Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3's Gorn Reference Creates A TOS Plot Hole

As a wormhole closes, a plot hole opens in the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 premiere. Following on from the 900-year time jump at the end of Star Trek: Discovery season 2, Burnham finds herself in the 32nd century when season 3 opener "That Hope Is You" begins. While she might've expected the future to come with nano-technology and improved dental care, even Burnham, after all her unlikely adventures aboard the Discovery, wouldn't have expected to find such a radically different future. An event known as the Burn detonated the quadrant's dilithium, causing the Federation to crumble and the galaxy to descend into a near-lawless landscape of brutal mercenaries, black markets and misery. Fortunately, Star Trek: Discovery season 3's first episode did find time to drop a reference to everyone's favorite glitter-eyed reptiles - the Gorn.

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Introduced in the iconic "Arena" episode of The Original Series, the Gorn are a lizard-like warrior race with advanced technology and a notoriously bad temper. A Gorn captain once competed in single combat against James T. Kirk on the surface of a desert planet and was duly defeated by the Starfleet captain. Even since then, the Gorn have been an iconic Star Trek species, almost as famous as the Klingons and Vulcans despite enjoying much less time on screen.

In "That Hope Is You," Burnham is learning about the travails of the 32nd century from Cleveland "Book" Booker, who crashed into her as the Red Angel suit dropped out of the wormhole. Book recognizes that Burnham's wormhole was unnatural and chastises her recklessness, not yet realizing she's a time traveler from the past. According to Book, the Gorn "destroyed two light-years worth of subspace" while attempting to creating artificial wormholes, to which Burnham replies "the Gorn did WHAT?" The biggest curiosity here isn't whatever mischief the Gorn have been getting up to, but how Burnham has even heard of the species. The aforementioned "Arena" episode marked the moment of first contact between Starfleet and the Gorn, and was set in 2267. The Discovery departed for the far-future in 2258, so its crew should have no idea who the Gorn are, yet Burnham's line suggests exactly the opposite.

There are three possible solutions to Star Trek: Discovery's Gorn gaffe. The first is simply a matter of phrasing - perhaps Burnham is more surprised about the destruction of subspace to stop and ask what "the Gorn" are. However, a more interesting explanation can be found in Star Trek: Discovery season 1. The first captain of the Discovery, Jason Isaacs' Gabriel Lorca, was a secret infiltrator from the Mirror Universe and had a Gorn skeleton standing in his office. The Gorn became known earlier in the Mirror Universe's history, so Burnham might've learned about the species from her former captain, years before Kirk and Starfleet officially made first contact. Alternatively, Burnham had access to the data sphere in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 - the very storage device that forced Discovery to time travel in the first place. The sphere would've undoubtedly contained information on the Gorn, and Burnham might've learned about them that way.

In the grand scheme of Star Trek: Discovery, season 3's Gorn slip is a relatively minor break in continuity, having previously taken some serious liberties with established canon. When the existence of the Discovery was scrubbed from Starfleet's records in season 2, Star Trek Discovery effectively hit the continuity reset button ahead of the Original Series era, removing anything that didn't fit, such as the spore drive. It's possible that Starfleet already knew about the Gorn thanks to Lorca or the data sphere, but the Discovery's deletion from history meant Kirk had to "discover" the Gorn again almost a decade later.

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