Several episodes show attempts to improve on warp travel, e.g. the soliton wave. These attempts typically fail, maybe with a "we'll keep working on it and get back to you" ending. With what we know of the Federation's distant future in mind, did any of these attempts ever replace warp travel? In other words, did warp travel ever become obsolete?

Answers from any official continuity are allowed. I'll accept anything short of outright fan fiction.

  • The Federation became largely incapable of Warp Travel in Discovery.
    – Valorum
    Commented May 14, 2022 at 10:59
  • Are you asking if the Federation ever came up with possible alternatives to warp travel, or are you asking if the Federation intentionally decided that warp travel was obsolete and stopped installing it on starships? If the first, there are many (spore drive, quantum slipstream drive, transwarp conduits, etc.). None of these ever "make it" to become the primary means of transport, but they at least "work" somewhat in the sense that it's possible to use them and they don't immediately kill everyone and blow up the ship. Commented May 14, 2022 at 11:08
  • @RobertColumbia I mean the obsolete case.
    – J. Mini
    Commented May 14, 2022 at 13:19

1 Answer 1


There is no continuity where warp travel became obsolete. Discovery season 3 explored this a bit...

Spoilers ahead

In the late 31st century there was an event called The Burn, where all dilithium went inert. Since dilithium controls warp reactions, any ship with an active warp core at the time exploded, destroying most interstellar travel. What we see is that, while there were attempts at replacing warp, the Federation in particular fell apart because there was no way to travel between systems at impulse. While scientists worked to build a replacement, we see no working replacements when Discovery comes upon what remains of Starfleet nearly 100 years later. In other words, none of the "alternative warp" tech we see throughout the Trek universe seems to pan out.

Discovery, which is the only ship with a working spore drive (and a full stock of dilithium) winds up as the only ship that can traverse large distances easily. Starfleet still has other ships than can travel at warp, but as they lack steady supplies of dilithium, those ships are sparsely used.

By the end of Season 4, it's become known that the Federation is heavily invested in making the Spore Drive work on a larger scale (the Emerald Chain was also investing in the technology), since it's superior to warp in many respects, given that it can move a ship anywhere in the Milky Way galaxy. We already see some of those fruits borne out by Book's ship also having a working spore drive (Book is natively able to act as a conduit for the drive in both his ship and Discovery).

  • Does "active warp core" mean a warp core that is present and running (i.e. powering the ship's electrics, weapons, etc.), or a warp core that is currently generating a warp field (i.e. the ship is actually in warp)?
    – forest
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 2:27
  • An "active warp core" means that the warp core was being used or was at least up and running at the time. Warp cores do not power ships themselves.
    – Machavity
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 3:10
  • So they had to be at warp or otherwise "using" their warp core? Simply having a warp core with a working containment field wasn't enough to trigger "the burn"?
    – forest
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 3:11

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