Forgotten Star Trek Character Architect Of Franchise’s Newest Mystery

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

star trek progenitor

The fifth and final season of Star Trek: Discovery has been a blast from the past, showing our 32nd-century protagonists trying to uncover the mystery of the Progenitors that Captain Picard first learned about back in the 24th century. The most recent episode, “Jinaal,” brought back a Trill character from Picard’s era who revealed that he was part of a group of researchers secretly put together by an unnamed Federation president. He later mentions hiding their findings thanks to the outbreak of the Dominion War, which means that the president who began the Progenitor research was Jaresh-Inyo, a mostly forgotten character from Deep Space Nine.

The Chase

star trek progenitor

Just as this season of Star Trek: Discovery has our characters trying to solve the mystery of the Progenitors, audiences at home have been having to put together clues regarding exactly what the Federation did after Picard discovered evidence of these ancient aliens. In the TNG episode “The Chase,” Picard (thanks to research from his old mentor, the archaeologist Galen) discovers a recording from a mysterious race that claims to have seeded DNA that eventually led to the development of humans, Cardassians, Romulans, and likely many more alien races.

The Race To Get The Tech

star trek progenitor

Incredibly, Star Trek never really followed up on this bombshell revelation until the most recent season of Discovery began with our characters trying to find evidence of these aliens (now called the Progenitors) before two bad guys (think Bonnie and Clyde in space) get their hands on it. Like the Genesis device before it, Progenitor technology has the capacity to create life but could also be used to cause unimaginable destruction. Captain Burnham and her crew are trying to solve a series of mysteries and find any information or technology related to these mysterious aliens and their powerful technology.

Deep Space Nine

star trek progenitor

Here’s a bit of irony: if only the Discovery crew could binge-watch old Star Trek episodes as much as we do, they might have realized what a big hint about the Progenitors they received in the most recent episode. When Dr. Culber allows his body to temporarily host the mind of a Trill who had helped research the Progenitors, the body-hopping alien mentions how he was part of a group of six scientists brought together by a “Federation president” but that they hid their findings once “the Dominion War was raging.” Given this timeline, the president must be Jaresh-Inyo, someone we only see in two DS9 episodes: “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost.”

He Barely Avoided A Coup

In that Deep Space Nine two-parter, this Federation president had to deal with Admiral Leyton, a Starfleet officer who wanted Earth to take much harsher security precautions to deal with the threat of Changeling infiltration. The president reluctantly agreed to these measures and even implemented martial law throughout the planet, but he returned everything to the status quo after Leyton was revealed as a traitor who had fabricated threats in order to consolidate his own power. It is my opinion that Jaresh-Inyo’s negative experiences with Starfleet ultimately informed his approach to the Progenitor research.

Mutual Accountability

According to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine writer Robert Hewitt Wolfe, the staff wanted the Federation president to be a Jimmy Carter type who is unaccustomed to dealing with conflict, and this explains what we later learn about the investigation he began into Progenitor technology. The possessed Dr. Culber tells us that the group of six scientists that the president put together had both Federation and non-Federation personnel, including the Romulan Dr. Vellek that we first saw in the TNG episode “The Chase.” On the face of it, this sounds a bit crazy: why would the Federation president go out of his way to involve non-Federation experts, including a member from an ancient Federation foe, in investigating the biggest mystery the galaxy has ever known? 

Simply put, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine told us that Jaresh-Inyo didn’t particularly want to be president (in his words, “I never sought this job”), and he became an unwilling participant in an attempted Starfleet coup of planet Earth. This might explain why, when it came to investigating something as big as the Progenitors, he didn’t want to place the potential fate of the galaxy solely in Federation hands. By involving other groups, even the Romulans, this peacetime president could ensure a kind of mutual accountability between everyone, something far preferable to the dangerous and sneaky secrecy of Admiral Leyton.

Watch The Fantastic DS9 Two-Parter

Obviously, future episodes of Star Trek: Discovery will tell us more about the Progenitors, and we’ll almost certainly learn more about the key players behind the original investigation (such as the other four researchers the possessed Culber refused to name). In the meantime, though, fans should rewatch the Deep Space Nine episodes “Homefront” and “Paradise Lost.” Not only are these amazing eps in their own right, but watching them can help you learn more about the unassuming architect of an investigation that has spanned nearly a millennium.

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