This article contains Star Trek: Strange New Worlds spoilers.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Episode 3
Like the classic episodes “The Naked Time” or “The Deadly Years,” Strange New Worlds has entered into Star Trek-storytelling mode all about a weird alien virus sweeping the ship. From The Next Generation to Deep Space 9 and beyond, every Trek show needs an episode like this, and in “Ghosts of Illyria,” we get a great one. When a virus that’s transmitted by light starts to make everyone lose it, it’s up to Number One to sort everything out.
“Ghosts of Illyria,” is, arguably, the first big episode to feature Rebecca Romijn’s Una Chin-Riley as the focus of the story. And as such, we get a lot of references to previous moments in Trek canon, many of which directly connect to her backstory, and La’an’s backstory, too. Here’s every big Easter egg and reference we caught in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode 3, “Ghosts of Illyria.”
The focus of the episode finds the Enterprise trying to find out what happened to a colony of Illyrians. Although a seemingly unrelated alien race called Illyrians appeared in a 2004 episode of Enterprise called “Damage,” this group of Illyrians — of which Una is a secret member — is actually a composite of Illyrians mentioned throughout a number of Star Trek novels.
Starting in the 1988 book Vulcan’s Glory (written by Original Series powerhouse, D.C. Fontana) it was established that Number One was an Illyrian. Several novelists ran with this concept, which existed outside of actual canon, including David Mack’s first Star Trek: Discovery novel, Desperate Hours, which featured the crews of the Shenzhou and the Enterprise teaming up before Discovery season 2 (and before Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn had even been cast).
The point is, from 1989 to 2017, Star Trek books have been trying to make Number One’s status as an Illyrian a thing. And now, it is actually canon. With a wrinkle: Before, in all of those novels, being an Illyrian didn’t carry this kind of stigma.
Although nobody is accidentally sent to the Mirror Universe in this episode, an ion storm was the reason why Kirk, Scotty, Uhura, and Bones were sent to the Mirror Universe in the TOS episode, “Mirror, Mirror.” And an Ion Storm was also why Captain Lorca crossed over from the Mirror Universe in Discovery Season 1.
Number One rips her shirt
The moment of Number One dramatically ripping her uniform tunic could reference several episodes of The Original Series in which Kirk’s tunic is ripped, seemingly just for the hell of it. Like Kirk, Number One gets her tunic fixed pretty quickly. It’s totally back to normal in the next scene.
Eugenics Wars and Khaaaaan!!!
Una and La’an talk a lot about the history of genetic modification, and why it’s banned throughout the Federation.
Una says: “Thanks to the Eugenics Wars, I bet you know all about that period in history.”
And La’an says: “You don’t grow up with a bio-engineered mass murderer as your ancestor and not develop a thick skin.”
There’s a lot going on here. This is the first full confirmation that La’an is related to Khan. Una even says his full name. Second, both Una and La’an are very familiar with the history of the Eugenics Wars in a way that most people in Starfleet are not. Notice this conversation takes place in private, and Spock is not around. This helps preserve canon because in the TOS classic “Space Seed,” Spock makes a point of telling everyone that the official records of the Eugenics Wars were unclear. So, why do Una and La’an know so much about it?
Easy. Both have information that is well outside of Starfleet historical records, and both have a personal stake in said history because of their backgrounds. Although La’an herself is not a genetic “augment” she’s the descendant of one. Meanwhile, Una is genetically engineered, which would also explain why she knows so much about that aspect of Earth’s history.
We wrote more about all the ways Star Trek has returned to the Eugenics Wars (and their shifting place in Trek canon) here.
La’an and the Augments
Skipping ahead a bit to La’an and Number One’s fight later in the episode, La’an furiously tells Number One that children teased her and called her an “Augment,” when she was younger. This is a retroactive designation for the genetically engineered “supermen,” of which Khan was a member. The term “Augment,” comes from the Enterprise story three-episode arc which includes, “Borderland,” “Cold Station 12,” and, “The Augments.”
But, you really have to wonder exactly how La’an’s ancestry works. Because she literally has Khan’s exact last name, is she a direct decedent? If som how does that work? Did someone use some of Khan’s DNA, and then, that person eventually had a conventional family, which, over the centuries resulted in La’an? Infamously, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan featured a baby living with Khan and his followers on Ceti Alpha V. Of course, that film takes place well after Strange New Worlds, but it’s still fun to think that the idea of Khan’s children has been floating around for a while.
Number One and La’an’s Fight “Space Seed” fight
Just as Kirk fought Khan in Main Engineering in “Space Seed,” — during a potential overload of the warp engines — Una and La’an fight in Main Engineering much in the same way. Even the colors of their uniforms match! This difference, of course, is that Number One, the person who has not lost their mind, is the one with the genetically enhanced super strength. There’s even a little musical cue that sounds a bit like the classic TOS fight music.
Uhura is rocking a Lower Decks-style bunk
The series Star Trek: Lower Decks clearly established that junior officers and cadets not only have roommates but often have tiny bunks which can be sealed off. Uhura having roommates on the Enterprise also references Cadet Tilly in Discovery, being roommates with Michael Burnham. (And although this has been the case since the first episode of SNW, Cadet Uhura’s badge is basically the same as Tilly’s cadet badge from Discovery season 1.)
Spock’s blood and location of the carotid artery
When Spock gets a cut, Pike mentions that it’s a good thing it didn’t hit Spock’s “carotid.” But, Spock points out that’s not where his carotid artery actually is. Spock having green blood was established pretty early on in TOS, in that first aired episode, “The Man Trap.” The mention of the carotid artery could also be a reference to “Space Seed.” In that episode, Bones jokingly tells Khan that the fastest way to kill him would be the carotid artery.
A skull behind M’Benga in sickbay
Speaking of Bones in TOS, in several shots in this episode, we see a random skull sitting behind M’Benga in sickbay. Bones had one in nearly the exact same place.
Daedalus-class starship silhouette
In the conference room, it seems like we’re seeing the outline of a Daedalus-class starship behind Number One. You can tell because this model/painting/outline, has a spherical primary hull instead of the more familiar “saucer section.” Although this class of starship was referenced in the The Next Generation episode “Power Play,” it was only retroactively depicted as a model in Sisko’s Ready Room in Deep Space Nine. The USS Horizon, the ship that predated the Enterprise in “A Piece of the Action,” was thought to have been a Daedalus-class starship. Essentially, these ships were around sometime after the era of Archer but before the DISCO/SNW/TOS era of the mid-23rd century.
Phaser on stun classic sound effect!
When Number One stuns Hemmer, the phaser’s stunning sound effect is just like from several episodes of The Original Series.
M’Benga references Star Trek: Enterprise?
When M’Benga sympathizes with Number One about her hidden heritage, he says that once humans went into space, “We found new bigotries human and Vulcan blood. Now it’s human and Illyrians.” This seems to reference the events of Star Trek: Enterprise, specifically the episodes “Terra Prime” and “Demons,” in which a xenophobic group of humans tries to create hysteria by creating a Vulcan-human hybrid baby. This comment could also suggest that Illyrians— even before genetic enhancement — are not human. Maybe.
Illyrians are like reverse Genesis Devices
Una makes a huge point to La’an at the end of the episode that Illyrians genetically modify themselves to adapt to planets. In another roundabout Wrath of Khan reference, this seems to make Illyrians like the opposite of the Genesis Device. Instead of terraforming a planet to meet their needs, they transform themselves.
A person in the pattern buffer
We learn in this episode that Dr. M’Benga is keeping his critically ill daughter in the transporter’s pattern buffer, indefinitely. This trick was first seen in Trek in the TNG episode, “Relics,” in which Scotty stored himself in the buffer for over 70 years.
Number One references Deep Space Nine — twice!
Number One’s confession to Pike about her hidden status as someone who is genetically enhanced echoes Dr. Bashir revealing the same thing to Captain Sisko in the DS9 episode, “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?”
And, this episode ends with Number One deleting her log entry, just like Sisko did in the DS9 episode, “In the Pale Moonlight.”