Star Trek: Discovery Just Made a Famous TOS Reference

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 premiere, "Kobayashi Maru," now streaming on Paramount+.

Star Trek: Discovery has made copious callbacks to The Original Series -- setting the first two seasons in the same timeframe, reprising familiar antagonists like Harry Mudd, and even casting its own version of Spock. And though the Paramount+ series catapulted itself almost 1,000 years into the future, its Season 4 premiere shows that some elements still persevere through all that time.

The episode in question is titled "Kobayashi Maru." That is the name of a test given to cadets in Starfleet Academy; considered a necessary rite of passage before becoming Federation officers. The trial involves its takers attempting a rescue mission while under attack from Klingons, with the intention not to suffer a single casualty. It's namedropped by Michael Burnham at the end of the episode, as the captain is debriefing the recent intense events with Starfleet President Rillak.

RELATED: Star Trek: Discovery Just Had Its Alderaan Moment and the Implications Are Huge

In the scene, Burnham discusses the feeling a cadet experiences upon failing the test. It makes one hyper-focus on the results, trying to make sure they're the one person to beat the impossible odds. Rillak has no background at Starfleet Academy, but seems to be well-studied in the prior practice. She adds that, in her opinion, the Kobayashi Maru teaches a future officer how to ultimately accept the concept of "failure" and mitigate the impulse to control things that you cannot.

The Kobayashi Maru was first brought up during Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, hailed by many as the best of the 13 films across the Star Trek universe. While we see Admiral James Kirk proctor a run of the test in the movie, we hear that he was the only person in Starfleet history to actually pass it, confounding the very intention of the impossible test.

RELATED: Star Trek: Discovery Relaunches a Classic Starfleet Installation with a Familiar Name

It's later revealed how Kirk could do what every other person in Starfleet history could not: he cheated. After failing the Kobayashi Maru two times prior, Kirk secretly reprogrammed the computer to win the unwinnable situation. The stunt made Kirk something of a legend, earning him a commendation for original thinking. And while some may consider that cheating immoral, Kirk's reply to any naysayers would be that he simply doesn't believe in a no-win scenario.

It's clear that Michael Burnham has brought shades of James Tiberius Kirk into the 3200s. Her actions in the Season 4 of Star Trek: Discovery premiere very much speak to someone who thinks they can have their cake and eat it too. When faced with a group of Starfleet personnel stranded aboard a space station that's sent into disarray by a gravitational anomaly, she puts herself and the ship on the line to get every last person aboard safely. She even leaves the U.S.S. Discovery to pilot a small shuttlecraft herself, earning some looks from Rillak.

And that's where it comes back to the Kobayashi Maru. According to Rillak, Michael still lacks some necessary skills to become a truly world-class captain. To her, being ready is being able to weigh the consequences of a decision and "make the hard call." Through what the president has seen, Michael needlessly takes risks to try to win what seems like unwinnable situations, and one day it could have catastrophic results.

Created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 releases new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.

KEEP READING: Star Trek: Discovery Leaves Netflix, Eyes International Paramount+ Launch in 2022

Amazon Studios Is Closing in on a Mass Effect Adaptation
Related Topics
About The Author
Mike Bloom (259 Articles Published)

Mike Bloom has nearly a decade of experience writing and podcasting about pop culture. His work on the Star Trek franchise, the MCU, and The Walking Dead can be seen on CBR.com, as well as Parade, The Hollywood Reporter, and Inverse. He also can be heard talking both reality and scripted television multiple hours a week on the Rob Has a Podcast and Post Show Recaps podcast networks. Follow him on Twitter @AMikeBloomType.

More From Mike Bloom

You May Like Also

  • setting the first two seasons in the same timeframe
  • Star Trek: Discovery Just Had Its Alderaan Moment and the Implications Are Huge
  • Star Trek: Discovery Relaunches a Classic Starfleet Installation with a Familiar Name
  • doesn't believe in a no-win scenario
  • Michael Burnham has brought shades of James Tiberius Kirk
  • Star Trek: Discovery Leaves Netflix, Eyes International Paramount+ Launch in 2022
  • Hawkeye: Kate Bishop’s Backstory Bucks an Overused MCU Trope
  • Netflix's Avatar Live-Action Series to Start Production Soon
  • South Park: What is North Park?
  • Mayor of Kingstown Season 1, Episode 2 Recap & Spoilers: 'The End Begins'
  • The MCU Is Embracing Deaf Culture in 2021 - and It’s About Time
  • REVIEW: Disney+'s Hawkeye Will Be Your New Favorite Holiday Tradition
  • Hanna: Season 3's Big Threat Could Copy Killing Eve's Villains
  • DC's Robins #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Star Wars Life Day #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Hawkeye: Kate Bishop #1 Comic Review
  • DC's Superman Son of Kal-El #5 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Hulk #1 Comic Review
  • Marvel's Darkhold: The Wasp #1 Comic Review
  • Mayor of Kingstown Season 1, Episode 4 Recap & Spoilers: 'The Price'
  • Avatar's Daniel Dae Kim Consulted His Friends' Kids On Fire Lord Ozai Role
  • HIMYM: Who Was Ted Mosby’s Worst Love Interest?
  • Did The Flash Just Kill One of Its Original Stars... Off-Screen?!
  • Who Are CBS's Ghosts: A Cast and Character Guide
  • The Office: Actors Offered the Michael Scott Role Before Steve Carell
  • Hawkeye Sets Up a Heartbreaking Cameo
  • Hawkeye Clip Officially Welcomes the Avenger's Comic Foes to the MCU
  • Mass Effect Series Makes Former Bioware Lead Writer 'Cringe'
  • Hawkeye: Eagle-Eyed Fan Spots Avengers Continuity Error
  • Hawkeye Producer Explains THAT Major Avengers Connection
  • Young Justice's Huge Bat-Family Is Still Missing Two Major Members