Star Trek: Discovery Reveals The Federation Lost Another Founding Member By the 32nd Century

Star Trek: Discovery's third season continued this week with the release of "Unification III," its seventh episode. The episode serves as a sequel to two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Unification I" and "Unification II," which featured Star Trek: The Original Series Leonard Nimoy reprising his role as Spock as a special guest star. "Unification III" reveals that Spock's mission to reunify the Vulcan and Romulan races, which were once a single race, eventually came to fruition. However, it also revealed a startling fact about Spock's homeworld. It is no longer a member of the United Federation of Planets. SPOILERS for "Unification III" follow.

Earlier this season, Discovery learned that Earth, a founding member of the Federation and formerly the home of Starfleet and Federation headquarters, was no longer a Federation member planet. Longtime fans with knowledge of Star Trek lore will remember that the Vulcans were the first alien species to make contact with Earth and that Vulcans helped shepherd humanity towards the stars. Later, humans and Vulcans, along with Tellarites and Andorians, formed the Federation in part as a result of the Romulan threat.

It is somewhat ironic then that Romulans and Vulcan now live together on Ni'Var, the planet formerly known as Vulcan, but that the planet is not part of the Federation any longer. In "Unification III," Starfleet sends Michael Burnham on a mission to Vulcan, the planet where she spent much of her childhood as the adopted child of Sarek and Amanda Grayson, and surrogate sister to Spock. She discovers that it is now Ni'Var and home to Romulans as well as Vulcans, but also that it left the Federation in part because the people of Ni'Var believe they are responsible for the Burn.

The Federation's supply of dilithium was running short even before the Burn happened. Ni'Var was one of many planets researching possible alternative forms of warp travel. It had a plan called SB-19 that required the deployment of sensors throughout the galaxy. If successful, starships could travel lightyears in seconds, making warp travel obsolete. Ni'Var's scientists determined the idea was too dangerous but the Federation, desperate for an alternative to dilithium, pressured Ni'Var to push forward anyway. When the Burn took place, Ni'Var felt SB-19 must have been the cause and claimed to have scientific evidence.

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This led to Ni'Var leaving the Federation, though Ni'Var's current president tells Discovery's crew that the Burn wasn't the sole reason. Even when Burnham brings evidence proving Ni'Var's project wasn't the source of the Burn, they are reluctant to hear it. It seems whatever wounds opened between the Federation and Ni'Var will take more time to heal if they ever do.

New Star Trek: Discovery episodes stream Thursdays on CBS All Access.