This article contains major Star Trek: Strange New Worlds spoilers.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 1
Nobody expected Star Trek: Strange New Worlds to be lacking classic Star Trek Easter eggs. However, what was unexpected was just how hardcore SNW would be in its love and adoration for The Original Series. Considering this show is probably the one that’s most welcoming to new fans, it’s somewhat ironic that it’s also the series premiere with the nerdiest Trekkie references, at least since Lower Decks Season 2.
From obscure characters suddenly coming into the forefront, to fleeting references to classic Trek aliens, and even one huge meta-fictional reference to a sci-fi classic, when it comes to Easter eggs, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds has it all. Here’s every reference and deep cut we caught in the series premiere.
The opening voiceover from Number One/Una — later revealed to be part of her log entry — mentions the “mathematical probabilities” relative to whether or not there is life on other planets. This seems to reference a wonderful speech from Dr. McCoy in the TOS episode “Balance of Terror,” in which he says: “In this galaxy, there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all of the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all of that, and perhaps more, only one of each of us.”
Throughout the episode, Pike and Number One both mention events that are “classified.” As Una makes clear toward the end of the episode, they’re talking about the ending of Star Trek: Discovery season 2, in which crews of both Enterprise and Discovery fought the evil AI known as Control, and Discovery opened a time portal wormhole to the future. Presumably, even April doesn’t know about this! (Though, by the end of the episode, he does.)
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Pike is watching the 1951 science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still, which apparently, he watches a lot, referring to it as a “classic.” This Easter egg is interesting in several ways.
First, The Day the Earth Stood Still was directed by Robert Wise, famous to cinephiles as the person who directed The Sound of Music (1965) and West Side Story (1961), but, more famous to Trekkies as the director of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.
How can the director of The Motion Picture exist as a real person in the Star Trek timeline? Well, in Star Trek: Picard season 2, we learn Rick and Morty exist in the Trek timeline, which suggests that Star Trek: Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan also exists in the backstory of Trek, somehow. There are several more examples of this kind of metafictional ouroboros in Trek. The most famous is probably the fact that starting with The Motion Picture, and prominently demonstrated in Enterprise’s opening credits, the Star Trek timeline has a NASA Space Shuttle named “Enterprise.” In our universe, that space shuttle was only named “Enterprise,” because Trekkies mounted a letter-writing campaign.
So, does Star Trek, the fictional art, exist within Star Trek the fictional universe? Pike watching The Day the Earth Stood Still seems to be the latest evidence that the answer is a big yes.
But, The Day the Earth Stood Still thing is even more layered than that. The entire plot of the movie is a kind of anti-Prime Directive story. Instead of avoiding contact with a lesser developed culture, Klaatu arrives on Earth to directly interfere. He’s intent on stopping us from being destroyed by a nuclear war. This exact type of thinking directly parallels exactly what Pike does later in the episode.
Not answering your communicator
Pike ignoring his communicator, and then, getting directly confronted by a Starfleet officer in a shuttlecraft seems to reference Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In that film, Kirk just straight-up doesn’t take his communicator with him on a camping trip, which results in Uhura flying a shuttle down to Yosemite National Park to pick up him, as well as Spock and Bones.
Robert April, the first Captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701
Adrian Holmes makes his debut as the first live-action actor to play Robert April, a Starfleet hero with an odd history of quasi-canonicity. The name “Robert April” was one of Roddenberry’s earliest ideas for the primary hero of Star Trek, which later became Pike, and then, of course, Kirk.
For several years, including the early version of the Star Trek: Encyclopedia, a photograph of Roddenberry himself, seemingly wearing a Starfleet uniform, was thought to be “Robert April.” Additionally, the quasi-canon Animated Series episode “The Counter-Clock Incident” presented a fairly generic Robert April, voiced by James Doohan, and, who looked kind of like a knock-off Animated Series Kirk. (This episode also floated the weird idea that the Enterprise 1701 was the first ship equipped with warp drive, which obviously makes zero sense.)
April’s canonicity was pretty much up for debate for a very long time until one moment in Star Trek: Discovery season 1, in the episode “Choose Your Pain,” when Saru researched noted Starfleet captains. On that list is Pike, Georgiou, Archer, and Robert April. From there, in Discovery Season 2, Pike’s service record also indicated that he was April’s first officer on the Enterprise. This was a very quick Easter egg from Discovery season 2 in the episode “Brother,” but Strange New Worlds takes the idea that Pike was April’s first officer as given. This is why April says to Pike: “Your first officer doesn’t do downtime well, mine used to be a lot like that.” By “mine” he means Pike.
Some fans might find Spock’s engagement to T’Pring a kind of violation of canon, but the truth is, several classic TOS writers, including Dorthohy Fontana’s novel Vulcan’s Glory, created scenarios in which Spock and T’Pring met prior to the events of “Amok Time.” Strange New Worlds takes place in roughly 2258 or 2259, while the events of “Amok Time” — in which T’Pring conspires to have Spock fight Kirk to the death — happen in 2267. This means Spock and T’Pring have a very long engagement.
Pike is reading a report about the Gorn
Briefly, as Pike is taking a shuttle up to the Enterprise, we see on his datapad these words: “First Contact Report, Species Unconfirmed, GORN.” At this point in canon, the Federation doesn’t really know much about the Gorn. However, in Discovery season 2, Leland and Pike spoke about Cestus III, which, in TOS, is where the Gorn attacked at the beginning of the episode “Arena.”
Interestingly, in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine era, there’s a city on Cestus III called “Pike City.” They’ve even got a baseball team.
Pike is apparently flying aboard the shuttle called “Stamets.” This is a clear reference to Paul Stamets from Discovery. However, as far as the vast majority of Starfleet is concerned, Paul Stamets died when Discovery “exploded.” So, this shuttle was named in his honor, but of course, Pike knows that Stamets didn’t really die, and is, as far as Pike knows, hopefully living a good life in the 32nd Century. (Which is mostly true!)
Pike’s approach to the Enterprise references Star Trek: The Motion Picture
From the design of the spacedock to the camera angles, to the reflection of the Enterprise in the window of the shuttlecraft, nearly everything about Pike flying up to the Enterprise feels evocative of a similar scene in Star Trek: The Motion Picture when Kirk and Scotty famously fly up and around the Enterprise for…a very long time! This scene is much shorter than in The Motion Picture, and notably, Pike doesn’t take the shuttle all the way in, he beams on board once they’re close enough.
The transporter chief in Strange New Worlds is called “Chief Kyle” played by André Dae Kim. In The Original Series, another backup transporter officer named “Chief Kyle” was played by John Winston.
Chief Engineer and Lt. Kirk aren’t on board yet
By the end of the episode, we learn this “Lt. Kirk” isn’t exactly the Kirk you were expecting (we’ll get to that in a moment). But, more interestingly, is the idea that Enterprise leaves spacedock without its new chief engineer.
The Pike era has made something a joke of there being several chief engineers of the Enterprise under Pike’s command. In Discovery’s “An Obal for Charon” Pike and Number One talk about “Louvier” being the chief engineer of the Enterprise. But, in John Jackson Miller’s novel The Enterprise War, we learn that Louvier is just one of many, many people to occupy this position. This kind of echoes the first season of of Star Trek: The Next Generation, during which time, the show couldn’t seem to decide who was the chief engineer.
However, by the end of this episode, Hemmer, played by series regular Bruce Horak, does beam aboard the ship. And, as fans will soon see, is very much the chief engineer of the Enterprise going forward.
Spock references Burnham and “three months”
Spock mentions to Pike that it’s been about “three months” since the events of Discovery season 2, which could imply this is still 2258, or maybe a bit later. Spock says “The weight I carry for the loss of my sister feels heavier.” And Pike says “I miss her too.” This refers to Michael Burnham, though they don’t speak her name outright.
The ship Una took for her first contact mission is called the USS Archer. This is a reference to Captain Jonathan Archer, the captain of the USS Enterprise NX-01 in the series Enterprise. Interestingly, the Discovery season 4 premiere revealed an “Archer Spacedock.” Also, there was another USS Archer in the 24th century, referenced in Star Trek: Nemesis. Could there have been a USS Archer in that giant Stargazer-led fleet at the beginning of Picard season 2? Maybe?
All of Pike’s flashforwards, in which he sees his own future, are directly taken from the Discovery season 2 episode “Through the Valley of Shadows.” This makes these flashbacks that are also flashforwards. Weird.
Klingon Moon Boreth
Spock mentions the Klingon Moon Boreth, which is where Pike had his future vision in Discovery. Boreth was first introduced in a TNG episode called “Rightful Heir.” At that time, time crystals were not discussed, and Worf was seeking spiritual enlightenment. Spock references the notion that maybe Pike was visiting the monastery.
“It’s almost a decade away”
Pike puts his accident roughly ten years in his own future. But if this is 2258, it’s more like eight years away. Right now, “The Menagerie” happens in 2267, and his accident in 2266. But, if we say the accident doesn’t happen until right before “The Menagerie” in 2266, then it’s nine years, so…close enough?
Here’s a funny thing: Of all the points in the Star Trek chronology, the exact years of The Original Series have a tiny bit of wiggle room. Right now, canon tends to agree that Kirk’s five-year mission was from 2265-to 2270. However, there was a hot second there in the ‘90s where everyone thought it was 2264-2269. The point is, that the exact time frame of The Motion Picture has always changed. StarTrek.com puts The Motion Picture in 2273, which would only put it three years after the end of Kirk’s five-year mission, which hardly seems right. That said, for a while, it was thought that TMP took place in 2271, which is only about one year after The Animated Series (which isn’t entirely canon anyway).
On top of all of this, there is only one episode of TOS that takes place in 2265, the supposed first year of Kirk’s five-year mission, and that episode is “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Bottom line? The exact moment when Kirk took command of the Enterprise might not necessarily be the start of the five-year mission. Just because you’re on the classic Enterprise, doesn’t mean you’re doing a five-year mission. Pike did two five-year missions, but not back-to-back, and we know that because there’s some non-five-year-mission action in there during the Klingon War and Discovery season 2 (in fact, right now, canon puts “The Cage” in 2254, which would be close to the end of Pike’s first five-year-mission.)
So, if five-year missions are not the marker we think they are for Kirk and Pike’s respective captaincies, then the moment Pike stepped down and Kirk took over, may have happened much earlier than 2265, and Kirk was perhaps the captain of the NCC-1701 Enterprise for either a shorter or longer time than we’ve previously assumed.
Why bring any of this up? Well, if Strange New Worlds plays a little fast-and-loose with the differences between eight years and ten years, just consider: we’ve really only seen like three years of Kirk’s five-year mission, and most of that wasn’t even shown in order.
Spock says “fascinating.” This catchphrase is famous, and originated with the TOS episode, “The Corbomite Maneuver,” the first regular episode of Star Trek that was filmed after the first two pilots.
Vulcans invented First Contact
Spock says glibly, “as you know, Vulcans invented first contact.” This refers to Vulcans making contact with humans in 2063, as depicted in the film Star Trek: First Contact, and subsequently explained in the prequel series Enterprise. What Spock means is that Vulcans developed the policy of contacting a sentient species only when they developed faster-than-light travel. That rule was later incorporated into the Federation’s General Order 1.
Spock’s map and controlling the computer with his hands in the air
As Spock shows Pike and La’an a map of “worlds in this sector with warp,” he uses his hands, casually, to point at the screen, and change what’s being displayed without touching it. This might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually a huge Easter egg that references “The Cage.” In the first TOS pilot episode, Spock made various records display on a screen by simply pointing, which, in 1964, seemed amazing.
Spock’s map in this scene also contains the names of several well-known Star Trek planets, including, but certainly not limited to:
- Sarpeidon (TOS “All Our Yesterdays”)
- Cardassia Prime (DS9, et al.)
- Bajor (TNG, DS9, et al.)
- Argus Array (TNG)
- Xahea (Discovery, et al.)
- Trill (TNG, DS9, Discovery)
- Talos (TOS, et al.)
- Thalos (DS9)
- Beta Niobe (TOS)
- Klaestron IV (DS9, “Dax”)
- Wolf 359 (TNG “The Best of Both Worlds.”)
- Denobulia (Enterprise)
- Azati Prime (Enterprise)
- Doctari Alpha (Discovery)
- Deep Space Station K-7 (TOS, “The Trouble With Tribbles,” et al.)
As well as several core planets of the Federation, including:
This map is massive and there’s certainly a lot more. Of note: Spock mentions that the Federation is free to make contact with any of these places. This means the Federation was aware of the Bajorans and the Cardassians at least a hundred years before the events of The Next Generation and Deep Space 9.
Dr. M’Benga’s familiarity with Spock
Babs Olusanmokun plays the TOS character Dr. M’Benga, played by Booker Bradshaw in only two classic episodes. However, in one of those episodes, “A Private Little War,” we learn he’s something of an expert on Vulcan medicine. His subtle nod at Spock here could indicate a bit of non-canon backstory. The novel The Vulcan Academy Murders by Jean Lorah established that M’Benga worked in an exchange program on Vulcan before joining the Enterprise.
Nurse Chapel is…from the civilian exchange?
M’Benga says Nurse Chapel is from the civilian exchange, which could indicate she’s not actually a Starfleet officer. By the time of The Original Series, she probably is part of Starfleet, but if she’s a civilian at this point, it could go a long way to explaining why she’s still an underlining a decade later. The TOS episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” tells us Nurse Chapel was in love with a scientist named Roger Korby, but things didn’t work out sometime before the start of the show. If meeting Korby is still in Chapel’s future in SNW, it stands to reason that he could have derailed her career, which sent her back to Starfleet again. Or something.
Classic Beaming Sound from “The Cage”
When the transporter is used throughout the episode, and prominently in sickbay, we hear some of the old-school sound effects from The Original Series, but also, some of the very first, later unused sound-effect from “The Cage.” It’s a nice bit of continuity. What once sounded like a “mistake” now is part of the real-deal sound.
The Discovery wormhole
Number One refers to “zero point,” saying it’s “where we and the crew of Discovery opened up a wormhole to the future. This references the events of Discovery season 2, in “Such Sweet Sorrow Part 2.” In that episode, the Enterprise provided cover while Discovery jumped 930 years into the future.
Second Civil War, Eugenics Wars, WWIII
As Pike recounts the history of Earth, he’s referencing events that, of course, would be in our future. Well…kind of. Pike seems to roll the concepts of “the Second Civil War,” “the Eugenics Wars” and WWIII, all into one time period. This is a slight retcon that Star Trek canon has been grappling with since TOS. In “Space Seed,” Spock mentioned that the Eugenics Wars were fought in the 1990s and that it was the last of your “so-called World Wars.” However, in TNG, WWIII and “the Eugenics Wars” were posited as separate events. Then again, Spock admitted in “Space Seed” that the records of this time period were pretty spotty.
Interestingly, Star Trek: Picard has recently grappled with these inconsistencies, too. In Season two, Picard even mentions how incomplete the records from the period are.
So, what’s the takeaway? Well, at this point, Star Trek canon is kind of throwing up its hands and saying: a lot of bad stuff happened in the mid-to-late 21st century on Earth and we’re not sure what to call it anymore.
Doubling down, calling it the Prime Directive
April tells Pike and the crew that General Order 1 will now be called “the Prime Directive.” Pike scoffs at this saying the term will “never stick.” This of course is an inside joke. “The Prime Directive,” was first mentioned in the TOS episode “The Return of the Archons” However, in the DISCO era it’s mostly been called “General Order 1.”
At the very last minute of the episode, we learn that the Lt. Kirk who was mentioned earlier was not Jim Kirk, but instead, his brother Sam Kirk, now played by Dan Jeannotte. Pike asks Sam about his family, which is a reference to the episode “Operation— Annihilate!” in which we learn that Jim had a brother, who was married with at least one child.
In “Operation— Annihilate!” Samuel Kirk appeared only as a corpse, played by a mustachioed William Shatner. But, like in that one scene from TOS, this Sam Kirk is also rocking a mustache.
Prior to this point, we never knew Sam Kirk served on the Enterprise, nor did we know that Spock met Jim’s brother before he met Jim. The role reversal is somewhat obvious. Spock will be Sam Kirk’s superior, even though much later, Jim Kirk will be Spock’s superior. Will saying the name “Kirk” in Star Trek ever feel the same again? With the reintroduction of Sam Kirk, Star Trek is certainly putting the strange firmly into Strange New Worlds.