This Short Treks article contains spoilers for Season 2’s Episodes 4 and 5.
Though Star Trek: Picard can’t come fast enough for some Trekkies, 2019 is ending a very strong year of fantastic new adventures in the final frontier. We got a kick-ass Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery, and this round of Short Treks has been not only fantastic, but also, extremely diverse in tone, structure and mood.
For the first time since 1976, Star Trek has returned to animated form with two new shorts; “The Girl Who Made the Stars” and “Ephraim and Dot.” Both new short episodes reference the larger canon of Star Trek, but not at all in the way you might expect. Both episodes are wildly different from each other, but also, different from anything Star Trek has ever tried.
These episodes are also fun. And if you’re a hardcore fan or a casual fan, both are here to remind you that, yes this is real-deal Star Trek. Because there were two episodes of Short Treks, lets do the Easter eggs and references one episode at a time. Basically, this time around, one episode, “The Girl Who Made the Stars” was very light on Easter eggs, while the other episode, “Ephraim and Dot,” was nothing but Easter eggs. As Pike would say, let’s hit it!
Easter Eggs for “The Girl Who Made the Stars”
A Prequel to “Perpetual Infinity”
At the very beginning of the episode, we see the action taking place on what looks like a space station, or small spaceborne outpost. Because this entire episode is framed by Michael Burnham’s father — Mike Burnham — telling her a bedtime story when she was a little girl, we know this story takes place before the flashback in Discovery Season 2, Episode 11, “Perpetual Infinity.”
In that episode, we saw the Burnham family stationed on Doctari Alpha, but “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” clear takes place before. For one thing, Mike Burnham is still alive, and for another thing, Doctari Alpha seemed to be on a planet or a planetoid, not a space station.
Kenric Green is Back
Actor Kenric Green, the real life husband of Sonequa Martin-Green, actually played young Burnham’s father in the flashbacks for “Perpetual Infinity.” He’s back doing the voice of the same character, Mike Burhnam, in this episode, too.
The Burnham Family Backstory Has the Same Writer
The writer of “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” is the same co-writer as “Perpetual Infinity”; Brandon Schultz. At one point, Schutlz had wanted to incorporate aspects of this story into the Season 2 finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow,” but it was repurposed for this standalone Short Treks.
The story References African Mythology, and the Discovery Season 2 Premiere
The eternity of “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” is a double-origin story. On one level, it’s a Star Trek-style retelling of an ancient African myth, called “The Girl Who Made the Stars.” But, it’s also the origin story of why Michael Burnham knows this story in the the episode “Brother.” At the very start of that episode, Burnham tells the story of “The Girl Who Made the Stars,” as part of the opening voiceover of Season 2. Now, this Short Treks reveals she was told that story by her father.
Michael Burnham Has, Apparently, Always Loved Tardigrades
Perhaps the most obvious Easter egg is the fact that Michael appears to have a plush tardigrade as her nighttime stuffed-animal. In Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery, Michael Burnham alone recognizes that Ripper — the enlarged Tardigrade who temporarily served as the navigator for the Discovery’s Spore Drive — was in pain and grave danger. In the episode “Choose Your Pain,” with the help of Stamets and Tilly, Burnham set that tardigrade free, and Ripper flew out into space, free. Obviously, the next Short Treks — “Ephraim and Dot” — also references the tardigrade in a big way.
Easter Eggs for “Ephraim and Dot”
The Tardigrade in Space
The beginning of the episode presents itself as an instructional Starfleet science “film.” If we take this seriously, this means that sometime after the events of Star Trek: Discovery, other space-dwelling tardigrades (other than Ripper!) are creatures that Starfleet is aware of. Because the Spore Driver of the USS Discovery was classified in the Season 2 finale, the fun way to think about this as the if more tardigrades were created as a result of Ripper, then mainstream Starfleet folks might think these tardigrades are just normally that size, and capable of traveling through the mycelial network.
Salt Vampire from “The Man Trap”
The opening narration mentions that some extra terrestrial “fauna” is “deadly.” Briefly, we see an image of the M-113 lifeform, better known as the “Salt Vampire” from the TOS episode “The Man Trap,” which was, incidentally, the first Star Trek episode ever aired on TV.
The music cue when the Enterprise warps into view is classic rearrangement of the opening of several original series episodes. The Enterprise itself is designed to look a little bit the way we remember it in Discovery, but also, as becomes quickly apparent, this is also the version of the Enterprise from the actual classic series.
Khan and “Space Seed”
The episode might be about Ephraim the tardigrade trying to keep her eggs safe, but at this point, the Easter eggs for Star Trek: The Original Series start coming at Warp Speed. Ephraim overhears a famous conversation between Khan, Kirk and Bones from The Original Series episode “Space Seed.”
Dot the Security Bot
Throughout the rest of the episode, a security drone, Dot, tries to prevent the Ephraim from essentially, becoming a stowaway on the Enterprise. Dot is one of the DOT-7 worker robots last seen in the Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2.” At that time (2257), the USS Enterprise had a ton of DOT-7s, but at this point (roughly 2267) it looks like the Enterprise is down to just one DOT-7.
Dot and Ephraim fly through the infrastructure of the Enterprise, often referred to as the “Jefferies Tubes.” In real life, Jefferies Tubes were named after Matt Jefferies, who designed the original Enterprise. Jefferies Tubes have appeared in every version of Star Trek, and, in this episode, the style of Jefferies Tubes feels closest to the kinds we saw in The Next Generation.
During this first chase, Ephraim and Dot land in a gaggle of gold, red and blue tunics, clearly the laundry for the crew of the Starship Enterprise.
Main Engineering References TOS/Reboot Films
Ephraim seems to settle on the TOS engine room as the best place to lay her eggs. This design of the classic engine room mostly duplicates how the set looked in TOS, back when Scotty would complain about not being able to change the laws of physics or when he was “giving her all she’s got!” But, in a later scene, Ephraim ends up in a very similar looking series of tubes not unlike the ones on the reboot Enterprise in the 2009 J.J. Abrams film, just titled, Star Trek.
At this point, the episode plays fast and loose with the time period, because suddenly, there are Tribbles, meaning, we’ve, in fact, reached the events of “The Trouble With Tribbles.” The nice thing is that clearly, this and the ensuing Easter eggs play fast and loose with the passage of time, Star Trek: Discovery did very clearly establish that time and space laws work differently for the tardigrades. So, just because the entire history of the Enterprise get compressed into a few minutes, maybe that’s what several years actually feels like to one of these space-dwelling tardigrades!
Sulu Brandishing His Sword in “The Naked Time”
Time travel! Now, Ephraim and Dot are overhearing events from “The Naked Time,” specifically, the moment when the crew, and Sulu in particular, are infected with the Psi-2000 virus, which makes everyone crazy, but also, slightly more fun.
The Green Hand From “Who Mourns for Adonais?”
At this point, as Ephraim follows the Enterprise into warp speed, the references start flying, and time seems to speed up. That big green hand is from the opening scene of the classic episode, “Who Mourns for Adonais?” And, in case you’re wondering, it’s basically the hand of the God Apollo. This green hand was also referenced by Scotty (Simon Pegg) in the 2016 movie Star Trek Beyond.
“The Doomsday Machine”
Next up, the Enterprise warps by the planet killer from “The Doomsday Machine.” At this point, time is clearly going forward. “Who Mourns for Adonais?” is Season 2, Episode 2 of TOS, while “The Doomsday Machine” is Season 2, Episode 6.
“The Tholian Web”
We briefly see the Enterprise warp through the famous Tholian energy web from the TOS episode “The Tholian Web.” This is Season 3, Episode 9.
The Enterprise warping past a giant Abraham Lincoln references TOS’ Season 3, Episode 22, “The Savage Curtain.” Relevant to Discovery fans, “The Savage Curtain” is also the first appearance of the Klingon messiah, Kahless. Though, he doesn’t look much like himself in that episode. Lincoln on the other hand, looks great.
The Enterprise Changes!
And boom! It’s the movies! In one quick transition, we jump ahead from the original series into the feature films. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the Enterprise was given a huge upgrade, and the most obvious change was that the deflector dish went from being orange to being blue.
The USS Reliant and The Wrath of Khan
This scene then reveals that Ephraim has made it to the point in time where the Enterprise is fighting the commandeered USS Reliant in the pivotal events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Notably, the music in the previous scenes was reminiscent of the Alexander Courage and Fred Steiner music from TOS, but in this quick scene, the music definitely homages James Horner’s score from The Wrath of Khan.
Also of note, this is the first time since 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, that the classic canon feature-film design for the USS Enterprise has been seen in a new official, Star Trek episode of movie. Also, because Star Trek VI features the Enterprise NCC-1701-A, this is the first time since 1984 since we’ve seen the refit version of the 1701 Enterprise in any Trek thing, at all. Finally, because the rest of this Short Treks episode takes place in the classic movie-era timeline, this is also the first time since the launch of Discovery in 2017, that the new Star Trek series have actually depicted, on screen, events from the classic feature films.
The Destruction of the Enterprise in The Search For Spock
Obviously, if you know the original movie canon, then, you know what comes next. Ephraim sees a Klingon Bird-of-Prey decloak and attack the Enterprise. This references the events of Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, and the very last moments of the classic version of the Enterprise.
The Enterprise Computer Voice
Just like in “Q&A” the voice of the Enterprise computer is played by Jenette Goldstein. Goldstein is famous for her role in Aliens as Vasquez, but she also played a bridge officer on the Enterprise-B in Star Trek: Generations. Ironically, in that movie, a different version of the Enterprise is also destroyed.
Ephriam and Dot’s Fight
The fight between Dot and Ephraim in this moment is a classic TOS brawl. For one thing, the music here is very reminiscent of fight music cues from TOS, specifically the Gerald Fried composition, “The Ritual.” Casual fans know this music better as the music that plays during the Kirk and Spock fight in “Amok Time.” This music in this scene isn’t Gerald Fried 100 percent, but it’s close and clearly meant to remind you of that fight music.
“My God, Bones, what have I done?”
As the remains of Enterprise sail down toward the Genesis planet, the shot of the ship falling is nearly identical to how it looks for Kirk, Bones, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov on the planet below. As the Enterprise burns up in the atmosphere, Kirk says: “My God Bones, what have I done?” Bones replies: “What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live.”
Appropriately, because Dot ends up saving the tardigrade eggs for Ephraim, the death of the Enterprise is turned into a fighting chance for those little tardigrades to live! Perfect!
This episode was directed by composer Michael Giacchino, famous for his musical scores for the reboot Star Trek films; Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. Giacchino has also been listed as a “supervising composer” on numerous of the new Short Treks this season. His score for the Pixar film, The Incredibles in 2004 is also probably something everyone who loves movies things about all the time.
The episode stars Kirk Thatcher, as the narrator, who hardcore Star Trek fans will know as the punk who gives Spock the middle finger in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Weirdly, Thatcher reprised his role as the same punk for the film Spider-Man: Homecoming, making a lot of people wonder if Spidey and Trek could maybe be in the same universe?
There’s only one more episode of Short Treks season 2 left. On January 9, CBS All-Access will release “Children Of Mars,” which is thought to be a live-action prequel to Star Trek: Picard, which debuts on January 23, 2020.