At New York Comic Con 2019, among other huge Star Trek announcements, CBS also launched the new mini-season of the anthology series: Short Treks. Though there were only four mini-episodes last time around, this time there will be six, and the first of those began streaming last Saturday.
And, if you were distracted by the huge revelations in the Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 trailers, you might have missed the sheer delight of the first new Short Treks episode, “Q&A.” In it, a young Starfleet ensign named Spock beams aboard the USS Enterprise for the first time.
Though it’s only 14-minutes long, “Q&A” is a love letter to the canon of Star Trek and the fandom in general. From a huge nod to The Next Generation, to tons of The Original Series connections and one cameo from an Aliens veteran, this episode contained multitudes. Here’s every hidden reference and Easter egg we spotted in “Q&A.”
Spock’s first day: What’s up with the uniforms? And what year is this?
Not counting flashbacks like “The Brightest Star” or the 22nd century prequel series Enterprise; “Q&A” actually presents the earliest moment in original Star Trek canon, ever. Because this story depicts Spock’s first day on the classic NCC-1701 USS Enterprise, it’s not only a prequel for Discovery and Star Trek: The Original Series, but also various apocrypha, specifically, certain aspects of “The Cage.”
While we generally accept that the unaired pilot episode, “The Cage” is 100 percent part of “real” Star Trek canon, the fact remains it appeared in canon first as a telepathic flashback, reconstructed by the Talosians in the episode “The Menagerie.” In real life, this was just a smart way for Gene Roddenberry to use some footage that was previously rejected and also to create an instant and retroactive backstory for Spock, and its previous commander Captain Pike.
But, chances are, if you’re reading this list, you already know all that, so why I am bringing it up? Because, relevantly, all the color-coded Starfleet uniforms in “Q&A” look pretty much the way they looked in Season 2 of Discovery, and other than the colors, they decidedly do not look like the turtleneck versions from “The Cage.”
The real-world explanation for this is obvious: Discovery redesigned the classic series uniforms, and “Q&A” is just using that design because it’s easy and the uniforms look great. But, if you want to get nitpicky, how can we explain that Spock,Pike and Number One are are basically wearing sweaters in “The Cage”/”The Menagerie.”
Well, because the footage from “The Cage” exists in canon within a telepathic reconstruction ,from “The Menagerie”; you could argue that the different uniforms in “The Cage” are a result of the Talosians not quite reconstructing the events completely accurately. Is this explanation official? Nope! But, if you squint, it’s really the only way to make this work. You’re welcome. I fixed uniform canon.
As for the timing of “Q&A”; it seems like it’s gotta be either 2253 or 2254. According to the episode “Brother,” Pike took command of the Enterprise in 2250, and by the time of Discovery it’s 2257. So, if this is either 2253 or 2254, that would give Spock and Pike enough time to be pretty chummy by the time we catch up with them in Discovery. The events of “The Cage” also happen in 2254, so, any way you slice it, “Q&A” takes place pretty much right before that mission, either by a few months, or one year.
When Spock beams over to the Enterprise at the very beginning, the transporter seems to be of yet another new design that we haven’t seen before. This could be a nod to the fact that transporter technology was clearly in flux in the 2240s and 2250s. When Michael Burnham beamed aboard the USS Shenzhou in the flashback in “The Battle at the Binary Stars,” that was the year 2249. At that point, Burnham makes a dig about the lateral vector transporter system on the Shenzhou, but it seems like the one Spock is using might be a mash-up of that system and the kind we’re more familiar with.
Throughout the story, Number One and Spock talk about Quantum Stochastics. Briefly, quantum stochastics is a branch of quantum mechanics which suggests that independent spacetime fluctuations can impact quantum mechanics. This is relevant from a story perspective, because quantum stochastics is an interpretation of quantum mechanics, and not necessarily scientific fact. This makes it a fitting subject for Number One and Spock, who both sort of sit on the knife’s edge of being totally rational and also, totally susceptible to outside factors that can’t be explained.
Number One’s name and two job descriptions
As Spock is beaming aboard, we get a quick glance of a memorandum that Number One is dictating. On the screen we can see that her name is “Una,” which was previously established in several non-canon Star Trek books, and also made canon in “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2.”
The data pad also shows that Number One is both the First Officer and the Helmsman. Seemingly, she’s the only Star Trek character who has both of these responsibilities at once, all the time. Then again, at this point in time, the Enterprise only has 203 people onboard, whereas in Kirk’s time it’s over 400. So, maybe at this point, Starfleet policy was to give First Officer’s multiple jobs?
This kind of makes sense when you consider that Spock is both the science officer and Kirk’s First Officer in The Original Series. Basically, it wasn’t until Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where the idea of being an “Executive Officer” could have been thought of as one job. But, of, course by the Next Generation-era, being a First Officer was a full time gig. It’s not like Riker was regularing pulling shifts at the helm.
Length of Number One’s hair versus her hair in Discovery
As Number One, Rebecca Romijn’s hair in this episode is a little longer and straighter than it was in Season 2 of Discovery. This is clearly a nod to the way Majel Barrett’s hairstyle in “The Cage.”
Original series theme plays, subtly
When Spock boards the Enterprise, a variation of the Alexander Courage-composed original Star Trek theme plays. Interestingly “Q&A” is the first Star Trek episode ever to feature a female composer. The credits list Nami Malumad as responsible for the music.
The music credits also list not only Jeff Russo (who has composed Discovery’s music since 2017) but also Michael Giacchino as “supervising composer.” Famously, Giacchino composed the music for the first two Star Trek reboots directed by J.J. Abrams. So, from a music perspective, this episode is an intersection of Trek’s past (Giacchino, Courage), present (Russo), and future (Malumad), quite literally.
Spock’s serial number
When Spock first beams onboard, the says his Starfleet serial number which is: S-179-276 SP. This number was first mentioned in the original series episode “Court Martial.”
“No need to shout”
Spock says the phrase “Reporting for du-ty!” with a kind of funny, and extra loud emphasis. This references the way Spock spoke in “The Cage.” Re-watch it, he yells a lot.
What is your name, sir?
Spock calls Number One, “sir” which is pretty common in Star Trek. Even when addressing someone who isn’t male, the pronouns “sir” or “mister” are used to reflect nautical terms. In Star Trek: Voyager, Janeway objected to this practice, but didn’t want to be called “ma’am” either, and instead said she preferred “Captain.” But, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Saavik is referred to as “Mister Saavik.”
Meanwhile, Number One dodging a question about her first name references the second season finale of Discovery, “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2,” in which she only replies “Number One” when asked her name by Starfleet command. In a sense this also references the ‘09 Star Trek reboot, in which Uhura dodges revealing that her first name is “Nyota” for nearly the entire film.
The voice of the Enterprise computer is played by an Enterprise-B Officer and an Marine from Aliens!
Actress Jenette Goldstein provided the voice for the computer of the Enterprise in this episode, which is actually kind of a big deal. Prior to this, Star Trek fans would have recognized Goldstein as one of the officers on the bridge of the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations. But, Goldstein is much more famous for her role in another huge sci-fi movie. In 1986, she played the marine named Vasquez in Aliens. Yep. One of the marines from Aliens is now the voice of the Enterprise computer.
The chief engineer of the Enterprise is different. Again. (But that’s on purpose.)
When Number One calls for help, the Chief Engineer is someone named Upjohn (voice of Sarah Evans.) This is not the same chief engineer Pike references in “An Obol for Charon”; that would be a guy named Louvier.
However, in the 2019 John Jackson Miller novel Star Trek: Discovery: The Enterprise War, it is revealed that the chief engineer job on the Enterprise is a constantly changing. From that book, here’s Pike’s thoughts on the matter as he deals with a yet a different chief engineer, a guy named Galadjian. “The problem with the Enterprise being a showcase for Starfleet was that the coveted chief engineer’s post had become something of a revolving door.”
So, Upjohn predates both Lovier and Galadjian, all of whom predate Scotty. However, Miller’s novel suggests there were a bunch more.
Captain Pike loves horses
Number One advises Spock to basically not get Pike started on talking about horses, which is a direct reference to Pike’s love of horses in “The Cage.” In one of the fantasies created for Pike by the telepathy of the Talosians, he is reunited with a horse named Tango, that he freaking loves.
“You have made a most careful study of the Captain.”
When Spock mentions that Number One really has Pike figured out, she reacts like she’s kind of freaked out. This is because in “The Cage” the Talosians reveal that Number One has a crush on Pike that she has repressed.
Spock questions the Prime Directive
As Spock continues his barrage of questions, one of them is:”Have you ever considered the that the Prime Directive not only unethical, but also illogical and perhaps morally indefensible?” This kind of reads as a joke since debates about the Prime Directive are a big part of nearly every version of Star Trek.
But, most interestingly, is the fact that Spock uses the phrase “Prime Directive.” In Discovery, Pike mostly called the Prime Directive “General Order One,” which made some fans think Starfleet didn’t start calling it the Prime Directive until after the 2250s. But, this episode makes it clear, that yes, the term “Prime Directive” is as old as at least 2254.
The character who rescues Spock and Number One from the turbolift is Lt. Amin, played by Samora Smallwood. We last saw Amin sitting at the front of the bridge with Number One in “Such Sweet Sorrow.” But, in that episode, Amin is wearing the gold tunic of command, whereas here, she’s in red, suggesting security or engineering. So, at some point between 2254-ish and 2257, Amin was promoted!
In some ways, the entire story of “Q&A” attempts to reconcile the instances in early Trek where Spock smiled. In “Where No Man Has Gone Before” Spock smiled slightly when playing chess with Kirk. In “The Cage” Spock smiled openly when he and Pike found those famous “singing” plants. Spock also pops a grin in “Charlie X” when playing his Vulcan lute while Uhura sings. The point is, Spock smiling is 100 percent canon, and this episode simply proves that Spock sort of struggled to know what to do with his emotions for a long time.
Spock and command
Number One accuses Spock of wanting a command of his own, which is interesting for several reasons. In The Wrath of Khan, Spock tells Kirk. “As a teacher on a training mission, I am content to command the Enterprise. If we are to go on actual duty, it is clear that the senior officer on board must assume command.”
But, that is a much older version of Spock, one who is a little more chilled out. Could Spock have wanted his own ship at some point when he was younger. In “Where No Man Has Gone Before” Spock does where gold, indicating he was in the command section of the ship’s hiercharchy. But at some point, that changed.
“I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General” homages a beloved Next Generation episode
The song that Number One sings is “I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major General” which is from the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Pirates of Penzance. And, she’s not the first Star Trek character to sing the song at the beginning of a Star Trek episode.
In The Next Generation episode “Disaster,” Geordi LaForge is cajoled into singing the song by Dr. Beverly Crusher. In that context, Crusher was trying to cast Geordi for a role in a shipboard production of the play. But, very tellingly, that same episode also deals with characters trapped in a turbolift who end up singing. In the same episode, Captain Picard is trapped with three school children in a turbolift. As they climb their way out of the turbolift shaft and to safety, Picard encourages the children to sing “Frère Jacques” to keep their mind off the danger.
Data, Picard and Worf also sing a song from a different Gilbert and Sullivan musical in the film Star Trek: Insurrection. That song, was “A British Tar” from the play HMS Pinafore.
In memory of Dr. Robert Chabon
“Q&A” is written by novelist and Picard showrunner Michael Chabon. He dedicated the episode to his father, who he has said on more than one occasion was a big fan of the original Star Trek. Chabon has written about his father before, specifically in his recent memoir, Pops: Fatherhood In Pieces, published in 2018.
The next episode of Short Treks — “The Trouble With Edward”, starring H. Jon Benjamin (of Archer fame) — airs on Thursday, October 10 on CBS All-Access.