7 of Star Trek: Discovery's most controversial changes to canon
Putting out a prequel some 50 years after the original is always going to be a tricky proposition, even more so when it comes to science fiction. The challenge is to sync up not just characters and storylines so that continuity remains intact, but also the look and feel of the two different projects.
Star Trek: Discovery, set 10 years before The Original Series but produced half a century later, has faced these very challenges. The correlation between the two series hasn't been seamless, irking some fans and forcing showrunner Alex Kurtzman to speak out on the various inconsistencies.
Kurtzman's insisted that, across its second season, Discovery will "sync up with canon" – but what exactly are the problems that need (or needed) fixing? Here are the most illogical contradictions so far.
1. The Discovery's very existence
If Discovery is set a decade before TOS, why has the show's titular starship never featured, or even been mentioned, in shows set later in the timeline?
Spin-off web series Short Treks, a collection of short films set in the 'verse, did reveal that the Discovery eventually ends up abandoned in space. The short 'Calypso' was set "more than a millennium" after the events of Discovery and saw the craft found in the recesses of the cosmos.
That might explain why the original ship never reappeared, but not why we never saw a different iteration of the ship – a la the second version of the Enterprise that featured in The Next Generation – or why it never cropped up in conversation.
2. The Spore drive
If the Discovery is in possession of a powerful Spore Drive, which enables the crew to teleport huge distances using the Mycelial network, why was this astounding piece of tech never used in the earlier (or is that later?) Trek series?
Given the damaging effect that using the drive was having on its 'pilot' Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Starfleet decided to decommission it in season two of Discovery until a non-human interface could be developed.
Did they just never succeed, leaving the Spore Drive on the scrapheap?
Maybe, but given that Captain Pike has already employed the drive once since the ban, in response to an emergency situation, how come its use was never deemed necessary again?
3. Spock has a sister
Just a little thing, this.
Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) is the protagonist of Star Trek: Discovery. She's also the adopted sister of Mr. Spock, so it's a little old that ol' pointy ears never thought to mention her in any of his various appearances across the various Trek TV shows and movies.
The latest Discovery episodes have, of course, reintroduced Spock (now played by Ethan Peck, in the role first played by Leonard Nimoy), and, according to Alex Kurtzman, a big part of the Vulcan's arc will be about "understanding what that relationship [between him and Michael] is".
Fine, but Spock's sibling self-contradictions don't end there.
4. Where's Spock's brother?
Spock might've gained a sister, but he's apparently lost a brother.
Sybok was Spock's elder half-brother, the son of Sarek and a Vulcan princess, and appeared in 1989 film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, played by Laurence Luckinbill.
It's established that, following his mother's death, Sybok was raised alongside Spock by Sarek, but he's not featured in any of the flashback scenes in Discovery that see a young Spock meeting and interacting with Michael.
Maybe he was a shy kid?
5. Spock's beard
Spock has a beard in Discovery. He didn't have one in the Original Series.
Sure, he might just possibly have found time to have a shave at some point in the intervening 10 years. But the face fuzz has proved controversial with the Trek hardcore, who argue it's not in-keeping with Spock's carefully controlled persona.
Ethan Peck has even acknowledged that the beard is "controversial", but has argued that it, and Spock's shaggier hairdo, reflect the character's inner turmoil at this point in his personal history.
"This is a time in Spock’s life when I think the deep inner conflict of human versus Vulcan really comes to the surface… so I think it’s an expression of his state of mind," he told TVLine.
6. Starfleet fashion
The crew of the Discovery notably sport different uniforms to the ones worn by Kirk and company in The Original Series. The original thinking behind this, apparently, was that the costumes would reflect a mid-point between the look of the characters in Enterprise(set 100 years before Discovery) and TOS (again, set 10 years after).
"We looked at Enterprise," then-executive producer Akiva Goldsman explained. "We looked at The Original Series, at that point in canon, and we tried to pull across the color palette."
Confusing the issue slightly was the arrival of Captain Pike in season two of Discovery. The character (originally played by Jeffrey Hunter) was created for Star Trek's original unaired pilot episode 'The Cage' in 1965, in which he sported the classic gold pullover.
When he was reintroduced to the franchise (now played by Anson Mount), he initially wore those same duds, before switching them out for the Discovery blues when he takes temporary residence onboard that ship.
The best explanation we've seen doing the rounds for this costuming conundrum is that different uniforms are worn onboard different ships, with a Constitution class craft like the Enterprise requiring a snazzier look.
7. Bald Klingons
Discovery gave vintage Trek villains the Klingons a dramatic physical overhaul in its first season: not only did they appear less humanoid than ever before, but the flowing locks of classic Klingons like TNG's Worf were nowhere to be seen.
"The idea is that because the Klingons are not at war and not at wartime [in season two], they grew their hair," costume designer Gersha Phillips later told Digital Spy. (Think of it like how soldiers joining up with the US military shave their heads.)
To be fair, there's precedent for the Klingons to change their look: Klingons in The Original Series appeared physically much closer to humans, without the forehead ridges that became the trademark of later versions. This discrepancy was explained away on Enterprise as being the result of an "augment virus" that altered the appearance of certain Klingons.
Continuity quibbles...nothing new for Trek!
Star Trek: Discovery is streaming on CBS All Access in the US, and Netflix in the UK.