For just over 50 years, Star Trek has been the science fiction property by which all other mainstream sci-fi is judged. Even Star Wars arguably wouldn’t have been possible had the bedrock for adventure-driven sci-fi not been established by Trek in the first place. Sporting political idealism and diverse, progressive choices throughout all of its iterations, Star Trek means more to its fans than simply being a goofy old sci-fi show. So, now, the fannish pressure is on for the next version of Trek: the upcoming show Star Trek: Discovery. Since its announcement, Trekkies and casual fans alike have been clamoring for any shred of data about the next installment of a sci-fi phenomenon that has lived long and prospered for much longer than anyone expected.
From the cast to the writers to the ship itself, here’s everything we know so far about Star Trek: Discovery.
Editor’s Note: This article is updated as new information about Star Trek: Discovery is released.
The Creative Team
Of all the Star Trek series to date, Discovery’s creative team has perhaps undergone the most shake-ups. On February 9, 2016, Bryan Fuller was announced as the showrunner of the next Trek series and fans celebrated. Not only did Fuller have amazing credibility from his work on Pushing Daisies and Hannibal, he had previously written episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. But, by the end of 2016, Fuller was no longer the showrunner of Discovery. He originally cited scheduling conflicts when he stepped down from the role on October 26, 2016. But on July 28, 2017, Fuller addressed his departure in full.
His original pitch for the show was as the launching point for multiple serialized anthology series, which would span multiple eras of Star Trek. But CBS chose to go with a single series to see how audiences responded. Tensions later arose because of CBS’ choice of David Semel as the director of the first episode, budgetary concerns, the pressure of their upcoming revised premiere date, and Fuller’s showrunner commitment to American Gods. As a result, Fuller was asked by CBS to step down in October 2016. Despite no longer being Discovery’s showrunner, he is still listed as executive producer on nine episodes of the series, and some of his contributions remain. In Fuller’s place are Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts. Alex Kurtzman of the Abramsverse Trek is one of the producers responsible for shepherding the series.
The writing staff of Discovery includes Akiva Goldsmith, Star Trek novelist Kristen Beyer, Star Trek writer Joe Menosky, as well as famed writer and director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Nicholas Meyer. In January 2017, Edward “Ted” Sullivan also joined the show’s growing writing staff. Other writers also include Erika Lippoldt, Bo Yeon Kim, Craig Sweeny, Sean Cochran, Tyler Dinucci, Aron Eli Coleite, Jesse Alexander, and Kemp Powers.
The writers’ room for Discovery has their own Twitter account, which occasionally reveals minor tidbits.
Members of Starfleet
The main protagonist of Star Trek: Discovery is Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), the first officer of the USS Shenzhou and maybe the USS Discovery. After the death of her parents when she was young, she was raised in the Vulcan tradition by Spock’s parents, making her his half-sister. The Shenzhou is led by Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Because Georgiou does not start the show as captain of the Discovery, there’s rampant speculation as to what will happen to this other starship.
Meanwhile, Jason Isaacs plays the captain of the USS Discovery, Gabriel Lorca. In Isaacs’ words, he’s “probably more f—ed up than any” previously seen Star Trek captains. Under Captain Lorca is Lt. Saru (Doug Jones), a science officer. Saru is a member of an alien race new to Star Trek, the Kelpians, who have the ability to sense the coming of death. The USS Discovery’s other science officer is Lt. Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), who focuses on astromycology, the study of fungi in space. As far as the prime universe is concerned, Stamets will be Star Trek’s first gay character in a regular TV series. His romantic partner, Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), is the medical officer of the USS Discovery.
Additionally, Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful) will play Lt. Tyler, a Federation Starfleet officer. Rekha Sharma (The 100, Battlestar Galactica) will play Discovery security officer Commander Landry. Mary Wiseman (Longmire) will play Cadet Tilly, a final-year Starfleet Academy trainee assigned to the ship. Terry Serpico (Army Wives) will play a Starfleet officer named Admiral Anderson.
Officers of the USS Shenzhou include Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock) as Dr. Nambue, the Shenzhou’s chief medical officer. Sam Vartholomeos will play Ensign Connor, a junior officer in Starfleet Academy aboard the Shenzhou.
Discovery will also feature three members of the Klingon Empire as part of the regular cast: T’Kuvma (Chris Obi), L’Rell (Mary Chieffo), and Kol (Kenneth Mitchell, who replaced Shazad Latif). T’Kuvma is the leader of an ancient Klingon house who hopes to unite the houses. L’Rell is his battle deck commander. And Kol is the commanding officer of the Klingons and protege to T’Kuvma.
The Klingons of Star Trek: Discovery have a different look to previous iterations of the famous Star Trek race, with no hair and more prominent ridges. This is because they have sensors and pheromones there, and different Klingon houses with different styles will be seen in the series. There is also a complex Star Trek-history of the Klingons looking different from era-to-era, which was partially explained in the prequel series Enterprise as being a genetic virus that swept through the Empire.
Clare McConnell will play a Klingon politician named Dennas, and Damon Runyan (Supernatural) will play a Klingon leader named Ujili.
Sarek (played by James Frain) is the father of Spock and surrogate father of Michael Burnham. The appearance of this classic Star Trek character probably won’t mean Spock will be in the show, because at this point in the timeline, Sarek and Spock aren’t speaking. However, Spock’s mom, Amanda Grayson, will show up later in the season, which might change things.
Intergalactic con-man Harry Mudd is also making an appearance in the series. He’ll be played by Rainn Wilson, who describes the character as “a bit more dastardly than the original” Mudd (brought to life by Roger C. Carmel in The Original Series).
Premise, Setting, and Continuity
Set a decade before the original Star Trek series, Discovery looks like it will revolve around the Federation and Klingons in an all out war. By the time of the original Star Trek, the war with the Klingons was a kind of “cold war,” but the shooting war seems to be a big part of Discovery.
As seen in Discovery’s official trailer, Michael Burnham is at least partially responsible for whatever causes the Federation-Klingon war. But because she’s the main character, and the first look trailer teased her as a “great unifier,” she’ll likely be instrumental in brokering a peace.
Regarding Burnham, the fact that the show focuses on her (instead of a captain character), means that the series will have more “lower-deck storylines” than previous Trek shows.
Interestingly, despite the show’s apparent focus on the Federation and the Klingons, Bryan Fuller mentioned that the episode “Balance of Terror” is a big influence on Discovery, which is an episode all about the Federation’s war with the Romulans, not the Klingons.
Romulans and Vulcans both evolved from the same race originally, which is why they have pointed ears, too. The same actor who played Sarek in the original series, Mark Lenard, also played the first Romulan commander in this episode.
Discovery will take place in the “prime” Star Trek universe, meaning it follows chronology of all of the six previous TV shows and the first ten feature films. It does not adhere to the split continuity of the “Kelvin Timeline” from the three films starring the rebooted original series crew.
At the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2016, a special panel on Discovery revealed test footage of the titular starship from the new show. While the basic design retained elements familiar to most Star Trek ships, fans noticed striking similarities to an unused design for the Enterprise done by famed Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie back in the ‘70s. Other fans have noticed the ship looks like a combination of a Federation ship and a Klingon ship. Additionally, the registry number of the Discovery is NCC-1031, making it a lower number than the Enterprise’s NCC-1701. But, the number “31” has created all sorts of theories that Earth’s clandestine organization “Section 31” could be involved. But lately, that rumor hasn’t gotten much play.
Notably, the ship that appears in the majority of the trailers for Star Trek: Discovery is not in fact, the Discovery itself, but instead, the USS Shenzhou. This ship is commanded by Captain Georgiou and named for the famous Chinese real life spacecraft of the same name.
Longtime scenic designers of previous Star Trek shows, Denise and Michael Okuda, also told Inverse in December that they sent some of their “old files” to the people working on Discovery, implying an attention to detail on the design continuity is a huge part of the look of the show.
The Klingon ships also look very different from what has been seen in Star Trek before, and at least one of the vessels is called a “Sarcophagus Ship.”
New Starfleet Uniforms and Gear
Discovery’s uniforms are an interesting departure from what we’ve seen before from Star Trek. Instead of giving characters from different departments differently colored uniforms, they’re all the same blue color. This leaves the color of the metallic trim, where the trim is placed, and Starfleet badge appearance to denote rank and what department a character works for. Science officers have silver trim, while first officers and captains have gold trim. Captains have gold trim on their shoulders, differentiating them from first officers. Meanwhile, the number of pips, whether they’re punched through or not, badge color, and division symbol indicate rank and origin. The iconic uniform now has a split running down the side, which has yet to be explained or understood.
The series will also have its characters sport armored uniforms, which are decidedly more stylish than they’ve been in the past.
Where You’ll Be Able to Watch It
Controversially, Star Trek: Discovery will eventually be exclusive to CBS All Access, CBS’ subscription service. Though the series will have a traditional premiere on CBS at 8:30-9:30 p.m., with the first and second episodes being available on All Access immediately after, the following episodes will only be available through All Access.
Internationally, the series will be distributed on Netflix in 188 countries and in Canada on Bell Media’s Space channel and OTT service CraveTV.
Star Trek: Discovery premiers on September 24, 2017 on CBS All-Access.Photos via StarTrek.com, Getty Images / Joe Scarnici, CBS