If you’re someone who didn’t watch the debut of Star Trek: Discovery last year, there’s good news. If you jump right in with the new mid-season debut this Sunday, you’ll be mostly fine. Because the previous episode pretty much left one big plot arc behind, the rest of the episodes seemed poised to take the show in a new direction.

Binging the rest of the series before the premiere would certainly be fun because it’s totally the twistiest Trek ever with some excellent character development and genuinely new science fiction ideas. But if you don’t have the time, here are five essential things you need to know before watching the mid-season premiere of Star Trek: Discovery. There are of course some important nuances to all of this, but if you understand this stuff, you’ll be able to follow the action of the new episode just fine.

Spoilers for the first half of season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery ahead. NO SPOILERS ahead for the upcoming new episode.

Michael Burnham is the Main Character, and She’s Gone Through A lot

The show’s main character is Michael Burnham. In the first two episodes, she became the first mutineer in Starfleet history. She was raised by the super-logical Vulcans, but her more important mentor was Captain Philippa Georgiou. Sadly, Georgiou and a lot of crew members of the USS Shenzhou were killed in a big battle in the second episode. This fact haunts Burnham and messed up her whole life. Going into the new episode just know this: she’s got baggage. She also has a huge crush on Lt. Tyler.

Captain Lorca Has Been Really Shifty Up Until This Point

Since the third episode, the Captain of the Discovery, Gabriel Lorca, has acted suspiciously. He’s very aggressive, and occasionally, totally ignores the rules. And, this streak of maverick behavior isn’t the fun Captain Kirk seat-of-the-pants kind of rule-breaking. Instead, it’s scary, like do what I say or else tyrant type of stuff. Still, you get the sense that Lorca’s not a bad guy through it all, but that he is manipulating people. Relevantly, in the final episode before the break, Lorca punched in something into his command chair, and the Discovery ended up…somewhere they can’t quite figure out.

The Discovery Has a Special Drive, and Stamets is Like a Human Engine

It turns out the Discovery is pretty much the “fastest” ship in Star Trek history, ever. And that’s because it has a “Spore Drive,” a kind of crazy fungus tech that lets it “jump” instantly from one spot to the next. The only problem is, it needs a biological component to work. Enter Lt. Paul Stamets, the brilliant genius who plugs himself in to save the ship, time and time again. But, in the ninth episode, Stamets told Lorca he was pretty much done with all the jumping because the strain was pretty insane on his mind. It’s heavily implied that Stamets has been experiencing alternate realities and possibly weird versions of the future. After completing the final jump in episode 9, Stamets collapsed. Dr. Culber, Stamets boyfriend, is also pretty pissed with Lorca for doing all sorts of medically unethical shit to Stamets.

The Klingons Had Very Specific Quest, at First

The series kicked off with a war between the Federation and the Klingons. Originally, the Klingons were fighting a kind of Holy War, led by T’Kuvma, a guy who believed in finding the Klingon Jesus, Kahless. But, he was killed by Burnham in the second episode, another guy, Voq, took his place. The only thing is, Voq got kicked out of power by a jerkier Klingon named Kol. The only Klingon left over from all of those shenanigans is L’Rell, and currently, she’s a prisoner on the starship Discovery. She was also the torturer of Lt. Tyler, who is Burnham’s (kind of) new boyfriend.

The Canon of the Rest of Star Trek Matters, But Not as Much as You Think

Before Discovery debuted, many fans worried it violated existing Trek canon because it takes place about a decade before the original series. Superficially, some things do look different, but this stuff doesn’t matter as much hardcore fans might tell you. And in the new episode, it probably matters even less. Yes, for those who have followed the entire franchise, you’re going to be rewarded big time in this episode. There are several references to HUGE events from the original series and beyond in this one. But, all of these references are explained and recapped in this episode. Meaning, even if you don’t understand the connections to the rest of the canon, it won’t hurt your appreciation of the episode, or the rest of the series, one bit.

The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery — “Despite Yourself” — is written by Sean Cochran a directed by Jonathan Frakes. It airs on Sunday, January 7 at 8:30 pm eastern time on CBS All Access. Come back to Inverse after watching for our spoiler-filled coverage, including our full interview with Jonathan Frakes.


Photos via CBS