The fifth episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 is perhaps the most exciting episode of the new season so far, which is saying something! Not only does a beloved character return, the episode seems to conclude in a way that feels like its setting up the rest of the season.
And, with all of this stuff going on, there are also more than a few huge references to the existing canon of Trek, most of which were huge surprises. From Tyler’s The Next Generation tech to The Original Series planets getting named-dropped, here’s what it all means.
Spoilers ahead from Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 5 “Saints of Imperfection”…
When Discovery is pursuing Spock’s shuttle, there’s an old Trek trick right up front: Hiding in a nebula! Detmer says the shuttle has ignited the nebula to throw off the sensors of the ship. Ships hide in nebulae in Trek a lot, most famously in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and in The Next Generation episode “The Best of Both Worlds.”
Emperor Georgiou’s Theme Music and Full Title
When Georgiou boards the Discovery, it becomes clear quickly that Pike doesn’t know who she really is; i.e. that she is the Mirror Universe version of the heroic Starfleet captain.
When Burnham asks her if Section 31 knows who she is, Georgiou jokes about her full title as Emperor of the Terran Empire; “Emperor Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius.” This title originates from the Season 1 episode “Vaulting Ambition.” Plus, when she first appears in the episode, the music that plays is Jeff Russo’s Terran Empire music from Season 1.
When Pike meets Section 31 agent Leland, he says “The last time I saw you, you were up to your ass in alligators on Cestus III.”
Now, it’s possible that Pike straight-up discovered the planet Cestus III prior to this. In Deep Space Nine (roughly a hundred years in Discovery’s future) the planet Cestus III will have something called “Pike City.” Captain Sisko even wears a baseball hat for the “Pike City Pioneers,” who play on Cestus III, representing that city. According to Robert Hewitt Wolfe, a DS9 writer, they intended for viewers to think that Pike did discover the planet in the first place.
But, it gets even better. The first appearance of Cestus III was in the classic TOS episode “Arena,” in which Kirk and the crew encounter the Gorn. Yep, that’s right, Cestus III is where Kirk first meets the lizard man. “Arena” is also in Discovery’s future by about nine years. Could the “alligators” Pike was euphemistically referring to really be… the Gorn?
This might be a stretch, but Georgiou eating an apple in Pike’s ready room could reference Captain Kirk and the Kobayashi Maru scenario in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the 2009 Star Trek reboot. In The Wrath, Kirk eats an apple flippantly while describing how he beat the “no-win” scenario, before revealing a daring plan. In the 2009 Trek movie, Kirk eats an apple while beating the Kobayashi Maru test.
In most versions of the Kobayashi Maru, Starfleet ships find themselves rescuing a ship in the Gamma Hydra sector. In the very first episode of Discovery, the USS Shenzhou is in the Gamma Hydra sector, which ends ups being the start of the Klingon War. Years later, this is where the Klingon neutral zone will be established. Because the prime-universe Captain Georgiou died in a no-win scenario in the same exact quadrant, none of this seems like a coincidence.
There’s a brief reference made to the bodies on the USS Glenn. This references the first season Discovery episode “Context is For Kings,” in which the crew visits the sister-ship of the Discovery, the Glenn and finds people’s bodies have been really screwed up by encountering the mycelium network.
When Tilly busts-out a phaser rifle, she describes like this: “I’m holding a type 3 phaser rifle. And it’s more powerful and generally larger than the type one or type 2. Which is why I guess they call it a 3!” In literally all incarnations of Trek, the phaser rifle is often referred to as “Phaser 3” or a “Type 3 phaser.”
The idea that there are “type 1” and “type 2” phasers comes from The Original Series, most notably, “The Devil in the Dark,” in which Captain Kirk frequently mentions the use of “Phaser 2.” The first person to use a Phaser rifle or “Phaser 3” in Star Trek was actually Spock, in the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” which is technically in Discovery’s future by eight years.
What the Hell Kind of Communicator is That?
In a huge shout-out to The Next Generation, Tyler taps his Starfleet badge and uses it as a communicator. Pike responds “What the hell kind of communicator is that?” But we all know. It will be standard issue Starfleet ships in like 100 years, starting with The Next Generation.
It should be noted that the idea that Starfleet has miniaturized communicator tech was canon during The Original Series. In the classic episode “Patterns of Force,” Kirk and Spock have subcutaneous transponders injected into their bodies so Scotty can keep track of them. This implies that the communicator badge in The Next Generation wasn’t so much a technological leap forward, as it was a design choice.
Further, there’s no reason to believe Tyler’s version of the comm badge is as sophisticated as the versions we see in the 24th century on TNG, DS9 and Voyager. After all, those versions have universal translator built-in, and it seems doubtful that’s the case with Tyler’s.
And, guess what? This is not the first time a 24th century TNG-style comm badge has made its way into 23rd century. Back in 2012, the IDW Star Trek comic book series did new versions of classic Trek episodes with the reboot crew. And in that version of “Operation: Annihilate!” the Chris Pine version of Captain Kirk tapped his communicator badge. Relevantly, as seen in Star Trek Into Darkness, Section 31 existed in that timeline, too. Also of note, the creative consultant on those 2012 comics was Roberto Orci, who was Alex Kurtzman writing partner on the first two Trek reboot movies. Kurtzman is the current showrunner of Star Trek: Discovery.
Leland’s ship’s cloaking device
The Section 31 ship disguises itself as an asteroid. This means the ship has a cloaking device which, at this point, is tech that Starfleet isn’t really supposed to have. Then again, the Klingons had cloaking tech in Discovery Season 1, which Starfleet was able to break. So, it’s possible that at some point Leland’s cloaking tech will become obsolete, too.
In The Original Series episode “The Enterprise Incident,” Kirk and Spock go undercover to try and steal a Romulan cloaking device. At this point in Trek history, Starfleet isn’t really sure what the Romulans are doing, though. But, speaking of Romulans, the asteroid cloaking device Leland uses is vaguely reminiscent of the phase-cloak from the TNG episode “The Pegasus.”
When Leland’s ship pulls Discovery out of the mycelial network, the ship fires little rigs to help with the tractor beam. This might seem weird, but there are a few vague references to actual rigging devices with tractor beams in Trek previously.
In the TOS episode “The Doomsday Machine,” Kirk and Scotty mention that they are going to “rig” the USS Constellation for towing. Plus, in prequel show Enterprise, all the starfleet ships have physical towing cables called “grapplers.”
Six years ago on Deneva
Georgiou mentions that Leland made a huge mistake “to the wrong ambassador” about “six years ago on Deneva.” The planet Deneva is an Original Series planet, which, weirdly or not, comes from the episode “Operation: Annihilate!” It’s a Federation colony, which, actually includes James T. Kirk’s brother, Sam Kirk and his family. (In the Original Series episode, the deceased Sam Kirk is just played by William Shatner with a mustache.)
The alien flying parasites on Deneva are sensitive to light, which is also true of the Terrans in the Mirror Universe, like Georgiou herself. In terms of what happened on Deneva exactly six years before this (in roughly 2251) is anybody’s guess.
Dr. Culber triumphantly returns to life thanks to the mycelial network, and an organic transporter. Star Trek has brought “dead” characters back to life with the regular transporter before, too, most notably, Scotty in the TNG episode “Relics.” Riker was also duplicated by a transporter in the episode “Second Chances,” which from the perspective of that specific duplicate, saved his life.
At the end of the episode, Admiral Cornwell says “tachyons” were founds near the site of the asteroid, seen in Episode 2 of the season. Leland says this could imply “time travel.” And Pike says “or the byproduct of transporters or cloaking device.”
In The Next Generation, tachyons are mentioned a lot in relationship to cloaking devices, specifically in the two-part episode “Redemption.” But, in this situation, these line of dialogue imply the Red Angels could be traveling through time, using cloaking devices, beaming out a lot, or… all three.
Cornwell mentions Leland and Pike can debate out how they want to interpret “Article 14” of the Starfleet Charter on their own time. Section 31 is called Section 31 because somewhere in Article 14 of the Starfleet character, there is a section (number 31) that says Starfleet can take “Extraordinary measures to be taken in times of extreme threat.”
The existence of Section 31 means people like Leland interpret Article 14 to be in effect at all times. Section 31 first appeared in the Deep Space Nine episode “Inquisition, which takes place in 2374, 117 years in Discovery’s future. The explanation for the name “Section 31” and its relationship to Article 14 comes from the Enterprise episode “Divergence,” which occurs 103 years before this episode of Discovery.