Was That ‘Gilligan’s Island’ Reference Actually A Clue To The Future Of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’?

Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery (“The Galactic Barrier”) had an oblique reference to the classic sitcom Gilligan’s Island. This may have just been a bit of fun, but other clues in the episode point to how this could have been a clue about where the show is headed.

“A three hour tour”

“The Galactic Barrier” started with a meeting of the First Contact Committee, headed by Dr. Kovich (David Cronenberg). A mission to try to make contact with unknown Species 10-C, who reside outside the Milky Way, was being prepped and Kovich was being pressed for answers for planetary delegates going on the mission. Kovich dryly commented:

Kovich: It’s nice that they’re all so eager for a three-hour tour outside the galaxy.

And just in case you didn’t catch it, Saru noted, “It will take longer than three hours,” to which Kovich replied simply, “Figure of speech.”

Dr Kovich warns the committee about their mission

Indeed, a “three hour tour” is a figure of speech, one familiar to any fan of old sitcoms as it comes from the theme song of the classic 1960s sitcom Gilligan’s Island, which describes the premise of the show. The “fateful trip” for the SS Minnow started with a three-hour tour, but they were caught in a storm and almost lost, where the seemingly permanently damaged ship “set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle.”

For three seasons between 1963 and 1967 (going from black and white to color), the crew and passengers of the SS Minnow were stranded on that uncharted desert isle, where they got up to all sorts of shenanigans while awaiting rescue.

The SS Minnow, its crew, and its passengers stranded on a desert isle

“Discovery might not be coming back”

The “three hour tour” reference could simply be a fun gag, but the Discovery writing team isn’t known for that kind of thing. Plus the rest of “The Galactic Barrier” set up the premise that the mission the Discovery was setting out on was perilous.

The possibility of it being a one-way trip clearly weighed on Saru. For the past two seasons, he has been growing closer to Ni’Var President T’Rina, who was also present at Starfleet HQ. He sought her out to say what he thought might be a final goodbye, getting the courage to finally tell her how he felt.

Saru: When last we spoke, you suggested we might share a meal. I would very much like to take you up on that offer. But Discovery is leaving very shortly and… as you know, we may not… So, I thought I should… um, tell you, while I’m able, how much our new friendship has meant to me.

Saru tries to say goodbye to T’Rina

And when President Rillak told Admiral Vance she’d decided to join the mission, he was blunt in his assessment:

Vance: They’re leaving the galaxy. We’ve never done that. You know as well as I do, Discovery might not be coming back from this.

This led to a dramatic goodbye scene between the two characters who have exemplified leadership of the Federation and Starfleet in the 32nd century. For the first time, Vance addressed the President by her first name as he realized, “I can’t talk you out of this, can I?” And season four had previously seen other big goodbyes, most notably with Tilly leaving the ship to teach at Starfleet Academy, possibly setting Mary Wiseman up to appear in a potential Academy series, along with and others who stayed behind, including Cronenberg’s Kovich (who sent Dr. Hirai in his stead).

These and other scenes before the ship departed all carried the weight of the stakes of their mission, but they could also be telegraphing that–like that of the SS Minnow–this may be a fateful trip for the USS Discovery. And luckily for Saru, T’Rina ended up coming along—so like Mr. Howell and Lovey, they can continue their story.

Lovey and Thurston Howell III

“Everything that’s beyond our galaxy to explore”

It’s often commented that the Howells and other castaways from Gilligan’s Island were very prepared. They may have been planning on a three hour tour, but they were packed for much more, with plenty of outfits for their years on that island.

The USS Discovery is also planning ahead. After Kovich made his “tour” quip, Vance asked Burnham how soon she could be ready to depart. While again ominously noting how this could be goodbye, she also indicated they were planning ahead, telling Vance:

Burnham: Two hours to finish loading and to give my crew time to say their goodbyes.

Later, to emphasize this point, Saru told the captain, “All additional supplies are loaded and secured,” so the USS Discovery is ready for whatever their fate may be without needing to resupply.

Saru says goodbye to Bryce

There was also a dramatic goodbye scene between Mr. Saru and Bryce, who was staying behind at Starfleet HQ. However, this one also had an element of hopeful optimism about the future. Bryce has been working with Kovich on extra-galactic communication and he told Saru:

Bryce: Not sure we’ll figure out galactic barrier communication soon enough to help with first contact, but a breakthrough anytime would be huge. I mean, the possibilities it would open up, everything that’s beyond our galaxy to explore, I’m pretty excited, obviously.

This issue of communication could be important. As of the end of the episode, the USS Discovery still could not make contact after leaving the galaxy. The crew of the SS Minnow also struggled with this; the Professor even attempted to build a telegraph, powered by the crew.

The Professor’s telegraph

“Not many people have gotten to see this”

Getting through the Galactic Barrier was harrowing for the crew of the USS Discovery, requiring the ingenuity and skill of the crew, and they still only barely made it with seconds to spare. The crew remarked on finding themselves outside the galaxy with this exchange:

Rhys: It’s weird to see so few stars. Space has never felt this… empty.
Nilsson: Not many people have gotten to see this.

They underestimated the negative energy from the barrier and were only able to get through it by hitching a ride inside of a vacuum bubble that was naturally flowing through. There was no indication that the same could be done the other way around.

The Discovery exits the barrier

Their main concern is to complete their first contact mission and get Species 10-C to shut down the DMA, but with three episodes left in season four, there is plenty of time to worry about the rest later. And just like with Gilligan, the skipper, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the Professor, and Mary Ann, what matters most is the crew of the USS Discovery will have each other, and they have shown that together, they can do just about anything.

The Gilligan’s Island castaways

Another fateful trip?

But what’s next for Captain Burnham and the crew of the USS Discovery? As noted, the episode “The Galactic Barrier” set up some pretty high stakes for the crew, telegraphing that this mission may be a one-way trip. Of course, that is nothing new for this group, who jumped through a wormhole at the end of season two to head into the far future and escape the evil AI named “Control.”

The USS Discovery jumps to the 32nd century

Could season four be heading towards a similar setup?  After two seasons in the 32nd century, the crew of the USS Discovery succeeded in their mission to protect the galaxy from Control, helped restart the United Federation of Planets after the devastation of The Burn, and (presumably) will save the galaxy again from Species 10-C. So perhaps for the crew of the USS Discovery, the Milky Way has become a bit of “been there, done that.” Could all the foreshadowing, the big goodbyes, loading the ship up with supplies, and yes, making a joke about Gilligan’s Island, all be leading up to the crew of the USS Discovery finding themselves as castaways?

It seems possible that season four could end on yet another cliffhanger, leaving the fate of the Discovery’s ability to return home in question. Skipper Burnham and her little buddies could find themselves stranded in the deserted island that is the great gulf between galaxies. Unlike Star Trek: Voyager’s mission to return home, what if the Disco crew chose to explore another galaxy, keeping in touch with Starfleet all the way (thanks to that extragalactic comms Bryce and Kovich keep talking about)? Last year, Alex Kurtzman talked about a desire to explore “different areas of the universe that haven’t been explored before” for potential future shows, but it certainly seems like it could also be done with Discovery. Perhaps the next final frontier could be an entirely new galaxy.

Season five has been ordered and work is already underway, so just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale… but you will have to wait until next year.

To Gilligan, home is where the crew is

There are always possibilities

So, how serious are we about this? Well, a little bit—and of course, that Gilligan reference may just be a gag. But we do feel that season four has been set up to end in some kind of cliffhanger, and even with the “fresh snow” of the new setting of the 32nd century, the writers could be longing for an entirely blank slate, especially with so many other Star Trek shows running, each making their own Milky Way canon.

The USS Discovery heads to an unknown future

What say you?

Do you buy into the Gilligan Hypothesis? Do you have your own theory on how season four will end? Let us know in the comments below.

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It feels an awful lot like the premise of Voyager if so.


If the 10-C can create and direct a stable wormhole from their galaxy to ours for mining, I’d be surprised if they couldn’t do the same to get Discovery home.

Woo! Called it!

I’m still trying to understand why they had the classic tech at the table too…. Feels like a lot of foreshadowing

Did Starfleet ever ask the Kelvans how they got through the Galactic Barrier? Those guys modified the Enterprise to do that trick, but 900 years later, they’re stumped?

TOS never happed.

It has been years since I last saw that ep, but isn’t the story that the Kelvan vessel broke up when entering our galaxy through the barrier? I am certain the Blish novelization included a reference to that, even with a footnote about WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE. So the real question is how they modified Kirk’s ship’s engines to get to Andromeda in 300 years, and how come the Federation didn’t keep that improvement and install it on everything.

Nothing new to Trek. We often get technology introduced that is used exactly once and never again. For example, why can’t we just inject ourselves with an elixir to give ourselves psionic powers whenever we want, like McCoy did for Kirk and Spock in Plato’s Stepchildren?

Not to mention Transphasic torpedoes and deployable armor tech – the battle in NEMESIS would have been over fairly quickly if the writers had remembered that.

Well, it only works on that one planet, just like INS with the non-aging.

The warranty expired after one use. Common problem with 23rd century tech.

So the rumors of them using a deepfake Jim Backus this season are true!

Oh, Lovie….


Great theory,

I too was wondering why Kovich made the Gilligan’s Island reference. It was like he knows they won’t be returning anytime soon. After embarrassing themselves with “the burn” non-sense, it was clear going to the future was still not far enough from Star Trek canon for the writers of the show.

Star Trek: ‘Whispers and Feelings’, formerly known as Discovery, should probably shed what little is left of Star Trek and go missing outside the galaxy for the remainder of the series. It might become a decent non-trek sci-fi show.

Why do you choose to watch a show that you dislike so much?

Everyone keeps forgetting that tune, music from last season. That was odd and still has next been explained. And what is Dr Kovich up to? Why was so important that he could not join Discovery?

The tune was explained. It was a modulation of the Kelpien distress signal through the storm that surrounded it.

The telegraphing via the line “3 hour tour” is a little meta for Trek, but not exactly a surprise. Venturing outside the galaxy is a neat idea, but I fail to understand how any galactic barrier is so restrictive that it prohibits the spore drive from getting through it, when said drive could hop universes. The inconsistency of how technology works in Kurtzman – Trek is astonishing.

The mycelial network only extends inside our galaxy; outside the galaxy it’s useless. And hopping between universes is more of a euphemism; the “Mirror Universe” is still inside the bounds of our galaxy. The “mirror mycelial network” likely has the same limits.
Within those definitions, it’s consistent.

wel, the spore drive as a conceit on the show is a bit too ridiculous of an extrapolation of scientific theory, so that explanation should work for me, but it doesn’t. the notion that our galaxy exists in multiple universes and this network works in that fashion doesn’t make sense… as is the notion that a galactic barrier exists.. with all they’ve set aside on this version of Trek to suit their own desires, it’s really odd that they would choose to keep that.. but.. of course they needed to have a plot device, and not surprising that’s the best this bunch could come up with.

Is that true or assumed? Does it just exist in the Milky Way, or does it exist in the entire universe but is absent near various phenomena such as the galactic barrier? Or is it present only within structures such as galaxies? Not sure this has been made fully clear from what we’ve seen.

Depends on which season of ST:DIS we’re talking about.


Season One it was everywhere. Season Four, it’s only in our galaxy? (Or is it that the Galactic Barrier creates a discontinuity with the mycelial network and thus it does exist outside of the Milky Way Galaxy?)

Side note: I do like Discovery, so please don’t take what I’m saying as if I’m a hater.

The mirror universe absolutely does not exist within our Galaxy. You could fly all throughout the Delta, Gamma, Beta, and Alpha and never find a mirror crew. They are in another universe altogether. I have no idea where you got this idea.

If we want to pretend its reasonable that the mycelial network only exists within the Milky Way, but can extend through the universes that also have alternate Milky Ways fine (I don’t understand the rationale since the way the mycelial network has been described it seemingly permeates the everything, but I’ve let Trek take liberties with their tech since the days of TOS).

I’m not surprised Gilligan’s Island survived to the 32nd century. It’s a classic!

Love that photo with SMG in the middle of the helm. I definitely would love to have it as a poster.

The V’draysh loves Betty Boop.

Well, I’ve never seen it. But I’ve sort of “seen” it in an episode of ALF…

Those poor people…

By Grabthor’s Hammer…

The Vorta do enjoy Jerry Lewis, for some reason.

The Galactic Barrier is too obviously a convenient plot device. If it’s there at the rim of Milky Way, why not move above or below galactic plane to bypass it? Unless… It’s there as an artificial construct of Species 10-C. It appears only when (and where) a star ship tries to leave (or enter) our galaxy, to block its path. I think that’s where this is heading. After Discovery succeeds in “negotiations” with 10-C, the Galactic Barrier will have a temporary “hole” and they can go home. Why go to another galaxy? How do they get there, with spore drive not working in intergalactic space? The spore drive is an integral part of this show, to quickly get from place to place.

I was under the impression that the mycelial network breaks up is is interfered with at the galactic barrier but then reappears on the other side. Am I wrong about that?

Yeah, I’ve wondered about that….
Captain, the probe is blocking our path!!
Sulu, we’re in space, with warp drive. Go around it…..

I do love this theory and been saying for a long long time now I would love to see Star Trek eventually expand to other galaxies. It’s a little surprising by the 32nd century no one has done that yet (or at least no one from other galaxies has made their way here) but not a big deal.

However if they are leaving the galaxy I don’t think it’s going to be a permanent thing either. I just can’t fathom why they would do that and have both the Vulcan and Federation Presidents on the same ship as well? That would be a huge loss to the Federation, especially in the state it’s in right now and why it would seem odd to me. So I don’t see this as another Voyager situation and they probably will find a way back sooner. But sure I can see them being in another galaxy for a little while, even all next season since it’s serialized and time can move much slower in that format. Discovery may only be gone a month in term of season five’s duration. But yeah I hope this theory proves true and they are going to face a new frontier, even if only temporary.

And this just came to me, but didn’t we see Tilly showing up again in the trailer for the later season? I’m sure she is suppose to show up again but I can’t remember if we saw her on the ship or not. But if she’s seen on the ship, then chances are the ship makes it back to the Alpha Quadrant by the finale.

Tilly was seen at Starfleet HQ with Vance, we considered that but it is still consistent with the theory

OK, gotcha! I honestly couldn’t remember.

My guess is that they will succeed in asking 10-C to stop mining, but 10-C will misinterpret it as leaving the galaxy altogether when they realize there is sentient life inside. So they will be stranded inside the hyperfield, which is filled with wormholes to many different galaxies that the 10-C is mining. They don’t know which one leads to Milky Way, so they will need to try all 1300 of them one by one…

Ooh sounds like it could make for a pseudo Sliders mashup!

What about the Gary Mitchel story after crossing the galactic barrier and obtaining “godlike powers”. Is this no longer an effect from the barrier and are there no records of this incident in future?

I think they covered that by mentioning whatever was protecting the shields was also protecting their biological systems as well. I can’t remember the exact line though.

And it’s been 900 years since what happened to Mitchel. You would think by now they have studied the effects enough and found ways to counteract them.

How did the TOS Enterprise ever reach the barrier in the first place? Sometimes you just have to ignore TOS when it makes no sense.

Delta Vega and the ESPer incident happened in mid-disk, at the “top” of the dish— just “up” from central UFP space. In the thin profile of the galaxy —not way out at the edge of the disk. (That’s been our retcon the last 20 years in the licensed and now screen-seen Trek star charts/ Stellar Cartography).

Really? Ok, that’s cool if that is the case!

Ohhhh… Sit right back abd you’ll hear a take, a tale of a fateful trip.,..

I said the same thing on another chat board. The three hour tour and the Bryce conversation was a dead giveaway

But they never got to say goodbye to Tilly. Wonder why.

There’s really no point in exploring an entire other galaxy. The galaxy of the 32nd century is changed enough and is *still* big enough that they don’t have to to some marketing buzz-hype “look a new galaxy!!” nonsense.

What are they going to find in the new galaxy? More bipedal humanoids and latex prosthetics…oooo…ahhh…..so different…wow…

But if they do get stuck – it’s another classic season long epic dilema for the unluckiest ship in Trekverse

Agreed. The 32nd century was just starting to feel truly large and expansive (which IMO, DISCO has struggled with), so there’s no need to wipe the slate clean again and throw them into another setting, which is going to feel a hell of a lot like the current setting in terms of aliens and plot devices. My personal hope is that the 10-C reject all attempts at diplomacy and start a massive war, across multiple galaxies.

“Star Trek.” “Star Trek: The Animated Series.” “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” “Star Trek: Voyager.” “Star Trek: Enterprise.”

And the rest.

I sense you’re trying to send a message there…

That’s like a 1000+ hour tour.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. If anything it tells us that Kovich is a history buff.

Not crazy about them introducing Gilligan’s Island references. That kind of reference should be reserved for one of the juvenile-targeted cartoon Trek series.

Why, Star Trek has often referenced the 20th century. The characters always seem to love the sports, music, cars, etc. Why is a specific goofy TV show your line in the sand?

Well for one, these references accelerate “the dating” of these shows over time. For instance, the “only Nixon could go to China” line from Spock in STVI doesn’t hold up well today for viewers under 40 who are not history majors. But that at least was a historical event one might argue could be brought up in conversation a coupe hundred years from now. By contrast, Gilligan’s Island is a 50+ old sitcom, for crying out loud…lol. It’s hard to believe that would come up in conversation 200 years from now.

Secondly, I personally don’t like it because it takes me out of the moment in the ep. I want future drama and conversation not cute references to old tv shows. My preference and opinion!

I Just hope if Discovery strands on a planet outside the galaxy, it won’t be a season set in the Query they use for every alien planet ;). No, I’m just making fun, but it looks like they are heavily hinting that Discovery will be “lost” and will have trouble getting back. Maybe that’s why the Ni’Var prime minister is on board, to give Saru a story arc in season 5.

Disco end of the season and the start of season 5 theory: Species 10-C will be nonexistent, may be extinct in the finale, the mining is automatic, and the climax will be that the Disco crew has to stop the automatic mining procedure. In solving the problem something similar like in season 3 will happen, somehow to stop the thing they will need to enter the wormhole and will be thrown into another galaxy. Because the spore drive doesn’t work in the intergalactic space, the purpose of season 5 will be to find a way home like Voyager. Maybe they will even extend the Voyage Home ;) to season 7 if it comes to that. This way the writers could really tell new stories, invent new species,… What do you think?

P.S.: Now I’ll actually go and read the article, It looks like a lot of what I wrote is already a working theory :)

Perhaps more important, what was it that took Kovich away that is even more pressing?

They could be doing a different setting every 2 seasons.

1,2 – Prime Alpha Quadrant
3,4 – 32 century Alpha Quad
5,6 – ??
7 – Back to 23rd Century Alpha Quad for finale ?!

I buy the premise but what about Tilly and Gray?

There is some speculation that Tilly will be the lead for the Starfleet Academy show that is in development.

now I can’t see Saru without him wearing that hat.

Discovery is a show that doesn’t know what it is. It is a prequel! Uh, no, scratch that idea. It is in the far future! Yeah, but that doesn’t seem to be working. Let’s try Gilligan’s Island…? When the creatives signal they don’t have enough confidence in the premise of the show, why should I?

Do you know how tired that sounds? You’ve also just described the story development for virtually every single Trek movie, yet they keep making them. And we go stomping off the theaters to watch.

Okay. Peace.

I think they shouldn’t do that. We need to see more of the 32nd century first. Going to other galaxies is the stuff for another spin-off… Voyager-J comes to mind…

However, haven’t the producers said they are still working on getting to the situation we saw in the Short Treks Calypso?
Tying this theory to that story could be hard to do.

When you look at some of the Discovery storylines, it makes Gilligan’s Island look like Hamlet.

Produced by Harold Hecuba.

Jimmy, and to think that particular episode was directed by Ida Lupino.

The Milky Way is a vast playing field, but sadly, the don’t know how to play it. Jumping to a different galaxy won’t improve the lack of worldbuilding of the show, which is still one of the weak links. I keep watching because it’s Star Trek and I hope something interesting will happen, but so far, the 10-C mystery is shaping up to become another red angel/burn. But I agree that the ship will probably not return to the Alpha Qudrant in the finale.

Prepare for the first starship repairs to be made using nothing but coconuts and bamboo.

It’s just probably a simple idiom that’s survived the centuries, like “spill the beans”, or “crossing the Rubicon” for example.

Has anyone noticed the last image on this page of Discovery at warp has the nacelles are not attached by the superconductors?