This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers.
Although The Next Generation isn’t overtly referenced in the sixth episode of Strange New Worlds, the feeling of TNG is keenly felt in this outing for Pike and the crew. In the episode “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach,” the Enterprise encounters a culture that seems perfect, which of course, means there’s some terrible dark secret.
If you rewatch the episode, you’ll realize the writing is on the wall pretty early on, we’re just too charmed by Alora and the First Servant to see it at first. But as this sad mystery unfolds, along the way, Strange New Worlds tips its hat more than once to various Star Trek stories of the past. Here are all the easter eggs and references we caught in “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach.”
“Last Here Ten Years Ago”
Pike’s log entry mentions that he was last in this star cluster 10 years ago. This would put the incident in which he rescued Alora from a pulsar in the year 2249. According to Pike’s service record, briefly glimpsed in the Discovery episode “Brother,” Pike became captain of the Enterprise in 2250, a year later.
Alora refers to Pike by the rank he held when she first met him. If it was 2249, this would mean that “Lt. Pike” was Captain Robert April’s first officer. Something interesting to note here is that Pike introduces Una as “Lieutenant Commander Una Chin-Riley.” Although most people call her “Number One,” it’s possible that some might call her “Lt. Chin-Riley,” making it sound like her rank is a little lower than it actually is. So, in 2249, was Pike “Lieutenant Commander Pike” or just “Lieutenant Pike?” In The Original Series, Spock was the first officer of the USS Enterprise, and, like Una in Strange New Worlds, also held the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Questions about Pike’s rank and position get even deeper! Alora mentions that Pike’s uniform is “very yellow,” and he corrects her by saying it’s “gold.” This is a small easter egg that references two things. First, the actual color of Kirk’s uniform in The Original Series was closer to green, but in the first season, it didn’t show up that way on camera. Second, in the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations,” Sisko mentions that in the 23rd century “command wore gold.”
Interestingly, Alora’s comments that Pike is wearing “yellow” could either mean that in 2249 Pike was wearing a different division color — implying he was wearing operations red or something — OR that in 2249, most of the crew of April’s Enterprise was rocking the all-blue Discovery–era uniform. We haven’t seen a flashback to Robert April (Adrian Holmes) on the Enterprise yet, but it feels more likely the crew would be wearing the Discovery uniforms, rather than the modified TOS uniforms we saw later in Discovery, or what they’re wearing now.
In the Short Treks episode “The Brightest Star,” set in the year 2239, Lieutenant Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is wearing the blue Discovery–era uniform. Was the Enterprise crew wearing that uniform 10 years later?
Pike and Uhura talk about La’an’s references to a “Rigellian tiger.” There are a lot of planets called “Rigel” in Star Trek canon, perhaps, most notably, “Rigel II,” the location of The Original Series episode, “Shore Leave.” In that episode, a tiger does attack several crewmembers, however, it is a robot tiger, created from telepathic suggestions. La’an (probably) isn’t talking about that exact tiger, simply because that story is in Star Trek’s future at this point.
The attack ship trying to snag the shuttle doesn’t use a tractor beam, but instead, shoots off some metal cables. This might seem weird in a Star Trek context, but this comes from canon established in Enterprise. In the 22nd century, before the tractor beam became common, the NX-01 Enterprise used a “grappler” to tow objects. So, this technology isn’t wrong, it’s simply old.
Klingon Ships Have a “Scuttle” System
La’an tells Uhura that some Klingon ships have a “scuttle” system. “Scuttle” is a naval term that refers to destroying or sinking a ship on purpose. The idea that Klingons would rather have their ship destroyed than be captured totally checks out.
It’s Not Set to Stun!
Pike warns the fleeing guard that his phaser is not set to stun. In an earlier scene, we saw Pike activate his phaser briefly. The sound effect used is the same phaser-activating sound effect established in Discovery.
Pike’s Flying Tackle — Kirk Style!
When Pike tries to stop the rogue guard, he uses a flying tackle. This is a very Captain Kirk-esque move, which was famously used in both “Space Seed” and “The Gamesters of Triskelion.”
Sam Kirk, Conflict-averse
The idea that Sam Kirk — the brother of James T. Kirk – is conflict-averse is just hilarious.
“Rare to Know What’s in Your Future”
Pike reveals to Alora that he knows the details of what happens to him in the TOS episode “The Menagerie.” He also, once again, refers to the incident as happening in “10 years.” This is very interesting considering that we currently think of “The Menagerie,” as occurring in 2267, which would put it eight years after the events of Strange New Worlds. Because we don’t know exactly what time of year “The Menagerie” occurs, there’s some wiggle room here.
On top of this, it is possible that “The Menagerie” happens later in The Original Series than we thought. Not all the episodes of TOS are shown in the order in which they occurred, so it’s possible that “The Menagerie” actually happens in 2269, and we just never knew that before now.
Still, the slight difference in years does make a hardcore fan wonder — could there be a wrinkle with Pike’s vision? Will it occur earlier than he believes, but right on time for us?
Beaming off the Transporter Pad
When the First Servant gets beamed off, he’s beamed off the transporter pad by someone else. This happens a lot in Star Trek canon, starting with “The Cage” in which Number One and Yeoman Colt are transported off the pad by the Talosians.
Mugutan Breeding Stones
When La’an talks about teaching cadets to “leave no stone unturned,” she mentions “Mugutan breeding stones.” This references the Mugato, the horned ape first seen in the TOS episode, “A Private Little War.” More recently, we saw some Mugatos, um, breeding in the Lower Decks episode “Mugato, Gumato.”
Alora Confronts Pike About the Federation
At the end of the episode, we learn that on Majalis one child is sacrificed to uphold the entirety of the culture. The tech here isn’t made entirely clear, but aspects of it are similar to the way Spock’s brain was used to run an entire planet in the episode “Spock’s Brain.” Obviously, the tone of this episode is much more serious and hits upon a strange paradox about the Federation. We know Majalsis isn’t a Federation world, which means Pike cannot legally do anything to stop them from using the First Servant as a human sacrifice to their weird tech god. But what’s even more interesting is the fact that Alora points out that suffering does exist in the Federation. She also implies pretty strongly that the suffering of children comes from Federation history, which, of course, would directly apply to the history of Earth.
Suffering in the Federation in the 23rd century might be at a minimum. But, the history of how Star Trek’s rosy figure got to the point, comes from our own painful present.