Movie Reviews

Star Trek: Discoverys TNG Era Scientists & Progenitors Clues Meanings Explained

star trek discovery 5 tng progenitors scientists clues meanings

Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5

Star Trek: Discovery season 5 revealed the identities of the 24th century scientists who hid the clues to the ancient treasure of the Progenitors, and here are the dots that Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the USS Discovery have connected and what they mean. Written by Kenneth Lin and Brandon Schultz and directed by Chris Byrne, Star Trek: Discovery season 5, episode 6, “Whistlespeak”, contains a huge breakthrough as Dr. Kovich (David Cronenberg) reveals the identities of the scientists to Captain Burnham. The names of the scientists were purged from United Federation of Planets databases in the 24th century to protect the Progenitors’ treasure.

Star Trek: Discovery season 5 is a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation season 6’s “The Chase”, which introduced the ancient humanoids who seeded the galaxy and created humanoid life billions of years ago. In the 24th century, the Progenitors’ wondrous but dangerous technology was found by a team of scientists assembled in secret by the President of the United Federation of Planets. There were originally six scientists who found the Progenitors’ treasure, but one died horribly when they tried to activate it. The remaining five scientists hid the technology and left various secret clues behind that came with moral and ethical lessons in the hopes that only someone truly worthy would find the greatest treasure in the known galaxy.

Star Trek: Discovery season 5 retconned Dr. Vellek (Michael Copeman) as one of the Romulan scientists who first learned about the Progenitors along with Cardassians, Klingons, and Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the USS Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “The Chase.” Vellek kept a detailed diary of his findings about the Progenitors, which led to the first clue to the Progenitors’ treasure. Vellek hid his clue on Lyrek, a necropolis planet heavily guarded by deadly ancient technology.

On their final away mission together as USS Discovery crew mates, Captain Michael Bunham and Captain Saru (Doug Jones) survived the necropolis planet and acquired the first clue beneath a burial structure. What Burnham and Saru learned on Lyrek was the importance of cultural context as they strove to maintain the ancient grave site despite weapons trying to kill them. Since the Progenitors created countless different species, the lesson is respect for other cultures, which Burnham and Saru proved they possess.

Dr. Vellek’s clue led the USS Discovery to Trill in Star Trek: Discovery season 5, episode 3, “Jinaal”. Trill scientist Jinaal Bix hid his clue on his homeworld, and his symbiont is miraculously still alive. Temporarily joining with and possessing Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), Jinaal led Captain Burnham and Cleveland Booker (David Ajala) into a canyon near the Caves of Mak’ala, which were the nesting grounds of huge creatures who can cloak called itronoks. It was a test by Jinaal to see how Burnham and Book would deal with the itronoks.

Captain Burnham and Cleveland Booker proved their respect for lifeforms other than themselves. Rather than kill the itronoks, Michael and Book realized the itronoks were merely protecting their young. Even after Booker was injured by the creatures, he and Burnham found a non-violent solution. Jinaal was suitably impressed at the compassion shown by Burnham and Booker and willingly surrendered his clue, confident that the USS Discovery would treat other lifeforms with respect if they find the Progenitors’ treasure.

Jinaal’s clue leads the USS Discovery to the Tzenkethi system where a wormhole leading to interdimensional space is hidden. In Star Trek: Discovery season 5, episode 5, “Mirrors”, Captain Burnham and Cleveland Booker entered interdimensional space and found the derelict ISS Enterprise from the Mirror Universe, where the third clue was hidden and found by Moll and L’ak. Burnham and Book eventually acquired the clue and piloted the ISS Enterprise into Star Trek’s Prime Universe, although Moll and L’ak escaped.

The third clue was a vial of distilled water hidden by Dr. Carmen Cho, who was a member of the Terran Empire and the junior Science Officer of the ISS Enterprise. Cho was among the refugees who fled the Mirror Universe aboard the Enterprise and escaped to the Prime Universe. Cho joined Starfleet, became a branch Admiral and one of the Progenitors’ science team, and returned to the ISS Enterprise to hide her clue. The lesson Burnham learned was to have the courage to overcome impossible odds to shape your future for the better.

The fourth clue, a vial of distilled water, pointed to Dr. Hitoroshi Kreel, a Denobulan scientist, who hid his clue on the planet Halem’no. In Star Trek: Discovery season 5, episode 6, “Whistlespeak”, Captain Burnham and Lt. Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) infiltrate Halem’no’s pre-warp civilization to gain access to the disguised, artificial weather tower where the Denobulan Dr. Kreel stashed his clue. Tilly ultimately learns that Kreel’s clue is located in the fifth of five weather towers built by the Denobulans to bring rain to the arid planet.

Clue number 4 had a metal card attached with a Betazoid inscription, pointing to the final scientist and clue. In their time living among the Halem’nites, Burnham and Tilly realized the lesson was what a massive responsibility technology is, and that whoever wields the Progenitors’ power to create life (and possibly resurrect the dead) has to be extremely careful how they use it.

Star Trek: Discovery season 5’s final Progenitor clue was hidden by Betazoid scientist Dr. Marina Derex in the Eternal Gallery and Archive. Derex wrote a book named “Labyrinths of the Mind”, which contained a device that transported Captain Burnham into her own mindscape. Guided by an avatar that took the form of Cleveland Booker, Michael delved into her own fear of failure about her career as Captain of Discovery and her relationship with Book. But Burnham’s raw honesty was exactly what Dr. Derex’s program was looking for from the seeker of the final clue.

As an empathic Betazoid, Dr. Derex’s “labyrinth of the mind” demanded that whoever wanted the final clue to the Progenitors’ treasure truly knows himself or herself. The power to create life requires self-understanding and humility, which Captain Burnham demonstrated to Avatar Book’s satisfaction. Michael proved herself worthy of finding the Progenitors’ technology, and Burnham’s self-understanding (of her virtues and her faults) showed she is the person who can be trusted with the Progenitors’ ancient power, as the five scientists hoped.

Each step and clue in Star Trek: Discovery season 5’s treasure hunt ingeniously calls back to Star Trek‘s legacy series. Along with being a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “The Chase,” Captain Burnham and Saru’s quest for Dr. Vellek’s first clue on Lyrek calls back to TNG episodes like season 1’s “The Arsenal of Freedom”. Of course, Discovery season 5, episode 3, “Jinaal” weaves in the Trill culture developed by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for the second clue, and Discovery season 5, episode 5, “Mirrors” brings back the ISS Enterprise as a nod to Star Trek: The Original Series‘ “Mirror, Mirror” for the third clue.

Star Trek: Discovery season 5’s fourth clue on Halem’no is the first major update to the Denobulans since Star Trek: Enterprise, which introduced Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) and his species. Finally, Discovery season 5, episode 8, “Labyrinths” calls back to Counselor Deanna Troi’s Betazoid culture in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Star Trek: Discovery season 5’s treasure hunt is a celebration of where the franchise has been, and Captain Burnham seeks the answers to life itself, which could be the marker for where Star Trek is going next.

New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery season 5 stream Thursdays on Paramount+