Decades-Old Star Trek Mystery Finally Solved?

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

star trek breen

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Breen eventually became the most mysterious race in the entire show. A central mystery was why these aggressive aliens wore refrigeration suits, and this led to in-universe speculation about whether the Breen homeworld was extremely cold or, as one character authoritatively stated, tropical. Now, a recent episode of Discovery has inadvertently revealed that the Breen wear refrigeration suits in order to help them heal from wounds and other injuries.

The Breen Appear

star trek breen

For this to make sense, I’m going to have to cover a lot of Star Trek history pertaining to the Breen. While these aliens were mentioned before in The Next Generation, they didn’t appear onscreen until Deep Space Nine. After a few minor appearances, they ended up playing a big role in the show’s final arc by joining with the Dominion and threatening Starfleet with a powerful energy-dampening weapon that allowed them to (among other things) destroy the USS Defiant.

Our Star Trek characters having more run-ins with the Breen meant we got some onscreen speculation about their true nature. At one point, Worf states that nobody has ever seen what a Breen looks like under the mask and lived. While this is likely a soft recon (Kira and Dukat previously stole and wore the uniforms of two Breen and would have therefore seen them unmasked), it helps contextualize the next important bit.

No More Designs, Please

In real life, the reason these aliens always stayed masked until Discovery is because Star Trek: Deep Space Nine showrunner Ira Steven Behr didn’t want to design a new alien face for the Breen. He decided the reason for always wearing masks was because “they normally live in the cold.” Early on, this was presumably why the writers included details like the Breen specializing in creating cold storage units and wearing special refrigeration suits.

The Mystery Deepened

star trek breen

However, later Star Trek episodes would threaten our understanding of the Breen and their love of the cold. In the DS9 episode “Indiscretion,” Dukat is surprised to find Breen on guard on a planet he estimated to be about fifty degrees too hot for them. Meanwhile, the Dominion flunkie and Breen ally Weyoun (someone who notably had no reason to lie about this) contradicted Starfleet intelligence reports about the Breen homeworld being a frozen wasteland and claimed that it was quite temperate and comfortable.


While the Star Trek franchise still hasn’t shown us the Breen homeworld, the final season of Discovery has made these aliens the Big Bad. Extensive onscreen appearances have answered the big question of what they look like under those helmets (in solid state, they look like Skrulls, and in fluid state, they look like green Jell-o). We also see one Breen in particular, L’ak, constantly wandering around places like Discovery and the ISS Enterprise without a mask despite the Earth-normal temperature and oxygen levels, confirming that these aliens don’t need their special suits and helmets to breathe or otherwise survive in human-like environments.

For longtime Star Trek nerds like myself, that brought new life to the old question of why the Breen wear refrigeration suits. If they don’t wear them for survival or for comfort, then what’s the point? However, the recent Discovery episode “Erigah” may have inadvertently revealed that the Breen wear these suits to help them heal wounds and other injuries, something especially important for a warrior race.

Cold Therapy

When L’ak is seriously injured, Dr. Culber proposes getting a “Breen refrigeration unit” because Dominion War-era research revealed “some evidence that the Breen can are capable of somatic cell regeneration in extreme cold.” With Burnham’s permission, he gets the unit so he can turn the biobed “into a low-temperature ICU unit.”

Now, if you skipped science class that day, somatic cell regeneration is basically tissue repair. While this Star Trek episode doesn’t state this outright, we can put two-and-two together that the Breen wear refrigeration suits because, should they get injured due to battling other races or due to Primarch infighting, the extreme cold of the suits will help them repair any damaged tissue. As an added bonus, the suits provide a kind of heavy armor: in Lower Decks, we see a Breen take a phaser blast and act like nothing had happened.

The Breen Revealed

There you have it, Star Trek fans: this decades-old mystery about the Breen has finally been solved. It would still be nice to see their homeworld with our own eyes, but so far, the final season of Discovery has gone a long way toward answering most of our questions about the franchise’s most mysterious race. Honestly, my last real question is who the heck their tailor is, because the 32nd-century Breen uniform redesign is so much better than the Starfleet redesign that it’s not even funny. 

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