The intrepid crew of the USS Discovery will boldly go where no one has gone before… and they’ll do it 10 years before the intrepid crew of the USS Enterprise gets the chance.
We’ve known for some time now that the events of the CBS All Access Show Star Trek: Discovery will take place “about ten years before” the adventures of the Original Series crew. Now we know that the events of the first season of the new show will take place in the year 2256, exactly 10 years before the events of TOS.
10 years isn’t that much time, really. The crew were all alive, most of them were adults, and many of them were probably already serving in Starfleet or in Starfleet Academy, prepping for their first deep space mission. Some of the history of the TOS crew is established in canon — that is, their whereabouts are said or referenced on screen either on TV or in the (Prime universe) movies. So, what do we actually know about what the original crew were up to during the events of Discovery? And, perhaps more importantly, is there any chance our new heroes will run into our old ones?
Today, on the 51st anniversary of The Original Series, and just 249 years before Kirk would take command of the Enterprise, we take a look back at the TOS crew before they were cool.
James T. Kirk
Age in 2256: 23 years old (Born on March 22nd, 2233)
Location: In Starfleet Academy, serving as Lieutenant probably aboard the USS Republic NCC-1371
Kirk began his time at Starfleet Academy in 2252, and as a classic overachiever, he moved quickly up the ranks. He made ensign in less than three years and was assigned, while still in the Academy, to the USS Republic (TOS: “Court Martial”). By 2255, Kirk, still a student at the Academy, was promoted to Lieutenant and was simultaneously a student and an instructor at the Academy (TOS: “Where No Man Has Gone Before”). In 2257, Kirk graduated Starfleet Academy and began his first deep space assignment under Captain Garrovick on the USS Farragut.
While it’s not impossible that Kirk was reassigned to a ship other than the Republic before graduating in 2257, it seems unlikely. If true, that means that in 2256, Lt. Kirk was serving aboard the USS Republic, which would have been stationed very near to Earth, since Kirk was also teaching classes at the Academy in San Francisco, California (unless the Academy has an online degree program we don’t know about). So, is there any chance we could see Lt. Kirk in Star Trek: Discovery? Sure, there’s always a chance. But given that Kirk did not go on a deep space mission until his time on the Farragut, there is no reason to expect that the USS Discovery would encounter Kirk out on the frontier.
Age in 2256: 26 years old (Born on January 6, 2230)
Location: Serving as science officer aboard the Enterprise NCC-1701 under Captain Christopher Pike
Mr. Spock is one of the only characters whose whereabouts in 2256 are canonically established to such a high degree. Spock was assigned to the USS Enterprise in 2254, where he served for 39 years (excepting the 2-3 year period between The Original Series and The Motion Picture where he either resigned his commission or went into reserve status), until 2293 (TOS: “The Enterprise Incident,” “Court Martial,” “The Ultimate Computer,” “The Cage,” Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). Spock served as a science officer under Captain Christopher Pike from 2254 and would have held the same position in 2256.
Of all the Original Series crew, Spock seems the most likely to have a chance encounter with the characters of Discovery. First, Spock was serving aboard the Enterprise, a ship that would have been undertaking missions similar to the USS Discovery, out on the edge of the final frontier. Second, Spock’s father Sarek and his adoptive sister Michael Burnham will both feature heavily in the events of Discovery. It would not be unusual for Spock to at least be mentioned by name.
It would not adhere to canon, however, if Spock and Sarek were to share a scene. When Spock was young, Sarek groomed him for a career in science and wanted Spock to complete his training at the Vulcan Science Academy. When Spock joined Starfleet in 2250, he did so against his father’s explicit desires, as it meant leaving behind the Vulcan Science Academy. This disagreement caused a rift between father and son that lasted 18 years, until 2268 (TOS: “Journey to Babel”).
Leonard “Bones” McCoy
Age in 2256: 29 years old (Born 2227)
Location: Practicing medicine, possibly in Starfleet
Bones began studying medicine around 2245, but his graduation date from medical school was never established in canon. We know he spent at least some time at the University of Mississippi in the mid 2240’s, where he met joined Trill Emony Dax. Jadzia Dax recalled a meeting between the young med student and Emony Dax, who was visiting Earth to judge a gymnastics competition, saying, “he had the hands of a surgeon” (DS9: “Trials and Tribble-ations”).
McCoy got his medical license on or around 2253, the same year he developed a surgical procedure for the humanoid brain. This was described in VOY “Lifesigns” as a procedure whereby neural tissue is grafted to the cerebral cortex, followed by the creation of an axonal pathway between the tissue graft and the basal ganglia.
Not much is known about McCoy’s precise whereabouts during the time between 2253 and 2256. We do know that McCoy did not join the Enterprise until 2266. And, for a few months before that, Lieutenant Commander McCoy served as a sciences division officer on Capella IV.
Montgomery “Scotty” Scott
Age in 2256: 34 years old (Born 2222)
Location: Serving in Starfleet as an engineer, deployment unknown
Scotty began his engineering career in starfleet in 2241, where he would remain for the next 51 years. Not much is known about Mr. Scott’s precise whereabouts before he joined the Enterprise crew, but we do know that he was serving in Starfleet as an engineer in 2256. We do not know if he was on a ship, space station, planet, etc. It is quite likely he was working as a ship’s engineer, as Mr. Scott worked on a total of 11 ships during his Starfleet career, including various freighters, cruisers, and starships. He also had a brief stint as engineering advisor to a freight line connecting Deneva Colony and outlying asteroids.
Age in 2256: Unknown, possibly 17 years old
Location: Unknown, possibly Earth
Uhura’s date and place of birth were never established in canon. Based on dates printed in the Star Trek Chronology and the Star Trek Encyclopedia, she was born in the year 2239, which would make her 17 years old in 2256.
Very little is known of Nyota’s life before her service aboard the Enterprise. The only real reference to Uhura’s past pre-TOS is a line of dialogue from Star Trek III: The Search For Spock where, in 2285, a Starfleet lieutenant junior grade known as “Mr. Adventure” calls Uhura “a twenty-year space veteran.” This has led to some speculation that Uhura did not join Starfleet until 2265.
In any event, if her birtdate in 2239 is to be believed, Uhura was definitely not serving aboard a starship and probably was not in the Academy in 2256. During the events of Discovery she was in all likelihood living her life as a 17 year old girl, probably attending school, on Earth.
Age in 2256: Unknown, approximately 20-30 years old
Location: Unknown, not in Starfleet
In The Original Series, Christine Chapel was serving as Nurse under Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy on the Enterprise, having been in Starfleet for five years by the beginning of TOS. While training to be a scientist, Chapel fell in love with one of her professors, Dr. Roger Korby. The two became engaged, but never got the chance to be married as Korby disappeared during an expedition to planet Exo III in 2261. After the loss of her fiancé, Chapel gave up on her research career and joined Starfleet in the hopes that she and Korby might one day be reunited. She joined the Enterprise crew in 2266.
Chapel’s age was never established in canon. Assuming she was a similar age to Majel Barrett, the actress who portrayed her, she would have been 34 in 2266. Conservatively, then, she was probably between 30-40 years old during the events of TOS, making her 20-30 years old during the events of Discovery.
Chapel’s precise status in 2256 is not known. She may or may not have been engaged to Dr. Korby at the time, as it is not clear how long the two were engaged before his disappearance. We do know that she was probably a bio-research student somewhere on Earth and that she was not yet in Starfleet.
Age in 2256: 11 years old (Born 2245)
Location: Unknown, probably Russia
Pavel Chekov is the youngest of the TOS crew, and practically nothing is known about his life in 2256. He was born in Russia, and apparently lived there long enough to develop a Russian accent when speaking English. Although we don’t know how long he lived in Russia as a child, it is possible he was still there during the events of Discovery.
Age in 2256: Unknown, approximately 15-25 years old
Probably the least is known about Hikaru Sulu before he was assigned to the USS Enterprise as head of the astrosciences department in 2265. We know that Sulu was born in San Francisco, California, but we do not know his birth year, so Sulu’s age has never been established canonically. He was likely between the ages of 15 and 25 years old in 2256 (making him 25-35 years old during TOS).
Editor’s note: A great deal of thanks go to the editors and contributors of Memory Alpha, without which this article would not be possible! And to the other TrekMovie editors, who helped me fact check Memory Alpha.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres on September 24th on CBS with all subsequent episodes on CBS All Access in the US. In Canada Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on Bell Media’s CTV and the Space Channel on the same night. Netflix will launch Star Trek: Discovery on Monday, September 25 to countries outside of the U.S. and Canada.