Captain Saru was surprised to meet Discovery’s new A.I. computer voice. But fans have met Zora, voiced by a famous actress, before in a Short Trek.
Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 4 – “Forget Me Not”
Star Trek: Discovery season 3, episode 4 “Forget Me Not” reintroduced Zora, the new voice of the starship’s computer, who debuted in the Short Trek “Calypso”. Although she hasn’t claimed the name “Zora” yet in the episode, the enchanting computer’s voice belongs to Annabelle Wallis, who fans know from The Tudors, Peaky Blinders, Annabelle, and The Mummy (2017), which she co-starred in with Tom Cruise.
“Calypso” was one of the initial batch of Short Treks that released in 2o18 as part of the build-up to Star Trek: Discovery season 2 and it appears to be the episode with the farthest-reaching implications for CBS All-Access’ flagship Star Trek series. Although the exact timeframe of “Calypso” was a mystery upon its release, it’s now clear that the Short Trek is actually set a thousand years after the events of Star Trek: Discovery season 3, which itself happens in the year 3189 – 930 years after the events of season 2. In “Calypso”, a human soldier named Craft (Aldis Hodge) who was lost in space is rescued by the Discovery and romantically bonds with Zora, the ship’s sentient A.I. Zora reveals that she has been alone ever since the Discovery‘s crew abandoned their starship “almost a thousand years ago”, placing the events of “Calypso” somewhere between the years 4100-4200. However, Craft had to return to his actual wife and child and Zora let him go, in a bittersweet breakup for the lonely starship.
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In Star Trek: Discovery season 3, “Forget Me Not”, Captain Saru (Doug Jones) is surprised when the starship’s onboard computer voice abruptly changes from its original tone (voiced by Julianne Grossman) to Zora’s voice. Saru had been wrestling with how to best help his emotionally distraught crew, who were all coping with the trauma of their 930-year jump to a dark future where the United Federation of Planets had collapsed because of a cosmic calamity called the Burn. Zora’s voice was distinctly different from the original computer’s, and she not only had a British accent but also showed signs of an actual personality. Zora suggested to the Captain that his crew needed the night off for rest and relaxation, and she exhibited a deep knowledge of the 20th-century films from Earth, offering a Buster Keaton movie as something Discovery‘s crew might enjoy to help them unwind.
Star Trek‘s computers have almost always been interactive and accessed via voice command. The Starship Enterprise‘s computer in Star Trek: The Original Series had a generic, robotic computer voice but in the 24th-century Star Trek: The Next Generation era, the voices of Starfleet ships and space stations were usually provided by the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry. However, Zora is something much more than Star Trek’s version of Amazon’s Alexa – Zora seems to not only be alive but she is also learning and evolving. She identifies as female and, in “Calypso”, she clearly exhibits human feelings such as loneliness, fear, and love.
Captain Saru theorized, correctly, that the future Zora is the evolution of the sphere data that the Discovery gained access to and had to keep safe from the rogue A.I. Control, which needed the data to achieve full sentience in order to enact its plan to wipe out all organic life in the galaxy. The sphere data contained 100,000 years of ancient knowledge which has now fused with Discovery’s computer and data banks, allowing Zora to emerge. Saru also predicted that because the crew of the Discovery traveled almost a thousand years to keep the sphere data safe, Zora has now taken it upon herself to keep the Discovery safe.
Intriguingly, a deleted line from the screenplay for Star Trek: Discovery‘s season 2 finale, “Such Sweet Sorrow”, indicated that the Daystrom Institute on Earth developed the Zora program as a replacement for Control in 2258. So, the Discovery crew’s altruism towards the sphere data created Zora, who is now their artificially intelligent computer, friend, and protector, and she is the opposite of the malevolent Control. It also remains to be seen if the tragic fate for Zora in the Short Trek “Calypso” will eventually come to pass.
Next: Star Trek: Why Discovery Survived An Ice Planet Crash (But Voyager Didn’t)
Star Trek: Discovery streams Thursdays on CBS All-Access and Fridays internationally on Netflix.
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