Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Episode 9 Easter Eggs & References
Did you catch all of the Star Trek references in "Project Daedalus"?
This Star Trek: Discovery article contains spoilers for Season 2 Episode 9.
The latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 is not only the most shocking of the season, it’s also the one that references… board games the most? Not only do Burnham and Spock play chess, there’s also a huge callback to a board game played on Star Trek: Voyager!
But the Easter eggs and references don’t end there. From gravity boots to holographic biases and conversations about mines, this episode’s spanned nearly every version of Star Trek in existence. And that’s not even getting to the cryptic reference to a real-life space study.
Here are all the easter eggs and references we spotted in Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, Episode 9, “Project Daedalus”…
Admiral Cornwell’s first job
When Admiral Cornwell secretly sneaks onto Discovery, her first task is to question Spock about his intentions. What casual viewers may have forgotten is that prior to becoming and Admiral, Cornwell was a counselor and therapist. This fact was established in Season 1 and led many fans to believe Cornwell could become a character named Lethe, who appeared in the original series episode “Dagger of the Mind,” which was all about a Federation penal colony gone berserk.
What’s a Vulcan nerve pinch?
Spock used the Vulcan nerve pinch a lot in the original series, but at this point in Trek history, we may be witnessing Spock’s first onscreen canonical use of the famous Vulcan disabling move. The concept for the Vulcan nerve pinch actually originated with Leonard Nimoy, who believed Spock would never act out of violence, and thus, needed a more peaceful way to disable people.
The first time Spock used this move was in The Original Series episode “The Enemy Within,” and the person Spock used it on was none other than the “evil side” of Captain Kirk. But, despite its “colloquial” name, the Vulcan nerve pinch can be performed by people who aren’t Vulcans. In The Next Generation, both Picard and Data were able to do it, and in the first episode of Discovery, Burnham uses the nerve pinch on Captain Georgiou.
Obviously, a huge portion of “Project Daedalus” is all about the fear that a huge A.I. called “Control” has gone totally rogue and is running Section 31 without any biological lifeforms keeping it in check. Though this idea seems brand new, it’s actually not.
The concept of “Control” being an A.I actually comes from Section 31 novels written by David Mack in 2017; respectively titled Disavowed and Control. These books take place in the 24th century and are all about Julian Bashir (formerly of Deep Space Nine) and his involvement with Section 31. Relevantly, Mack was also the author of the first Discovery novel, Desperate Hours, which established the backstories for Captain Georgiou, Lt. Detmer, and Burnham before Discovery was even on the air.
The episode twice mentions a game called Kadis-kot. This references Star Trek: Voyager in a huge way. Starting with the episode “Infinite Regress,” the colorful board game was seen being played by several members of the Voyager crew. But, in the first episode featuring Kadis-kot, the players were children who were formally Borg drones. (Along with Seven of Nine and Naomi Wildman.) This is interesting only because Airiam is similar to the Borg insofar as she is a human that is enhanced by cybernetics.
Airiam’s condition vaguely reference’s Pike’s fate
This episode finally presents a backstory for who Airiam is and why she’s a cybernetically-enhanced human. Seemingly, because of some kind of shuttle accident, the cybernetic enhancements were necessary to save Airiam’s life. This subtle echoes what will eventually happen to Captain Pike in The Original Series episode “The Menagerie.” When Pike suffers a space accident, primitive cybernetics will keep him alive, too.
Spock speaks the Vulcan language
When Spock and Michael are arguing in front of Stamets, Spock briefly speaks in Vulcan. The first time we heard the Vulcan language was in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan when Spock spoke privately to his protégée, Saavik. The Vulcan language was invented by Marc Okrand, who is more famous for inventing the Klingon language for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. However, the Vulcan language came first.
The presence of Airiam — a cybernetically enhanced human — has always seemed a little strange to longtime Trek fans, only because this show takes place 100 years before fully-functional androids like Mr. Data will even be invented. Still, androids existed in The Original Series, and as this episode makes clear, Airium is not “half-robot,” but rather a human with cybernetic enhancement.
Relevantly, Tilly and Detmer are totally comfortable with Airiam and Detmer even says “three cheers for cybernetics.” But. By the time of The Next Generation, cybernetics is treated with a lot more skepticism than it is at this point in Discovery. And, everything that happens with Airiam in this episode starts to explain why.
Pike makes a big deal over the fact that Section 31 is using space-borne mines to protect its base, and insinuates that using weapons like that is totally against Starfleet’s principles. This is mostly true, but in the Deep Space Nine episode “A Call to Arms,” Captain Sisko does use mines to guard the entrance of the Bajoran wormhole.
Like in the first episode of this season — “Brother” — 3D chess is a big part of Michael and Spock’s childhoods. In this episode though, Spock scoffs at the idea of playing chess in the middle of a crisis. However, by the time of the original series, Spock often plays chess to help him think. Further, Spock’s strange tactics against Michael Burnham could reference Data in The Next Generation episode “Peak Performance.” In that story, Data plays a complicated game called Strategema, but he doesn’t play to win. Instead, Data just tries to stay in the game long enough. Spock’s strategy against Michael could be similar.
The cycle of Spock and Sarek having beef
Spock mentions he and his father are locked into a never ending battle of disappointing each other. This foreshadows not only their reconciliation in the original series episode “Journey to Babel,” but also the idea that they will once again, not be on speaking terms in The Next Generation, nearly a hundred years later!
Michael couldn’t see the Klingons who killed her parents
When Michael briefly flashes back to when her parents were killed, it becomes clear she never actually saw the Klingons who killed her parents. This references the idea that Leland in Section 31 is mysteriously connected to the death of Burnham’s parents.
When Airiam questions Nhan about her breathing apparatus, she states outright than Nhan is of the “Barzan” species. While this was made apparent earlier in the show, this is the first time since The Next Generation episode “The Price,” that the alien species “Barzan” has been spoken aloud in dialogue.
Zero-gravity Blood and Boots
In a huge shout-out to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Burnham, Nhan and Airiam all use magnetic gravity boots to board the Section 31 station. Even the shot of Burnham’s boot beaming onto the pad is similar to a shot in Star Trek VI. Also, just like that film, some blood is floating around in zero gravity.
In the episode’s denouement, it’s revealed that Control is using holograms to convince Starfleet that Spock committed murder and that certain people are still alive who are actually dead. Biases toward holograms are prevalent in the 24th century in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager. And, in the original series, hologram technology is basically non-existent. This episode seems to demonstrate why Starfleet would mistrust holograms for several decades to come.
Airiam’s memories reference Data
Before Airiam leaves for the away mission, she offloads here favorite memories of her friends onto the main computer of the Discovery. This is similar to what Data did in Star Trek: Nemesis. Before heading into a situation where he knew he might die, Data gave all of his memories to his android “brother,” B-4. At the end of the that movie , it was heavily implied Data could return to life through B-4. Will Airiam come back, too?
Airiam’s dying words reference “Project Daedalus” which is also the name of the episode. In real life, Project Daedalus was a 1973-1978 study conducted in connection with the Fermi Paradox. Simply stated, the Fermi Paradox presupposes that contact with alien life is probably unlikely because aliens have already had plenty of time to contact us.
In Star Trek, the Fermi Paradox is proven untrue, of course, because the Vulcans make contact with Earth in the film First Contact. (Notably directed by Jonathan Frakes, who also directed this episode of Discovery.) So, will this “Project Daedalus” be connected to the real one? There are only five episodes left of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2, so, we’ll find out soon!