Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery episode 10, season 5
(Michael Gibson/Paramount+)

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Series Finale Secrets Unlocked

On Thursday, May 30, 2024, Star Trek: Discovery‘s season 5 series finale, “Life, Itself,” hit Paramount+. The episode saw Captain Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) leading the crew of the USS Discovery to the completion of a mission first started by the crew of the USS Enterprise-D on Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Have you had a chance to watch the finale, but still find yourself plagued by questions regarding what you just saw? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are the secrets of the Discovery season finale explained. And while this almost certainly goes without saying, be forewarned: This article contains spoilers for the entirety of Discovery.

The Chase

Progenitor in The Chase TNG
(CBS)

We’ve known since the first episode of Discovery’s fifth and final season, “Red Directive,” that the overarching storyline would pick up a plot threat that began in the TNG season 5 episode “The Chase.” In fact, footage from that episode even appeared in “Red Directive.” But while Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) discovered that the Progenitors had seeded life in the galaxy at the climax of his chase, Burnham’s mission isn’t comprehension, but to retrieve the technology itself. 

As revealed in “Red Directive,” after the events of “The Chase,” a group of scientists continued the search abandoned by Picard and located the Progenitor’s tech. However, they subsequently determined it was too powerful for anyone in the galaxy to possess. In recognition of this fact, they hid the tech at the end of a five-clue trail designed to test the moral mettle of anyone who undertook the journey.

In Discovery’s series finale, “Life, Itself,” Burnham achieves her goal after solving the scientists’ clues. Not only do she and her crew locate the Progenitors’ technology, but Burnham is able to have a direct conversation with one of the Progenitors themselves, in spite of their species’ status as extinct. This is accomplished by way of a liminal pocket dimension adjacent to the Progenitor’s own spacetime.

The tech

Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama as Progenitor on Star Trek: Discovery
(Paramount+)

While Picard’s information on the Progenitors was obtained through a prerecorded message, Burnham gets the chance to interact with one of the species. Through this conversation she learns that the Progenitors did not actually design the tech that seeded life in the galaxy, only discovered it and made use of it.

Burnham also learns another important piece of information about the tech from the Progenitor. This season’s antagonist, Moll (Eve Harlow), hopes to use the tech to resurrect her late lover, L’ak (Elias Toufexis). However, the Progenitor explains that the tech cannot resurrect someone. While it can only create a genetic duplicate of any individual, that duplicate will not possess the memories of the original DNA host.

At the climax of “Life, Itself,” Burnham chooses to destroy the tech. In voiceover narration, she explains this decision by stating that the originators of the tech could rebuild it, if they deemed it to be necessary. However, since life in the galaxy is already filled with “infinite diversity in infinite combinations,” there is no need for the current denizens of the galaxy to utilize the tech in order to create more.

The Truth about Kovich

"Terra Firma, Part 1" -- Ep#309 -- Pictured: Doug Jones as Saru, Oded Fehr as Admiral Vance, Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Burnham, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber and David Cronenberg as Kovich of the CBS All Access series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
(Michael Gibson/CBS)

Ever since Kovich (David Cronenberg) was introduced in Discovery season 3, wild speculation has been cultivated by the character’s enigmatic vibes. These vibes included a refusal to comment on his origins and a penchant for writing on a traditional notepad rather than a computer. In the Discovery season 5 finale, we finally get a definitive answer for the true identity of Kovich.

In “Life, Itself,” Burnham attends a final meeting with Kovich. During this meeting, she observed that he displayed many meaningful historical trinkets in his office. These include the VISOR, most notably worn by Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), and a bottle of Chateau Picard wine. At the conclusion of the scene, Burnham convinces Kovich to reveal his real name: Agent Daniels.

Daniels was first introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise, with Matt Winston in the role. In that series, Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) discovered that one of the crew members aboard the NX-01 Enterprise was an undercover time-traveling agent who helped preserve history threatened by the Temporal Wars. These wars were alluded to in Discovery season 5, episode 4, “Face the Strange,” when the crew is attacked by a Krenim chronophage, or “time bug,” a Delta Quadrant weapon similar to those in Discovery staff writer Kristen Beyer’s Star Trek: Voyager novel A Pocket Full of Lies, where Voyager was shattered into 37-time frames by a Krenim chroniton torpedo.

Over the course of Enterprise, Daniels becomes a recurring character who assists Archer in several temporally tricky situations. However, many questions lingered regarding Daniels, specifically, and the Temporal Wars, generally, as both storylines remained relatively unresolved when the show’s fourth and final season had concluded.

Leto Burnham-Booker

L-R Sawandi Wilson as Captain Leto, Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham and David Ajala as Book in Star Trek: Discovery episode 10, season 5 steaming on Paramount+, 2023
(Michael Gibson/Paramount+)

The epilogue for “Life, Itself” included many heartwarming details about the couple’s life after the series. She and Cleveland “Book” Booker (David Ajala) are married and eventually relocate to a secluded home on Sanctuary Four. This is where they brought Molly the trance worm after Discovery season 3’s “That Hope is You, Part 1.” It is also revealed that this planet is where Book planted the clipping of the Kweijani world tree he received in Discovery season 5’s “Labyrinth.”

Burnham is picked up from Sanctuary Four by she and Book’s son, Leto (Sawandi Wilson). It is most likely that “Leto” is named for Book’s late young nephew, who was killed when Kweijan was destroyed in Discovery season 4’s “Kobayashi Maru.” Leto arrives to pick up Burnham in shuttlecraft number 47, which is an allusion to the high frequency with which that number appears in the Franchise.

“Calypso”

"Calypso"-- Episode SF-002-- Aldis Hodge as Craft of the CBS All Access series SHORT TREKS
(Michael Gibson/CBS)

“Life, Itself” reveals that Leto will be the first captain of the newly commissioned USS Discovery-A. However, the fate of Discovery and Zora (Annabelle Wallis) was already revealed in the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Calypso.” In this episode, which dialogue suggests is set a millennia after “Life, Itself,” Zora encounters Craft (Aldis Hodge). After an emotional bonding period, Zora sends Craft on his way and seemingly remains behind in the nebula where Burnham is bringing her at the conclusion of “Life, Itself.”

However, once this mission is completed in the distant future, we don’t know what becomes of Zora. Does she return to Starfleet HQ, as suggested by Burnham in the epilogue for “Life, Itself”? Perhaps this question will be answered by future Star Trek series.


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Rebecca Oliver Kaplan
Rebecca Oliver Kaplan (she/he) is a comics critic and entertainment writer, who's dipping her toes into new types of reporting at The Mary Sue and is stoked. In 2023, he was part of the PanelxPanel comics criticism team honored with an Eisner Award. You can find some more of his writing at Prism Comics, StarTrek.com, Comics Beat, Geek Girl Authority, and in Double Challenge: Being LGBTQ and a Minority, which she co-authored with her wife, Avery Kaplan. Rebecca and her wife live in the California mountains with a herd of cats.