You have to trust storytellers to tell their stories.
Oh, the howls of outrage that emanated from Star Trek fans when Discovery started airing! The show is supposed to take place a decade before the events of The Original Series, but the Klingons didn’t have forehead ridges until The Next Generation! Klingon ship cloaking technology hadn’t been invented when The Original Series started! If the spore drive had existed, why wasn’t it mentioned in any of the previous series? On and on it went, as continuity “errors” big and small were listed with what, at times, appeared to be malicious glee.
The most plausible interpretation of the last couple of minutes of episode nine of Discovery, the last episode of the first half of the season, is that the Discovery has used the spore drive to shunt itself into a completely different universe than the one the series had been operating in. This opens up the possibility that the show up to this point was not set in the universe of the five original Star Trek series. If that’s the case, Discovery had no reason to maintain continuity with them; indeed, it would be unlikely that it would.
If that’s the case, the conception of the show is kind of brilliant.
I tend to agree with the speculation that this part of the series was set in the mirror universe of the Original Series episode “Mirror, Mirror.” Michael Burnham, the show’s main character, is a mutineer who got her Captain killed and arguably started a war with the Klingons. (I say arguably because it looked like they were spoiling for a fight regardless.) Captain Lorca seemed ruthless in prosecuting his war and devious in protecting his command. They’re a far cry from typical Star Trek characters, but they fit right into the mirror universe.
Perhaps even more revealing are the characters who come from the Original Series. The original Harry Mudd, for example, was a thoroughgoing rotter, but I can’t imagine him taking malicious glee in causing the death of a Starfleet Captain over and over again. I can see the Vulcan Sarek finding it logical to choose his son Spock over Burnham, but I don’t know that he would lie to her about it.
(If, by the way, this theory is correct, the Discovery may not have ended up in the timeline of the original five Star Trek series; it may have to hop several universes to get there, exploring all manner of alternate Star Trek histories, or it may simply not get there at all. We’ll have to wait for the season to pick up again in January to get more clues as to where it is ultimately heading.)
To believe that Discovery was one gigantic continuity error, you would have had to believe that the creators of the series were either completely ignorant of the history of the show, that they didn’t care about continuity with the previous iterations of shows set in the Star Trek universe, or a combination of the two. Given that the Roddenberry family – who would be concerned with maintaining Gene’s legacy – were involved, those scenarios seem unlikely. If nothing else, I cannot imagine that CBS would have allowed anything to dishonour the passionate devotion of Star Trek fans.
To be clear, there may be many good reasons not to like Discovery, from apparent plot-drive character inconsistencies to holes in the plots themselves. It’s also possible to simply not enjoy a Star Trek series set in the mirror universe (if that truly is what the first nine episodes were). My point is that, given the nature of current TV production, where story arcs can last an entire season, if not an entire multi-year series, it can be counterproductive to judge a show on the basis of the first episode or two.
Sometimes, you just have to trust storytellers to tell their stories.