Each week that I have sat down to watch Star Trek: Discovery and write down all of its calbacks to the previous Star Trek canon I believe the list is surely going to be shorter than the week before – but this is not that week!
“Choose Your Pain” was chocked full of fun references and shout outs to Star Trek of old, the return of a memorable foil from the Original Series, one Harcourt Fenton Mudd.
1. Discovery’s War Record
While being grilled by the admiralty as part of a strategy session, Captain Lorca recounts the victories of the USS Discovery since the spore drive was brought online: “In less than three weeks, the Discovery has prevented the destruction of the dilithium mines at Corvan II, broken the Klingon supply lines at Benzar, and routed an attack through the Ophiucus system.”
Corvan II was of course seen in last week’s “The Butcher’s Knife…”, but the other planets are right from Trek’s past as well.
Benzar is the homeworld of the Benzites, who have appeared several times in Star Trek, most prominently in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “Coming of Age” and “A Matter of Honor.”
The residents of Ophiucus III were name-dropped in the Original Series episode “Mudd’s Women” as having done business with Mudd.
2. “No, I’m from Iowa.”
Admiral Cornwell says that the Starfleet facility in Jefferson, Iowa has been provided the specs for the spore drive, in anticipation of building (likely) more Crossfield-class starships to supplement Discovery. In Star Trek ’09, the USS Enterprise is under construction on the ground at the Riverside Shipyard in Riverside, Iowa, approximately 180 miles from Jefferson — and of course, Iowa is the home of one James T. Kirk.
3. Klingon D7 Battlecruiser
The Klingon ship that abducts Captain Lorca is identified by the shuttle as a D7 battlecruiser, likely a forerunner to the D7 that appeared in the Original Series, though appears to share few design similarities.
4. The Captains of Canon
In an attempt to self-evaluate his performance as acting captain, Saru asks the computer to list Starfleet’s most decorated captains.
In addition to the dearly-departed Philippa Georgiou, the list includes Captain Robert April, who previously had only been seen in The Animated Series and now fully enters canon; Captain Jonathan Archer, who commanded Enterprise NX-01 in “Star Trek: Enterprise”; Captain Matthew Decker, later seen as a Commodore in “The Doomsday Machine”; and the current captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701, Captain Christopher Pike.
5. Harry, for Short
Captain Lorca comes face to face with trader Harcourt Fenton Mudd in Klingon captivity.
Mudd, who references his wife Stella, shares a number of similar tics and flourishes to the character’s previous appearances in “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd,” and the same roguish streak that would lead him to a life of crime 10 years later when he is encountered by Captain Kirk and crew.
6. Boldly Going, Etc.
Spoken by Mudd as part of his criticism of Starfleet’s philosophy, the use of the term of “to boldly go where no one has gone before” has been heard twice before outside of the famous Star Trek voiceover – by Zefram Cochrane in the Enterprise pilot “Broken Bow” (to whom the line is likely originally credited in-universe), and Captain Kirk in his final log entry in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
It was also seen – using the classic Trek “no man” phrasing – on a plaque in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
7. The Right Number of Organs
When Lorca is taunting L’Rell about her sexual relationship with the captured Ash Tyler, he makes reference to humans not having “the right number of organs” for her.
While there’s never been any canon commentary about a Klingon’s reproductive system, we do know from discussions in the Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager that Klingon anatomy is full of redundancy, with members of the species having twenty-three ribs, two livers, an eight-chambered heart, three lungs, and even redundant neural function as well as multiple stomachs.
8. “Do you want this to become violent?”
According to the Stamet’s testing monitor, Zaldan DNA is incompatible with the tardigrade genes that allow it to access the mycelial network and travel across the universe.
Wesley Crusher encountered a Zaldan as part of his Starfleet Academy entrance exams in the Next Generation episode “Coming of Age,” with the webbed-fingered species thriving on insults and confrontation.
9. The Daystrom Institute
Cadet Tilly recommends accessing the secure database at the Daystrom Institute to keep searching for compatible matches to tardigrade DNA.
The Institute, named for noted scientist Dr. Richard Daystrom, was previously only referenced in association with the 24th century shows, but apparently also exists in the 23rd century while Daystrom is still alive and active.
Rather than being named for Daystrom as many have speculated over the years, it seems that it may have been founded by the scientist himself.
10. “Eugenics experiments are forbidden!”
While human DNA is apparently compatible with the tardigrade’s genes, it is mentioned that genetic manipulation is forbidden on Earth, long-established in Trek canon from the Original Series through Star Trek: Enterprise.
11. USS Buran
Captain Lorca’s previous command before the USS Discovery was the USS Buran, named for a failed experiment during the Soviet Union with developing a Russian version of the United States’ space shuttle.
Though it is never legible on screen nor called out in the dialogue, a later ship called USS Buran would meet with a similar fate to Lorca’s ship… destroyed at the Battle of Wolf 359.
* * *
In addition to all these tips-of-the-cap to Trek past, there was one massive source of historical references in a Starfleet map of the Klingon front, showing off a plethora of well-known locations throughout the galaxy – right out of Geoffrey Mandel’s Star Trek: Star Charts map reference book.
- Rura Penthe – The Klingon prison planet most prominently seen in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and the Enterprise episode “Judgment.”
- Morska – The location of the Klingon outpost that interrogated the Enterprise as it tried to surreptitiously cross Klingon space to rescue Captain Kirk from Rura Penthe in The Undiscovered Country.
- Mempa – The site of a major battle during the Klingon Civil War seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Redemption, Part II.”
- Beta Lankal – Another strategic location referenced during the Klingon Civil War during The Next Generation episode “Redemption, Part II.”
- Khitomer – The eventual location of the signing of the Klingon/Federation peace treaty known as the Khitomer Accords, and the site of the peace summit featured in the final act of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
- Station K-7 – A starbase near the Klingon border visited by the Enterprise in “The Trouble With Tribbles.”
- Acamar – A non-Federation world near the Klingon border visited by the Enterprise-D in the episode “The Vengeance Factor.” The Gatherers, a nomadic race of Acamarians who resist the global peace on the planet, will harass Federation worlds and possessions in the 24th century before the Enterprise intervenes.
- Starbase 157 – In the 24th century, Starbase 157 receives the final distress call of the starship Lalo, which was under attack by the Borg in The Next Generation episode “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I.”
We can’t wait to see what else Star Trek: Discovery’s writers bring to the table in this weekend’s new episode, “Lethe.” Keep your eyes peeled for more canon connections in the future!