A few comments I read before Star Trek: Discovery premiered indicated it was part of the original timeline, but after seeing the show I'm not 100% sure: many of the consoles we see here are similar to those in the current films.

As that could just be "modern looks for a dusty timeline" I want to make sure and ask: is Discovery set in the original or the Kelvin timeline?

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    Deep Space Nine is set in the same timeline as The Next Generation, despite the seemingly inexplicable differences between how Trills are described in TNG’s The Host, and DS9. Oct 4, 2017 at 21:41
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    Because of trademarks it's actually impossible for it to be set in the Kelvin timeline, as far as I understand. The prime timeline is licensed to CBS Studios, and they cannot use material from Paramount's Kelvin timeline, and vice versa. They had to significantly alter the uniforms for the Kelvin timeline to be able to use them.
    – Aster
    Oct 5, 2017 at 2:28
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    There's a third option: It's post-Enterprise timeline. Remember, Enterprise had a Temporal Cold War with history changes and a huge Xindi war that never happened in the TOS/TNG/DS9/VOY universe. That could easily snowball into changes by Discovery's time and explain every continuity "error". Oct 5, 2017 at 12:13
  • Out of universe - it's bloody hard to make things look as clunky as the original sets looked with modern materials. back then, the bridge looked much like a (for then) modern naval bridge. Today, you can't even get some of the parts.
    – pojo-guy
    Oct 6, 2017 at 2:38
  • @starpilotsix, do you have any canon evidence that the Xindi war wasn't in the same timeline as TNG? May 19, 2018 at 5:05

6 Answers 6


Star Trek: Discovery is set in the original timeline, not in the Kelvin one.

The visuals similar to those of Abrams' movies are easily explained by both of them being modern products, created with modern technologies and responding to modern audience tastes and expectations.

According to one of the creators of the show, Bryan Fuller:

Star Trek: Discovery will be set in the “Prime Universe” (so in the timeline of the original shows, not the J.J. Abrams reboot films), about a decade before Captain Kirk’s five-year mission. “We can redefine the visual style,” he said. “We get to play with all of the iconography of those ships and that universe. Since we are doing this series in 2016, and all of the other series have been produced [at a time that] isn’t as sophisticated as we are now with what we can do production-wise, we’re going to be reestablishing an entire look for the series — not only for the series, but for what we wanted to accomplish with Star Trek beyond this series.”
Star Trek: Major details revealed about new TV show - Entertainment Weekly


There's also evidence within the series itself. Remember that the Kelvin timeline has things happening about 7 years earlier: Kirk takes command of the Enterprise in 2258 (original timeline, 2265), so the first Kelvin timeline film happens two years after ST: Discovery.

If you look at the Stardate system, it's different. In the Kelvin timeline, they're still using the "old" system shown used on the Kelvin: the first four digits are the Gregorian year, so the ship was destroyed in 2233, Stardate 2233.04. Vulcan was destroyed around 2258.42 (2258), the second movie happened around Stardate 2259.55 (2259), and the Enterprise was destroyed around 2263.2 (2263).

On the first episode, Burnham gives the Stardate as 1207.3, and it being May 11, 2256. That looks more like TOS dating (which was of course all over the place and not consistent), where the first one given in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" was 1312.4 (2265). The stardate clearly doesn't use the year, but in the Kelvin timeline, two years later, it did. So there's evidence it's not in the Kelvin timeline.

Piece of evidence 2: the hand phasers used in "Discovery", that you get a good diagram of in the opening titles, are essentially identical to the ones used in TOS. They are very much unlike the "flippable muzzle" versions seen in the Kelvin timeline. So, either a massive change in the technology after only 2 years, or not the same timeline.

Piece of evidence 3: the uniforms. In the Kelvin timeline, Pike meets Kirk in 2255, and you see a variety of Starfleet uniforms that look similar to the ones used three years later in 2258 (not counting the shipboard uniforms). They look nothing like the uniforms seen the show, either in "the present" (2256) or in the flashback set in 2249 when Burnham met Georgiou. In order for the show to be in the Kelvin timeline, Starfleet would have had to use one style of uniform in 2249, switch to a completely different look by 2255, switch back to the 2249 style by 2256, then switch back again to the 2255 style by 2258. So yeah, highly unlikely.

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    "Starfleet would have had to use one style of uniform in 2249, switch to a completely different look by 2255, switch back to the 2249 style by 2256, then switch back again to the 2255 style by 2258" sounds like the modern US Navy and their uniform changes as of late.
    – Chris
    Oct 30, 2017 at 13:51
  • Piece of evidence 3 appears to also serve similarly well as evidence against Discovery being set in the prime universe. Jan 25, 2018 at 14:34

The design of the USS Defiant suggests a new timeline.

In "Despite Yourself" (Discovery, season 1, episode 10), Captain Lorca refers to data, recovered from the mirror universe rebel ship, that describes the Terran Empire's acquisition of the USS Defiant (NCC-1764). Lorca shows this schematic1:

USS Defiant NCC-1764 schematic

Although the schematic lists the ship as the USS (not ISS) Defiant, some features don't match the original, seen here (lower right) in "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II"2 before the Empire had opportunity to modify it:

Enterprise and Defiant - In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II

For example, the wireframe has notches on the rim of the saucer, and a cylinder (parallel to the nacelle) at a bend in the nacelle pylon.

These features are similarly missing from the ISS Enterprise (NCC-1701) in "Mirror Mirror"3:

ISS Enterprise - Mirror, Mirror

Nor does the schematic match the streamlined features of the several iterations of USS Enterprise from the Kelvin timeline:

USS Enterprise NCC-1701 - Star Trek - 2009


The wireframe design -- if it accurately depicts the USS Defiant -- precludes Discovery happening in the prime universe/original timeline.

If Discovery does take place in the original timeline, then Lorca's schematic may be an unused early model or conceptual refit sketch.

Another possibility is that Discovery takes place mostly in the prime universe while "Despite Yourself" features a different mirror universe from what past series have shown -- the Terran Empire in this second mirror universe having acquired its USS Defiant from one of the countless other universes where things happened just a bit differently from the prime universe.

1 It's unclear if the schematic is from the rebel database or from Discovery's own records.

2 This USS Defiant, from Kirk's era, is nearly identical to the early Constitution class typified by Pike's USS Enterprise from "The Cage".

3 This image is from the remastered version of the episode.

  • As far as I'm aware it was implied that (1) was from the rebels database. as for the modifications couldn't they have been made by the empire after the acquisition? (additionally as you indicated it....I'm also not too sure if the constitution class when it comes to screen will be the same as ever or as modified as shown on the schematics .......we know what happened to the D6 and other iconic klingon ships. They looked quite differently).
    – Thomas
    Jan 15, 2018 at 15:17
  • @Thomas - Lorca showed the image while talking about the rebel database, but he didn't say that the image was from the database. It's possible he used the image to illustrate what the rebels just briefly mentioned. (I suspect director Frakes was making a Star Wars reference to go with Isaacs' imitation of other Star Trek actors.)
    – Gaultheria
    Jan 15, 2018 at 17:26
  • @Thomas - I'm guessing the Terran Empire would have re-branded Defiant from USS to ISS, especially if they had upgraded it.
    – Gaultheria
    Jan 15, 2018 at 17:34

My three cents here:

ST:D is - as is mentioned multiple times - is set about 10 years before Kirk's first mission, yet after Kelvin fork.

So, following logically, this is still Prime Universe. Remember that no one really knew what happened to USS Kelvin? And I mean it in the strategic sense, as they knew Kelvin was attacked by unknown species with a ship of unknown capabilities.

ST:Ent timeline is indeed a bit different,

but only in minutiae of the Grand Scheme - Xindi war was to prevent forming the Federation, as this was the way to win the Temporal war. Attack on Earth and following that escalation of xenophobic tensions on Earth and Vulcan, re-miltarization of Starfleet... All minor blips in the timeline.

Also please remember that ST:D is basically the only one except ST:Ent to mention the four founding races together, not to say anything about appearing "in person" (Tellerites, for example appear basically in TAS, ST:Ent and ST:D only, which is terrible performance), as well as that

the ST:Ent is tied into the TNG timeline, First Contact timeline (which we know wasn't altered in any meaningful way).

However, we also know that ST:Ent bungled mightily where Klingons are involved, so I do liked it very much when ST:D brought the spirit of Klingon Empire back from Enterprise's disaster.

Having said all that I must say that the base premise of the series (namely the spore drive) violates so many established threads that while it's very well made show and carefully tied elsewhere - as I point out above - that I basically refuse to watch the series until it is resolved. So I will call it "Discovery Universe", as it is a bubble of completely different latex...

Canon tells us Klingons acquired cloaking tech from Romulans. That it was shared in exchange for Klingon designs and hulls (as mentioned in TOS). Discovery makes that null and void, and at least 10 years earlier to boot. According to Undiscovered Country, Klingon-Federation war is in cold gear for over 30 years in 2256, yet it's the Discovery that starts it? Spore drive ready for fleet-wide dissemination and implementation, including biological component is an instant winner in any conflict, not just cold war against splintered enemy.

So, Discovery's main feature in the ST:D is actual and very un-funny c**k-blocker (and I use that term with full knowledge if the meaning and in context as designed) as it demolishes every one of the basic tenets of Star Trek Universe.


My thoughts on this: setting the set designs and ship designs aside; they were bound to "update" the look, and, that is not as relevant as the dialogue.

(The following has spoilers. i could not get "spoiler" bbl to work here.)

Why i suspect that Discovery was intended to be part of the Kelvin timeline is in details such as this: https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Harcourt_Fenton_Mudd?file=Harry_Mudd_police_record.jpg Wouldn't the attempting hijacking of a Starfleet vessel be on his record? I guess not, since: no charges were filed, and, they just remanded him to the custody of his fiance. I suppose since: he was not caught in the Betazoid bank heist, that would not be on his record either, and, i guess: the "Future Police" would not count charges by the Klingon Empire, so, whatever he did there would also be absent, but....DAMN!, they took a lot of .... liberty.... with the Mudd character, and, its on thin ice with prime continuity. It would be easier to say that Mudds life went differently as a branch result of the Kelvin event. Speaking of Klingons: if this is indeed prime timeline: the house of Mogh would be a very important house; having not yet been disgraced. Where the hell are they?! Also: i didn't see the Kor in this show.You know: the Dahar master, an important and honored general in the Federation war, THIS war.. I did see a Klingon named Kol who is from a house called Kor, so, maybe Kor is leading Kol in an admiral type roll due to differences caused by the Kelvin event.

All things considered: Discovery is decent, and, it hits the fan service beats, but, whether they think they are or not, they are doing a story that fits in better if its an extension of the Kelvin timeline rather than a story that neatly fits in to the robustly detailed prime timeline.


Okay. My thoughts on this.

First of all, I don't really give two craps what any of the writers or producers are saying about. Simply saying it doesn't make it so. It still needs to match with good evidence.

That being said, I think the stardate argument is weak. Throughout Trek, stardates were used to keep time when ships were traveling faster than light. It was not always consistent across the various shows. Therefore, you can't always derive an exact year from the stardate.

There are some things we do know though. There is certainly a point in which the timelines diverged. That was before the Kelvin was destroyed. This means that yes. The Kelvin itself, even though it does not resemble anything we saw in the Prime Timeline, is indeed a Prime starship. Originally.

However, the appearance of the Kelvin is not necessarily the problem. It's really the apprarance of the rest of the ships in the Kelvin timeline. These were very different and a bit more advanced than the ones of the Prime Timeline (let's not forget the Enterprise's big copper deflector disc).

But this was explained by the producers saying the tech was upgraded from pieces of Nero's ship that were recovered in the wreckage of the Kelvin encounter and reverse engineered. Yes I know. I just ranted about producer statements. But these statements fit what we see. We now expect to see more advanced tech in a pre TOS Trek than we would have in classic Kirk era. Keep this in mind because I will refer to it in a minute.

I also think we shoul not just write off visual differences. We are dealing with a visual medium here. The look is part of the storytelling. Sure there will be differences. We should expect it. But the best stories are going to explain it not write it off.

Getting back to it, I believe a case could be made that DSC fits in either timeline but I favor Kelvin. Yes I say that because of visuals. But let me explain it a bit more.

Let me first challenge by saying that if we favor a prime placement, we still need to resolve some problems. In fact at least one major one. That's the Klingons. Sure, they've addressed that no one has seen one in a hundred years. That could be a reference to Archer and Enterprise. But remember season 4 of Enterprise.

For all its faults, Enterprise finally explained why TOS Klingons look different from TNG and beyond Klingons. They had tried to produce Kilngon Augments. It went wrong and Dr Phlox had to use DNA from humans (Archer specifically) to cure the virus. This meant that the entire was subjected to genetic modification and had their appearances altered. But the mod had a shelf life. It would naturally revert in about a hundred years.

Well we saw that happen during Kirk's era. Yes it was actually in the Motion Picture that we first saw TNG era Klingons. What this means for us is simple. If DSC is set in the prime timeline, the Klingons should not have cranial ridges and use Bat'leth-like weapons. This is 10 years before Kirk's era and nearly a hundred after Archer. The Klingons revised look should have been a revision of TOS era Klingons not modern Klingons.

But if this is Kelvin, we have an interesting solution. DSC is dealing with the unification of the Empire. Why? Well we have more modern looking Klingons, and the entire race seems to follow that look. Given that this would take place after Nero has entered this timeline, that would mean things are different to the point where the mod wore off faster. If no one has seen Klingons in nearly a hundred years, that would mean not many saw the missed Klingons that Archer barely dealt with. Not many witnessed the mod so the expectation when these Klingons are encountered would be no surprise. Anyone who did know about it would just assume it had passed by now.

Getting back to tech, DSC does not just feature cool visuals. The tech that is depicted cannot be ignored. DSC uses extensive holography aboard Federation starships. In the ptime timeline, this would not have occurred until TNG era and then only on a holodeck. But holography was known much earlier. Archer and his crew encountered the Xyrillians who used such devices in his era. But still the Fed did not implement any such tech. When Columbia was commissioned and launched, it had no holographic tech.

But if account for Nero and the fleet upgrades from the remains of the ship, such holographic are more than believable in the DSC era.

Sure we still have to explain the uniforms. But I am working on that. I really don't see anything to state that it can't be Kelvin except for actual statements. I find those statements highly questionable at best. Let's not ignore prime timeline problems to blindly accept these statements. We need to see more of DSC and hope we will get some good confirmation.

  • Although for TNG they had one thing about holograms on the holodecks not seen in discovery: They were solid. Discoveries holograms not (at least not yet seen that they are).
    – Thomas
    Oct 7, 2017 at 6:56
  • But it wasn't until Voyager's time that holograms could move freely about rooms. This was a big deal remember. The Doctor was impressed that emitters were on every deck of the Prometheus. That was a new standard feature. In DSC, the problem is not solidity. It's the fact that you have holograms at all. Kirk and the ships he encountered did not use them. And they are able to sit on chairs. That's fairly solid. That's two advancements in one. Solidity has little to do with this. It's timing and behavior. If we aceeptthe Nero-caused upgrades, it's technology the fleet is experimenting with. Oct 7, 2017 at 13:39
  • Regarding holograms, it was also mentioned in assorted media that the displays such as the viewscreen were three-dimensional, but given the limitations of watching on a TV and special effects at the time, this couldn't be shown. "Mr Scott's Guide to the Enterprise", which came out before TNG premiered, specifically stated the main bridge screen display was "really" holographic. All Discovery is doing is actually showing that sort of thing. Oct 7, 2017 at 22:03
  • That's interesting, but that does not mesh with anything else in established prime canon. Are you suggesting that the displays of TNG DS9 and VOY were all holographic as well? If that were true, it makes everything we know about Voyager's doctor and the issuea he had with mobility really weird. It's just much easier to explain all of this as different because of Nero and Kelvin intervention. I would say that statement you found absolutely illustrates what I am trying to stress. It's not just official statements we should accept. They still have to match what we see. Oct 8, 2017 at 4:17
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    “First of all, I don't really give two craps what any of the writers or producers are saying about. Simply saying it doesn't make it so.” Although if you’re a writer on a show, writing it down in a script does make it so, because that’s how fiction works. Oct 22, 2017 at 9:05

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