The third episode of Star Trek: Discovery, titled “Context Is For Kings,” went a long way into making the new prequel series feel more like familiar Star Trek. Set six months after the events of the first two episodes, Discovery launched its main storyline as disgraced mutineer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) finds herself transferred from a penal colony to the U.S.S. Discovery. The Discovery is a brand-new starship ostensibly designed as a science vessel, but houses secrets related to the effort to win the war against the Klingons that Burnham essentially started.
As Burnham is reluctantly assigned to Discovery’s Engineering bay by the ship’s mysterious Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), she and the audience settle into the new ship as the hidden agenda of Discovery begins to slowly reveal itself. In addition, the prequel series continues to drop more Easter eggs and references to classic Star Trek canon, further solidifying that Discovery takes place in the Prime Timeline.
SPOCK AND AMANDA GRAYSON
With Sarek (James Frain) as Burnham’s adoptive parent and their relationship via their shared Vulcan Katra established, Discovery wasted no time in further solidifying the retcon that Burnham was always part of Sarek’s household. During their mission on board the ill-fated U.S.S. Glenn, Burnham and the Away team are chased by a huge Tardigrade monster. So that the Away Team can get back to their shuttle, Burnham leads the Tardigrade on a chase by crawling through the Jefferies Tube. While escaping the monster, Burnham recited a passage from Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” to herself.
Later, in their quarters, Burnham’s crewmate Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is astonished to see Burnham actually owns a physical copy of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Burnham explains when she was a child living on Vulcan, her foster mother Amanda Grayson used to read it to her and to her son. This is the first official reference to Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on Discovery, who at this point in time would be serving as Science Officer on board the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), as seen in the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.”
The reference to Lewis Carroll is also a surprising callback to an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series titled “Once Upon a Planet.” Kirk is surprised that Spock had read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and Spock responded that his human mother Amanda was fond of the author. The Animated Series, like the plethora of Star Trek novelizations, is generally not considered a part of “official” Star Trek canon, but Discovery tying into this little-known tidbit about Spock’s childhood seems to bring the events of The Animated Series back into canon.
It’s also interesting to note that Burnham said Amanda’s son, in the singular. This indicates that Spock’s older half-brother Sybok (Lawrence Luckinbill) was not a part of Sarek and Amanda’s household. This makes sense as Sybok was older than Spock and his mother was not Amanda but Sarek’s previous wife, a Vulcan princess. Sybok would not have been raised by Amanda. There’s also the question of whether Sybok even remains in canon and isn’t considered apocryphal due to the unpopularity of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
In one of Discovery’s labs, a Gorn skeleton is clearly seen in a display case. The Gorn is a reptilian race that first appeared the 19th episode of The Original Series’ first season, “Arena.” The Gorn’s fight with Captain Kirk (William Shatner) on Cestus III would become one of the most famous showdowns in Star Trek. However, Kirk’s encounter with the Gorn was the Federation’s first contact with the Gorn species.
Captain Lorca having a Gorn skeleton on display in Discovery seems to violate canon, but on After Trek on CBS All-Access, Discovery executive producer Aaron Harberts noted that the Gorn species is unknown to the Federation in 2256-2257. This then places the Gorn skeleton in a better context. Because the skeleton currently belongs to an unknown species, it’s being studied like scientists would dinosaur bones. After all, it would be unthinkable for a Starfleet Officer to place the bones of a known species like the Vulcans, Andorians or even a Klingon on display.
In the alternate Kelvin Timeline of the J.J. Abrams films, however, the Gorn encountered the Federation roughly 8 years earlier than they do in the Prime Timeline. In Star Trek Into Darkness, Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) mentioned he once delivered Gorn octuplets via Caesarian section. In another alternate timeline, the Mirror Universe (which Discovery also plans to explore), the Gorn appear in the episode of Star Trek: Enterprise titled “In A Mirror Darkly, Part II.”
MORE EASTER EGGS
“Context Is For Kings” is chock-full of other callbacks to Star Trek lore. When she’s attacked in the Mess Hall by other prisoners, Burnham demonstrates she’s proficient in the Vulcan martial art Suus Mahna, which T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) on Star Trek: Enterprise was a practitioner of. The Zee-Magnees Prize is mentioned, which is a prestigious science award won by Dr. Richard Daystrom in The Original Series episode “The Ultimate Computer” and by Dr. Ira Graves in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Schizoid Man.”
When Lorca demonstrates the technology being developed on Discovery for a new kind of intergalactic travel, Burnham sees several sights which will be discovered ‘in the future’ during The Original Series: the Preserver Obelisk from the episode “The Paradise Syndrome”; Starbase 11, which was the location of Kirk’s “Court Martial,” and which is an ironic location for Burnham to see; the Janus IV mining facility in “Devil in the Dark”; as well as Romulus. The Federation won’t encounter the Romulans again until “Balance of Terror” in season one of The Original Series.
And, of course, there is a Tribble in Captain Lorca’s office.
Star Trek: Discovery streams Sundays at 8:30pm on CBS All-Access and internationally on Netflix.
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