Dates of future past
When Burnham confronts Lorca about his supposed development of a spore-based biological weapon, she states that it is “explicitly forbidden by the Geneva Protocols of 1928 and 2155”.
Why the latter year? Well, in Enterprise’s two-parter Demons and Terra Prime, it’s established that this is the year that the idea of forming a Coalition of Planets was first mooted. That same coalition would become the Federation. Not using such weaponry, then, is one of the organisation’s founding principles.
Lorca's guide to the galaxy
Lorca exposes Burnham to the spores at the end of the episode and she goes on a trip to various corners of the galaxy in a scene that’s a treasure trove of references to the original series.
Aside from a quick glimpse of Romulus, we also see the moons of Andoria and the Preserver Obelisk that Kirk will stumble upon in The Paradise Syndrome; a shot of Starbase 11 from Court Martial and The Menagerie; and the Janus VI colony from all-time-classic, The Devil in the Dark.
Most intriguingly, Lorca refers to Ilari and shows some ruins on a darkened world. Ilari is a planet in the Delta Quadrant that featured in the Voyager episode Warlord. That suggests either there’s a planet closer to home with the same name - or that the spores are capable of taking starships far further than the Beta Quadrant...
As we see in the final scene, Lorca has quite the collection of alien creatures, including the skeleton of a Gorn - the reptilian alien species that Captain Kirk goes hand-to-hand with in Arena. The Federation haven’t yet made contact with the species in Discovery’s time, though there’s no reason why Lorca or his team couldn’t have stumbled upon the remains of a dead one and been intrigued enough to collect it. Elsewhere in his menagerie are the remains of some Cardassian voles.
Ready, steady... pause!
Captain Georgiou’s ready room seems to have been designed with Blu-ray zooming in mind. Squint and you may notice a bottle of wine from Chateau Picard. While there is, in fact, a real vineyard of that name, it’s also well-established in Trek canon that future Enterprise Captain Jean Luc Picard comes from a family of winemakers. The bottle that Georgiou owns is from 2267 - a vintage year, no doubt, but also a problematic one given that the first episode of Discovery takes place 11 years earlier in 2256… There must have been a disruption in the time-space continuum.
Also of interest is Georgiou’s shelves which contain a row of books, the titles of which will be familiar to fans: Mirror, Mirror, Plato’s Stepchildren, The City on the Edge of Forever, Amok Time, and many more. Yep, they’re all names of original series episodes.
Orders are orders
Did you spot Georgiou’s reference to “General Order 1”? That’s better known to fans as the Prime Directive - i.e. Starfleet’s most important principle. “No starship may interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society,” introduced in 1968's Bread and Circuses. It’s this principle that forbids Starfleet officers from using their great power and technology to alter civilisations - something that Klingon zealot T’Kuvma is clearly concerned about.
Face of the enemy
Speaking of Klingons… Burnham’s first encounter with the alien warrior on top of their sarcophagus ship reveals a couple of nice nods to established lore. Her readout screen identifies her opponent’s weapon as a Bat’leth, the curved sword that Worf was often seen to wield in The Next Generation. When the Klingon is accidentally killed, he sprays out pink blood, as seen in Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country - and ignored in all of the TV series until now. Perhaps that’s not a coincidence, given that Nicholas Meyer, who directed that film, is Consulting Producer on the new show.
The episode namechecks Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld, and establishes that the race have been avoiding the Federation for 100 years, which more-or-less fits with Enterprise. The pilot of that show, Broken Bow, took place in 2151 and focussed on a major diplomatic incident between humanity and the Klingons. Of course, we know from the original series that war - albeit brief - between the Klingons and the Federation is just around the corner, breaking out 11 years later in 2267, and resolved by Kirk and Spock in The Trouble With Tribbles. One of the planets mentioned in that classic episode was Donatu V, which also gets a shout out in Discovery.
Let’s start at the beginning - with Sonequa Martin-Green’s Lieutenant Commander Michael Burnham, dubbed “Number One” by the U.S.S Shenzhou’s Captain Philippa Georgiou. If you’ve seen Star Trek before then you’ve likely heard that nickname.
In The Cage - the Original Series’ first, Shatner-free, pilot episode - Number One was the Enterprise’s nameless female second-in-command, played by Majel Barrett (Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s then girlfriend, who would later go on to play Lwaxana Troi on The Next Generation). Having such a high-ranking female character proved controversial and is said to be part of the reason NBC passed on the show. When Trek was refashioned around Captain Kirk, the character was dropped.
Number One was also the name that Captain Picard would routinely call his First Officer, William Riker, indicating his seniority on the Enterprise bridge crew.
We learn a lot more about the Klingon civilisation in the first two episodes of Discovery including that its ruling council is divided into 24 houses (presumably some of whom like to wear their hair long, as in Enterprise and the Next Generation eras).
We meet a representative of the House of Mo’Kai. Several centuries later a hologram of Voyager’s Captain Janeway in Klingon form (still with me?) claimed to be from the House of Mo’Kai in the episode The Killing Game. House D’Ghor, meanwhile, first showed up in Deep Space 9 episode The House of Quark, where it suffered humiliation thanks to the dishonourable actions of its leader.
You also probably noticed T’Kuvma wittering on about Kahless. Who? Well, that’s yer mythic, semi-godlike Klingon King Arthur type - the first Warrior King and ruler of the Klingon Empire, referred to in every Trek generation - though T’Kuvma certainly seems more militant than most in his devotion to the warrior known as Kahless the Unforgettable.
As well as the humans and the Vulcans, the Klingons seem to have beef with the other member races of the Federation - notably the Tellarites (beardy, big-faced weirdoes) and the blue-skinned “filthy” Andorians, both introduced in the original series episode Journey to Babel and returned to occasionally throughout the other shows. The Andorians in particular were a common foe in Enterprise.
Back to school
A key environment in Burnham’s (many, clunky) flashbacks is the Vulcan Learning Center where Sarek’s young human ward learns the ways of the universe and a commitment to logic - one that Captain Georgiou quickly shakes. We’ve seen this environment before, in JJ Abrams’ 2009 movie, in the scene where the young Spock is bullied by other Vulcan children. That scene was, itself, a reference to Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home, which featured the resurrected adult Spock re-training his brain.
This rabbit hole of references continues with Sarek’s katra - the immortal Vulcan soul that was first introduced in Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock. In Discovery it’s used as a way for Spock’s dad to communicate with his adopted daughter while she’s in grave danger. Handy that. Plus there’s the reappearance of old favourite’s like the Vulcan nerve pinch, which Burnham uses on Georgiou, a mind meld and, of course, “Live long, and prosper”.