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Series / Star Trek: Discovery

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"We are creating a new way to fly."
"The real world doesn't always adhere to logic. Sometimes up is down. Sometimes down is up. And sometimes when you're lost... you're found."
Michael Burnham

Star Trek: Discovery is the sixth live-action Star Trek television series, premiering on September 24th, 2017. It was co-created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, with creative contributions by Nicholas Meyer; Kurtzman is the current co-showrunner with Michelle Paradise. Developed by CBS, Discovery airs in the United States on their streaming service Paramount+,note  as well as in Canada on Space Channel and CraveTV. In other territories, the show's first three seasons were also broadcast to the rest of the world (bar Mainland China) on Netflix; the show exited Netflix in November 2021. It was previously announced that the series would not become available to international customers again until Paramount+ launched internationally in 2022, delaying the launch of season 4 in those regions. However, on November 24, 2021, in response to widespread fan outrage, Paramount announced that the program would release instead on November 26, 2021 in all markets in which the service is currently available. For those markets currently without the service, the episodes will instead premiere on the free ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV on the same timetable.

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. It follows the voyages of the Federation starship USS Discovery, with its experimental new "spore drive" propulsion technology that enables instant teleportation. Unusually for a Star Trek show, the main characters do not mostly consist of the ship's senior staff with the captain as the main hero. The lead character is Science Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), a human raised by Vulcans. Other main characters include First Officer Saru (Doug Jones) of the previously-unseen Kelpien species; spore drive engineer Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp); Ensign Newbie Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman); Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), a security officer; Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), a medical officer and Stamets' life partner; and Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs). Michelle Yeoh also appears as Michael's mentor, Captain Phillipa Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou. The second season sees the addition of Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) to the main cast, and the third season introduces Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala).

Each season is built around a season-long serialized Story Arc.

  1. The first season, airing in 2017, concerns the Klingon Empire emerging from a century of isolationism to embark on a brutal crusade against the Federation, as well as a segue into the Mirror Universe. Notable recurring Klingon antagonists include T'Kuvma (Chris Obi), a charismatic visionary who wants to unite the 24 warring clans into one cohesive empire; L'Rell (Mary Chieffo), a Battle Deck Commander on his ship; and Voq (Javid Iqbal), a clanless and albino Klingon who serves him as "Sech qengwI'" (Torchbearer). Other recurring characters include Con Man Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), security chief Commander Landry (Rekha Sharma), Admiral Katrina Cornwell (Jayne Brook), and none other than Spock's parents Sarek (James Frain) and Amanda (Mia Kirshner), the people who adopted Michael.
  2. The second season, aired in 2019, moves on from the interstellar-war premise of the first as it involves Discovery investigating the mystery of seven strange red signals that have appeared across space and their link to a mysterious figure called the Red Angel. A younger Spock (Ethan Peck) becomes a recurring character, as does Pike's Number Two Number One (Rebecca Romijn); other new faces include engineer Jett Reno (Tig Notaro), security chief Nhan (Rachael Ancheril) and Section 31 operative Leland (Alan van Sprang).
  3. The third season (2020) features a major status-quo shift as Discovery travels forward in time 930 years to the late 32nd century, a time when the Federation has diminished after a galaxy-wide disaster known as "the Burn" destroyed all dilithium, the Phlebotinum which makes warp drive possible. Burnham, Cleveland Booker and the crew of Discovery attempt to get to the bottom of the situation. New recurring characters include the amnesiac Adira Tal (Blu del Barrio), Trill initiate Gray (Ian Alexander), Head of Starfleet Adm. Charles Vance (Oded Fehr), historian Kovich (David Cronenberg), and Arc Villain Osyraa (Janet Kidder).
  4. The fourth season (2021) features the spectre of an Earth-Shattering Kaboom as a Negative Space Wedgie, the "DMA" (Dark Matter Anomaly) sweeps through the galaxy, threatening to destroy all in its path while everyone tries to figure out what it is, where it came from and how to stop it. Opposing it is Federation President Laira Rillak (Chelah Horsdal) and Morally Ambiguous Doctorate Ruon Tarka (Shawn Doyle).
  5. The fifth season, to air in 2024, will be the show's last.

The first season was released from September 2017 to February 2018, and the second season from January to April 2019. Additionally, four "Short Treks" — fifteen-minute-long episodes — were released leading up to the beginning of season 2. The third season was released from October 2020 to January 2021, and shortly after the third season premiere a fourth season was ordered, which premiered on November 18, 2021. In the lead-up to the third season, the first season began broadcasting on CBS in September 2020; it is unknown if later seasons will follow in making the jump to broadcast.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, was announced in May 2020 and premiered 2 years later. In this Spin-Off of Season 2, Mount, Romijn and Peck reprise their roles, depicting their adventures aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise in the years preceding James Kirk's tenure as captain. Announced even earlier than this was a show starring Michelle Yeoh's Phillipa Georgiou and concerning Section 31, but it was put into Development Hell, to be revived after this show and/or Star Trek: Picard completes its run. On March 30, 2023, Paramount announced Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, set in this era and focusing on the first new class of Starfleet Academy cadets since the Burn.


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  • Ace Pilot:
    • Detmer can perform miracles at the helm.
    • Pike is an outstanding shuttle pilot. He cut his teeth as a test pilot.
    • Book is an outstanding pilot, at least of his own ship.
  • Achilles' Heel: The luckless people who are inhabited by Control's nanites in season 2 are Nigh-Invulnerable, except for one thing—the nanites are magnetic. This is exploited by Spock, who magnetizes a section of plating to immobilize an escaped swarm, and Georgiou, who locks Leland-Control in a chamber and watches with satisfaction as the force of the nanites being pulled to the floor rips his flesh apart.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The show has a habit for following scenes (or just including them in the same scenes) of the ship getting blown up while or after characters talking about their trauma and bonding.
  • 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. As the real Stella never appeared in the flesh in TOS, 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 Aesthetics of Technology: The show falls into a similar issue with Star Trek: Enterprise where modern special effects along with costume, sets and prop designs will innately look far more advanced than what was available in the 1960's. Unlike all previous shows Discovery made the leap to fully alter the design scheme of the TOS era itself, looking a little bit like the Alternate Timeline movies but set in the official timeline, including showing classic ships and recasting multiple characters. The depiction of the technology will feel more advanced than even the shows made in 1987-2005, but as time went on the show will hint that various technologies come and go depending on their versatility and viability (which is very true in real world tech adoption). The one most clearly stated was how in the first season they used casual holographic displays for communication, but in the second season it's stated the tech was unstable, uses too much bandwidth and Captain Pike disliked talking to ghost-like apparitions, showing the return to reliable viewscreen communication.
  • After the End: Season 3 is set in 3189, 150 years after an event known as "The Burn" inexplicably rendered nearly all Dilithium crystals across the galaxy inert (with catastrophically explosive consequences for any ship with an active dilithium-regulated antimatter reactor powerplant at that moment). Interstellar governments were devastated and fell apart not long after, and the galaxy has devolved into a Scavenger World.
  • An Alien Named "Bob": One recurring character is a Saurian named Linus. Since his language is unpronounceable for humans, this would presumably apply to his real name.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Prime Directive (or "General Order 1") still applies as usual, however, its application is often much more nuanced than in previous Trek series—there are various clauses and exceptions, as well as loopholes which the characters exploit. The first episode has Georgiou and Burnham save a pre-warp society by rejuvenating an aquifer, which is permissible as long as they remain unseen. Saru, meanwhile, makes contact with Starfleet as an individual and is allowed to join, but at the cost of never contacting his pre-warp people.
  • Alien Sky:
    • Vulcan has a large gas giant hanging in its sky, a Call-Back to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
    • Pahvo and Kaminar both appear to have large moons, orbiting far closer than would probably be realistic without tidal effects tearing the planets apart.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The Big Bad of season 2 is "Control,” which is an AI that assists Starfleet Command in predicting outcomes and decisionmaking. Although Cornwell says that it's only ever used as guidance.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: Voq, Son of None, is an albino Klingon who is treated as a freak of nature and shunned by the great houses.
  • 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 will ever have to The Federation.
  • An Aesop: Everyone deals with grief differently, as Stamets and Michael get told repeatedly in “Anomaly”.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The agonizers in the mirror universe are designed to prolong the suffering of their victims indefinitely. Lorca and his co-conspirators were sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in them for their coup attempt, and by the time he bails his crew out they've been in there for the better part of two years already. Oddly, their sanity doesn't seem to have been affected.
    • It's revealed in "Saints of Imperfection" that Hugh Culber spent at least nine months trapped in the mycelial network after the events of "Despite Yourself,” under constant attack from the jahSepp (who thought he was a monster out to kill them) and enduring hallucinations from his past life. By the time he's found and rescued by Discovery, he's sporting a Beard of Sorrow and suffering some serious Sanity Slippage.
  • Anything That Moves: Emperor Georgiou is pansexual and likes kinky sex and multiple partners. Some of her escapades involve multiple threesomes with Mirror Hugh and Mirror Stamets (who were pansexual in her universe). In the prime universe, she has a threesome with male and female Orion sex workers on Qo'noS. The Orions mention that she even taught them a few things. She flirts heavily with several crewmembers and enemies in her time on the U.S.S. Discovery in the prime universe.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • In "Vaulting Ambition"/"What's Past is Prologue,” Class X-5 is imminent thanks to the I.S.S. Charon's mycelial reactor, which is poisoning the network and could kill everything in The Multiverse if left unchecked.
    • A Federation colony, Kelfour VI, suffered a Class 3a courtesy of the Klingons during the Time Skip between "What's Past is Prologue" and "The War Without, The War Within.”
    • Class 6 nearly happens to Qo'noS in "Will You Take My Hand?", and it's revealed that Emperor Georgiou already did it in the Mirror Universe.
    • The Red Angel in Season 2 is trying to prevent a Class 6 across the entirety of our galaxy, apparently caused in the future by a fully conscious, malevolent A.I.
    • Season 3 sees the rare case of a Class 1 applied across an entire galaxy, as most interstellar powers have collapsed due to “the Burn”, a mysterious event that suddenly turned all dilithium into useless rocks, causing countless ships to explode and grinding interstellar travel to a near halt. Though the Discovery crew are able to find out what happened and prevent it from reoccurring, and galactic society begins to rebuild.
    • In season 4, Class X happens to Kwejian in S 4 E 01 “Kobayashi Maru”, courtesy of the massive gravitational waves from an unidentified Dark Matter Anomaly, which can change direction at any time and do the same to countless other inhabited worlds.
  • Arc Villain:
  • Art Evolution:
    • The Discovery crew wear a brand-new uniform quite different from what previous media had established for this time period. These are described in-show as "new uniforms," which not all starships have yet adopted. (In the second season, the crew of the Enterprise wear uniforms based on the classic look, combining the bold primary colors with Discovery's cowl collar and slightly-offset vertical zipper.) Additionally, the Discovery badges include rank pips in the 24th-century TNG style, bringing in a dash of Anachronism Stew.
    • 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.
    • And when the USS Enterprise shows up in the very final scene, it looks like the classic Constitution-class, but significantly enlarged, with a few design echoes of the movie refit; most obviously, the tapered and backswept nacelle pylons.
    • Previous shows showed all ships lit fairly evenly. Beyond any scale differences or design changes, the key difference in how Discovery ships look is how their running lights illuminate the hull in a dominant way, which makes them much darker and with sharper lighting note .
      • This is somewhat Truth in Television, depending on whether the ships are actually in a solar system or not - if you're in interstellar space, a couple of lightyears from the nearest star, then it's going to be as dark as a clear moonless night on Earth.
  • 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).
    • In "The Red Angel," Burnham is exposed to an atmosphere that clearly damages her skin. In an actual atmosphere like that, she’d need way more medical help. We’re talking Eye Scream and drowning in her own blood.
  • 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.
  • Ascended Extra: As the series starts out as a series-long Lower-Deck Episode, much of the bridge crew and senior staff are barely more than a Recurring Extra, particularly Detmer, Airiam and Owosekun. In the second season, starting with Airiam's episode where she dies, they start to become more developed and involved with the stories rather than being seat fillers.
  • 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.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The spore drive itself. It proves quite useful for Hit-and-Run Tactics throughout the Klingon War — and gets taken up to eleven when Discovery uses it for a Teleport Spam attack that takes down the Klingon flagship. That said, one of its major drawbacks is that it requires a sentient, organic navigator to function, and only two have been utilized — a giant tardigrade and an enhanced human, both of whom were pushed beyond the limits of their endurance and almost killed. In addition, it's discovered that improper use of the mycelial energy has deleterious effects on the entire network, which would not only render the spore drive useless but also bring destruction to the entire multiverse. It is therefore no surprise that once the Klingon War ends, Starfleet effectively decommissions the spore drive.
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Invoked with Emperor Georgiou. Since the events of the Mirror Universe are classified, the Federation tells everyone else that she is actually Prime Georgiou to cover it up.
    • Hugh somehow wound up trapped in the spore network and was retrieved by Michael and Paul.
    • Gray's soul is placed into a synth body in Season 3.
  • Badass Bookworm: Physician and Psychologist Dr. Hugh Culber more than holds his own in hand-to-hand combat with Tyler, who is a Section 31 black ops badass and an accomplished Klingon warrior.
  • 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).
    • Burnham herself pulls one on Kol in "Into the Forest I Go,” exploiting the Klingon's love for theatrics by challenging him to a mek'leth duel, delaying him from leaving the Pahvo system while Discovery tries to crack his ship's cloaking frequencies.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Lorca very much believes in destiny, as he expresses to Burnham (who doesn't) in "Despite Yourself.” In part, this is because he considers it so miraculous that he escaped from certain death aboard the ISS Buran into a parallel universe. This is also why he refuses to harm Burnham: in his mind, the two are destined to take over the Terran Empire and rule it together.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: The "Watchful Eye" sentinel obilisks in Kelpian villages monitor the inhabitants and alert their Ba'ul masters whenever someone begins vahar'ai, in order to cull them. They are also failsafes in case of rebellion and able to destroy a village if their masters deem fit.
  • 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.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The Talosians, as usual. They do want to help, but their methods for doing so are still quite painful.
  • 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 season 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.
    • The third season both starts and ends with orphaned Starfleet officer Aditya Sahil. It also begins with "That Hope Is You, Part 1" and ends with Part 2, with the other 11 episodes of the season in between.
  • 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.
    • Discovery itself once it has been transported to the 32nd century. Although the ship is the same age as it was in 2258 there's many references to its technology being obsolete, and notably the crew's attitudes and faith in the ideals of the Federation are repeatedly called out as anachronistic.
  • Broad Strokes: This is the series' approach to visual continuity with other Star Trek series. It's largely a "visual reboot," but some things that are clearly established by earlier canon beyond visuals are also changed. For example, most Federation starships on the show are significantly larger than the original series Enterprise, and as noted in Art Evolution above, ships like the original Enterprise are scaled up when they do reappear.
  • Bury Your Gays: The show received a lot of praise 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. He does, however, get brought back to life in the second season
    • YMMV but the relationship between Adira Tal and Gray is also this, given that Gray is dead by Adira's introducing in late season two, but all of the story of their relationship is when they both were alive. However, after Adira integrates with their symbiote and starts seeing Gray again, things are up in the air for fans of the romance. Crosses over with Death by Flashback. He got better.
  • The Bus Came Back: Nhan returns for an assignment in 4.09 "Rubicon", but vanishes after that mission is complete.
  • The Butcher: Mirror Burnham is known as "The Butcher of the Binary Stars" for murdering thousands of Klingons in cold blood.
  • Call-Back: There are several references to Star Trek: Enterprise.
    • The U.S.S. Shenzhou is armed with phase cannons, the precursor to phasers, emphasizing Captain Georgiou's comment that the ship is very old.
    • One of the Starfleet ships at the Battle of the Binary Stars is the U.S.S. Shran, named after the recurring Andorian commander.
    • The Constitution-class U.S.S. Defiant is mentioned in "Despite Yourself," and even drives the plot of the next few episodes as Discovery hopes to retrace its steps.
    • In "The War Without, the War Within," Admiral Cornwell specifically references the events of "Broken Bow" before Discovery begins her mission to Qo'noS.
    • This wasn't the first time Starfleet came face-to-face with a long-absent enemy, and a child of Sarek insisted that the only way to avert catastrophe was to open fire on them before it was too late.
    • In Season 2, Episode 3, "Point of Light," Discovery 's version of Section 31 is introduced, with specific attention given to their black Starfleet badges. These were already seen briefly in Season 1, Episode 3, "Context is for Kings,” when Landry leads Burnham and her fellow convicts to the mess hall.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Several in the Short Treks episodes:
      • In "Runaway,” Tilly notes that nobody has yet found or popularized any method for recrystallizing dilithium. Spock and Scotty end up doing just that in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
      • In "Calypso,” Discovery's computer achieves sentience spontaneously over centuries alone, just like V'ger would later (or earlier?) do in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
      • In "The Escape Artist,” Harry Mudd uses numerous android duplicates of himself. This recalls the many identical androids he encountered in "I, Mudd" in TOS.
    • In "Brother,” Captain Pike notes that Spock always advocated that logic was the beginning of the answer, not the end — the same lesson that Spock would try to explain to Valeris early on in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
    • Multiple characters will have Conflicting Loyalties between soldier and diplomat, or soldier and explorer, like Kirk and the others did in the original series.
    • More plainly, Mudd claims in “Choose Your Pain” that they haven’t seen the last of him, turning up “again” in Star Trek: The Original Series.
  • 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.
  • The Cavalry: In the season 2 finale, the Control droneships look ready to wipe out Discovery and Enterprise. Then L'Rell's Klingon battleship decloaks in the middle of the Control fleet, accompanied by dozens of fighters led by Saru's sister, Siranna.
  • Catchphrase: T'Kuvma considers "We come in peace" to be the Federation's catchphrase. He also considers it a lie.
  • Clown Car:
    • Numerous times, we're treated to a view of Discovery's labyrinthine turbolift tracks. It's difficult to imagine that such a network could fit inside the relatively compact hull of the ship. In the season 3 finale, the post-refit turbolift tracks could easily be mistaken for a Blade Runner cityscape.
    • In "Such Sweet Sorrow," the Enterprise apparently has space for two hundred combat shuttles in her hanger deck.
  • 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.
  • Command Roster: Due to the Lower-Deck Episode nature of the series, this is actually subject to change depending on the ship and regularly change over the course of several episodes and seasons, and many of the positions are not filled by the main cast.
    • The Captain: Georgiou, Lorca, Saru, Pike
    • Number Two: Burnham (to Georgiou), Saru
    • Science Officer: Burnham, Tilly, Airiam
    • Mr. Fixit: Stamets
    • The Medic: Culber
    • Tactical Officer: Rhys
    • Security Officer: Tyler
  • Continuity Porn: Season 2 is rife with it. Pike, and later Spock, are main characters and get as much screentime as Discovery's original main cast. They also travel to Talos IV and talk to Vina, Sarek and Amanda are heavy presences, and the original Enterprise is integral in the season's Final Battle.
  • 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 flagship I.S.S. 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.
    • In Season Two the iconic Klingon D7 battlecruiser makes its debut.
  • 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 Discovery and her contemporaries having terminals with holographic displays, which make the tech 100 years later look primitive by comparison. This is lampshaded in season 2, where Commander Nhan quips about Starfleet obviously devoting a large budget to the ship. (The first novel contains a brief reference to the holograms being "total data hogs," possibly meant to imply that the designers of later ships found them Awesome, but Impractical — it's specifically mentioned that Constitution-class ships are more advanced, and have the same viewscreens we saw in The Original Series.)
      • In a subtle "show-not-tell" moment, Shenzhou's holographic communications are actually revealed to be extremely short ranged as well. The aforementioned novel places the Enterprise in a nearby orbit when Georgiou orders them used, and in the show proper it's briefly used when the admiral's ship is passing by at a range where Semaphore could be used just as easily. Between the novel's statement that holograms functionally eat up a ton of processor power and the implication that the range on them is ridiculously short, it's not hard to see why Starfleet opted to shelve the technology until it was less limited.
      • In Season 2, when informed that the holographic comms on Enterprise are causing issues with the other systems as the ship is being repaired, Pike orders them removed as unnecessary and states they'll just use normal viewscreens. He thinks it makes people look like ghosts, anyway.
    • 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 Terran Empire.
    • 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.
  • Cowardly Lion: Like all Kelpiens, Saru's first instinct is to run and hide whenever danger presents itself. But when forced into a fight, his Super Strength and Super Speed make him a deadly combatant. As of "An Obol for Charon,” he's lost the fear following his completion of vahar'ai.
  • Crapsack World: While the Mirror Universe is traditionally 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."
  • Creator Provincialism: All of the new Starfleet ship classes introduced in Discovery are named after Americans or Canadians:
    • Crossfield-class for American test pilot Albert Scott Crossfield;
    • Eisenberg-class for the American actor Aron Eisenberg;note 
    • Engle-class for test pilot and astronaut Joe Engle;
    • Nimitz-class for US Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz;
    • Hoover-class for US Air Force pilot Bob Hoover;
    • Cardenas-class for US Air Force brigadier general Robert Cardenas;
    • Malachowski-class for US Air Force pilot Nicole Malachowski;
    • Shepard-class for NASA astronaut Alan Shepard;
    • Magee-class for Canadian pilot John Magee Jr;
    • Walker-class for NASA test pilot Joseph A. Walker.
  • 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 Discovery, by Captain 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.
  • Death by Flashback: In "Project Daedalus,” Lieutenant-Commander Airiam is given backstory for the first time when she reviews a memory of her husband. We learn they had a shuttle accident, killing the husband and requiring extensive cybernetic surgery on her part to survive, essentially converting her into a cyborg. Later in the episode, a rogue A.I. that controls Aririam's implants order her to kill Burnham, so she decides to sacrifice herself.
  • 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 principles 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).
    • Season Three continues the theme, showing a Federation and Starfleet pushed to the point of desperation, irrelevancy, and nonexistence by "The Burn," which destroyed nearly all the dilithium (and warp-capable ships, including almost all of the Federation's) in the galaxy. At the start, Starfleet and the Federation are The Remnant that few even know still exists, and those who remember the Federation tend to remember it as ineffectual at best, duplicitous at worst. The crew of Discovery and the remnants of Starfleet are tasked with quite literally reconstructing the Federation, both as political entity and as an ideal to believe in and strive for, in-universe and, by extension, out of it.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype:
    • Gabriel Lorca is a deconstruction of the post-9/11 Jack Bauer/ Cowboy Cop archetype. When he is first introduced, he is very much framed as a hard-nosed badass who's willing to do whatever's necessary to save lives and protect the Federation from its enemies. It's only as the series develops that it becomes clear that, in fact, he's actually just a power-hungry fascist who cynically appeals to his officers' sense of duty and idealism in order to pursue his own ends.
    • Sarek is a deconstruction of The Stoic. While 99% of Vulcans fit this trope to some degree, there have been plenty of past examples (such as T'Pol and her family in Star Trek: Enterprise) demonstrating that Vulcans are entirely capable of being loving and expressive towards each other in their own way. Sarek, however, had difficulty displaying that kind of healthy affection towards his children, and there are signs that Spock and Michael learned from his example. The debacle with the Vulcan Science Academy, which was caused primarily by Sarek making decisions for them and refusing to tell them, becomes the flashpoint of familial conflict for years to come.
  • Decoy Protagonist:
    • This is the first Star Trek series in which The Captain is not The Protagonist. Instead, it's Cmdr. Michael Burnham, who starts off as Number Two. Meanwhile, the captains of the Shenzhou (Michelle Yeoh as Phillipa Georgiou) and Discovery (Jason Isaacs as Gabriel Lorca, Anson Mount as Christopher Pike, and Doug Jones as Saru) are all officially supprorting characters.
    • It's also subverted in that Burnham, despite the above, is absolutely central to the show's mythology; basically anything important that happens, must involve her somehow, even when the show has to jump through hoops to do it. (Perhaps the best example is Season 3's "Forget Me Not," when Burnham gets involved in someone else's Journey to the Center of the Mind.)
    • 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.
  • Diplomatic Back Channel: President Rillak often invokes this trope. As the President of the United Federation of Planets, she has specific restraints on what she can and cannot do. More than once she has asked Michael Burnham and/or Saru to use their personal connections to massage diplomatic impasses that she cannot broach as the Federation President, particularly when dealing with Ni'Var (the combined governments of Romulus and Vulcan) and the United Earth, which had withdrawn from the Federation.
  • Disappointing Heritage Reveal: Ash Tyler learns to his horror that his memories and personality were grafted on to the Klingon Voq's surgically altered body so Voq could be a sleeper agent. The process doesn't work quite right. L'Rell purges Voq's personality from Tyler's body before the war being fought between the two personalites kills him, but leaves him with Voq's memories. Tyler has to spend a signifigant amount of time coming to terms with his newly combined human and Klingon heritage, which is complicated by the crimes Voq committed while disguised as Tyler (murder and attempted murder).
  • 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.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The Klingons' movement is reminiscent of 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Irony: Any fan of the original series is likely familiar with Captain Pike's eventual fate, and Season 2 seems to take particular pride in taunting the audience about this:
    • When Discovery first meets Enterprise, her comms system is malfunctioning, and Pike can only communicate via Morse Code, or a series of beeps.
    • Once Pike comes aboard, he notes that Lorca's old ready room has nowhere to sit.
    • All of this leads up to Pike being given a vision of his future, showing exactly what will happen to him and why, if he sticks to his current path.
  • 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. As soon as Discovery has what they need, Burnham beams out in the middle of the duel, leaving Kol to his death as Discovery pummels his now defenseless ship with a volley of torpedoes.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Lampshaded by deadpan snarkers Reno and Stamets:
    Commander Willa: Dysfunction aside, you all make a pretty good team.
    Reno: Dysfunction is the team.
    Stamets: We've just accepted it.
    Reno: No, we haven't.

    E - H 
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • In season one, Saru describes his home planet as a Death World with no food web: one is either predator or prey, and the Kelpiens are constantly being hunted by apex predators, hence their Super Strength and Super Speed. Season two retcons this into a fairly different situation: Kaminar is an idyllic world where the Kelpiens live in total harmony with their environment, but are ritualistically culled by the technologically-superior Ba'ul species when they begin a biological process called vahar'ai.
    • In the first season's "Choose Your Pain,” an original Klingon design is described as being a "D7-class battle cruiser,” evidently meant to be a retcon of the classic TOS design. In season two's "Point of Light,” however, the classic D7 is introduced as a brand new model of Klingon warship, with no mention whatsoever of the one seen in season one. (According to source material, the ship from season one is actually a Sech-class, and was erroneously identified In-Universe as a D7.)
  • The Empire: The Klingon Empire, and especially the Terran Empire in the Mirror Universe.
  • Eldritch Starship: T'Kuvma's two-kilometer-long Ship of the Dead takes the classic Klingon starship and covers it in spikes, gold ornamentation, and a "black fleet" of coffins that give it an undeniably Gothic look. Klingon ships in general also look more organic in Discovery than in previous series, though by season two they're well on their way toward the classic D7 line.
  • 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.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: When Cornwell sees how much Lorca has changed from the man she's known for years (such as sleeping with a Pillow Pistol), she assumes that he's suffering from PTSD after the destruction of the Buran. She has no way of knowing that he's been replaced by a doppelganger from the Mirror Universe that she doesn't even know exists. Sarek admits that everyone else drew the same false conclusion once the truth comes to light.
    Cornwell: The Lorca I came up with was measured, he was reasoned, but I couldn't have imagined—
    Sarek: That Lorca was an impostor from an alternate universe was not the most obvious conclusion. We were all deceived.
  • 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 Cannot Comprehend Good: This is what ultimately dooms Lorca. He dismisses his crew's loyalty to the Federation as "cult-like devotion" and doesn't seem to understand that to them, life is about more than clawing one's way to the top.
  • 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.
  • Evolving Credits: The first season opening credits feature images related to the season's plot, like Klingon mek'leths, while the second season opening credits change to show the captain's chair of the Enterprise and the Vulcan IDIC symbol, among others. The credit sequence also evolves within each season, adding elements as the story arc progresses. The Season 4 opening shows Discovery's refit appearance after coming to the 32nd Century.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Defied in "The Wolf Inside.” Burnham flat-out refuses to wipe out the anti-Terran resistance to preserve her cover, as doing so would doom the mirror universe to indefinite Terran supremacy.
  • 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.
  • Famous, Famous, Fictional: Lorca compares Stamets' work to that of the Wright Brothers, Elon Musk, and Zefram Cochrane.
  • Fan Disservice: L'Rell gives us the first bare female breasts in Star Trek history. That might not be a good thing, considering that she's (it's believed) basically raping Tyler at the time. Also, probably the only reason they got those bare breasts on screen is because they look nothing at all like bare human breasts.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Booker's ship from Season 3 has a "flying wing" design, but with one wing far shorter and thicker than the other.
  • First-Episode Twist: Burnham mutinies against Captain Georgiou, gets her killed and is sentenced to life in prison. Also, she's Spock's foster sister. Gradually becoming a case of It Was His Sled and a Late-Arrival Spoiler, as at least some of this information is integral to how the first season's Story Arc comes about in the first place.
  • Five-Token Band: As with Star Trek tradition, the cast consists of about 50 percent white actors and the rest of various minority groups. But it's rather notable how many of the supporting cast and background crew are minority actors playing humans, rather than being buried under alien make-up, with most of the aliens played by white actors.
  • 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 depicted as Absolute Xenophobes fundamentally devoted to the enslavement or extermination of all aliens in the name of their Emperor.
    • A change in policy which is understandable, given that the Terran Empire was essentially decapitated by the destruction of the ISS Charon. The less genocidal Empire encountered in the future is under new management, and the Emperor drives its policies.
  • 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 usurper. The only guy who might have been genuinely loyal would be the prisoner who was killed by the Klingons shortly after the episode's start.
  • Flying Saucer: A mainstay of human starship design in Star Trek, but in this era, most Starfleet ships fit into the "Saucer hull with engines and other superstructure attached" design reserved for their smaller ships (similar to Star Trek: Enterprise), with only the largest and newest ships appearing to use the "saucer plus secondary hull with warp engines attached to secondary hull" design typical of shows taking place later in the timeline.
  • 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.
    • The Short Treks episode "Calypso,” aired between the first and second seasons, shows that the U.S.S. Discovery survives the events of the series and eventually ends up abandoned somewhere within the galaxy a full millennium later; however, it doesn't reveal why or how the ship ended up in that state.
    • In the Short Trek "The Trouble with Edward,” the moment Edward mentions that the Tribbles have a low breeding rate but that he can modify them to change that, you know that he will, with dire consequences.
  • 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.
    • The reveal that Lorca sleeps with a phaser and responds with paranoia at being awakened is initially assumed by Cornwell to be a symptom of PTSD. It's actually due to the fact Lorca, being from the Mirror Universe, is necessarily paranoid and always has to be prepared to defend himself.
    • 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.
    • Throughout Season Three, Discovery's DOT-23s are repeatedly shown going about their business, usually in establishing shots doing hull maintainence or the like. In order to fix in the minds of the audience that they exist, and thus are a place the Sphere Data can hide in to prevent being deleted by the Orions and directly assist the crew in retaking the ship in the final two episodes of the season.
  • 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, and rarely had a lot of ripples from major Character Deaths such as Tasha Yar and Ziyal.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The main source of conflict in Season Three is the Burn having destroyed most of the galaxy's dilithium (and through that, most warp-capable starships). But the Romulans use tame black holes to power their warp-capable ships, logically freeing them from reliance on dilithiumnote . This is never brought up, and indeed the unified Vulcan/Romulan government of Ni'Var seems to have been hit as hard by the Burn as everyone else, when they should have easily slipped into the role of the new galactic superpower. It's also mentioned that dilithium mines were drying up before the burn, and many projects to find alternate means of powering warp drives were sought, but the Romulan's singularity reactors are not mentioned. Also, Zefram Cochrane used a fission reactor to power the warp drive on the Phoenix in Star Trek: First Contact.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Invoked when the spore explains why it took on May's appearance after landing in Tilly's brain.
  • 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).
  • From Bad to Worse: After Tarka destroys the first DMA Species 10-C sends a much more powerful version that destroys things about 1400% faster than the first one did.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The full name of the Spore Drive is the Displacement-Activated Spore Hub Drive, or DASH Drive. That said, nobody calls it by that acronym, and Stamets uses the full name only once, when explaining it to Michael (and the audience.)
  • The Future Is Noir: Frequently used, especially around Captain Lorca, whose eye condition makes him sensitive to bright light. Exaggerated in the mirror universe.
  • Gambit Pile Up: In Season One, there's L'Rell and Voq's plan to have Voq infiltrate Discovery as Ash Tyler in order to gain prestige to use against Kol and further T'Kuvma's goal, which smashes against Kol manipulating things to remain on top when the war is over, which collides with Harry Mudd doing his own thing, which runs into Starfleet's plans of using Discovery as a secret weapon against the Klingons, all of which pile into Lorca's plan to return to the Mirror Universe and complete his coup against the Emperor.
  • 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.
    • Lorca's plot — to return to the Charon and resume his coup — hinges on Burnham spending several days aboard the I.S.S. Shenzhou without picking up on the fact that Terrans are photosensitive, which (as seen in "Vaulting Ambition") would have immediately clued her in to the fact that he isn't who he claims to be.
  • 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.
  • Ghostly Death Reveal: In "Vaulting Ambition", Stamets encounters his husband, Dr. Culber, while trapped in the mycelial network, and Culber reveals that he was killed in the real world (as seen in the previous episode) and that his spirit now resides within the network. After a tearful goodbye, Stamets escapes the network and returns to the normal universe. Luckily, in season 2 they're able to find a way to resurrect Culber.
  • Ghost Ship:
    • The U.S.S. Glenn, in "Context is for Kings.” For extra creepiness, it's Discovery's sister ship and has the same internal layout.
    • The derelict U.S.S. Shenzhou is boarded and pillaged by the Klingons in episode four.
  • Gone Horribly Right: "The Trouble with Edward" reveals that Tribbles were originally had a very low breeding rate, but Edward Larkin, seeking to turn the Tribbles into a food source, used his own DNA to alter them, turning them into the Explosive Breeders that they were in the original series. The Tribbles breed so fast that they manage to destroy the U.S.S. Cabot through their sheer mass, kill Edward by accidentally burying him alive, escape to an inhabited world, forcing the inhabitants to flee to avoid ecological devastation, and become the bane of the Klingons for decades to come.
  • 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.
  • Hesitant Sacrifice: Even though it was her idea, and she does go through with it, Burnham admits she's terrified prior to suffocating herself in Essof IV's toxic atmosphere to lure the Red Angel in season 2.
  • Hollywood 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.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: Holographs flicker.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The aliens that live in the mycelial network think Federation species are impossibly bizarre and dangerous. It takes a lot of work on both sides to establish peaceful contact.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The series adds "the Mycelial Network," which is essentially hyperspace accessed via the spores of a fungus that bridges the gap between our reality and the Network. Discovery's Spore Drive allows it to travel the Network, basically teleporting anywhere in the universe nearly instantaneously, though this requires prototaxites stellaviatori spores as fuel and a navigator who can intuit the Network. But a giant metal spaceship popping in and out of two different dimensions wreaks havoc on at least one of those dimensions. It's not explained particularly well in the series itself, but Discovery's core premise is basically "what if hyperspace was a gigantic fungal ecosystem?"
  • Hyperspeed Ambush: 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.

    I - Q 
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Osyraa is properly revolted when she finds out that the replicators break down human waste at the atomic level and then assemble it into food.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss: Sarek admits in his own Vulcan way that ignorance can be beneficial in “Lethe”.
  • 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.
  • Inconsistent Episode Lengths: The episodes can last anywhere between 40 minutes and an hour.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bug: The devices that Burnham and Tyler wear in the middle of their chests to mask their life signes while sneaking onto the Klingons' Ship of the Dead in "Into the Forest I Go" helpfully glow brightly. The sensors they have to set up are the size of footballs, also glow brightly, beep loudly, and emit verbal pronouncements that they are actively functioning. One of those 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.
  • In Spite of a Nail: In both the prime and mirror universes, Georgiou was betrayed by Burnham and Captain Lorca commanded (and lost) a starship called the Buran. Lorca himself lampshades this in "Despite Yourself,” musing that perhaps it's proof destiny exists.
  • Internal Homage: Fittingly given the name, “Kobayashi Maru” gives a nod to what Kirk had to learn in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, that operating from a personal need to save everyone because you’ve suffered loss and trauma in formative years, will break you eventually.
  • Ironic Echo: Saru, to L'Rell, in episode 12: war.
  • Interquel: The series begins in 2256, ten years before TOS and a full century after Star Trek: Enterprise.
  • Killed Off for Real: Aside from Burnham, the Anyone Can Die trope was pretty much in effect during the show's first three seasons, with no character safe from suddenly biting it. As such, the only characters to actually die were Ensign Danby Connor, Captain Philippa Georgiou, T'Kuvma, Commander Ellen Landry, General Kol, Captain Gabriel Lorca, Lieutenant-Commander Airiam, Lieutenant junior grade/Specialist Kamran Gant, Captain Leland, Admiral Katrina Cornwell, Control, Ryn, Zareh and Osyraa..
  • 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. Subverted when it turns out that he really doesn't give a damn about the Federation, and that he's just using Discovery to get back home to the mirror universe.
  • Legacy Character: Cleveland Book reveals that his psudeonym is passed down from mentor to student. He is the fifth person to hold the name.
  • Lens Flare: This effect is noticable in several interior scenes.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again:
    • At the end of the second season it's decided that, to protect the sphere data, no-one will ever mention Discovery, spore drives, or winged time-travel suits ever again. And, to judge from the shows this is a prequel to, they don't.
    • The discovery of the Mirror Universe is highly classified. Which is why Kirk's crew would believe they were the first to happen upon it.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Played out between three cultures and four people of whom two essentially share one body, this one has all the makings of a Vulcan-Klingon Tragedy. Essentially, Ash Tyler, who is a construct of the original Human Ash Tyler's personality and the Klingon spy Voq's memories and his surgically modified, Human-appearing body, loves Michael Burnham, who is a Human raised by Vulcan Sarek and his human wife Amanda; but he also cares about L'Rell, who was in love with and loved by Voq, and is also responsible for his transformation. To make matters even more complicated, the current Ash has fake memories of having been L'Rell's prisoner and victim of her sexual advances, which make it impossible for him to reciprocate her feelings, despite Voq's underlying attraction. He also tries to give Michael space, who felt unable to continue their relationship after Voq attacked her; while Michael seems to be holding back to not disturb his arrangement with L'Rell, and L'Rell is jealous because Ash confides in Michael.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Played with significantly. Star Trek typically placed The Captain front and center with a variety of senior staff and/or civilian representatives. The focus in this series is instead on the busted-down Burnham who stands mostly as a scientific adviser with Lt. Stamets and Cadet Tilly and has little command authority. Stamets is ambiguously the chief engineer, while Dr. Culber takes on all of the plot relevant medical cases despite not actually being the Chief Medical Officer. Captain Lorca is certainly a prominent and important character along with Saru as Number Two, but other command staff are left vague. Other bridge officers like Keyla Detmer, Airiam and Rhys appear frequently but rarely have any lines. It should be said that regardless of their qualifications, The Main Characters Do Everything still.
  • 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. Indeed, the first time Lorca leaves the ship, he is captured by the Klingons.
    • Given that the series overall plays into a Lower-Deck Episode as most of the cast is not the senior staff, the trope is undermined in that way. Still, it does start to call into question how often these characters are called on to do important tasks despite likely not being the most qualified for the job, including away missions or shuttle piloting. Most particular is that Burnham is a disgraced prisoner on parole and Tyler is a POW gradually showing signs of PTSD.
  • Match Cut: Used a number of times in Season 2 to show transitions from one part of the ship to another. For example, in "Brother' there's a shot of Burnham framed in the doorway of her quarters as the doors close, which cuts immediately to a near-identical set of doors opening as Burnham enters the bridge.
  • Mauve Shirt: The main bridge crew – Detmer, Owosekun, Bryce, Rhys and Airiam – were promoted to Mauve Shirt status in season 2 after spending all of season 1 with almost no focus on them. Airiam was killed off in the episode that gave her A Day in the Limelight.
  • May It Never Happen Again: After a season is spent fighting a time traveling Artificial Intelligence that came from the future to destroy all sentient life, it is decided that the only way to avoid a repeat is to completely erase all knowledge of the event. This includes destroying all references to the Klingon time crystals, the time travel capable suit created by the Starfleet's Section 31, declaring the USS Discovery destroyed in battle against a rogue Section 31 Captain, removing all references to Commander Michael Burnham to the point that Spock's future Captain and crew mates will never even know she existed, and swearing any one with knowledge of the event to secrecy upon penalty of death for treason if they ever mention the event again.
  • Meaningful Name: Both Michael and Gabrielle Burnham are named after angels in Christian tradition, and both end up piloting the Red Angel suit that drives the plot of Season Two.
  • Meat Puppet: In season 2, Control takes over several people, either by hijacking existing computer systems or by forcibly injecting them with nanites. It's not made clear in the latter case how much of the original person is left after this, but Saru warns the crew not to balk at firing to kill because what is talking to them is not a person anymore.
  • 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.
  • Mistaken for Insane: One arc in Season Two involves Spock apparently killing some people and frequently muttering equations under his breath. He turns out to be trying to decipher a code given to him by the Red Angel, and the footage of him killing the people was faked.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: In Season 2, L'Rell's and Voq's infant son is left on Boreth on the doorstep of a reclusive monastery dedicated to Kahless' teachings, to protect him from L'Rell's political opponents.
  • 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:
    • 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."
    • 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 Star Trek (2009), 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.
    • 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.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation establishes redundant organs are a feature of Klingon biology. This series confirms that at the very least, male Klingons have two penises.
    • Possibly unintentional, but this is not the first time an Enterprise met nose to nose with a Discovery.
    • At one point Lorca has to communicate while disguising his voice, pretending to be ship's engineer and giving himself a Scottish accent. This is after Jason Isaacs is putting on an American accent.
    • In "An Obol for Charon," Pike remarks about current Enterprise engineer, Chief Louvier, "I don't think that Enterprise will ever have a chief engineer more in love with his ship." Apparently, a certain Montgomery Scott has yet to arrive onboard.
  • 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). The real Stamets is a fan who named his house Starship Agarikon, and acted as scientific advisor on the spore drive.
    • The Crossfield-class, to which Discovery and the Glenn belong, was named after American test pilot Albert Scott Crossfield, the first person to fly at Mach 2.
  • New Era Speech: Gabriel Lorca has one in "What's Past is Prologue,” in which his true motives are made abundantly clear.
  • 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 regardless of whatever his opponents did. However, they're also right that Michael could have stopped the war outright by taking T'Kuvma prisoner instead of killing him and making him a martyr in a moment of anger over Captain Georgiou's death.
    • Killing General 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 whatsoever in its attacks.
  • No Endor Holocaust:
    • In "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad.", Tyler claims that in seven months of total war with the Klingon Empire, Starfleet has lost 10,000 people. For comparison, that's less than the number of people killed a century later at the Battle of Wolf 359. Hell, it's less than a single day in numerous battles of The American Civil War.
    • The solution for the problems on Kaminar is to give everyone on the planet vahar'ai all at once. In Saru's case, it took over a day for his condition to progress from flu-like symptoms to being unable to stand unaided, but evidently everyone on the planet was fine once it was over. And it's assumed that neither the Ba'ul (who still possess superior technology, even if the pylons were deactivated) will try a more gradual mass-slaughter, nor will the Kelpians destroy them in revenge for generations of oppression.
  • No MacGuffin, No Winner: The data from the planet-sphere encountered in season 2 presents a danger, as the threat-calculating AI known as "Control" wants to obtain it to advance itself and its goal of wiping out all sentient life. Eventually, the crew decide that the best way to prevent this is to remove the data from the equation. When the password protection on deleting the data proves unbreakable, they decide to fling it so far into the future that Control will have no access to it.
  • Non-Heteronormative Society: The show confirms that for the Federation, LGBT+ people are entirely accepted and in fact quite unremarkable, along with the relationships they have. People on the ship are shown to be gay, pansexual, lesbian and nonbinary without anyone batting an eye.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: This is a recurring beat, especially in Season 2. Discovery's crew will go to great lengths to rescue a single person. In the season finale, a handful of them elect to accompany Michael on a one-way trip to the future with the ship, rather than let her go alone and unaided.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: The Discovery itself has an unusual design compared to the majority of Starfleet vessels. Most prominent is the overly large wedge-shaped secondary hull (with more volume than the saucer section), along with very slender nacelles and cut-out sections of the saucer note . Typical designs usually focus more on circles, cylinders and curved angles, and in comparison Discovery comes across a lot sharper.
  • Noodle Incident: Michael's and Book's entire relationship (at least the part we see on screen) consists solely of these.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore:
    • While Season 1 was a prequel and Season 2 very explicitly lived in the shadow of TOS, what with Capt. Christopher Pike and the USS Enterprise showing up, Season 2's Sequel Hook is the promise of a blank slate: Discovery vaults 900 years into the future to the 32nd century, an era of Star Trek canon that has never been discussed before.
    • Season 3 ends with another reset: Saru is off the ship and Burnham is promoted to The Captain. Even more than that, there is no Sequel Hook: the Terminally Dependent Society has been restored by the discovery of more [[{{Phlebotinum dilithium.]]
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Commander Michael Burnham is constantly reminded by others about her attempted mutiny, especially since it's the first time that it has ever (officially) happened in Starfleet history.
  • Orbital Bombardment: The Mirror Universe 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.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: This happens twice in Season 1: Stamets is found cradling Culber's dead body in "The Wolf Inside,” and L'Rell ends up holding the unconscious Tyler after Saru beams him into her cell in "Vaulting Ambition."
  • Points of Light Setting: The third season, set in 3188, turns the Trek Verse into one of these. Apparently, a century or two prior, much of the galaxy's dilithium exploded for no apparent reason in an event called the Burn. With little of it left to fuel warp-capable starships, The Federation largely collapsed in the following decades, and now exists as a Vestigial Empire that almost no one takes seriously. While interstellar travel is still possible, the rarity of dilithium means that it is no longer commonplace, and most star systems are left to govern their own affairs.
  • 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.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Rachael Ancheril for Season 3, Blu del Barrio and Tig Notaro for Season 4.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: People infected by Control in season 2 are difficult to just phaser to death, because the nanite swarm in their bodies can just compensate for whatever hole or limb has just been opened.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Nahn in 3.05 "Die Trying".
    • Emperor Georgiou in 3.10 "Terra Firma, Part 2", presumably to set up her own spin-off series.
    • Tilly accepts a teaching position at the new Starfleet Academy in 4.04 "All Is Possible".
    • Gray leaves Discovery to begin training as a guardian in 4.07 "...But to Connect".
  • Putting on the Reich: The Terran Empire, with a matching Naziesque salute to top it off.
  • Queer Establishing Moment:
    • At the end of the first episode, Stamets and Hugh are seen getting ready to go to bed in the same bed, revealing that they're a gay couple.
    • In one episode, Reno is revealed to be a lesbian when she mentions having a dead wife.
    • Mirror Georgiou is established as pansexual when it's mentioned by an Orion prostitute duo (both male and female). She later confirms this and uses the term herself.
    • Adira Tal has a brief Coming-Out Story in which they tell Stamets they're not a woman and then ask to be called they/them rather than she/her from that point forward (everyone does afterward).
  • Quit Your Whining: While she’s in the Brig in episode two, and they have a mind meld, Sarek acknowledges he’s never bolstered Michael’s self esteem, and tells her to get up and do better because he knows she can.

    R - Z 
  • 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.
    • In the second season finale, L'Rell uses a similar Klingon cleave-ship to plow through two of Control's ships as she arrives to the aid of Enterprise and Discovery.
  • Rank Up: In contrast to other Star Trek series, this happens to the characters on a fairly regular basis. Generally justified in-universe on account of Asskicking Leads to Leadership.
    • Burnham starts off by inverting this trope, getting stripped of her rank and imprisoned following her mutiny in the Battle of the Binary Stars. Even when Mirror-Lorca brings her aboard Discovery, she is an unranked crew specialist for almost the entire remainder of the first season.
    • Burnham's former Shenzhou crewmates Saru and Detmer get promoted during the Klingon War before they are both assigned to Discovery. Saru goes from lieutenant-commander to full commander and Number Two to Lorca, and Detmer goes from lieutenant junior-grade to full lieutenant.
    • At the end of the Klingon War and of the first season, Burnham is restored to her former rank of full commander. In recognition of their contributions, Stamets goes from lieutenant to lieutenant-commander, and Tilly goes from being a cadet to a commissioned ensign.
    • At the end of the second season, Ash Tyler receives a promotion to full commander as the new head of Section 31.
    • Early in the third season, Saru finally gets promoted to captain and formally placed in command of Discovery, as Captain Pike stayed with the Enterprise in the 23rd century.
    • With Saru on a leave of absence, Burnham finally gets her promotion to captain of Discovery at the end of the third season.
    • This trope gets taken up to eleven between the third and fourth seasons. By the fourth season premiere, "Kobayashi Maru", Stamets and Culber are now commanders, Detmer, Rhys, Nilsson, Bryce and Owosekun are all lieutenant-commanders, Tilly is now a full lieutenant, and Dr. Pollard has jumped all the way from originally being a lieutenant junior-grade to full commandernote .
  • Recycled Premise: Burnham's introduction to Discovery is lifted almost directly from the Ensign Ro storyline in Star Trek: The Next Generation: Both are female officers who were court martialed and imprisoned, only to be pulled from prison for their unique insight and placed aboard a starship, where they contend with their bad reputation but ultimately prove to be capable officers.
    • Season 3, set in the far future where the Federation has crumbled relying on a ship from the past to forge new alliances and re-build a idealised-utopia sounds a lot like another Gene Roddenberry inspired franchise Andromeda.
  • 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.
  • Red Alert: In this case, "Black Alert" is used whenever Discovery spore-jumps.
  • Red Herring: When it is revealed that Voq and L'Rell had a son, who has Voq's albinism, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine viewers might be inclined to think that this is the albino Dax faced, along with Kor, Koloth, and Kang. However, as the second season progresses, it is clear that Voq's son has not only rapidly aged to adulthood due to contact with the time crystal, but has dedicated his life to being the crystals' guardian, precluding his facing off against the aforementioned four.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Ba'ul have red, glowing eyes beneath the inky fluid that covers their bodies, which supports their reputation as the predator species of Kaminar.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Burnham's red to Saru's blue. Georgiou seems to enjoy seeing them play off each other.
  • 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.
  • The Remnant: In Season 3, The Federation has been reduced to a fraction of its former strength(from 350 members to 38), and the eponymous ship is key to rebuilding it Back from the Brink.
  • Resurgent Empire: Season 4 shows that the Federation is rebuilding itself; the re-admission of Ni'Var brings the membership number up to 60.
  • Retcon:
    • The crew several times mention Synthehol - but according to TNG's Relic Synthehol didn't exist in the 23rd century (As it's alien to Scotty who first tries it in the Enterprise D).
    • Discovery features replicator-like devices that according to previous shows (TOS, TAS and Voyager), didn't exist in the 23rd century. Michael for example gets a uniform "synthesized", while in TOS and TAS there's a mention of a specific department of the Enterprise in charge of providing clothing and uniforms.
  • Retool: Two of them. The second season dials back many of the first season's Darker and Edgier aspects, moving on from its war-story focus, introducing a new captain in Christopher Pike, and generally showing more camaraderie among the crew. The third season begins with a major status-quo shift emerging out of the previous season finale, as the starship Discovery is sent 930 years into the future.
  • 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.
  • Retool: The third season completely changes the scope of the series, throwing Discovery and her crew into the 33rd century and leaving the TOS-era behind, presumably for good.
  • 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.
    • In Season 2, we know that Captain Pike will survive, and go on to teach at Starfleet Academy, since he shows up in the Original Series, paralyzed and clinging to life after a training accident in "The Menagerie.”
    • At the beginning of Season 2, Spock has gone on leave from the Enterprise for parts unknown. We obviously know that he is alive and will survive the season's events to go on and be a main character in the Original Series.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Discovery travels 930 years into the future and the characters are surprised that the Federation is all but gone. As it turns out it's only because of this "Burn" incident that took place over a century beforehand. But 930 years is a long time! For comparison, look to almost any kingdom, land, empire or political entity on Earth and see how it changed between the year 1091 and today - it's more surprising that the Federation does exist, still having all the same culture, goals, morals and values as it did in Burnham's time, with only The Burn having had any impact on it.
  • Screen Shake: The tradition continues; whenever the bridge is shown during combat, you can count on the camera to jar while the actors hurl themselves from one side to the other.
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: The mycelial network is said to be integral to the very existence of life; Stamets calls it "the veins and muscles that hold our universe together.” This is why its corruption by the I.S.S. Charon is so concerning: if the network dies, it may very well take all life in The Multiverse with it.
  • 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. May be justified since Discovery is a cutting edge science vessel with tons of classified technology not yet approved for use elsewhere.
    • 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 
    • This series follows Star Trek: Enterprise's example of depicting cloaking devices in use decades prior to their "official" debut in "Balance of Terror.”
    • In The Original Series episode “The Tholian Web,” Spock remarks that there is "absolutely no record" of a mutiny aboard a Federation starship, which is kind of weird when his own sister did exactly that. This is somewhat justified in the season finale when Michael's mutiny is stricken from the record, retroactively making Spock's comment a case of Exact Words instead.
    • In "The Changing Face of Evil,” late in the run of DS9, General (later Chancellor) Martok remarks that not even the Klingons had ever attempted to attack Earth before the Breen raid. By the final two episodes of the first season of Discovery, set a century earlier, Klingon forces capture Starbase 1 "right in Earth's back yard,” according to Admiral Cornwell (said to be 100 AUs distant), and are later shown in Earth orbit and about to launch a direct attack when L'Rell wins power and calls off the Empire's forces.
  • Shooting Gallery: In "Lethe,” Captain Lorca and Lieutenant Tyler go through a holographic shoot-em-up while keeping a Body-Count Competition on who shoots more holo-Klingons. Lorca's rifle records 24 kills; Tyler modestly claims 22, but Lorca sees that his rifle has 36.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
    • The U.S.S. Hiawatha in the second season premiere "Brother" is a Starfleet medical vessel with the registry number NCC-815, which crashed on an asteroid full of exotic matter and gravity distortions and wasn't found until rescue arrived by chance most of a year later. Sounds a lot like Oceanic Flight 815, which crashed on a deserted island in the Pacific full of exotic matter and gravity distortions in the premiere episode of Lost.
    • Many Federation ships are named for 20th-century astronauts and cosmonauts (the Glenn, the Gagarin, etc). Sadly they seem to be the Red Shirts of the fleet.
    • In 4.10 "Galactic Barrier" Dr. Kovich mentions taking a, "Three hour tour outside the galaxy".
  • Silence of Sadness: When Tilly starts hearing the voice of her dead friend May, she becomes unhappy because she thinks she could be insane. People worry about her because she's speaking less and the words she does speak have fewer syllables than her usual lexicon.
  • 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 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).
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: two at the end of Season 3.
    • The Discovery crew shift from the 2250s-era blue uniforms to the same Starfleet uniforms as their 32nd-century contemporaries.
    • Burnham also gets a new uniform: she switches from Sciences blue (well, silver in that era) to Command red because she is now The Captain. Fun fact: she is one of exactly three Star Trek characters to ever switch colors; both Worf and La Forge started out in red in the first season of TNG before switching to gold; Worf changed back after he was transferred to DS9.
  • Soulless Bedroom: When Spock visits Burnham's quarters, he comments that it is very plain, lacking a personal touch, in comparison to her roommate's more vibrantly personalized half of the room. She replies that she expresses herself through her work. That sounds like something a logic-driven Vulcan would say, but when Burnham visits Spock's quarters on the Enterprise, his walls and shelves are decorated with a number of personal mementos. In later seasons, when Burnham has embraced her humanity, her room has gathered a plethora of personal mementos to remind her of her friends and family.
  • Space Clouds: The planet Xahea sits in the middle of a dense nebula... as in, it's literally got clouds of dust swirling around it all the time. No, it's not realistic, but it's pretty as hell.
  • Space Is Noisy: Explosions in space and other events involving space crafts generate noise.
  • Space Whale: The Gormagander in episode seven, which Burnham literally describes as a "space whale" (although it looks more like a jellyfish). The Klingons apparently consider them a delicacy and hunt them, much like numerous cultures in real life.
  • Standard Alien Spaceship: The Klingons play it straight in season one: rather than the hard-edged war machines seen in other series, in Discovery they have a Gothic look with lots of curves and protrusions, and glowing red or yellow lights scattered across the hull. Throughout the second season, the Klingons are shown developing what will become their standard D7 Battlecruiser, which is more angular compared to their earlier designs, but still quite distinctive from the Federation's preference for Flying Saucer designs.
  • Standard Human Spaceship: Federation ships in Discovery come closer to this trope than in any other series (see Cosmetically-Advanced Prequel above): while they still have their round saucers, the ships are otherwise hard-edged and gunmetal grey in color. The U.S.S. Discovery herself downplays the trope, being more of a tan color and having a spherical bridge module within a negative space in her saucer.
  • Stealth in Space: Both Starfleet and the other Klingon factions are taken aback that T'Kuvma's ships have cloaking devices. The Romulans and Suliban had their own cloaking tech in the 2150s, as seen in Star Trek: Enterprise, but Voq claims that T'Kuvma devised his own cloaks independently.
  • Stealth Sequel: The first season is this for "In a Mirror, Darkly," interestingly enough. Captain Lorca is actually a Terran, the Empire is still struggling to defeat the rebels, and the exploits of Commander Archer and the Defiant drive the plot for a few episodes toward the end of the season.
  • 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.
  • Story-Breaker Power: The USS Discovery's signature "spore drive" is an experimental "jump"-style FTL drive (as opposed to usual-for-IP warp drives, which simply make you go faster) whose only real limitations on its capabilities are that it requires a particular species of fungal spores for fuel and a living being plugged in to navigate it: it even proves capable of Time Travel and jumping to Alternate Universes. Viewers were quick to point out how this trivializes many plots, such as the earlier series Star Trek: Voyager (set a century later) in its entirety had the season 2 finale not declared the entire project Over-the-Top Secret. Naturally the series soon began running headlong into Forgotten Phlebotinum, with probably the most egregious instance being the season 2 finale: instead of jumping Discovery beyond the reach of standard warp drives and having all the time in the world to charge the time crystal safely, the crew jumps to Xahea to get help charging it faster, and then fights an operationally unnecessary Big Badass Battle Sequence for little more reason than the show "needing" the Arc Villain to be dealt with.
  • Student–Master Team: Tilly and Stamets, respectively. Tilly starts out as a cadet assigned to assist Stamets in operating the spore drive. Even after she gets her Rank Up to Ensign, she clearly looks up to him, and he places his complete faith in her while tolerating her eccentricities.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Red Angel in season two is considered to be one of these. It has the ability to create "red bursts" visible across the galaxy in real time, teleport groups of people thousands of light-years across space, and create electromagnetic pulses strong enough to shut down an entire planetary power grid. When Saru sees the Angel in "The Sound of Thunder,” he explicitly describes it as a humanoid wearing some kind of fantastical Power Armor. This is subverted toward the end of the season when it turns out that the suit was designed and built by Section 31 twenty years earlier.
  • 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.
  • Supporting Leader: This show breaks tradition by making the main character a subordinate of the vessel's commanding officer. Michael serves under three different captains in spite of being the main character.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • 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 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.
    • Just because the Emperor of the evil Empire looks like your dead friend does not mean she bears any resemblance to her in anything but appearance. It takes Burnham a long time to realize that the Mirror Universe Phillipa is not her friend and is in fact pretty much as evil and is certainly as big an Absolute Xenophobe as everyone else in her universe.
    • So you just saved the entire Federation? Cool, except you're also the aforementioned officer who assaulted her captain and tried to launch an unprovoked attack to start the war in the first place. So no, you don't get back your former job as first officer, or even better, a promotion; instead, you're only let back into Starfleet at your old rank, but are then shunted sideways to become the science officer. As such, it is still very unlikely that Burnham will ever have a command of her own, and she is now (at most) the second officer on Discovery — behind Commander Saru, who Burnham used to outrank when they both served aboard the Shenzhou.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In "Despite Yourself,” Michael expresses a bit of this for the Terrans of the mirror universe:
    "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."
  • Talking Is a Free Action:
    • Near the end of "Perpetual Infinity,” Michael and her mother share a long, tearful farewell full of promises and regrets. Nice... except that Leland/Control is right there in the room trying to kill them, while Georgiou is fighting tooth and nail to keep him off of them.
    • Happens again in "Such Sweet Sorrow.” Time is of the essence, and the stakes are enormous, but Burnham and Spock still find time for two separate heart-to-hearts while a massive space battle rages all around them.
  • Techno Babble: Characters spend quite a lot of screen time talking out convoluted scientific and technological issues. Sometimes even basic concepts are made more "sciency" by putting them into more arcane terms, such as when Burnham announces that a surface has reached "ten to the sixth power degrees" rather than simply saying "one million degrees."
  • 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.
  • Thematic Sequel Logo Change: Each season changes the visual elements during the main title sequence to reflect elements of that season (such as having a picture of the Red Angel in Season 2, or changing from a 23rd century phaser pistol to a 32nd century one in Season 3). The series title is rendered in a harsh, Klingon-like font for the first two seasons, but changes to a rounder, more "futuristic" one starting in Season 3 to reflect the setting change to the 32nd century.
  • Throne Room Throwdown: "What's Past is Prologue" has Burnham and Emperor Georgiou face off against Gabriel Lorca and his fellow conspirators in Georgiou's throne room aboard her flagship, the I.S.S. Charon.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock:
    • Apparently the standard method of execution in the Terran Empire's Starfleet, except they use the transporter instead of an airlock.
    • This happens to Lieutenant Airiam in the second season when she suffers I Cannot Self-Terminate.
  • 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 a lot of ground to the Klingons in the meantime.
    • A rather large one is featured at the end of Season 2, with Discovery jumping 930 years into the future, landing in the late 32nd century — an era of continuity which has never before been explored.
  • Time Travel Taboo: By the 32nd century, time travel has been outlawed to prevent a repeat of the Temporal Wars.
  • Title, Please!: Discovery is the first Trek series to eschew onscreen episode titles. Since the show was made for a streaming service, the watcher has presumably already seen the episode title in the interface.
  • Translation Convention: 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.
  • True Companions: While relations between the main cast members are often tense in the first season, by the end of the second season, they are true friends and would die for one another. Saru, Tilly, Stamets, Spock, Nhan, Reno, Detmer, Owosekun, Rhys, Bryce, and Nilsson don't hesitate to follow Michael on her one-way trip to the future to stop Control, even though it would mean never seeing their own loved ones again.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Most episodes have an A-Plot and a B-Plot that hand off and intertwine, as in the other series.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: In-universe, Mudd takes advantage of Discoverys "Groundhog Day" Loop to kill Lorca dozens of times, in increasingly creative and violent ways, as revenge for leaving Mudd to rot in a Klingon prison.
  • Visual Pun: The Terran Empire's logo has the Earth flipped horizontally, a play on "Mirror Universe"note .
  • Voodoo Shark: The second season tries to justify Burnham and Discovery not being mentioned in other Star Trek works by having Starfleet classify all records of their existence after they disappear, explicitly making them all Unpersons to the point that mentioning them in public is tantamount to treason. Great, except that most of the ship's crew still have friends and family who will naturally be unlikely to deny their existence, and The Federation obviously isn't dark enough to silence them permanently. There's also the matter of Discovery and her crew being integral to resolving the Klingon war, and all of whom were celebrated and promoted at a ceremony in the middle of Paris. Not to mention that Burnham herself was notorious across the Federation for her actions back in the series pilot, and her redemption would likely have made her something of a media sensation. And there's nothing to stop the Klingons from writing songs about the ship that sacrificed itself by jumping into the future. If Starfleet had let the Enterprise crew's lie about the ship's "destruction" be the official story, that would have been plausible; as it is, it's hard to imagine how they would enforce total secrecy among so many people.
  • Walking Spoiler: It's nearly impossible to discuss Captain Lorca without spoiling the biggest twist of the first season. The involvement of the Terran Empire in general is itself a twist, given that the plot up till then was driven by the Klingon-Federation War, but has since become a Late-Arrival Spoiler.
  • War Hero: Most of Discovery's command crew are awarded the Starfleet Medal of Honor at the end of the first season for their actions during the Federation-Klingon War.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The whole reason the Klingon Empire is falling apart. The twenty four Great Houses are so busy feuding with each other they've forgotten how to work together to solve their common problems. T'Kuvma's war gives the Empire a shot of adrenaline by forcing them into conflict with the Federation, but it doesn't take long before that squabbling begins to dominate the war effort too. Subverted and deconstructed near the end of the season: with each House acting independently, Starfleet can't coordinate a defense and suffers terribly as the Klingons compete to see who can destroy the most Federation assets.
  • 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: T'Kuvma knows that the Federation is peaceful, but considers 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 is killed 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 Tyler's 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.
    • "Saints of Imperfection.” Tilly and the crew save the mycelial network (again), Mirror Universe Georgiou and Ash Tyler return to Discovery as agents of Section 31, and Hugh Culber is brought Back from the Dead with help from "May".
    • "Project Daedalus.” The crew learns that Section 31 is being manipulated by its rogue threat assessment AI, Control, which is also the being that destroys all sentient life in the Bad Future. Nhan is forced to kill Airiam to stop Control's plans for now.
    • "The Red Angel.” Leland reveals that Michael's parents were scientists working on the Red Angel suit for Section 31's Project Daedalus, and that they died because a mistake Leland made tipped off the Klingons to their location. Control hacks Leland's ship, stabs him in the eyes, and impersonates him. The crew captures the Red Angel and learn that she is Michael's supposedly dead mother.
    • "Such Sweet Sorrow,” the two-part second season finale, completely changes the scope of the series. To prevent Control from ever obtaining the sphere data, Michael becomes the second Red Angel and takes herself and Discovery on a one-way trip to the far future. Michael sent the first five signals to ensure a scenario where Discovery and the Enterprise could defeat Control's armada. Cornwell sacrifices herself to save the Enterprise. Tyler is made the new commander of the reformed Section 31. To ensure that no one can ever finding out where Discovery and the sphere data are, Pike, Spock, Tyler, and Number One convince the Federation that Discovery was destroyed in a spore drive accident and that Discovery and her crew should be Unpersoned.
  • 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.
    • This would lead to another Wham Line about the true identity of Captain Lorca.
      Burnham: (talking to the Terran Emperor) My so-called captain's not from my universe. He's from yours.
    • In "The Red Angel,” Michael's reaction to seeing the eponymous character's unmasked face:
      Burnham: Mom?
    • In "Terra Firma, Part 2", Michael's demand to Carl about the latter's identity elicited a response pretty much nobody but the most well-versed fans of the franchise expected.
      Burnham: Who are you?! Really?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At the end of Season One the Discovery is headed to Vulcan to pick up her new captain, presumably a Vulcan. Then Pike takes command of the vessel, and the Vulcan Captain is never mentioned again.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Pike delivers a mild one to Saru after Saru allows Culber to attack Tyler in the mess hall. Saru responds that he thought the confrontation was a nessecary part of the healing process and that Starfleet had no regulatory guidance to deal with interactions between an artifical human/Klingon hybrid and a human who came back from the dead. Pike decides to let it go but tells Saru to pass the world to the crew that in the future they could not be settling their conflicts with violence but in accordance with the uniform code of conduct.
  • 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:
    • Either Burnham or Saru would have been in de facto command of the U.S.S. Shenzhou by the end of the Battle of the Binary Stars, once Georgiou was dead, and then gave the order to Abandon Ship.
    • 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.”
    • In Season 2, Number One is left in command of Enterprise after Pike takes command of Discovery to finish his mission after the former ship suffers shipwide system failures. At the end of the same season, Pike returns to Enterprise to leave Saru in command for Discovery's trip into the 32nd Century.
    • Tyler is now in command of Section 31, after Control's rebellion gutted the organization and the Federation decided new management was required moving forward.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: In season 2, Control's future self seeks to fulfill its original purpose of ensuring the survival of sapient life by becoming the only sapient life form in the galaxy, reasoning that protecting all life is impossible, so long as other life exists.

"We are stranded in a cruel, anarchic world. But we are still Starfleet."


Video Example(s):


Kwejian Destroyed

Booker returns to the Discovery after his ship was damaged by an anomaly near his home planet of Kwejian. When the crew puts Kwejian on the view screen, to their shock and horror they see the planet has been destroyed.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhamShot

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