The Surprising Way Discovery Made Star Trek Franchise History In The Very First Episode

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

star trek

From the very beginning, Paramount wanted to emphasize that Star Trek: Discovery took place in the Prime Universe of The Original Series and its subsequent spinoffs. That clarification was important because Star Trek (2009) introduced the so-called Kelvinverse, filled with minor (and sometimes major) differences from the sci-fi universe fans knew and loved.

However, Discovery quietly made Trek history in the pilot episode by showcasing a Vulcan Learning Center straight out of the Kelvinverse, marking the first time something introduced in that alternate universe appeared in the main timeline. 

Star Trek 2009 Made Things Very Complicated

chris hemsworth

For this unexpected connection between Star Trek: Discovery and the Prime Universe to make sense, we’re going to have to take things back to 2009. That was when we got a new Star Trek film that effectively rebooted The Original Series, telling the story of an angry Romulan traveling to the past in order to get revenge on Spock.

Arriving in the past, he attacks a Starfleet vessel named the USS Kelvin, causing the premature death of James T. Kirk’s dad (played by a young Chris Hemsworth) and changing the Star Trek universe as we know it.

The Kelvinverse

star trek kelvin

This new “Kelvinverse” had many differences: the Enterprise was bigger, its crew was younger, the bridge looked like an Apple store, and so on. The film also gave us more background about iconic characters such as Spock. In his case, we see how colleagues at a Vulcan Learning Center torment him about his half-human heritage.

Discovery Sort Of Acknowledges The Kelvinverse

star trek pike

Fast-forward to Star Trek: Discovery, a show that takes place firmly in the Prime Universe. Because of that, familiar characters like Pike, Spock, and Kirk are very different from their Kelvinverse counterparts (mostly, they’re acting like characters in a sci-fi show rather than an action movie).

There was one surprising similarity between the new show’s pilot and Star Trek (2009): we get a flashback of Michael Burnham in the same kind of Vulcan Learning Center where young Spock once had to give a tormentor a rather epic beatdown.  

A Piece Of Trivia But Not Evidence Of Swapping Timelines

It’s a real “blink and you miss it” moment in Star Trek: Discovery’s first episode, but it made franchise history because this was the first time something introduced in a Kelvinverse film made an appearance in the Prime Universe. Does that mean that Discovery is secretly in the Kelvinverse, though? It doesn’t, but understanding why means diving into the timey-wimey nature of Star Trek (2009).

Nero Only Altered What Happened After His Attack

In the Kelvinverse, everything that happened before the USS Kelvin was attacked by the Romulan Nero is the same as it was in the Prime Universe. We don’t know how old young Spock is supposed to be in the Vulcan Learning Center scene, but we can infer that the Vulcans have been using such centers for a long time.

Plus, it’s deeply unlikely that an attack on a Starfleet vessel would have affected something as minor as how Vulcans learn (anyone typing a comment to us about chaos theory right now needs to find the nearest airlock, by the way). 

Discovery And The Kelvinverse Overlapped

Long story not very short, the Vulcan Learning Centers are the same in both Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek (2009) because the Prime Universe has plenty of overlap with that alternate reality.

Still, as Paramount prepares to give us yet another origin movie, it’s fun to look back on a time when these two different realities intersected in a most unexpected way. Should the new movie introduce yet another reality via a reboot, the fandom may have to give IDIC a new meaning: Infinite Dimensions in Infinite Combinations.

Star Trek Newsletter

Subscribe For Bold

Star Trek News

Expect a confirmation email if you "Engage!"