Star Trek: Discovery returns tonight and promises to send the latest Star Trek series where it has never gone before.
The Star Trek: Discovery midseason finale left the crew of the Discovery stranded in uncharted space. The war with the Klingons may be over thanks to the heroic efforts of Lt. Paul Stamets, but what comes next may be worse for the crew.
To celebrate the return of Star Trek: Discovery in "Despite Yourself," we're looking back at the show's first nine episodes and chronicling every way that it has referenced other Star Trek series, and even some non-canon sources, so far. This list is a testament to how well the writers' room of Star Trek: Discovery knows their Star Trek lore, which gives us confidence that any apparent continuity errors are conscious choices on the writers' part that will eventually be resolved in a way that makes sense.
The references come in many shapes and sizes. Some are metatextual, like incorporating the titles of past episodes into bits of the show's sets. Many are found on the star maps shown in various episodes as these maps are full of locations that have been explored in other Star Trek series. Some are more subtle homages, and others are actually returning characters from Star Trek: The Original Series, with new actors, of course.
No matter what your favorite Star Trek series is, it is very likely that Star Trek: Discovery has tipped its hat toward your favored cast and crew in one way or another. Keep reading to find out exactly how.
We're sure there are more Easter eggs and references to come from Star Trek: Discovery, so keep an eye on the series for more as it continues through its first season.
New Star Trek: Discovery episodes become available to stream Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS All Access.
There's a lot to unpack with the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, so let's start with a neat Easter egg that only viewers in foreign markets where the series is available on Netflix were able to enjoy. Netflix provided subtitles in Klingon for the first two episodes of the series. The Klingon language was first mentioned in the original Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" and was first spoken in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The language first began being fully developed and codified for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and continued to be expanded on in future films. Learning the alien language has been a badge of honor for hardcore Star Trek fans for decades.
"The Vulcan Hello" also presents Discovery's first returning Star Trek character, the Vulcan named Sarek. Sarek is Michael Burnham's foster father, but also Spock's biological father. Here he is played by James Frain, but he first appeared in the Star Trek episode "Journey to Babel" played by Mark Lenard who reprised the role in the Star Trek movies and in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
With Sarek, we see some familiar concepts from Vulcan culture. One is the Vulcan Learning Center, an educational institution that Burnham attended while growing up on Vulcan. The Vulcan Learning Center was first seen in 2009's Star Trek movie during shots of Spock's childhood.
The episode also revisits the concept of the katra, a Vulcan's soul, which can be transferred to another person to keep a Vulcan's essence alive. The katra was first introduced in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock after Spock secretly left his own katra with Dr. McCoy before sacrificing himself in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Captain Georgiou refers to her first officer, Michael Burnham, as "Number One." That's a reference to Majel Barrett's character in the first Star Trek pilot "The Cage." The character was only ever called "Number One." Captain Picard also referred to his own first officer, Will Riker, as "Number One" in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Several of the ships summoned to aid the USS Shenzhou in its standoff with the Klingons have names that reference other ships in the Star Trek universe, referencing both canon and non-canon sources:
- The USS Clarke is also the name of a starship featured in the Star Trek novel The Wounded Sky.
- The USS Earhart is also the name of a ship mentioned in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Dominion War novel Tunnel Through the Stars.
- The USS Nebula is also the name of a ship that appears in the video game Star Trek: Armada II.
- The USS Shran shares a name with the Andorian ambassador Thy'lek Shran, who appeared in Star Trek: Enterprise.
- The USS T'Plana-Hath shares a name with the Vulcan ship that made first contact with Earth in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. T'Plana-Hath is the name of the "Matron of Vulcan Philosophy," who was quoted in Star Trek IV: Voyage Home.
- The USS Yeager shares its name with a ship that served during the Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as well as with a different starship that battled the Borg in the movie Star Trek: First Contact.
When T'Kuva preaches to his congregation about the danger the Federation poses, he isn't only talking about humans. He mentions the Tellarites and Andorians as well. These two alien races, along with the humans and Vulcans, were the founders of the United Federation of Planets. All of these aliens were first seen in Star Trek: The Original Series. The story of the founding of the Coalition of Planets, which led to the Federation, is told in Star Trek: Enterprise.
T'Kuvma also brings up Kahless the Unforgettable. Kahless is a religious figure for Klingons, a King Arthur type who unified the Great Houses and is considered a role model for all Klingons. He has been mentioned in every Star Trek series.
Speaking of great houses, a few are called out by name. House D'Ghor was first mentioned in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. House Mo'Kai, the house of L'Rell's mother, was first mentioned in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "The Killing Game."
The show's second episode, "Battle at the Binary Stars," includes a literal library of Easter eggs. Captain Philippa Georgiou has several books on a shelf in her office. Each of them shares a title with an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. These include: “The Trouble With Tribbles,” “The Way to Eden,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “Return to Tomorrow,” “Patterns of Force,” “All Our Yesterdays,” “Whom Gods Destroy,” “The Deadly Years,” “Plato’s Stepchildren,” “Amok Time,” “Metamorphosis,” “The City on the Edge of Forever,” “The Mark of Gideon,” “The Cage,” Balance of Terror,” “By Any Other Name,” “The Omega Glory,” “The Empath,” and “That Which Survives.”
Georgiou also keeps a bottle of wine from Chateau Picard in her office. This is the chateau owned and operated by the family of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, though he would not be alive yet during the time "Battle of the Binary Stars" takes place. The chateau appears in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Family."
This episode brings the first mention of Starfleet General Order 1, which is more commonly known to Star Trek fans as the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive is a doctrine of non-interference with other cultures, especially in regards to cultures that have not yet developed warp travel capabilities. The Prime Directive is guiding principle in every Star Trek series except Enterprise, which predates the Federation of Planets and Starfleet.
The Battle of Donatu V is mentioned by T'Kuvma as a rallying cry for his Klingons. Ownership of the planet was contested between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, which sparked a conflict between the two sides during the Federation-Klingon Cold War. The conflict had no clear victor. It was first mentioned in the original Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."
The episode also includes the first mention of Qo'noS, the homeworld of the Klingons and capital of their empire. The pink blood seen in the episode is a Klingon trait first established by Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Bat'leth weapon seen in the episode is a traditional Klingon blade that first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
"Context is for Kings" brought with it a new ship, new crew, and several more Star Trek references.
As the episode opens, Michael Burnham and several other criminals are being transferred to Tellun. Tellun is a star system that first appeared in the original Star Trek episode "Elaan of Troyius."
This episode includes the first mention of dilithium, the crystalline substance that makes warp-travel through space possible.
Michael displays her skill in Vulcan martial arts in this episode. The fighting style is called Suus Mahna. T'Pol from Star Trek: Enterprise was also skilled in Suss Mahna.
Captain Gabriel Lorca keeps a tribble on his desk. These furry creatures first appeared in the original Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles."
Lt. Stamets mentions that he and his partner were likely to win a Zee-Magnees Prize for their work. The Zee-Magnees is an award given to scientists whose work helps to better the Federation of Planets. It was awarded to Dr. Richard Daystrom in the original Star Trek episode "The Ultimate Computer" and to Dr. Ira Graves in The Next Generation episode "The Schizoid Man."
This episode has the series' first mention of Jefferies tubes. The tubes for a network that allows crew members to traverse the ship within its walls when
Burnham has a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with her, given to her by her foster mother. That would be Amanda Grayson, Spock's human mother. Her love of Lewis Carroll is first mentioned in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Once Upon a Planet."
The episode makes its first reference to the Beta Quadrant. In Star Trek, the Milky Way galaxy is divided into four quadrants: Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma. Earth is in the Alpha Quadrant. Qo'noS is in the Beta Quadrant. The Delta Quadrant is the distant, unexplored region that Voyager finds itself transported to in Star Trek: Voyager. The Gamma Quadrant is a similarly distant region connected to the Alpha Quadrant by Bajoran Wormhole, featured heavily in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
The episode references two Geneva Protocols. The first is the historical Geneva Protocols created in 1928. Presumably, these Protocols were revisited and updated in 2155, as Burnham mentions. The treaties prohibit the use of biological weapons.
Lorca exposes Burnham to the experimental spores to give her a taste for what they are capable of. She sees a vision of several locations:
- Romulus, seat of power of the Romulan Star Empire
- The moons of Andoria
- A preserver obelisk like the one the Enterprise encounters on Amerind in the Star Trek episode "The Paradise Syndrome"
- Starbase 11, the Federation base seen in Star Trek episodes "Court Martial" and "The Menagerie"
- Janus VI, the mining colony that was the setting of the Star Trek episode "The Devil in the Dark."
Lorca's secret armory includes several dead specimens. These include the skeleton of a Gorn, the villains of the Star Trek episode "Arena," and Cardassian voles, first mentioned in Deep Space Nine.
This episode shows Burnham replicating a new uniform, which is interesting since replicators were not a part of Starfleet ships in Star Trek: The Original Series. They did have protein resequencers, but those were only good for replicating food. Discovery is an advanced science vessel, so its possible this replicator is the first of its kind and an early prototype.
The Discovery receives a distress call from Corvan II, a planet that produces dilithium crystals. The planet is active now, but it is first mentioned in the Next Generation episode "New Ground." It is said that the industrial efforts on the planet have damaged the environment, placing some local lifeforms at risk.
Lorca tries to inspire Stamets with a speech comparing him to past pioneers. Two are from the real world, the Wright Brothers and Elon Musk. The other is Zefram Cochrane, the man who invented warp drive for humanity. Cochrane makes the first contact with the Vulcans in the movie Star Trek: First Contact. At the time Discovery takes place, he is missing and believed dead. Captain Kirk's crew find him in the episode "Metamorphosis."
This episode marks the first appearance in Discovery of a Klingon Bird of Prey. The vessels first appeared in the Star Trek movies and have been used in all Star Trek series since. Romulans also have a class of ship called Birds of Prey that appeared in the original Star Trek.
Discovery makes the concept of the Black Fleet canon. The Black Fleet is essentially Valhalla for Klingons, only in space fleet form. The idea originates in the Star Trek novel The Final Reflection.
Since its trip to Covus II, Discovery has visited Benzar, mentioned in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and the Ophicus system, mentioned in the original series as the stomping ground of Harry Mudd.
Mudd himself makes an appearance in this episode. He was originally played by Roger C. Carmel in the original series. Here he is played by Rainn Wilson.
One of Discovery's star maps includes Rura Penthe and the Morska system. Both are controlled by the Klingons and appear in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
After Lorca gets captured, Saru accesses a list of Starfleet's most-decorated captains. They are:
- Robert April, the first captain of the Enterprise NCC-1701. He commanded the ship during its first five-year mission.
- Jonathan Archer, the captain of the Enterprise NX-01 who is the central character in Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Matthew Decker, a friend of Kirk's who becomes obsessive and sacrifices himself in the episode "The Doomsday Machine."
- Philippa Georgiou, the captain of the USS Shenzhou who appeared in the first two episodes of Discovery.
- Christopher Pike, who captained the Enterprise after April. He was the Enterprise's captain in the original pilot for Star Trek, "The Cage," and appears again in the episode "The Menagerie."
Cadet Tilly mentions the Daystrom Institute. Founded by Dr. Richard Grayson, this is a Starfleet science institute first mentioned in "The Ultimate Computer."
Stamets mentions Zaldans, which are a humanoid species with webbed hands that first appeared in the Next Generation episode "Coming of Age."
The episode opens with the first appearance of the planet Vulcan in Discovery. It also is the first instance of actual Vulcan hello taking place, with the famous Vulcan salute. Amanda Grayson, Spock's mother and Michael Burnham's foster mother, appears here played by Mia Kershner. She has previously been played by Jane Wyatt, Majel Barrett, Cynthia Blaise, and Winona Ryder.
The episode includes flashbacks to Burnham being rejected from the Vulcan Expeditionary Group. The organization is a Vulcan-specific exploratory group with a mission statement similar to Starfleet's. The motivation for her dismissal is xenophobic, a Vulcan trait seen in several episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise and in flashbacks to Spock's childhood from the 2009 Star Trek movie.
The Enterprise gets a name drop here. At this point in the timeline, it would be commanded by Christopher Pike.
This episode reveals another piece of advanced technology on the Discovery, a holodeck. While holodecks first appeared in The Next Generation, Star Trek: The Animated Series revealed that Kirk's ship had a similar recreational room on board.
Lt. Ash Tyler mentions that his mother died while she was on the way to the moons of Grazer. This is the first time that Grazer has been mentioned in canon. It has appeared in reference books, RPG modules, and is mentioned in the Deep Space Nine novel Articles of Confederation.
The star map in this episode notes several familiar Star Trek locations:
- When Hiraku Sulu had command of the USS Excelsior, he tried to take the ship to the Azure Nebula to help rescue Kirk and McCoy from Rura Penthe. While these events take place during Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, they are seen in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Flashback."
- Beta Thoridor and Mempa are both mentioned in the Klingon-centric story "Redemption" from Next Generation.
- Worf becomes governor of the H'atoria system in the timeline from the Next Generation finale "All Good Things."
- The Enterprise visits the Hromi Cluster in the Next Generation episode "The Vengeance Factor," where they encounter the Gathers from Hromi III.
- Narendra III is where Captain Archer's trial took place in the Enterprise episode "Judgment." The destruction of the outpost there is what sparks a war between Federation and Klingon Empire in the timeline from the Next Generation episode "Yesterday's Enterprise."
- The Paulson Nebula is where the Enterprise hides from the Borg in the Next Generation episode "The Best of Both Worlds."
- Ramatis III is the homeworld of Reva, the negotiator from the Next Generation episode "Loud as a Whisper."
- Starbase 24 is where Worf's nursemaid,
Khalest, was transferred during the Battle of Khitomer, as mentioned in the Next Generation episode "Sins of the Father."
- Starbase 343 is where several Enterprise crew members take shore leave in "The Vengeance Factor."
- Xaratine shares a name with an alien race first seen in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Sleeping Dogs."
Mudd is wearing an Andorian helmet when he appears on board the Discovery. Mudd is mentioned to have committed crimes on Betazed, the home of the telepathic Betazoid people. Next Generation's councilor Troi is half-Betazed. The episode also features Stella, Mudd's wife who appeared in android form in "I, Mudd."
This episode features a long conversation between Tyler and Burnham set up around Spock's "the needs of the many" quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The USS Gargarin is named for real-world cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin. Next Generation mentions another ship named for Gargarin in the episode "The Measure of a Man."
The Klingon Ship of the Dead gives the Klingon Fleet the ability to use invisibility shields. These are very similar to cloaking devices from later in the Star Trek timeline. Klingons shouldn't have cloaking technology yet, but the Discovery later figuring out how to circumvent these invisibility shields explains why the Klingons didn't bother using them anymore.
Starfleet wants to give Lorca the Legion of Honor for winning the war for Starfleet. Two past Star Trek characters are known to have earned the Legion of Honor: Dr. McCoy from the original series and Data from Next Generation.
The universal translator, a staple piece of Star Trek technology from the original series and all series later in the timeline, makes its first Discovery appearance here. The origins of this technology are explored in Star Trek: Enterprise.
Starbase 88 shows up on Lorca's star map. This starbase has never appeared in canon, but it does appear in the obviously non-canon Star Trek: The Next Generation/X-Men crossover novel Planet X.
When Culber puts his hand on the glass while watching Stamets struggle to make his 133 jumps, it seems like a nod to a similar moment in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when Kirk watches Spock sacrifice his own life for the sake of the Enterprise crew.
Lorca's inspirational line to Stamets, “You chose to go where no one has gone before," is an obvious reference to the famous "boldly go" line from the monologue openings to Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.