Hey you, what’s that sound?
It’s the “stupid” singing plants of Talos 4, of course! We discussed the planet in last week’s Star Trek Discovery Easter eggs, but this week we got a really good look at it, complete with the aforementioned plants and a faithfully-recreated underground base for the Talosians that looked like it had come straight out of The Cage. The aliens themselves have a slightly updated look, but are still clearly the trio we see in that episode and again in the Original Series’ Menagerie two-parter.
An old flame
When it became clear that Discovery was heading to Talos 4 we fully expected the big-brained inhabitants to show up. What we didn’t anticipate was for Vina to show her face…
Who is she? To recap, Vina was a crewmember aboard the SS Columbia, a survey ship that crashed on Talos 4 in 2236. The Talosians restored her to health and used their powers of illusion to grant her the appearance and sensations of being completely unharmed. She met and fell in love with Pike when he and Spock arrived on the planet in 2254.
If Memory Serves shows that, while the pair were parted when he left Talos, Vina clearly lingered in his thoughts. There’s a genuine bond there. The romantics among you saddened by the end of this episode will be pleased to know, then, that a few years down the line Vina and Pike are reunited.
As discussed last week, Pike is horribly injured in an accident where he saves the lives of many cadets. Following that, Spock breaks protocol and takes him back to Talos 4 where the Talosians grant him the same treatment they used on Vina and the two live out the rest of their lives together in peace on the planet. Aww...
There’s a forest in the desert
Vulcan’s Forge - where Michael flees as a child - is a vast desert area on the planet, first mentioned on The Animated Series and then later explored in detail in Enterprise’s The Forge and Awakening episodes.
Now, you might see a flaw in this reference - Michael is demonstrably not running into a desert, but a forest. Presumably Vulcan’s Forge, then, is a much larger region that previously thought, one that has several different climates and ecosystems. It’s also more than likely that the production team made this choice as it adds to the fairytale feel of young Michael’s story.
Back of the neck
Michael experiences Spock’s memories of breaking out of Starbase 5 - and sees categorically that he didn’t murder anyone. Phew! In fact, he knocked them out, niftily employing the famous Vulcan nerve pinch - a manoeuvre first seen in the Original Series’ episode The Enemy Within, where it is performed on an evil duplicate of Captain Kirk.
Fun fact: the nerve pinch is thought to be extremely difficult for non-Vulcans to perform, but Captain Picard has mastered it - because he’s the absolute boss.
It’s a diversion...
While trying to hide the fact that he’s heading to Talos 4, Pike sets the Discovery on a fake course to Starbase 11. Located two light years away from Talos, this particular Starbase appears in the Original Series episodes Court Martial and The Menagerie. Perhaps unusually for a Starbase, it’s actually located on a planet, the dully-named planet M-11.
Michael referring to Spock as a “half-breed” in an attempt to sever their emotional bond is a particularly painful moment in the episode - one that, at the end, remains a problem between the pair.
It’s also a subtle callback to the Original Series. In What Are Little Girls Made Of? An evil clone of Kirk says “Mind your own business Mr. Spock, I’m sick of your half-breed interference!” Spock is naturally dismayed, but realises that this means he is not talking to the real Kirk. If Memory Serves performs a subtle retcon, then - presumably when the older Spock hears this, he’s thinking of Michael and the conversation that ended their relationship.
There are no decent barbers on Vulcan
The sequence where we see a young Michael - complete with that adorkable Vulcan hairdo - is a lovely moment of bonding between her and brother Spock. It also makes for a nice nod to one of the most famous elements of Star Trek lore - the salute, usually accompanied with a greeting of “live long and prosper”. Many people find getting their hand into the v-shape oddly tricky, so it’s nice to see Michael stumble with it too.
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few"
There’s another callback in the form of Burnham declaring that Sarek would “weigh the needs of the many…”. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few - or the one” is one of the most famous lines in Star Trek, being said by Spock in The Wrath of Khan and then inverted by Kirk in Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home when the crew risk everything to bring their Vulcan comrade back to life.
Sarek’s got stones
The glowing objects in Sarek’s “sacred crypt” (hey, who hasn’t gone one of those?) are referred to as katra stones. It’s the first time we’ve seen these, but there’s two Vulcan connections there. Firstly, “katra” is the Vulcan “soul” - the living essence of a Vulcan that can, as in Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock, be transferred to another living being. Are we to assume then that the katra stones contain the ‘spirits’ of deceased Vulcans?
Secondly, carved onto at least one of the stones is the IDIC symbol. We’ve mentioned this before when it started appearing in the title sequence for season 2. Then it seemed like it was perhaps being used as a simple symbol to indicate the prominence of Vulcan culture in season 2. This, however, makes us wonder if there’s more going on here...
Go on, have a good vent
Pike and Tyler get out of their situation by venting and igniting their shuttle craft’s plasma to draw the Discovery’s attention. Another occasion where a similar procedure was carried out - with more disastrous results - was in the Next Generation classic The First Duty. In that episode Wesley Crusher's flight team are rocked by the death of a comrade. At first they claim ignorance of what happened, but Picard discovers that they had been attempting a Kolvoord Starburst - a highly dangerous and illegal manoeuvre that involves venting and igniting plasma from the engines - which went wrong and killed their pal.