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Did You Catch the ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Finale’s Deep Cut Callback to the Original Series?

”Star Trek: Discovery“ has had lots of elements tying it to the original 1960s series, but the finale’s best reference was a who, not a what

(Note: This post contains spoilers for the finale episode of “Star Trek: Discovery.”)

The first season finale of “Star Trek: Discovery” ended with a major shout out to the original 1960s “Star Trek” by bringing the titular ship face to face with the USS Enterprise itself. But the finale’s coolest callback to the original “Star Trek” wasn’t an updated version of the U.S.S. Enterprise in the episode’s final moments — it was a low-key, green-painted cameo from one of the franchise’s most famous guest stars.

The finale episode ends with the USS Discovery, back to just being a regular Starfleet ship without a war to fight or an alternate universe to escape, making a routine journey across Federation space. In its final moments, though, it runs into the Enterprise and its original captain, Christopher Pike — the guy who commanded the ship before James T. Kirk in the original series.

But earlier in the episode, we saw Discovery crew member Tilly (Mary Wiseman) drugged and robbed on the Klingon homeworld of Kronos by a green-skinned Orion. And the Orion was played by an actor who first appeared on “Star Trek” back in in 1966: Clint Howard.

In the second episode of the original “Star Trek,” titled “The Corbomite Maneuver,” an alien named Balok, a powerful representative of something called the First Federation, puts Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew through an elaborate test of character, posing as a scary alien puppet to threaten them. When Kirk and his team finally met Balok in person, he’s played by then-seven-year-old Clint Howard (with his voice dubbed by voice actor Walker Edmiston, best known as the original Ernie the Keebler Elf).

This was actually Howard’s fourth “Star Trek” role. Twenty nine years later, he showed up on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” as Grady, a homeless San Francisco man the cast encountered in a time travel episode set in 2024. And in 2002 he appeared on an episode of “Star Trek: Enterprise” as an orange Ferengi named Muk.

Howard also reprised his role as Balok once before — at Comedy Central’s roast of William Shatner in 2006. As in the 1966 “Star Trek” episode, the adult version of Balok at the roast also had his voice dubbed over by another actor.

“Star Trek: Discovery” has had lots of callbacks to “Star Trek: The Original Series” in its first season, like the appearance of fan favorite interstellar con artist Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson), and a sizable trip to the Mirror Universe. But Howard’s appearance in the finale is the season’s deepest cut.