Yesterday CBS and Bryan Fuller revealed details about Star Trek: Discovery that sent many Trek fans' hearts racing. The new show, which will debut in January on CBS before moving to the CBS All Access streaming platform, is largely a mystery but the small bits of info we have received paint an encouraging picture.
The new show will be set in the Prime Universe, ie, real Trek, ie not the JJverse (or the Kelvin Timeline, as we now call it). That's great news, if not new news - we heard this weeks ago and fans have been rejoicing since. But there's more; Fuller says that the show will take place about ten years before the Five Year Mission we saw in the original Star Trek, and that it'll explore a piece of Trek history that has been discussed but never before shown onscreen.
What could that be? Early speculation was that it involved the Four Years War, a semi-canonical war between humans and Klingons that ended in the Battle of Axanar, which was to be the focus of a very expensive fan film. If Axanar was in fact the central point of Star Trek: Discovery that would have been a massive fuck you to the producers of the fan film, which would have been kinda funny. But Fuller denied that Axanar (or the real Kobayashi Maru) would be involved. The Romulan War is too far in the distant past, so that's also out. Trek fans spent some time trying to figure it all out, but we've come up empty. Fuller said that the central plot is something mentioned on TOS, and it's something he's always wanted to see onscreen.
The ten years before the Five Year Mission thing is interesting for other reasons. It means that the NCC-1701 Enterprise is out there, captained by Christopher Pike and featuring a young and giggling Spock. James Kirk is out there as well, serving on the USS Farragut when half the crew got killed by a space cloud, as tends to happen. The other interesting tidbit about this show being set ten years before the Five Year Mission: this is almost exactly when the reboot films are taking place, meaning that the classic characters are the same ages as the characters in the reboot movies. This means that if Fuller wanted to, he could have those actors swoop by and play Prime Universe versions of the characters. Bruce Greenwood could show up again as Pike! Fuller already mentioned that he would love to have Winona Ryder return as Amanda Grayson, Spock's mom! Chris Pine could show up as the navigator on the Farragut!
As you try to figure out what event from ten years before TOS could be the premise of Discovery, let's move on to other news. The show will have a female lead - likely a woman of color - but get this: she won't be the captain of the ship. Rather, Fuller is telling the story from the point of view of a crewmember, something we've never truly done in Trek history (DS9 had a lot of POVs, but Sisko was still the lead). This new human lead will be a lieutenant commander... 'with caveats,' says Fuller, whatever that means.
That isn't the end of diversity on Discovery. Fuller says there will "absolutely" be a gay character, and there will also be robots, of which we don't have many in Trek (Data and Lore stand fairly alone). The ship will feature more aliens then you usually see on a Federation ship, and some of these species will be new and weird. Some of the species will be old but reimagined.
I think that diversity will be the central premise of the show in some ways. I am starting to suspect that the Discovery will be a ship that is a joint Starfleet/Klingon project that grows out of the uneasy peace post-Axanar. Could the Discovery be a ship intended to bring many different species together to forge a harmonious future for the Federation? Here's what Fuller says of the lead's arc in the 13 episode season one:
“There’s an incident, an event in Star Trek history in the history of Starfleet that had been talked about but never fully explored. [We’re telling] that story through a character who is on a journey that is going to teach her how to get along with others in the galaxy.”
The main cast will feature seven lead characters, a pretty traditional number for Trek. What I'm curious about is who those seven will be - in most of the previous Trek shows it's been bridge crew; will our new heroine be on the bridge or will her co-stars be taken from other departments on the Discovery? There's a lot that's potentially new and fresh about this show, a lot that gets me excited.
More info is coming our way in October, which is when I imagine the show gets underway. I, for one, can't wait to find out more.