Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: Discovery Pays Touching Tribute to Anton Yelchin

Star Trek: Discovery's third season has taken the crew into uncharted territory, 930 years into a future where Starfleet has all but collapsed. Since finding and reconnecting with the Federation, Discovery has had a ton of Easter eggs to past entries. From the reveal that the USS Voyager was still in service, the appearance of Leonard Nimoy's Spock through Captain Picard's personal logs, to the revelation of the USS Nog, named after a beloved character whose actor recently passed. Episode 7, "Unification III," allowed Discovery to pay homage to another fan favorite no longer with us — actor Anton Yelchin.

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Yelchin was cast as a young Ensign Chekov for J.J. Abram's 2009 movie reboot. Set in the alternate Kelvin timeline, the film portrayed a younger Enterprise crew meeting and dealing with different circumstances than long-time fans were accustomed to. Among a star-studded cast, Yelchin shined as the overeager youngster providing some of the film's funniest and most heartfelt moments. He returned to play the Kelvin timeline's Chekov in the subsequent sequels.

Unfortunately, shortly after completing filming his part for Star Trek Beyond, Yelchin tragically died at home by completely accidental circumstances. The third and so far last film in this series was released posthumously. Naming a ship after him in Discovery was a nice nod from the show to honor a missed member of the Star Trek cast.

But the USS Yelchin was more than just a simple name drop, it proved to be a vital clue in Michael Burnham's search for the cause of the Burn. After gaining their bearings and reuniting with Burnham, Discovery learned of the Burn that devastated the galaxy and crippled Starfleet. Since that time, Burnham has been searching for what caused most dilithium — the main power source for warp cores — to explode.

Most have no idea what caused the Burn and only know it happened instantly. It was the belief of Ni'Var, the united homeworld of the Vulcans and Romulans, that they were responsible for the Burn by providing the Federation with dangerous experimental technology that sparked the incident. But Burnham was not convinced. Her year alone was spent searching for clues and one of them was the black box of the USS Yelchin.

Using the information from the USS Yelchin and other ships, she manages to discover that the Burn did not happen instantly, which meant that with enough data she could triangulate an origin. The data from the USS Yelchin helped her sway Admiral Vance and later the president of Ni'Var, who provided Burnham with a vital addition to her research.

Tying Yelchin to the Burn and making it part of Burnham's case to the Vulcans and Romulans was a nice touch in a great episode. Burnham learned that the unification of these two related peoples was the lifelong goal of her brother, Spock. Yelchin's Chekov was the direct result of Spock's efforts to bring his peoples together. Spock was attempting to save the Romulan homeworld from destruction, but failed and seemingly died in the effort.

But Spock was sent back in time, followed by a vengeful Romulan Nero. Their actions in the past created Yelchin's Kelvin timeline. It also marked the final on-screen portrayals of Spock's original actor, the late Leonard Nimoy. By having the USS Yelchin be a critical piece in keeping Spock's beloved dream of peace alive, Discovery has given a fun and well-deserved nod to the Kelvin timeline and a talented actor who passed too soon.

Streaming on CBS All Access,Star Trek: Discovery stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham, Doug Jones as Commander Saru, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Commander Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber, David Ajala as Cleveland "Book" Booker, Blu del Barrio as Adira, Ian Alexander as Gray, Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno and Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou. New episodes of Season 3 air on Thursdays.

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