Star Trek Just Quietly Brought Back Deep Space Nine’s Most Underrated Villains

Never turn your back on a Breen.

Sonequa Martin-Green as Captain Burnham in 'Discovery' Season 5.
Star Trek
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One of the deadliest alien species in all of Star Trek has never been fully revealed. After an offhand reference in The Next Generation, the Breen appeared in the Deep Space Nine episode “Indiscretion,” encased in suits that felt like they borrowed from Princess Leia’s bounty hunter disguise in Return of the Jedi. The Breen are infamous but seldom seen, a tradition which Star Trek: Discovery is subtly rebooting in Season 5.

Amid an episode about time jumps and flashbacks to the beginning of the series, Discovery quietly snuck the Breen in and positioned them as possibly the most important factor in the fate of Star Trek’s future. Here’s why the Breen matter, and how this comeback could expand on the canon laid down by Deep Space Nine almost three decades ago. Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 5, Episode 4, “Face the Strange.”

Who are the Breen?

A member of the Breen in Deep Space Nine.


The Breen began life as a random, hostile race tossed around in dialogue only. In 1990, in the TNG episode “The Loss,” Data lists alien races who “are not empathically detectable,” including the Breen. In the 1994 film Generations, when Riker and Worf investigate an observatory that’s been raided by people using a “type-three disruptor,” Riker notes only three alien races could be suspects: “Romulan, Breen, and Klingon.”

While TNG was still airing, writer Ira Steven Behr described the Breen as a “running joke” since they never appeared. Although TNG writer Jeri Taylor wanted to reveal the Breen for a storyline in TNG’s sixth season in 1993, it wasn’t until 1995, in DS9 Season 4, in the episode “Indiscretion,” that the Breen actually showed up in those iconic helmets. As DS9 went on, the Breen became major players in the Dominion War, and were responsible for attacking Starfleet Headquarters on Earth in 2375, seriously damaging the Golden Gate Bridge in the process.

The Breen are Back in the 32nd Century

Rayner is a member of another deep-cut DS9 species, the Kelleruns.


Mentioned offhand in the Discovery Season 5 debut episode, “Red Directive,” the Breen became a big deal in the time-jump episode “Face the Strange.” After being hit by a temporal weapon called a Time Bug, Burnham and Rayner find themselves jumping to different moments in time aboard the USS Discovery. This takes them to the pivotal moment where Discovery jumped to the future at the end of Season 2, as well as all the way to very early in Season 1, before Burnham gained the trust of the crew.

Burnham and Rayner also end up in 3218, which Rayner notes is “almost 30 years in the future” from their current home timeline. In this future, Discovery’s friendly AI Zora is alone on the ship and tells Burnham and Rayner, “You all died years ago.” Zora then reveals the Breen destroyed the entire Federation.

Zora explains the Breen weaponized the secret Progenitor tech and “launched a devastating attack” on the Federation. Rayner suggests the Breen must have been “Moll and L’ak’s highest bidder,” meaning that in one timeline, the mercenaries Starfleet is so keen to apprehend sold what they found to the Breen.

The future Burnham and Rayner see echoes what actually happened in Deep Space Nine, when the Breen decimated Starfleet and the Federation way back in 2375. While the good guys recovered then, the Federation and Starfleet are on shakier ground in the 32nd century of Discovery post-Season 3.

As of Episode 4, Discovery still hasn’t revealed what the Breen look like under those helmets. But by introducing this doomsday outcome for the Federation, Discovery has made one thing very clear for the rest of Season 5. The Breen are back, and this time, they may truly live up to their deadly reputation.

Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+.

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