A whole lot of lens flare in the footage for Star Trek: Discovery might remind fans of the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films, but the entire franchise is actually all neatly encapsulated in the first trailer. Discovery has the feel of every single Star Trek show that has come before, but also, quite correctly, seems to be doing its own thing. While it might be hard to reconcile this slick-looking universe taking place only a decade before Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura and the rest of the ‘60s gang, there is just enough sparkly foil in the contours of the uniforms to make everyone happy. Plus, Captain Georgiou’s flip-up communicator is the best version of the device since the teeny-tiny communicator Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) rocked on Enterprise. Clearly, no one is going to tap their chest to talk on the phone on Star Trek ever again.
Superficial aesthetics aside, Discovery also referenced the totality of Star Trek in a lot of other ways. Here are five:
First Officer/Captain Dynamics
Early in the trailer, Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) are palling around on a desert planet, chatting about Burnham’s future. Georgiou mentions it’s time for Burnham to get her own command, which is immediately reminiscent of Captain Picard telling Commander Riker to get his own starship in The Next Generation episode “The Best of Both Worlds.” But, the buddy relationship between the Captain and the First Officer extends through all of Star Trek. In Voyager, Captain Janeway was buddies with Chakotay, but she was more of a mentor to Seven of Nine; a feeling reminiscent in Georgiou and Burnham’s interactions.
Sarek Is Kind of a Dick
In what is maybe a flashback, Sarek (James Frain) tells Burnham — as a child, seemingly — that she’ll “never learn Vulcan” because her “tongue is too human.” Sarek’s prejudices again humans are fairly well known. Even though he married two human women in his life, he was always weird toward his own son Spock because Spock was half human. In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Sarek’s first words upon seeing his newborn baby Spock were dismissively, “So, human.” If Sarek has some kind of proxy, paternal relationship with Burnham, his grumpy, kind of racist dad routine is classic.
At this point in Star Trek history, Starfleet has known about the Klingons for awhile. But the Klingons in this trailer don’t look like the kind seen in the majority of the franchise. And they also aren’t the smooth-headed kind from the original series. Instead, the design feels more like the Klingons seen in Star Trek Into Darkness. How does this work? Well, Star Trek: Enterprise established a crazy genetic disease that hit the entire Klingon Empire pretty hard. So, these Klingons are probably connected to that incident, somehow. Plus, they look formidable, which is really the only definition of a Klingon.
Starfleet Keeps the Peace, Sort Of
At one point in the trailer, Captain Georgiou says, “Starfleet doesn’t fire first.” This seems to be in reference to a conflict with the Klingons. For the most part, Starfleet has been characterized throughout all of Star Trek as a peaceful organization. But it also has clear military structures, and in Star Trek 2009, Captain Pike called it a a “peacekeeping armada.” In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a giant war occupies a lot of the latter seasons in which Starfleet shoots first all the time. Basically, Captain Kirk and Captain Sisko shot first a lot. When she says “WE HAVE TOO!” it looks like Burnham is more like those guys.
The Alien Who Knows Us Better Than We Know Ourselves
At the very end of the trailer, Lt. Saru (Doug Jones) tells Burnham that his species is really good at sensing death. While this makes him seem like the opposite of a Thestral from Harry Potter, it does continue the Star Trek tradition of having an alien crew member who basically serves to be the moral and intellectual compass of everyone else. Saru feels like a blend of Dr. Phlox from Enterprise with a touch of Data from The Next Generation. But Saru’s vague empathic abilities give him a touch of Deanna Troi, too.
Star Trek: Discovery debuts sometime in the fall of 2017. Watch the trailer again here.