Star Trek: Discovery — Red Angel Explained

The Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 finale explained the Red Angel & Red Signals, but we still have some questions...

Spoilers ahead for all of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, especially the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 finale.

With the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 finale, the series truly is sending Starfleet boldly, where no Trek series has ever gone before. But before this season came to its end, several mysteries featuring the word “red” had to be addressed.

If you’re still confused about both the Red Signals and the Red Angel, you’re probably not alone. Though “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” did reveal a lot of what has been going on the entire season on Discovery, there are still some lingering questions.

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Here the six biggest questions about the Red Angel and the Red Signals on Star Trek: Discovery, answered. And, when a specific answer couldn’t be found in the show, some speculation made its way through the wormhole. Hit it!

1. Why did we know there were seven Red Signals?

In the season 2 opening episode, “Brother,” the entire reason why Captain Pike takes command of the USS Discovery is because he, personally, has been tasked by Starfleet Command with figuring out what the Red Signals mean. In that episode, Pike says this about the Red Signals:

“Over the past 24 hours, the Federation sensors picked up seven red bursts, spread out over more than 30 thousand lightyears. They appeared in perfect synchronization, just long enough for us to get a reading, and then, just as suddenly, disappeared…except for one.”

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In the season finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” we’ve learned that Michael Burnham herself set all seven red signals. The first five guided the USS Discovery to the following places: an interstellar asteroid, Terralysium, Kaminar, Boreth, and Xahea. The sixth signal helped guide Discovery through the wormhole into the future, and the seventh signal Burnham sent back through the wormhole to let Spock and Pike know the ship had made it.

Nearly all of this makes sense, but, it is a little confusing as to why all seven “appeared perfect synchronization” and then vanished. Because Burnham set them at different times, why did the signals appear at the same time?

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In theory, this question is answered because Pike says “in perfect synchronization,” meaning, that the signals appeared in space at the same time, relative to each other. But, because those places are so spread out, somehow the signals could appear “in the sky” relative to each other at the same time.

So, what’s the deal? Did Burnham send “preview signals” before sending the “real ones.” Or, did the relative distances between the signals conveniently make them appear synchronized?

Official answer: We know why Pike said there were seven signals. We don’t really know why the appeared all at the same time.

Speculative answer: Burnham didn’t mean for the signals to be “synchronized.” That was just a product of “the observer effect,” the idea that huge distances in space make certain things look like they are in existence in real-time. This is the same reason why some of the stars we “see” in the night sky are, in fact, already burnt out.

2. What are the Red Signals?

In “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” we see Burnham’s time suit make several of the Red Signals, but we’re never really told what they are. However, “The Sound of Thunder” demonstrates that the Red Angel suit is capable of a giant electromagnetic pulse.

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This EM blast is what knocks out all the Ba’ul’s ability to destroy the Kelpiens. Based on what we’ve seen, in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2,” we have to assume the other Red Signals were also EM pulses. But, maybe Burnham made the one on Kaminar more hardcore in its intensity.

Official answer: We don’t know.

Speculative answer: Maybe a series of electromagnetic pulses.

3. When was Michael Burnham’s mom the Red Angel?

In the episode titled “The Red Angel,” we were all shocked to find out that the Red Angel was not Michael Burnham, but instead, Michael Burnham’s mom, Gabriel Burnham.

However, this twist was further twisted in both parts of “Such Sweet Sorrow,” when it became clear that, yes, Michael Burnham is/was one of the Red Angels, and, seemingly the one we’ve been seeing the most throughout the season.

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In the season finale, we see Michael Burnham become the Red Angel we’ve been glimpsing all season long, which really makes you wonder, when was her mom the Red Angel again?

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In “Perpetual Infinity,” we learned Gabriel Burnham did 900+ plus jumps in the Red Angel time suit, which begs the question, which of those did we see? In reality, the answer is: not very many, at least not on-screen in real time. We know Gabriel Burnham moved the sphere into the path of Discovery, and we know she communicated with Spock, specifically way back in his childhood, and also, when she allowed him to mindmeld with her on a distant planet. But it appears, in terms of what we saw, that’s it.

Official answer: In the second season of Star Trek: Discovery, nearly all appearances of the Red Angel are actually Michael Burnham, and not Burnham’s mom except when the Red Angel appears to Spock and to the people in the 21st century, who were rescued from World War III. That’s Burnham’s mom.

Speculative answer: In “Perpetual Infinity,” Gabriel Burnham implies she did a ton of other time jumps which resulted in slightly alternate timelines. So, it’s possible some of her jumps were “undone” by the events of the season finale.

4. When was Michael Burnham the Red Angel?

As “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” revealed, Michael Burnham is the Red Angel we’ve seen the most. This, weirdly, was an early fan theory, that turned out to be correct. Burnham even visited herself on the asteroid in the very first episode. Presumably, this time jump was to “give her strength,” which is kind of like Harry Potter learning how to make his own Patronus from himself, but that’s fine.

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Official answer: Whenever the Red Signals were set, it was Burnham. The other times, it was her mom.

Speculative answer: This mystery seems buttoned-up!

5. Why did the probe travel back in time?

Remember that squid-probe from the future that attacked Pike and Tyler in “The Sound of Thunder?” Yeah, that hasn’t really been explained. Supposedly, that probe was aligned with Control from the future, and downloaded itself into Airiam’s cyberbrain in order to get the sphere data off of Discovery. But, when it was sent, exactly, remains a mystery.

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Official answer: We don’t know.

Speculative answer: Because the probe was modified in the far future, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see that happen in season 3, if only because Discovery has been sent 930 years into the future.

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6. Why did the Enterprise suffer a system-wide failure?

The entire reason why Pike takes command of the Discovery is seemingly because the USS Enterprise has gone offline. But is that all there is to it?

Throughout the season, it’s casually implied that the holographic communication system on the Enterprise caused the ship to get screwed up, but it’s not made entirely clear. Further, it seems like Pike needed to be on the Discovery to accomplish the Red Signal mission, if only because Discovery has the Spore Drive and the Enterprise doesn’t.

So, did Michael Burnham set one, secret EMP pulse? Did she knock out the Enterprise because she knew Discovery needed Pike? Maybe?

Official answer: We don’t know.

Speculative answer: Maybe Burnham made Enterprise malfunction. But then again, it could have easily have been Control, too.

Star Trek: Discovery will return in Season 3. Read more about that here.

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Ryan Britt is the author of the book Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths (Plume/Penguin Random House). You can find more of his work here.