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Star Trek: Discovery fixes original series canon in the most hardcore way

Contributed by
Apr 18, 2019

Since the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery in 2017, some Trekkie haters have been claiming that the show has totally ruined canon from the very beginning. Set in the decade before the original series, Discovery has created canon kerfuffles in everything from the shape of Klingon heads to Starfleet uniforms and, perhaps most famously, the super-advanced technology of the titular starship itself.

But now, with its Season 2 finale, Discovery has figured out the most effective way to “correct” the canon: totally erase the ship from the 23rd century by jumping it into the far future. But was this retcon overkill?

**Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery, Season 2, Episode 13, "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2."**

In the first part of the season finale, Spock (Ethan Peck) seems to make a meta-fictional dig about the canon intricacies of the series when he says “Ergo, Discovery’s very existence is the problem.” In the context of the finale, the issue is all about the fact that the central computer of the USS Discovery has very sensitive galaxy-altering data that simply cannot be allowed to exist in the present timeline. Savvy fans will notice that this is a very clean analogy for the series itself relative to Star Trek canon.

At this point in time, prequels or reboots of the original Star Trek don’t scan as an actual representation of our own future, because everything has to be reverse-engineered into sci-fi standards from the 1960s. This makes Star Trek: Discovery kind of like Blade Runner 2049, sci-fi based on other sci-fi that is now considered retro. So far, Discovery has been stuck with canon created by a sci-fi franchise with technological predictions that are hugely outdated.

USS Discovery mycelial network

Credit: CBS All Acess 

The biggest culprit on the Trek-tech front for Discovery has always been the Spore Drive. In all of Star Trek canon, the way starships get around is Warp Drive, which is basically lightspeed but multiplied by handy increments. But the Spore Drive took “speed” and other factors out of the equation, simply because it granted the ability for the ship to appear and disappear at any point in the galaxy at any time.

Some fans scratched their heads when this concept was first introduced because, surely, this would have been a useful technology for literally every other Trek series to have. In other words, if the Spore Drive existed in the 2250s, how come Captain Janeway couldn’t use it to get the USS Voyager home over a century later in the 2370s? Ergo, Discovery's very existence invalidated the premise of at least one Trek series (Star Trek: Voyager), if not several other episodes and films.

But now, with two major plot twists in its Season 2 finale, Star Trek: Discovery has seemingly "fixed" its Discovery canon problem.

In the climax of the episode, the ship clearly heads 930 years into the future to a totally unknown fate. This fact was foreshadowed, though, by last year’s Short Treks episode "Calypso," in which the USS Discovery was adrift in the far future, seemingly abandoned. So, in fairness, we all should have seen that one coming.

As Spock said, removing Discovery from the galaxy in the 23rd century fixed not only a plot problem but a canon issue, too. But Spock wasn’t done fixing canon in the finale! And that’s because the episode goes one step further. Spock straight-up tells Starfleet command that everyone who knows about Discovery and “her Spore Drive” should be forbidden “under penalty of treason” from ever talking about the ship or its crew, ever again. With this one line, Spock is basically turning to the camera and saying to the crankier fans, “Hey, this is why I never talked about my human sister before, okay? You haters all happy now?”

It’s a hardcore move, and in some ways it scans as overkill. For fans not super bothered by the canon problems created by Discovery, jumping the ship into the far future would probably have been enough. If you’re following the show closely, you know that the Spore Drive tech really only works for Lt. Stamets specifically, which was probably enough of a reason as to why Starfleet couldn’t duplicate the tech in the future. But by making all 23rd-century knowledge of Discovery super-classified, and killing off at least one character (Admiral Cornwell!) who knew about it, the Season 2 finale of Discovery is demonstrating a unique truth about Star Trek canon: Even if you want to change Trek canon with time travel, Spore Drives, alternative universes, and tricky retcons, at some point, someone is going to have to just change the rules, kill someone, or make major events "classified."

In Season 1, the Mirror Universe was made classified, but in Season 2, ships disappear forever, people die, and Spock makes a new law that basically makes Discovery the Fight Club of Trek canon. First rule: Never talk about Discovery!

cornwell finale disco trek

Admiral Conrwell knows about all the canon problems of 'Discovery.' Now, she's been killed off. 

In this case, it feels like Trek canon wanted to preserve itself so badly that it had to not only banish the starship Discovery to another century but make sure the most famous Trek character of all time — Mr. Spock — explained to fans that he will never, ever talk about it ever again. And, as far as we know, in the 79 original series episodes, 22 animated episodes, two Next Generation episodes, and eight films that Spock appears in, he never once talks about his sister Michael or his good times aboard the USS Discovery. But now, with the Season 2 finale, we’re probably meant to think that in all of those adventures, Spock really wished he could.

Did Spock ever tell his BFF Jim Kirk about Michael Burnham? Did Bones ever get Spock drunk and get it out of him? Does Picard have Spock’s memories of Burnham thanks to that mind-meld in The Next Generation? We may never know. But as Spock said in The Wrath of Khan, there are always “possibilities.”

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