The Best Things Discovery Added to Star Trek Canon

Love it or hate it, Star Trek: Discovery changed Star Trek forever with these compelling additions to the franchise.

Star Trek Discovery Season 5 Cast
Photo: James Dimmock/Paramount+

This Star Trek: Discovery article contains spoilers.

Star Trek: Discovery has always been about change. The series started with a bang in 2017, complete with radically-altered Klingons and a heretofore unseen adopted sister to Spock. From that audacious beginning, Discovery became something more like a standard Star Trek series, while also retaining its own unique (and much more emotional) approach to storytelling.

To be sure, Discovery isn’t for everyone. Its focus on single protagonist Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and its emphasis on emotion over logic made it very different from most Trek series. But even the most traditional Trekkie can appreciate its best major additions to franchise lore.

Into the 32nd Century

It’s hard for Trekkies to avoid rolling our eyes when we read announcements about upcoming Trek projects. Another reboot, another prequel. Sure, Strange New Worlds has been wonderful, but that’s the exception. Too much of new Trek is focused on the era of The Original Series, ignoring anything after Star Trek: Nemesis until Lower Decks and Picard.

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For its first two seasons, Discovery followed suit, taking place approximately 10 years before TOS, following a secret science ship with experimental technology. But at the end of season two, the series jumped ahead 900 years into the future, further in the timeline than any other Trek series.

By going deep into the future, Discovery not only gave viewers new technologies and Starfleet uniforms, such as the updated naval duds Michael sports in the finale. But it also showed us how the Federation fares in the future and established new status quos for many of the franchise’s classic races, including Vulcan and Romulan reunification on Ni’Var.

Much of seasons three and four found the Discovery helping to rebuild the Federation, including dealing with a shortage of Dilithium. During these adventures, viewers saw again the value of the Federation’s ideals of understanding and cooperation for a new era.

Infinite Diversity on the Bridge

Diversity has always been a key part of Star Trek‘s ethos, ever since creator Gene Roddenberry chose Majel Barrett to play the original first officer and chose Japanese American actor George Takei to play Sulu. But no series has embraced this principle like Discovery.

Discovery features the first Black female main character, who eventually becomes the Captain of the Discovery in season three. No queer couple in Trek has received as much attention as Culber and Stamets, whose romance played a key role throughout the series. Cubler and Stamets were also the adoptive parents of the non-binary character Adira Tal and Gray Tal, performed by the trans actor Ian Alexander.

Discovery also featured a crew that went far beyond humans. Bajorans, Saurians, and androids served on the ship, making the vessel feel like part of a large collection of races.

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Discovery gave viewers one of the most compelling alien races in the Kelpiens. As played by the wonderful physical actor Doug Jones, the main Kelpien Saru was a gentle and wise presence on the Discovery bridge.

Over its five seasons, Discovery further developed the Kelpiens, revealing them as a terrified species hunted by the nightmarish Ba’ul. With this shading, Saru and the Kelpiens became one of the more complicated races in Star Trek history, but one that embodies the franchise’s ideals of exploration and understanding.

Exploring the Secrets of the Breen and the Progenitors

In addition to giving Trek new aliens to work with, Discovery revisited some underdeveloped races from previous series.

The Breen gained their power from the mystery they presented. Introduced in the final seasons of Deep Space Nine, the Breen felt more like walking weapons than they did actual characters. In Discovery‘s final season, the Breen removed their helmets to show their faces for the first time. They also revealed their rigid political system. Even if the show didn’t get to do as much with the Breen as some may have hoped, it ended with many ideas for others to explore.

The final season also picked up the trail of one of the most compelling episodes of The Next Generation, “The Chase.” That episode introduced the Progenitors, a species only hinted at as the Preservers in The Original Series. The Progenitors may have created all life in the galaxy, something that Michael Burnham learns about as she searches for a missing Progenitor device.

By the end, the final season of Discovery raised more questions about the Progenitors than it answered, but that’s just more room for other writers to build upon.

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A Hopeful Future for Cardassians and Bajorans

Speaking of building blocks from other writers, a supporting character from Discovery‘s last two seasons picked up on a plot thread from TNG and Deep Space Nine.

Portrayed by Chelah Horsdal, President Rillak is part human, just like so many characters in Star Trek. But her father was a mixed race Cardassian and Bajoran, a product of two warring people in the 24th century. Rillak never goes into much detail about her heritage, but her commitment to cooperation between species gives us hope for a more peaceful future between the races.

Setting Up Strange New Worlds

Even the most committed hater of Discovery has to give the show credit for introducing a fantastic new version of Captain Pike. As first played by Jeffery Hunter, Captain Pike was a square-jawed and fairly standard hero in the first Star Trek pilot, and then a victim when the footage of that episode was reused for “The Cage.” In 2009, Bruce Greenwood played a fatherly, but distant version of Pike in the reboot movies.

But in the second season of Discovery, Anson Mount‘s Pike took command of the Discovery, bringing with him Ethan Peck as Spock and Rebecca Romijn as Number One. Mount’s cool, laid-back dad version of Pike immediately won over fans, making the way for the brilliant Strange New Worlds.

Strange New Worlds has been an unequivocal delight, at once honoring Trek‘s past while pushing its ideas forward. And it would not have happened without Discovery.

Personified Computer AI

The ship’s computer has always felt something like a real person, which is why Scotty tries to talk so nicely to one when he went back to 1984 in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Most often voiced by Majel Barrett, the computer has always been part of the texture of Trek, but never a fully-fleshed out character.

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That changed in Discovery‘s second season, which dealt with an evil AI called Control. Later, the show introduced Zora (voiced by Annabelle Wallis), Discovery‘s ship AI that became a real character. She held debates about the nature of trauma and forgiveness, and she played a key role in making Michael find her way back home to the Discovery.

Even if some fans didn’t care for the show’s touchy-feely approach to computer intelligence, Discovery opened the door for some new ways of thinking about the ship’s computer going forward.

Personal Transporters

Most Trekkies know that beaming was an invention born of necessity. The low budgets of TOS made it impossible to shoot convincing images of a shuttle going from the Enterprise to whatever planet’s surface. Transporters provided a cost-effective way of getting the ill-fated red shirts off the ship and onto a planet.

Discovery upped that tech by introducing personal transporters. With personal transporters, characters can go to any location just by touching their com badges. While this change does put chiefs like Kyle and O’Brien out of a job, it does make for some very efficient storytelling.

Plus, we still haven’t seen how ion storms or orchids mess with personal transporters.

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