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Some Star Trek questions about 'Discovery'

There are some confusing plot points (like that timeline), but who needs clarity? Let's dive into show theories and ask some canon questions.

The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry
Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive

"Star Trek: Discovery" has already captured my attention. I mean, it's the Meredith Grey of Star Trek series (dark and twisty, that is). Plus, as a streaming show, everyone gets to swear (three times so far!). 

We're just five episodes in, and in terms of canon and timeline, I already have lots of questions. In an attempt to get some new tidbits (or maybe a sign that we're on the right track), I reached out to the producers over at CBS, but they politely declined (dang it) to share any secrets. (Disclosure: CBS is CNET's parent company.)

Obviously there will be spoilers, so turn back now if you haven't seen episode 5 yet.


Why have we never seen the spore drive in other (later) Treks?

This has been a standing question for many viewers since the system was introduced. "Discovery" executive producers have maintained from the beginning that the entire show will *eventually* line up. At a recent New York Comic-Con panel, EP Akiva Goldsman said (bold emphasis mine), "We are wildly aware of everything that appears to be a deviation from canon. We will close out each of those issues before we arrive at the 10-year period and hit [the start of The Original Series]."

Finally, we may have our first clue why we've never seen this tech before.

Look at that creepy, lingering smile...


During episode 5, Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) places himself inside the spore drive room-thing so the Discovery can jump out of Klingon territory. In doing so, he seems to suffer catastrophic injuries (Saru never looks like he can find a pulse), until suddenly he's awake and … laughing?

At the end of the ep, as Stamets turns away from his bathroom vanity, we see his double? other self? remain behind exactly where Stamets was, then turn and walk toward the bedroom just seconds behind the real Stamets. Is Stamets really "our" Stamets? Did his trip on the mycelium network imbue him with powers, or did it throw him out of sync with the world? Is a part of him still catching up, or have his own timelines diverged?

We obviously have to wait to find out, but this could be the beginning of Stamets' descent into madness, forever out of sync and trapped by his own biological clock, perhaps doomed to insanity.

Then again, this could just be the beginning of our episodes about the Mirror Universe, which EP Alex Kurtzman confirmed just last week we would be exploring this season.

Just how deep down the rabbit hole are we going to go?

(Because I'm going to go mid-level tinfoil hat deep right now.) 

Since episode 3 (though much sooner in Trek canon), the importance of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" has been stressed. In the ep, mutineer Michael Burnham recites a passage from the Lewis Carroll book as she crawls through a maintenance duct (Jefferies tube, to be exact) on the USS Glenn:

The rabbit hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself, but instead found herself falling down a very deep well.

She was now only 10 inches high. Her face brightened up. She was now the right size to go through the little door into the lovely garden.

At the end of the episode we see Burnham give her copy of the book (complete with what looks like an original John Tenniel illustration on its cover) to new roomie Cadet Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman). So how does all this play into the show? I have some ideas (and more questions, naturally).


Burnham hands over her "paperback" to Tilly.


Capt. Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) naturally seems like Burnham's guide, much as the white rabbit helps Alice find her way into and throughout the wonderland. Like Alice, Burnham makes her own decision to enter the new world, willingly taking (and presumably eating) the fortune cookie Lorca offers her.

The caterpillar rests on the mushroom, and what does Ripper the Tardigrade travel on? I think he and his spore network are navigator for more than just Alice/Burnham here.

As for the Queen of Hearts, I have no trouble imagining Tilly sliding into that role. The girl already seems a few cards short of a full deck.

So who might the (Mad) Hatter be? That seems pretty easily to be Stamets, but like the Queen, it's a role he may very well grow into, out of sync like I mentioned above.

The episode titles for the rest of the first half of the season also seem to lend credence to insanity as an important theme. In order, they are: "Lethe," "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad," "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" and finally, "Into the Forest I Go."

In context, they all deal with losing (usually your mind): Lethe is a Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion, as well as a river in the underworld of Hades. The second title is from Homer's "The Iliad," and the full line is "The heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover's whisper, irresistible -- magic to make the sanest man go mad." 

The third is a Latin phrase often translated as "If you want peace, prepare for war;" throughout history many have changed it to suit their needs, sometimes swapping words -- in one notable case swapping prepare for "make war" (definitely sounds like a misquote Lorca would approve of). The final title is the beginning of a John Muir quote: "And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul."


How T'Kuvma. How.

James Dimmock/CBS Interactive

Seriously, where did the Klingons get cloaking technology?

I've been mulling this one since the beginning and I'm surprised we don't have an answer yet. But I can also see how the answer may lead us to something bigger and badder if we get a second season of "Discovery."

Within the history of Trek, during this time period, the only ones capable of cloaking technology are the Romulans. Throughout Trek history, the Romulans and Klingons allied, but only in the "future" of "Discovery" -- this doesn't make it impossible at all, but merely adds another layer to already established canon. (Side note: "Enterprise" around this time also endowed a group called Suliban Cabal with cloaking tech, but they received it from a time traveler and did not independently develop it.)

I'd think Romulans would be oh-so-willing to share tech with any races they believe will bring about the destruction of Starfleet and the Federation -- the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that.



Lest we all forget: What the heck are the Black Badges for?

When will we get to see more and why, why, WHY are they on board the Discovery? We've seen what a Black Alert does, but there doesn't seem to be a need for those black badges just yet. 

At first, the theory that this is a Section 31 ship seemed possible, but the biggest question there is why a "secret organization" would advertise with something so prominent? (The easy rebuke to that is "This is the beginning of Section 31, therefore it could be slightly more open and known.") I'm not the only one who's asked about this, not by a longshot, but I'm still not convinced it holds water.

In any case, there better be a cool-ass explanation for these -- if it turns out to just be "to protect the ship during Black Alerts," that's going to be a huge letdown for something so mysterious and grand-looking.

What's with the swearing?

To be honest, I never truly believed the Starfleet of the future *never* swore, but it was a nice thought. I like to think "Discovery" provides a bridge between the swear words some of us use endlessly today and the dreamy utopian future Gene Roddenberry initially imagined.

In an interview with CNET's Roger Cheng, Kurtzman addressed this, assuring fans that the core themes of Star Trek remain.

"You can not make Star Trek without respecting and honoring the fact that the essential vision that Roddenberry had was an optimistic one of the future," he said.

I'm OK with more swearing, and even with exploring the darker themes of Trek, a la "Deep Space Nine." I just hope we get some, well, hope in there too.

Choose Your Pain

Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd made his debut this week. 

Michael Gibson/CBS Interactive

Please, may we have more old-school callbacks?

They're just so much fun for fans to spot, Easter eggs for hard-core fans to find and which are interesting stories to be shared with new fans.

In case you missed them, here's what we've already seen:

Phew, that isn't even all of my questions, just some of the ones I can come up with theories or reasoning for. Take, for example, the ones episode 5 brought up alone (for me at least): 

If L'Rell was in charge of that Klingon warship, where, oh where, was Voq? You know, the white Klingon she'd declared allegiance to? Why was she supposedly making googly eyes at Lt Ash Tyler (a Starfleet officer *AND* human to boot!), after telling Voq in episode 4 he had to sacrifice everything to get back what he'd lost? Doesn't seem like she sacrificed very much ... (Notably, rumors are that the actor who plays Tyler, Shazad Latif, was also billed covertly as Voq -- thereby pointing to him being a deep-cover spy. Latif was originally cast as "Kol, T'Kuvma's protege," and even that description has changed.)

Why did Lorca not go down with his first ship? Captains traditionally go down with their ships, so why did he think he was special and should get to escape?

Why does the Discovery spin when powering up for a Black Alert jump? There's no real reason and it doesn't even spin that way to jump. Please someone, explain. 

Why was Saru, member of a prey species, so ready to disregard any idea of Ripper being sentient? Was he blinded by his anger at Burnham, hence the gut reaction? Seemed out of character for the quiet Kelpien.

Did we really need to double up on the f-bombs right away? Again, I'm all for the swearing! But I don't really see a need to be repetitive and redundant about it.

Can I please get one of those black toothbrushes and a set of the burgundy pjs? It seems like they never had to spit with those brushes and, come on, those pjs look so svelte and comfy! Seriously, when and where can I cop those?

I definitely do not expect answers to any of these questions, or if we get them, that they'll come easily -- for now, I'm super down to dive further into canon and lore and keep asking questions. Who knows, maybe "Discovery" will open up a bit and let us in on the mystery before it takes a hiatus for winter. Have a better theory or a reason why I am so far off-base? Let me know in the comments. 

"Star Trek: Discovery" airs Sunday nights through Nov. 12 on CBS All Access in the US, and on Netflix around the world. The second half of season one returns January 2018.

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