Thanks to the CBS All Access panel at the TCAs, we were provided a wealth of new information about Star Trek: Discovery’s plot — including that the show will take place a decade before Kirk’s five-year mission in The Original Series.
From learning that the character heading up Discovery will be a female crew-member that, unlike other Star Trek series, is not a Captain, to there “definitely” being someone identifying on the LGBTQA+ spectrum on board the ship, we really will be seeing “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” when the 13-episode first season hits All Access in January 2017.
Ah, a 2017 Star Trek TV show. It feels so good to say those words.
But there was one particular comment that Bryan Fuller made about the Star Trek: Discovery plot, after confirming it will be set 10 years prior to The Original Series, that had me pulling reference guides from my bookshelves and furiously scouring Memory Alpha.
Image via: Star Trek Writers Twitter
‘There’s an incident and an event in Star Trek history that’s been talked about but never been explored.’ — Bryan Fuller
That incident, according to Fuller, will form the foundation of Star Trek: Discovery’s plot and is something that has always “tantalized” him as a longtime fan of Star Trek. “It’s something I want to see,” Fuller said.
Of course, you can’t tease something like that and not expect a die-hard Trek fan to go full tilt on researching, cross-referencing, and getting painfully meticulous about figuring out exactly what Bryan Fuller was talking about. Right?
This is a list of incidents and events significant enough to have made an impression on Fuller, circumstances that fans would want to see explored in detail and would be substantial enough to launch a 13-episode series.
The parameters of my research, about what the 2017 Star Trek TV show Discovery both is and isn’t, is as follows:
- Star Trek: Discovery will take place 10 years prior to Kirk’s five-year mission.
- An incident that has been talked about previously, but never explored, will be the basis of the series.
- The incident and/or event was referenced during The Original Series.
- The incident is not the Earth-Romulan war (2156-2160).
- It is not going to be about the Battle of Axanar (2251).
- It is not going to be about The Kobayashi Maru.
- “It’s not impossible” that Section 31 might come into play at some point during the series.
Kirk’s five-year mission on the Enterprise launched in 2265 — as established in canon by Star Trek: Voyager 7×19, “Q2,” so any and all events and incidents would need to happen close to (or during) 2255. I’ve taken that as a base point, and assumed that 10 years could, roughly, fall a few years prior to, or after, 2255.
Where in the timeline is ‘Star Trek: Discovery’?
2246 — The Massacre of Tarsus IV
In 2246, an exotic fungus destroyed most of the food supply of Tarsus IV, leaving its inhabitants in danger of starvation. To ensure survival, Governor Kodos ordered the execution of half of the colonists — 4,000 people. Kodos used his personal theory of eugenics to select those that would be killed. Following the massacre, and the arrival of Starfleet (though they were too late to save anyone), all that was presumed left of Kodos was his burned body — until he was discovered alive in the Original Series episode titled, “The Conscience of the King.”
It’s unlikely that Star Trek: Discovery will deal with the Tarsus IV massacre directly, not only because it’s the furthest incident from 2255, but also because the relief ship involved post-massacre was the Enterprise under Captain Robert April. Regardless, the event is still significant enough that it could have some fallout for one or multiple characters on board the Discovery. It’d be less of a physical incident propelling Discovery, and more psychological, which sits well within Fuller’s remit.
The only known survivors enlisted in Starfleet that we are currently aware of in canon are James T. Kirk and Kevin Riley, and there are four other survivors that knew Kodos’ face, not including Thomas Leighton, D. Eames, and E. Molson, who were civilians. It stands to reason that other survivors could have eventually become members of Starfleet. It would certainly be one way of establishing a link to both The Original Series and Enterprise. Hoshi Sato, a communications officer on NX-01, is believed to have been one of those who perished on Tarsus IV, per some biographical data for the character that was cut from the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II.”
And, let’s be honest, doesn’t eugenics theory sound exactly like something Bryan Fuller would be interested in exploring from a thematic standpoint?
Referenced in: Star Trek: TOS, 1×12, “The Conscience of the King.”
2252 — The Four Years War/Federation-Klingon Cold War
Whilst we know that Fuller has already put the kibosh on the Battle of Axanar being the central incident to Star Trek: Discovery, he said nothing of the fallout following Garth of Izar’s victory there. Though it has never been confirmed exactly who Garth’s opponents were at Axanar, it’s widely accepted amongst fans that it was the Klingons — though there is nothing to corroborate that, other than a non-canonical Star Trek role-playing game book.
What we do know, from The Original Series, is that Kirk (as a Starfleet cadet) was involved in a peace mission following the battle at Axanar and that Garth’s battle tactics became required reading at the Academy. There had also been battles with the Klingons prior to the escalation of the conflict in 2267, where both the Federation and Klingons vied for territory under the Treaty of Organia. One such conflict was the Battle of Donatu V (2245), though the results of that were inconclusive in respect to the victor.
The Four Years War book, taking reference from several Star Trek novels, outlined the conflict between the Federation and Klingons as a prelude to The Original Series. It certainly fits within the timeframe, and it could easily be expanded upon around Discovery.
Of course, I’m taking some liberties with this theory, as The Four Years Wars RPG book isn’t necessarily considered canon, and aside from fan-speculation surrounding Axanar itself, the build up to the conflict between the Federation and Klingons in The Original Series has never been directly explored, though the resulting conflict itself has enjoyed significant screen time.
Referenced in: The Four Years War (Star Trek RPG book), Star Trek: TOS, 1×14, “Court Martial,” 1×27, “Errand of Mercy,” 2×13, “The Trouble with Tribbles,” and 3×16, “Whom Gods Destroy.”
2255 — The Treaty of Armens
Exactly a decade before Kirk’s five-year mission, the Treaty of Armens was established as a means to end a brief conflict between Sheliak Corporate and the United Federation of Planets. There’s little known about the inciting incident that led to the conflict itself, only that it required a 500,000 word document and 372 Federation legal experts to resolve it. In the treaty, the Federation ceded several Class H planets to the Sheliak, including Tau Cygna V.
What we know of the Sheliak themselves is that they believe they are superior to humanoid lifeforms, often referring to them as ‘creatures’ or their presence as an ‘infestation.’ They avoided contact with the Federation, preferring to live an isolated existence in an environment that was the same temperature as their bodies. As we already know our female lead will be “on a journey that is going to teach her how to get along with others in the galaxy,” a highly-charged, xenophobic conflict would likely feed into that thematically.
The only problem? This particular incident was never referenced during The Original Series. Its mention came, instead, during The Next Generation.
Referenced in: Star Trek: TNG, 3×02, “The Ensigns of Command.”