What’s up with the identical obelisks in Star Trek?

WARNING: This post contains possible Star Trek Discovery spoilers.

I admit it. I’m a bit of a Star Trek nerd. I’ve watched every episode of every series, sometimes many times over. I grew up on the adventures of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on the USS Enterprise. Now that Star Trek Discovery is deep into its second season, I’m completely hooked and linger on every detail.

For example, I need to know about the obelisks. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, what’s up with the obelisks? In our latest episode, Saru returns to his home planet, where the planet’s dominant species, the Ba’ul, use obelisks to exert power over Saru’s species, the Kelpians. Haven’t we seen that obelisk before, though?

Three appearances of a Preserver obelisk in Star Trek. Click to embiggen.

In fact, we have. In the original Star Trek series episode “The Paradise Syndrome”, a giant obelisk protects an idyllic planet of humans from collisions with asteroids (“I… am… KEE-ROK!”) It’s identical to the Ba’ul obelisk.

Spock eventually interprets some of the text inside the obelisk: the obelisk is one of many referred to as Preservers. The race that created them uses the Preservers to protect races in danger of extinction. (Source: Memory Alpha)

But wait! There’s more! In the third episode of Star Trek Discovery, Michael Burnham is shown a series of images from around the galaxy by way of the mycelial network. One of those images is of a landscape with the same obelisk that we saw in “The Paradise Syndrome”. Captain Lorca describes that landscape as “the moons of Andor”.

For whatever reason, the obelisk used by the Ba’ul to subjugate the Kelpians is the same as the previous obelisks, but inverted.

What can we infer from this? Is it merely Discovery series artists making an homage to the original series? Or are the writers building a connection between the Ba’ul obelisks and the Preservers? So far this season has been about pursuing the “Red Angel”, a powerful being that moves through time and space to preserve races from extinction.

Hey. Wait a sec! That’s exactly the same purpose as the Preserver obelisks. Is it a surprise, then, that the Red Angel appears in the same episode as Preserver obelisks? If there isn’t a connection between Preservers and the Red Angel, I’ll be very disappointed with the Discovery writers.