Series / Star Trek: Discovery

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"Universal law is for lackeys. Context is for kings."
Captain Gabriel Lorca

Star Trek: Discovery is the sixth live-action Star Trek television series. It premiered on September 24th, 2017 and has been renewed for a second season. It is produced by Alex Kurtzman, with a writing staff that includes Bryan Fuller and Nicholas Meyer. Developed by CBS, Discovery it airs in the United States on their streaming service CBS All Access as well as in Canada on Space Channel and CraveTV; the show is also broadcast to the rest of the world (bar Mainland China) on Netflix.

The show is set in the "prime timeline" of the Star Trek universe (as opposed to the Kelvin timeline), about ten years before the five-year mission on the original Star Trek, and follows the voyages of the Federation starship USS Discovery. It largely eschews episodic plots in favor of season-long serialized stories; the first season, at least so far, concerns the cold war with the Klingon Empire breaking into open hostilities.

The cast includes Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca of the Discovery, Sonequa Martin-Green as Science Officer Michael Burnham (a human raised by Vulcans), Doug Jones as First Officer Saru (a science officer of the previously-unseen Kelpian species), Mary Wiseman as Cadet Sylvia Tilly, Anthony Rapp as Lt. Paul Stamets (space fungus expert), Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber (a medical officer and Stamets' love interest), Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd (a Con Man), Shazad Latif as Lieutenant Ash Tyler, and Rekha Sharma as Commander Landry, Chief of Security. Also appearing are James Frain as Spock's father Sarek and Michelle Yeoh as Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. Klingons include Chris Obi as T'Kuvma, a charismatic visionary who wants to unite the 24 warring clans into one cohesive empire; Mary Chieffo as L'Rell, a Battle Deck Commander on his ship; and Javid Iqbal as Voq, a clanless and albino Klingon who serves him.

Preceding the show's launch were five promo videos:


Tropes:

  • Adaptation Personality Change:
    • Harry Mudd was changed from a mere con man to a stone-cold killer and traitor to the Federation. That said, Mudd did have an extensive criminal record shown in TOS, including smuggling and selling of stolen goods, so it's easy to imagine that his past contained more than fraud and scams.
    • Also Stella, Harry’s fiancée. In TOS, she was portrayed as a one-note harridan who was always nagging Harry about something. In “Discovery” she is much younger and more sympathetic, if a bit of a spoiled brat. This may simply be due to Harry being an Unreliable Narrator when it comes to her personality, and he may have decided to Accentuate the Negative to an absurd degree.
  • The Alliance: The anti-Terran resistance in the mirror universe, which includes Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites, among others. Burnham goes so far as to suggest that the rebels may be the closest thing this universe has to The Federation.
  • And I Must Scream: Lorca and his co-conspirators were sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in agony booths for their coup attempt, and by the time he bails them out they've been in there for the better part of a year already. Oddly, their sanity doesn't seem to have been affected.
  • Anyone Can Die: Aside from Burnham, no characters new to this series appear to be safe from suddenly biting it.
  • Art Evolution:
    • The Klingons have a more drastic, inhuman look compared to their original designs which, given the time period the series takes place, are supposed to be their contemporaries.
    • On the other hand, things like phasers and communicators look much as they did in TOS, albeit better constructed given the show is in HD.
    • And when the USS Enterprise shows up in the very final scene, it looks like the classic Constitution-class, but with a few design echoes of the movie refit..
  • Artistic License – Biology: In "Choose Your Pain", Burnham states that Ripper, "like its microscopic cousins on Earth", is capable of integrating foreign DNA into its genome by horizontal gene transfer. This plot point appears to have been inspired by a 2014 scientific paper that was found to be erroneous (the authors apparently mistook DNA of surrounding organisms as having been imported into the tardigrade specimen when it hadn't been).
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety:
    • Phasers are generally treated with a degree of respect and kept off or on the stun setting when they're not being used in combat. However, on one occasion, Admiral Cornwell angrily shoots a bowl of fortune cookies with a phaser set to maximum kill in a briefing room at a table surrounded by other people; a situation that could very easily have resulted in accidentally vaporising someone.
    • There is also the Star Trek-specific example of standing on the transporter pads with weapons at the ready. While this means pointing their weapons at the transporter operator, it also means being able to quickly engage the enemy when they beam into the middle of their ship. Also, since the phasers are presumably set to stun, at worst they accidentally knock out the operator for a few minutes.
  • Artistic License – Law: In "Context Is for Kings", Burnham suspects Captain Lorca is developing biological weapons aboard Discovery and cites the Geneva Conventions' ban on them to him. There's a couple of problems with this:
    • In real life, the Geneva Conventions actually don't outlaw bioweapons; those are covered by a different set of treaties (the 1925 Geneva Protocol prohibits their use but not their creation, while the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention outlaws them altogether). However, in addition to citing the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention as above, Burnham also cites a fictional 22nd-century version of the Conventions under which these are covered.
    • In "The Battle at the Binary Stars", Burnham and Captain Georgiou attach a torpedo warhead to a corpse so T'Kuvma's ship will collect the body and allow the warhead to go off within their ship. This directly violates Article 6 of 1980 Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions, which pertains to attaching booby-traps to wounded or dead persons. This makes her complaint to Lorca rather hypocritical.
  • As You Know:
    • The show begins with Burnham explaining things to the Captain that she would surely know this deep into the away-mission.
    • Saru also explains the backstory of his race to Burnham, which you'd think she'd know by now since they've both been serving on the same ship for seven years.
  • Author Appeal: Despite Bryan Fuller leaving before the start of production, Michael continues his trend of female characters with typically male names.
  • Batman Gambit: Captain Lorca pulls a very roundabout one on Michael Burnham. By this point, she's built up quite a negative reputation. So, when she's recruited in a sketchy way for a sketchy mission, she assumes pretty quickly that she was chosen because of her reputation and will jump at the chance to escape punishment. She specifically defies this, saying she wants to be punished, so he reveals that he picked her because of the real her and not the popular misconception of her, convincing her that above it all he does mean well. As it turns out, Lorca anticipated this outcome and set up the scenario so she would trust him, failing to realize he does have morally gray intentions which he intends for her to aid without realizing it).
  • Big Bad: Season 1: In general the Klingons are the big bad with different leaders as arc villains; the secondary arc has Gabriel Lorca as a Big Bad Wannabe trying to usurp Emperor Phillipa Georgiou.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Klingon-Federation war ends with L'Rell forcing the divided Houses to unite as one with her as Chancellor and her first order being their retreat from Federation space, Michael Burnham is officially pardoned & reinstated to her previous rank of Commander, and the entire crew receives the Medal of Honour, with Silvia Tilly & Paul Stamets promoted to Ensign & Lieutenant-Commander respectively. BUT a third of Starfleet was destroyed along with most of its command staff, Captain Gabriel Lorca was exposed as an impostor, and the mirror version of Captain Philippa Georgiou is still out there.
  • Bling of War: Starfleet uniforms, despite Starfleet not being a "military" organization, use this trope, with bronze, silver, or gold piping to denote Operations, Science, and Command specialties. The Mirror Universe Terran Empire takes this Up to Eleven, with captains wearing full-on gold vests with Shoulders of Doom.)
  • Bloodless Carnage. Fully averted. The Klingons sure love their bat'leths, and you can expect to see a spray of blood whenever they get to use them. Even Starfleet phasers set to kill can do this, as seen with T'Kuvma.
  • Book Ends: The first half-season starts and ends with a face-off between a Federation starship and the Sarcophagus. They even have the same helmswoman for the heroes' ship in both episodes. Where the first battle ends in a massive defeat for the Starfleet forces, the second battle ends with the one-sided defeat of the Klingons.
    • The first and last episodes of the first episode have Burnham considering a mutiny while debating the practical value of Federation ideals. The first time she mutinies against Captain Georgiou to try and attack the Klingons, but is opposed by the crew, the latter time she threatens to mutiny against Admiral Cornwell when they are tasked with a mission that violates those ideals, and this time her crew supports her in order to save the Klingons. As a result, she is imprisoned and stripped of her commission in the pilot, and pardoned and reinstated in the season finale.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: T'Kuvma's flagship is implied to be ancient, but he happily takes it into battle against the Federation after fixing it up some.
  • Bury Your Gays: The show received a lot of both praise and criticism for finally introducing a gay couple into the franchise's canon, so it was all the more startling and upsetting when this trope was invoked by the death of Hugh just over halfway through the first season.
  • The Butcher: Mirror Burnham is known as "The Butcher of the Binary Stars" for murdering thousands of Klingons in cold blood.
  • Cassandra Truth: Burnham keeps telling everyone that the Klingons cannot be reasoned with and will attack. Captain Georgiou and Admiral Anderson, the two people who need to believe her the most, do not. This has fatal consequences for the both of them, and eight thousand others.
  • Catch-Phrase: T'Kuvma considers "We come in peace" to be the Federation's catchphrase. He also considers it a lie.
  • Commander Contrarian: Burnham initially plays this role as the aggressive, hawkish Number Two to the more patient and calculating Captain Georgiou aboard the USS Shenzhou.
  • Cool Starship:
    • Par for the course in Star Trek, but special mention has to go to T'Kuvma's incredibly ornate flagship, the Sarcophagus. The hull is covered with coffins as a form of "symbolic armor".
    • Likewise the Terran Imperial Flagship Charon, which is the size of a city and has an ornate superstructure containing what looks like a miniature sun that powers the entire vessel.
    • The U.S.S. Enterprise makes a cameo at the end of the first season, slightly modernized but still very much the same ship seen in Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • Cosmetically Advanced Prequel:
    • Computer screens and ship designs all look like they came from the Kelvin timeline, not the TOS era. Captain Georgiou mentions that the Shenzhou is an old ship, which could explain its resemblance to the ships of Star Trek: Enterprise, but this doesn't excuse the Discovery and her contemporaries having terminals with holographic displays, which make the tech 100 years later look primitive by comparison.
    • The props, however, such as the phasers, tricorders, communicators, etc., seem very close to the original designs while still looking futuristic.
  • Costume Porn: The Klingons in this series have some damn fancy uniforms. As do seemingly all officers of the Mirror Universe.
    • Starfleet's uniforms are also rather ornate, in a subtle way: The metallic highlights on their uniforms are made up of many tiny Starfleet logos.
  • Crapsack World: While the mirror universe is usually Black Comedy combined with Evil Is Cool, "The Wolf Inside" gives us a glimpse of what it's like to actually live there. The result is one of the bleakest episodes of Star Trek ever, and after just two days there, Burnham is terrified that she's Becoming the Mask during her mission to impersonate her counterpart.
    "I can't rest here, not really. I open my eyes, and it's like waking from the worst nightmare. Even the light is different. The cosmos has lost its brilliance, and everywhere I turn... there's fear."
  • Darker and Edgier: Discovery follows the example set by the rebooted Star Trek movies in being more action-oriented, cynical, and violent than the previous TV shows in the franchise. More literally, even the lighting aboard Starfleet ships is darker than ever before (justified, at least for the Discovery, by Captian Lorca's photosensitivity).
    • Apart from the aforementioned stronger focus on action, the show is also more explicit and gratuitous in its depiction of violence, including many instances of Cruel and Unusual Death – ranging from a literally "twisted" death via spore drive malfunction to someone getting ripped up by a rhino-sized tardigrade, execution via space vacuum and several forms of total disintegration.
  • Dawson Casting: As a fourth-year cadet (eventually comissioned and holding the rank of ensign in the Season 1 finale), the character of Sylvia Tilly is supposed to be in her early twenties (most likely 22 or 23 by the end of the first season), whereas the actress portraying her, Mary Wiseman, was actually 32 (the same age as Burnham-actress Sonequa Martin-Green) when the season was shot.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Discovery starts off far more violent than past Star Trek shows, and the main conflict kicks off when a character believes in peace and diplomacy so much, they walk right into a trap that starts a terrible war. The main characters end up being crew with a strong 'ends justify the means' attitude, with a captain working on ethically-ambiguous technology and a security officer who treats others as subhuman. However, things start to change as the security officer's own arrogance gets her killed, a different solution is found for the experimental technology, and the turning point in the war comes when the heroes disobey orders in order to defend a peaceful planet even after it betrayed them. In the first season finale, Michael reminds the crew and Admiral Cornwall that Starfleet's principals are important, even in times of war. The conflicts against Emperor Georgiou and the Klingon Empire are resolved through diplomacy, which is in keeping with the values of the franchise. Still fully deconstructed is the idea that "humanity has evolved beyond our darker impulses" (early The Next Generation, and what Burnham attempts with Vulcan training), but the new message is that humans can keep those impulses from controlling them in each moment (while the Mirror Universe is presented as a warning of the downward spiral of fear that results when they don't).
  • Decoy Protagonist: Though Michelle Yeoh plays Captain Georgiou of the Shenzhou, and Jason Isaacs plays Captain Lorca of the eponymous USS Discovery, this is the first Star Trek series in which The Captain is not the Main Character. Instead, it's Cmdr. Michael Burnham, who starts off as Number Two to Capt. Georgiou.
    • Captain Georgiou dies in the second episode.
    • T'Kuvma winds up being a Decoy Antagonist, shot by Burnham moments after he killed Georgiou.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • T'Kuvma engages in a lot of Fantastic Racism against the Federation and finds the idea of forging a common union of multiple species to be disgusting. He also strongly dislikes the idea they claim to come in peace and absorbing other nations through means other than combat. Part of this may also be him being Entertainingly Wrong as he believes their claims of being peaceful explorers are lies.
    • Sarek highlights the issue by pointing out the Klingons only would be willing to discuss peace with a race which has shown itself to be violent and ruthless like themselves.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The opening titles.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Two different kinds.
    • The prologue spends time building up a few characters who don't make it to the series proper.
    • A variant occurs with Ash Tyler and Captain Lorca. Both of them get a decent amount of focus and Character Development, before each one gets a reveal that the character we thought we knew is technically dead, and much of that development was a lie or other cover.
  • Disc-One Final Boss:
    • T'Kuvma is built up as the ultimate villain of the series, but Michael kills him at the end of the second episode.
    • Kol is the villain for the first half of season one, but is blown up along with his ship in episode nine.
  • Disintegrator Ray: While phasers set to kill often leave holes in people, Klingon and Terran weapons seem to make their target vanish.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Fully averted. As a prisoner, Lt. Ash Tyler was raped by the Klingon captain L'Rell. It's not played for laughs. Possibly averted in another way, given the reveal that Tyler is actually Voq. It's quite possible the rape he remembers was actually consensual sex from before his transformation.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The Klingons' movement is reminiscent of both far right-wing American groups and Middle-Eastern terror groups. Additionally, T'Kuvma's plan to unify barbaric warring aliens in order to overthrow the Federation resembles Fu Manchu's plan to unify The East in order to destroy The West.
    • The way they're portrayed is almost like the Klingon version of the The Fundamentalist. They're a splinter religious group that no one on the (supposedly diverse) High Council takes seriously, no matter what problems they have with each other, until the of T'Kuvma activates the ancient Beacon. After that, most are pissed because his is bound by faith and not by blood or marriage, and he basically calls himself the Klingon Messiah— but a few are intrigued.
    • The casual racism toward humans displayed by some Vulcans toward Burnham (and other humans) could have been lifted straight from the way black and other visible minority Americans were (and sometimes still are) treated by white authorities. Burnham being a black woman merely makes the point clearer. That being said, however, racism from Vulcans to humans is not something new- it was first brought up back in TOS in the way that Spock was teased for being half-human, and further examples were seen in ENT.
    • After inspecting data on the mirror universe, Burnham describes the fascist, oppressive, xenophobic Terran Empire as being motivated by fear — specifically, "an unconditional hatred and rejection of anything and everything Other." Real Life psychological studies have revealed that political conservatives are indeed driven primarily by fear. This takes on extra weight when Burnham — a Starfleet officer, a main character in a franchise that has always skewed politically liberal — describes them as "the exact antithesis of us."
  • Doomed by Canon: One way or another, Discovery's propulsion experiments will not be adopted by Starfleet, nor will the technology spread beyond the Federation (so far as we know). 200 years later, warp drive is still the standard.
    • Likewise, the Klingons won't destroy the Federation- the Federation is still around ten years later, in Kirk's time, so the crusade is doomed to failure.
  • Duel to the Death: Burnham challenges Kol to a mek'leth duel in "Into The Forest I Go", buying time for Discovery to figure out his cloaking frequencies.
  • The Empire: The Klingon Empire, as well as the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe.
  • Energy Beings: the Pahvans are glowy-blue particle clouds that manifest a planetary life force and live in symbiosis with the forests of their world. They lack spaceflight and don't seem to use any conventional technology.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Georgiou is crushed that her first officer who she thought was ready for her own command would try to mutiny against her. Burnham, in turn, is heartbroken when Ash turns out to be a Klingon Manchurian Agent and nearly murders her.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Lorca, even before he's revealed to be a Terran infiltrator.
  • Evil Is Bigger: T'Kuvma's Sarcophagus and the Terran flagship, the I.S.S. Charon, are the biggest and baddest starships in the series so far.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Emperor Georgiou opts to die fighting Lorca's troops after defeating his coup attempt, reasoning that her perceived vulnerability means she has no future in the Empire. Burnham ends up beaming her out instead, unable to let her die again.
  • Flanderization: In Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: Enterprise, the Terran Empire is an expansionist power that treats non-humans like second-class citizens but still allows them to serve in Starfleet. In Discovery, Terrans are Absolute Xenophobes fundamentally devoted to the enslavement or extermination of all aliens in the name of their Emperor.
  • Flock of Wolves: After the revelations of the rest of the first season, it turns out that Lorca's cell on L'rell's ship in Choose Your Pain held exactly zero loyal Federation members. Mudd is an opportunist out for himself and has already been turned by the Klingons, Tyler is actually Voq in heavy disguise and Lorca is a Mirror Universe Terran. The only guy who might have been loyal would be the prisoner who was killed by the Klingons shortly after the episode's start.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • We knew Burnham wouldn't stay imprisoned for her mutiny, but would eventually be given a place on Discovery. The question was over who would have the muscle to pull those strings for her. It turns out that it was Captain Lorca apparently arranging her presence on his ship.
    • The new biological propulsion system won't have any wide-ranging effect on interstellar travel, given what we know about the state of warp drive for the next century or so in the Prime continuity.
    • The Federation and the Klingon Empire will eventually make peace and revert to a cold war, or else neither side would continue to exist ten years later. Likewise, nothing too drastic will happen to Earth or Qo'noS since both planets are seen in other series later on.
    • Deep Space Nine showed that ultimately, it doesn't really matter who is the Emperor or Empress in the Mirror Universe. As a result of the TOS episode "Mirror Mirror," Spock becomes Emperor, then the Empire is conquered by the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In "Lethe", Vice Admiral Cornwell reminisces with Captain Lorca about a past event, and Lorca appears to not remember, only to say he's considering how long it has been since. It sets up the reveal that Lorca is actually his Mirror Universe self.
    • In "Context is for Kings", Burnham quotes several lines from Alice in Wonderland while crawling through a maintenance shaft. Beyond the obvious reference (the book being important to Burnham, and her crawling down a proverbial rabbit-hole), the book also happens to have a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. While this may not have been intentional, it foreshadows the coming trip to the Mirror Universe.
    • In "Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum", after Stamets leaves the spore drive chamber, he looks at Tilly and dazedly calls her 'captain'. When USS Discovery finds its way to the Mirror Universe, it turns out that Tilly is the captain of the ISS Discovery.
    • Over the course of the first chapter, there is a recurring motif of mirrors and reflections. Lorca, Stamets and Burnham are involved particularly often, and all three are revealed to have some ties to the Mirror-Universe.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Defied. Not only does Burnham take the deaths caused by the war seriously (since she believes the whole thing is totally her fault), but one of the major deaths early in the season continues to be referenced on a regular basis. This sounds pretty normal for fiction, but is exceptional on Star Trek, which got pretty lazy about Red Shirts (in season one, Kirk takes their deaths seriously; by season three he doesn't bat an eye) and rarely had a lot of ripples from major Character Deaths such as Tasha Yar and Ziyal.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Burnham's first job on Discovery is to debug two pieces of computer code, which turns out to be C++ code taken from the Microsoft Windows kernel. Rest assured programmers, you'll have job security well into the 23rd Century (and Windows will still be causing bugs).
  • Fun with Acronyms: While they simply call it the "spore drive", Stamets' scientific name for it is the Displacement-Activated Spore Hub drive. Given how it effectively allows them to teleport across the galaxy, far outstripping conventional warp drive in terms of FTL travel, the DASH drive seems rather fitting, even if it's never been said.
  • The Future Is Noir: Frequently used, especially around Captain Lorca, whose eye condition makes him sensitive to bright light. Taken Up to Eleven in the mirror universe.
  • Gambit Roulette: L'Rell and Voq's plan hinges on a prisoner of war, who's suffered months of horrendous torture, being immediately assigned to one of Starfleet's most sensitive and trusted positions. Furthermore, he should gather information and/or influence without even being aware he's an enemy agent.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Burnham is a woman named Michael, which is an homage to Bryan Fuller's tendency to use these. Lampshaded by Tilly in the third episode, who (not knowing the identity of her new roommate) jokes, "The only female named Michael I've heard of is Michael Burnham, the mutineer. You're not her, are you?"
  • Genghis Gambit: The premise of the show is T'Kuvma attempting to unite the 24 Great Houses of the Klingon Empire by getting them into a war with the Federation. He effectively does this by Shaming the Mob and showing he's willing to take on the Federation by himself. The fact he shows he's capable of taking the Federation on by himself and stalemating them shows they're not undefeatable either. Then T'Kuvma is martyred by being shot in the back by a Federation officer too.
  • Ghost Ship:
    • The USS Glenn, in "Context is for Kings". For extra creepiness, it's Discovery's sister ship and has the same internal layout.
    • The derelict USS Shenzhou is boarded and pillaged by the Klingons in episode four.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In a literal sense; in the aftermath of the Battle at the Binary Stars, Georgiou, Burnham and Saru use a photon torpedo warhead attached to the corpse of a dead Klingon being retrieved for burial to inflict severe damage to T'Kuvma's flagship. It gives them an opportunity for Georgiou and Burnham to beam aboard the Klingons' vessel and attempt to capture T'Kuvma during the chaos. This ends badly; T'Kuvma kills Georgiou and is immediately shot to death by Burnham, making T'Kuvma a martyr for the rest of the Klingon Empire.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Episode seven, "Magic To Make The Sanest Man Go Mad", involves a time loop instigated by Harry Mudd as he tries to take control of Discovery.
  • Hotter and Sexier: This has mostly been averted, despite Discovery being a made-for-streaming series where such things are the norm. The only exception is a very brief flashback sex scene between Tyler/Voq and L'Rell. Even the Terran uniforms of the Mirror Universe aren't Stripperiffic compared to those seen in the Original Series and in 'Enterprise''. In the last episode of the first season Emperor Georgiou gets to make out with a male and a female Orion prostitute, though only the aftermath is shown.
  • Hyperspeed Ambush: The Discovery's unique spore drive allows it to drop right on top of Klingon forces without warning, making for in-universe Paranoia Fuel for the entire Empire. This is deconstructed as well, since as Captain Lorca points out, if they are not ready to take down the Klingons immediately upon pulling this tactic, they run the risk of being rapidly overwhelmed since no other Starfleet ship has this abilitynote , and thus they will never have any backup.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: The pieces of equipment that Burnham and Tyler wear or set up while sneaking onto the Klingons' Ship of the Dead in "Into the Forest I Go" helpfully glow brightly, spin visibly, or emit verbal pronouncements that they are actively functioning. One of the beacons Burnham sets up is on the Klingon bridge, right in front of a manned control console. Fortunately for the Discovery crew, and for all of the Federation, an entire massive ship full of Klingons collectively Failed a Spot Check.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Lorca, courtesy of Emperor Georgiou. Then he's Thrown Out the Airlock right into the Charon's mycelial reactor for good measure.
  • Killed Off for Real: The first season killed off the likes of:
  • Interquel: The series begins in 2256, ten years before TOS and a full century after Star Trek: Enterprise.
  • Klingon Promotion: Turns out this is an amazing way to get respect in the Terran Empire. Burnham has to fight the captain of the I.S.S. Shenzhou, killing him in self-defense, and the crew applauds her for her victory, hailing her as the returned captain.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Captain Lorca knows the universe doesn't share the lofty ideals of The Federation, and is determined to do whatever it takes to protect them.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Subverted. Unlike previous versions of Star Trek where the main characters were The Captain and their senior staff, the focus in this series is on the busted-down Burnham who mostly hangs around with Lt. Stamets in the science division and Cadet Tilly. However, the captain and first officer remain important characters, Stamets is ambiguously the Chief Engineer, Tyler is assigned to Chief of Security, and the remaining main characters all interact heavily with these and are assigned all of the important missions. It's not revealed who the other senior officers on the ship are, but they aren't actually important. For instance, Dr. Culber takes on all of the plot relevant medical cases, even when there's a conflict of interest, so who the actual Chief Medical Officer is becomes irrelevant.
  • Ludicrous Precision:
    • Due to her actions on the Shenzhou, Burnham understandably foregoes the approximations relating to the war's death toll in "Context is for Kings". It also serves as a callback (though, chronologically, a call forward) to Spock's numerical precision.
      Prisoner: My cousin was on the Europa when it went down. She and eight thousand others are dead because of you.
      Burnham: Eight thousand, one hundred and eighty-six.
    • Also Played for Laughs in the prologue: Burnham calculates, down to the second, how much time they have before a nearby storm overtakes them. Then it turns out she was off by a pretty significant factor when the storm is suddenly bearing down on them.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything:
    • The Shenzhou beams a raiding party onto a Klingon vessel that consists solely of Captain Georgiou and First Officer Burnham. They're rather quickly overwhelmed, and Georgiou gets killed.
    • In "Context is for Kings", the away team sent to the USS Glenn consists of four main characters and a Red Shirt, but all four are justified in their presence on the mission. Burnham, Stamets, and Tilly are all scientists, the latter two specifically experts in the accident they're been sent to investigate while Burnham works in the same field and is a quick study, and Landry is Chief of Security and naturally brought along the Red Shirt because he's part of her security staff. And as Burnham deduced, the away team mission is also a secret test by Captain Lorca.
    • However, in a bit of an inversion from the Star Trek norm, Lorca himself is very rarely shown taking part in away missions, reflecting the original remit of TNG that the captain stays aboard and the first officer and crew go into harm's way, although in this series, First Officer Saru also rarely leaves the ship.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Captain Georgiou is stabbed in the heart during a duel with T'Kuvma.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • In the fourth episode, "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not For The Lamb's Cry", Commander Landry is critically wounded when she tries to sedate and vivisect Ripper. She survives long enough to be brought to sickbay, however, where Dr. Culber applies a hypospray to her moments before she dies. It may have been a painkiller; or it may have quietly been a method of euthanasia (or perhaps both).
    • Lorca reveals in "Choose Your Pain" that when his old command was captured by the Klingons six months prior, he blew it up and killed his entire crew to spare them the torture and humiliation they'd receive as prisoners. However, this claim must be taken with many pinches of salt, since Lorca later turns out to be his Mirror Universe counterpart.
    • In "Vaulting Ambition", after realising that Ash Tyler and Voq can't coexist because Klingon supremacist Voq can't handle being in a human body, L'Rell intentionally wipes Voq's personality and merges his memories with Tyler's.
  • Mirror Universe: Discovery ends up in the mirror universe in "Despite Yourself" thanks to a botched jump, launching a multi-episode story arc.
  • Misblamed: The female convict in "Context is for Kings" blames Burnham for her cousin's death at the Battle of the Binary Stars, even though her attempted mutiny on the Shenzhou had no impact on the battle whatsoever. While Burnham did prolong the war by martyring T'Kuvma afterward, the battle was largely over by then.
  • The Mutiny: When Captain Georgiou refuses to fire on the Klingons to prove that they are willing to defend themselves, Michael nerve-pinches her and takes over the ship. Georgiou manages to get back up and stop Michael before she can do anything though.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Discovery's design is based on concept art from the cancelled Made-for-TV Movie Star Trek: Planet of the Titans which evolved into the defunct Star Trek: Phase II, a canned sequel to Star Trek: The Original Series that was turned into Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
      • A notable loudspeaker announcement audible in the background of "Into the Forest I Go:"
      "Cadet Decker, report to the ready room."
      • This may also be a reference to Commodore Matt Decker from the Original Series episode "The Doomsday Machine".
    • The Shenzhou and her crew end up in serious trouble at the hands of the Klingons near the territory of the Klingon Empire. At the start of 2009's Star Trek, the U.S.S. Kelvin is patrolling the Klingon border when it encounters Nero and the Narada and comes under assault.
    • The design of the U.S.S. Shenzhou seems remarkably similar to NX-class and Akira-class ships from other Trek series, and has the same basic layout as the seldom-seen Centaur-class; not to mention non-canon depictions of the Luna-class. The main difference from other previously-seen Starfleet ships is that the bridge appears to be on the underside of the Shenzhou's primary hull.
    • The USS Discovery, meanwhile, has gaps in its primary hull that, while smaller and understated, mirror the design of the USS Vengeance from Star Trek Into Darkness.
    • The captain of the ship is killed, the first officer survives to do great things, a villain uses the abandoned ship against the Federation. Aside from the reputation gained, not too different from Picard's background.
    • Apparently, Klingons enjoy eating fried Ceti Eels, as they're sold on the streets of Qo'noS.
    • Possibly Unintentional, but [https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2229.html it is not the first time an Enterprise meet nose to nose with Discovery]
  • Named After Somebody Famous:
    • The U.S.S. Glenn was apparently named for American astronaut John Glenn.
    • Lieutenant Paul Stamets was named after a real-life mycologist (fungus expert).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Michael Burnham has this from the entire Federation who believe she started the war with the Klingon Empire. They're Entertainingly Wrong as T'Kuvma always intended to start the war. However, they're also right that Michael could have stopped the war outright by taking T'Kuvma prisoner instead of killing him in a moment of anger.
    • Killing Kol makes the Klingon Empire an even greater threat to the Federation. Without a strong leader to keep them in check, the great houses commit horrific atrocities against the Federation as part of their competition for dominance and the Federation can't strategize against an enemy that follows no logic in its attacks.
  • No Endor Holocaust: You'd think seven months of total war with the Klingons would have amassed far more than 10,000 Starfleet casualties, but that's the number Tyler cites in "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad". For the record, that's less than the number of people killed a century later at the battle of Wolf 349.
  • Obligatory War-Crime Scene:
    • In "Battle at the Binary Stars", T'Kuvma pulls an I Surrender, Suckers on Admiral Anderson and the U.S.S. Europa. Captain Georgiou retaliates by having a photon torpedo warhead attached to the corpse of one the dead Klingons doing some Dramatic Space Drifting, and then detonating it as a Trojan Horse when T'Kuvma retrieves the bodies after the battle with a Tractor Beam. It's a mixture of Combat Pragmatism and ensuring that the Federation protagonists are at least "grey" in the Grey and Black Morality that dominates the Klingon War storyline.
    • Six months later in-universe, in "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry", L'Rell and Voq casually discuss how they and their shipmates consumed Georgiou's corpse during a dire food shortage aboard their disabled ship. It might be a means of discouraging any Draco in Leather Pants status for the Klingon characters, by reminding viewers that the Klingons are violent and consider humans to be beneath their own species.
  • Orbital Bombardment: Mirror!Georgiou obliterates the anti-Terran resistance from orbit in "The Wolf Inside", apparently rendering the entire planet uninhabitable in the process.
  • Organic Technology: Discovery is equipped with a displacement-activated spore hub drive, which allows it to jump to any location using a network of spores that are scattered throughout the universe. For bonus points, the central navigation computer for the drive is initially, a giant tardigrade creature that lives in symbiosis with the spores, and then later, Lt. Stamets using the tardigrade's DNA.
  • Power Trio: For the Shenzhou's command staff: Captain Georgiou is calm and calculating, Commander Burnham is aggressive and adventurous, and Lt. Commander Saru is cautious bordering on paranoid. When Burnham and Saru both agree on something, Georgiou considers it noteworthy enough to comment on to her bridge crew and have it noted in the ship's log.
  • Precision F-Strike: The show introduces F-bombs to the Trek universe, but uses them very sparingly. The first two appear in the fifth episode, and no further ones appear in succeeding episodes:
    Cadet Tilly: You guys, this is so fucking cool!
    * beat*
    Cadet Tilly: I'm sorry.
    Lt. Stamets: No, cadet. It is fucking cool.
  • Putting on the Reich: The Terran Empire, with a matching Naziesque salute to top it off.
  • Ramming Always Works: The Europa is doomed when it's rammed by a cloaked Klingon vessel, though the Europa detonates its warp core to make sure the Klingons wouldn't live to brag about it.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • What happens when an officer assaults her commanding officer, attempts a mutiny in an incipient combat situation, and tries to launch an unauthorized, unprovoked attack in direct violation of her standing orders? She's sentenced to life in prison. For a main character in a Trek series, where the various crews have defied the admiralty with frequency, that's actually pretty startling.
    • It turns out that a Nigh Invulnerable alien creature that can shrug off full-power phaser blasts like nothing also can't be easily sedated. Burnham is the only one who theorizes this might be the case, but Commander Landry doesn't listen to her, and promptly gets killed as a result.
    • It also turns out that when the Mirror Universe version of the Discovery gets swapped into the Prime Universe, and her crew — full of insane, racist, Absolute Xenophobe Terran Empire officers — decides to go all Attack Pattern Jenkins Alpha against the Klingon forces, they promptly get their ship destroyed and get themselves Killed Offscreen.
  • Remember the New Guy: Michael is Spock's never-before-referred-to foster sister. She wouldn't be the first sibling he never spoke of, however, and it actually seems to be a running theme for him to hide members of his family from his friends and crewmates.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Burnham's red to Saru's blue. Georgiou seems to enjoy seeing them play off each other.
  • Recurring Camera Shot: There are a number of shots of characters' eye from the side with the light of whatever they're looking at reflected in them, Burnham reflecting the binary stars, T'Kuvma reflecting the flame of a torch on his bridge, and Lorca's reflecting the stars out his ready room window.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: Metafictional example regarding casting. It turns out that if you cast someone in an important role who has zero acting credits to his name, and shares his surname with the real surname (IE, not their stage name) of someone else on the cast, audiences figure out that there's shenanigans going on. In this case, the surprise that Lt. Ash Tyler was actually the Klingon antagonist Voq, surgically altered, was given away.
  • Rewatch Bonus: After The Reveal in "Vaulting Ambition" that Lorca is from the mirror universe, posing as his prime counterpart, pretty much all of his scenes in earlier episodes can be seen in a different light.
  • Rousing Speech:
    • Lorca gives one in "Into the Forest I Go":
      "We are about to face the most difficult challenge we have ever attempted. Today, we stare down the bow of the Ship of the Dead, the very same ship that took thousands of our own at the Battle of the Binary Stars. When I took command of this vessel, you were a crew of polite scientists. Now, I look at you. You are fierce warriors all. No other Federation vessel would have a chance of pulling this off. Just us. Because mark my words: you will look back proudly and tell the world you were there the day the U.S.S. Discovery saved Pahvo and ended the Klingon war."
    • Saru gives an even better one in "What's Past is Prologue" after Lorca's true nature is revealed:
      "It is well known that my species has the ability to sense the coming of death. I do not sense it today. I may not have all the answers; however, I do know that I am surrounded by a team I trust. The finest a captain could ever hope to command. Lorca abused our idealism. But make no mistake, Discovery is no longer Lorca's. She is ours, and today will be her maiden voyage. We have a duty to perform, and we will not accept a no-win scenario!"
  • Saved by Canon:
    • Sarek and Mudd have to live to TNG and TOS, respectively, so they're safe from death.
    • By the time of TOS, hostilities with the Klingons will have settled into a mostly cold war that sees neither side with a distinct advantage. This means, regardless of whatever gains the Klingons make here, the Federation will eventually drive them back. By the same token, the Federation won't deal so crippling a blow that the Klingons will be incapable of fighting, just forced to keep to their borders for the most part.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Both Federation and Klingon vessels have holographic communicators which allow a fully voiced and mobile projection of the speaker on the other end. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, similar holographic communicators were introduced for a brief period and treated as a new technology. They were also less advanced, limited to a single projector on the floor, though with a clearer image at least. The Scimitar in Star Trek: Nemesis had a similar technology that could project a hologram onto another ship, which may be where this series got the idea.
    • Discovery has site-to-site transport capability that can be performed by the computer on demand, such as when Landry is beamed straight to sickbay after being injured elsewhere on the ship. In TOS, this technique was considered dangerous to perform and had to be done manually.
    • One case that was decried as an error but actually isn't is that all of Starfleet uses the chevron insignia, whereas fans (and some non-canon Star Trek Expanded Universe writers) had assumed based on some production mistakes that the chevron was only the insignia for the Enterprise. The TOS production team had intended for the chevron to be the branch insignia for all starship personnel, not just for the crew of the Enterprise, but costumer William Ware Theiss mistakenly gave the USS Exeter its own insignia in "The Omega Glory". note 
  • Shout-Out: The Discovery's spore drive has a lot in common with Andromeda slipstream drive. Both use an existing network of corridors through space that require a living being to properly navigate them. When we're finally shown Stamets navigating the network, it looks remarkably like Andromeda's slipstream, consisting of a tunnel through a mesh of... something that keeps constantly splitting.
  • Sistine Steal: The main title sequence depicts two spacesuit-clad hands appearing and touching fingers momentarily before fading away to make room for the title and a flyby of the Discovery. See it here.
  • Sigil Spam: The Starfleet delta/arrowhead symbol is used in the metallic pattern on their uniforms, and even is the shape of the clasps on the boots they wear. The Terran Empire takes it even further, decorating their floors, wall monitors, and starship hulls with their logo (as was the case in TOS and ENT).
  • Space Whale: The Gormagander in episode seven, which Burnham literally describes as a "space whale" (although it looks more like a jellyfish). It's also mentioned that they'd been more or less hunted to extinction, much like many whale species in real life.
  • Stealth in Space: Both Starfleet and the other Klingon factions are taken aback that T'Kuvma's ships have cloaking devices. It's not stated where T'Kuvma got this tech from.
  • Stern Teacher: Seems to be Sarek's role in Burnham's life. He seems to be giving motivation, but when she floats the idea of learning Vulcan so that she can better respond to the learning curriculum he says that problem isn't her language, but her heart.
  • Superweapon Surprise:
    • The Klingons and the Federation each have an ace up their sleeves: The Klingons' cloaking devices and the Federation's spore drive. Both sides' ability to deploy this, at least early on, is similarly limited, with only two of T'Kuvma's ships shown as having a cloaking device (one destroyed, one damaged), and only two of the Federation's starships having the spore drive (with one in commission, the other destroyed). And like any surprise, the surprise quickly wears off for the spore drive as the Klingons figure out which ship is using it and do their best to find out how it works, and Starfleet begins working out a number of ways to defeat the cloak.
    • The Terran Empire has managed to weaponize the mycelial network itself, allowing them to utterly destroy planets as seen with Harlak in "The Wolf Inside". This has the side-effect of slowly poisoning the network, potentially leading to the deaths of everything in The Multiverse.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In "Despite Yourself", Michael suggests that the Terran Empire may be Necessarily Evil in their universe:
    Michael: Terran strength is born out of pure necessity. Because they live in constant fear, always looking for the next knife aimed at their back. Their strength is painted rust. It's a facade.
    • In this case she's not really sympathizing with them so much as making them understandable to Tilly, who's socially awkward and thus has a lot of difficulty impersonating her mirror universe counterpart.
  • Teleport Spam: Discovery uses its spore drive to this effect (over 133 individual jumps!) in "Into the Forest I go", both to evade fire from the Sarcophagus and figure out the Klingons' cloaking frequencies.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Apparently the standard method of execution in the Terran Starfleet, except they use the transporter instead of an airlock.
  • Time Skip:
    • "Context is for Kings" takes place six months after the previous episode.
    • "Choose Your Pain" is two episodes later in the series but seven months after the "Battle at the Binary Stars", since Lt. Tyler claims to have been kept prisoner for that period of time since the war started.
    • "What's Past is Prologue" ends with Discovery jumping back the prime universe, but nine months in the future... with the Federation having apparently lost the war with the Klingons in the meantime.
  • Title, Please!: Discovery is the first Trek series to eschew onscreen episode titles.
  • Translation Convention: Averted. All scenes that feature only Klingons are conducted entirely in the Klingon language with subtitles. The only phrase spoken in English between Klingons is T'Kuvma quoting the standard Federation greeting "We come in peace." The first time a Klingon speaks English to a human in person, it's explicitly commented on that she's speaking in English.
    • Played with in "Into the Forest I Go", where we see Burnham using the Universal Translator on her communicator to speak to Kol. After we hear the translator replaying Burnham's words in Klingon and Kol's in English for a few lines to establish the effect, Kol's actor switches to English.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Landry always dies... in two universes! First, Lorca's hawkish Number Two bites it in the fourth episode, courtesy of a very pissed-off tardigrade. Then her Mirror Universe-self dies when the Charon, the Terran Empire's flagship, is destroyed.
    • The trope is slightly subverted in the case of Prime-Landry: While she stands out as a passionate Action Girl, she also proves woefully inept at dealing with anything that can't be solved by shooting a Phaser rifle at it.
  • Vestigial Empire:
    • T'Kuvma is clearly of the opinion that the Klingon Empire is rotting and on the verge of falling apart. Given the way other Klingons quickly rally to his cause to restore unity, it seems to be a common opinion. Even Starfleet seems to believe this, with senior officers dismissing Burnham's warnings with comments about how the Klingons are disorganized and factionalized.
    • Kol wants T'Kuvma's ship (with its cloaking technology) under his control, because once the war with the Federation is over, he expects the Klingons will start infighting again and he wants the advantage. Once he has it, he leverages it to buy the loyalty of the others.
  • Vulcan Has No Moon:
  • We Can Rule Together: Lorca makes this offer to Burnham during his attempted coup against Emperor Georgiou.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill:
    • Inverted on the Klingon side: The Klingons know that the Federation is peaceful, but consider that to be worse than them being warmongers, as it means they will try to influence and eventually extinguish Klingon culture.
    • Possibly played straight for the Federation: Their peaceful hails are answered with fire. Whether Michael's idea of outright aggression would have worked to prevent the unification of the Klingons or just sparked the same war for another reason is unknown.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye:
    • Captain Georgiou and Admiral Anderson are both offed in the second episode.
    • Commander Landry, due to being played by Rekha Sharma, was almost expected to be a Klingon spy in disguise or otherwise a traitor given two of her previous roles. She's killed off very abruptly in the fourth episode of the series.
    • Done twice with Ensign Connor, operations officer on the U.S.S. Shenzhou, who gets ejected into space after only saying a few lines, then again on the I.S.S. Shenzhou where he lives long enough just to be killed by Burnham when failing at a Klingon Promotion.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "The Wolf Inside". Ash Tyler is outed as the Klingon Voq, who attacks and nearly murders Michael; Stamets is lost to the mycelial network and somehow meets his mirror counterpart there; and the Terran Emperor is revealed to be Mirror Georgiou, who bombards the surface of Harlak and apparently wipes out the anti-Imperial resistance.
    • "Vaulting Ambition". Michael is forced to admit to Georgiou that she's from the prime universe; L'Rell erases Voq's personality to save his life; Stamets learns that the mycelia network is dying from his mirror universe counterpart's experiments and that this corruption could destroy all life in the multiverse; and Michael realizes that her Captain Lorca is actually from the mirror universe and everything he has done has been for the sole purpose of returning to the mirror universe and resuming his coup against Georgiou.
  • Wham Line: The I.S.S. Cooper's message to Discovery in "Despite Yourself" is short and devoid of context, but most long-time fans would have understood the implications immediately:
    Captain Spoeneman: Spooked by rebels, Discovery? You're losing your edge.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In "Context is for Kings", attention is called to the fact that some Discovery crew members are wearing special black Starfleet badges. This plotpoint is never mentioned or even just visually referenced again during all of Season 1.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: When Lorca shows Michael the capabilities of the spore drive, he gives her a lightning tour of all the wondrous places they can travel to. This was also Stamets' motivation in developing the drive, and he's far from pleased that Starfleet usurped his work for the war effort.
  • You Are in Command Now: Saru takes command of Discovery when Lorca is captured by the Klingons in "Choose Your Pain", and again when Lorca is outed as a Terran infiltrator in "What's Past is Prologue".

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