The Mystery Of Star Trek: Discovery’s Missing Crew Member

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Star Trek: Discovery is something of a paradox: it’s a show with a great cast who often don’t have much to do. Because the series intentionally focuses on a small handful of characters, others get the short end of the dom-jot cue, which is why most fans could not even name the majority of the bridge crew by the time the show wrapped. In one case, though, a major crew member is missing: from the beginning to the end of Star Trek: Discovery, we never meet the chief engineer.

Stamets Is Not The Chief Engineer

If you’re a fan of Star Trek: Discovery, you may have never noticed this particular problem because there are other characters who you might think are the title ship’s chief engineer. The best example is Paul Stamets, the man responsible for operating the ship’s spore drive. We spend plenty of scenes in his engineering-like lab, and even the occasional article on the official Star Trek website will refer to him as the ship’s chief of engineering.

Other Series Use The Engineer All The Time

Case closed, right? Not exactly: you see, Stamets is in charge of the spore drive, which functionally replaces the need for using traditional warp drive. However, Discovery still has a warp drive, and even if the ship stopped using it altogether, a chief engineer has many other responsibilities aboard the vessel. In shows like The Next Generation, this person would be responsible for rerouting the shields, getting extra power to weapons, and preventing the warp core from exploding.

The Spore Drive Is Not A Warp Drive

Star Trek: Discovery makes it clear that Stamets can’t be the chief engineer: he’s a science officer, for one thing, and he never has to futz about with the warp drive or worry about coolant leaks like Geordi La Forge always did. Adding to the confusion, though, is that he is identified as chief engineer on a computer console in the episode “Choose Your Pain.” Producer Ted Sullivan later clarified this was a production mistake and that Stamets might be “the chief engineer of spore drive but not of engineering.”

Your Engineer Is In Another Ship

Driving home this point is that Stamets has some memorable clashes with engineer Jett Reno, and their philosophical differences towards solving different problems provide plenty of humor. Speaking of Reno, she’s the other character that fans mistakenly think of as the chief of engineering. That mistake goes back to how the character is first introduced.

Reno joined Star Trek: Discovery in Season 2 in the episode “Brother,” and she is a chief engineer, but only of the wrecked USS Hiawatha. She joins the Discovery crew as part of engineering and even joins the jump into the 32nd century, but there is never any mention of her being chief engineer. This is arguably underscored by the fact that her appearances on the show are so sporadic…if she was chief, we’d presumably see plenty more of her during the Discovery’s various crises.

Fans Waited For A Reveal

As fans of Star Trek: Discovery, we were morbidly curious if the final seasons would show us the chief engineer as a kind of reveal. That didn’t happen, though…while we got an abbreviated callback to the mysterious Short Trek “Calypso” (the one that revealed that Discovery eventually floats in deep space for hundreds of years with no crew), we never found out who heads up engineering.

Seriously, Where’s The Engineer?

In retrospect, this is particularly insane because Season 3 focused on a catastrophe that made dilithium inert throughout the galaxy…the kind of thing that an engineering chief might have plenty to say about.

At any rate, we solute you, mysterious missing crewmember. It seems like you occupied one of the ship’s most important positions without ever having to do much for about half a decade. Frankly, that’s the kind of “miracle worker” chicanery that would make Scotty proud.