It’s been a long time! But, if you were a big fan of the least popular Star Trek series, Enterprise, your faith of the heart has been rewarded. After putting Archer’s name on a screen in the fifth episode, Star Trek: Discovery has name-dropped Captain Archer and the entire crew of the 22nd Century starship Enterprise in Episode 14, “The War Without, the War Within.” But what did this mean exactly? What was Admiral Cornwell talking about?
Spoilers ahead for Star Trek: Discovery Season 1, Episode 14, “The War Without, the War Within.”
The latest Discovery makes a big deal about the ship going to the Klingon homeworld, Kronos (or Qo’noS), for the first time in a very long time. And just before the end of the episode, Admiral Cornwell makes a reference to the prequel series Enterprise when she says that the USS Discovery will be “the first to visit this inhospitable planet since Captain Archer and the crew of the Enterprise NX-01 nearly 100 years ago.”
This references the very first episode of the show Enterprise — “Broken Bow” — which aired in 2001 and took place in 2151. Discovery takes place in 2256, so the hundred year figure is pretty much spot on. But what happened 100 years before this episode?
Basically, the pilot episode of Enterprise was all about the “first” starship called Enterprise (which was registered NX-01) taking a wounded Klingon all the way back to his homeworld, pretty much just to prove that they could. This episode famously began with a farmer shooting a lone Klingon in a cornfield because that’s how the first contact with the Klingon’s went down back then.
Weirdly, though, Enterprise and Captain Archer did have a lot of run-ins with the Klingons again during its four seasons (including the smooth-headed variety), but they never did make it all the way back to Kronos. And now, Discovery is pretty much saying that’s the last time humans from Starfleet ever kit up the Klingon homeworld.
There’s a little bit of canon confusion as to what constitutes the first time Earth made contact with the Klingons. In The Next Generation, Picard says that the first contact humans had with the Klingons led to an all-out war. But in the Enterprise episode “Broken Bow,” the Klingons making contact with Earth doesn’t lead to war. Instead, that seems to have happened on Discovery. Maybe this is how they’re counting it: when one Klingon made contact with Earth in Enterprise, it resulted in one farmer shooting that Klingon.
But, when Burnham killed the Torchbearer in the first episode of Discovery, that counted as the Federation making contact with the Klingons, rather than the Klingons making contact with them.
The irony is this: When Captain Archer’s Enterprise visited Kronos in “Broken Bow,” a little more than 100 years before Discovery, it was a mission of peace. Now, Starfleet is headed to the same planet, with a deposed Mirror Universe Emperor leading the charge, and a plan to invade the planet.
The weirdest thing about this reference to Enterprise is that it’s the second time since the mid-season premiere that Discovery has referenced the divisive series. From “Despite Yourself” through “Vaulting Ambition,” the USS Defiant from Enterprise was mentioned a lot.
Which means, when Trekkies rewatch the first season of Discovery, you’ve got a new drinking game: take a shot every time Enterprise gets mentioned. It happens way more often than you’d think.