Star Trek: Discovery has essentially been given a blank slate on which to re-write the franchise mythos, after moving the setting to the distant future of the 32nd century. As Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the USS Discovery explore more of this new Star Trek timeline, they are learning some shocking revelations about how time has changed things. In the latest Star Trek: Discovery season 3 episode, "Unification III", we learn that both the Vulcan and Romulan cultures have undergone some drastic - and unexpected - evolutions. Rather than grow apart, Vulcans and Romulans have instead merged into one culture!
Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 SPOILERS Follow!
In "Unification III", Burnham continues tracking down the source of "The Burn," the cataclysmic event that caused warp cores to explode, and crippled interstellar travel lines. That investigation involves data from several starships (including one dedicated to late Star Trek movie star, Anton Yelchin) that measured The Burn; when the data is still too incomplete, Burnham and Tilly (Mary Wiseman) look into an old Federation experiment called SB-19 that originated on Vulcan.
Problem? The Vulcan of the 32nd century is nothing like the one Burnham grew up on in the 23rd century. Or like anything we've ever seen in Star Trek lore, for that matter!
Thanks to the lifelong efforts of Ambassador Spock (and the strength of his legacy and teachings, long after his death), Vulcans and Romulans re-discovered their common ancestry. That shared past allowed for a re-unification of their two species, with many Romulans coming to settle on Vulcan. The planet has since been renamed "Ni'Var" and there was a major change to its status in the Federation: it's no longer affiliated with it.
Vulcan was one of the founding members of The Federation of Planets, but Ni'Var chooses to operate as an independent planet, ruled by its own government. That government is made up of Vulcans and Romulans, with a focused purpose of resolving age-old conflicts between the two species, in order to maintain Unification. In the brief backstory we get from Starfleet's Admiral Vance, The rift between the Federation and Ni'Var may be directly related to The Burn. Ni'Var's scientist had been working on a dangerous new method of warp travel for the Federation; Ni'Var wanted to cancel the process, but the Federation refused to heed the warnings. It's speculated that the experiment on Ni'Var could have caused The Burn.
Ultimately, the episode ends with Burnham suspecting that Ni'Var is clear of blame but still needed to prove it, before the old Vulcan homeworld can trust enough in this new Federation to rejoin.
Star Trek: Discovery is streaming new season 3 episodes Thursdays on CBS All Access.