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This page contains information regarding Star Trek: Discovery, and thus may contain spoilers.

For similarly named people from Aldea, please see Progenitor.
"There is something of us in each of you, and so, something of you in each other."
– Progenitor message, 2369 ("The Chase")

The species that the Federation called the Progenitors, also known as the ancient humanoids, were one of the oldest sentient species and possibly the first humanoid species to evolve in the Milky Way Galaxy. They flourished some 4.5 billion years ago on an ancient planet and explored the galaxy, but found no other lifeforms like themselves. Like the races that they seeded, the Progenitors were originally created by another race using the same technology that the Progenitors themselves would ultimately use.


The Progenitors were humanoids, approximately similar to Humans in appearance. However, they were distinct in several respects. They were bald and had no eyebrows, their eyes were deep set and surrounded by facial structures that had no equivalent in Humans, their ears were significantly smaller than those of Humans, and their heads were elongated. Progenitor individuals could have either pale pink or black skin. (TNG: "The Chase"; DIS: "Life, Itself")


Progenitor computer program

Part of a Progenitor algorithm, coded into humanoid DNA

Billions of years ago, the Progenitors were created as the single sentient species in the cosmos by an unknown race. The Progenitors eventually found the technology that their creators had used and theorized that their creators had either made the technology, or that it went even further back as a part of a cycle of creators and creations. (DIS: "Life, Itself")

Believing that the life span of a single species was finite, the Progenitors seeded the primordial environments of many planets with a DNA code that would direct the evolution of life on that planet towards a form similar to their own. At least Earth, Indri VIII, Loren III, Ruah IV, and Vilmor II were directly seeded by the ancient race. Other species that likely originated from seeded primordial seas included Klingons, Romulans/Vulcans, and Cardassians. Some of the fragments of DNA also contained parts of a computer program designed to display a holographic message from a Progenitor explaining her race and their actions. It was hoped that their descendant species would come together in the spirit of cooperation in order to assemble the program. (TNG: "The Chase")

The Progenitors chose only to seed life rather than outright create it due to their concerns about the effects of using the power of creation on such a large scale. One Progenitor became the steward of the technology and would be pulled into the liminal space-time that it existed in to guide the future steward that would come eons later after the Progenitors were gone. (DIS: "Life, Itself")

Discovering their message[]

Progenitor message

The Progenitors' message

In the 2360s, the noted Federation archaeologist Professor Galen discovered the existence of the program and began collecting the genetic samples. However, the Klingons and Cardassians also learned of the program and sent expeditions of their own to assemble it, each believing it to contain a great technological advance, while the Romulans observed all of them under cloak. After Galen's death in 2369, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise-D was able to convince the Klingons and the Cardassians to cooperate with them to finish the program.

The last part of the program was obtained on Vilmor II, and the message was played to the assembled members of each present party. The Klingons and Cardassians rejected the message due to their own prejudices, but the Romulan captain later expressed to Picard in confidence that perhaps their races were not as different as they had previously believed. (TNG: "The Chase")

Progenitor technology[]

In the decade that followed the discovery of the message, the Federation President brought together six Federation and non-Federation scientists in secret to research the Progenitors and their message. This included Trill Jinaal Bix, a Romulan scientist who was present for the message named Dr. Vellek, Terran Carmen Cho, Denobulan Hitoroshi Kreel and Betazoid Marina Derex. (DIS: "Red Directive", "Jinaal", "Mirrors", "Whistlespeak")

At the height of the Dominion War in the mid-2370s, their research eventually led them to a sector of deep space where they found what Jinaal would later describe as "a technology beyond anything we'd ever seen." When one of the scientists tried to activate it, he was killed. However, Doctor Marina Derex succeeded in entering the portal where she met with a Progenitor whose mind had been brought from her own space-time as a guide. Derex decided that civilization wasn't ready for the technology yet and the Progenitor agreed to wait if the scientists would build a path to better prepare the next visitor for the possibility. (DIS: "Jinaal", "Life, Itself")

The remaining scientists formed a pact, deleted their research and told the Federation they had reached a dead end. They committed the rest of their lives to ensuring the power would only be found by a "worthy seeker" through a series of clues, "when the time was right...a time of peace when species [had] evolved enough to use it only for good." (DIS: "Jinaal")

In 3191, Vellek's diary was recovered by the USS Discovery, which included the first clue to the location of the Progenitor's technology on Lyrek. From there, a revlav led Discovery to Trill. (DIS: "Red Directive", "Under the Twin Moons", "Jinaal")

After entering the portal that the clue trail led to, Captain Michael Burnham met a Progenitor who confirmed that the species had been extinct for billions of years, but both of their minds were present in this liminal space-time which was adjacent to both of theirs. The Progenitor's job was to teach Burnham how to use the technology which could design and create life, but not restore it. The Progenitors had worried about doing too much with the technology which was why they had only chosen to seed life, and they had not created the technology, but merely found it. The Progenitor made Burnham the new steward of the technology and gave Burnham the choice of what was the best thing to do with it, showing her the four and a half billion years of events that had led to everyone in the present day being alive.

Ultimately, Burnham chose to have Discovery throw the portal into the event horizon of one of the black holes, trusting that what the Progenitors created for them was enough and that the species responsible for creating the technology -- if they still existed -- would have the ability to recreate it should they wish to do so. Doctor Kovich later reported that the Red Directive had officially been closed, everything classified, and no one would ever know anything about the Progenitors' technology. (DIS: "Life, Itself")


  • See: Unnamed Progenitors



Background information[]

The ancient humanoid in the recorded message was played by Salome Jens, who later played the Female Changeling on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

In the final draft of the script, she was described as "a humanoid – in fact, one of the coolest humanoids we've ever seen, with a face wise and tragic and light-hearted all at once."

Ronald D. Moore has stated that he considered, but intentionally did not specify, that this species was the Preservers from TOS: "The Paradise Syndrome". He noted, "but this could be them and be internally consistent." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 244) It should be noted that the ancient humanoids seeded worlds 4.5 billion years ago, while American Indian cultures like the one saved by the Preservers only emerged in the last 10,000 years. Regardless, Star Trek Online has a storyline that confirms that the two races are the same within the canon of the game.


According to the Star Trek: Star Charts (p. 72) and the Stellar Cartography: The Starfleet Reference Library ("Federation Historical Highlights, 2161-2385"), the First Humanoids came from the Gamma Quadrant.

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