Star Trek Discovery: Who Is the Red Angel? Some Healthy Speculation


Star Trek Discovery’s Big Mystery in Season 2 is the Question of Who the Red Angel is. *Spoilers Ahead*

In case you didn’t read it in the headline, this article is going to be chock full of spoilers for Star Trek Discovery season 2. Continue reading at your own risk! Okay, now for the fun!

At the end of Discovery season 1, the titular USS Discovery comes bow to bow with the legendary USS Enterprise, commanded by Christopher Pike at this point in time. We pick up at the beginning of season 2 just a short time later as Pike is given temporary command of USS Discovery to investigate several mysterious energy bursts within the galaxy. They were powerful, and they all happened in the same instant. Their cause and their consequences remain a mystery, as do their origins. Towards the end of episode one, Michael Burnham sees a vision of an angelic looking creature with a red aura bathing it. We also find out that Spock had been having nightmares about these creatures when Burnham reveals a hand drawn map of the approximate locations of the bursts. Discovery also takes on a huge chunk of the asteroid that they had been investigating because of certain physical properties that it was shown to possess.

In episode two, Discovery tracks the source of second burst to a planet that, against all logic, had been settled by humans nearly two hundred years previously, before warp drive existed on Earth. Pike, Burnham and Lt. Joann Owosekun beam down to the planet’s surface where they find the source of a distress signal that they had previously picked up on board the ship, a 21st century distress beacon that dates back to World War III. Their investigation also shows that the settlers of this planet mishmashed various Earth religions together, and then folded what appears to be that red angel into their belief system. It’s during the search of a church basement that one of the settlers, Jacob, uses some sort of concussion grenade to stun the investigators. During her time of unconsciousness, Burnham once again sees the mysterious angelic creature, although I think this may well have just been a flashback to the previous incident. By the end of the episode, an understanding has been reached between Pike and Jacob as Jacob realizes that just the very fact that someone came from another world in answer to the distress call was validation enough, and you know, the finer details aren’t terribly important for our purposes. What is important is that Pike brokers a trade with Jacob: a power cell from Discovery for a military helmet with a camera that was transported with the original group that settled the colony. At the very end of the episode we see the contents of the camera, and what should appear right at the end, but one of the angelic creatures.

It begs the question, who is this mysterious new creature that seem like it will feature quite prominently in the story arc of season two? We’re only two episodes into season 2 as of the writing of this article, but I thought it might be fun to open up a forum for we fans to throw around some theories and see what sticks as the season progresses. There have already been a number of theories postulated in the last couple weeks so let’s start there, and then we’ll get to my really juicy theory.

Star Trek The Next Generation contagion Copyright Paramount CBS

The Iconians Are Meddling in the Affairs of Lesser Species

One of the most prevalent theories thus far is that the Iconians from Next Generation are somehow involved in the mysterious bursts, and more particularly, that they’re the angelic creatures. The theory came across my radar by way of This theory seems to stem from a couple of things, some canon, and some not as much. From the canon perspective, we’re discussing a race that was first featured in the Next Generation episode, “Contagion”. Also, we actually see Iconian space defined on a star chart briefly during the Discovery episode, “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”. Ergo, Starfleet is already at least aware of the Iconians by the second season of the show.

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There are a lot of pieces of evidence to suggest that this theory might hold a little water. First, Picard discovers the Iconian doorways on their home planet that allow them to travel to pretty much anywhere in the galaxy instantaneously. Second, with so little concrete knowledge about their culture, the idea that they might have been benefactors within the galaxy at large is a twist that could be cemented and still remain plausible. From a non-canon standpoint, a lot of people have apparently drawn parallels between the appearance of the Iconians in Star Trek Online and the creatures being portrayed in Discovery. This is a basic comparison that’s really only skin deep, but it’s a brave new Star Trek world that we’re living in, and who’s to say that the creative staff behind Discovery haven’t been given permission to mine some elements from STO to build upon their own portion of the mythology.

To me, this is a decent theory. The only real hole I can find is that it’s been previously established that the Iconians vanished from the galaxy some 200,000 years before TNG. However, this little detail didn’t stop the developers of Star Trek Online from folding the species into that portion of mythology, and it worked really well. The Iconians are portrayed as pretty malevolent, and end up becoming an enemy to the Federation, which could make for a good source of conflict for Discovery as well. This potential story line allows for a lot of creative flexibility on the part of the writers of the show and that’s good. They would maybe have to work a bit harder to avoid contradicting what has already been established about the Iconians, at least in canon, but since so little has actually been established, it leaves them with a lot of creative leeway so really, there’s no reason to say that this one isn’t entirely plausible.

Star Trek: The Paradise Syndrome Copyright Paramount/CBS

The Preservers are Attempting to Preserve Humanity

This theory actually comes from a close friend of mine, and it’s an interesting theory. His theory goes that seeing the potential global destruction of Earth, the Preservers from the TOS episode, “The Paradise Syndrome” once again step in to preserve a race and a culture that’s in danger of extinction. I like this theory because it adheres to that optimistic idea that there are benevolent species in the Star Trek universe that just want to help. Also, if you’ll remember waaaaay back to Discovery season one, Burnham is given a demonstration of the spore drive by Lorca and as many images flash by us, one contains a what appears to be a Preserver obelisk similar to the one seen in “The Paradise Syndrome”.

However, I really feel like this one breaks down for a number of reasons. First, if we go back to the TOS episode, we learn that the Preservers were really hands on about transplanting humans to a new world. They took the time to build the obelisk to protect the new settlers from cosmic disaster. They taught an individual within the group how to use the obelisk, and they left explicit instructions that a successor be chosen to learn how to use the obelisk throughout each generation. This is really hands on, and at least thus far, we haven’t seen that kind of approach from our angelic creatures. However, I’m willing to concede that since we’ve only seen two episodes of the season thus far, there’s a lot more room to expand what we know about these beings and this behavior may start to manifest itself as the season unfolds. This is another potential route that allows for a ton of creative room for the writers. Being as pretty much all of USS Discovery’s missions are classified, there’s no reason that the crew couldn’t have contact with the Preservers before Kirk’s incident a decade later. It would also be a good way to offset the potentially grittier drama present via the growing unrest within the Klingon Empire.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Time’s Arrow Copyright Paramount CBS

KC’s Juicy Left Field Theory

My personal theory may at first seem pretty silly, and kind of half-baked. However, if you’ll bear with me, I think it’s a fascinating idea, and since it’s my own theory, you can rest assured that I’m not the least bit biased towards it. At. All. My theory goes that faced with the possible extinction of humanity, the Devidians stepped in to rescue a small cross sample of our species and deposited them on New Eden. Now, I’ll admit that right off the bat, there appears to be a glaring hole in my theory since the Devidians would most likely have already known that humanity would endure beyond World War III, but we’ll address that in a moment. Here’s some supporting evidence mixed with some wild speculation. First, we know from the TNG two-parter “Time’s Arrow” that the neural energy of humans is the only effective source of nourishment that the Devidians have found for themselves. Second, we know that they have the ability to travel through time. Third, we know that they exist slightly out of phase with the rest of the universe, much like the dark matter found during Discovery season two episode one. And fourth, we know that they possess the ability to change their appearance which means that they can appear to be whatever they want. This is a really tantalizing tidbit to me because I think if I were part of a race of time travelling parasites, I’d want to present myself to my food source as something that they would readily trust, or that they could easily be manipulated into trusting.

The crew of Enterprise-D didn’t destroy the Devidian doorway until 2369. That means that during the time of Discovery, the Devidians are still in play. I can totally imagine that, faced with the possibility of losing their best food source, the Devidians would attempt to move a large enough population off world to provide a back up source of food. They have the technology to do so and bear in mind that we’re never told that another readily available source of nourishment exists so the extinction of humans could very well set off the eventually extinction of the Devidians. Given these circumstances, I can totally see a culture like the Devidian’s having the audacity to make humanity do their dirty work for them. As to the idea that the Devidians would probably have known that humanity would survive WWIII, if there were physical and genetic mutations introduced as a result of nuclear fallout, and it’s fair to assume that there would be, that would leave the Devidians with a finite time frame from which to pluck individuals for food. It’s also pretty easy to concede that a time faring species would understand just how much they could farm Earth’s past without disrupting the natural, sustained evolution of our species, which means that food would be still be finite. However, having a technologically primitive colony like the one on New Eden from which to harvest humans would be a pretty solid arrangement.

I feel like, of the three theories presented here, this would make for a wonderful narrative twist. Thus far, this angel creature has been portrayed as pretty benevolent. However, in good serialized storytelling, things always need to be working through some sort of conflict, and building to a climax. I can really dig the sinister twist of Discovery jumping through all of these hoops in pursuit of enlightenment, only to realize that they’ve been helping a sadistic race of time murderers perpetuate their culture. It’s just the kind of sinister plot that would leave me speechless! I’d rank the Iconian theory second as being the most plausible, but without any built in motivation, it’s still a tough sell for me at this point. I’m still on board if it were to be the Preservers as well because I really like my optimistic Star Trek, and this theory represents that point-of-view  exceptionally well. The Preservers also come with pretty simple built-in motives to drive their actions. I feel like this route would provide our characters a chance to further contextualize themselves within the universe, and would present us, the viewers, with that optimistic exploration of the human condition that came to epitomize Star Trek over the years.

TEASER KEY ART for the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: CBS All Access © 2018 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

A Fascinating Season of Discovery

Whether you’re totally on board with Discovery, or it’s taking its time growing on you, it’s hard to argue that this story arc with the red angel will make for a pretty fascinating season of the show. Already, we’ve seen how focusing on a mystery that isn’t driven by war and violence has helped to strengthen the show, particularly from the aspect of more equal screen time and contributions of the various crew members. I personally love a good mystery, and this, at least at first impression, looks to be a good mystery. I know I personally will enjoy trying to puzzle out each aspect of the story as I learn more, but what about you?

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What are your thoughts and theories about this mysterious red angel? And what other surprises do you think may be in store for this latest season? Sound off in the comments!