The following analysis has spoilers (and potential spoilers) for Discovery season three.
The third season of Star Trek: Discovery features new characters, some of whom were introduced in the premiere just a few days ago. The biggest new addition is David Ajala, as Cleveland “Book” Booker, who will be a sort of guide for the crew in the 32nd century.
Book is a courier who has teamed up with Michael Burnham to assist her as she seeks to find the USS Discovery. Book has his own ship, which will play a part in season three, and he has already shown himself to be a bit mysterious. One of Book’s peculiarities is his companion, a large Maine Coon cat, named Grudge, who we also met in the season premiere.
There is nothing new about pets in Star Trek: Spock had I’Chaya the sehlat, Picard had Livingston the fish, Archer had Porthos the dog, and of course, Data had a pet cat named Spot. But we think there is something extra special about Grudge…
CBS is making a big deal about Grudge
We first took note of Grudge on Star Trek Day in early September. CBS went out of their way to highlight this new and furry member of the cast with a special behind-the-scenes video about Grudge as part of the Discovery panel. They also launched social media accounts for the cat on Instagram (@grudgecat) and Twitter (@Grudge_Cat).
I am Grudge. I am a SPACECAT. SPACE CATTE.
— Grudge (@Grudge_Cat) October 16, 2020
Working with Grudge (actually the two cats that play Grudge) was a topic of David Ajala’s interview this week on The Ready Room, the official Star Trek aftershow hosted by Wil Wheaton. Initially CBS released 10 character images for Discovery season three, then they sent out four more just for Grudge. Earlier in the week during the invite-only virtual premiere, Grudge was one of the members of the cast interviewed at the virtual after party.
Certainly, CBS wants to promote the show and they may dream that Grudge could become as meme-worthy as Baby Yoda, but could it be they also want us to pay more attention to this cat?
Special cat precedent
Domesticated cats have always been mysterious, going back to early history in many cultures around the world. Cats were especially revered by the ancient Egyptians who made it a capital crime to kill one, and some Egyptian gods were depicted as cats. The ancient Egyptians saw cats as protectors, and some nobles were entombed with mummified cats.
We have also seen many examples of special cats in more modern popular fiction. In the film Men in Black, Orion the cat was revealed to be the protector of an entire galaxy, which was the main focus of the film. Over in the MCU, Goose the cat from Captain Marvel turned out to be a very powerful alien, responsible for Nick Fury’s famous eyepatch.
And we have seen something like this before on Star Trek. In the TOS episode “Assignment Earth,” Gary Seven’s companion Isis appeared to be a regular black cat, but could actually communicate with him telepathically and was able to transform into a human woman.
Theory: Grudge is a queen… for real
We believe that all this attention on Grudge is another example of a cat that is more than just a cat.
One thing for sure, Grudge is big for a cat. When we first meet Grudge on Book’s ship, Michael notes the cat’s size, and Book explains this away by saying the cat has a thyroid condition. Things may be bad in the 32nd century after The Burn, but are thyroid conditions still a problem for a guy with a spaceship that uses controls based on programmable matter? When asked why the name Grudge, Book says, “She’s heavy and all mine.”
But maybe Grudge is even bigger than we realize? Later, Book’s rival courier Cosmo confronts him at gunpoint and threatens to “roast” Grudge to “feed her to the starving.” Cosmo add, “She’ll feed a whole planet.” Maybe this was just an insult about the cat’s size, or maybe he really meant it: Book’s first response to this taunt was “Keep her name out of your mouth,” indicating he has a very personal bond with Grudge.
Book then declares, “She is a queen!” Sure, that could be affectionate rhetoric, but it seems possible that Book is quite serious and Grudge is literally a queen, a higher-level life form, and a leader of others for real.
There’s something more to Grudge
Taking this further, it’s possible that the cat we see is only one manifestation of Grudge. The simplest Star Trek possibility would be that Grudge is some kind of shapeshifter. In addition to Isis, we have seen many different kinds of shapeshifters, most prominently Odo and The Founders from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, although they needed to return to a liquid state regularly, or at least they did back in the 24th century. But there are many others including Chameloids (like Martia from Star Trek VI) and Vendorians (from Star Trek: The Animated Series and Lower Decks). And there could be many more kinds of shapeshifters we just haven’t seen yet on Star Trek.
TrekMovie first talked about this shapeshifter possibility for Grudge on our All Access Star Trek podcast. But the day after that podcast episode went out, Grudge (who follows TrekMovie on Twitter) seemed to pour cold milk on the idea, proclaiming she was no shapeshifter.
Today in things I decided:
To shape shift into Dame Maggie Smith.
You may think I'm a shape shifter.
I'm not. I'm an Aquarius.
But if I was a shape shifter I would be Dame Maggie Smith.
— Grudge (@Grudge_Cat) October 18, 2020
Of course, this could be misdirection as fans start speculating on the shapeshifter theory weeks ahead of a big reveal. Remember in season one the people behind Discovery invented a fake actor in order to keep the Voq=Tyler secret. (BTW, TrekMovie called that theory exactly three years ago today.)
But even if Grudge isn’t a typical shapeshifter, there could still be something more going on. Grudge could simply be a being that looks like a cat, but has greater intelligence and abilities. In episode one, we saw that Book had a special connection with other forms of life, including both plants and animals. He was able to communicate with the trance worm as well as summon a healing plant for Michael after she’d been shot.
On Book’s ship, Michael talks to Book about his connection to various forms of life and his personal mission. She notes after the Federation fell there is “no one to enforce the Endangered Species Act, except you.” Immediately after that, the camera cuts to Book who then glances over to Grudge, then cuts to Grudge, who’s paying attention to the conversation. This could be telling. Book may be protecting Grudge from his family, who he describes as killers and poachers. Perhaps Grudge is the last (or one of the last) of her kind. We have seen this before in the first Star Trek episode to air (“The Man Trap”), when Robert Crater protected the shapeshifting M-113 creature, said to be the last of her kind.
It’s also possible that Grudge could be a type of technological lifeform. Star Trek: Picard has explored the advancements in sentient AI. Who is to say how advanced they could be eight centuries later? Imagine what is possible by combining extremely advanced AI with programmable matter.
With just one episode, we don’t have enough evidence to come to a final conclusion, but we do believe there is something special about Grudge. She is more than just a cat. And we believe Book when he says she is a queen.
New episodes of Star Trek: Discovery premiere on Thursdays on CBS All Access in the U.S. and on CTV Sci-Fi Channel in Canada, where it’s also available to stream on Crave. Episodes will be available on Fridays internationally on Netflix.
Keep up with all the news and reviews from the new Star Trek Universe on TV at TrekMovie.com.