The mystery around Spock’s whereabouts continues in episode 2 with the revelation that he is actually in a psych ward on Starbase 5. Little has been previously said about this particular location - it’s never shown up on screen - but there are a few references scattered throughout the wider canon, with the Star Trek: The Lost Era books (a series set after Kirk’s apparent death on the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations) featuring it as a location and the Spaceflight Chronology reference book from the ‘80s notes that a major scientific conference was held there.
It’s the end of the world as we know it...
Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. Yes, while the Star Trek future is a broadly-optimistic one, it does have its fair share of missteps and problems before humanity finally gets its utopia.
This episode states that the ship that landed on Terrelisia left Earth during World War 3. This conflict followed the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s (which birthed the likes of Khan and the other Augments) and dragged out from 2026 to 2053. It’s a particularly devastating moment in Trek history, with some 600 million humans losing their lives. The war is first referenced in the Original Series’ Bread and Circuses and The Savage Curtain, and then again in Enterprise’s In a Mirror Darkly two-parter.
Still, it’s not long before humanity drags itself out of the gutter. In 2063, ten years after the end of the war, humanity makes first contact with the Vulcans (in the Next Gen movie First Contact) - an event that changes the face of history. By the early-2100s, humanity has more-or-less conquered poverty, disease, and famine. And in 2161, roughly 100 years after meeting the Vulcans, the fledgling United Federation of Planets is born and everything is peachy… more or less.
General Order 1
Ah, our old friend the Prime Directive. This was mentioned several times back in season 1 and plays a major part in Pike’s decision-making here. It is, of course, the Federation’s highest and most sacred decree of non-interference - a rule that Pike flexes to breaking point when he goes back to talk to Jacob at the end (not to mention the power cell he gives him).
The player of games
The episode starts and ends in different, but very similar, spaces - Spock’s room on Vulcan and his quarters on the Enterprise. Both contain a very recognisable piece of Original Series iconography - a three-dimensional chess set, first seen in Where No Man Has Gone Before, the second pilot of the Original Series after The Cage (more on that later) was rejected by the network.
Spock was often seen playing Kirk and McCoy and, with his logical brain, proved to be a formidable opponent. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the game in Discovery, mind - prime universe Captain Georgiou kept a set in her ready room on the Shenzhou.
Sending out an SOS...
The cliffhanger to Star Trek Discovery season 1 was the reveal of the Enterprise in distress via a Priority One distress call. There are far too many examples of P1’s in Trek history to list them all here, but suffice to say it’s Starfleet’s most pressing call for help - once you notice that they’re a thing, you’ll spot them everywhere in the series.
It certainly looks like one of the Discovery’s crew is wearing a VISOR, not unlike the one worn by The Next Generation’s Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton). Standing for Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement, these devices cover the eyes, detect electromagnetic signals, and transmit them to the wearer’s brain - allowing the blind to see infrared and ultraviolet signals.
It’s slightly incongruous to see one in a pre-Original Series context, but then again, we’ve been wearing glasses for centuries now, so perhaps Geordi’s is just a more advanced model.
Whatever happened to Saru’s sister?
“A sister. Siranna. I do not expect a reunion with her.” Wondering what the backstory is with Saru’s ambiguously lost sibling? That’s explored in the third Short Treks episode, The Brightest Star. Previously only available to watch on CBS All Access, Netflix has finally made them available in the UK too - though bafflingly, they’re hidden away in the trailers section!
If you don’t have 15 minutes free to watch the actual episode, the TL:DR version is this: the Kelpiens are a pre-warp civilisation, and Saru is the first member of their species to reach out into the stars. The Federation (specifically Georgiou) arrives and recruits him, but on the rather brutal proviso that he can never go home again...
Pike is REALLY good at everything
You can always rely on the Discovery’s art department to slip in a joke or reference onto the ship’s computer screens. Freeze-frame Pike’s bio and you’ll spot numerous references - some more plausible than others...
First off, it’s noted that Pike is the successor of Robert April - the very first Captain of the Enterprise (well, the 1701 version anyway) - introduced in an episode of the 1960s Trek animated series. It’s the second time Discovery has nodded towards the character, with another reference in season 1’s Choose Your Pain. Then we come to Pike’s awards. According to his records, Pike has won:
The Okuda Award: An engineering prize first mentioned in The Next Generation’s Eye of the Beholder. In a meta detail, the award was named after Michael Okuda, the scenic artist who designed the famous look of the Federation computer interfaces on the Next Generation, nicknamed “Okudagrams”.
The Rigel Cup: OK, so Pike’s good at engineering. But apparently he’s also great at racing, because there he is with the Rigel Cup on his resume. This is an award for skilled sublight pilots, first mentioned in the classic Next Generation episode, The First Duty.
The Campbell Award: With both those awards, it sort of makes sense that Pike would also sweep up the Campbell Award - an honour given to Starfleet personnel who make achievements in multiple fields. This is another Next Generation nod.
The Carrington Award and The Legate’s Crest of Valor: Where things get a bit weird is the fact that he also appears to have somehow won the Carrington Award which, according to Deep Space 9, is an award for lifelong excellence in medicine(!) and the Legate’s Crest of Valor - which isn’t even a Federation award - it’s Cardassian (and first introduced in Voyager). Has Pike been lying on his CV?
It’s a bit muffled because of Lt. Connelly’s panicked line delivery, but in the moments before his (richly deserved) death, he brags that his former roommate was a Catian. Those are a race of cat people first introduced in the animated series, and briefly seen in amusingly fur-faced form in Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home.
Jett Reno (a suspiciously Star Wars name if you ask us) refers to a dead Bolian when Pike and Burnham rescue her. A regular sight in many Trek series, Bolians are a bald, blue-skinned species, first seen in the season 1 Next Generation episode, Conspiracy. They were named after ace Trek director Cliff Bole, who helmed Borg-starring masterpiece The Best of Both Worlds.