Discovery Continuity Problems
Even if we leave aside the general visual disconnection of the series from most of the rest of Star Trek, there are many continuity problems in Star Trek Discovery. Season 2 attempted to explain some of them but created new issues in the course. Note that I don't claim that all of the issues listed in the following are irreconcilable.
These are continuity issues of Discovery that were not amended or alleviated in a way to better comply with the rest of Star Trek.
- Augment Klingons as we know them from TOS and ENT's fourth season never show up in Discovery. If we suppose that Discovery-style Klingons are identical to TMP Klingons, per the "visual reboot" principle, then the more human-looking Augments don't exist in the Discoveryverse (or it would need a very good on-screen explanation why they have temporarily gone into hiding).
- Discovery Klingons had no hair in season 1. After the "new" Klingons (that were created on Bryan Fuller's behest) were not well received by many viewers, their look was revised for season 2. While the totally different anatomy remained the same, they were given back their hair to be more relatable. Having no hair was explained in DIS: "Point of Light" as a tradition in wartime. All Klingons of the different houses of Discovery, however, had no hair even before T'Kuvma made the surprising appeal to go to war against the Federation. Klingon children had no hair in T'Kuvma's flashback, and Mirror Voq was hairless as well. Perhaps the political changes brought about by L'Rell are a reason why Klingons grow hair again and never give up this custom. But this conflicts with the uninterrupted continuity of classic "hairy" Klingons (with the sole exception of General Chang that proves the rule), and quite paradoxically Discovery posits that the Klingons have totally conformist traditions at a time when they are explicitly said and shown to be totally divided. So even if we put up with the other visual discrepancies, bald Klingons remain an isolated oddity of Discovery.
- Discovery Klingons have pointed ears, which invalidates the story of TNG: "Birthright II" where the Romulan-like shape of her ears sets apart the half-Romulan Ba'el.
- It seems unlikely that Discovery Klingons are sexually and/or genetically compatible with other species, such as humans or Romulans. Quite possibly B'Elanna or Ba'el can't exist in the Discoveryverse. The two penises of male Klingons (DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?") are a rather curious side aspect in this regard.
- Among many other anatomical differences, Discovery Klingons have thick and elongated heads. It is impossible for them to pass as other humanoid species without being surgically mutilated, without "giving up everything" the way Voq had to do it. This invalidates the classic stories involving Klingon undercover agents such as Arne Darvin (TOS: "The Trouble With Tribbles") or Worf (TNG: "Homeward").
- The choH'a' (species reassignment protocol) that L'Rell used to transform Voq to a human named Tyler, anatomically and genetically, is a lot more advanced than any comparable technology that will be available in the following 120 years. In the context of Star Trek's overall continuity, this issue is alleviated by the fact that the Klingons of Discovery are anatomically very different anyway and that in classic Trek a total transformation of undercover agents was never deemed necessary (thinking of Arne Darvin in "The Trouble with Tribbles"). But if we "believe" in the full extent of the transformation and hence of the procedure, the level of this technology is extremely anachronistic.
- In classic Trek, a Bird-of-Prey is a small Klingon ship with moving wings, totally unlike the Discovery-style version of the BoP, which does not qualify as a reimagination but is a totally unrelated design that was given the same name to insinuate a continuity that is technically non-existent. The Discoveryverse "D7" from DIS: "Choose Your Pain", on the other hand, was revised to something more canon. A "new" ship of the same name, now similar to a classic D7, showed up as a depiction in DIS: "Point of Light" and physically in DIS: "Through The Valley Of Shadows".
- Discovery Klingon starships have cloaking technology in 2256 (DIS: "Battle at the Binary Stars", "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum"), although cloaking is a previously unknown and probably new feature on their ships in "Star Trek III" and did not show up in TOS. Perhaps we may apply the same explanation that, just as the Romulan cloaking in ENT: "Minefield", a "scattering field" is something less advanced?
- Discovery Klingons, or at least T'Kuvma's sect, adorn the ship hull with the coffins of dead warriors (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello"). This is in contrast to TNG: "Heart of Glory" where the Klingons discard the bodies, which are regarded as an empty shell. It may be taken as a laudable sign of diversity in their culture but it doesn't comply with the other Klingons' reverence for T'Kuvma's ways.
- Discovery Klingons, or at least the religious fanatics around Voq, speak to the dead, they invoke blasphemy and cherish humility, unlike the Klingons from classic Trek, who are not really religious and who would see humility as a damnable weakness.
- Most disgustingly, Discovery Klingons eat their enemies, as mentioned in DIS: "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry". While we may want to rate it as a desperate measure as L'Rell and company are starving, it also seems to be a quite normal ritual among them. We know from DS9: "Blood Oath" that Kang, Kor, Koloth as well as Curzon Dax once swore to eat the heart of the Albino, but the fact of it being a "blood oath" also tells us that normally they wouldn't eat their enemies.
- What will happen to the time crystals of Boreth (DIS: "Through the Valley of Shadows")? Why would the Klingon Empire continue to ignore them and why would they never appear again? Why wouldn't they play a role in TNG: "Rightful Heir"? Worf is on a planet full of temporal anomalies, and nothing of note happens because of that? The monks become experts in cloning to resurrect Kahless, rather than going to the past to meet the actual Kahless? This all doesn't make sense.
- Discovery allows no distinction of old and new looks when it comes to technology and especially Starfleet ships. The series presents a generic "one-design-fits-all-eras Starfleet style". In particular, the Shenzhou looks totally 24rd century, but is explicitly called an old ship in "The Vulcan Hello", as opposed to the moderate reimagination of the USS Enterprise that retains its retro look.
- All Discovery Starfleet ships have bridge windows, as they never existed until the J.J. Abrams reboot of 2009.
- USS Discovery has tens of thousands of cubic meters of empty space without a deck structure and apparently even without structural support (DIS: "Brother"). There are even drones or workbees flying through the hull! Although we are supposed to silently accept this plain silliness as artistic license, it is in stark contradiction to the deck structure of classic Starfleet ships that is densely packed with machinery, supplies and living spaces.
- The reimagination of the Enterprise bridge includes a corridor behind the aft consoles and a second exit that the actual Enterprise never had (the second exit was added in 2271). This has story relevance because in TOS there were situations when the only door was blocked.
- It becomes clear in "Such Sweet Sorrow II" that the reimagined Enterprise has to be considerably larger than the TOS ship. Most obviously, the countless shuttles must have been stored somewhere.
- The reimagined Enterprise also has phaser emplacements on the top of the saucer hull, whereas the classic ship could fire them only from the lower sensor dome. We may argue that the latter is a design flaw because of the lacking coverage in a battle and that the original ship might have had them too and we just didn't see them. Still, it remains a discrepancy.
- A forcefield as it is apparently permanently in place to seal the shuttlebay on the Discovery did not exist at all in TOS. The shuttlebay of the pre-reimagined Enterprise was explicitly shown or mentioned to be pressurized or depressurized on several occasions.
- Space travel is almost instantaneous in Discovery, even without the spore drive. The Klingon fleet with all 24 leaders arrives only some ten minutes after the call (DIS: "The Vulcan Hello"), Baron Grimes needs just three or four minutes (DIS: "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad"), the Klingon/Ba'ul cavalry comes to the rescue after just 30 minutes (DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow II").
- It is a Discovery- and Abrams-specific trope that, after traveling trillions of kilometers, ships and shuttles abruptly drop out of warp only meters ahead of their destination. The deceleration and its precision is not only totally implausible but plain stupid, because a battle, an asteroid field or a debris field may be waiting. It is also evident that the ships, unlike those in classic Trek, don't have long-range sensors that could detect possible obstacles during the flight. In DIS: "Through the Valley of Shadows", Spock and Burnham are lucky that their shuttle only rams a couple of corpses.
- Discovery already has a replicator ("matter synthesizer") that can produce not just food but also other materials such as for uniforms (DIS: "Context is for Kings", "The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry"). This was impossible in TOS where clothing, for instance, was always taken from the ship's storage (TOS: "Assignment: Earth"). The matter synthesizer is so common in Discovery that there is even one in Cadet Tilly's quarters! As usual with such anachronisms, we are expected to believe the device is less advanced than it will be at the time of TNG. But it seems even the extremely complex technology of the Red Angel suit was created with something like a matter synthesizer in DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow II".
- As seen in DIS: "Lethe", the USS Discovery has a holographic simulator with apparently the complete functionality of the Enterprise-D holodeck that Commander Riker deems a major breakthrough over a century later, in TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint". Lwaxana doesn't even know what a holodeck is in TNG: "Manhunt". It may not yet be possible to touch objects in the Discovery version but from the look of it there isn't anything less advanced about it.
- The "lovely" new colorful uniforms (DIS: "Brother") of the Enterprise crew, or more precisely the DIS reminagination of this particular style from TOS, shouldn't be around for another seven or eight years. We still see the uniform shirts from the first pilot "The Cage" on the Enterprise in TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before", set in 2265. The statement in "Brother" also implies that so far the uniform on the Enterprise was the same all-blue one as on the Discovery and that perhaps the pale-colored style of "The Cage" never existed in the Discoveryverse (although it shows up in the heavily stylized recap at the beginning of DIS: "If Memory Serves").
- It seems that in a few years after Discovery, Starfleet will have forgotten the technology of spacesuit helmets that are activated or even replicated on voice command (DIS: "Brother"), and will never have anything remotely as advanced again, not even over 100 years later in "Star Trek: First Contact" or VOY: "Day of Honor".
- What will happen to dark matter? If it's so easy to harvest it and to put it to practical use as demonstrated in DIS: "Perpetual Infinity", there is no reason why Starfleet would abandon this immensely powerful and efficient new energy source.
- What will happen to battle shuttles and battle drones? Although in DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow II" they proved useful (and unexpectedly durable) for both sides, they never appear again in this form in Star Trek. There are the Federation fighters in DS9: "Sacrifice of Angels" and the runabouts in support of the USS Odyssey in DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", but automated drones don't seem to exist and no one will ever send standard shuttles into a battle between starships again.
- The biology of Tribbles was a mystery to Dr. McCoy when they first showed up in TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles". Yet, Lorca has a (neutered?) Tribble in his ready room roughly ten years earlier. This is not a particular problem of Discovery considering that Tribbles already appeared still 100 years earlier in ENT: "The Breach".
- The gormagander, a "space whale", is the third space-dwelling creature in Discovery in the course of just a few episodes. In TOS and TNG, such species were always deemed something exciting and new, but in Discovery they are daily routine (DIS: "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad").
- In TNG: "The Price", the Barzans were non-aligned, only moderately advanced and had no manned space travel. Yet, we can see Nhan, a member of this species, as Pike's security officer more than 100 years earlier (DIS: "Brother"). It seems that Saru is not an exceptional case although he says he is and although this was made a big deal in DST: "The Brightest Star".
- No human being from the Mirror Universe was ever shown or mentioned to be light-sensitive (the way it was revealed in DIS: "Vaulting Ambition") in previous Star Trek series.
- According to DIS: "The Vulcan Hello", set in 2256, there has been hardly any contact with the Klingons in a hundred years. Spock, in contrast, mentions the battle of Donatu V (2245) in TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles" and "almost seventy years of unremitting hostility" in "Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country" (2293). We may imagine that the encounters before 2256 were isolated and remained largely unknown,. But after the devastating war that T'Kuvma set off it would be very odd to overrate this pre-2256 era. Realistically, in classic Trek, at several points in history someone ought to have mentioned "the big war that the Klingons started out of the blue", instead of always speaking of continued hostilities.
- Discovery tells two different stories about the Federation's war with the Klingons. The first is the dramatic one, the one needed to emphasize how desperate Starfleet is. The Klingons are close to winning the war, they have destroyed much of the fleet, they have conquered 20% of the Federation's territory, they slaughter civilians wherever they meet them. The second one is the version to fend off the critics of the series, and to feed the bean counters among the fans with casualty figures that are low enough to be reconciled with canon. A few thousand dead here, another few thousand killed there. In DIS: "The War Without, The War Within", Admiral Cornwell mentions incidents with thousands of deaths, not millions. In this version, it doesn't sound like the Klingons commit more than occasional terrorist acts, if we compare her figures to the enormous casualties of WWII and several later real-world wars. So is the Federation really on the verge of being extinguished, or is the war insignificant enough to be just a side note ten years later? The writing is double-faced in this regard.
- Whatever happened to the bomb underneath the surface of Qo'noS that, at the end of DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?", remained under L'Rell's control? There is no way it could still exist in TOS or even in TNG. Well, the Klingons may have found a way to disable it and L'Rell's rule may not have lasted very long anyway, but the writers seem to have forgotten about this quite obviously stupid plot device as soon as in "Point of Light". That may be a good decision but is not an excuse for making this mistake in the first place.
- In the 22nd and in the 24th century, Section 31 is a secret organization that almost no one is aware of, except perhaps high-ranking officers. In Discovery, Section 31 is commonly known, operates ships and has agents who are easily recognizable because of their black badges. Unlike the AI "Control", Section 31 itself will not be abolished or even denied, as becomes clear when Tyler is put in charge at the end of DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow II". So how could the existence of Section 31 become a secret again?
- This is not necessarily inconsistent with classic Trek but rather with real history. It remains a total mystery why NASA's Cassini mission (actually: the combined Cassini-Huygens research mission to Saturn in a joint venture of NASA and ESA), as shown in Burnham's narration in the teaser of DIS: "Brother", would be represented by a 1950's style black-and-white NASA seal and what this all has to do with the Red Angel. The NASA seal is still in use (usually in color) but only for more formal purposes and definitely not as a mission logo. The same sequence in the episode also mentions an African creation myth. The Cassini mission, on the other hand, is too specific to pass as a mere example of an early space exploration program in Burnham's (inaccurate) memories. It has been mused that it could refer to 2001: A Space Odyssey, especially since in Arthur C. Clarke's book, unlike in the Kubrick film, the destination planet of the mission of the Discovery One is Saturn. But any idea what significance the Cassini mission could have for the series is missing.
The following continuity issues were explained in some fashion in the course of the series. In particular, everything related to the AI "Control", the time travel suit and Discovery's spore drive was classified at the end of DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow II", in an attempt to make plausible why future generations wouldn't know about these advanced technologies and the historical events they entailed. The list includes not only the facts explicitly mentioned in this episode but also side aspects that most likely fall under the same or a similar ban (ordered or voluntary, such as in the case of Spock vowing never to speak of Michael Burnham).
- Many technologies and events of Discovery don't comply with what we know about TOS and the TNG era. The explanation for several of them is that they are erased from history because Starfleet orders their personnel to do so on Spock's suggestion: everything related to Control, the Sphere, the Red Angel, the omnipotent time travel suit, the omnipotent spore drive, Discovery and her crew and (once again) the Mirror Universe. With almost all of the technologies and events having many witnesses besides the Discovery crew or being open secrets, the ability to totally suppress any knowledge about it is very implausible, not to mention that a dishonest Starfleet is an extremely undesirable vision of the future. Even the Klingons for some reason follow suit and never mention any of these issues again, although they would have no reason for it (DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow II").
- The whole crew of the Discovery has extensive first-hand experiences in the Mirror Universe. Yet, the phenomenon will be totally unknown when Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura materialize on the ISS Enterprise in TOS: "Mirror, Mirror". The events and the true identity of "Captain" Georgiou were classified even before the second season, yet it all was an open secret (DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?"). On a further note, Spock quickly recognized the four Mirror counterparts that appeared in our universe in TOS: "Mirror, Mirror", which may be due to his knowledge.
- Even before its existence was eventually denied, it was hinted at that Starfleet would give up the spore drive, at least until they can find a non-human interface (DIS: "Will You Take My Hand?"). Still later, it was revealed that the spore drive damages the realm of the jahSepp (DIS: "An Obol for Charon"). Yet, the Discovery continued to use the drive with the justification of the mission being extremely important.
- Michael Burnham's conviction for her mutiny on the Shenzhou was well-known in Starfleet when she arrived on the USS Discovery in DIS: "Context is for Kings". Starfleet could erase the records and order all personnel to remain silent about it, but that wouldn't work. And it would definitely be futile to create fake news for the general public. Spock tells Chekov in TOS: "The Tholian Web" that there has never been a mutiny on a Starfleet ship. He lies, because (like everyone else!) he knows very well of Michael Burnham's mutiny, for which she was convicted (DIS: "Battle at the Binary Stars"). His lie falls under the ban established in DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow II".
- While many technologies of Discovery remain under wraps at the time of classic Trek, showing that Starfleet's orders to save the continuity are effective, Daystrom's computer M-5 from TOS: "The Ultimate Computer" is much like a first step towards "Control". Was M-5 admitted despite the ban and the underlying concerns, or because no one would remember Control eight years later? And even though he decides to maintain the silence, why is it that Spock has relatively few objections to installing Control on the Enterprise?
- The death penalty for visiting Talos IV (TOS: "The Menagerie") does not exist in Discovery. For once, not complying with canon was a good decision in this regard because it just doesn't feel right to kill people for, well, being curious. But in the context of the Lex Spock we may even maintain continuity. Regarding that revealing anything related to the mission of the Discovery is punishable as treason, the law may have been tightened in the case of Talos IV. In that case, however, it is extremely counterproductive that Starfleet maintains its Starbase 12, a major hub of operations and not just a small monitor post, so close to the forbidden planet. It looks much like an invitation to go there!
Other issues with official explanations
- In TOS, Mudd had a long record of crimes, including theft, smuggling and fraud - but definitely not (attempted?) mass murder and treason. The release of Mudd into the custody of Baron Grimes is obviously supposed to keep his record clean in this regard, and in line with TOS - but against all reason and against all legal principles (DIS: "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad").
- The holographic communicators on the Enterprise are going to be replaced after the cascade failure, according to "Number One" in DIS: "An Obol for Charon". Pike says he never liked them because "they looked too much like ghosts". It is obvious that the abolishment of holographic communication in favor of "primitive" viewscreens is a further attempt to fix the continuity with the pre-existing Star Trek. In DIS: "Such Sweet Sorrow I", Number One confirms: "No more holographic communications - ever".