Star Trek: Discovery

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Star Trek: Discovery
Against a beige background featuring the Starfleet logo, the words Star Trek are written in red with the word Discovery written in black underneath.
Logo for the first and second seasons
Genre
Created by
Based onStar Trek
by Gene Roddenberry
Starring
Composer(s)Jeff Russo
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes31 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Production location(s)Toronto, Canada
Running time37–65 minutes
Production company(s)
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
Budget$8–8.5 million per episode
Release
Original network
Picture formatHDTV 1080p (2:1/2.39:1)
Audio formatDolby Digital 5.1
Original releaseSeptember 24, 2017 (2017-09-24) –
present
Chronology
Preceded byStar Trek: Enterprise
Followed byStar Trek: Picard
Related shows
External links
Website

Star Trek: Discovery is an American television series created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman for the streaming service CBS All Access. Launched in 2017, it is the first scripted series developed specifically for that service. The seventh series in the Star Trek franchise, it was the first series in the franchise since Star Trek: Enterprise concluded in 2005. Star Trek: Discovery begins roughly a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, and follows the crew of the USS Discovery on various adventures.

Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Michael Burnham, a female science specialist on the Discovery. Also starring throughout the series are Doug Jones, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Jason Isaacs, Wilson Cruz, Anson Mount, David Ajala, and Rachael Ancheril. The series was announced in November 2015, with Fuller acting as showrunner from February to October 2016 but leaving due to creative differences with CBS. He was replaced by Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, who received producing support from Akiva Goldsman. Goldsman did not return after the first season, while Berg and Harberts were fired by CBS during production of the second; Kurtzman took over as showrunner, and was joined by Michelle Paradise for the third season.

Star Trek: Discovery is produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Secret Hideout, Roddenberry Entertainment, and Living Dead Guy Productions. It is filmed at Pinewood Toronto Studios in Toronto, Canada, as well as on location around the world. Designs from the Star Trek franchise were reinvented for the series to take advantage of modern techniques and visual effects. The series premiered on September 24, 2017, on CBS and CBS All Access. The rest of the 15-episode first season was streamed weekly on All Access, ending in February 2018. The 14-episode second season was released on All Access from January to April 2019, and the 13-episode third season is set to run from October 2020 to January 2021. A fourth season was officially ordered in October 2020.

The series' release has led to record subscriptions for All Access, and positive reviews from critics who have highlighted Martin-Green's performance. It has received several accolades, including winning a Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Award. The series began an expansion of the Star Trek franchise by CBS and Kurtzman, leading to multiple other series being produced. These include the companion series Star Trek: Short Treks and the spin-off series Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and Star Trek: Section 31.

Premise[edit]

Beginning roughly ten years before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series,[1] the show sees the Klingon houses become united in a war with the United Federation of Planets that heavily involves the crew of the USS Discovery (NCC-1031).[2][3] In the second season, after the war has ended, Discovery investigates seven mysterious signals and a strange figure known as the "Red Angel".[4] This conflict ends with the Discovery travelling to the 32nd century, more than 900 years into their future.[5]

Episodes[edit]

Seasons of Star Trek: Discovery
SeasonEpisodesOriginally released
First releasedLast released
1159September 24, 2017 (2017-09-24)November 12, 2017 (2017-11-12)
6January 7, 2018 (2018-01-07)February 11, 2018 (2018-02-11)
214January 17, 2019 (2019-01-17)April 18, 2019 (2019-04-18)
313[6]October 15, 2020 (2020-10-15)January 7, 2021 (2021-01-07)[6]

Cast and characters[edit]

  • Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham:
    A science specialist on USS Discovery. Burnham is a human who was raised following Vulcan culture and traditions by Sarek.[7][8] A protagonist who is not a starship captain was chosen for the series to give it a different perspective from previous installments in the franchise, with a "richer context" due to her relationships with her captain and her subordinates.[1] Co-creator Bryan Fuller gave her a traditionally male name, which he had done with the female leads on three of his previous series.[9]
  • Doug Jones as Saru:
    First officer of the USS Discovery.[10] Saru is the first Kelpien to enter Starfleet. Kelpiens, a new species created for Discovery, were hunted as prey on their home planet and thus evolved the ability to sense the coming of danger, giving them a reputation for cowardice.[11] Jones based Saru's walk on that of a supermodel,[8] out of necessity due to the boots he had to wear to portray the character's hooved feet.[12] The producers compared Saru to the characters Spock and Data from previous series.[11]
  • Shazad Latif as Voq / Ash Tyler:
    Voq, an albino Klingon, undergoes extensive surgery to pose as the human Ash Tyler, who becomes chief of security for Discovery.[13][14] Voq was credited as being portrayed by "Javid Iqbal", an invented actor named for Latif's father, to hide the connection between the characters.[13] Latif described his character as "complex and painful",[14] and noted that he has a relationship with Burnham.[15] Voq's accent is Arabic-inspired, and Latif tried to maintain "a kind of pharyngealness" to Tyler's American accent.[13] For the second season, Latif felt that he was playing a third character that melded Voq and Tyler, comparing this relationship to that of Bruce Banner and the Hulk in Marvel Comics.[16]
  • Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets:
    Chief engineer aboard Discovery and a science officer specializing in astromycology (the study of fungi in space) whose research led to the development of Discovery's experimental organic propulsion system.[10][17][18] The character is inspired by a real-life mycologist of the same name.[19] He is the first openly gay character in a Star Trek series. Rapp acknowledged that Hikaru Sulu was portrayed as gay in the film Star Trek Beyond (2016), calling that "a nice nod", but said the series would actually explore Stamets and his partner "in conversation, in our living quarters; you get to see our relationship over time, treated as any other relationship would be treated".[20]
  • Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly:
    A cadet assigned to Discovery.[21][22] She works under Stamets and is Burnham's roommate.[22] The character represents people at the bottom of the Starfleet hierarchy. Season one showrunner Aaron Harberts described her as optimistic and "sort of the soul of our show."[23]
  • Jason Isaacs as Gabriel Lorca:
    Captain of the Discovery,[24] a "brilliant military tactician".[25] Isaacs described the character as "probably more f-ked up than any of" the previously seen Star Trek captains.[8] He plays the character with a slight southern U.S. accent, and had initially wanted to ad-lib a catchphrase for the character, feeling that all Star Trek captains should have one, coming up with "git'r done" which the writers turned down due to it being widely used and trademarked by Larry the Cable Guy.[26]
  • Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber:
    Medical officer aboard Discovery and Stamets's husband.[27] Cruz said portraying the first openly gay couple in Star Trek was "a long time coming" and praised the way the series did not go out of its way to focus on their relationship.[28] The character is killed in the first season, but Culber returns from the dead in the second season in a larger role.[29]
  • Anson Mount as Christopher Pike:
    Captain of the Enterprise who takes temporary command of the Discovery.[30] The character was first portrayed by Jeffrey Hunter in "The Cage".[31] Mount described Pike as "very by-the-book, usually, and a good person", while executive producers Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman described him as being the opposite of Lorca with a "very captain-like" presence and "enough confidence and authority to apologize when he is wrong".[32] Mount did not try to imitate Hunter's performance.[30]
  • David Ajala as Cleveland "Book" Booker[33]
  • Rachael Ancheril as Nahn[34]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Announcement[edit]

On November 2, 2015, CBS announced a new Star Trek television series to premiere in January 2017, "on the heels" of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series in 2016. This was the first Star Trek series since Star Trek: Enterprise concluded in 2005, and the first show to be developed specifically for the CBS All Access streaming service. Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of the films Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and Heather Kadin were set as executive producers on the series, which would not be related to the 2016 film Star Trek Beyond.[35][36] The January 2017 date was the earliest that CBS could release a new Star Trek series after an agreement the company made when it split from Viacom in 2005.[37] Showtime, Netflix, and Amazon Video all offered "a lot of money" for the rights to release the series,[38] but after heavily investing in the new All Access service, CBS believed that a returning Star Trek could be "the franchise that really puts All Access on the map".[37][38] In January, CBS president Glenn Geller said the CBS network were not creatively involved in the series, despite plans for the network to broadcast the pilot episode, saying, "It really is for All Access."[39]

Bryan Fuller[edit]

After beginning his career writing for the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, Bryan Fuller was announced as the new series' showrunner and co-creator alongside Kurtzman in February 2016.[40][41] Nicholas Meyer, writer and director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), also joined the series as a consulting producer.[42] In March, Rod Roddenberry (the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) and Trevor Roth of Roddenberry Entertainment also joined the series as executive producers.[43] Fuller said that working with people previously involved with Star Trek was "really about making sure that we maintain authenticity", and said that Meyer—who is widely considered to have made the best Star Trek film in The Wrath of Khan—brings "a clarity and a cleanliness to the storytelling."[44]

Fuller had publicly called for Star Trek to return to television for years, particularly because of its impact on minority groups, as he explained, "I couldn't stop thinking about how many black people were inspired by seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of a ship. I couldn't stop thinking about how many Asian people were inspired by seeing George Takei and feeling that gave them hope for their place in the future. I wanted to be part of that representation for a new era."[45] When Fuller first met with CBS about the series, the company did not have a plan for what the new show would be.[46] He proposed an anthology series, with each season being a standalone, serialized story set in a different era. This would begin with a prequel to The Original Series, followed by stories set during The Original Series, during Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then "beyond to a time in Trek that's never been seen before". Fuller compared this to what American Horror Story did for horror, and described the proposal as a platform for "a universe of Trek shows". CBS instead suggested he create a single serialized show to see how that performed first, and Fuller began further developing the concept of a prequel to The Original Series.[45]

Fuller announced in June 2016 that the first season would consist of 13 episodes,[46] though he would prefer to produce 10 episodes a season moving forward.[47] A month later, Fuller announced the series' title to be Star Trek: Discovery,[48] and revealed that it would be set in the "Prime Timeline" (which includes the previous Star Trek series, but not the modern reboot films) to keep the concurrent series and films separate, so "we don't have to track anything [happening in the films] and they don't have to track what we're doing".[49][47] Also in July, CBS Studios International licensed the series to Netflix for release outside the United States and Canada,[41] a "blockbuster" deal that paid for the show's entire budget (around US$6–7 million per episode).[50][51] During pre-production on the series, Fuller and CBS had further disagreements on the direction of the show. The production was starting to overrun its per-episode budget, and was falling behind schedule due to Fuller supervising all aspects of the series while also serving as showrunner on another new show, American Gods. This caused frustration among CBS executives who felt Fuller should be focused on having Discovery ready for release by the January 2017 premiere date.[45]

By August 2016, Fuller had hired Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, whom he had worked with on Pushing Daisies, to serve as co-showrunners with him.[47][51] A month later, he and Kurtzman asked CBS to delay the series' release so they could meet the high expectations for it, and the studio pushed the series premiere back to May 2017."[52] At the end of October, CBS asked Fuller to step down as showrunner,[45] and announced a restructuring of the production: Berg and Harberts were made sole showrunners, working from a broad story arc and overall mythology established by Fuller; Kurtzman and Fuller would continue as executive producers, but with Fuller moving his attention fully to American Gods; and Akiva Goldsman would join the series in a supporting producer role, similar to the role he held on Fringe alongside Kurtzman. CBS reiterated that they were "extremely happy with [Fuller's] creative direction" for the series,[51] though some elements of the series that came directly from Fuller were dropped, including some designs and "more heavily allegorical and complex story" points.[45] Fuller later confirmed that he was no longer involved with the series, but expressed interest in returning for future seasons if he was asked.[53]

Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts[edit]

With production set to finally begin on the series in January 2017, "a lot of careful deliberation [was] continuing to go into making Discovery special, from the choice of directors, to set design, to the special effects."[54] Ted Sullivan joined the series to serve as supervising writing producer.[55][56] At CBS's 2017 upfront presentation, CBS Interactive president Marc DeBevoise confirmed a "fall" release date for the series, and announced that the episode order had been expanded to 15 episodes.[57][58] In June, CBS announced a new premiere date of September 24, 2017, with the season airing through November 2017, and then beginning again in January 2018. This break gave more time to complete post-production on the second half of the season.[59] Also that month, Kurtzman said that he and Fuller had discussed future seasons before the latter's departure, and promised that "what's there in terms of story and certainly in terms of set-up, character, big ideas, the big movement of the season, that's all stuff that Bryan and I talked about" and would not be altered.[60] Goldsman said in August that future seasons would have "a hybridized [anthology] approach" with "arcs which will have characters that we know and characters that we don't know."[9] Kurtzman added that the success of Discovery could lead to other new Star Trek series that could potentially use the anthology format.[61]

By the end of August, Berg and Harberts had developed a "road map" for a second season and "the beginnings of one" for a third. It was also revealed that an average episode of the first season had ultimately cost US$8–8.5 million each, making it one of the most expensive television series ever created. This exceeded the original Netflix deal, but CBS still considered the series paid for due to the number of new All Access subscribers that it was expected to draw.[62] After the series premiere, Kurtzman said the producers wanted to avoid announcing release dates for any future seasons, due to the external pressure that having to delay them caused with the first season. Despite this, he hoped a second season would be available in early 2019.[63] The second season was officially ordered in October 2017,[64] consisting of 13 episodes.[65] Goldsman did not return for the season after clashing with the series writing staff during production on the first,[66] while Meyer was not asked to return for the second season.[67] In June 2018, when production on the second season was underway, CBS fired Berg and Harberts. This was due to the first episode of the season going significantly over budget, as well as alleged abusive behavior by the pair directed at the series' writing staff. Kurtzman was made sole showrunner and was set to "regroup" the writers without causing any delay to the season's production timeline.[66]

Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise[edit]

After Kurtzman took over, the second season was confirmed to be on track for a January 2019 premiere,[68] though there ultimately was enough of a delay in production that CBS extended the season's episode count to 14 as a way to amortize the cost of the delays.[69] Shortly after the season premiere, in February, the series was renewed for a third season with writer Michelle Paradise promoted to co-showrunner alongside Kurtzman.[70] In October 2019, Kurtzman said the third season would consist of 13 episodes.[71] Active development on a fourth season had begun by January 2020,[72] and it was officially announced in October.[73] Also in October, Kurtzman was asked how long he intended for Discovery to continue, particularly with many other streaming series being cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and said "there are years and years left on Discovery". He explained that the series' jump into the future with the third season had opened up new variables and storytelling opportunities that were preventing the series from feeling stale to the crew, and he also noted the precedent of several previous Star Trek series running for seven seasons each.[74]

Writing[edit]

"The defining factor of Roddenberry's vision is the optimistic view of the future ... Once you lose that, you lose the essence of what Star Trek is. That being said... Star Trek has always [reflected the time it was made, and now the question] is how do you preserve and protect what Starfleet is in the weight of a challenge like war and the things that have to be done in war."

—Executive producer Alex Kurtzman on the balance between classic Star Trek and new elements in Discovery[75]

The series' writers room is based at Kurtzman's Secret Hideout offices in Santa Monica,[76] and includes "fans who all have very different relationships to Trek," which Kurtzman said is "a healthy thing".[60] Fuller wanted to differentiate the series from the previous 700+ episodes of Star Trek by taking advantage of the streaming format of All Access and telling a single story arc across the entire first season. He and Kurtzman developed this story from the "DNA" of certain The Original Series episodes to find "the spirit of what Star Trek offers, both in terms of high-concept science fiction storytelling and really wonderful metaphors for the human condition".[46] Berg said that the series' writers "are so in love with" The Original Series, The Next Generation, and the family aspect of those series, while Harberts added that Meyer's Star Trek films were an especial influence on Discovery because "his storytelling is complex and intellectual and yet there's a lot of room for character voices".[77]

The titular ship was named after Discovery One from 2001: A Space Odyssey, NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery, and "the sense of discovery ... what [that] 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".[78] Fuller saw the series as a bridge between Enterprise and The Original Series—which are set around 150 years apart—but set much closer to the latter to allow the series to "play with all the iconography of those ships and those uniforms".[79] In May 2017, Sullivan described the series as "a genuine prequel" to The Original Series,[80] with Goldsman later adding that there were many classic Star Trek elements that fans among the writers wished to include in the series, but couldn't because they were included in The Original Series as something being discovered by Starfleet for the first time then.[81] The choice to feature a single serialized story throughout the first season was inspired by the general change in television to tell more realistic and serialized stories rather than the "new destination-based adventure each week" format mostly used in previous Star Trek series. Fuller had been one of several writers during the 1990s pushing for Deep Space Nine and Voyager to move towards this style.[82] Also inspired by modern, "peak television" series such as Game of Thrones was a willingness to kill off major characters for dramatic reasons, though the writers wanted to avoid doing so gratuitously or for "shock value".[83]

Fuller said the series could "push the content envelope since it won't be constrained by broadcast standards", but "it's still Star Trek. It will probably be slightly more graphic content ... I imagine we're going to shoot scenes a couple of ways and see what feels more authentic in the editing room."[1] Harberts ultimately described the series as a "hard PG-13", saying the series could include "some violent things or [a] tiny bit of language" but they still wanted the show to be for families and to "honor what the franchise is."[84] On using time travel in the series, a plot device used in at least two episodes of every previous live-action Star Trek season, Fuller said that it had not yet been used for any episode by the end of August 2016, and, "You never know when you want to pull out that device but I am not anticipating an over-reliance on time travel to tell this season's stories."[47] The series' writers also chose to ignore Gene Roddenberry's longstanding rule that Starfleet crew members not have any significant conflict with one another or be depicted negatively (a rule that Roddenberry himself did not always strictly follow). Harberts explained, "We're trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions. People have to make mistakes—mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We're still going to argue in the future ... the thing we're taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts."[82] Because of the show's position as a prequel to The Original Series, the producers felt it was more important for Discovery to build towards Roddenberry's ideals, and to show that "you can't simply be accepting and tolerant without working for it, and so this show is about that struggle."[81]

Casting[edit]

Sonequa Martin-Green portrays the series' protagonist, Michael Burnham

By June 2016, Fuller had met with several actors, and said that "we want to carry on what Star Trek does best, which is being progressive. So it's fascinating to look at all of these roles through a colorblind prism and a gender-blind prism".[46] A month later, Kadin clarified that the series would feature minority, female, and LGBTQ characters.[85] In August, Fuller said the series would feature "about seven" lead characters,[86] and unlike previous Star Trek series would star a lieutenant commander to be played by a non-white actress. He said the series would also include more alien characters than other Star Trek series, and would feature at least one openly gay character. Fuller, who is gay himself, had been determined to see this happen since receiving hate mail while working on Voyager when a character on that show was rumored to be coming out as gay.[1]

By August, Fuller had discussed the series' casting with Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space who made a cameo appearance in an episode of The Next Generation.[1][87] He anticipated casting announcements in October,[47] but none had been made by the end of that month. The majority of the series main characters were believed to have been cast by then, but no actress had been cast for the series' lead role. This was a source of "some internal stress" at CBS.[51] Several African American and Latina actresses were being looked at for the role, with CBS "not seeking a huge star and [preferring] a fresh face for the part."[88] In October, the cast was believed to include "a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor", with one of those male leads played by an openly gay actor.[89]

In November 2016, Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp were revealed to be cast, as science officers Saru and Stamets, respectively.[10] The former is a Kelpien, an alien race created for the series,[11] while the latter is the first Star Trek character to be conceived and announced as gay.[10] Sonequa Martin-Green was cast in the lead role in December,[90] which was officially confirmed in April 2017, with the character's name revealed to be Michael Burnham.[91] Also in December, Shazad Latif was cast as the Klingon Kol.[92] In March 2017, Jason Isaacs was cast as Captain Lorca of the USS Discovery,[24] and Mary Wiseman joined as Tilly, a cadet.[21] At the end of April, Latif was revealed to have been recast in the role of Starfleet Lieutenant Tyler.[93] In the series, this role is shown to be an undercover persona used by the Klingon Voq, who was initially credited as being portrayed by the invented actor Javid Iqbal to hide the fact that Latif was portraying both Voq and Tyler.[13]

Rapp revealed in July 2017 that Wilson Cruz, whom Rapp had previously worked with on the musical Rent, would portray Stamets's love interest Hugh Culber.[27] The character is killed off during the first season, which was criticized by some as following the "bury your gays" trope. However, the executive producers of the series, Cruz, and GLAAD immediately released a statement saying "death is not always final in the Star Trek universe" and that the relationship between Culber and Stamets would continue to be explored. Harberts described it as one of the most important relationships in the series.[94] Cruz was subsequently promoted from his recurring guest role to the series' main cast for the second season.[29] After the first season concluded with the Discovery receiving a distress call from the USS Enterprise, specifically from Captain Christopher Pike, Harberts expressed interest in exploring that character;[95] Anson Mount was cast in the role in April 2018,[31] and stars for the second season.[30][96] In July 2019, David Ajala joined the cast as new series regular Cleveland "Book" Booker for the third season.[33] Rachael Ancheril also stars in the season, reprising her recurring guest role as Nahn from the second season.[34]

Design[edit]

Mark Worthington and Todd Cherniawsky served as initial production designers for the series,[97] with Tamara Deverell taking over during production on the first season;[98] Gersha Phillips and Suttirat Anne Larlarb designed the costumes for the series;[3][99] veteran Star Trek designer John Eaves designed starships with Scott Schneider;[100][101] Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page of Alchemy Studios provided prosthetics and armor,[3][102] with Page having previously designed for the "Kelvin Timeline" Star Trek films;[103] and Mario Moreira served as prop master for the series.[104] The series also employed seven art directors, over nine illustrators, more than thirty-five set designers, and over four hundred and fifty painters, carpenters, sculptors, model makers, welders, set dressers, and prop builders.[101] The designers consult with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for scientific accuracy.[104]

Fuller said on the general approach to design on the show, "we're producing the show in 2016. We have to update the style of the effects, the style of the sets, the style of the makeup ... all of the other series have been produced [at a time that] isn't as sophisticated as we are now with what we can do production-wise, we're going to be reestablishing an entire look for the series" and for Star Trek moving forward.[1] Fuller had wanted the series' uniforms to reflect the primary colors of The Original Series, but this was discarded after his departure.[45] However, Fuller's designs for the Klingons, which he "really, really wanted" to redesign, were retained.[9][2] 3D Systems' "cutting edge" 3D printing techniques were widely used in the making of the series.[3][103] For the prosthetics, Page and Hetrick took detailed laser scans of the actors so they could simulate make-up and prosthetics in a virtual environment before creating the practical version.[105] Fabric for the Starfleet uniforms seen in the series was custom-dyed in Switzerland; the costumes were cut and assembled in Toronto by Phillips and her department. The main uniforms seen in the series are a navy blue specifically mixed for the show, with gold or silver embellishments depending on the division of the officer. Medical officers wear a "hospital white" variant, also custom-dyed in Switzerland, while the captain's uniform is the standard navy blue but with additional gold piping on the shoulders.[106] Starfleet insignia badges were molded from silicon bronze, and then polished and plated by a jeweler to create custom colors for the series, based on the division of the officer wearing the uniform: gold for command, silver for sciences and medical, and copper for operations. Props such as tricorders and hand scanners, communicators, and phasers were produced with 3D printing and heavily inspired by their designs in The Original Series.[106]

The design of the USS Discovery is based on an unused Ralph McQuarrie design for the USS Enterprise from the unproduced film Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, which Fuller had noted in July 2016 was "to a point that we can't legally comment on it until [our legal team] figures out some things".[49] McQuarrie's designs were based on the concepts created by Ken Adam to feature a vessel with a flattened secondary hull.[107][108] Fuller wanted "something distinct about what our Star Trek was going to look like", and after seeing McQuarrie's design "saw sort of harder lines of a ship and started talking about race cars and Lamborghinis in the '70s and James Bond cars and started working on the designs, taking those inspirations and coming up with something completely unique to us."[109] The design for the Discovery went through several revisions and refinements before the final version was approved in December 2016.[110] The sickbay on the Discovery was inspired by that of the Enterprise from The Original Series.[111] Other Federation starships created for the show include the USS Shenzhou and the USS Europa.[112][113] Sets for the Discovery's interiors were described as a "tangle of corridors and rooms",[62] and were designed to match with the exterior design of the ship, so "the rooms [could believably] fit inside the house", but there was some artistic license taken in places. The graphics used for the Starfleet computer systems were designed to be believably more advanced than modern technology, but to also "honor the look and feel" of the designs used in previous series. The initial colors allowed for the graphics were mostly restricted to blues, with the intention of these becoming more colorful the closer the series gets to the time period of The Original Series.[101]

The opening title sequence for the show was created by Prologue using 2D motion graphics. The sequence, which uses a "vivid, sepia-soaked palette", depicts elements from throughout the history of Star Trek—such as phasers, communicators, and the Vulcan salute—and deconstructs them.[114] Prologue creative director Ana Criado "wasn't all that versed" in Star Trek before beginning work on the sequence, which proved to be an advantage when the series' producers asked for the sequence to be unlike any previous Star Trek titles sequence. A theme of "blueprints" was decided for the sequence to acknowledge that it is a prequel, "literally deconstructing Trek iconography". Criado explained that original plans were for the sequence to be in black and white, but this was found to be too "cold" and was replaced with a Renaissance-inspired sepia look "to make it look like we are designing everything from scratch". The sequence was completed before the theme music for the series was finalized. When updating the sequence for the second season to deconstruct new elements specific to that story—including the Captain's chair and the "Red Angel"—Prologue was able to match the rhythm of the music more closely than they were for the first season. The sequence was updated again for the third season.[115] The third season also introduces a new logo for the series to reflect its move to the far future. Kurtzman felt this was especially important since the series' initial logo had been reflective of the first season's Klingon storyline, which the series had now moved on from.[116]

Filming[edit]

Star Trek: Discovery is filmed at Pinewood Toronto Studios.[117] Some of the series' sets took over six weeks to create,[112] and new sets were being built up until the end of production of the season.[118] Discovery took advantage of multiple soundstages at the studio, including the largest soundstage in North America.[62] Some episodes for the show were filmed solely on existing sets, making them bottle episodes, though Harberts said the series would not do anything "as bottle-y as 'everyone is stuck in the mess hall!'"[118] Various scenes from the show have been filmed on locations around Toronto, including the Aga Khan Museum[119] and the Scarborough Bluffs.[120]

For the visual scope of the series, Kurtzman felt that the show had to "justify being on a premium cable service".[121] The showrunners were particularly inspired by Star Trek: The Motion Picture and its "wider scope", with Harberts explaining that the series is shot in a 2:1 aspect ratio which "just lends itself to a very lyrical way of telling the story." He added that some of the series' visuals were influenced by the modern Star Trek films from J. J. Abrams.[77] Some of these influences, per Goldsman, are "the ability to be creative cinematically...the intimate discourse, the humanistic storytelling with the giant canvas that is Star Trek. A more kinetic camera, a more dynamic way of existing".[122] The producers worked closely with pilot director David Semel to make the series look as cinematic as possible, including filming the bridge of Starfleet's ships in such a way as "not to shoot in a sort of proscenium box...to be able to get the camera into spaces where, you know, to shoot it in interesting ways, which is a combination of choreographing a scene to motivate the camera moving, and also lighting."[75] The cinematographers wanted to emphasize on-set sourcing, with lighting built in wherever it would naturally appear to help create a more realistic feel, and distance the series from the "stage" feel of The Original Series.[118] The lighting could also be controlled to create completely different situations, such as the lighting of a Starfleet red alert.[101] Harberts said that the cinematographers wanted the series to have a "Rembrandt texture".[118] The second season used a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.[123]

Visual effects[edit]

Visual effects producers were hired to begin work on the series during the initial writing period, with Fuller explaining that the series would require such things as "digital augmentation on certain alien species" and "the transporter beams". He said, "We're trying to cultivate distinct looks for all of those things that are unique to our version of Star Trek and carry through the themes we love seeing in fifty years of Star Trek, but doing a slightly different approach."[46] Pixomondo is the primary visual effects vendor for the series,[113] with Spin VFX and Crafty Apes also working on the show.[124][125] Kurtzman noted that the series utilizes multiple CG environments which take several months to properly render.[75] The shuttle bay of the Discovery is completely computer-generated, with actors performing in front of a green screen for scenes in that environment; using the digital set is more expensive than any other set created for the series, including the practically-built ones.[126]

Music[edit]

The first teaser for the series featured music composed by Fil Eisler, which he "threw together as an audition" within three weeks.[85] Before production on the series began, Charles Henri Avelange had also composed and recorded music as "a showcase for CBS",[127] while both Cliff Eidelman and Austin Wintory were considered for the series' composer.[128][129]

In July 2017, Jeff Russo was announced as composer for the series.[8] Russo recorded the series' score with a 60-piece orchestra,[121] at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. Studios in California.[130] The show's main theme incorporates elements from the original Star Trek theme by Alexander Courage.[81] Russo acknowledged that not all existing Star Trek fans were going to appreciate the new theme, but felt that regardless of how some felt it compared to previous themes in the franchise it still accurately represented this series.[131]

Individual soundtrack albums for the two chapters of the first season were respectively released on December 15, 2017, and April 6, 2018.[132][133] A soundtrack album for the second season was released on July 19, 2019.[134]

Marketing[edit]

The first full trailer for the series was released in May 2017.[135] Forbes's Merrill Barr said the trailer was a good sign for many who believed the series would never be released following the many production setbacks and delays, saying, "Having a legitimate trailer that can be watched over and over again brings signs of hope ... Star Trek: Discovery is real, and now we have proof."[136] Chris Harnick of E! News described the trailer as "gorgeous" and "truly cinematic", and because of the appearances of Sarek and the Klingons in the footage, "this is the Star Trek you know and love."[137] Aja Romano at Vox called the trailer's visuals "sumptuous" and "modern, but still very much in keeping with the aesthetic of previous Trek series". She continued, "What gets short shrift in this trailer is the series' overarching plot ... In any case, seeing the Klingons in all their combative glory feels a bit like coming home for Trek fans."[138] Also in May, McFarlane Toys signed a toy license deal with CBS to produce "figures, role play weapons and accessories" for Discovery. CBS Consumer Products senior vice president Veronica Hart explained that McFarlane was chosen as the first licensee for the series because of its "commitment to quality and dedication to fans". The deal will also see the company "create merchandise from the entire Star Trek universe, ranging from the classic The Original Series to its popular movie franchise." The first merchandise produced under the deal were released in mid-2018.[139] In 2019, Round 2 released a model kit based on Discovery.[140]

Release[edit]

Home media releases for Star Trek: Discovery
Season Home media release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
1 November 13, 2018[141] November 19, 2018[142] November 28, 2018[143]
2 November 12, 2019[144] November 18, 2019[144] TBA

The first episode of Star Trek: Discovery aired in a "preview broadcast" on CBS in the United States and was made available with the second episode on CBS All Access. Subsequent first-run episodes stream weekly on All Access.[59]

CBS Studios International licensed the series to Bell Media for broadcast in Canada, and to Netflix for another 188 countries.[41] In Canada, the premiere was simulcast with CBS on both the CTV Television Network and on the specialty channel Space before being streamed on Crave; it was also broadcast in French on the specialty channel Z.[41] Subsequent episodes are released through Space, Z, and Crave,[41] with Space airing each episode 30 minutes before it's streamed on All Access.[145][146] In the other countries, Netflix releases each episode of the series for streaming within 24 hours of its U.S. debut.[41] This agreement also saw Bell Media and Netflix acquire all previous Star Trek series to stream and broadcast in their entirety.[41]

Reception[edit]

Ratings and viewership[edit]

According to Nielsen Media Research, the CBS broadcast of the first episode was watched by a "decent" audience of 9.5 million viewers.[147][148] The premiere of the series led to record subscriptions for All Access, with the service having its biggest day of signups, as well as its biggest week and month of signups thanks to the series.[149] According to "app analytics specialist" App Annie, the premiere of the series also caused the number of downloads of the All Access mobile app to more than double, with revenue from the app for CBS doubling compared to the average in-app revenue during the previous 30 days.[150]

Critical response[edit]

Critical response of Star Trek: Discovery
SeasonRotten TomatoesMetacritic
182% (72 reviews)[151]72 (20 reviews)[152]
281% (30 reviews)[153]72 (10 reviews)[154]
393% (14 reviews)[155]74 (7 reviews)[156]

Star Trek: Discovery has an 85% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes,[157] while Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, has assigned a score of 73 out of 100 based on reviews from 37 critics.[158]

For the first season, Rotten Tomatoes reported 82% approval with an average rating of 7.07/10, based on 72 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Although it takes an episode to achieve liftoff, Star Trek: Discovery delivers a solid franchise installment for the next generation—boldly led by the charismatic Sonequa Martin-Green." The season's average episode rating is 87%.[151] Metacritic assigned a score of 72 out of 100 based on reviews from 20 critics.[152]

Rotten Tomatoes reported 81% approval for the second season, with an average rating of 7.32/10 based on 30 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "The second season of Discovery successfully—if stubbornly—cleans up the problematic storylines of Trek past while still effectively dramatizing new takes on the lore." The average episode rating for the season is 82%.[153] Metacritic assigned a score of 72 out of 100 for the second season, based on reviews from 10 critics.[154] For the third season, Rotten Tomatoes reported 93% approval with an average rating of 7.71/10 based on 14 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "With less canonical baggage and a welcome dose of character development, Discovery continues to forge its own path and is narratively all the better for it."[155] Metacritic assigned a score of 74 out of 100 based on reviews from 7 critics.[156]

Accolades[edit]

Accolades for Star Trek: Discovery
Year Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2018 Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode "The Vulcan Hello" Nominated [159]
Outstanding Compositing in a Photoreal Episode Star Trek: Discovery Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Sci-Fi / Fantasy Television Gersha Phillips Nominated [160]
ICG Publicists Awards Maxwell Weinberg Publicist Showmanship Television Award Kristen Hall Nominated [161]
Empire Awards Best TV Actor Jason Isaacs Won [162]
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Drama Series Star Trek: Discovery Nominated [163]
Peabody Awards Entertainment Star Trek: Discovery Nominated [164]
Saturn Awards Best Actor on a Television Series Jason Isaacs Nominated [165]
Best Actress on a Television Series Sonequa Martin-Green Won
Best Supporting Actor on a Television Series Doug Jones Nominated
Best Guest-Starring Performance on Television Michelle Yeoh Nominated
Best New Media Television Series Star Trek: Discovery Won
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation "Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad" Nominated [166]
Dragon Awards Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series Star Trek: Discovery Nominated [167]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special "Will You Take My Hand?" Nominated [168]
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour) "What's Past Is Prologue" Nominated
2019 Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Sci-Fi / Fantasy Television Gersha Phillips Nominated [169]
Dragon Awards Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series Star Trek: Discovery Nominated [170]
Saturn Awards Best Streaming Science Fiction, Action & Fantasy Series Star Trek: Discovery Won [171]
Best Actress in a Streaming Presentation Sonequa Martin-Green Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Streaming Presentation Wilson Cruz Nominated
Doug Jones Won
Ethan Peck Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Main Title Design Star Trek: Discovery Nominated [172]
Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Limited Series, Movie or Special "If Memory Serves" Won
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour) "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2" Nominated
Outstanding Special Visual Effects "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2" Nominated
World Soundtrack Awards Best Television Composer of the Year Jeff Russo (for Star Trek: Discovery and other series) Nominated [173]
Directors Guild of Canada Best Production Design – Dramatic Series Tamara Deverell for "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2" Won [174]
Hollywood Music in Media Awards Original Score – TV Show / Limited Series Jeff Russo Nominated [175]
Hollywood Professional Association Outstanding Visual Effects – Episodic (Over 13 Episodes) "Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2" Nominated [176]
2020 GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Drama Series Star Trek: Discovery Nominated [177]

Lawsuit[edit]

In August 2018, Egyptian video game developer Anas Abdin announced that he would be suing CBS for allegedly infringing his creative property by copying elements of his unreleased videogame Tardigrades,[178] including oversized tardigrades and similar characters. The lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Lorna G. Schofield in September 2019, finding that the series and videogame were not "substantially similar as a matter of law", and that the only similarities were the space setting and the use of alien tardigrades.[179] Abdin appealed this dismissal, but the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld Schofield's decision in August 2020.[180]

Franchise expansion[edit]

Star Trek Universe[edit]

Official logo for the "Star Trek Universe" on CBS All Access

In June 2018, after becoming sole showrunner of Discovery, Kurtzman signed a five-year overall deal with CBS Television Studios to expand the Star Trek franchise beyond Discovery to several new series, miniseries, and animated series.[181] Kurtzman wanted to "open this world up" and create multiple series set in the same universe but with their own distinct identities, an approach that he compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He added that he would "weigh in meaningfully and significantly at all the critical junctures" for each new series.[182] CBS and Kurtzman began referring to the expanded franchise as the "Star Trek Universe" at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con.[183] In October 2020, Kurtzman said that he, Heather Kadin, and Aaron Baiers of Secret Hideout had planned release dates for the various Star Trek series with CBS through 2027. Kurtzman cautioned that this was a preliminary plan that could change, especially as they paid attention to the zeitgeist surrounding the series, but explained that they needed to plan so far out due to the long production schedules for each series.[74]

Spin-offs[edit]

The expanded franchise includes several direct spin-offs from Star Trek: Discovery:

Star Trek: Short Treks[edit]

Kurtzman announced in July 2018 that a spin-off miniseries of shorts would be released between the seasons of Discovery to "deliver closed-ended stories while revealing clues about what's to come in future Star Trek: Discovery episodes. They'll also introduce audiences to new characters who may inhabit the larger world of Star Trek."[68][184]

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds[edit]

After Anson Mount left Discovery following the second-season finale, fans of the series began calling for him to reprise his role of Christopher Pike in a spin-off set on the USS Enterprise, alongside Rebecca Romijn as Number One and Ethan Peck as Spock.[185][186] Kurtzman confirmed that development on such a series had begun in January 2020.[187] CBS All Access officially ordered the spin-off, titled Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, in May 2020, with Mount, Peck, and Romijn confirmed to be starring.[188]

Star Trek: Section 31[edit]

By November 2018, Michelle Yeoh was in talks with CBS to star in a spin-off series as her character Philippa Georgiou, with the series expected to follow her adventures as a member of the secretive organization Section 31.[189] Discovery writers Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt were set as writers and showrunners of the new series in January 2019.[190]

Other series[edit]

The expanded franchise also includes several series unrelated to Discovery but set in the same universe:

Tie-in media[edit]

In September 2016, Discovery writer Kirsten Beyer announced that CBS was working with IDW and Simon & Schuster to produce more content revolving around the setting of the series, starting with at least one novel and a comic book tied to the television series. Beyer, the writer of many Star Trek: Voyager novels, explained that she would work with fellow Star Trek novelist David Mack and Star Trek comic writer Mike Johnson to ensure that all three media "are coming from the same place". The release of the books and comics was set to coincide with the series' premiere.[194] Mack described writing around the continuity of Discovery as "tricky to get right", as the time period "is light on detail and almost unique within the Star Trek continuity. That made it a challenge to represent that era faithfully while also staying true to the new elements being introduced" in the new series.[195]

Beyer explained in August 2017 that the intentions of the series' writers was to take story opportunities that the series did not have time to address and let them be told through other media. She said the novels and comic books would not be required reading to understand the series, but would enhance the overall story for fans. She said the writers of the tie-in works and the series' writers room would work together to not contradict each other, but if an idea was developed for the series that did not work with something established in a tie-in then the series would take priority. Beyer's hope was that parts of the universe could be "carve[d] out" specifically for the tie-ins so the series would not interfere with them.[196]

Novels[edit]

Novel tie-ins to Star Trek: Discovery
Title Author(s) Date ISBN
Desperate Hours David Mack September 26, 2017 978-1-5011-6457-6
Drastic Measures Dayton Ward February 6, 2018 978-1-5011-7174-1
Fear Itself James Swallow June 5, 2018 978-1-5011-6659-4
The Way to the Stars Una McCormack January 8, 2019 978-1-982104-75-7
The Enterprise War John Jackson Miller July 30, 2019 978-1-982113-31-5
Dead Endless Dave Galanter December 17, 2019 978-1-982123-84-0
Die Standing John Jackson Miller July 14, 2020 978-1-982136-29-1

The first tie-in novel was Desperate Hours, a prequel set one year before Discovery and one year after "The Cage". Written by David Mack, the novel follows Burnham aboard the Shenzhou. Fuller had asked for a book to be written based on that premise, and Mack worked with the Discovery writers to remain "in the loop" with the series' backstory.[196] Drastic Measures was written by Dayton Ward and is set 10 years before the show, following the characters Georgiou and Lorca as they hunt for "the man whom history will one day brand 'Kodos the Executioner'".[197] Fear Itself, was written by veteran Star Trek author James Swallow and focuses on Saru's attempts to overcome his fears as a Kelpien and to become a successful Starfleet officer.[198] The Way to the Stars follows Tilly at age 16 and shows the events that inspired her to join Starfleet.[199] The Enterprise War is set before the end of Discovery's first season and follows the crew of the USS Enterprise led by Captain Pike during a mission in the Pergamum Nebula.[200] In Dead Endless, the Discovery crew responds to a distress call originating from within the mycelial network, and find themselves trapped and have found a seemingly human living in the network.[201] In Die Standing, Philippa Georgiou, agent of Section 31, has found a superweapon that she recognizes from her universe.[202]

Comics[edit]

Comic book tie-ins to Star Trek: Discovery
Issue Release date Collection Collection date ISBN
The Light of Kahless, #1 November 29, 2017 The Light of Kahless August 8, 2018 978-1-63140-989-9
The Light of Kahless, #2 January 24, 2018
The Light of Kahless, #3 March 14, 2018
The Light of Kahless, #4 May 30, 2018
Succession, #1 April 18, 2018 Succession October 9, 2018 978-1-68405-360-5
Succession, #2 May 23, 2018
Succession, #3 July 4, 2018
Succession, #4 August 1, 2018
Star Trek: Discovery Annual 2018 April 4, 2018
Captain Saru (one-shot) March 13, 2019
Aftermath, #1 September 4, 2019 Aftermath April 14, 2020 978-1-68405-650-7
Aftermath, #2 September 25, 2019
Aftermath, #3 November 20, 2019

In July 2017, IDW announced a new tie-in miniseries based on Discovery, described as "Klingon-centric".[203] It is written by Johnson and Beyer, with art by Tony Shasteen. Johnson compared working with Beyer to his work on the Star Trek: Countdown comic—a tie-in to the 2009 Star Trek film co-written by Kurtzman—saying that her position as a staff writer on Discovery meant "we have all the inside access that we need. So the story in the comic will really matter and not just feel like a one-off."[204] In August 2017, it was clarified that the first comic would be a four-issue miniseries focused on T'Kuvma and his followers and that IDW intended to create a series of comic miniseries based on different aspects of the series to create "targeted stories on some different subjects". Johnson stated that they were "building out the characters in the Klingon world with these comics, and we can't wait to show you." He added that discussions were being held regarding the subject of the next miniseries. IDW editor Sarah Gaydos said, "The access we're getting to the show to create these comics that are integral to fleshing out the backstories of the characters is unheard of, and I do a lot of licensed comics."[196]

IDW published as the Star Trek: Discovery Annual on March 28, 2018, written by Kirsten Beyer and Mike Johnson. The Annual focused on Stamets' mycelial network research.[205] The second four-issue miniseries, Succession, was also written by Beyer and Johnson and began its release in April 2018. It is set in the Mirror Universe and expands on the Mirror Universe story arc from the second chapter of the first season[206] A one-shot issue, exploring events aboard Discovery with Saru acting as Captain on a one-time mission, was announced in November 2018.[207] In September 2019, a three-issue miniseries called Aftermath began its release. It covers the time after the Discovery travels to the future at the end of the second season and before Spock goes back to duty aboard the Enterprise.[208]

Video games[edit]

By August 2017, "hours" of Discovery-based content were set to be added to the video game Star Trek Timelines, including introducing Michael Burnham and Saru as new crew members for the game and new ships from the show, Federation and otherwise. A month-long "Mega-Event" based on the series was run to coincide with the launch of the series.[209] In July 2018, a tie-in for the game Star Trek Online was announced titled Age of Discovery. Set during the first season of the series following the Battle at the Binary Stars, the event introduces a story set on the USS Glenn and includes the character Sylvia Tilly. Wiseman returned to voice the character. Other elements inspired by the series included new starship and Klingon designs.[210] In January 2020, Martin-Green was set to voice Burnham for Star Trek Online's "Legacy" expansion celebrating 10 years of the game.[211]

Aftershows[edit]

After Trek[edit]

Before July 2016, CBS began developing an aftershow companion series to Discovery, similar to AMC's Talking Dead, a companion to The Walking Dead. The companion series was confirmed in 2017, with the title After Trek and host Matt Mira. The series aired after each episode of Discovery, and featured a rotating panel of guests, including celebrity Trekkies, former Star Trek actors, cast members and crew from Discovery.[212] It was produced by Embassy Row in association with Roddenberry Entertainment.[213]

The Ready Room[edit]

CBS announced in June 2018 that After Trek would be re-imagined for the second season of Discovery.[214] In January 2019, After Trek was officially canceled and replaced by weekly Facebook Live events to be streamed the day after each second season Discovery episode was released.[215] These Facebook Live events were soon revealed to be a new interview-style aftershow named The Ready Room, hosted by Naomi Kyle.[216]

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Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Star Trek Discovery: Official Collector's Edition. Bankside, London, England: Titan Books. November 14, 2017. ISBN 1785861905.

External links[edit]