Star Trek: Discovery has revealed the new future version of Starfleet, and the United Federation of Planets. After arriving in the 32nd century, Discovery's crew has been on a non-stop mission to reconnect with Starfleet, and thanks to new crew member Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio) and her memories of former Starfleet leader Admiral Tal, Discovery is finally able to reach its goal in season 3's fifth episode, "Die Trying". However, what remains of Starfleet in the 32nd century is a far cry from what Discovery's crew had behind them in the 23rd century. At the same time, the future holds a new potential that Discovery's crew could've never imagined.
Warning - Star Trek: Discovery "Die Trying" SPOILERS Follow!
The 32nd-century version of Starfleet is based at a station in a far quadrant, where the remaining fleet hides under cover of a distortion field, created from the combined energies of each ship. When Discovery is cleared for entry, the crew doesn't get the kind of greeting they had been hoping for.
The leader of Future Starfleet is none other than Admiral Charles Vance (Oded Fehr), an old colleague of Admiral Tal. Admiral Vance drops some hard truths on Captian Saru (Doug Jones) and 1st officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), about why he's such a hardass when it comes to how/why Starfleet resources get used.
According to Admiral Vance, after "The Burn" cataclysm, The Federation was reduced from a highpoint of over 350 worlds collectively participating, to just under 38. Vance reveals that his officer's quarters, where he's meeting with Saru and Burnham, also represents the entire institutional body of The Federation's remaining government. In short: Starfleet and The Federation have been whittled down to a few dozen ships and a small spaceport. More importantly, the ideals of Starfleet have also eroded, as long-term voyages and exploration have been discontinued, due to severley limited warp capability. Admiral Vance's Starfleet is just limping along and trying to survive, with no illusions of higher purpose.
Of course, the entire purpose of the "Die Trying" episode is for Discovery and its crew to prove to Admiral Vance that they (and their Spore-drive teleporting) are the best hope for restoring Starfleet and the Federation's reputation in the universe. Of course Michael Burnham and co. pull that feat off, while also learning that the 32nd century has some great new advancements (better sensors, revolutionary spaceship construction) that they never could've imagined.
Star Trek: Discovery has just given the concept of Starfleet a kind of soft-reboot that will be exciting to build-out and explore. Catch new Star Trek: Discovery season 3 episodes every Thursday on CBS All Access.