When Burnham arrived to the future (Star Trek: Discovery season 3),

she couldn't contact other sectors to inquire about whereabouts of USS Discovery because long-range communication wasn't working. This could possibly be one of the main reasons why Federation collapsed after The Burn because without communication, there could be no command or coordination.

But, why did long-range communication fail?

According to Memory Alpha:

The Burn was a galaxy-wide disastrous event that occurred sometime during the 31st century in which most dilithium mysteriously went inert, causing the detonation of every active warp core. The event caused widespread death and destruction, and led to the collapse of the United Federation of Planets.

Why would dilithium going inert cause long-range communication failure? What role does dilithium play in long-range communication device? I thought they are used only to control matter-antimatter reactions.

  • 1
    I'd speculate that an analogy could be made between an old time crystal radio set and add Dilithium's extension into another dimension as the reason subspace radio used to work - but i refuse to watch the show or put more thought into it than they did. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 19:33
  • 1
    I think you should consider relais stations blowing up, or a ripping of subspace (as we learned in an earlier series warp engines can produce generally), but I am afraid it will only be explained in later episodes, if at all. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 19:54
  • Partly a massive Omega molecule explosion perhaps? iirc Omega explosions destroy subspace Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 22:32
  • This is speculative, since the series has not yet given us a definitive answer. Ergo, I'm giving it as a comment, not an answer. The question should probably be closed since there can't BE an answer to it yet. Long range subspace communications depend upon a network of relays, which are probably unstaffed most of the time, but would require some degree of maintenance over time. That maintenance would in turn require starships. Alternatively, it's possible that the same mechanisms that generate a warp field are necessary for subspace communications. Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 18:05
  • @MichaelScottShappe We have encountered long-range communication gazillions of times in Star Trek. Why can't this be answered earlier? I didn't ask why active Warp Core exploded after Dilithium went inert because I know the answer from earlier shows.
    – user931
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


Per S3E5 (Die Trying), Starfleet has not been able to maintain the subspace relay stations that power long-range subspace transmissions

A communication relay station, or simply relay station, was a technical platform designed to receive communications signals and re-transmit them to other stations in a larger communications network.

This explains why

nobody knew where Starfleet had gone or the status of the Federation

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