At the end of Star Trek: Discovery’s season finale, the U.S.S. Discovery was en route to Vulcan to pick up its new captain, before being diverted from a distress call from the U.S.S. Enterprise. The name of this captain awaiting them on Vulcan was never mentioned, creating one of the many mysteries posed by the episode. So, who is this mystery captain? Could it be someone we are familiar with, either from Discovery or seen in Trek before? Let’s break down the possibilities.
At the time of the finale, the aforementioned U.S.S. Enterprise is under the command of Captain Christopher Pike. One intriguing possibility is that he was due to transfer to Discovery to assume command, but left Vulcan early to rendezvous with the Discovery. As a Starfleet veteran who has seen a lot of things – like the Talosian mission – he could surely teach Michael Burnham a lot. Showrunner Aaron Harberts indicated there is “something very exciting” about Pike, noting “we will never say never to exploring him a little bit more” in season two.
However, Trek lore has established James T. Kirk was the third captain of the Enterprise following Pike and April, and Kirk didn’t assume command until 2265, eight years after its rendezvous with Discovery. Assuming the Enterprise remained in commission during this period, Pike transferring to the Discovery would be a rather sizable departure from canon. We’re confident he’ll show up, but probably not as Discovery’s captain.
We don’t know much about what happened to Pike’s first officer (originally played by the great Majel Barrett Roddenberry) following “The Cage.” It’s entirely possible she was promoted to captain and assigned command of Discovery. Although a lieutenant in “The Cage,” by the time of David Mack’s Discovery novel, “Desperate Hours” she’d been promoted to commander (and given the name “Una”). The novels are being treated as semi-canon by the show’s team, so this may have been a precursor to her making captain.
Regardless, she’s a popular character, one relatively unexplored in Trek canon. Even though she was human, the character was portrayed as having a strictly logical outlook, something that was later adopted for Spock (and all Vulcans). It’s possible that like Michael Burnham, Number One also had Vulcan training and could provide for an interesting mentor for Michael.
The Animated Series introduced Robert April as the first captain of the Enterprise in “The Counter-Clock Incident,” and he has already been name-dropped on Discovery, having appeared in Saru’s “Most Decorated Captains” list in “Choose Your Pain.” He would be around 60 at the time of Discovery, which is not too old for a captain in the 23rd century and provides the possibility of a sort of elder statesman figure for the show.
After turning over command of the Enterprise to Pike in 2250, he was promoted to commodore and became an ambassador-at-large. Being a commodore doesn’t preclude him from commanding a starship, as we’ve seen with the likes of Matt Decker and Robert Wesley, but being an ambassador presumably would. However, being that the Animated Series is a sort of canon gray area, there may be some wiggle room to introduce him as Discovery’s new captain.
Matt Decker is another one from Saru’s “most decorated captains” list. By the time we meet Decker in “The Doomsday Machine,” he’s a broken man, having lost his entire crew to the planet killer. It’d be fun to see him before his fall. Plus sharp-eared viewers may have heard a mention of a Cadet Decker serving on Discovery in “Into The Forest I Go,” likely a reference to his son Will (Star Trek: The Motion Picture), meaning a family reunion could be in the cards.
However, Decker’s a man destined to go mad following the loss of his entire crew. While this lurking potential dark side to the character is intriguing, it may be too close to what we have already seen for Lorca.
Occam’s razor indicates the captain waiting on Vulcan would be a Vulcan and this could bring up all sorts of character dynamic possibilities for Discovery. One Vulcan some fans have speculated about is Archer’s first officer from the NX-01. T’Pol would be in her late 160s, which is a plausible age for long-lived Vulcans (the elderly T’Pol that appeared in “E2” was actually older). Last seen in 2161 as a commander, it’s possible she could still be in Starfleet, or maybe returned for the war.
There’s also the question of whether Jolene Blalock would return. She’s semi-retired from acting, and has never been very active on the convention scene. She lives in California with her husband (Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino) and their three children, so committing to a series shooting in Toronto is unlikely.
Garth of Izar
One of Starfleet’s most prominent captains of the pre-TOS era, Garth was a legendary starship commander, who was later promoted to fleet captain, before his descent into madness (as seen in “Whom Gods Destroy”). He was a renowned tactician and explorer, having charted more new worlds than anyone in history. His victory at the Battle of Axanar was required reading during Kirk’s time at Starfleet Academy, and he was a hero to the young cadet.
He’s been a popular character in Trek literature over the years, and we’d like to learn more about him. His path towards megalomania could be a fun area to explore. However, he also comes with the same (and possibly more) ‘tragic end’ baggage and Lorca-like tendencies as Decker.
Whatever you may think of Into Darkness, it’s hard to disagree that Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus was an interesting character. The nefarious head of Starfleet could have been another of Trek’s one-note misguided admirals, but Weller gave us something more complex: a man who was prepared to completely corrupt the ideals of the Federation – including starting a war with the Klingons – in order to preserve his version of it.
We know nothing about his Prime counterpart, though. Presumably Marcus is out there somewhere, and with the numerous similarities between the two timelines, quite probably in Starfleet. A captain with a laser-like focus bordering on obsessive is something that we have seen in Trek and could introduce good character drama with the crew we know. However, it’s unlikely (and possibly precluded) for CBS to be using characters created solely for Paramount’s Trek films. This would strike off others like Captains Robau, Styles, and Terrell as well.
At the time of the season finale, Saru is still acting captain of the U.S.S. Discovery and it’s possible that the arrival of the Enterprise could send the ship off on some new diversion that extends his time in the chair and could lead to him being promoted and made permanent captain. His leadership in the later episodes of the first season was well-regarded, which would undoubtedly make him a popular choice. And his sibling rivalry with Michael Burnham could see a new angle as her ambition returns, now that she has been reinstated.
Saru is a fan favorite, and has grown to be one of the show’s more interesting characters, and that may actually work against him being made captain. Saru fits into the mold of previous Trek characters like Data and Odo, who are able to make a commentary on humanity from their positions as “the other.” Moving him into a leadership position could possibly diminish that core aspect of the character.
Gabriel Lorca (Prime)
While the mirror version we know and love is (we presume) dead, we don’t know for certain what happened to the prime universe’s Lorca. Cornwell speculated that he died in the Mirror Universe, but that’s by no means definitive. Should the writers wish, it wouldn’t be too hard to bring him back, something that would no doubt go down well with fans. Obviously Lorca is not the captain awaiting the Discovery on Vulcan, so this is another possibility that would arise from the diversion introduced by the surprise appearance of the Enterprise.
Lorca is one of the standouts from the first season; a complex, darker figure than we were used to being in command. (Until he went all Mirror Universe on us.) It would be interesting to see how the Prime version stacks up to his Mirror counterpart. However, it could also be a bit of been there, done that, even if it is actually a totally different character. There is also the practical aspect of Jason Isaacs being a very busy man, currently filming the second season of Netflix’s The OA. Much as we love him, he’s an in-demand guy, and we’re not sure he’d want to spend the next few years tied down to one show. But, we won’t be surprised to see him show up for an episode or two.
Another possibility that may arise from a change of orders from the original planned rendezvous on Vulcan is Admiral Cornwell. She has become a favorite character for many fans. While she’s currently an admiral, she was also involved in a plan to commit the genocide of the Klingon race by working with Emperor Georgiou. So, perhaps her punishment is a demotion to captain (not unlike Admiral Kirk in The Voyage Home).
Her time in the captain’s chair during “The War Without, the War Within” introduced some interesting dynamics with both Saru and Burnham and a demotion gives her character an interesting redemption arc. However, the show spent much of season one developing Cornwell as the window to Starfleet and Federation leadership and perhaps it’s best to continue to use her to explore that area in season two, especially as she has an already established rapport with the new head of the Klingon Empire, L’Rell.
There’s a variety of other captains and commodores we saw on The Original Series to consider: Ronald Tracey; Commodore Stone; Robert Wesley; Commodore Mendez, or even admirals like Komack. Any of them could feasibly be Discovery’s new captain.
…or maybe it will be someone new
It’s fun to see familiar characters, and we certainly expect that to continue for Discovery in season two and beyond. But these kinds of characters are best used sparingly. Introducing new characters gives a sense of the scale of the Trek universe. Starfleet is supposed to be a huge organization.
Do we want to keep running into old characters so we can get nostalgic about Trek’s past, or do we want to look to the future? In season one, Discovery had a big success with Lorca, one of the more intriguing new characters in Star Trek. So, our hopes, and our qautloos, are on the writers coming up with something original for season two. We can’t wait to meet this new captain of the U.S.S. Discovery.
Who is your pick?
Is there a character from this list or Trek history you think will be the next captain? Or do you have an idea for a new character? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on the Space Channel and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else.
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