Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 6, “Scavengers”.
The U.S.S. Discovery has been retrofitted with 32nd-century technology in Star Trek: Discovery season 3 and here’s every update to the 23rd-century starship. After permanently time traveling to the year 3189, Captain Saru (Doug Jones) and his crew located the hidden base of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets, which eventually welcomed the nearly thousand-year-old starship after Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) led Discovery on a successful mission to prove themselves to Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr).
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In the 32nd century, the entire galaxy has been irrevocably changed by the Burn, a cataclysm of unknown origin that wiped out nearly all of the known dilithium in the 31st century. The Burn caused the destruction of thousands of Starfleet ships, the deaths of millions of lives, and, without warp-capable vessels or long-range communications, the Federation collapsed almost overnight. In 3189, the Federation is down to 38 known member worlds, down from 350 at its height, and even United Earth did the unthinkable and abandoned the Federation it founded a millennia ago. Starfleet is now severely limited in its ability to help what’s left of the Federation without warp-capable ships. All Admiral Vance can do is try to hold together the Federation’s fragile pieces in the post-Burn universe.
And yet, this being the 32nd century, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds from what the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery knew and left behind in the 23rd century. Discovery‘s classic antique hardware been replaced or consolidated with new tech. Meanwhile, Starfleet’s ships may not be warp-capable but they boast incredible upgrades and are larger and more powerful than ever before. But now that Discovery has been welcomed back to Starfleet, the starship has been properly upgraded to be in line with the rest of the armada while also having advantages no other vessel in the galaxy posses: the spore displacement hub drive and Zora, the evolving manifestation of 100,000 years of sphere data that merged with Discovery‘s computers.
In Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 6, “Scavengers”, the U.S.S. Discovery spent three weeks in drydock being retrofitted with new technology to make it on par with the current Starfleet. This means the starship has been upgraded inside and out, with its tritanium exteriors refurbished and everyone aboard receiving wonderful new toys that replaces Discovery‘s antique gear. Although it wasn’t clarified in “Scavengers”, it’s also highly possible that Discovery‘s shields and weapons systems have been upgraded beyond the 23rd-century’s phasers and photon torpedoes. The Discovery also has a new mission to serve the Federation, and here are all of the changes to the time-tossed starship.
From an obvious structural standpoint, the biggest changes to the U.S.S. Discovery are detached nacelles, which Captain Saru says “improves maneuverability” and will allow Discovery to be “more efficient in-flight”. Detached nacelles are an eye-popping innovation that’s apparently now standard in 32nd-century Starfleet ships and they seem to be held together with the starship’s body via force fields.
The practical advantages of detached nacelles remain to be seen since Trekkers have set to witness Discovery or the other starships with them in action. It’s also possible the detached nacelles are maneuverable the way the nacelles on the original Intrepid-class U.S.S. Voyager used to rise before jumping to warp. Further, the detached nacelles could also be reconfigurable the way Cleveland “Book” Booker’s (David Ajala) starship can alter its shape.
The most ingenious innovation of Star Trek: Discovery‘s 32nd-century era is programmable matter. Apparently ubiquitous in this new era, programmable matter is composed of minute nano molecules that can be altered to become anything from furniture to the control systems aboard a starship. Discovery‘s interiors are now upgraded with programmable matter but, for ease of transition since Discovery‘s crew are still newbies to the 32nd century, Starfleet retained the Discovery‘s familiar consoles and interfaces on the surface while recomposing them with programmable matter.
Programmable matter reads bio-signs and adapts to each user so it becomes personalized and instinctive as well as reactive. According to Lt. Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), programmable matter “feels cool and smooth… like glass” to the touch. As versatile and ubiquitous as programmable matter appears to be, however, there are apparent limits to what forms it can take. For example, programmable matter isn’t able to replace dilithium as a power source for warp drives.
Upgraded Spore Drive Interface
The spore displacement hub drive’s containment cube has received an upgrade thanks to Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio). Adira redesigned Lt. Paul Stamets’ (Anthony Rapp) interface so that he no longer needs the shunts attached to his forearms, which Paul was finally able to have removed. Instead, Stamets’ hands are now covered in nano gel, which acts as a quantum transducer. While gooey to the touch, the gel slides off with no residue.
The spore drive is Discovery‘s greatest technology that has never been replicated in the last 930 years because all knowledge of it was redacted from Starfleet’s files by Spock (Ethan Peck) when Discovery left the timeline for the 32nd century. However, the fact that the spore drive needs Stamets to serve as a navigator within the mycelial network is a known limitation that Discovery‘s brilliant crew of engineers hasn’t solved. It’s not yet known what has come of Ensign Sylvia Tilly’s (Mary Wiseman) idea of using dark matter as a replacement for a human interface.
New Delta Badges
Each of Discovery‘s crewmembers also received new delta badges, which are standard Starfleet equipment. Along with denoting rank, the 32nd-century delta badges are lightyears more advanced than the decorative pins Discovery’s crew brought from the 23rd-century.
The new delta badges are incredible multi-tools that generate holo padds as interactive heads-up displays, replacing the need for tricorders. The badges are also communicators and universal translators, which were features of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s 24th century-era combadges. Best of all, the new delta badges are also personal transporters. Since each crewmember aboard Discovery can now beam anywhere at-will, it remains to be seen what this will mean for Discovery’s 23rd century-era transporter room.
Discovery’s New Mission
Now that the U.S.S. Discovery has been refitted and is an active member of Starfleet, Admiral Vance is using Captain Saru’s ship as his “rapid responder”. This means that Discovery remains at Starfleet Headquarters until Vance orders it to jump and perform specific missions. However, this is also for Discovery’s protection because of the spore drive and the supply of dilithium it has aboard. If Starfleet’s many enemies like the Emerald Chain, which is the Andorian-Orion syndicate, learn that Discovery has a spore drive, the thousand-year-old starship will become a target.
At least for now, Discovery‘s role as a rapid responder means that it will not explore strange new worlds, seek out new life, and boldly go where no one has gone before. Unfortunately, in a galaxy that’s been ravaged by the Burn, exploration is a luxury that Starfleet is no longer capable of. The U.S.S. Discovery is needed to solve the Federation’s many problems rather than continue Star Trek’s original mission, but Star Trek: Discovery season 3’s greater undertaking – solving the mystery of what caused The Burn and reuniting the Federation – has only just begun.
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