Wow. Multi-dimension hopping is a bitch! The final scene of the latest Star Trek: Discovery packs a whopping twist, but, the implications point toward one possible outcome: the crew is going to have to travel back in time to reset possibly everything they’ve done thus far. Which, might end up reconciling any divergent continuity of the show from the rest of Star Trek.
Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery episode 13, “What’s Past is Prologue.” Also, wild speculation for the rest of the reason follows, too. As of this writing, the author has only seen up to Episode 13.
In the final scene of the latest episode, the USS Discovery successfully makes it back to our own “regular” universe, leaving the evil Mirror Universe behind, seemingly, forever. But, Stamets says they “overshot by nine months.” This means, Discovery has been away from Starfleet and its war with the Klingons for awhile. Communications Officer Bryce can’t even get an automated signal from the Federation, leading Saru to the conclusion that the Klingons have totally won the war, and that the Federation basically don’t exist anymore. But, this is an old Star Trek trick. And, the only way out is usually to travel back in time and fix whatever caused all of this to happen in the first place.
Presumably, the big problem here is that the Discovery was on its way to deliver a cloaking-device-cracking algorithm to Starfleet before being zapped into the Mirror Universe. Because Discovery never gave Starfleet this hack, the Klingons were probably able to use their cloaking devices to blow shit up without anyone knowing where they where. The problem with this, of course, is that in the original Star Trek — which is supposed to happen after the events of Discovery — the Klingons cloaking technology wasn’t that good. In fact, in old canon, the Klingons cloaking tech really doesn’t get good again until they form an alliance with the Romulans. So, what does all this mean?
Well, it could mean Discovery is about to pull a giant retcon on its own continuity, which would allow it all to match up with the old canon. Because, if Discovery’s cloak-breaking algorithm works, then it’s feasible that would put the Klingons in a spot of basically not having cloaking devices, which would work with the original series. And, the only way for Discovery to get that information to Starfleet, and save the entire future, would be to travel back in time.
Sure, the trailer for next week’s episode shows Mirror Georgiou helping Admiral Cornwell to develop new tactics against the Klingons, but is that really going to work? And even if it does, it feels like it messes up Trek canon. The trailer for the next episode also shows Burnham talking to L’Rell about how to end the war, and the implication is there’s no way out. So, again, maybe time travel can fix it?
But, assuming they do travel back in time (which doesn’t have to be the only option) how far back will they go? It’s possible, however unlikely, that they could jump all the way back to the Battle of the Binary Stars, and maybe Michael Burnham could prevent herself from killing the Klingon Torchbearer in the first place. The only problem with that of course, is something like that would create a cascade effect where Discovery would never exist at all, and all the people on it wouldn’t know each other. And if that happens, Star Trek historically presents two options, weirdly from the same episode.
The first outcome of Burnham and everyone changing a major event in the past is this: everything would transform around them, and the timeline would be “restored.” No one would have any memory of anything bad ever having happened. This is kind of what happens in The Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” when an entire warlike future is avoided just by sending one ship back through a time portal.
But, the weird thing about that is, this episode also established a second outcome: that people from canceled or reset timelines can still exist if they are the ones who did the time travel reset. In “Yesterday’s Future,” a Tasha Yar from an alternate future ended up living in the reset timeline’s “regular” past.
So, here’s a big theory: if the starship Discovery does travel back in time and prevent the Klingon war from happening in the first place, then where does that leave them? Will the department of temporal investigations just make them all sign NDAs? Or, will they be like Tasha Yar from “Yesterday’s Enterprise”? No one in Kirk’s 23rd Century knew about the Mirror Universe, nor had anyone heard of Spore Drive technology. So, if Discovery does survive, and everyone on the crew remembers what they did, where do they go next?
There are only two episodes left in Star Trek: Discovery’s first season. They will air over the next two Sundays at 8:30 pm eastern time on CBS All-Access. The season finale will air on February 11, 2018 and is titled “Will You Take My Hand?”