The following analysis has spoilers (and potential spoilers) for Discovery season three.
Some fans have been talking about how the newly refit USS Discovery has created an apparent conflict with the canon set out in the Short Treks episode “Calypso.” But we think there are some Star Trek ways around it.
The Disco gets an upgrade
The latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery (“Scavengers“) revealed that the USS Discovery has joined 32nd-century Starfleet and due to its unique spore drive, it is considered an important rapid response asset. However, the ship has also been upgraded with some of the latest technology. We’re told that during the in-universe three-week gap between episodes 305 and 306, the ship has “evolved even more than we could have imagined.”
Upgrades to the internal systems include a new stabilization system, new spore drive interface, and the addition of programmable matter, complete with retrofit interfaces.
The warp engines have also been given an update. Detached nacelles allow for more maneuverability and better efficiency, which is important in the 32nd century where dilithium is scarce.
The new refit Discovery has also apparently been recommissioned with a new Starfleet registry: NCC-1031-A. This could simply be a way to show the ship has been refit, or an attempt to maintain the fiction in Starfleet records that the Discovery was destroyed in the 23rd century. It ‘s been made clear that time travel is now illegal, so this would avoid any issues that people might have with a Starfleet ship having violated the Temporal Accords.
“Calypso” creates an issue with canon
While it makes sense for the Discovery to be upgraded, especially so it can defend itself, the new refit creates a bit of an issue in terms of canon. In our pre-season analysis, we took a look at how even in the “fresh snow” of the 32nd century, there were some tricky areas of canon that the show could run into, one of which was the Temporal Accords, first introduced in Star Trek: Enterprise.
But there’s also a canon problem connected to the Star Trek: Short Treks episode “Calypso,” which was set on the USS Discovery after it had been abandoned for almost 1,000 years. That episode did show that the USS Discovery had evolved, but mainly through it being controlled by a sentient AI named Zora.
While some upgrades—like the programmable matter—could have been part of that future USS Discovery, many elements of the refit were not evident. Most importantly, in “Calypso” the ship did not have the new NCC-1031-A registry.
So the refit creates a bit of a canon issue: How can the USS Discovery seen in “Calypso” be the same ship 1,000 years later?
“Calypso” is clearly tied to season three
One could simply say that “Calypso” came out two years ago, before season two of Star Trek: Discovery, and this is just a bit of canon mismatch that can be ignored for the sake of allowing the show to forge ahead with their season three storyline. Had they known they were going to give the ship a refit and new registry they would have done so back in 2018. Star Trek has survived with these kinds of canon mismatches before. And “Calypso” could also just be seen as a nice standalone short story and that is that.
However, season three has already started to directly reference the future seen in “Calypso.” As another previous analysis highlighted, we have seen dialogue in season three (most notably the word “V’draysh “) that picks up on elements of “Calypso.” More importantly, the season three episode “Forget Me Not” showed how the ancient Sphere Data the ship picked up in season two is evolving and integrating with the USS Discovery, heading towards becoming the Zora AI seen in “Calypso.” They even brought back the actress who provided Zora’s voice.
It’s clear that they are not ignoring this Short Treks entry. In fact, just yesterday the official CBS All Access Star Trek account was promoting it on Twitter. So, how might they make it all fit?
— Star Trek on Paramount+ (@StarTrekOnPPlus) November 21, 2020
Theory 1: The USS Discovery gets “defit”
If we are to assume that the USS Discovery seen in “Calypso” is a future version of the ship seen in season three, there is a simple way to make it all work. At some point in the future, the USS Discovery gets “defit” and “de-registered,” returning it to factory condition. And it is this ship that Craft finds 1,000 years or so after season three.
To make things fit even more, one motivation for the “defit” could be that there’s a reason the ship has to travel back in time, perhaps to return the crew to the 23rd century. It could be they have found a way to protect the Sphere Data from ever being used by Control, or perhaps there’s a region of space where the ship can be left where Control cannot find it. They might also believe the threat from Control is no longer an issue after it was defeated at the end of season two. And as a precaution in case the ship is ever found, all elements from the future would be removed to adhere to the Temporal Prime Directive. This wouldn’t be a first for the Discovery—after it was made to appear to be the ISS Discovery in season one, it was then returned to its original condition when it returned home.
Craft then finds the ship 1,000 years later. In fact, this time travel twist on the theory helps resolve some of the issues brought up in our previous analysis regarding resolving the timeline between season three and “Calypso.” It makes more sense that “Calypso” is set around the same time as season three of Discovery, and not in the 42nd century or beyond.
Theory 2: The USS Discovery in “Calypso” was not the same ship
Season two of Star Trek: Discovery dealt with a lot of time travel incursions, including peering into an alternative future where Control had wiped out all sentient life. The resolution to this was for the Discovery to jump into the future; however, what if one of these incursions into season two lead to another solution to keep Control away from the USS Discovery?
Star Trek time travel rules have varied over the years, but is has been established any instance of travel through time can create a new timeline. In season two, every time the Red Angel time suit did something, it was potentially creating a new timeline. And of course we saw Spock’s vision as one of those alternate timelines, in which they were not able to save sentient life.
So perhaps in an alternate timeline, events from “The Red Angel” went differently, and the crew never found the suit. This would result in a different timeline where the USS Discovery crew never jumps forward in time but instead find a pocket of space, or perhaps even another universe (they have jumped universes before), to park the USS Discovery away from Control. This region could be so remote that only a fluke accident 1,000 years later resulted in the first visitor finding this alternative USS Discovery, which is what we see in “Calypso.”
It perhaps something happened as the Discovery travelled forward through the wormhole which splintered the timeline. This could be related to why the ship arrived one year after Michael arrived in the 32nd century. And perhaps another version in another timeline split off and it is that ship which was seen in “Calypso.”
What do you think?
Is this overthinking what is just a visual mismatch that could just be ignored? Or do you think the show will find a way to tie up this loose end? And do you have your own way to make it all fit together? Sound off in the comments below.
If you like these kinds of deep dives, check out more of our analysis and theory articles. In addition, every Friday our All Access Star Trek podcast reviews and discusses the latest episode, including doing some of the theorizings. In our latest (which you can stream below) TrekMovie editors Tony and Laurie also discussed this refit canon conundrum.
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 are 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.