The first episode of Star Trek premiered over 50 years ago, and the beloved sci-fi franchise is now scheduled to return with a new series in 2017 on CBS’ stand-alone streaming service, CBS All Access, for those in the U.S. and Canada, and on Netflix for international audiences.
CBS unveiled the first teaser for its new Star Trek series in early 2016, and the show’s official title was revealed to be Star Trek: Discovery during Comic-Con International in San Diego in summer 2016. Since then, there have been many strange twists and turns, including the exit of series creator and showrunner Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods), leaving many Star Trek fans wondering exactly how the series will look under new showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (Pushing Daisies), and how it will fit into the Star Trek TV universe.
Discovery was originally slated for a January 2017 release, but the network has repeatedly pushed the premiere date back to an unspecified date in mid- or late 2017 (or later). Still, that hasn’t seemed to dampen fans’ excitement (or curiosity) for this latest entry into the hallowed franchise. Here’s everything we know about Star Trek: Discovery so far.
No Worf for you
After a rumor indicated that Discovery would feature Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Michael Dorn playing an ancestor of his original character, Worf, the actor quickly — and officially — refuted the report.
Speaking to TrekMovie.com, Dorn’s publicist said there were “a couple of conversations with producers last summer” about a potential role on Discovery, but there are currently “no plans for him to appear at this time” on the series.
While that still leaves some uncertainty about whether he’ll appear in the show, a theater and art critic attending a recent speaking event that featured Dorn expanded on both his likely absence from the series, and the reasons behind it.
“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that Mr. Dorn did not say he was going to be on the new Star Trek show,” said Orlando Sentinel critic Matt Palm of comments the actor made regarding Discovery during a recent event. “In fact, he went to great lengths explaining why he would not be on the new show: That there had been interest expressed, but he was not offered enough money. He said they had offered him less than 1 percent of what he made in his last contract as Worf.”
Premiering … eventually?
The question as to just when fans will finally get to see the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery is seemingly getting murkier by the week, and now CBS appears uncertain that the frequently delayed series will premiere in the fall of 2017 (at least eight months after its originally slated premiere date).
CBS CEO Les Moonves indicated in a February 2017 conference call with investors that the series would debut in the late summer or early fall, but that timeline now appears to be more flexible. CBS Interactive President Marc DeBevoise recently told Vulture that the network was “not tied to any specific release date,” and the show will “be there when we’re ready to do it, and when we feel it’s in a great place.”
When asked whether the show will premiere in the fall, DeBevoise simply said, “We’re not stating.”
Boldly going … where, exactly?
CBS is keeping many of the story details for Star Trek: Discovery under wraps, but we do know that the series will be set about 10 years before the original series. The first teaser promised “new crews,” “new villains,” “new heroes,” and “new worlds” — and we’ve since learned that we’ll see something that unfolds within the “Prime” canon of the established Star Trek universe, but not tied to the events in the movies.
Fuller told CNN the series’ placement between the four-season prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and the original 1966 series “gives us an opportunity to bridge the gap between Enterprise and the original series,”
During San Diego Comic-Con, another teaser for the series was released — this one featuring the “test flight” of the U.S.S. Discovery, the space-traveling base of operations for the cast.
During September 2016’s Mission New York convention for Star Trek fans, Fuller shed some light on how the ship got its name.
“This ship is called the Discovery for a few reasons,,” said Fuller. “Not the least of which is Stanley Kubrick’s contribution to the Discovery on 2001: A Space Odyssey, NASA’s vessel the Discovery, and also the sense of discovery.”
Noting a particular relationship between the word and the sci-fi series’ fandom, Fuller added that another reason for the ship’s name is “what the word ‘discovery’ means to Star Trek audiences who have been promised a future by Gene Roddenberry where we come together as a planet and seek new worlds and new alien races to explore and understand and collaborate with.”
Harry Mudd, I presume?
A March 2017 casting announcement offered a pretty significant call-back to the franchise’s past, with The Office actor Rainn Wilson slated to play original series character Harry Mudd.
Variety reportecd that Wilson will play the interstellar con man who made his 1966 debut in the first season of the original Star Trek series. The character, who was initially portrayed by Roger C. Carmel, would go on to appear in several subsequent episodes of the series and its spinoffs over the years.
Also cast around the same time were The OA and Outlander actor Jason Isaacs (pictured below) as Starfleet Captain Lorca of the U.S.S. Discovery, and Longmire actress Mary Wiseman as Tilly, a Starfleet cadet.
Assembling a crew for the Shenzhou
While the name of our main vessel is Discovery, the Starship Shenzhou seems poised to play a key role in the series. Many of the announced cast members have some role aboard the spacecraft — roles that seem likely to herald their involvement with the titular Starship Discovery.
One of the first crew members of the Shenzhou to be announced was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actress Michelle Yeoh as Captain Georgiou.
In February 2017, the network announced two more additions to the cast who will join Yeoh’s character on the Shenzhou.
30 Rock and Weeds actor Maulik Pancholy (pictured) will play Dr. Nambue, the chief medical officer, while The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Following actor Sam Vartholomeos will play Ensign Connor, a junior officer assigned to the Shenzhou.
The latter pair were identified in an announcement that also included the news that Army Wives and Rescue Me actor Terry Serpico will play Admiral Anderson, a high-ranking official of Starfleet.
Spock, I am your father
If and when the new series does premiere, we’ll see Orphan Black actor James Frain as Sarek, CBS announced January 18 in a tweet.
Sarek, a Vulcan physicist and ambassador, is Spock’s father and was originally portrayed by Mark Lenard. The two characters were estranged for part of the original series but reconciled after a harrowing mission. In taking up the baton from Sarek’s originator, Frain adds to his list of unique roles, which also includes parts in True Detective, True Blood, Gotham, and more.
Follow the lead
Way back in August 2016, former showrunner and executive producer Fuller told Ain’t It Cool News that the show’s female lead character will be referred to as “Number One” throughout much of the first season, sparking quite a bit of speculation about who will play the role and how the mysterious character will fit into the over-arching Discovery narrative.
In December 2016, Entertainment Weekly reported that The Walking Dead actress Sonequa Martin-Green was hired to play a lieutenant commander on the Discovery, finally answering the question of who will anchor the series. Martin-Green will not only be the first African-American woman to lead a Star Trek series, but she’ll also play one of the first lead characters who isn’t a starship captain.
“There have been six series all from the captains’ perspective, and it felt like for this new iteration of Star Trek, we need to look at life on a Starfleet vessel from a new perspective,” said Fuller of the reason the series will focus on someone other than the ship’s captain. While we only know her character’s rank aboard the Discovery at this point, Fuller promised that we’d learn the character’s real name before the end of the season.
After confirming Michelle Yeoh’s casting as Captain of the Shenzou, the network also announced two more actors playing featured roles in the series: Dazed and Confused and Rent actor Anthony Rapp and Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth actor Doug Jones, pictured in the gallery below.
According to Mashable, Rapp will play Lt. Stamets, another science officer aboard the Discovery, who will not only be the first original, openly gay Star Trek character, but also an astromycologist — which is apparently someone who studies fungus in space. Jones will play play Lt. Saru, a science officer aboard the ship and a member of a new alien species that will be introduced to the Star Trek universe in Discovery.
Back when he was the series’ showrunner, Fuller confirmed that the series’ cast would include at least one gay character, and told the crowd at the 2016 Television Critics Association (via CNN) that the casting choices were part of Star Trek’s history of offering “a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast.”
Klingon house party
A trio of cast members were added to the series in mid-2016, slated to play crew members of the Klingon forces. The three actors joining the series were Chris Obi (Snow White and the Huntsman, Ghost in the Shell), Shazad Latif (MI-5, Black Mirror), and Mary Chieffo (Miss Dial).
Obi is expected to play T’Kuvma, the leader of the Klingons. According to the official press release, T’Kuvma seeks to unite the Klingon Houses, ultimately leading to the creation of a unified Klingon Empire. His protege, Kol, will be played by Latif. Kol serves as the commanding officer of the Klingon forces. Finally, Chieffo will play the role of battle deck commander L’Rell, who serves on the Klingon Starship under Kol.
Turbulence at warp speed
After months of serving as the showrunner and primary spokesperson for Star Trek: Discovery, Bryan Fuller announced plans to step down from his lead role on the creative team in October 2016 after preproduction delays pushed back the show’s production schedule and put it into conflict with Fuller’s other projects.
Fuller’s departure was initially reported by Variety, with Fuller himself later indicating that fellow executive producers Berg and Harberts would take over in the captain’s chair.
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) October 27, 2016
Fuller was initially reported to be staying on Discovery in an advisory role as well as his executive producer position, but later took a further step back from the project as delays mounted up. However, his plan for the first season is still expected to serve as the narrative road map for the series. He scripted the first two episodes of the series before stepping down, and fellow executive producer Akiva Goldsman is expected to bring his Oscar-winning story expertise to the Discovery creative team in support of Berg and Harberts.
According to Variety, the factors that contributed to Fuller’s departure also included tension over the slow progress of the series in assembling its cast, as well as the relatively high budget for the show. The series is reportedly budgeted at $6 million to $7 million per episode, which puts it on the same level as HBO’s Game of Thrones and well above most other well-established shows on broadcast television.
Set phasers to ‘binge’
According to Fuller (via Collider), the first season of Star Trek: Discovery will unfold over 13 episodes, telling one complete story over the course of the season instead of a new, self-contained story each episode. The structure lends itself to the increasingly popular binge-watching habits of the modern television audience, which makes sense given that the series will air on CBS’ on-demand video service, All Access for all U.S. and Canadian viewers.
Fuller said the series isn’t likely to go beyond 13 episodes per season, and he’d actually like to see fewer episodes in a single season going forward, though it’s hard to say how it will progress with Fuller all-but out of the picture.
“I would strongly recommend that we never do 26 episodes,” he told Ain’t It Cool News in August. “I think it would fatigue the show. Ideally, I would like to do 10 episodes. I think that’s a tighter story.”
One element of the show that was confirmed early on is the show’s ties to CBS All Access streaming service. The series premieres on CBS All Access (which requires a $6/month subscription) for audiences in Canada and the U.S. In addition, it will also be available on Netflix for international audiences in 188 other countries. Netflix will reportedly get each episode within 24 hours of its premiere on CBS All Access — but not stateside.
Updated on 04-26-2017 by Rick Marshall: Added rumor and response from Star Trek franchise actor Michael Dorn regarding a potential role in the series, updated information on series launch date.