Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Season 2 Episode 3 Easter Eggs Just Changed Khan Canon

The most surprising Strange New Worlds episode yet contains many throwbacks to the rest of Star Trek — some more obvious than others.

Kirk, Pelia, and La'an in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Photo: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

This Star Trek: Strange New Worlds article contains spoilers.

With the third episode of its second season, Strange New Worlds seems to rewrite the canon of The Original Series. But what makes “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” so interesting is that the episode itself is smartly understated. Despite the seismic events within the story — including at least one parallel timeline and the death of a major character — this episode still feels intimate, in the tradition of The Original Series, specifically the classic “City on the Edge of Forever.” 

In fact, despite all the specific easter eggs, in many ways, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” is one big easter egg for “City.” With that in mind, here are the spoiler-filled references and callbacks for “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,” complete with stone knives and bear skins.

Denobulan Cadet

At the beginning of the episode, we see a Denobulan cadet arguing with La’an Noonien-Singh. The Denobulans were an alien race made famous by Dr. Phlox in the prequel series Enterprise. This is the first time a Denobulan has appeared in a live-action Star Trek series outside of Enterprise, though we have seen Denobulans in the animated shows Lower Decks and Prodigy.

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Pelia’s Timeline and the Stolen Artifacts 

At the beginning of the episode, La’an is dealing with the fact that Pelia has several priceless artifacts from Earth’s history that seem to be stolen. Pelia excuses herself by saying: She’s “lived through every calamity and economic disaster in human history” and that’s made her a “packrat. ” This references the revelation in the first episode this season, in which we learned Pelia is a Lanthanite, a very long-lived alien species.

It’s unclear whether Pelia remembers La’an’s time travel at the beginning of this episode or not. Was this a predestination paradox, or did Pelia’s memory change? Because Pelia had all the artifacts at the beginning of the episode, it feels possible she knew she needed to supply La’an with a clue to find her in the past, ASAP, and perhaps, was caught with the artifacts on purpose. (But that’s just a theory!)

Timeline Graphic with TCARS 

The graphic projected by the device held by the temporal agent tracks the flow of time. This graphic is nearly identical to a screen from the Voyager episode “Relativity.” In that episode, Seven of Nine was recruited by a future, time-traveling version of Starfleet to stop a temporal incursion in the past. The type of interface on this screen is called “TCARS,” which stands for Temporal Computer Access Retrieval System. It is similar to the famous computer interface LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) invented for The Next Generation.

Kirk Says “Ma’am”

Throughout the episode, Kirk says “ma’am” as a kind of old fashion honorific. Kirk did this in The Original Series and the films often. Perhaps the best example of this was in The Voyage Home, when Kirk said “no dipshit ma’am,” when Gillian accused him and Spock of training whales to retrieve torpedoes. 

“Maybe in Some Other Lifetime, Captain Spock”

The altered timeline consists of an all-human “United Earth Fleet,” and therefore, Kirk doesn’t know Spock at all. When refusing to help Spock’s ship, this version of Kirk says, “Maybe in some other lifetime, Captain Spock.” This feels like a reference not only to Kirk and Spock’s huge history together in Trek canon but also to “Balance of Terror,” when the Romulan Commander told Kirk that “in a different reality, I could have called you friend.” Interestingly, this is the second Strange New Worlds episode Ethan Peck and Paul Wesley have shared, and in both instances, neither was playing the Prime Universe version of their character. The season 1 finale, “A Quality of Mercy” took place in an alternate 2266, while this episode takes place (at the start, at least) in an alternate 2259.

Born in Space on the USS Iowa 

Because this version of Kirk is from a timeline in which Romulans attacked Earth in the early 21st century, he wasn’t born in Iowa, but instead, on the USS Iowa. 

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The Roots Store in Toronto

The store where La’an and Kirk get their clothes is the famous Roots store in Toronto. Can you get those exact outfits at that store? Probably not, but Toronto is very close to the CBS studios in Ontario, which is where Strange New Worlds films on its soundstages.

Kirk Is Great at Chess

When Kirk is schooling locals at chess, fans should be reminded of “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” in which Kirk beats Spock at chess in the very first scene. This Kirk makes a reference to that scene saying, “I used to play all the time with my first officer until she got sick of losing. That old-fashion two-dimension version, it’s basically ‘idiot’s chess.’” The “three-dimensional” chess board in TOS was an iconic prop, and it seems that in any universe, Kirk plays chess with his first officer.

Kirk’s Brother Sam

La’an, of course, knows Sam Kirk, or more accurately, George Samuel Kirk, because she works with him on the Enterprise. The idea that Sam’s full name was George Samuel Kirk was established in TOS, but this episode twists the classic show in one specific way. In this timeline, Sam has already died around 2259. In the TOS episode “Operation: Annihilate!” dies later when the parasites kill him in 2267 on the planet Deneva.

Kirk Doing the Vulcan Nerve Pinch

In order to steal a car, Kirk uses a Vulcan nerve pinch. La’an is flabbergasted and Kirk explains he spent “six months in a Denobulan prison” and his “cellmate was a Vulcan.” In TOS, Kirk often wanted Spock to teach him the nerve pinch, and in The Next Generation and Discovery, we saw several non-Vulcans doing the nerve pinch, namely, Picard, Data, and Michael Burnham.

Plomeek Soup

Kirk also says he can “make plomeek soup in the toilet!” This is a reference to a Vulcan soup first introduced in “Amok Time.” Nurse Chapel made Spock plomeek soup when he was moody and undergoing Pon Farr.

Kirk Can’t Drive? 

As La’an and Kirk first get into the Dodge Challenger, Kirk accidentally puts the car in reverse. He then seems to have a hard time shifting the car and with the clutch. This is a reference to “A Piece of the Action,” in which Kirk drives a 1930s car, puts it into reverse, and can’t use the clutch correctly.

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Kirk’s Middle Name

Kirk’s middle name was never established during The Original Series, but instead, was first mentioned onscreen in the Animated Series episode “Bem.” This was later retroactively revealed to be the first name of Kirk’s grandfather (most prominently in the 2009 reboot film) a fact which Kirk reiterates here.

Soong vs. Singh

Kirk incorrectly says “La’an Noonien Soong.” When she corrects him saying “Singh,” Kirk says “whatever.” This makes it clear that Kirk hasn’t heard of Khan Noonien Singh in his timeline. But it’s also a bit of an inside joke about the existence of Noonien Soong, the creator of Data, whose ancestors, Adam Soong (Picard season 2) and Arik Soong (Enterprise season 4), were both geneticists involved with the Augments. In fact, presumably, Adam Soong is directly involved with whatever is going on with Khan. At the ending of Picard season 2, in the 21st century, Adam Soong had a file called “Project Khan.”

Romulan Bird-of-Prey

When Kirk and La’an are befriended by a woman who seems to be an energetic conspiracy theorist (Adelaide Kane) she shows them a photograph of an alien spaceship. Kirk recognizes it as a Romulan ship. This is the classic Romulan Bird-of-Prey from “Balance of Terror,” which would seem to indicate that the time travel incursion is being launched by Romulans from the 23rd century. Why doesn’t La’an recognize the Romulan ship? Strange New Worlds still happens before “Balance of Terror” in TOS, so, La’an, and most of Starfleet, don’t know that Romulans resemble Vulcans or what their ships look like.

“An Engineer From the Stone Age”

Kirk says that in order to build some rudimentary version of a tricorder, “we need to find an engineer from the Stone Age.” This echoes Spock’s sentiment in “City on the Edge of Forever,” when he told Kirk that he was working with materials “which are hardly very far ahead of stone knives and bearskins.”

Echoes of The Outer Limits

Although La’an and Kirk are not in the Bradbury building in Los Angeles in this episode, the lobby interior of the building is reminiscent of the building, which is probably most well-known to sci-fi fans because of Blade Runner. However, an iconic Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand,” filmed in the Bradbury building, and that storyline dealt with aliens trying to sabotage the past, too. The episode was written by Harlan Ellison, who, of course, wrote “City on the Edge of Forever.” Maybe this was an intentional reference from director Amanda Row, maybe no.

Noonien-Singh Institute for Cultural Advancement 

The genetic project that produces Khan is revealed here to have been a secret project in the early 21st century. This seems to contradict TOS canon that Khan came from the 1990s. But, there may be a fix for that…

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A New Temporal War

We learn here that Romulans have been trying to slow human progress in an attempt to prevent the Federation from ever forming. The Romulan agent, disguised as a human, points out that if she kills Khan “the Federation never forms.” She also reveals that all the time travel to Earth’s past has probably created a slightly alternate timeline, saying, “It’s almost as if time itself is pushing back and events reinsert themselves. All of this was supposed to happen back in 1992 and I have been trapped here for 30 years.” This is why Khan (played by Desmond Sivan) is a child now in the 2020s, rather than already an adult and in a sleeper ship out in space.

This suggests that maybe, the original timeline of The Original Series, in which the Eugenics Wars supposedly happened in the 1990s, has now been pushed to the middle of the 21st century. And the reason why isn’t retcon per se, but because temporal wars have altered the past.

Kirk Dies!

When the Romulan agent calls Kirk’s bluff and shoots him, we see this version of Paul Wesley’s Kirk actually die. Not counting Kirk’s fake deaths in TOS, this is only the second time ever we’ve seen any version of Kirk die on screen. The only other time Kirk has died (for real) was in the film Generations. This twist also inverts the premise of “City on the Edge of Forever.” In that episode, Kirk and Spock learn that a social worker named Edith Keeler had to die in order to keep the timeline intact. This time, the timeline can only be saved if Kirk himself dies.

Department of Temporal Investigations 

At the very end, La’an is visited by a representative from the Department of Temporal Investigations. This department originates in the Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations.” But it appears that Strange New Worlds is conflating this group with the same group of Temporal Agents that employed Daniels in Enterprise, but also with the Starfleet Temporal Integrity Commission, which was established in the Voyager episodes “Future’s End” and “Relativity.” As mentioned earlier, the graphics on the device in this episode seem to indicate this is the same group from “Relativity,” meaning they are probably operating out of the 29th century. Then again, this is a group all about time travel. Who knows where their home century might be.