Discovery Season 5 Episode 4 Easter Eggs Dig Up Classic Star Trek Time Travel Canon

From the moment the titular starship was built, to at least one possible future, Burnham has gone back to the past of the future. Again. Here are this week's best Star Trek: Discovery easter eggs!

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery
Photo: Marni Grossman/Paramount+

This Star Trek: Discovery article contains spoilers.

In terms of individual episodes, Star Trek: Discovery does not hold any kind of Star Trek record for more time travel stories. But, it’s also the Trek series in which time travel is the most integral to the stories, characters, and themes. In season 1, Trek canon introduced “time crystals” and by season 2, the entire crew became unstuck in time forever.

Now, in the fourth episode of its final season, Discovery is revisiting some of its timey-wimey themes, with a time loop-ish episode centered on Captain Burnham and our new favorite grouchy first officer, Commander Rayner. And, throughout this surprisingly tender episode, Discovery drops some very deep cut references not only to its own history but the larger Trek tapestry as well. Here are the biggest, and coolest easter eggs in “Face the Strange.” 

The Red Angel

Right away, just before the opening credits, Burnham and Rayner find themselves on a damaged version of Discovery stuck in a wormhole. Burnham points out the person in the space suit, flying ahead of them is “the Red Angel,” which was also her. This reveals a moment in between the season 2 finale “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2” and the season 3 premiere, “That Hope Is You, Part 1.” So, while this is a flashback for Burnham, it’s also, technically, something we never saw in the timeline of the show. And, as the time jumps continue throughout the episode, this becomes a running theme: A jump to a familiar time, but not into an exact episode moment from the past.

Ad – content continues below

San Francisco Fleet Yards

When Burnham and Rayner find themselves looking out the window and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, Burnham says “we’re in drydock.” This means they’re standing in the ship before the ship was even launched. Whether they’re standing in a completed version of Discovery, or just part of the ship is unclear. A huge portion of Trek starships were built in the “San Francisco Fleet Yards,” though generally, that’s considered to be an orbital facility. That said, the Trek 2009 reboot movie floated the idea that some parts of starships could be built on the ground. It would appear that this was the case with Discovery, too, since the ready room at this moment is incomplete. 

The USS Discovery was first launched sometime in 2256, so this moment has to be during that year or earlier. In terms of the ship’s timeline, this is the earliest moment in history we’ve glimpsed for the USS Discovery.

Battle with Control

Rayner and Burnham soon jump back to a similar moment in time that they visited before — the battle with Control. This references the events of the season 2 finale again, “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2,” in which the Discovery and the Enterprise joined forces to fight off the Section 31 fleet that had been possessed by the AI known as Control. This moment was also the same moment that sparked the events of the very first episode of Strange New Worlds, since these events were glimpsed by a neighboring, pre-warp planet.

The Time Bug

Rayner realizes that the reason he and Burnham are cycling through time is because of a weapon called a “Time Bug.” Rayner says it’s also called a “Krenim chronophage,” which references the alien species the Krenim from the famous Voyager two-parter “Year of Hell.” In that episode, the Krenim were using a temporal weapon to wipe out entire planets from the timeline. Rayner also mentions that the “time bugs” are “left over from the temporal war.” This references Star Trek: Enterprise, and the temporal war waged by Daniels and others. Most people aware of the temporal war were from the 30th century, about two hundred years before the events of Discovery Season 3.

Stamets’ Tardigrade DNA

Burnham knows that Stamets will also be aware of the time shifts because “he lives outside of time because of his Tardigrade DNA.” This references Discovery season 1, specifically the episodes “Choose Your Pain” and “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.” In “Choose Your Pain,” Stamets injects himself with Tardigrade DNA after he and Burnham realize that using their own overgrown Tardigrade, named “Ripper,” to navigate the Spore jumps is killing the creature. In “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad,” Burnham is stuck in a different time loop, and only Stamets is aware that it’s happening.

Reno’s Vesper Martini

During the next jump, Rayner and Burnham are on Discovery during the moment that Osyraa attacks the ship. This references the season 3 finale “That Hope Is You, Part 2,” in which the crew had to fight Emerald Chain forces to take back the ship. Reno is fighting off a few baddies, and Rayner has to pretend like he’s a crewmember from a different ship. Reno asks him to buy her a “vesper martini, ice cold” when everything is back to normal. A Vesper martini was popularized by Ian Fleming in 1953, in the first James Bond novel Casino Royale

Ad – content continues below

Based on a recipe suggested to him by his friend Ivar Bryce, in the novel, the drink was named for Vesper Lynd, Bond’s famous paramore in the book and the 2006 film of the same name. Interestingly, in real life, a true 1950s Vesper is hard to make because the ingredient of Kina Lillet went out of production in the 1980s. Generally, bartenders today use substitutes like Lillet Blanc in its place, but, because of replicator technology in Star Trek, it’s very possible that Reno’s Vesper martini is more accurate to Fleming’s than anything we can drink today.

Zora and the Future

When Burnham and Rayner jump 30 years into a possible future, they find the ship abandoned and Zora, the ship’s friendly AI, playing music for herself. Zora mentions that she thinks seeing Captain Burnham again is “another dream.” This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a possible future in which Zora is running the ship alone, listening to old music. In the 2018 Short Treks episode “Calypso,” a man called Craft boards a version of the Discovery in the distant future, even beyond the 32nd century setting we’ve seen in the show recently. This was the first episode that revealed Zora’s evolution, and whether or not it’s still the real destiny of the ship remains to be seen.

Warp Bubble’s Purpose

When Rayner, Stamets, and Burnham decide to break the ship’s warp bubble to stop the time bug, Burnham mentions that the warp bubble “is what protects us from the effects of relativity.” This very neatly explains that warp speed in Star Trek, is, in a sense, a form of time travel, since traveling faster than the speed of light, bends the regular way time is experienced. In the first 1964 Original Series pilot “The Cage,” Enterprise navigator Tyler even says “the time barrier has been broken,” and Captain Pike refers to warp factors as “time warp factors.” Everything in Star Trek is kinda time travel, but the warp bubble prevents it from getting too confusing.

Burnham vs. Burnham in Early Season 1

The final stop in the time jumps puts everyone back to a very, very early point in season 1. Here, Lorca is still in command of the ship, but on an “away” mission with Saru and Landry.” Because Landry is still alive, we’re directly between the events of “Context is For Kings” and “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry.” This is why the Burnham from this timeline is still known as “Specialist Burnham,” and why most of the crew hates her. From their point of view, she’s a mutineer, who only recently was allowed back in uniform.

When Burnham has to fight herself, we see Sonequa Martin-Green revert back to a version of her season 1 hairstyle, a fact which Tilly comments on when seeing the future Burnham. During the Burnham-on-Burnham fight, both employ the Vulcan martial art Suus Mahna, which originated in the series Enterprise. However, we saw Burnham and Sarek fight using Suus Mahna in the Discovery season 1 episode “Lethe,” and it’s been a staple of Burnham’s defensive style ever since.

And in the ultimate callback to her upbringing on Vulcan — and to the beginning of Discovery itself — Burnham uses the Vulcan nerve pinch on her younger self. Interestingly, the nerve pinch was invented by Leonard Nimoy for the TOS episode “The Enemy Within.” And, just like in that episode, the nerve pinch was used on a duplicate of the captain; in that case, on the “evil” Captain Kirk. 

Ad – content continues below

Burnham using the nerve pinch is also the action that got her busted in the first place. Back in “The Vulcan Hello,” she used it on Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) which put her on the path that resulted in the entire story of Star Trek: Discovery. The Vulcan nerve pinch might be a small Trekkie plot device, but its impact is clearly bigger than a little tap on the shoulder.