If you’re staring at the screen and scratching your head in bafflement, that’s fine. I understand. In order for any of that to make sense, you have to understand uniforms and why they’re a big deal in Star Trek, as well as species we just plain don’t know about yet. Take a look at the two screenshots we’ve been given of this mystery man, and then jump on down below to learn about uniforms, implications, and uniforms.
First of all, let’s set some foundational material. There are two timelines to be concerned with in Star Trek as a franchise. The prime universe is the one that’s been the setting for five separate television series, 10 films, lots of books and video games, and also the very important STO. The alternate universe is the one that’s served as a setting for the past two Star Trek films as well as the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. And that nameless NPC belongs there, not in the prime universe, because his uniform is wrong.
Take a look at the dudes at the top of this article here and make careful note of the uniform they’re wearing. There are three relevant points of interest. First of all, the uniform is made of a smooth material; second, the rank piping at the wrist and the insignia are both sewn on in gold lamé; third, the uniform tunic appears to be a single piece with a black collar.
Now, take a look at this page on Lieutenant 0718, a character who appears in Star Trek Into Darkness. He’s not a significant character, but he’s there in the background, and he’s relevant to this discussion. Immediately, you can tell that his uniform is similar to the above, but it’s not the same. The tunic is not a single piece, but rather a black undershirt with a colored overshirt (we see Kirk wearing just the undershirt in the previous film). The insignia is in silver and is a separate piece from the tunic. Furthermore, the tunic is a ribbed mesh material.
It’s possible to write off some of these as a result of style, better special effects, or lighting, just like it’s possible to argue that the insignia as a separate piece is part of the technical limitations of STO. But take another look at those screenshots, and look at 0718 again. For a game that has proved itself very capable of displaying classic uniforms, it’s a conscious choice when someone is not wearing an actual classic uniform. That’s an alternate universe uniform.
Let’s also consider the fact that the man in question has no visible iris or pupil and a cybernetic implant of some sort on his cranium. Both appear normal for 0718, but they are completely atypical for the Starfleet we know of that permits minimal cybernetic modification. The alternate universe apparently has different standards.
In other words – what we have here is a character who is in completely the wrong universe but exists in a time period contemporaneous with the exact era that the game’s next expansion is going to be covering. It’s quite possible that he might serve as a not-so-subtle hint about what is coming around the corner, a preview of crossing over with the alternate universe and exploring what that might mean across multiple potential timelines.
Or he’s just a little Easter egg thrown in there for fans to smile about. That could be it.