Warning: This Short Treks Episode contains spoilers for Season 2 Episode 3: “Ask Not.”
“Ask Not,” the latest episode of Short Treks, presents a classic Star Trek scenario with a new twist. Focusing on Captain Pike (Anson Mount) and Cadet Sidhu (Amrit Kaur), the very brief story of the episode feels fresh, and presents a great character study about what it takes not only to be in Starfleet, but to stay in Starfleet.
Still, despite the big stakes combined with a small character study, there were more than a couple big dips into the expansive canon of Star Trek. From references to the tribulations of Wesley Crusher, to throwbacks to The Original Series, and even some sideways shout-outs to the canon of the various novels, “Ask Not” is a small story that contains multitudes. Here’s all the Easter eggs and references we caught in the new Short Treks episode, “Ask Not.”
This is the first of the Short Treks to begin with a cold open on the action. All previous Short Treks, starting with “Runaway,” have featured the USS Discovery, the show title “Short Treks,” and the title of the episode ahead of any footage. But, in this case, the first image we see is Cadet Sidhu (Amrit Kaur) reacting to the yellow alert, then the title of the episode.
Though Starbase 28 has never been formally named in on screen canon, it appears that in some non-English versions of Star Trek: Discovery, Season 1, Episode 5, “Choose Your Pain,” the starbase where Captain Lorca conferred with several admirals before being captured by the Klingons, was, in fact, referred to as “Starbase 28” by onscreen captions.
In “Choose Your Pain,” that starbase looks very similar to the diagram of Starbase 28 in “Ask Not,” but with one major difference. If this is the same starbase then version of it we saw in “Choose Your Pain” was “upside down.” The again, since there’s no up or down in space, this seems fine!
Also in David Dvorkin’s non-canon 1984 TOS novel, The Trellisane Confrontation, Captain Kirk drops off some prisoners at “Starbase 28.” This is an amazing coincidence because the story of “Ask Not” is all about Kirk’s predecessor, Captain Pike, seemingly, being made a prisoner on the same Starbase.
As Captain Pike is describing the sequence of events to Cadet Sidhu, he mentions the USS Bowman. This ship is referenced in the non-canon 2007 TOS novel Reap the Whirlwind by David Mack. In 2017, Mack wrote the very first Star Trek: Discovery novel ever: Desperate Hours. That book featured a crossover between the crews of USS Shenzhou and Pike’s USS Enterprise, several years before the events of Discovery Season 2, and also, way before Anson Mount was even cast as a new Christopher Pike.
Pike claims the Bowman’s distress call from the Tholians was faked, and Sidhu says “It was a trap. They just wanted the Enterprise.” This is a direct parallel of the TOS episode “The Tholian Web,” in which the Tholians disable the USS Defiant and set up a similar trap for the Enterprise and Captain Kirk. So now, “Ask Not” establishes that the Tholians have been after the Enterprise for a long time!
This also marks the first time in Disco-era canon the Tholians have been mentioned. In Discovery Season 1, though the Tholians are not named, they are obliquely referred to because the background of the USS Defiant traveling to the Mirror Universe in TOS is part of how the Discovery crew finds out where the heck they are.
TLDR: The Tholians are part of the backstory of DiscoSeason 1, even though they are neither seen nor named. So now, in “Ask Not,” the Tholians are, for the first time since Star Trek: Enterprise, mentioned in on-screen Trek canon.
The back and forth between Pike and Sidhu about various regulations and loopholes, subtly references Lt. Saavik in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In that film, Saavik cites regulations throughout the film, which, at first, annoys Admiral Kirk. Later, of course, Kirk says that Saavik should go “right on citing regulations.” Pike’s test of Sidhu in “Ask Not” is similar to everything Saavik goes through in The Wrath of Khan.
“She’s very good” and the end of the test references The Wrath of Khan and The Next Generation
The big reveal toward the end of the episode is all about the fact that there was never any real danger, and Sidhu was being put through an elaborate test. Pike saying “she’s very good” and ending the simulation echoes Admiral Kirk ending the Kobayashi Maru test in The Wrath of Khan.
But, more specifically, this episode also references a similar test Wesley Crusher faced in the The Next Generation episode “Coming of Age.” Just like in “Ask Not,” Wesley is made to believe several of his comrades are in mortal danger, even though they really aren’t. The biggest difference here, is that both Wesley’s test and the Kobayashi Maru were all about facing your fears. This test, was more about Sidhu’s ability to stick to the rules even when things got hard.
Number One’s idea
When Sidhu and Pike beam over to the Enterprise, we learn that the test was Number One’s idea. Spock mentions that everyone expects “no mercy” from Number One, which could reference the events of the Short Treks episode “Q&A.” But, more interestingly, this could be a sideways Easter egg to the 2009 Trek reboot. In that film, Spock was responsible for programming the “no-win scenario” test at Starfleet Academy, and in some senses, Spock is the spiritual successor to Number One in TOS canon.
At the very end of the episode, Pike takes Sidhu to Engineering. This is actually the first time we’ve seen Main Engineering of Disco–era version of the USS Enterprise. In fact, we haven’t seen the Main Engineering of any Starfleet ships since Discovery launched in 2017.
You’d think the Spore Drive on the USS Discovery was in Main Engineering, but it’s not actually. Instead, that’s simply an engineering lab, seperate from Main Engineering. It’s very unlikely that what see in “Ask Not” is a fully constructed new set for Main Engineering. But if it was; that could mean more adventures on Pike’s USS Enterprise were coming very, very soon…