This Star Trek: Discovery article contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 3. Read our review of the episode here.
As the USS Discovery starts to explore the galaxy in Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, the first stop is, understandably, to check-in on how the Planet Earth is doing. Unlike Battlestar Galactica searching for Earth forever, Discovery decided to get the whole Earth thing out of the way right away. In Episode 3, “People of Earth,” the crew returns to the home planet of the Federation and learns things are not remotely similar to how they left it.
Along the way, “People of Earth” references a long-running TNG-Douglas Adams joke, a quip from Kirk in The Wrath of Khan, a famous DS9-era alien species, and more!
700 years after we left…
Burnham’s opening narration fills in new details we previously didn’t get about the Burn, including the idea that prior to the Burn, about “700 years after we left, dilithium reserves dried up.” This means that around the year 2957 or so, the Federation was “trialing alternative warp drive designs.” We don’t know much about the 30th century in the existing Trek canon, other than Daniels from Enterprise had knowledge about that era. To put it in perspective, this time period would still be 500 years in the future for Star Trek: Picard. The idea of the Federation trying to change the way warp drive operates vaguely references the TNG episode “Force of Nature.”
When Burnham talks about being a courier, someone hands her a sliver containing the Starfleet registry NCC-4774. We don’t know what ship this belongs to, but it seems like this is a visual joke which references the long, and intentional inside joke about using the number 47 (or 74) throughout all of Trek which began around TNG Season 4. There are literally hundreds of appearances of the numbers 47 or 74 throughout the franchise, so many that there is actually a “47 project” devoted to finding all the occurrences of 47 throughout the franchise.
The origin of the joke references the number 42 from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that novel, “42” ends up being the answer to “the life, the universe, and everything.” Burnham is searching for similarly vague answers in this montage. In the ‘90s, “47” became the “42” of Star Trek canon, and Rick Berman joked once that 47 was “42, adjusted for inflation.” The number “47” is also an Easter egg of sorts for alums from Pomona College, sprinkled throughout TV and film history.
Terralysium and Burnham’s mom
Burnham tells Saru that during the year she’s spent in this future, she’s connected the planet Terralsyium and that “they had never heard of my mom.” This references Season 2 of Discovery in which we learned Burnham’s mother, Gabrielle Burnham transported humans from the 21st Century to a planet called Terralysium in the Beta Quadrant. In theory, Terralysium was supposed to be the tether location where Burnham and the USS Discovery ended-up. In “Perpetual Infinity” Burnham’s mom was sucked into a time vortex, which, in theory, could have deposited her into the future version of Terralysium. So far, though, that’s not the case.
Saru is promoted to captain in this episode. This is a long time coming for Saru. He’s been a First Officer for two captains thus far, Captain Lorca and Captain Pike. And, in the Discovery novel Desperate Hours, Saru was upset that Burnham was promoted to First Officer over him prior to the Battle of the Binary Stars. This 2017 book by David Mack is slightly non-canonical, but it did establish Detmer’s first name as Keyla, and doubled-down on Number One’s name as Una. Anyway, the point is, Saru has been working for a long time to become Captain.
We briefly see the outside of Discovery’s hull being repaired by DOT-7 robots. We first saw these little bots in “Such Sweet Sorrow” in Season 2, when they emerged from the Enterprise and effected some repairs. One of these bots, of course, was the star of the Short Treks episode “Ephraim and Dot.”
Georgiou mentions that Book has been “galavanting through space with Michael.” This could be a reference to The Wrath of Khan in which Kirk says, “galavanting around the cosmos is a game for the young.”
Although the planet Saturn is famous to us here on Earth — not counting the opening credits for Star Trek: The Next Generation Seasons 1 and 2 — this is seemingly only the fourth time Saturn has appeared during an episode or movie of Star Trek. Previously, Saturn appeared in the TNG episodes “The Best of Both Worlds,” and “The First Duty.” In Star Trek (2009) Saturn appears when the Enterprise hides near Titan.
When Booker sarcastically says “aye, aye” commander, to Burnham, she replies, “One ‘aye,’ we’re not pirates.” This might reference the original TNG episode “Lower Decks,” in which Riker tells Lavelle that “One aye is sufficient acknowledgment, Ensign.”
Georgiou pretends to be an Admiral
When the Discovery is inspected by the Earth ships, Georgiou dons an Admiral’s uniform to “make it believable.” This is the second time Mirror Geogoiu has worn a Starfleet uniform even though she is not really in Starfleet. The first time was in Discovery Season 1 when she was authorized to impersonate Prime Georgiou to lead the mission against the Klingon homeworld.
Saru’s cover story for why the USS Discovery is still in operation in 3188 is the idea that they are a generational ship and are crewed by their own ancestors. This concept actually occurs in the Enterprise episode “E²,” where the crew of the NX-01 meets an alternate version of the ship crewed by their descendants.
Book is furious to discover he’s not drinking actual booze, but instead, synthehol. To be clear, in Trek canon, synthehol can get you drunk, but mostly if you’re an alien or a former Borg. In the TNG episode “Relics,” Scotty complained about having to drink synthehol in Ten Forward
It’s briefly mentioned the Wen’s raiders have “quantum torpedoes.” This tech was first mentioned in Star Trek: First Contact, which, at the time, made it very new.
Starfleet does not fire first!
After Georgiou suggests Saru take swift and aggressive action, Saru remonstrates her by saying “Starfleet does not fire first.” He’s actually quoting… Georgiou in the very first episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Though, in that case, the Georgiou who said “Starfleet doesn’t fire first” was the Prime Universe Captain Georgiou, not the Mirror Universe Georgiou who we’re more familiar with.
After it’s revealed that Wen (Christopher Heyerdahl) is actually a human, we also learn that he’s from the Titan. In real life, Titan is the largest moon of Saturn, and, unlike most moons, boasts an atmosphere. Trek canon has mentioned Titan a bunch. In “The First Duty,” Wesley was training near Titan, and again, in Star Trek (2009), Chekov hid the Enterprise behind Titan.
We learn very quickly that Adira (Blu del Barrio) is a human joined with a Trill; specifically a symbiont called “Tal.” Burnham and Sura discuss their general ignorance of Trill symbionts, but Saru tells Burnham everything he knows about the Trill comes from the “Sphere Data.” This references the giant alien sphere Discovery encountered in the Season 2 episode “An Obol for Charon.”
The fact that Burnham and Saru don’t know much about Trill symbionts makes sense. It’s not clear that in the 2250s that the Trill were open about being a joined species, but by the time of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine the Federation obviously learned about them. In fact, in the first TNG episode “The Host,” a human, Will Riker, was joined with a Trill. But, Burnham and Saru wouldn’t know about that because it would have been in their future back in 2257, and certainly, the Sphere didn’t know about that either.
Captain Georgiou’s telescope
Saru unpacks Captain Georgiou’s telescope and puts it up in his new ready room. This telescope was presumably salvaged from the USS Shenzhou and given to Michael Burnham as part of Georgiou’s will in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For the Lamb’s Cry.” But, after that, Burnham gave it to Saru instead. Saru and Burnham both used this telescope for practical purposes in the first Discovery episode ever, “The Vulcan Hello.”
Burnham says that Book has “a fresh start, in a new quadrant.” We know Earth is located in the Alpha Quadrant, which seems to imply Book and Burnham were previously operating in the Beta Quadrant.
Starfleet Academy and Picard’s favorite giant tree
Although Starfleet is no longer operational on Earth, the crew visits the grounds of Starfleet Academy in San Francisco. There, they find what seems to maybe be a huge elm tree. If so, this tree was actually referenced by Jean-Luc Picard in the TNG episodes “The Drumhead” and “The Game.” In theory, if this is supposed to be the same tree, it was tended by Boothby in the 24th Century which would imply it existed at least 100 years before that, in the mid 23rd Century, too.
Golden Gate Bridge
The final shot of the episode pans out to show the 32nd Century version of the Golden Gate Bridge. The last time we saw this bridge chronologically, was in Star Trek: Picard in 2399. Though, prior to that, the bridge had been partially destroyed in the Dominion War in the 2370s. That is if you believe Changelings are real…
Star Trek: Discovery airs new episodes on Thursdays on CBS All Access.