6 Things Newcomers Need To Know About Star Trek: Discovery

Returning 2020

In case you’ve been living on a spaceship, there’s a new Star Trek coming to town. More specifically, Star Trek: Discovery premieres Sunday, September 24, marking the first new series in the franchise in over a decade. Obviously, Trekkies have been more jazzed than a kid at Christmas with a Tricorder since the show was announced way back in 2015, but non-Trekkies are curious, too—especially given the high-profile cast and the fact that the show shot in Toronto. Add in a recognizable female lead and this project promises to be one for the masses and cults alike.

In that vein, here’s what you need to know about the new series before it debuts next month. No mind-melds required.

1. Production Delays

Obviously, a show like this comes with a lot of inherent fan expectations, so when the original premiere date was pushed by seven months there was some griping. Add in original producer Bryan Fuller leaving to focus full-time on his other series, American Gods, and the Internet push-back was fierce. According to the remaining producers, there were a few factors that made them postpone, including the comprehensive world-building required and waiting for series lead, Sonequa Martin-Green to become free from her The Walking Dead commitments.

Star Trek is an incredibly ambitious show, we were really looking for a way to bring something new to Trek that both fans and people who’d never seen the show before could experience,” EP Alex Kurtzman explains. “It had to be huge in terms of story and emotion and character. It became clearer and clearer that the world was massive and that an airdate was looming that would compromise the quality of the show. We’re talking about massive sets, an approach that’s almost all practical. Obviously there’s a lot of CG augmentation, but we wanted to build sets that felt immersive and real, where the actors could move around and it didn’t feel like everything was a set extension. And we wanted the costumes to be elaborate, and we needed to cast correctly, and we just wanted to do it right.”

2. This Has Nothing To Do With The Movies

As far as these writers are concerned, Chris Pine doesn’t exist. That’s because Discovery exists on a completely different timeline than the Trek film universe, which also happens to live in a different time than the original Trek series. Got that? We know, it can be complicated. Anyhow, to keep things simple just remember that Discovery takes place a decade before James T. Kirk became a Starfleet officer and that should give you an idea of this timeline.

3. The New Lead, Sonequa Martin-Green

Many The Walking Dead fans will recognize Martin-Green as Sasha Williams, who succumbed to a cyanide pill in the seventh season finale of that zombie series. On Discovery she plays First Officer Michael Burnham, whose name isn’t just a Bryan Fuller motif (he names all of his leading ladies after men), but she’s also named after her father.

“I appreciated the sort of statement it makes all on its own to have this woman with this male name, just speaking to the sort amelioration of how we see men and women in the future,” Martin-Green says. “But I also just decided for my creation and for my background and whatnot that I was named after my father. It’s such a lovely symbol.”

Speaking of familial relations, Michael also happens to be Spock’s adoptive sister. Or Sarek’s “ward,” as producers prefer to refer to the character. And who plays Sarek (Spock’s father), you ask? That would be James Frain, recently of Orphan Black fame.

Currently we know that Michael is human, her real parents are dead, she was raised on Vulcan and she graduated from the Vulcan Science Academy. She also happens to be an up-and-comer within Starfleet, which is our entry point to the show.

4. Other Recognizable Faces

If you’re into pop culture, you’ll love some of the familiar faces on Discovery. Jason Isaacs of Harry Potter fame plays a captain, while former Dwight Schrute portrayer Rainn Wilson plays a bad guy. Other actors on the roster include names like Maulik Pancholy (30 Rock), Michelle Yeoh (Marco Polo) and Rekha Sharma (Battlestar Galactica).

5. Diversity Is As Strong As Ever

Star Trek has long been known as a franchise that promoted diversity before it was a TV mandate, so this incarnation is no exception. Not only do the actors hail from a variety of backgrounds, but there’s no real segregation once you’re up in space. Of course there are still Klingons, Vulcans and all of the other interplanetary species we’ve grown accustomed to, but within the ship itself all racial expectations are off.

Speaking of the Klingons, you’ll notice they look slightly different in this project than how they’ve been represented in the past.

“One of the things Bryan Fuller really wanted to do was shake up the design of the Klingons, and one of the first things that he ever pitched to us when we were deciding whether or not to come on the show was his aesthetic for the Klingons and how important it was that they not be the thugs of the universe, that they be sexy and vital and different from what had come before,” co-showrunner Aaron Harberts says.

6. This Is The Most Serialized Star Trek To Date

As mentioned, it’s been more than a decade since a Trek series hit airwaves. And there’s no denying television has shifted a lot in recent years as shows became more serialized. That’s why producers are touting this adventure—which opens up in the middle of a war—as the most serialized version of the franchise to date. And yes, that includes Deep Space Nine. No mission-of-the-week storytelling here.

“We are in a time of war, and we are trying to find out who we are as a Federation and as a coalition of peoples in the face of adversity. So it is entirely the outcome role of the show to arrive at the utopian principles that are endemic to Star Trek and at the same time not to suggest that doing that is simple or easy,” executive producer Akiva Goldsman says. “But you can’t simply be accepting and tolerant without working for it, and so this show is about that struggle, and we are really insanely proud of that attempt on our part. You’ll tell us whether we succeeded, but the outcome is always to earn the philosophy rather than present it as a fait accompli.”

Guess we’ll find out on September 24 whether or not they accomplished that, but based on what we’ve seen, we’d say they’re on the right track indeed.