‘Star Trek: Discovery’ 2017 CBS TV series: Everything we know so far

Rick Marshall
‘Star Trek: Discovery’ 2017 CBS TV series: Everything we know so far
Before 'Star Trek' returns to television with 'Discovery' on CBS All Access and Netflix in 2017, you can get up to speed with everything there is to know about the series up to this point.

The first episode of Star Trek premiered 50 years ago, and the beloved sci-fi franchise is now scheduled to return to television in 2017 with a new series on Netflix and CBS — or more specifically, on CBS All Access, the network’s new standalone streaming service.

CBS revealed 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. With the latest movie (Star Trek Beyond) currently in theaters, many Star Trek fans are wondering exactly how the television series from executive producer and showrunner Bryan Fuller (HannibalPushing Daisies) will fit into the framework of the sci-fi franchise as it exists now.

Related: CBS shows off ‘MacGyver,’ ‘Star Trek,’ and more new fall TV series

While Star Trek: Discovery was originally slated for a January release, the network has pushed it back to May 2017. Here’s everything we know about the series so far.

Set phasers to ‘binge’

According to Bryan 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 Netflix and the network’s own streaming, on-demand video service.

According to Fuller, 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.

“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 Netflix and the CBS All Access streaming service.

The series will premiere on the standard CBS television network in May 2017, but subsequent episodes will be available exclusively on CBS All Access (which requires a monthly subscription) for audiences in Canada and the U.S. In addition, the series will 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.

The series’ original January 2017 launch date was pushed to May to give the team ample time to produce the highest-quality show, according to the producers. It’s unclear at this point whether or not pre-production issues have accounted for the four-month push, but it appears that Fuller and his team are taking their time to get the series right.

Speaking about the schedule change, Fuller had this to say: “We aim to dream big and deliver, and that means making sure the demands of physical and post-production for a show that takes place entirely in space, and the need to meet an air date, don’t result in compromised quality. Before heading into production, we evaluated these realities with our partners at CBS and they agreed: Star Trek deserves the very best, and these extra few months will help us achieve a vision we can all be proud of.”

Boldly going … where, exactly?

CBS is keeping many of the story details for Star Trek: Discovery under wraps, but the first teaser promised “new crews,” “new villains,” “new heroes,” and “new worlds” — suggesting that we’ll see something that unfolds within the canon of the established Star Trek universe, but not directly tied to the events in the movies. 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’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.”

The first season of the series will be set ten years before the start of the original Star Trek television series, and unfold within the “Prime” universe (as opposed to the recently rebooted Star Trek movie universe).

“That gives us an opportunity to bridge the gap between Enterprise and the original series,” Fuller said (via CNN) of the series’ placement between the four-season prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and the original 1966 series that spawned the entire franchise.

Fuller told Ain’t It Cool News that the series could have theoretically unfolded in either the original “Prime” universe or the “Kelvin” timeline (the rebooted movie universe), but setting it in the Prime timeline allowed the creative team to avoid the need to coordinate with the big-screen creative team on the continuity.

“Really when we developed the story it could take place in either Prime or Kelvin so the timeline was relatively inconsequential,” he explained. “But there was the cleanliness of keeping our series independent of the films. That way we don’t have to track anything [happening in the movie universe] and they don’t have to track what we’re doing. And you can have two distinct universes — one where Sulu is straight and one where Sulu is gay.”

Early rumors suggested that the series will be an anthology project of some sort, akin to American Horror Story or Fargo, with each season set in a different point in the Star Trek timeline and featuring different characters and cast members.

The latest news also confirms what CBS has made clear since the beginning: the series won’t be a spinoff of Star Trek Beyond and the rebooted franchise, so don’t expect any Marvel-style cinematic tie-ins with the rebooted film franchise.

Discovery’s diversity

While we don’t have much information yet about the actors who will appear in Star Trek: Discovery, we do know something about the characters that will be featured in the show, including the show’s female lead.

Bryan Fuller told Ain’t It Cool News that the female lead character will be referred to as “Number One” throughout much of the first season, and won’t be the captain of the ship.

“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. The showrunner promised that we’d learn the character’s real name before the end of the season, though.

Fuller confirmed in August 2016 that the series’ cast will also include at least one gay character, as well as the expected robot and alien characters. At the 2016 Television Critics Association (via CNN), Fuller told the crowd that the casting choices were part of Star Trek’s history of offering “a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast.” 

We also know quite a bit about who will be behind the camera for Discovery — and there’s plenty of Star Trek history there.

Fuller, who created the popular Hannibal series, got his start on television writing for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. He’s joined by Nicholas Meyer, the writer and director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, who will serve as a writer and consulting producer on the new show.

Along with Fuller and Meyer in both producer and creative roles on the series, Alex Kurtzman (the co-writer of the 2009 Star Trek movie that rebooted the franchise) and Eugene Roddenberry (the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) will serve as executive producers on the show.

Fuller and Kurtzman will pen the first one-hour episode of the series, with Meyer scripting the second episode.

It was announced (by Deadline) just before San Diego Comic-Con that the director of the first episode of the series will be David Semel, a two-time nominee for the Primetime Emmy Award who has a long history of directing the first episodes of celebrated series. Along with directing the pilot episodes of Heroes and Person of Interest, Semel is well known for directing episodes of American DreamsHouse, and the pilot episode of the recent, acclaimed Amazon Studios series The Man in the High Castle.

Update 8-30-2016: Added lead character’s title, script writer details for first two episodes, timeline explanation and comments, and Fuller’s comments on the length of the season.

Update 9-8-2016: Added details from Bryan Fuller about how Discovery got its name, and why the series won’t focus on the captain.

Update 9-15-2016: Added new premiere date for series and creative team’s statement on the schedule change.