collapse it into a short-lived black hole, which transported both his (Geordi LaForge-designed) ship and Nero’s back to the 23rd century.
Star Trek Online’s Explanation
The popular Star Trek MMORPG also took a turn explaining the supernova that led to the destruction of Romulus in an episode called Romulan Mystery. This story has seen several revisions over the years regarding structure and gameplay. If you haven’t played the game or don’t intend to play it, a basic summary of the story is in the next paragraph. If you do want to play Star Trek: Online and don’t want to spoil yourself, you can skip ahead.
In Romulan Mystery, the supernova also started with the Hobus star. The player travels to the remnants of the Hobus system to find clues about the destruction of Romulus and Remus. The Romulan Republic has a theory and believes that the former praetor is responsible. Republic forces tried to capture the praetor, but she escaped through an Iconian gateway.
Throughout the story, you uncover that the unusual behaviour of the supernova was because it wasn’t a natural event (surprise)! But the effect of an Iconian doomsday weapon that rogue members of the Tal Shiar deployed.
So what about Star Trek Discovery?
As we know, Discovery is now set in the 32nd century. Almost a whole millennia from the events of the other live-action series. This jump to the future has opened up a wealth of possibilities for the show, allowing it to push beyond the established events of other series. The move also allowed Discovery to address the open-ended questions of the era, though. Such as the results of the Vulcan and Romulan reunification movement (also led by Spock) in the much-loved season 3 episode Unification III.
Discovery’s distance in the timeline from the other shows allows it to answer such questions without removing the possibility of them being explored in more depth in 23rd, 24th or 25th-century shows. As Harry Kim said in Star Trek: Voyager’s finale: “It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey”. So, with that in mind, let’s look at the clues we’ve had so far that Discovery may tackle the supernova. Be warned, go no further if you operate a zero spoiler policy!
The upcoming fifth season, which will debut in April, finds Captain Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery uncovering a mystery that will send them on an epic adventure across the galaxy to find an ancient power whose very existence has been deliberately hidden for centuries. But there are others on the hunt as well… dangerous foes who are desperate to claim the prize for themselves and will stop at nothing to get it.Star Trek: Discovery Season 5 – StarTrek.com
The Red Directive
We started the year with a sneak peek at the episode titles for Discovery’s upcoming 5th and final season. Last week, we got our first episode synopsis for the cryptically titled “The Red Directive“.
Capt Burnham & the Discovery are sent to retrieve a mysterious 800 year-old Romulan vessel; until the artifact hidden inside is stolen, leading to an epic chase. Meanwhile, Saru is offered the position of a lifetime, and Tilly’s efforts to help pull her into a tangled web of secrecy.Synop for Star Trek: Discovery Episode 5×01 ‘Red Directive’
An 800-year-old ship with an artefact hidden inside? Was Star Trek Online on the money with their story? The title of the episode itself implies a link to Red Matter. We know from the only other directive titled episode The Omega Directive in Voyager’s fourth season that Starfleet has precedent for creating directives to deal with dangerous substances, and from what we saw in Star Trek (2009), Red Matter would certainly warrant one…
Of course, we have to address that this very specifically is a Romulan ship, and one from the 24th Century, no less. It also bears a striking resemblance to one of the few Romulan designs that we’ve seen on screen. The Romulan science ship is seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “The Next Phase“.
Given the limited number of Romulan designs seen in Star Trek, this must be an intentional choice. Also, a tasteful update to the design, if I do say so myself.
Putting the pieces together
So, we have a series arc that sees the Star Trek: Discovery crew uncovering a mystery. This mystery leads to an ancient power whose existence has been hidden for centuries. The mystery just happens to start on a 24th-century Romulan science ship as well.
We’re told that the power has been deliberately hidden. Given that it seems to have been hidden on a Romulan ship (or at least a clue that points towards the power), that would seem to imply that the Romulans were the ones who did this. This would certainly support a Star Trek: Online-type narrative of a rogue Romulan faction causing the supernova.
On top of that, we have the fact that Discovery producer Alex Kurtzman was involved in the original Romulus destruction explanation back in 2009 and that the only other ‘Directive’ named episode dealt with a Starfleet ship dealing with a dangerous substance. Dangerous would certainly be an apt word to describe Red Matter, and it would make sense if the Red Matter were also acquired by the Romulans and hidden with the power they used.
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