For more than a year now, Star Trek fans have been waiting for the upcoming TV series “Star Trek: Discovery.” After being announced in November 2015 as the first show specifically created for CBS All Access, there have been a number of twists and turns that have delayed its debut. So what can we expect from “Star Trek: Discovery” when it finally comes to CBS?
Right now, we don’t even have a firm date for the release of the show. The original release date was January 2017, but that was moved back to May 2017, and now CBS executives are saying that it’s far more likely that there will be a fall 2017 release. But they won’t even commit to a specific date. Meanwhile, filming continues in Toronto. But all of these delays are making fans anxious, as they are getting concerned that the latest “Discovery” could be a complete disaster like the doomed “Enterprise.”
In terms of what we know about the show, we know that the action will take place a decade before the events of the original “Star Trek” series. And we know that the show’s producers are being very careful to separate this TV show from the “Star Trek” films. In a teaser video that CBS released, we just got some boilerplate information about the show, saying that it would feature “new crews, new villains, new heroes and new worlds.”
The first-ever serialized “Star Trek”
If you think about the other “Star Trek” TV shows, they have always been episodic in nature. In other words, you could watch Episode 5 of a season without the need to watch Episodes 4, 3, 2 or 1. Each show took place in a different place in the universe, with a different problem or villain. One episode it might be the Klingons, another week it might be someone else.
But the producers of “Star Trek: Discovery” are saying that this is going to be a serialized “Star Trek.” That would make it more similar to shows like “Game of Thrones” that you might watch on cable TV, where there is a single narrative arc connecting each and every show.
Right now, the best guess about that narrative arc comes from hints that the “Star Trek” producers have dropped. The first hint is that the series will be connected to “an incident and an event in ‘Star Trek’ history that’s been talked about but never been explored.”
Further hints and clues suggest that the incident might be related to the “Balance of Terror” story from the original “Star Trek” series that appeared back in 1966. The “Balance of Terror” episode introduced us to the Romulans, and featured a cat-and-mouse game between the starship Enterprise and the Romulan Bird of Prey ship, which was protected with a cloaking device.
And here’s where things get interesting – that episode from 1966 featured Sarek, Spock’s father, and we know that the new “Star Trek: Discovery” will feature Sarek as a Vulcan astrophysicist. So there might be a tie-in somehow.
A very diverse cast led by an African-American woman
We already know that the lead character for “Star Trek: Discovery” is going to be Sonequa Martin-Green (best known for her TV role in “The Walking Dead”), who will play the first officer of the USS Discovery. In the show, she will not be a full starship captain. Instead, she will be referred to as “Number One,” which is a reference back to the “Star Trek” pilot episode called “The Cage,” which also referred to the ship’s captain as “Number One.”
According to producers and showrunners, there will be a real emphasis on showing minority and female characters. And there will also be LGBTQ characters. In fact, the thinking now is that one of the main characters is going to be outwardly gay. Other top characters to keep an eye on include Nambue (played by Maulik Pancholy), chief medical officer of the USS Shenzhou, and Sarek (played by James Frain), Spock’s father.
A new kind of starship that looks way too retro
While the entire series appears to be nearly a year behind in production, we did get an early preview of the USS Discovery at last summer’s Comic-Con in San Diego. There was a big unveiling of the USS Discovery, including a brief teaser trailer. The Discovery is golden hued and has a very different look than other “Star Trek” vessels. That has fans complaining, saying that the starship looks “too old and industrial” and not futuristic enough. Given that the action of this CBS show will take place only a decade before the first “Star Trek,” it’s hard to see how the Discovery eventually made way for the Enterprise we know and love.
A darker version of “Star Trek”
One aspect of “Star Trek” that fans have loved for more than 50 years is the optimistic message of the whole show. It’s all about exploring the universe, going where no man has gone before, and interacting with all the remarkable specimens and races of the galaxy in a way that unites rather than divides.
But it sounds like the plan for this new “Star Trek: Discovery” is to create a darker vision for the series. In fact, there have been suggestions that it could be united by a more post-apocalyptic story line. That makes sense, if you take into account that “Balance of Terror” episode, which featured the Earth-Romulan war and the ability of the warlike Romulans to destroy intergalactic space outposts with incredible weapons.
But that has fans concerned – they’re afraid that the optimistic, upbeat mood of the original Gene Roddenberry series might be lost. And, if that were the case, then it would lead to serious concerns that the show is headed in the right direction.
What’s most interesting about this new CBS show is what can best be called “the Netflix effect.” That means that CBS is specifically ordering a show that can become part of their All Access streaming service, and that’s what perhaps led to this being a serialized show. The whole reason people binge-watch is because they want to find out what happens next, and that’s why serialized shows are so popular.
There are some who say that, ever since “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was released in 1987, each successive Star Trek series has been less and less popular. There’s still hope, though, that more than 50 years after the original “Star Trek,” we’re going to have a new series that’s better than anything we’ve ever seen before.