When Lt. Saru is suddenly given command of the ship in the fifth episode of Star Trek: Discovery, he decides to do a little research on famous and heroic Starfleet captains. The computer generates a list for him, containing a few names you might expect and one name only hardcore fans will recognize. That’s right, Discovery brought back Captain Robert April, the first captain of the classic Enterprise, back into canon. And the craziest part is, this is a reference to the animated version of Star Trek.
The canonicity of Star Trek: The Animated Series has been something of a hot-button issue not only with Trekkies but also with creator Gene Roddenberry, who famously didn’t want it considered to be legit. Still, even though original series writer D.C. Fontana often asserted the legitimacy of The Animated Series, most sources — including the official Star Trek encyclopedia and Memory Alpha — didn’t consider it to be true canon until around 2006. That being said, the animated series has been referenced throughout the rest of Star Trek before, but this is the first time in a long time that Captain Robert April has been mentioned. He is the first name that appears on Saru’s screen in the fifth episode of Discovery.
According to the animated episode “The Counter-Clock Incident,” April was the first captain of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. This puts him ahead of Captain Pike and, of course, Captain Kirk. Supposedly, April captained the Enterprise from 2245 to 2250. Meaning, his exploits as captain are still somewhat fresh in everyone’s minds during the time of Discovery. Obviously, even though we didn’t see Robert April in this episode of Discovery, this could set the stage for him to appear in some way, shape, or form in the series later on.
Notably, of all the captains listed, only two of them were not former captains of a ship called the Enterprise. Jonathan Archer is, of course, the captain of the NX-01 Enterprise from the TV series of the same name, while Pike was the captain of the Enterprise NCC-1701 after April but before Kirk. According to the Trek timeline, Pike is also commanding the Enterprise at the exact same time as the events of Star Trek: Discovery are taking place. Will Pike and the Enterprise appear in a future episode? If so, archival footage of Jeffrey Hunter might be used, but Pike could also conceivably be played by Bruce Greenwood, who played the character in the 2009 Star Trek and in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.
Saru’s list also included Matt Decker, who we know will eventually go insane in the original series episode “The Doomsday Machine.” Presumably, during the events of Discovery, Decker is in command of the same ship, the USS Constellation.
And, of course, the final name on the list needs no introduction. She’s everyone’s favorite new Star Trek character, already gone too soon: Captain Philippa Georgiou.
Incidentally, this Captain April thing isn’t the first time Star Trek: Discovery has referenced the animated series. In “Context Is for Kings,” Burnham mentions that Amanda read her and Spock Alice In Wonderland when they were children. Spock first mentioned this fact in the animated series episode “Once Upon A Planet.” So, if Discovery references the animated series for a third time this season, a pattern will have officially formed.
Star Trek: Discovery airs on CBS All Access on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
If you liked this article, check out Inverse’s review of Star Trek: Discovery.