We're less than a week away from Star Trek: Discovery season 3! The show – which will transport us into an era of the galaxy previously unexplored in Star Trek lore – arrives on October 15, and there's a lot to unravel. We have trailers (multiple), some exciting casting news, and word that a Trek alumni will return to direct.
Before Star Trek: Discovery season 3 does arrive, then, be sure to get up to date on all the intel with this here primer. We even spoke to Alex Kurtzman about that time-jump and he gave one of the most revealing answers offered yet. So, sit tight, and let us beam you up, Scotty. (And while you still have a few days to do, make sure to check out the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks.)
- Check out our Star Trek: Picard episode 10 review
- Star Trek Discovery season 3 SDCC 2019 panel in full
- Every Star Trek Discovery Easter Egg you may have missed
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 release date
October 15, 2020 – that's when we can expect Star Trek: Discovery season 3 on our screens. However, that date was not always the plan.
“The intention is to have something Star Trek on the air all the time, but not necessarily on top of each other,” Trek overlord Alex Kurtzman confirmed in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter in April 2019. However, despite Star Trek: Picard coming to an end in early 2020 and there was no sign of Star Trek: Discovery's return. Previously reports hinted at an April date, yet unprecedented circumstances in the world scuppered that idea.
Yes, the coronavirus pandemic hit the Star Trek universe. During an Instagram Live, Wilson Cruz – who plays Dr. Hugh Culber – said: "They’re currently editing and doing visual effects for season 3, but it’s shifting to work from home so it’ll be slower than usual. No word yet as to how long that will take or when it will be released..."
Later, the Trek team has confirmed that they were working hard at home. Star Trek: Discovery editor Scott Gamzon posted an image of his home setup on Twitter.
Week 2 of working from home on @startrekcbs. #StarTrekDiscovery pic.twitter.com/fPGcNVqbkrMarch 23, 2020
There was also confirmation that composer Jeff Russo has been working on the score from afar. "What we are doing is recording individual session players from here in Los Angeles," he said of working remotely (via TrekMovie). "So we will record each individual in their home and then combine all of it to make the orchestra, so we don’t have to put everybody in the same room. It is not an ideal situation, but it is working." He added that, while the started with about four people, they grew up to around 40 people working on the compositions.
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 trailer
930 years from home. Their fight begins. #StarTrekDiscovery returns with a new season in 2020. #StarTrekNYCC pic.twitter.com/gaRLZbWCp7October 5, 2019
The first Star Trek: Discovery season 3 trailer beamed into New York Comic Con on Saturday, October 5, 2019. While it doesn’t reveal much about the latest season, it does offer up a few clues about what to expect – and how different life for Burnham, Saru and the rest of the crew is going to be now they’ve been transported 930 years into the future.
The key question the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 trailer poses is whether the United Federation of Planets remains a functioning organisation this far into the Trek universe’s future. When new character Cleveland Booker says to Michael Burnham, ”You believe in ghosts,” he’s referring to the Starfleet badge on her uniform – we reckon that’s a strong hint that Starfleet itself has become a relic over the previous millennium.
Further evidence to support this theory comes shortly after, when an unnamed official from the future unveils what looks like the flag of the Federation. “I watched this office every day believing that my hope was not in vain,” he says. “That hope is you, Commander Burnham.”
Our guess would be that the Federation has fallen into disrepair by the time Star Trek: Discovery season 3 begins – we see a group of Andorians, long-time members of the Federation, who have apparently gone rogue – and that part of the USS Discovery’s mission will be to pull the organisation back together. They may also need to work out what caused everything to fall apart in the first place. As Burnham puts it: “I’ve spent a year searching for that domino that tipped over and started all of this.”
The Star Trek: Discovery season 3 trailer also suggests the new episodes will cover an extended period of time. Why? Not only does Burnham refer to spending a year looking for that elusive domino, but we also see her hair change length – and going on the amount of growth, we’re talking years rather than weeks in between each of these scenes. We also get to see some intriguing new planets, including scenes shot in Iceland.
On Star Trek Day, which was September 8, the second Star Trek: Discovery season 3 trailer launched. The year 3188 looks to be filled with a fair amount of life, yet the Federation has ripped apart by something newcomer Cleveland "Book" Booker (David Ajala) calls "the burn," or, as Book describes it: "The day the galaxy took a hard left."
What exactly does this mean? Well, Discover season 3 looks set to see Burnham and her crew set about restoring the Federation following the mysterious cataclysmic event. There's also the rest of Burnham's crew along for the ride, including Comand Saru (Doug Jones), Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman), and the Mirror Universe's tag-along Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), who will likely butt heads with Burnham. This looks to be one crazy fun ride.
Alex Kurtzman talks Star Trek Discovery season 3 time-jump with SFX
Initially, Star Trek: Discovery season 3 was only going to jump 300 years into the future, but the powers that be changed that to almost 1,000 years instead. We’re curious to find out why, but showrunner Alex Kurtzman is careful not to give too much away.
“I don’t want to spoil things. But one thing that we were very excited about was being entirely free of canon. That does not mean erasing canon, and we have not done that,” Kurtzman assures our sister publication SFX in the new issue. “It does not mean that anything that has been established as canon is going away – it all still exists.
“But one of the things that people often said about Discovery was that in some ways, there was a limitation to what it could do, because it was constricted by what we kind of know how things turned and it has to adhere to canon. And so we’re sort of watching the untold chapter of a story that can never really break free of its bonds, in a way.
“Michelle [Paradise] and I certainly felt strongly that jumping 1,000 years into the future just gave us room to invent a lot of things. It allowed us to put Star Trek into a blender, meaning every assumption that you have about staples of the Trek universe can be upended in 1,000 years, because nothing could possibly be exactly what it was. That was a really exciting challenge for us.”
How does the weight of the past play into this series? “I’m trying to answer your question without spoiling too much,” Kurtzman says. “I’ll give you an example. It’s safe to say that in the spirit of what I just said, I would look to the past and I would try to understand what happened to the people I love. So Burnham is absolutely going to look to the past and try and understand what happened to Spock.
“We all know what happened to Spock, but everything that we now take for granted, she has no understanding of. So, she will dive into that and she will get to see what became of her brother. And that will actually impact the story for her in a significant way. I’ve just told you more than I told anybody about that!”
Star Trek Discovery season 3 at Comic-Con
We may not have gotten a release date at Comic-Con, but we did get some hints at what's to come. “In season 3 I think she’s really pissed off. She’s like ‘Michael Burnham, don’t get in my way,'" Michelle Yeoh said of her character, Georgiou. "She is the one that always finds a way into adapting, she is a survivor with many skills, and a formidable ally or enemy. Power is something that she inherently has, she doesn’t even seek it she just has it. Scary, huh? Watch out.”
Wilson Cruz also told fans: "I love the new Culber, he's more three-dimensional." Speaking on how Staments and Culber have reunited as a couple by the end of last season, Cruz said: “Because of the way season 2 ends – the fact that Culber has made a choice, he’s taken a risk and without knowing what’s going to happen he chooses to stay on the Discovery – because of this choice, he can stay in Paul’s life. I think in that moment he realizes that everything he’s ever wanted and everything he needs is right here between these two people.”
Star Trek Discovery season 3: Jonathan Frakes talks directing
Jonathan Frakes is returning once more to the world of Star Trek, but not as Commander William T. Riker. Instead, Frakes – who previously directed three episodes of Discovery and two episodes of Picard – will return to helm Star Trek: Discovery season 3 episode 3. Speaking to Star Trek Magazine, he discussed Sonequa Martin-Green's Burnham, hinting at how she's been affected by the time jump.
"Discovery feels to me like my home show now," he said. "We’re far in the future now and Burnham has been separated from the [Discovery] crew, and then they reunite. I was talking with Sonequa [Martin-Green]... I said to her, 'This character is so appealing and interesting and complicated, and always has been, but there’s a little more joy [now].' She said to me, 'Because Burnham is now no longer driven by fear and guilt.' I thought, 'Wow.'”
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 cast
Sending the USS Discovery 930 years into the future has had a major effect on the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 cast, with the new storyline making it impossible for a large chunk of the show’s stars to return. With Section 31 head Ash Tyler, Klingon High Council leader L’Rell, Captain Christopher Pike, Lieutenant Spock, Number One, Sarek, Amanda Grayson, and even occasional thorn-in-the-side Harry Mudd all left behind in the 23rd century, actors Shazad Latif, Mary Chieffo, Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Rebecca Romijn, James Frain, Mia Kirshner, and Rainn Wilson, respectively, will be surplus to requirements on the main show this year. We haven’t seen the last of all of them, however, thanks to Short Treks and a new series called Strange New Worlds.
Meanwhile, the rest of the core cast will be back for Star Trek: Discovery season 3, so we’ll be seeing plenty more from Lt Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), Commander Saru (Doug Jones), Lieutenant Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp), Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Dr Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz).
We also know that a rogue element will be on board the USS Discovery, as the Mirror Universe’s morally flexible Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) came along for the ride to the future. It’s unlikely she’ll be a mere passenger, so we’d expect her to try to shape the 32nd century in her own image. We suspect she’ll also be looking for a way back to Discovery’s present, as in the real world Yeoh has long been attached to the Section 31 spin-off – seeing there was only around a year between her joining the organisation in Star Trek: Discovery season 1 and subsequently jetting off to the future in season 2, the writers surely have to find a way to create more narrative space to play in.
With Discovery now centuries away from home and other Federation vessels, there’s likely to be more screentime/character development for the supporting bridge crew Lieutenant Keyla Detmer (Emily Coutts), Commander Nhan (Rachael Ancheril), Lieutenant Joann Owosekun (Oyin Oladejo), Lieutenant Gen Rhys (Patrick Kwok-Choon), Lieutenant R.A. Bryce (Ronnie Rowe) and Lieutenant Nilsson (Sara Mitich). We’ll also be very disappointed if we don’t see more from the USS Discovery’s sardonic engineer Jett Reno (Tig Notaro). Perhaps some of them will also get to front their own episodes as the late Lt Commander Airiam did in season two – though hopefully with less tragic results…
“We've really just scratched the surface [with the crew],” said Kurtzman in the Hollywood Reporter interview back in April 2019. “Our bridge crew is so capable. Every single person is so wonderful and really rose to the occasion this year. What we discovered is we and the fans delight in stories being told about them. We're going to be using all of them much, much more. Especially because this crew has forfeited their lives for each other. They've jumped 950 [sic] years into the future for each other. If we didn't service them, we'd be doing something very wrong.
“They're more a family than they've ever been,” he continued. “They were very, very close in season two. But now all they have is each other. Their families are 950 [sic] years in the past. It will be very interesting to see the consequences of the choice they made. Saru said, ‘We all signed up for this, and we knew what we were doing. We love each other, respect each other and need each other enough to know we're going to make this decision as a group, as a family.’ But it doesn't mean that it won't come with emotional consequences. That's something we'll explore in season three.”
The Star Trek: Discovery season 3 cast won’t be limited to the old guard, either, as David Ajala (who has prior experience of outer space, thanks to his stint on George R.R. Martin adaptation Nightflyers) is set to come aboard as Cleveland “Book” Booker, a resident of the 32nd century.
The official description says: “Smart and capable, Book has a natural charisma and devil-may-care attitude that tends to get him into trouble as often as it gets him out,” while Ajala himself said at 2019’s San Diego Comic-Con that, “Book is going to be a character that breaks the rules a little bit.” Will he be a Neelix-style guide (and part-time chef) to Discovery’s voyages through unknown space, or a more interesting, more ambiguous and potentially dangerous addition to the cast? Given Star Trek: Discovery’s past form, the smart money would be on the latter, and, thanks to the trailer, we seemingly have confirmation of that – plus potential romantic entanglements with Burnham.
There's also news of Star Trek casting its first trans and non-binary actors. Blu del Barrio will play the non-binary Adira, while Ian Alexander – who you may recognise from Netflix's The OA and who performed motion capture as Lev in The Last of Us Part 2 – will play the trans character Gray.
"Adira is a wonderfully complex character," Barrio teased of their role to GLAAD. "Mainly because of this duality they have within them: they're astonishingly intelligent and yet they're still a kid. They experience their emotions at a heightened level, like most teenagers. That's what makes them so fun to play.
"I like to describe them as cerebrally brilliant and emotionally a puppy. Adira is an introvert, but they keep a few people close to the chest, which I definitely resonate with. I don't want to say too much and get in trouble, but all in all, Adira is a uniquely strange and beautiful character."
Barrio added that we will first meet Adira when they are suffering from memory loss. "They remember nothing from their past, and very little about themself," Barrio continued. "They know they're non-binary, of course, but coming onto Discovery they're cautious about sharing that information with anyone. They're a private person, so they aren't going to divulge a lot about themselves to a ship full of strangers. It's not until Adira has found a place of comfort with Stamets and Culber that they feel they can talk about who they are."
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 plot
Alex Kurtzman’s already confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter that Control, the rogue A.I. that was season 2’s Big Bad, is now “officially neutralised – but there will be much bigger problems when they get to the other side of that wormhole.”
Exactly what the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 plot has in store for Burnham, Saru and the rest of the crew in the 32nd century, however, remains something of an undiscovered country. Indeed, there are echoes of Star Trek: Voyager in a set-up that dumps a Federation crew in an unknown region/time period, and leaves them to fend for themselves with no obvious allies to rely on – we can only hope that Discovery has the courage to push the Trek storytelling envelope, rather than simply reverting to franchise clichés as Voyager did.
But transporting the show 930 years into the future is such a bold move that it can’t help but take the show in new directions – indeed, it has the potential to shake things up even more than the quest-themed season 2 did after the war footing of Star Trek: Discovery season 3. “The beauty of the promise of what we did at the end of last season is that, if we don’t deliver something completely surprising and unexpected, we will have failed,” Kurtzman said at New York Comic Con in October 2019.
The time jump also frees the writers to escape the shackles of the increasingly crowded Star Trek canon, which was becoming more and more challenging to navigate the closer the show got to the events of Kirk and Spock’s famous five-year mission in the original series. In fact, it’s such a genius move that even fan-bothering head-scratchers like the fact neither Spock’s adopted sister or the Discovery’s spore drive had ever been mentioned previously in Star Trek now make perfect sense.
So now the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 plot is free to explore the 32nd century, an entirely new sector of the franchise timeline. “We've only seen glimpses of anything in the future in Star Trek canon,” Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham) told Syfy Wire. "So automatically, that tells you this is new territory, that we are going boldly where no one has gone before. It has to be new. It has to be a world we've never seen before, a world that has to be established. It's the perfect way to define us, because we are new yet familiar. So, when you have us in this world, we are still who we are, coming from 2256. That's never going to change. You have all of that history and canon context. But now you have us in this brand-new world. It's almost poetic."
(One of the “glimpses” she’s referring to maybe “Calypso”, an episode in the first run of Short Treks, that showed a 1000-year-old Discovery becoming self-aware as it took a soldier from the future on board – and formed an unlikely friendship. At first glance, it just looked like a random character study, but in the context of Discovery’s journey to the future, now feels much more relevant.)
Unfortunately for a crew exploring an unfamiliar universe, they will arrive in the 32nd century without a captain, as Christopher Pike stayed behind on the Enterprise when the Discovery travelled through the wormhole. We can expect the team resolving the command issue to be part of the Star Trek: Discovery season 3 plot, however, as Kurtzman explained to the Hollywood Reporter: “We will definitely be exploring who inherits that chair,” he said. “Obviously, there's a very loaded look between Saru and Burnham. They're both qualified in very different ways, and that's something we'll explore.”
Yet for all the newness, it looks like the new season will still cling on to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s idealised vision of the future – arguably a massive departure from the Klingon War-induced doom and gloom of Star Trek: Discovery season 1.
“Every conversation about how we create Star Trek is filtered through Roddenberry's essential vision of optimism,” Kurtzman said at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, “which can never really change because it is the spirit and soul of Trek for all of us. It's more important than ever. So there will be lots and lots of huge changes in season three – there will be things you recognise, there will be things you don't recognise... Part of the fun of it is that we get to honour canon but shake it up hugely."
Jonathan Frakes, the man formerly known as Will Riker in The Next Generation, echoes that sentiment, and he should know. Not only did he know Roddenberry, he’s a regular Trek director (he directed big screen TNG outings First Contact and Insurrection), and has signed up to take the helm for two episodes in Star Trek: Discovery season 3.
“I can tell you this much about season three of Discovery: it is in fact much more optimistic,” Frakes told FanExpo Canada (via Convention Junkies). “After Gene died, some of the writers decided that Deep Space Nine should maybe take a different tone, which, I think, it did to certain degrees of success... And the optimism that Gene infused in all of his shows and all of us may not be as obvious as it once was but it’s certainly the driving force of his vision and the franchise, and Kurtzman and all the people who run our shows are very conscious that that canon is important to all of you and all of us. But I'm here to share that Discovery certainly is taking a more optimistic, traditional Star Trek approach in next season."
So in other words we can expect to see the crew of the USS Discovery encountering threats they’ve never seen before – but dealing with them with the sort of optimistic spirit of adventure and optimism that’s traditionally been the calling card of the Star Trek franchise. We can’t wait.
Confused by the timeline? Then read all about the Star Trek timeline here.