This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers.
Some of the greatest Star Trek episodes of all time take place in a courtroom. From the epic two-part Original Series classic “The Menagerie” to “The Measure of a Man” in The Next Generation to Deep Space Nine‘s “Inquisition” and even the memorable trials in the films The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country, putting Star Trek characters up against the outer space laws of the future tends to create memorable and moving storylines. In Strange New Worlds season 2’s “Ad Astra Per Aspera,” that tradition continues with the trial of Number One, aka Commander Una Chin-Riley. It’s a smart, moving episode that breaks some new philosophical ground for Trek, but also will remind longtime fans about what the franchise is all about: unpacking tricky ethical questions in a sci-fi setting.
But this episode is also deeply steeped in Trek lore and references. Here are all the best easter eggs we caught from “Ad Astra Per Aspera.”
Old-School Earth Flag
As Captain Batel talks to Una about a possible plea deal, we see several flags behind them, including the IDIC flag, representing the planet Vulcan. We also see a flag representing United Earth. This flag is a reminder that the local government of Earth has existed since the time of Enterprise in the 22nd Century. This Earth insignia is also similar to what we see on Dr. Boyce’s medical uniform in “The Cage.”
The Illryians who live in the Volterra Nebula were previously established in the Strange New Worlds season 1 episode, “Ghosts of Illyria.” Interestingly, this is not the “Vaultera Nebula” from The Next Generation episode “The Chase,” even though they sound pretty similar.
Enterprise Nacelles Not Glowing
When we see the Enterprise in orbit of Earth, in one scene, the blue grills on the inside are not glowing blue. The fact these glowing blue grills exist at all is a feature unique to the SNW and Discovery version of the 1701 pre-refit Enterprise. In The Motion Picture and the rest of the classic feature films, the warp nacelles have these kinds of blue grills prominently, but in TOS, that feature didn’t exist yet. Will SNW close-up these blue grills at some point to match with TOS? Who else is on nacelle watch for the rest of the season?
Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy being based in San Francisco has been established since The Original Series. The first time we actually saw the home of Starfleet and the Golden Gate Bridge was in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Subsequently, every single Star Trek TV series has returned to San Francisco at least once.
Lost of Captain April Backstory
Although this episode is focused on Una and her backstory, we get a lot of new details about Robert April, the very first captain of the NCC-1701 Enterprise. Here’s the big things we now know about Adrian Holmes’ Captain April, before he became an Admiral in Strange New Worlds.
- April sponsored Una’s application to the academy.
- April violated the Prime Directive/General Order One in 2246 and 2248, while in command of the Enterprise.
- April promoted Una faster than he’d promoted anyone before her.
- Una and Pike must have both served under April before Pike became captain in 2250.
Starfleet Captains Can Be Tried for the Actions of Their Crew
Batel warns Pike he can’t take the stand to testify on Una’s behalf because if he does, Starfleet could legally prosecute the rest of the Enterprise crew through Pike. The idea that a Starfleet captain is legally responsible for all the crew under his command has been baked into Trek for quite some time. In The Undiscovered Country, when Kirk is on trial for the murder of the Klingon Chancellor, Chang specifically points out that even if Kirk didn’t kill Gorkon, he’s still be legally responsible.
Visual Details from “The Menagerie” and “Court Martial”
There are various details during the trial that match with two classic TOS trial episodes, “The Menagerie” and “Court Martial.” Those details include:
- Ringing a round, physical bell that brings the court into session.
- A small yellow data tape reading the legal charges.
- The dress uniforms worn by the crew for the formal occasion. (Internally, SNW costume designer Bernadette Croft and her team refer to these uniforms as “The Menagerie uniforms.”)
- The chair on which the witnesses sit has a round glowing platform under their hand.
Federation Law Against Genetic Engineering
The history of Starfleet’s bias against people with genetic engineering is directly tied to, as Neera as “the outcome of the eugenics wars on Earth.” This refers to a war first referenced in the TOS episode “Space Seed,” in which we learn several genetically-enhanced people took control of Earth. The most prominent of these tyrants was Khan Noonien-Singh. But the bias against “mutated” human beings goes back to 1965’s “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” In that episode, when Dr. Dehner defends the idea of a “mutated” human being as a “wonderful thing,” she’s met with cold stares.
You can read more about Illyrians here.
Prime Directive History
The Prime Directive is one of the most well-known laws in Star Trek history. It was first referenced in the TOS episode “Return of the Archons.” Throughout Discovery, it was just referred to as “General Order One,” but starting with Strange New Worlds season 1, we were told that Starfleet has started calling it “The Prime Directive.” That fact is reiterated here.
When Spock First Met Una
Spock acknowledges that he first met Una on his “first day as an ensign on the Enterprise.” He also jokes that she was hiding her “affinity for Gilbert and Sullivan musicals.” These two comments refer to the 2019 Short Treks episode “Q&A,” which, chronologically, is the earliest moment we’ve seen on screen in Spock’s Starfleet career. This short episode was written by Picard co-creator Michael Chabon before Strange New Worlds was formally greenlit.
La’an’s Connection to Khan and Una
Neera says that La’an has “a very unique last name” which refers to her having the same last name as Khan “Noonien Singh.” La’an was rescued by Una when she was very young, but she didn’t learn that Una was actually genetically engineered until episode 3 of Strange New Worlds season 1, “Ghosts of Illyria.” To be clear, La’an is not genetically engineered, even though she is descended, distantly from Khan’s bloodline. The term “Augments” is one retroactively applied to Khan and his followers and comes from the Enterprise episode of the same name.
Augments, to be clear, are human, while Illryians are aliens, although some “pass” for human-ish. Both are genetically enhanced.
Una’s Photo with Pike – From Discovery
We briefly see a photo of Una and Pike in her quarters in which Pike is wearing the blue Discovery uniform that we wore for most of season 2 of that show. Number One appeared briefly in that season, visiting Pike on the USS Discovery, and later, when they were reunited in the Discovery season 2 finale. Did they snap a selfie when he was briefly in command of Discovery?
Una’s Starfleet Career
During her trial, Una says she has been in Starfleet for 25 years. Working backwards from the relative present of Strange New Worlds (2259) that would mean she entered Starfleet in 2234. Interestingly, this is one year after the time of the USS Kelvin (2233) from the 2009 Star Trek reboot, which takes place in a different timeline. Still, it’s possible we could picture Una rocking one of the uniforms worn by George Kirk and Captain Robau, way back in the day.
“The Starfleet Motto BEFORE the Federation”
Una mentions that “Ad Astra per Aspera,” meaning “To the stars through hardship” in Latin, was the motto of Starfleet before the formation of the United Federation of Planets. This is a reminder that there are, essentially, two versions of Starfleet. One that exists before 2161 and one after. In the prequel series Enterprise, that version of Starfleet exists pre-Federation, in the 2250s, which is why the title starship is just “Enterprise” and not “USS Enterprise.”” The “USS” refers to “United Star Ship,” which is a designation given to Starfleet ships that are part of the Federation.
At Least Four Months Pass During Strange New Worlds Season 1
Although fans sometimes casually assume that one season of a Trek show equals one year, it seems likely that less than a year transpired during the events of SNW season 1. When Una gives the exact Stardate on which Pike learned that she was an Illyrian, we’re told that’s only four months prior to the season finale. This means that everything between “Ghosts of Illyria” and the present-tense moments of “The Quality of Mercy” is only four months. Now, it’s possible more time passes between the first episode of SNW and the third, but it seems likely that the total time elapsed during SNW season 1 is less than a year.
The Ending Saves Una, But Also Saves Deep Space Nine Canon
In the end, Una is absolved of all charges, mostly thanks to a legal loophole that suggests that she was seeking asylum in Starfleet. But the judges make it clear that “Regulations must persist.” This means that Starfleet does not reverse its anti-genetic engineering laws at this time. Why is this relevant? Well, in the Deep Space Nine episode, “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?” we learn that Julian Bashir was secretly genetically modified by his parents when he was young. This jeopardizes Bashir’s Starfleet career the same way Una’s is put in peril here. But, “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?” takes place in 2373, a full 114 years after the events of this Strange New Worlds episode. So, while Una is saved in this episode, Starfleet doesn’t actually change its view on genetically engineered people, for over a century.