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Explaining Star Trek: Discovery's Biggest Canon Inconsistencies & Plot Holes

Klingons Michael Burnham and Spock in Star Trek Discovery

Here are the biggest canon inconsistencies in Star Trek: Discovery and the possible ways they could be explained in the narrative. Since debuting in September 2017, Star Trek: Discovery has experienced a very mixed reception from both fans and critics. On one hand, the series has received some very positive reviews and boasts a stellar cast that have delivered a truly modernized iteration of the Star Trek formula. On the other, a vocal section of the fandom haven't warmed to Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman's series, a feeling perhaps magnified by the fact that U.S. viewers can only watch Star Trek: Discovery on CBS' own in-house streaming service.

One of the overriding criticisms of Star Trek: Discovery's first season was the show's apparent deviation from accepted Star Trek canon. Fans of the franchise are renowned for paying close attention to details and aren't afraid to point out when a new release contradicts established Trek lore. With the arrival of Discovery, these fans have had their work cut out. Set only a decade prior to the original series starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, Discovery has somewhat written itself into a corner in terms of how heavily it can impact the fictional history of the Star Trek universe without consequences rippling through the rest of the franchise.

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Star Trek: Discovery's showrunners are not ignorant to this criticism. Producers have not only acknowledged the fact that the series doesn't quite line up with Star Trek canon, but have also promised fans that what appear to be inconsistencies will in fact be addressed in future episodes. With the second season of Star Trek: Discovery soon to air, here are the biggest continuity issues facing the show and some plausible explanations that could solve them.

Star Trek: Discovery's New Klingon Design Contradicts Previous Series

The first sign that Star Trek: Discovery might be taking a few liberties with canon came when images were released during development that showed radically redesigned Klingons. Devoid of their trademark wild hair and sporting more pronounced ridges, these new Klingons were virtually unrecognizable from those seen in any previous big or small screen entry into the Star Trek franchise and there was an immediate backlash, despite the show's reasoning that different Klingon houses may have altered appearances.

While Star Trek: Discovery's Klingons were one of the first targets for criticism, they also provided the first sign that there may be more to the show's inconsistencies than simple oversight or a lack of respect for the official timeline. Glenn Hetrick, Discovery's head of makeup effects and one of the figures responsible for the Klingon redesign, suggested that the reason for Klingons' baldness comes from the tale of Kahless the Unforgettable, in which the titular warrior dips a lock of hair into a lava pit to create a Bat'leth and, ever since, the Klingons have only grown out their locks in times of peace.

Whether or not this explanation fits into canon is certainly up for debate and there are numerous examples of Klingons waging hairy war elsewhere in the franchise, but Hetrick has also promised that there are other reasons for the Klingons' new look that will be explored later in the narrative, stating "I think people are going to freak out when this unfurls in front of them."

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Interestingly, Star Trek: Discovery season 2 has released images of Mary Chieffo's L'Rell with a brand new mane of hair. Whether fans buy into the "bald in war, hairy in peace" explanation or not, it certainly seems like criticism of the initial design is being addressed in season 2, bringing Discovery's Klingons closer to what viewers know and love.

The Federation-Klingon War Doesn't Fit The Timeline

It isn't just the design of the Klingons that clashes with canon in Star Trek: Discovery, it's also their role in the series. Much of Discovery's debut voyage centers around a tough and bloody war between the Federation and the Klingons that almost results in a full-on invasion of Earth. For such a monumental event, it's strange that there's no mention of this war elsewhere in the franchise, particularly The Original Series, which takes place only ten years later.

However, some fans have pointed out elements of the older Star Trek adventures that do hint towards a recently concluded major conflict. These include (via Inverse) Kirk's immediate wariness and distrust of the Klingons during their first encounter, Starfleet's relatively small selection of ships in the TOS era, and the existence of a Klingon Neutral Zone that is located in the same region of space as Discovery's Battle of the Binary Stars. Not everyone will be convinced that these details can justify Discovery adding a huge war to Star Trek canon so close to The Original Series, but it certainly adds some consistency between shows.

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A further issue with the Federation-Klingon war is the Klingons' use of cloaking technology. In TOS, it's heavily implied that the Romulans are the first race to cloak their ships, or at least the first encountered by Starfleet. While this conundrum certainly poses a challenge to established canon, Discovery wasn't the first culprit, as cloaking actually appeared in Star Trek: Enterprise, a show set in Starfleet's distant past. While there's no obvious explanation as to why Kirk and Spock and so confused by cloaking, Star Trek: Discovery is arguably only setting a precedent set previously by Enterprise.

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