Star Trek: Discovery premiered on Sunday, with the first hour on CBS and the second hour on the network’s streaming service, CBS All Access. The episode introduced audiences to the first new iteration of Star Trek since JJ Abrams’ 2009 film. While the series may not be about a ship called Enterprise, as so many shows before have been about, it is full of references, homages, and nods to its predecessors. We found at least five clear examples of Star Trek: Discovery referencing classic Starfleet iconography, can you find more?
The first hour, aptly titled “The Vulcan Hello” featured Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) wandering the deserts of a desolate planet. While the two officers looked more like Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens than members of Starfleet, they quickly set themselves in the Star Trek universe. Seemingly lost, Georgiou was actually creating a shape in the sand. This shape is one of the most iconic symbols in all of Star Trek history: the insignia for Starfleet. Showing this symbol was a grand way to kick off the new series. This symbol also helped get them rescued, which feels like a great metaphor for the series as a whole.
Theme Song & Opening Credits
When Star Trek: The Original Series premiered in 1966, the credits began with just four notes. Those four notes can be recognized by any Trek fan. They were then followed by a sweeping brass sound that led into William Shatner’s voice-over of “Space, the final frontier.” These four notes and brass intro can also be heard in the credits for Star Trek: The Next Generation. These sounds were also heard tonight during the opening credits for Star Trek: Discovery. While the song may not be the same, everything about it has the tone, feeling, and vibe of Star Trek theme music. Our hats are officially off to composer Jeff Russo.
First Officer’s Log
The use of voice-over can be heard on almost every show on television these days. From the “My name is Oliver Queen” introduction on Arrow to “Our story is about a town” voice-over by Jughead on Riverdale. This fine tradition can be traced back to the captains of real ships, keeping track of their journeys on the sea.
For the purpose of Star Trek, the captain’s log typically opens with a stardate and information about his or her ship’s current events. From Captain Kirk to Captain Picard, the officer’s log is a fine tradition on Star Trek shows. So when Burnham launched into “First Officer’s log, stardate 1207.3” it really let us know we were back on board a Federation ship.
Warp travel is the fastest way to travel in the galaxy. Every warp factor is a factor beyond the speed of light. In previous Star Trek shows, warp typically looked like stars moving past the bridge viewscreen very quickly. You couldn’t really discern, as a viewer, what the ship was exactly passing through, just that they were moving.
During Burnham’s log voice-over, the ship, the USS Shenzhou, is traveling at warp. Instead of it looking like a black sky with small white dots for stars, the stars themselves are moving. The ship looks like it’s traveling through some kind of gel or plasma. This effect is a direct nod to Abrams 2009 Star Trek. That film used the same kind of warp visuals. This creative choice likely came from Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer on Discovery who worked on all three films with Abrams.
While every Star Trek show likes to make itself unique, it is fun to include certain sounds and equipment from other shows. One sound synonymous with The Original Series is a bird-like tweeting that some kind of technical equipment makes. This sound can be heard on the bridge of the Enterprise from The Original Series and in Abrams’ film series. That same sound can also be heard during the first sequence on the bridge of Star Trek: Discovery. You can hear the sound when Burnham gives bridge control to Lt. Saru. During this scene and many others, you can hear the hum of the ship, the clicking of computer stations and monitors, all sounds that should be heard on the deck of a starship. The hum or heartbeat of the ship was also iconic to the Enterprise in The Next Generation and can again be heard here.
These nods and Easter eggs don’t include Burnham being called Number One (an homage to Commander Riker), the presence of Ambassador Sarek (Spock’s father), Burnham using the Vulcan Nerve Pinch or T’Kuvma wielding a traditional Klingon Batleth. All of these references and more pay tribute to all of the Trek that came before and all that is to come. Oh, and one more for good measure — check out Captain Georgiou’s bookshelf — you may recognize these as episodes titles from the original Star Trek series!