Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 8 Easter Eggs & References
Did you catch all of these Star Trek references in Star Trek: Discovery "If Memory Serves"?
If there are still DISCO-haters out there who believe that Star Trek: Discovery is somehow not “real” Star Trek, the latest episode will almost certainly disprove that insane claim. In the eighth episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Burnham and Spock hit up Talos IV, and a bevy of old school Trek references follow them there.
Here are all the Easter eggs and Trekkie shoutouts in the super-retro adventure, “If Memory Serves.”
Intro is a cheeky re-cap of “The Cage”
Though this is fairly obvious reference, the beginning of this episode of Star Trek: Discovery simply starts off with the words “previously on Star Trek,” and establishes the basic story beats of the first Trek pilot episode, “The Cage,” using actual footage from the ’60s.
In terms of chronology, “The Cage” happens in 2254, and the current season of Discovery happens in 2257, so, canonically, Pike and Spock last visited Talos IV three years prior to this episode of Discovery. Also, the new Vina — actress Melissa George — recorded some of Vina’s dialogue for this recap, which was subtly merged with the performance of the original Vina actress, the late Susan Oliver.
Tons of Vulcans in Starfleet references one specific original series episode
When Georgiou and Leland talk to Starfleet Command about the whereabouts of Spock and Burnham, one of the admirals is a Vulcan woman. At this point in Trek history, there are actually a ton of Vulcans in Starfleet. In fact, in the original series episode “The Immunity Syndrome,” an entire starship — the USS Intrepid — is crewed only by Vulcans. Maybe this Vulcan admiral made that possible?
Andorian Admiral first appeared in the Mirror Universe
In the same scene, there’s an Andorian admiral played by actor Riley Gilchrist. This characters name is “Shukar,” who actually appeared in Trek canon as a Mirror Universe version of himself before he showed up as his Prime Universe counterpart.
In Season 1 of Discovery, Gilchrist’s first episode was the episode “The Wolf Inside,” where he played Shukar as a member of the rebels (led by Mirror Voq) fighting against the Terran Empire. Then, in the same season, he appeared as his Prime Universe self in the episode “The War Within, The War Without.” In that episode, he beams on the bridge of the Discovery with Admiral Cornwell and Sarek, phaser in hand.
Talosians were warp capable
When Burnham’s shuttle gets close to Talos IV, the computer casually reads her all sorts of fun facts about the planet. Specifically, that the Talosians were warp-capable at some point, 1,000 years in the past. Though this was never specifically mentioned before, it does make some amount of sense. Still, the idea of the Talosians warping around the galaxy is pretty scary.
When Burnham steps onto the surface of Talos IV, she touches the singing plants almost exactly the same way Spock and Pike do in “The Cage.” The sound effect is also exactly like the one in the original series, which, is an eerie alien planet sound effect used in several other original episodes.
The biggest throwback reference in the episode, is perhaps the most obvious. In a huge surprise, actress Melissa George plays Vina, the sole survivor of the crash of the spaceship S.S. Columbia from “The Cage.” In this episode, Vina mentions that an illusory version of Pike has been living with her on Talos IV. This references the ending of “The Cage,” but it also foreshadows the ending of “The Menagerie.” In that original series episode, Spock takes a crippled Captain Pike to Talos IV where he can live the rest of his life with Vina, both of them safe in the powerful illusion that their bodies are still functioning.
Classic sound effects
In addition to the singing plants, the episode is covered in classic sound effects from the original series. When the Talosians appear and disappear, the sound effect is nearly identical to “The Cage.” And, later, when Burnham and Spock seem to be transported up to the Section 31 ship, the transporter sound effect is briefly augmented by the a version of the transporter effect used during “The Cage.” At that point in time, Star Trek hadn’t settled on which sound effect was the right one for “beaming” sound effect. And, at the very end of this episode, Discovery layers both sound effects on top of each other.
When Spock recounts the memory of Michael Burnham running away, he mentions that fact that she went deep into “Vulcan’s Forge and its many dangers.” This references the episode of The Animated Series called “Yesteryear,” but also the Enterprise episode “The Forge.” In “Yesteryear,” we see young Spock run away from home, and is nearly killed by several predators. And in “The Forge,” Captain Archer traverses the surface of Vulcan with the katra of Surak inside of his mind.
When Burnham makes fun of Spock’s beard, it’s easily one of the best moments in what is otherwise a pretty tense episode. Spock’s beard in this episode could have two indirect references. The most obvious is that in the Mirror Universe, episode “Mirror, Mirror,” Spock rocked a goatee, something that Dr. McCoy said he prefered saying, “You know I think I liked him better with a beard.”
But, it’s also possible that Burnham is making subtle reference to Spock’s other half-sibling, the Vulcan zealot, Sybok, from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Because Sybok is probably older than Spock, it’s possible Bunrham never met him. Sybok’s father was Sarek, but his mom was not Amanda. Still the important thing here is Sybok had a beard, and maybe Burnham knows that, and this is a secret burn against the other Vulcan brother neither of them want to remember.
Needs of the many
Burnham mentions “the needs of the many,” on Talos, which, of course, references Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Spock’s crazy drawings are reminiscent of Captain Sisko’s alter ego in Deep Space Nine
In one flashback, we see Spock at the Starfleet medical facility, drawing the seven signals all over the floor. This is vaguely like a scene from the Deep Space Nine episode “Shadows and Symbols,” in which Captain Sisko briefly believes he’s in a mental institution, and in the guise of Benny Russell, the science fiction author from “Far Beyond the Stars.” This might seem like as stretch, but consider this: that same DS9 episode also featured Sisko and Ezri Dax wearing desert robes nearly identical to the ones Burnham and Georgiou wore in “The Vulan Hello.”
Reno’s robots cleaning up the mess
After Tyler and Dr. Culber’s big brawl, the dining room of the Discovery is a total mess. Luckily, we see the three little robots that Reno (Tig Notaro) built in the first episode of this season, “Brother,” helping straighten things out.
Does Detmer knows that Airium isn’t Airium?
In the previous episode, “Light and Shadows,” we clearly saw the future probe download its program into Lt. Airium. But does Detmer know what’s up? For a second, after the Spore Drive has been sabotaged, it seems like Detmer sees Airium acting suspicious.
Burnham’s insult to Spock reference’s a Captain Kirk clone
In the big flashback scene, we finally witness what went on in Spock and Burnham’s childhood. Basically, Burnham insulted Spock, so he would leave her alone forever, with mixed results.
The choice of insult is a huge reference. Tellingly, Burnham calls Spock a “half-breed,” which is exactly what Kirk calls Spock in the original series episode “What are Little Girls Made Of?” In that episode, right before Kirk is about to be cloned against his will, he starts muttering this “Mind your own business Mr. Spock, I’m sick of your half-breed interference!”
Kirk’s plan is simple: he would never call Spock something so offensive, but if he transfers the phrase to the clone, it tip-off Spock that the clone is not the real Captain Kirk. At the end of the episode, Spock says this “Frankly, I was rather dismayed by your use of the term half-breed, Captain. You must admit it is an unsophisticated expression.” Did Kirk know that Bunham called Spock a “half-breed” as a kid? It’s possible!
Ryan Britt is the author of the book Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths (Plume/Penguin Random House). You can find more of his work here.