The following analysis has spoilers (and potential spoilers) for Discovery season three.
Two years ago today, the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Calypso” debuted. This well-received short, which retold a Greek myth on board the USS Discovery, appeared to be a standalone story at the time. But when Star Trek: Discovery jumped forward into the future for season three, we suggested there could be a connection to this mysterious Short Treks episode. Now that we’re four episodes in, we’re starting to see some big connections to “Calypso,” which opens up some intriguing possibilities. Season three appears to be introducing (or re-introducing) a fascinating and familiar character.
“Calypso” refresh: USS Discovery will be abandoned and left under the care of “Zora”
“Calypso” told the story of a “reluctant” soldier named Craft (Aldis Hodge) who awakens on an entirely empty USS Discovery. He was found abandoned in an escape pod and rescued by the ship itself, or more specifically, an AI named “Zora” which was taking care of the ship after the crew had abandoned it long ago. Craft was from the planet Alcor IV and was fighting in a war against the “V’draysh.”
Craft wants to return home to his family, but Zora is under orders to maintain position. After some time together, Zora and Craft grow close and even dance along to a song from Zora’s favorite movie, the 1957 musical Funny Face. Eventually, Zora preps the ship’s last warp-capable shuttle, and gives it to Craft to return home after naming it “Funny Face.”
Connection #1: The V’draysh is The Federation
“Calypso” introduced Alcor IV and the “V’draysh” to Star Trek. Craft was found in a V’draysh escape pod which was stuck repeating an old Betty Boop cartoon. He noted that V’draysh cherish “relics from the long ago,” hinting some connection to Earth. In an Instagram Q&A, “Calypso” co-writer Michael Chabon confirmed that “V’draysh” was a syncope for “Federation,” but that was never shown in on-screen canon.
However, that all changed with the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery season three. When speaking in a pidgin of the common tongue, the 32nd-century courier Zarah referred to the Federation as “V’draysh” multiple times. He referred to Saru as a “V’draysh captain,” adding he should know pidgin. And commenting on the diminished state of the Federation in the post-Burn 32nd century, he said “The V’draysh has officially reached its nadir.”
Connection #2: The Sphere data is merging with Discovery’s computer
The given reason for the USS Discovery’s need to jump into the future was to protect the data it downloaded from an ancient and dying Sphere lifeform it encountered in episode four of season two. The “Control” AI which had taken over Section 31 was determined to get this data to become sentient, which the crew learned (from a warning message from the future) would lead to all life being wiped out. After defending itself from deletion and self-destruction, the Sphere data merged with the Discovery and made an escape via time travel the only viable option.
The crew has periodically tapped into the Sphere data to help with their missions. Then, in the latest episode of Discovery (“Forget Me Not“), the Sphere data suddenly became more active by inserting itself into a discussion with Captain Saru, who was consulting with the ship’s computer for ways to boost morale. After Saru grew frustrated with the computer’s suggestions, the interface changed with a new chime, and a more natural voice greeting him as if for the first time, with “Hello.” After suggesting early 20th-century comedy films as a way to get the crew laughing again, Saru took note of the computer’s new insights and requested a level 10 diagnostic, pointing out that these kinds of connections were beyond the computer’s regular algorithms.
Later, after taking the computer’s advice for movie night, Saru postulated, “The sphere data was transmitted here for us to protect it. It lives on within Discovery. As we are now inextricably connected, perhaps now it desires to protect us.”
UPDATE: The day after this article was published, CBS posted a clip of the key scene from episode 304 on Twitter, posing a question about what is going on with the computer.
— Star Trek on CBS All Access (@startrekcbs) November 9, 2020
The Theory: The Sphere data is evolving into Zora
The big thing connecting all of this to “Calypso” is how, after exerting itself, the voice of the computer changed. For all three seasons of Discovery, the voice of the computer has been performed by actress Julianne Grossman, using a very monotone robotic style. However, after the Sphere data was seen on screen and the computer began talking about old movies, the voice became much more natural. More importantly, it was voiced by Annabelle Wallis, who provided the voice for Zora in “Calypso.” And of course, Zora loved old movies and popcorn too.
However, this new Sphere version of the computer was short-lived. In episode 304 the computer returned to its regular voice to assure Saru that it was “fully operational.” This could indicate that the Sphere data has not yet completely merged with the ship’s computer, or perhaps it is choosing when to exert itself. In “Calypso,” Zora talks about how she has spent her time alone “evolving,” however it seems that the crew interacted with Zora before their departure—remember, she told Craft she was under orders to maintain her position after the crew left.
Another connection to the Sphere data is Zora’s interface in “Calypso.” Throughout the ship, there were circular screens which she used to monitor the ship and interact with Craft. “Calypso” also showed Zora moving objects on the ship (like when she playing chess with Craft), something which would be possible using the “programmable matter” we have seen in the 32nd century, which has not yet been seen on the ship. Programmable matter could also have helped Zora perform surgery on Craft, or perhaps the Discovery gets some of the robot doctors seen in episode 304 that worked on Gray and Adira.
We can probably expect the Sphere data to continue to exert itself in season three. So, it’s possible that at some point the computer is overtaken with this more natural and more intelligent AI. It is said with all Star Trek shows that the ship itself is a character, so this is keeping with tradition. An AI integrated with the ship and determined to help the crew opens up many character possibilities, and its growth into what eventually becomes Zora could also introduce dramatic risks, conflicts or even comedic possibilities.
The big question: the timeline
Everything discussed here, from the use of the term “V’draysh” to the beginnings of the Sphere data (voiced by the same actress as Zora) interfacing with the computer, all starts to fit together with the USS Discovery in the 32nd or perhaps the 33rd century. However, Zora told Craft she had been on her own for “almost a thousand years” after the crew left the ship. We never learned why they left; all she said was that “the crew is away at present.”
Based on what Zora said, “Calypso” would have to be set in the 42nd century or beyond. But this means that the 32nd-century pidgin term “V’draysh” is still being used far into the future. It also indicates that the Federation will be at war with people who seem peaceful, like Craft. This has implications for the stated mission of season three, which is to restore the Federation… and peace.
It’s possible that Zora was actually lying to Craft, something that was a bit of a recurring theme in “Calypso,” with both characters calling each other “liar” at different points. It could be that Zora did not want to reveal that the Discovery had jumped through time, which could be considered a violation of the Temporal Accords. If this is the case, then “Calypso” could fit nicely not far after 3189, when the USS Discovery arrived in the future.
What to watch for in season three
While the evidence for the Sphere data evolving into Zora may seem open and shut, this show has used misdirection in the past, which is why we didn’t put “Theory Confirmed” in the headline. So we will keep a lookout for actual references to “Zora” or installing those circle interfaces or something else more overt before we close the case.
And there is also the question of how this new sentient ship will react to the crew. Will a sentient AI which can take control of the ship at any moment always follow the orders of the ship’s captain? Even if entirely benevolent, could it determine some situations to be too risky and refuse to do something in order to protect the crew?
There are also a couple of things to keep an eye out for as you watch this season. One would be any mention of Alcor IV: Zora said she had no records of Alcor having any settlements, noting her records were “out of date.” Another thing to look for is any reference to an unnamed and unflown Class C shuttle the Discovery picked up before leaving the 23rd century. That could be the shuttle Zora names “Funny Face” to give to Craft.
What say you?
Is this all making sense to you? When do you think “Calypso” is set. Let us know in the comments below.
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.
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