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Discovery Season 3 Creates A Star Trek Plot Hole With TNG Drink

In Star Trek: Discovery season 3, Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala) is disgusted to learn that he's drinking synthehol at the U.S.S. Discovery's mess hall - except synthehol shouldn't exist aboard the 23rd century-era starship. The Discovery jumped to the 32nd century at the onset of Star Trek: Discovery season 3, and Book is the first friend Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) made in the new era. To him, synthehol has existed for hundreds of years. The fact that Burnham knows what synthehol is seems to be a plot hole - but there could still be a plausible explanation.

Synthehol is is a portmanteau of "synthetic alcohol" and it's an invention of the Ferengi. Synthehol mimics the appearance and taste of alcohol without the deleterious effects of drunkenness, addiction, and alcohol poisoning. Most humanoids possess an enzyme that allows them to easily shake off the effects of synthehol. As such, synthehol was widely available on Federation starships and space stations in the 24th century. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Quark (Armin Shimerman) was known as "the Synthehol King" since the libation in its various forms was a staple at his bar on DS9's promenade. However, many find synthehol to be revolting. When he came aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise-D on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Scotty (James Doohan) loathed synthehol and insisted on drinking genuine alcohol.

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Scotty was from the same 23rd century era as Michael Burnham, and since the Scottish engineer didn't know what synthehol was until he arrived in the 24th century, it stands to reason that neither should Burnham and the crew of the Discovery. After all, the Ferengi didn't make first contact with the United Federation of Planets until TNG season 1. In season 2, Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) joined the TNG cast as the bartender of the Enterprise-D's Ten Forward lounge, and this is when synthehol debuted in Star Trek canon. Prior to TNG, the crew of Captain James T. Kirk's (William Shatner) U.S.S. Enterprise was known to drink genuine alcoholic beverages, with Romulan ale being contraband that they were still able to stock and indulge in on occasion.

Michael Burnham lived in the 32nd century for a year and she could have learned what synthehol is during that time, but that wouldn't explain how it was available on the Discovery. Retroactively, Star Trek: Enterprise established that humans had unknowingly met the Ferengi in the 22nd century (without making official first contact for another 200 years). The Ferengi marauded and traded with many species so even if they didn't have direct relations with the Federation until the 24th century, their inventions like synthehol could have indirectly found its way into the hands of Federation citizens without them knowing its originators. It's then possible that synthehol was available in the Federation in the 23rd century, although since this is a retcon, no one ever mentioned it on Star Trek: The Original Series or in the TOS movies.

There's another possible explanation for how synthehol is available aboard the U.S.S. Discovery: the sphere data. Discovery gained access to 100,000 years of information from an ancient sphere in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, and the sphere data is what the rogue A.I. Control needed to attain full sentience so it could wipe out all organic life in the galaxy. The sphere data interfaced with the Discovery's main computer and, in fact, Discovery time-traveled to the 32nd century in order to keep the sphere data away from Control.

But the sphere data is also a deus ex machina for Star Trek: Discovery and a convenient way for the writers to explain away anachronisms. For instance, when Adira (Blu del Barrio) that revealed they are the human host of a Trill in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 3 "People of Earth", Captain Saru (Doug Jones) consulted the sphere data about Trills. It's logical, then, that synthehol could exist in Discovery's food replicators thanks to the sphere data, and that explains why the TNG-era drink is available aboard the time-tossed 23rd-century starship.

Star Trek: Discoverystreams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Netflix.

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