Star Trek: Discovery could have kept Captain Pike without breaking canon
One of the biggest surprises of Star Trek: Discovery season two has been Anson Mount's charming performance as Captain Pike. So it was a shame when it was announced that Mount would be leaving at the end of this season, alongside Rebecca Romijn who plays fellow classic Trek character Number One.
She's barely featured, but Pike has played a crucial role in making season two a success, despite all the behind-the-scenes changes.
Executive producer Alex Kurtzman told Syfy Wire that Pike's exit is part of Star Trek: Discovery's move to "sync up with canon".
But here's the thing. Pike could, and should, have stayed on the show for season three – it wouldn't actually have meant the show breaking established Trek canon, especially as we know so little about the character.
Pike was in charge of the USS Enterprise in the unaired pilot episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, 'The Cage', set in 2254.By the time the show actually got to air, Pike had been replaced by Captain James T Kirk and the show started in 2265, with Pike promoted to fleet captain.
In the first season of Star Trek: The Original Series, the two-part episode 'The Menagerie' revealed that Pike had suffered radiation damage. This left him paralysed in a wheelchair and unable to speak, with Spock making secret plans to take Pike to Talos IV where he lived out the rest of his life in a blissful illusion, "unfettered by his natural body".
(We revisited Talos IV earlier in Star Trek: Discovery season two, perhaps foreshadowing that the show would deal with this incident too.)
The events of 'The Menagerie' all took place in 2267, a decade after Discovery'scurrent setting of 2257, so why is the show getting rid of Pike so early?
We get that Pike (and Spock) would have to go back to the USS Enterprise – it can't be undergoing repairs at spacedock forever. But why couldn't season three see the Enterprise and Discovery working side-by-side?
It's not like we know anything about the fate of the USS Discovery from the original series, as it was never even mentioned. Spin-off web series Short Treks, a collection of short films set in the 'verse, did reveal that the ship eventually ends up abandoned in space but that's "more than a millennium" after the events of Discovery.
Until then, the Discovery is basically free to do anything, including teaming up with the Enterprise.
According to canon, Pike is the captain of the Enterprise until 2065, so unless Star Trek: Discovery has a major time jump, there's plenty of time left in the current timeline until he becomes fleet captain.
Talking about the end of season two, Kurtzman said: "Obviously if you know the story of Captain Pike, you know what his fate was. It won't be exactly what you think this season, but we will be consistent with that story. There will be a dimension shed on that story that you will not have known or have thought of."
If they're consistent with Pike's story, he has to go back to Enterprise and be in a position to become fleet captain in 2265.
Perhaps Kurtzman is hinting at something happening to the USS Discovery that means the Enterprise can't join forces with it. Something timey-wimey perhaps, or something involving the spore drive? Maybe it'll go covert with Section 31?
Whatever happens, we hope that the end of season two gives us a convincing explanation of why Pike couldn't stick around. Otherwise, the show is robbing itself of one of its strongest assets.
Star Trek: Discovery airs on CBS All Access in the US and on Netflix in the UK.