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‘Star Trek Discovery’: Female Lead, Gay Character, Prequel Timeframe Confirmed

TCA: More details about Bryan Fuller's new spin on the "Trek" universe were revealed, including when exactly "Discovery" takes place.

"Star Trek: Discovery"

“Star Trek: Discovery”

Courtesy of CBS Television Studio /©2016 CBS Television Studio. All Rights Reserved

Star Trek Discovery” will feature a female lead, as showrunner Bryan Fuller works to bring the beloved franchise’s return to television in January 2017. This news was first reported by Variety, then discussed at length by Fuller at the TCA summer press tour.

READ MORE: ‘Star Trek’ New Series and Ship’s Name Are a Real ‘Discovery’

The female lead (who will be human, but will not hold the rank of captain — the lead character’s rank will be “Lieutenant commander, with caveats”) has yet to be formally cast.

But for years, Fuller has said that he was interested in seeing a female “Star Trek” captain — and one of color. In fact, in 2013, he was quoted as saying to Den of Geek that “I want Angela Bassett to be the captain, that’s who I would love to have, you know Captain Angela Bassett and First Officer Rosario Dawson.” Angela Bassett, sad to report, says she’s too busy to participate, but per Variety a woman of color could take the role.

When asked about the qualities he was looking for in his lead, he spoke about how he’s been consulting with Mae Jamison, the first black woman in space. “It was interesting to send her outlines and get her perspective of what it’s like for a woman in the sciences now, when we still have a lot of issues with women and race, and how that’s going to be 250 years in the future when, hopefully, this world gets its shit together and equality is more of a thing that is accepted.”

He said that the character will have hero characteristics, strength and sensitivity, as well as “an amusing neurosis that goes with exploring space, which is incredibly dangerous and has the potential to be terrifying.”

The first African-American “Star Trek” lead was Avery Brooks in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” while the first female captain was Kate Mulgrew in “Star Trek: Voyager.”

As to why the character would not hold the rank of captain, Fuller said they were interested in exploring a different angle. “The story that is fascinating for me is we’ve seen six series from captains’ point of view,” he noted. “To see a character from a different perspective on a starship, who has a different dynamic relationship with the captain, with subordinates, felt like it was going to give us a richer context.”

Fuller confirmed that the cast of characters would include a gay character, as well as a larger complement of alien-looking characters than previous “Trek” ensembles. “Usually you’ve got one person with a bumpy forehead and then seven other people who look relatively human. We wanted to paint the picture of a Starfleet that is indicative of a universe where we’re encountering people who are much different than we are,” Fuller said.

And some of those aliens may be new creations and some may be reimaginings, which has Fuller excited — as well as a bit paranoid about what the Internet will think. “‘Star Trek’ fans are very unpredictable about ‘Don’t change the antenna on an Andorian because that’s the way it was in ‘Journey to Babel,’ and you have to keep it that way.'”

Bryan Fuller

Bryan Fuller

Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

“Discovery” will be set, according to Fuller, about 10 years before the beginning of Captain Kirk’s five year mission. As previously reported, it will take place in the “Prime Universe,” AKA not the alternate universe established in the J.J. Abrams films. It will also revolve a major event in that time period which he is looking forward to exploring.

That major event will not be the Romulan War, per one critic’s very direct question — it was referenced (but not seen) in the original series. Fuller said he believed die-hard Trekkers will be satisfied with the event depicted in the new series. “It’s something I would want to see,” he said.

According to Fuller, the story will unfold like “a 13-chapter ‘Star Trek’ novel.” “With modern storytelling, to sustain one story over 26 episodes is challenging, but to sustain it over 13 will be much more cohesive. You don’t have to worry about treading water. It allows us to pay attention to the story.”

Fuller and his team are inventing new aliens for “Star Trek: Discovery,” including a character by the name of Saru. It’s a big cast, but about seven leads. The series does not begin on Earth or on a planet.

“Well, there’s a reason we’re called ‘STD,'” Fuller joked when asked about the series’s potentially heightened sexuality. “That’s not a nebula you’re flying through — it’s cloudy discharge.”

He then took the question seriously. “We have a broader spectrum to explore, but it’s still ‘Star Trek.'” He noted that thanks to being on CBS All Access, the series won’t be subject to broadcast standards (though he did mention that “‘Hannibal’ was and we got away with murder”).

“It may be somewhat more explicit, but it’s something that we’re discussing every day,” he said. “We may shoot scenes several different ways and figure it out in the editing room.”

Because the series is set close to the time period of the original series, Fuller is open to bringing in pre-established characters from TOS — though not until the second season. “For the first season, we’ll stick to our own world.” As far as other plot elements, we can maybe anticipate seeing signs of black ops organization Section 31. “It might be some marble through the meat of our season,” he said.

“Discovery” will premiere its first episode on CBS, but subsequent episodes will be streamed on pay services CBS All Access. “It’s a declaration of how seriously we’re building this service,” Marc DeBevoise, President and Chief Operating Officer, CBS Interactive said this afternoon. “Everybody wanted this series — we cannot thank Leslie [Moonves] enough for giving it to us.”

Some statistics DeBevoise shared include the fact that two to five million people watched “Star Trek” during the show’s first two years of being available on Netflix.

From Comic-Con, check out our first look at the new starship below. “Star Trek Discovery” begins filming in two months, and premieres January 2017.

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