The following are a few notes I took while watching Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 4. Warning: mild spoilers may be included, though I’ve tried to stay away from including anything too glaring. Either way, consider yourself warned.
Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 4 depicts a mysterious sphere threatening the U.S.S. Discovery. Meanwhile May, in her original form, implements a plan putting Tilly’s life in danger. At the same time, Saru and Burnham’s bond grows when the Kelpien must acknowledge an unsettling truth about his people. And, Captain Pike receives new Intel on Spock from a loyal friend.
After last week’s subpar Klingon soap opera, tonight’s episode was something else entirely. While I wouldn’t necessarily call it one of the best episodes of Star Trek, it was certainly one of the best of this series. It made good on the promise of Star Trek Discovery drifting more toward themes in which the franchise has excelled. What I’m talking about, of course, is optimistic science fiction.
To that end, we were treated to an episode highlighting first contact with a seemingly hostile alien, only to discover (sorry, I couldn’t control myself) – in true Star Trek fashion – that there was much more to the story. We also had some high drama with what felt like the true final moments for one character. I won’t spoil who, except to say I was absolutely grieved by the idea of the character being killed off. Luckily, things went another way, but again I’m not going to get into specifics here.
Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 4 set the stage for explaining a major problem with Discovery and established Star Trek canon.
Since the very first episode of Star Trek Discovery, fans have had trouble reconciling a few things. One of those is why the Discovery seems to possess technology more advanced than previously seen on the Enterprise in the Original Series. Honestly, I never considered it an issue. I always just chalked it up to current special effects being much more advanced than they were 50+ years ago.
Much like with the JJ Abrams-helmed reboot films taking place in the Kelvin timeline, I chose simply to accept that the original Star Trek should have looked better, and they simply weren’t capable of it back then. After all, the Enterprise in the Kelvin timeline takes place in an alternate space-time dimension or whatever, but it’s the same ship. One must simply understand the differences in special-effects capability. Many have been unwilling to go with such an explanation, however.
To whit, that show’s creators have promised things will eventually sync up with canon. I could be wrong, but I think Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 4 was the beginning of their efforts. Continue reading and you’ll understand why.
The significant technological retcon you might’ve missed
This episode was jam-packed with information and twists and turns. As a result, it would be entirely understandable to have missed a significant detail from dialogue early in the episode. When Number One comes aboard Discovery, she and Captain Pike have a conversation about the repairs occurring on the Enterprise. Part of this brief exchange includes Pike believing one of the reasons his ship went off-line was a glitch in the holographic communication system. He orders it ripped out in entirety, deciding his ship will communicate in the future using viewscreens only. You’ll recall that last week he also mentioned he didn’t like the holographic systems.
For any other captain, this might have simply gone down in history as a choice affecting only one ship. The setting here is the year 2257, but it’s important to remember who Pike will one day become. Fast forward eight years to 2265 and the Original Series episode “The Menagerie” tells us he’s been promoted to Fleet Captain. What this means is between what we’re seeing on Discovery and the point when Kirk is captain of the Enterprise, Pike is promoted to a position where he would wield great influence over all of Starfleet, likely making very important across-the-board decisions.
Why I’m OK with what they’re doing
So yeah, I think it’s going to go down in Star Trek history that Captain Pike is the reason things end up much more analog by the time the Original Series events occur. And, you know what? I’m perfectly OK with that. In fact, I think Star Trek Discovery Season 2 Episode 4 actually made a great case for it. In this episode, ship and crew were imperiled by technology that was apparently too fancy. They couldn’t even use the turbolift to get to engineering, because the universal translator malfunctioned and the voice commands wouldn’t operate. Witnessing all that, it makes perfect sense for Pike to prefer a more hands-on approach.
A hundred years further in the future, by the time of TNG et al., those technologies work flawlessly, but that’s after a full century of perfecting them. If we have to deal with a retcon, this is at least a believable and understandable one.