As the first new “Star Trek” television series in over a decade, “Star Trek: Discovery” has gotten a lot of attention since it was first announced in November 2015.
There have been production delays and some behind-the-scenes drama – specifically, the departure of original showrunner Bryan Fuller. But fans are now finally on the verge of actually getting to see the sci-fi drama in action — there’s even a premiere date, which means it’s really happening.
Below, here’s everything that’s been revealed to date about what to expect from the upcoming CBS All Access series, from when and where it launches to the producers’ groundbreaking narrative choices.
Season 1 Has a Complicated Release Strategy
The first episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” officially premieres on Sunday, September 24 at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS (the actual network). At that same time, the episode will also be available on demand and on CBS All Access, and CBS All Access subscribers will be able to watch the second episode as well.
The first two episodes, according to CBS All Access President and COO Marc DeBevoise, “set up [the show] like a movie. They will serve to create the foundation of the story line for the series.”
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Yes, viewers will need to subscribe to CBS All Access to watch the show as a whole. “Discovery” will run for eight episodes this fall before “Chapter 1” (that’s what CBS is calling the first half) ends, with “Chapter 2” picking up in January 2018. Essentially, it’s the sort of split-season approach viewers have seen before with shows like “Breaking Bad.”
“Discovery” Has No Connection With Chris Pine
Sorry for the nerd moment, but the recent feature film revival of “Star Trek” technically exists in a different timeline from the established “Trek” television universe. The events of the 2009 film established that every time you see Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto on screen, they’re part of what we call the “Kelvin-verse,” named after the spaceship destroyed in the opening minutes of the first film directed by J.J. Abrams.
“Discovery,” meanwhile, takes place 10 years before James T. Kirk became a Starfleet officer, but in the same timeline that “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” and “Voyager” exist in. If this proves confusing, just think to yourself that movies and TV shows are different entities. Because, in this case, that’s true.
The Show’s Lead is a Female First Officer, and She’s Probably Met Spock
Meet Michael Burnham!
What we know about her so far: She’s human, and the “ward” of Ambassador Sarek (played here by James Frain), which means that she is technically the adopted sister of Sarek’s son Spock. The producers have been otherwise tightlipped on what Burnham’s relationship with Spock might be, beyond a “wait-and-see” messaging.
Burnham was raised on Vulcan, and considers Sarek a mentor. Her parents are dead, and Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) is another mentor figure. At Comic-Con, it was also mentioned that she graduated from the Vulcan Science Academy (no easy task) and is a rising star in Starfleet.
Martin-Green’s availability was mentioned as a factor in the show’s delay in launching — executive producer Alex Kurtzman told critics that the casting process “was a tough search. And, you know, you’re always hoping for the perfect person to walk in the door, and we really did not want to set out until we knew we had what we needed, and we saw Sonequa… We saw her work, and we went, ‘She’s the one.'”
Unfortunately, Martin-Green was committed to “The Walking Dead” at that time, so according to Kurtzman, “we felt that that was another reason to wait. And so, we did.”
Here’s Why Burnham’s First Name is Michael
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According to co-showrunner Aaron Harberts, the name “Michael” was selected because of Fuller. “We’ve worked on many shows with Bryan, and it’s a motif. It’s his signature move to name his lead women with names that would typically be associated as male,” he said during the Television Critics Association press tour.
“An archangel is named Michael as well, and it just had a lot of potency for us,” he added.
Martin-Green had a strong take on that choice, saying that “I appreciated the sort of statement it makes all on its own to have this woman with this male name… I also just decided for my creation and for my background and whatnot that I was named after my father.” If we ever see Burnham’s father in flashbacks, know that his name is theoretically Michael.
The Cast is Crazy Diverse Beyond Its Lead
“Discovery’s” supporting cast includes Michelle Yeoh, Jason Isaacs, James Frain, Maulik Pancholy, Sam Vartholomeos, Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Chris Obi, Shazad Latif, Mary Chieffo, Jason Isaacs, Kenneth Mitchell, and Rekha Sharma.
Many of these actors are non-white and/or playing aliens, such as Jones as Saru, who is a member of a new alien race called the Kelpien. Kelpians are very tall and apparently have hooves — click here to see Jones demonstrate Saru’s very specific walk during the Comic-Con panel.
Yes, The Klingons Look Different
“Discovery” features not just new alien species, but new takes on established races. As IndieWire observed when the first trailer premiered, the physical representation of Klingons in “Star Trek” has never been consistent over the course of the franchise’s history, so it’s no surprise they look different yet again.
According to Harberts, the new look for the Klingons was deliberately driven by Fuller: “One of the things he really wanted to do was shake up the design of the Klingons, and one of the first things that he ever pitched to us when we were deciding whether or not to come on the show was his aesthetic for the Klingons and how important it was that they not be the thugs of the universe, that they be sexy and vital and different from what had come before.”
Harberts credited creature concept designer Neville Page and make-up department head Glenn Hetrick with working with Fuller on the Klingon design — it was just one of the elements that the producers pointed to as a sign that Fuller had had a lasting impact on the series.
“We honor what he did, and we love so much of what’s there, and much of what’s there… it came from his mind,” Kurtzman said.
“Discovery” Will Feature the First Gay “Trek” TV Romance
At Comic-Con, it was revealed that Rapp’s character, science officer Paul Stamets, would be in a relationship with the Discovery’s chief medical officer Hugh Culber, played by “My So-Called Life” star Wilson Cruz.
While the film “Star Trek Beyond” chose to reveal that Sulu (as played by John Cho) was in a committed relationship with a man, this is the first time a television series has not just depicted a gay character, but given him a fleshed-out romance. It’s one of the show’s most promising commitments to diversity.
This Is “The Most Serialized ‘Star Trek’ Ever”
According to executive producer Akiva Goldsman, “Discovery” will be more serialized than any other “Trek” series, and he held the first season of “Discovery” up against “Trek’s” previous experiments with ongoing storylines (most notably later seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” which featured multiple examples of multi-episode arcs).
This goes beyond a shift away from “Trek’s” pre-established “mission of the week” format — it has lead to a fundamental change in the “Trek” ethos. Decades ago, “Trek” established a reputation in its writers room for the concept that its central characters should not be flawed characters, that they should instead represent the best that humanity might have to offer on a week-to-week.
There have been exceptions to this principle — witness “Deep Space Nine’s” revolutionary choices, as just one example — but “Discovery” will deliberately veer away from this famous “Trek” tradition, established by original creator Gene Roddenberry, who wrote in the original “Next Generation” series bible that the show was about characters who “have been selected for this mission because of their ability to transcend their human failings.”
Roddenberry’s directive meant that “Trek” characters were supposed to be “above” interpersonal conflict, but that’s a concept that “Discovery” will be veering away from, as a result of its new format. “It’s longform character storytelling. And without conflict, there is no longform character storytelling,” Goldsman said.
Also, In “Star Trek: Discovery,” We Are At War
When “Discovery” begins, things aren’t great between the Klingons and the Federation, and thus the show will deal with some serious drama. “You know, war is the greatest conflict of all,” Martin-Green said, “It’s just about asking those deeply profound questions of “Who am I, and who are you, and how do I relate to you? How do we live with each other? How do we make acculturation a two‑way exchange, rather than me dominating you or you dominating me?”
Goldsman explained: “We are in a time of war, and we are trying to find out who we are as a Federation and as a coalition of peoples in the face of adversity. So it is entirely the outcome role of the show to arrive at the principles — the utopian principles that I think are endemic to ‘Star Trek,’ and at the same time not to suggest that doing that is simple or easy. You can’t simply be accepting and tolerant without working for it, and so this show is about that struggle, and we are really insanely proud of that attempt on our part.”
“Star Trek” Will Always Be About Optimism, Even At Its Darkest Moments
Kurtzman mused that “Discovery” still aimed to pay true to classic “Trek’s” legacy. “I think the defining characteristic of Mr. Roddenberry’s universe is its optimism, as everybody on this panel has discussed, the belief that we can do better; the belief that we can connect; the belief that species and people around the entire galaxy can figure out a way to exist in the Federation; and that wars, if they have to be fought, can be stopped. And we talk about that all the time,” he said.
Goldsman noted in regards to the show’s commitment to inclusion that “we take it really seriously. I mean, for us, ‘Star Trek’ is deeply meaningful. It doesn’t mean we are not going to tell stories that people who don’t like ‘Star Trek’ or have never seen ‘Star Trek’ won’t enjoy, but what you have up here is a lot of folks who can find a TV show [to be] wish fulfillment, can find it close to their calling. It may sound absurd, but it’s true for us, and we are delighted about it.”
“Star Trek: Discovery” premieres on CBS All Access September 24.