This post is spoiler-free.
Star Trek: Discovery returned to our screens last night, bringing a newly upbeat tone and introducing Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike. With dorky charisma and a steady moral compass, he’s a big change from the menacing Captain Lorca last season. We’ll find out more in later episodes, but if you’re already eager for some backstory detail, Discovery’s creators basically included Pike’s Wikipedia page in the season premiere.
When Pike introduces himself to the Discovery crew, Ensign Tilly accidentally puts his Starfleet file on-screen. This includes his academic grades, his medical history (pretty dull, although we’ll leave it to fanfic writers to decide what the mysteriously nonspecific “space sickness” means), shipboard service records, and commendations. Here’s a screencap of the first page, where Pike highlights his only failed class (astrophysics) among a sea of A and A+ grades.
The most intriguing section is the awards, which we’ll get to in a moment. Overall, it’s interesting to note the episode’s straightforward portrayal of Pike as a wholesome high-achiever. Sometimes this kind of thing is perceived as bad writing (ie., is Chris Pike a Mary Sue?), but it actually makes sense in context. If you’re a Starfleet officer on an exploratory mission, you’re already the best of the best. If you’re the captain of the fleet’s flagship, you’re the best of the best of the best. Pike’s Starfleet Academy records paint a picture of academic excellence and early interest in command, achieving high grades navigation, tactics, communication, interspecies diplomacy, and intellectual electives like ancient philosophy.
After that, he served on the U.S.S. Antares, U.S.S. Chatelet, and U.S.S. Arybhatta (none of which have prominent Star Trek histories) before serving under Captain Robert April on the Enterprise. April originally appeared in the 1970s animated series episode “The Counter-Clock Incident,” if you have a burning desire to go check him out.
Most of Pike’s medals and commendations are for things like gallantry and leadership, which is what you’d expect from the captain of the Enterprise. However, some others are pretty unexpected. First off, there’s the Legate’s Crest of Valor, which is a Cardassian award. The Cardassians primarily appear in Star Trek: Deep Space 9, over a century after Discovery, and they weren’t exactly fond of Starfleet.
Until now, we didn’t know when the Cardassians first came into contact with the Federation. This episode confirmed that it happened at least a decade before the Original Series, and that (somehow) Pike impressed the Cardassian government enough to win the equivalent of a Nobel Prize.
Pike must have some kind of scientific specialty because he also won the Campbell Award for life sciences, the Carrington Award (a prestigious medical prize that Dr. Bashir wins in DS9), and a membership to the Scientific Legion of Honor. Finally, we have the Okuda Award (a reference to veteran Star Trek production designers Denise and Michael Okuda) and the Rigel Cup, a piloting trophy the writers probably included to clarify that Pike is a cool flyboy as well as a nerd. Basically, he’s scarily good at everything, and the only reason he doesn’t seem like an obnoxious over-achiever is because he’s also very charming and personable. And that’s how you land a job as Starfleet’s flagship captain.