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Star Trek: Discovery: everything you need to know before the series launches

Star Trek: Discovery: everything you need to know before the series launches


Which universe it takes place in, where it falls in the timeline, and more

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Star Trek: Discovery is the first new Trek show in more than a decade, and fans will be watching this weekend’s premiere closely to see how it manages the weighty expectations that come with any new entry in one of the most storied science fiction franchises of all time.

The show is set chronologically in an era of Star Trek following Star Trek: Enterprise, but before the 1960 Star Trek that fans now refer to as The Original Series. Discovery is a rare new piece of Trek media that takes place in the franchise’s original continuity, instead of in the spinoff “Kelvin Timeline” of the big-budget J.J. Abrams films that have served as the only new Star Trek properties for the last decade.

Adding to that pressure is the worrying amount of behind-the-scenes drama that has plagued Discovery. The show has been delayed multiple times from its original January 2017 release date, and now that it’s launching, CBS is still only planning to air half the first season, with the rest of the episodes slated for January 2018. Discovery’s original showrunner, Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller, left the project after clashing with CBS executives over budget, production schedule, crew selection, and the intriguing idea of Discovery being an anthology series instead of the serialized show CBS preferred. And CBS as a network just doesn’t seem to have faith in the show. CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone commented to Recode’s Peter Kafka that he doesn’t think science fiction shows work on TV these days, and CBS isn’t allowing any reviews of the show in advance, which is never an encouraging sign.

Still, after all these years away from the airwaves, it’s hard to not be excited about a new Star Trek show. Here’s what you need to know to get ready for the premiere.


What’s it about?

Discovery will focus on a new ship — the eponymous USS Discovery and its crew, set in an era where the Federation and the Klingon Empire are embroiled in a cold war, with tensions rising on both sides of the conflict. While the creative team has been fairly quiet about revealing information about the show, we know it’s set around 10 years before The Original Series.

Who’s who?

The main character of the show is — in a first for Star Trek — not the captain of the Discovery, but First Officer Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green). We know from the trailers that Burnham was raised by Sarek (Spock’s father) after her parents died in a Klingon attack.

Burnham was the first human to attend the Vulcan Learning Center and Vulcan Science Academy, and she serves on the USS Shenzhou at the start of the series, under Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).

At some point, though, Burnham ends up on the Discovery, where she also serves as first officer under Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs, of Harry Potter movie series fame), and alongside Saru (Guillermo del Toro’s favorite monster actor, Doug Jones), a member of a new species known as the Kelpiens. As the trailer bluntly points out, Kelpiens are a race that evolved to “sense death.”

The main antagonist of the series is T'Kuvma (Chris Obi), the leader of a Klingon sect who hopes to unite the Klingon empire under one banner, although the details on his plan — and how it will affect the tenuous political relationship between the Empire and the Federation — are yet to be revealed.

Where to watch

CBS is experimenting with Discovery’s release strategy. The first episode airs on the actual CBS channel at around 8:30PM ET / 5:30PM PT on Sunday, September 24th. (The start time is subject to change depending on whether the NFL football game beforehand ends on time, therefore pushing 60 Minutes later.)

The rest of the series will only be available on CBS’s digital subscription service, CBS All Access, which costs $5.99 per month, or $9.99 per month for commercial-free streaming. That includes the second episode, which will air online immediately after the first episode ends on Sunday night. Discovery is meant to be one of the flagship series for All Access, alongside The Good Fight, a sequel series to The Good Wife. CBS is clearly counting on Star Trek fans to help drive subscriptions for the new service.

The first eight episodes of Discovery are scheduled to launch exclusively on CBS All Access, at a rate of one per week through Sunday, November 5th. They’ll be available for streaming on the service once they’ve aired. The second half of the season is planned to hit All Access at some point in January 2018.