Now that Bryan Fuller has given the eager public some information on the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery, it’s time to theorize!
Fuller has revealed that the show is set ten years before Star Trek: The Original Series, and that the events tackled in the first season are mentioned specifically in TOS, though never expounded upon. He has ruled out the Romulan War… so where does that leave us? And does he mean ten years from the start of the original series, or ten years somewhere in the middle?
Here are a several possibilities regarding the event or events that will be tackled in Star Trek: Discovery.
1.) Ambush on Rigel VII
The original pilot of Star Trek, “The Cage,” occurs a little over ten years prior to TOS. While the events of the episode itself are not likely to have bearing on the Discovery‘s crew, it’s possible that the incident prior–one where the Enterprise visits an abandoned fortress on Rigel VII and gets ambushed–could provide some fodder for the show.
2.) The Treaty of Armens
Roughly ten years prior also sees the Treaty of Armens put in place between the Federation and the Sheliak Corporate. The chances of this being the main event in Discovery is slim, as it was cited in Next Generation rather than TOS, but the ceding of several planets to the Sheliak could have bearing on future seasons perhaps…
3.) Kodos the Executioner
In 2257, the Karidian Company of Players began touring around the galaxy, performing the works of Shakespeare. This has interesting potential, as Karidian is the assumed name of a man once known as “Kodos the Executioner,” who was best known for instilling martial law on the Tarsus IV colony, and killing thousands of citizens when their food supply was destroyed by fungus, employing his own brand of eugenics. A young James T. Kirk was present during those atrocities, and his crew eventually puts a stop to the company’s wanderings when it’s revealed that Karidian is Kodos and that his daughter is committing murder to keep her father’s identity safe. But the Discovery could spend some time ferrying the company about as part of the Galactic Cultural Exchange Project, if the show wanted to deal with Kodos in more detail.
4.) Cloud Monster!
The dikironium cloud creature featured in “Obsession” kills 200 members of the U.S.S. Farragut‘s crew on Tycho IV during this period. That cloud creature was a nasty costumer, and could easily corner another starship crew. On the other hand, using the monster to traumatize another crew when Kirk was plenty traumatized by it seems like a stretch in terms of a story that would take an entire season to tell.
And there’s a much more likely scenario waiting…
5.) The Establishment of the Prime Directive
While the Prime Directive is a well-known aspect of Star Trek, it’s always been a bit fuzzy as to when it became so essential to Starfleet’s operations that it was proclaimed a General Order. This results in many scenarios in The Original Series where the Enterprise stumbles upon a planet that has already been adversely affected by the Federation due to either accidental or deliberate flouting of the Prime Directive. (See: “A Piece of the Action,” “Patterns of Force,” “Bread and Circuses,” etc.) Captain Kirk also makes several questionable command decisions in regard to its application, though they are often not examined closely after the fact. (See: “The Apple,” “The Return of the Archons,” “A Taste of Armageddon,” etc.)
Perhaps Star Trek: Discovery plans to deal more closely with the establishment of specifics for the Prime Directive, especially as it pertains to meeting new cultures and the influence wielded by Starfleet officers in those situations. If the crew of the Discovery keep finding themselves in scenarios where they feel as if they’re doing more damage than good on first contact, there’s an excellent opening for meaningful storytelling that would feel intrinsic to what Star Trek is all about.
A season about examining the Prime Directive would be rich with exploration of brand new worlds, examinations of differences between cultures, and a constant source of dramatic tension between Discovery crew members who have opposing, if well-intentioned, viewpoints on the amount of Federation interference that should be tolerated. The Prime Directive is possibly the only thing mentioned in TOS that’s big enough to fill an entire season’s worth of shows.
There is a slight canonical issue here in that the recent non-fiction book Star Trek Federation: The First 150 Years establishes Jonathan Archer as coming out of retirement to successfully push for the establishment of the Prime Directive in 2178, about 80 years before Star Trek: Discovery is supposedly set. Since Star Trek’s visual mediums–movies and television–have always had canonical precedent over its print mediums, Star Trek: Discovery may simply ignore this.
Or maybe ST:D is going in an entirely different direction…
6.) Is That Nancy, Doctor?
This is also the time period in which Doctor McCoy dates and then breaks up with girlfriend Nancy, who is later subsumed and then used as a disguise by the Salt Monster seen in “The Man Trap.” So perhaps Discovery‘s first season will just be a really, really, really long set up for that episode.
Kind of like this:
Bonus: A Very Klingon Cold War
Constant devil-on-the-shoulder Ryan Britt posits over at Inverse that Star Trek: Discovery will kick off with an incident between the Klingons and the Federation during their prolonged cold war in the early 23rd century. The time frame is off by about 10 years, but he makes a good case for other incidental evidence pointing to us seeing the skirmish at Donatu V in the series opening, so I’m including it here!