Star Trek: Discovery has given late actor Anton Yelchin the ultimate tribute that any franchise alumni could hope for: he's had a Federation starship named after him. The USS Yelchin was named in Discovery's latest season 3 episode, "Unification III", and it isn't just some throwaway Easter egg mention: the USS Yelchin actually gets to play a pivotal role in helping to solve Star Trek: Discovery's central season 3 mystery: What is the Burn? By moving the setting to the unexplored frontier of the 32nd century, Star Trek: Discovery continues to offer fans all kinds of fun new Easter egg opportunities, just like this.
Anton Yelchin passed away on June 19, 2016, at the young of 27. He was just coming into his prime as a Hollywood actor, having starred in a string of big films in the late 2000s and 2010s, like Alpha Dog, and Terminator Salvation - and of course, J.J. Abrams' reboot of the Star Trek film franchise. Yelchin played iconic Star Trek Original Series character Pavel Chekov, the navigator of the USS Enterprise, under Chris Pine's Captain Kirk. The trilogy of rebooted Star Trek films helped propel Yelchin into more leading man roles on the independent film circuit, where he scored major acclaim with films like Like Crazy, and cult-hits like the horror-thriller Green Room. But still, nothing captures the fragility and vigor of Anton Yelchin's youthful trademark like his role as Chekov in Star Trek.
SPOILERS: In "Unification III" we learn more about that the black boxes Michael Burnham is recovering from old Starfleet ships to help explain The Burn. The first of those black boxes comes from the USS Yelchin, a 31st-century ship that was destroyed in 3069 during The Burn. The black box for the Yelchin has a partial call sign of "NCC-4774-", though we're not sure what further reference the numbers could be.
The significance of the USS Yelchin's surviving information is that it helps Commander Burnham prove that The Burn was not a naturally-occurring phenomenon, but rather an engineered event. The fact that the Yelchin was destroyed at different moments than two other ships Burnham examined proves as much.
Anton Yelchin was only one of the poignant Star Trek references made in "Unification III". The main storyline of the episode took Burnham to the future version of Planet Vulcan - Ni'Var - where we got to see a recording of the late Leonard Nimoy's Spock, as well.
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 is streaming new episodes every Thursday on CBS All Access.