Star Trek Discovery FAQ
This special FAQ serves to explain the EAS site policy on the controversial series Star Trek Discovery. As such, it does not only respond to actual questions but also to frequently uttered criticism of EAS with regard to Discovery issues.
Q: I have been following your various comments on Discovery and your episode reviews. I have a different view of the series and I enjoy the visual updates, but I can see where you come from.
A: This is not really a question, but an example of a civilized discussion about Discovery, without the namecalling that is going on in many communities. I respect fans with other opinions on how Star Trek should look like, and the least I expect from my opponents is that they try to understand that I have important reasons to criticize the concept and most design decisions of Star Trek Discovery.
Q: Stop using the derogatory abbreviation "DIS" for Discovery as a part of your miserable crusade. Everyone else refers to it as "DSC"! It's official!
A: While "DSC" may be production jargon, I have settled on "DIS" for the sake of consistency. I'm not a fan of military-style all-consonant short names that are hard to pronounce. Some 20 years ago EAS already set the standard of referring to Voyager as "VOY" instead of "VGR". Memory Alpha followed my example for Voyager, and beat me to it regarding Discovery. You probably wouldn't complain that an unsuspecting site like MA too uses "DIS", would you?
Q: Your updates about Discovery are coming very slowly. Where are the articles about re-used props and other canon references in the new series? You only withhold this because you hate the series.
A: You probably wouldn't believe it, but I have a life besides Discovery. There is no chance to keep this whole site updated with every new bit of information, which would take me over 40 hours after each episode. So I only review new episodes until I get a chance to take on the bigger picture.
A: If you actually bother to read my Discovery reviews, you will see that the stories and the characters are in the focus. I complain about story elements or visual styles that I simply don't like, in the very same fashion as in any other of my 600+ reviews of old Star Trek series. And I take the right to point out when the series doesn't live up to its own claim to respect canon, just as I criticized the canon violations of any prior Star Trek series. My criticism about all these aspects of the series is absolutely proportionate. You may also notice that many of my reviews of Discovery are positive or neutral. Since I have decided to keep out the fundamental mistakes of Discovery (such as un-Klingon Klingons) from my ratings, the series is on par with the first season of TNG. You can't possibly claim that my Discovery reviews are unfair. If anything, they are too benevolent considering that I would never rank Discovery anywhere near TNG.
Q: Is Star Trek Discovery canon?
A: Discovery is canon by its very definition, as a TV series set in the Star Trek Universe officially produced by CBS, the owner of the rights. The canon status is not something to be earned based on merits. Vice versa, an official series (or movie) that is badly produced or simply unpopular wouldn't lose its canon status.
Q: But you denied Discovery its canon status practically since the day it was announced!
A: That is a lie, as evidenced by my production blog. I never contested that Discovery is canon. I only call its self-concept into question, and increasingly since the truth about the new Klingons became obvious. If I was of the opinion that Discovery was non-canon, I would hardly care so much for its lack of continuity.
Q: So if Discovery is canon, why do you tag the series as a "Reboot"?
A: It is a caveat. Just like the Abramsverse, Discovery introduces elements that clash with the established canon, and in some cases are even deliberately designed to be anti-canon. The totally new Klingons are the prime example. No matter how hard we may try to make sense of them, it is impossible. We are apparently expected to ignore that the Klingons and their ships ever looked different than in DIS. All members of the race of all other series of all eras so far were consistent, or could be explained with the retcon from ENT: "Divergence". DIS defies the canon Klingons and exclusively shows a "proprietary" race. The producers of Discovery tell us they respect canon, but this does not apply at all to visual canon facts. Discovery is effectively a "visual reboot", although in a visual medium this term makes about as much sense as "a little bit pregnant".
Q: Something like "visual canon" never existed. Only facts are canon, aesthetics are not!
A: Wrong. Visual canon is a firmly established standard in Star Trek. In TNG: "Relics", DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" and ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly", the world of TOS was faithfully reconstructed, not denying its look in any way. In Star Trek, visual facts are facts on par or even more meaningful than script contents. We're talking about a TV series after all, not a radio drama or a novel! Many visuals that the makers of Discovery and, sadly, many fans discard as "purely aesthetic" have story relevance. It is not a matter of aesthetics but a canon fact that Klingons underwent some metamorphosis, as evidenced by DS9: "Trials and Tribble-ations" and ENT: "Divergence". It is canon that older Starfleet ships have tubular nacelles, and newer ones have angular or pointed ones, because this, among many other differences, visually sets apart the eras. Without a visual distinction of "humanoid" vs. "more alien" species or of "old" vs. "new" ships, Star Trek would become arbitrary, and stories wouldn't work any longer. Or stories would only work within its respective reboot universe.
Q: Here is a challenge. List the visual canon violations of Discovery, discounting everything that is of purely aesthetic nature!
A: We'd have to lay down the criteria first. I would have been fine with retcons that add realism, such as adding thrusters and visible torpedo/phaser ports to the original Enterprise design while keeping all proportions the same (meaning, not the complete redesign as in "Will You Take My Hand?"). I am fine with visual updates/retcons that reflect real-world developments, such as the flatscreens on NX-01 and the transparent displays on the Discovery (although the latter are impractical). I am fine with make-up updates, such as the more elaborate and moving antennae of the ENT Andorians. I am fine with improved visual effects, such as better defined phaser beams, as long as they are still continuous. I am fine with updated styles such as for uniforms or personal equipment.
If we exclude the above, we still have the following visual canon issues (among others).
- It is canon that Klingons always have hair (with the sole exception of General Chang).
- It is canon that Klingons don't have pointed ears, because in "Birthright II" it sets apart the half-Romulan Ba'el.
- It is canon that Klingons are sexually rather more than less compatible with other species including human and Romulan.
- It is canon that Klingons do not have elongated heads, and can pose as other humanoid species without being surgically mutilated, without "giving up everything".
- It is canon that Klingons exist in a more alien variation and in a more human one, due to the genetic treatment following the augment virus crisis.
- It is canon that no Tellarite that ever appeared had tusks.
- It is canon that all Andorians have eyebrows, and no pointed bones above the eyes.
- It is canon that pulse weapons (ENT era) fire pulses, that phase weapons/phasers fire continuous beams (ENT/TOS/TNG) and that a 24th century variation named pulse phasers exists (Defiant).
- It is canon that the D7 is a ship design with a distinct head and neck section, wings and nacelles. It is canon that a Bird-of-Prey is a small ship with moving wings, and not a capital ship and definitely not a D7.
- It is canon that the Constitution class is a capital ship, definitely among the largest and most powerful of Starfleet in the 2260s. This is even confirmed in DIS: "Lethe".
- It is canon that the Shenzhou has all the defining design features of late 24th century ships (so many and so prominent that it's more than a matter of aesthetics, unless we are content with a concept of a "generic one-era-fits-all Starfleet style saucer+nacelles vessel"). I am not allowed to simply reverse this statement, so strictly speaking the Discovery Starfleet designs are "only" an anachronism.
- It is canon that Starfleet ships don't have bridge windows. (Since 2009, all Starfleet ships of all eras have bridge windows.)
A: The previous change to the Klingons was smaller than the current one. But even more importantly, it was explained in ENT: "Divergence" and hence does not constitute a reboot. Some fans may not like this retcon, but it was a consequence of Star Trek's policy (until 2017) that visuals were canon.
Q: The new Klingons are not much different than the TMP/TNG-style Klingons, they only lacked the hair in season 1.
A: Denial doesn't help. Almost every aspect about the Klingon make-up/anatomy was altered. Almost every aspect about their culture and style was altered. It is definitely more than just an aesthetic change.
Q: Klingons have hair again in season 2 because traditionally they grow it back after a war. That perfectly explains all discrepancies.
A: The Klingons with hair (and other revisions to the revised make-up) are just a visual bridge to the ones of TMP. One of many problems of Discovery is alleviated. But we have to wonder why we never saw any bald Klingons (with the sole exception of Chang) in any era before and after DIS. The baldness can't be a tradition if it happens in just one era (and paradoxically in one where the Klingons are explicitly said to be very divided).
Q: The new Klingons are much more alien and much more impressive than those retarded space Vikings of the past few decades.
A: That's just your opinion. The Klingons as we know them since TMP are among the most important staples of Star Trek. There is no sense in arguing with you. I only find it sad how the production design of Discovery spoils the fans and gives rise to such depreciatory views of the classic Star Trek. Interestingly, the makers of DIS themselves recognized their error and made the Klingons more relatable again.
A: They are a big deal because they are much more significant in Discovery than ever before, and because they are system inherent now. So far in Star Trek, inconsistencies mostly came to pass because of negligence, lacking time or limited budget. Aside from the Klingon metamorphosis between TOS and TMP, almost nothing was ever altered with the explicit idea that it is more than a visual update. For instance, the Klingon K't'inga class in the same movie is essentially a more detailed version of the D7 from TOS, with only slightly changed dimensions. In Discovery, a lot of work and money was invested in a new look that definitely isn't radically different by accident. Discovery Klingons don't resemble Klingons any longer, and their ships were totally altered as well. From all we can tell, the makers of Discovery want to force us to ignore these differences. They are not eligible for retcons. A dramatic paradigm shift. That is why I don't even try to explain them.
Q: But you explained away so many inconsistencies in Star Trek, with a good deal of conjecture.
A: That's not true. EAS avoids conjecture ("fanwank"). EAS will never try to resolve the canon errors of Discovery, unless the series itself comes up with an according retcon, or provides further evidence or at least clues. The backpedaling to give Klingons hair again and how it is dealt with on screen may be a start.
Q: Discovery needs the visual changes because Star Trek has to keep up with real-world technical developments.
A: Yes, as far as display technologies and user interfaces are concerned that definitely shouldn't look like in the 1960's. Yes, as far as make-up techniques are concerned, such as the moving antennae of the Andorians in ENT. Yes, as far as visual effects are concerned that may appear as more realistic with modern CGI. Yes, as far as merely aesthetic changes to designs are concerned, especially if they add realism, such as visible hull plates and other details on the original Enterprise. The actual changes in Discovery, however, go far beyond this acceptable range. Displays are overblown, Klingons are unrecognizable, visual effects are cartoonish, starship designs including the Enterprise are anachronistic. All these alterations are not rooted in real-world progress but in the desire to redesign Star Trek to something different.
Q: What you want is a Star Trek Museum, in which everything is exactly like in the 1960's, with sets that look like cardboard, and with Fu Manchu-style Klingons.
A: As I mentioned in the preceding answer, I would have been fine with a range of visual updates in Discovery. I totally acknowledge that Star Trek shouldn't look like a series made in the 1960's. People like you frequently resort to this strawman, and I'm sick of it, especially since my opinion on the topic is well-documented.
A: I agree that the design of the Shenzhou looks okay. And totally credible next to the Sovereign class. We could use it for a post-Nemesis series right away. But 23rd century? No way! The ship has all the typical design features of the 24th century, and none of the 23rd century, except perhaps the deflector dish. The Shenzhou is symptomatic of an attitude in the production design of Discovery that most elements (if they were not radically altered anyway, like the Klingons) are nothing more than "generic" Star Trek. The Shenzhou was taken from another era, its bridge windows from another universe. And it was scaled to an unreasonable length of well over 400m.
Q: Can't you just let the people in charge make a new series without complaining about ship sizes once again?
A: No, if the people in charge ignore the well-documented scales. The sizes of the recent ships in the Abramsverse and Discovery are not determined by continuity and common sense any longer, but by the desire to create bombastic visual effects and fit in unrealistically spacious sets. If I'm not mistaken, every single Starfleet ship of Discovery would dwarf the original Enterprise. A well-established continuity of more than 40 years is abandoned for the sake of imposing visuals.
Q: You complain so much about the Klingons or the starships in Discovery. Why not about the wrong Starfleet uniforms and the unwarranted universal use of the arrowhead symbol on all ships?
A: It's not such a big deal if uniforms keep changing. It would only have been a nice nod if the style of the Discovery uniforms had been reminiscent of "The Cage". Regarding the arrowhead symbol, there is a good (albeit not completely satisfactory) rationale that it may indeed represent the whole of Starfleet, rather than only the Enterprise.
Q: Why do you complain so much about the setting of Discovery in the 23rd century? It's the stories that matter, not the looks and not your nostalgic idea that everything has to be preserved.
A: I am not the one who is nostalgic! I firmly believe that Star Trek has to move on and boldly go where no series has gone before. This simply doesn't work in a prequel, much less in a reboot. But for some reason the latest three Star Trek iterations all belong into these categories of derivative settings. I suppose the studio bosses think of Star Trek as an old science fiction show that has to be retold with modernized visuals, rather than as a living franchise that waits to be continued. Considering that Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise were already taken by the Abrams films, the setting of Discovery is the closest possible to a TOS reboot. It may not have been the first choice of the producers (Bryan Fuller purportedly wanted to create an anthology, rather than a prequel/reimagination), but I find it ironic how the makers of the series keep complaining about the limitations imposed on them by the established canon. Ironic because they don't respect crucial parts of the canon anyway, whereas they seem to be obsessed with getting tiny details right. Ultimately and even more ironically, their series concept and stories would work a lot better if it were set in the future, such as in the 25th century. Discovery would just have to get rid of all the gratuitous nostalgia. Sarek could be replaced with any other Vulcan, the Klingons could be any other race. Discovery could have started with a clean slate, without harming the established continuity, without questionable design decisions, with more story options and, perhaps most importantly, without splitting the fan base!
Q: 24th century Star Trek is exhausted after 15 years of TNG/DS9/VOY, and spoiled by the many new technologies introduced especially on Voyager. It was logical to go back in time for that matter.
A: I couldn't agree less. The exact opposite is true. Star Trek would have needed to move on, to go to the future, for all reasons mentioned in the answer above. If you resort to a prequel/reboot in a franchise once, you may find new ways. Do it twice, and you prove that you're clueless. Do it for a third time, and you kill the franchise.
Q: It is obvious that Discovery is set in the Kelvin Timeline - because of the ships, the style, the general tone.
A: While the producers tell us a lot of things about the series that are not entirely true, I am certain that they will establish facts that firmly place Discovery in some other than the Kelvin Timeline.
A: Perhaps. We have even more reason to assume that continuity is non-existent between Discovery and the old Star Trek than between the Abramsverse and the old Star Trek. After all, the first Abrams movie "Star Trek (2009)" showed and explained how the new timeline was created, a timeline in which at least some things are allowed to look or work differently. Such an explanation can't be applied to Discovery. According to the producers, Discovery is all Prime Universe, and there is no in-universe evidence in the story that it is supposed to be anything like a parallel timeline. Since the claim that Discovery is Prime Universe canon is a far cry from reality, also and especially on the visual side, you may choose to abandon all canon ties and declare Discovery a total reboot - but only in your headcanon. It is not up to me to make such a decision. I'd need an official statement to that end.
Q: If you complain about Discovery's lacking adherence to canon, you are of one mind with the racist trolls who attack the diversity and inclusiveness of the series.
A: I don't know if I really have to respond to this absurd incrimination. But this is an FAQ, so for the record, I can only affirm that I am absolutely positive about the character and casting choices of Discovery. I am glad that Discovery reflects a modern view of the future, rather than one of the 1960's, in which it seemed like only white heterosexual men could be in the captain's chair. There is no correlation at all with my views on how the series should handle issues of (visual) canon.
Star Trek has always been about diversity, and Discovery is a consequential continuation in this regard. While the overwhelming majority of the fans agree with it, a few hate posts criticized the casting choices for the series. Unfortunately, this incident was played up in the media. I can't help the impression that, in the media and in the fandom, those hate posts are exploited to give anyone a bad name who, like me, has any justified issues with Discovery.
Q: Why do you get so worked up about Discovery? Sit back and enjoy the series.
A: Believe me, I would do that if I cared less for Star Trek as a whole and if I had not decided to run EAS, a site whose policy is to make sense of Star Trek without glossing over its inconsistencies and without resorting to conjecture. But even without this burden, I probably wouldn't think it's a great series.
Q: You say that Discovery ruins the old Star Trek. That's ridiculous. You can still take your VHS cassettes and immerse yourself in the bland world of Berman Trek.
A: Discovery harms the old Star Trek in several metaphysical ways. The new series essentially demands from us to apply doublethink, to overlook the fact that Klingons are different in different series. It impairs my suspension of disbelief and my affection for the character that in a new and equally valid interpretation, Worf is a cumbersome bughead. Well, at least he would be allowed to have hair again after the revision of the revision of the DIS Klingons. It further diminishes the perceived value of the old Star Trek series that many of its assets are labeled as obsolete, by the producers of Discovery as well as by a certain faction of fans. As much as some people complain that "haters" like me put down Discovery, I can say the same about those who feel encouraged by Discovery to rant about the allegedly crappy production values of the TNG era. Finally, fanwank about Discovery is a growing nuisance, especially if it involves re-interpretations of facts and designs firmly established in the old Star Trek series, to make it fit with Discovery. I just don't want to rewatch the old series with the obligation to find clues to make sense of something that was created in a way to make no sense.
Q: EAS used to be great resource for all things Star Trek. Now you totally focus on putting down new productions, such as the Abrams movies and Discovery. I can't stand all your negativity any longer.
A: That is not true. Your criticism sounds like EAS is an Anti-Abrams and Anti-Discovery site. But over 90% of the site's content has nothing to do with the newest Star Trek, and even the content about the controversial Star Trek incarnations is not by far all about ranting. You have a problem with a tiny percentage of EAS that is actually judgmental. Conversely, you fail to recognize that I criticize the errors of the "old" Star Trek series just as well. I may not have written essays on the canon issues of TMP or TNG because the site didn't yet exist when they were released, and also because the problems are very small compared to Abrams or Discovery. I think it's proportionate to comment on other Star Trek series besides these two big offenders in single paragraphs, such as in the episode reviews.
Q: You pretend that you have to write rants about Discovery and to tag the series as a reboot "to save EAS"? What a melodramatic plea! Come on!
A: EAS is neither a Star Trek database where I simply list all things Star Trek, nor is it a work of fan fiction that fills all kinds of gaps or explains inconsistencies with fanwank. EAS is a site that cherishes the continuity of a 40-year legacy (well, and of a few things in the ten years that followed). Not everything in the franchise makes perfect sense, not everything was even designed to make sense in the first place. But it is worth looking at matters such as the Klingon Forehead Problem, even and especially since the retcon in Enterprise. It is an interesting subject to investigate how Starfleet's ships evolved from the 22nd to the 24th century and beyond. This is no longer possible in this form with the new facts from the Abrams movies and especially from Discovery. Many of these facts, also and especially on the visual side, are designed to be in stark contradiction to established canon - not by accident but by choice. Considerations of how the Discovery Klingons, their ships, their style and their traditions could fit in are futile. The Federation ship design lineage would be ruined, once I tried to include the 24th century design of the Shenzhou as a 23rd century ship. Believe it or not, I would indeed jeopardize my website (or my sanity) once I treated Discovery the same way as any other canon Trek series. And so I have to define new standards for Discovery, in order to preserve the long-standing standards for the rest and to be able to carry on at all. For the sake of transparency, I take the pain of explaining these standards in detail, even though I am aware that in the eyes of some people this creates even more an impression that my view of Discovery is unfair.
Q: You're such a loser. All other fans and all other Star Trek websites are full of praise for Discovery and embrace the visual changes made for the series.
A: Since my views are unpopular, does it make them wrong or not worth listening to? Is good Star Trek solely a matter of a majority vote? Do you think it is fun to swim against the current and to incur the wrath of the fandom? I know there are countless fans like me, who are appalled by the new Klingons and by the overall lack of respect that Discovery pays to the existing Star Trek. But I also know that many of the critical fans prefer to remain silent because "haters" are given a hard time by the cheerleaders.
A: I am aware that DS9 had a much longer war and more dark stories in terms of episode runtime. But DS9 was firmly embedded into the overall optimistic world of the 24th century, whereas Discovery currently rewrites the 23rd century to a dark era. The character who best represented the principles of Star Trek, Captain Georgiou, was killed in the prologue. On the USS Discovery, Burnham is the only Starfleet character that consistently acts and reflects on actions the way we should expect from Starfleet. We could argue that we simply haven't seen how benevolent, how thoughtful Cornwell or Stamets may be in peacetime. But does the war with its missing story opportunity to show a peaceful spirit and a positive vision of the future exonerate Discovery? Is it sufficient for the producers to evoke the legacy of Star Trek in interviews, without actually continuing it in the series? Is it so important for Discovery to be "modern" and to comment on the sad state of our present world that it doesn't show a bright future any longer?
Q: Don't you agree that The Orville is the better Star Trek? Are you going to review it?
A: A definite no on both questions. The Orville is clearly more like the old Star Trek series regarding the stories, the visuals and the overall optimistic atmosphere. I do like it better than Discovery, but it is not set in the Star Trek universe. I am not going to review The Orville because EAS is about Star Trek, and everything off-topic would only distract from the goals of my site.