This Star Trek: Prodigy article contains mild spoilers ahead for Season 1, Episode 2, “Starstruck.”
The last days of DISCO were erased. In the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2,” Pike, Spock, Number One — and even everyone’s favorite Section 31 fashion icon, Ash Tyler — all told Starfleet Command that the USS Discovery had been destroyed. On top of that, Spock doubled down by recommending to Starfleet that everything about Discovery become classified, which is why in the 32nd Century of DISCO Season 3, Admiral Vance, at first, is baffled that Burnham and company even exist. And yet, it seems that sometime in the 24th century, a hologram of Captain Janeway will love DISCO again. What’s going on?
In the second regular episode of Star Trek: Prodigy — “Starstruck” — the hologram of Janeway briefly shows the crew of the USS Protostar a holographic montage all about the history of the United Federation of Planets. But, the big question is: Why would DISCO be a part of that? Isn’t it classified? Let’s dig in…
Janeway’s Starfleet History Lesson
Unlike the first episode of Prodigy, “Lost and Found,” the second episode, “Starstruck,” specifically introduces the young, rag-tag crew of the Protostar to the ideals of the Federation. Because all the characters have only lived under the oppressive rule of the Diviner, and reside in the Delta Quadrant, the concept of the Federation isn’t just outrageous to them, it’s literally unheard of. When Janeway explains the relationship between Starfleet and the Federation, she does a slightly better job at making this distinction clear; perhaps better than any Trek show, ever. Starfleet is the boldly going group of starships and the Federation is just the government. Got it? Good.
And to illustrate this idea, we get a cool hologram of a Vulcan (Spock?) and Andorian, and some other friendly Federation aliens. And, we also get a quick glimpse of some holographic Federation starships, including what looks like the USS Voyager, at least one version of the USS Enterprise, the USS Defiant, and… a Crossfield Class starship that could be the USS Discovery. Okay. Hold up. Isn’t that classified?
How many ships like Discovery were there?
In Discovery Season 1, we learned the USS Discovery was a Crossfield-Class starship, and at least one other ship, the USS Glenn, was also equipped with a Spore Drive, around the year 2256. In “Context Is For Kings,” the USS Glenn was eventually destroyed, to keep the secret of the Spore Drive secure. This means, the only two onscreen versions of this kind of Starfleet ship, were both either destroyed or recorded as destroyed in the official records.
So, why would a hologram of Janeway, in the year 2383, show a Crossfield-class starship as a common representative of the fleet? Well, there is an answer! Just because the USS Discovery and the USS Glenn were outfitted with experimental Spore Drives, that doesn’t mean that every Crossfield-class starship was part of this covert operation. In fact, some Trekkie apocrypha from Star Trek: Online, indicates there is a USS Crossfield, which would have been the first ship in this class, and that it probably didn’t have a Spore Drive.
On top of that, in the Mirror Universe, the ISS Discovery didn’t have a Spore Drive at all, since that tech was seemingly limited to the ISS Charon. The point is, in at least two universes, you could assume that the basic shape of the USS Discovery wasn’t just limited to an experimental type of ship. Instead, there could have been tons of Crossfield-class ships out there, just not ones we’ve seen.
Note: there is some illegible text under the different ships featured in the hologram… so if that does say NCC-1031 underneath the Crossfield-class ship, well, then, someone did declassify DISCO for the Janeway hologram.
The TNG/Search for Spock Easter egg connection
The other explanation for the brief appearance of a “USS Discovery” style ship in this holographic montage is that the basic appearance of DISCO precedes DISCO! As some hardcore fans are probably aware, the Season 1 design of the USS Discovery is roughly based on concept sketches for the USS Enterprise for an abandoned 1975 film called Star Trek: Planet of the Titans. (Which, weirdly enough, would have seen the Enterprise souped-up by future tech, not dissimilar to what happened in DISCO Season 3.)
This “Enterprise,” was designed by Ken Adams and later drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Modified versions of this unused starship design were then reused as background ships in The Search For Spock and in a junkyard in the TNG episode “Unification I.” The larger point is that ships that look like Crossfield-class starships have been floating around in onscreen Trek canon since 1984, meaning, that if you squint, the class of ship which DISCO belonged to, has actually been a huge (tiny) part of the canon for a very long (relatively short) period of time, depending on how you look at it.
The creators of Star Trek: Prodigy, Kevin and Dan Hageman, have made it clear that their show doesn’t exist in a “mirror universe” of Trek canon. This series is intended to be a part of real-deal Trek lore. So, when Janeway shows all those ships, the audience might think they’re seeing the USS Discovery. But really, all you’re actually seeing is a ship of the same class. To us that’s DISCO. But to hologram Janeway and the kids, it’s just some random Starfleet ship. And, if you believe in the canon, the people who programmed the hologram don’t know what DISCO is either. And that’s because the Crossfield-class killed the DISCO star, way before Janeway and these kids were even born.
Star Trek: Prodigy airs new episodes on Paramount+ on Thursdays.