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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ took inspiration from 2 classic Klingon episodes

Episode 8 felt like a callback to the Klingons' first ever appearance in 'Star Trek.'


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Nov 6, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 12:03 pm CDT

When we recommended some classic Klingon episodes to watch before Star Trek: Discovery, we had no idea how prescient they were. Following a subtle callback to “The Trouble with Tribbles,” Discovery just echoed the Klingons’ Original Series debut.

Errand of Mercy

Discovery’s eighth episode, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum,” ends with the Discovery preparing to defend the planet Pahvo against the Klingons. It’s a similar scenario to the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy,” where the Enterprise clashes with a Klingon ship over the planet Organia.

Both planets are superficially harmless, but turn out to be more powerful than they seem. The Organians introduce themselves as pacifists, immediately surrendering to the Klingons. Frustrated by their compliance, Captain Kirk has more in common with his Klingon enemy than the civilians he wants to protect. Then at the end of the episode, the Organians reveal the truth. They’re a non-corporeal species who can’t be harmed by violence, and they want the Federation and Klingons to make peace. Needless to say, it doesn’t work.

There are some obvious parallels to this story on Pahvo. The Pahvans are also non-corporeal, and use underhanded means to remove Saru from the war. In the cliffhanger ending before Discovery’s mid-season finale, the Pahvans invite the Klingons to join Discovery in orbit around the planet. They presumably want to encourage some version of a peace treaty, putting Captain Lorca in a similar position to Kirk at the beginning of “Errand of Mercy.” Lorca and Burnham believe they must defend Pahvo against the Klingon aggressors, even though the Pahvans avoid violence and conflict, and have untold power of their own.

The Trouble with Tribbles

“The Trouble with Tribbles” is primarily a (brilliant) comedy episode, with one key detail that may come up in Discovery. It reveals that tribbles react to the presence of Klingons, and Kirk uses one to uncover a Klingon spy in disguise.

In Discovery’s third episode, we see a tribble on Lorca’s desk. It could just be a meaningless Easter egg, but it’s a weird choice for Lorca specifically. He’s not exactly a cute and cuddly kind of guy. However, he is someone who would use a harmless animal as a tool. If he knows that tribbles can be used as Klingon detection devices, he’d definitely have one onboard. Plus, there’s already a popular theory that one of Discovery’s crew members is a Klingon spy. This means we have all the ingredients for a “Trouble with Tribbles” denouement, although that would be a weirdly unoriginal storytelling choice.

So far, Discovery hasn’t gone overboard with references to old material. It’s quite subtle compared to Star Trek Into Darknesss clumsy rewrite of The Wrath of Khan, making these callbacks all the more intriguing. We’ve only seen the first half of each story, and it’s hard to imagine them going for a direct repeat of what came before.

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*First Published: Nov 6, 2017, 1:00 pm CST