Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery Just Quoted The Wrath of Khan

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 3, Episode 7, "Unification III," now streaming on CBS All Access.

One of the most celebrated stories in the entire Star Trek mythos is 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which the original series' fan-favorite antagonist Khan Noonien Singh resurfaces decades later to menace the Enterprise. Khan's vendetta culminated in Spock sacrificing his own life to save the ship and his friends, with the venerable Vulcan reasoning that "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" (or the one). As the crew of the Discovery continues their own mission centuries after the events of the film, they invoke Spock's classic axiom in the series' latest episode after they find themselves face-to-face with the leader of a coalition of Vulcans and Romulans in a diplomatic bid to get them to rejoin the Federation.

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After learning that the cataclysmic event that balkanized the Federation (dubbed The Burn) -- which combusted all the known dilithium in the galaxy -- was not done simultaneously as long suspected, the Discovery learns about a Federation experimental project referred to as SB-19. Researched by the unified Vulcans and Romulans on the renamed Vulcan homeworld Ni'Var as a means to replace dilithium, the instability of the alternate transportation system, and the Federation's insistence to move forward with it rather than undergo more rigorous testing, was believed to be the cause of The Burn. The move proved to be the last straw between Ni'Var's patience for the Federation, causing the Vulcan-Romulan coalition to leave the organization they had co-founded.

Captain Saru meets with T'Rina, the President of Ni'Var with a request to obtain the planet's information on The Burn to assist with their continuing investigation behind its true cause. As T'Rina recalls the incidents leading up to the incident and the Federation's reckless decision to move forward with SB-19, despite the developers' misgivings, she bitterly notes that Starfleet appeared to be more interested in the many than the few. Faced with this observation, Saru points out the old proverb that Spock had invoked, justifying his own self-sacrifice centuries prior.

Saru and the Discovery were transported 930 years into the future at the end of Discovery Season 2, decades before the events of The Wrath of Khan took place. Saru's usage of the proverb indicates that Spock had been quoting an age-old Vulcan axiom as indicated in the first time the quote was mentioned in the 1982 film, with Spock attributing it to an ancient Vulcan philosopher.

While Saru hoped his usage of the Vulcan phrase would help T'Rina recall why he and the Federation are requesting the SB-19 information, the Ni'Var President curtly points out to the Starfleet officer that her people stopped revolving their lives around pithy axioms and proverbs long ago to face the harshness of reality. Ultimately, the reminder of Ni'Var's place in the Federation will have to come from a much different source related to Spock: His adopted sister Michael Burnham, recently demoted for her flagrant insubordination. Even if Spock's words can't help save the day, the example he made for his sister still can.

Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Captain Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, Blu del Barrio as Adira, David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. A new episode arrives on CBS All Access every Thursday through Jan. 7, 2021.

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