Star Trek: Discovery aired its third episode, “Context is for Kings,” on Sunday and the episode contained a surprising reference to Star Trek: The Animated Series.
The episode's plot involved an away team dispatch from the USS Discovery investigating the vessel’s derelict sister ship, the USS Glenn. On board, the team discovered a large, monstrous, cat-like creature stalking the halls of the abandoned starship.
The away team eventually found itself cornered by the beast. In order to help the group escape with the items they came to recover, Michael Burnham attracted the beast’s attention and led it on a chase through the Glenn’s Jefferies’ tubes. As Burnham moved speedily through the crawlspace, she recited lines from Lewis Carroll’s fantasy story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Later, when she returns to her quarters, her roommate, Cadet Sylvia Tilly, noticed that Burnham has a book among her possessions, which is a rarity in the 23rd century. It is a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Burnham tells Tilly that her foster mother, Amanda, used to read the story to both Burnham and Amanda’s own son.
“Amanda” is Amanda Grayson, Sarek’s human wife and the mother of Spock, making this the first reference to Spock on Star Trek: Discovery. It is also a callback to an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series in which we learn this information about Amanda from Spock’s own point of view.
The episode is titled “Once Upon a Planet.” The plot involves the Enterprise crew returning to the planet Omicron for rest and relaxation, but they are assaulted by illusions in the form of characters and creatures from fantasy stories.
Among the characters is the Queen of Hearts. Spock recognizes the character and, when Captain Kirk expresses surprise at the idea that Spock is familiar with a children’s fantasy story from Earth, Spock explains that his mother, Amanda Grayson, was fond of the works of Lewis Carroll.
It is interesting that Star Trek: Discovery should reference an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series since that animated show’s status is the Star Trek canon is questionable. When it originally aired in the 1970s, The Animated Series was meant to be the official continuation of the live-action Star Trek: The Original Series.
However, in 1988, with four live-action movies under the franchise’s belt and the new live-action Star Trek: The Next Generation television series on the air, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry requested that The Animated Series be stricken from official canon. Most of the writers and producers working on the franchise at the time agreed and by the mid-1990s, Paramount had made it official policy.
The one exception to that rule seems to have been what was established in The Animated Series about Spock’s childhood, primarily in the episode “Yesteryear,” which expanded on some hints about his history given in The Original Series. That episode influenced the character’s development through the Star Trek movies.
However, some fans believe that Star Trek: The Animated Series was restored to Star Trek canon status when the DVD set was released in 2006.
There has never been an official statement on the matter from Paramount, but some fans recognized that the series began to be referenced on the official Star Trek website and that there was a shift in attitude towards material from The Animated Series within the show's themselves, with more references occurring as the franchise grew older, particularly on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
This latest reference from Star Trek: Discovery is sure to give those who believe The Animated Series to be canon more fuel for their fire.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on CBS All Access Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET.