‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Everything we know about the new TV series

'Star Trek: Discovery' set to return in 2018 after a three-month break

The first episode of Star Trek premiered more than 50 years ago, but the beloved sci-fi franchise is still going strong. The space saga has returned with the new series Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access (the network’s stand-alone streaming service) for those in the U.S. and Canada, and on Netflix for international audiences.

CBS unveiled 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 in summer 2016. Since then, there have been many strange twists and turns, including the exit of series creator and showrunner Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods), which left many Star Trek fans wondering exactly how the series would look under new showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (Pushing Daisies), and how it will fit into the Star Trek TV universe.

Fans finally found out when Discovery premiered September 24. Here’s everything we know about the series so far.

Entering chapter 2

Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets in Star Trek: Discovery CBS

With Star Trek: Discovery season 1 broken into two chapters, there is a hiatus ahead. Chapter 1 will conclude with episode 9’s release on November 12, and then fans are in for a wait. Fortunately, the break won’t be too long; CBS has announced that the next chapter will premiere on January 7 with episode 10, Despite Yourself. The network also released the episode’s synopsis, teasing challenges to come:

While in unfamiliar territory, the U.S.S. Discovery crew is forced to get creative in their next efforts to survive opposing and unprecedented forces and return home.

The chapter 2 premiere will be the first of an additional six episodes, bringing us more Starfleet adventures through the season 1 finale’s release on February 11.

Boldly going to season 2

Despite all of the show’s troubles leading up to its launch, the first voyage of Discovery appears to be going well enough to merit another set of adventures.

On October 23, CBS confirmed that Star Trek: Discovery has officially been renewed for a second season on its streaming video service CBS All Access.

“In just six episodes, Star Trek: Discovery has driven subscriber growth, critical acclaim, and huge global fan interest for the first premium version of this great franchise,” said CBS Interactive President and COO Marc DeBevoise in a statement accompanying the announcement. “This series has a remarkable creative team and cast who have demonstrated their ability to carry on the Star Trek legacy. We are extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished and are thrilled to be bringing fans a second season of this tremendous series.”

There’s no official word on when the second season is expected to premiere.

What lies ahead

With the first two episodes of Discovery sparking a record-setting number of sign-ups for CBS’s streaming video service, the network released a video preview of what’s to come in the remaining episodes of the show’s first season.

The two-minute video is filled with spoilers for anyone who hasn’t watched the series’ first two episodes, so it would be wise to make sure you’re caught up with the show before you learn about what Discovery has planned for the Star Trek universe.

Going forward, new episodes of Star Trek: Discovery will be made available Sundays on CBS All Access.

Set phasers to “wait” for season 2

Given all of the delays leading up to the show’s premiere, many fans are wondering about the network’s long-term vision for Discovery — particularly when it comes to the second season.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, series producer Alex Kurtzman explained that the best-case scenario will have season 2 of Discovery premiering in early 2019.

“There have been preliminary conversations about when and how [a second season could air] and we’ve been very consistent in our message, which is that rather than announce a date and have to push again, let’s take into consideration everything we’ve learned from this season,” said Kurtzman. “Now we know what we can do and where the sand traps are, so let’s give ourselves ample time to announce a date that makes sense to everybody — both the needs of production and CBS. Breaking story is, in some ways, the easier and faster thing; it’s the ability to execute on it that’s much harder. We want to take the right amount of time and don’t want to rush.”

Asked whether 2019 is a good estimate for the second season’s premiere, Kurtzman responded, “Ideally, on the early side of 2019.”

Launching new records

Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery Jan Thijs/2017 CBS Interactive

The premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on September 24 did what the network hoped it would — inspire a spike in CBS All Access signups. In fact, there were so many in the day leading up to the show’s launch that Discovery powered a single-day signup record, as Deadline reports. Although CBS didn’t release the exact numbers, the network did reveal that they exceeded the flurry of new subscriptions that came in February ahead of the 2017 Grammy Awards, the previous record holder.

The record day capped off what also became the streaming service’s top week and month for new subscribers. Between Star Trek: DiscoveryBig Brother, and the return of NFL games, CBS All Access has been riding high. The service will likely continue to see growth if Discovery continues to increase in popularity.

Sunday’s premiere kick-started the season’s first arc of eight episodes, with two episodes being released. Fans also got to take in the debut of the series’ new after-show, After Trek.

The sound of Star Trek history

The musical theme for Star Trek: Discovery will take plenty of cues from past iterations of the franchise.

CBS premiered the show’s theme in a video featuring composer Jeff Russo working with a 60-piece orchestra to craft the nostalgia-inducing musical homage to cosmic adventures that boldly go where no one has gone before.

Star Trek fans will certainly recognize many aspects of the theme, which is clearly inspired by some of the most iconic elements shared by past series’ themes.

Going to war at Comic-Con

After announcing the official title of the series at San Diego Comic-Con in 2016, CBS made a big splash at the annual convention again in 2017 with a brand new, extended trailer for Star Trek: Discovery.

The new trailer suggested that a war with the Klingons — possibly involving a nefarious Starfleet faction — will factor prominently into the narrative of the show’s first season. Series lead Sonequa Martin-Green features prominently in the trailer as First Officer Michael Burnham, along with supporting Starfleet characters U.S.S. Shenzhou Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and Science Officer Saru (Doug Jones), as well as U.S.S. Discovery Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs).

Actor James Frain also appears as the Vulcan Sarek (Spock’s father), and Rainn Wilson makes a brief appearance as cosmic smuggler and infamous swindler Harry Mudd.

Make it so, Number One

While the faces in front of the camera for Discovery might not be so familiar to Star Trek fans, there will be at least one very recognizable figure behind the camera.

According to Entertainment Weekly, veteran Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Jonathan Frakes will direct at least one episode of Discovery.

Best known for playing Commander William T. Riker on The Next Generation and the films based on that series, Frakes has a long history of work behind the camera. Along with directing several episodes of The Next GenerationStar Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager, he also directed the feature-length films Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection. He also helmed episodes of popular television shows Leverage, Burn Notice, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

“Jonathan Frakes will rejoin the Trek world with Discovery,” said writer-producer Gretchen Berg in a statement accompanying the news. “He’s a fantastic guy and great director.”

It’s unknown exactly which episode (or episodes) he’ll direct at this point.

Captain Lorca, I presume?

Although he isn’t expected to play series’ lead, the captain of the U.S.S. Discovery was introduced to the world in an official photo released in June by CBS (via Entertainment Weekly).

STAR TREK: DISCOVERYPictured: Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca.

Played by The OA and Outlander actor Jason Isaacs, Federation Starship Captain Gabriel Lorca is described as “a brilliant military tactician.” Along with putting Isaacs front and center, the photo also features the first look at the bridge of the Discovery, as EW’s article indicates that all prior photos and footage have only featured the bridge of the other starship featured in the series, the U.S.S. Shenzhou.

A launch date and a mission plan

A number of delays during development and production of the series left the premiere date for Star Trek: Discovery uncertain since the project’s initial announcement. CBS finally made the launch date for the show official in mid-June via an animated promotional image for Discovery that revealed the series would kick off September 24 on the network and its streaming service, CBS All Access.

The network also outlined its rollout plans for the series, which will debut on CBS on Sunday, September 24, with CBS All Access subscribers given the option to watch both the first and second episodes on-demand that evening. Subsequent episodes will be made available on CBS All Access each Sunday.

According to CBS’ announcement, the first season of the series will be divided into two chapters, with the initial eight-episode arc running from September 24 through November 5 on the network’s streaming service. The second arc will then premiere in January 2018 on CBS All Access and encompass seven episodes, made available weekly on Sundays.

Boldly going … where, exactly?

CBS is keeping many of the story details for Star Trek: Discovery under wraps, but we do know that the series will be set about 10 years before the original series. The first teaser promised “new crews,” “new villains,” “new heroes,” and “new worlds” — and we’ve since learned that we’ll see something that unfolds within the “Prime” canon of the established Star Trek universe, but not tied to the events in the movies.

Fuller told CNN the series’ placement between the four-season prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise and the original 1966 series “gives us an opportunity to bridge the gap between Enterprise and the original series.”

In the June 2017 announcement of the show’s premiere date, CBS released the official synopsis for the series.

Star Trek: Discovery will follow the voyages of Starfleet on their missions to discover new worlds and new life forms, and one Starfleet officer who must learn that to truly understand all things alien, you must first understand yourself,” reads the description of the show’s premise. “The series will feature a new ship, new characters, and new missions while embracing the same ideology and hope for the future that inspired a generation of dreamers and doers.”

First look trailer

On May 17, CBS released a new trailer giving fans a glimpse at the upcoming series.

The trailer establishes the overarching plot points for the pilot episode of Star Trek: Discovery, and ostensibly the series’ first season. The trailer opens with Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) walking over the sandy dunes of a remote planet, before beaming up to a Starfleet vessel. We get a look at the rest of the crew, including Doug Jones (Hellboy) as Science Officer Saru, as well as Mark Lenard as the Vulcan Sarek, the father of Spock from the original series. We also get a look at the new Starfleet uniforms.

The trailer also introduces a conflict between Starfleet and the Klingon Empire. After discovering a mysterious object on the far reaches of Federation space, the crew encounters the Klingons, and if the trailer is any indication, it’s not the friendliest meeting.

First photo

In May 2017, CBS released an official photo from Star Trek: Discovery, offering fans — and curious audiences — their first look at the series.

The image features Michelle Yeoh (left) as Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green (right) as First Officer Michael Burnham. The duo is pictured in desert attire, gazing out over what appears to be a relatively bleak, barren landscape.

No Worf for you

After a rumor indicated that Discovery would feature Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Michael Dorn playing an ancestor of his original character, Worf, the actor quickly — and officially — refuted the report.

Speaking to TrekMovie.com, Dorn’s publicist said there were “a couple of conversations with producers last summer” about a potential role on Discovery, but there are currently “no plans for him to appear at this time” on the series.

While that still leaves some uncertainty about whether he’ll appear in the show, a theater and art critic attending a recent speaking event that featured Dorn expanded on both his likely absence from the series, and the reasons behind it.

“I can tell you with 100-percent certainty that Mr. Dorn did not say he was going to be on the new Star Trek show,” said Orlando Sentinel critic Matt Palm of comments the actor made regarding Discovery during a recent event. “In fact, he went to great lengths explaining why he would not be on the new show: That there had been interest expressed, but he was not offered enough money. He said they had offered him less than 1 percent of what he made in his last contract as Worf.”

What’s in a name?

During San Diego Comic-Con in 2016, 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 2016’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.”

Harry Mudd, I presume?

A March 2017 casting announcement offered a pretty significant call-back to the franchise’s past, with The Office actor Rainn Wilson slated to play original series character Harry Mudd.

Variety reported that Wilson will play the interstellar con man who made his 1966 debut in the first season of the original Star Trek series. The character, who was initially portrayed by Roger C. Carmel, would go on to appear in several subsequent episodes of the series and its spinoffs over the years.

Also cast around the same time were The OA and Outlander actor Jason Isaacs (pictured below) as Starfleet Captain Lorca of the U.S.S. Discovery, and Longmire actress Mary Wiseman as Tilly, a Starfleet cadet.

Assembling a crew for the Shenzhou

While the name of our main vessel is Discovery, the Starship Shenzhou seems poised to play a key role in the series. Many of the announced cast members have some role aboard the spacecraft — roles that seem likely to herald their involvement with the titular Starship Discovery.

One of the first crew members of the Shenzhou to be announced was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actress Michelle Yeoh as Captain Georgiou.

Michelle Yeoh

In February 2017, the network announced two more additions to the cast who will join Yeoh’s character on the Shenzhou.

30 Rock and Weeds actor Maulik Pancholy (pictured) will play Dr. Nambue, the chief medical officer, while The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Following actor Sam Vartholomeos will play Ensign Connor, a junior officer assigned to the Shenzhou.

The latter pair were identified in an announcement that also included the news that Army Wives and Rescue Me actor Terry Serpico will play Admiral Anderson, a high-ranking official of Starfleet.

Spock, I am your father

When the new series premieres, we’ll see Orphan Black actor James Frain as Sarek, CBS announced January 18 in a tweet.

Sarek, a Vulcan physicist and ambassador, is Spock’s father and was originally portrayed by Mark Lenard. The two characters were estranged for part of the original series but reconciled after a harrowing mission. In taking up the baton from Sarek’s originator, Frain adds to his list of unique roles, which also includes parts in True DetectiveTrue BloodGotham, and more.

James Frain uncle_shoggoth/Flickr

Follow the lead

Way back in August 2016, former showrunner and executive producer Fuller told Ain’t It Cool News that the show’s female lead character will be referred to as “Number One” throughout much of the first season, sparking quite a bit of speculation about who will play the role and how the mysterious character will fit into the over-arching Discovery narrative.

In December 2016, Entertainment Weekly reported that The Walking Dead actress Sonequa Martin-Green was hired to play a lieutenant commander on the Discovery, finally answering the question of who will anchor the series. Martin-Green will not only be the first African-American woman to lead a Star Trek series, but she’ll also play one of the first lead characters who isn’t a starship captain.

“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. While we only know her character’s rank aboard the Discovery at this point, Fuller promised that we’d learn the character’s real name before the end of the season.

After confirming Michelle Yeoh’s casting as Captain of the Shenzou, the network also announced two more actors playing featured roles in the series: Dazed and Confused and Rent actor Anthony Rapp and Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth actor Doug Jones, pictured in the gallery below.

Anthony Rapp
Doug Jones

According to Mashable, Rapp will play Lt. Stamets, another science officer aboard the Discovery, who will not only be the first original, openly gay Star Trek character, but also an astromycologist — which is apparently someone who studies fungus in space. Jones will play play Lt. Saru, a science officer aboard the ship and a member of a new alien species that will be introduced to the Star Trek universe in Discovery.

Back when he was the series’ showrunner, Fuller confirmed that the series’ cast would include at least one gay character, and told the crowd at the 2016 Television Critics Association (via CNN) that the casting choices were part of Star Trek’s history of offering “a wonderful expression of diversity in its cast.”

Klingon house party

A trio of cast members were added to the series in mid-2016, slated to play crew members of the Klingon forces. The three actors joining the series were Chris Obi (Snow White and the Huntsman, Ghost in the Shell), Shazad Latif (MI-5, Black Mirror), and Mary Chieffo (Miss Dial).

Christopher Obi
Shazad Latif
Mary Chieffo

Obi is expected to play T’Kuvma, the leader of the Klingons. According to the official press release, T’Kuvma seeks to unite the Klingon Houses, ultimately leading to the creation of a unified Klingon Empire. His protege, Kol, will be played by Latif. Kol serves as the commanding officer of the Klingon forces. Finally, Chieffo will play the role of battle deck commander L’Rell, who serves on the Klingon Starship under Kol.

Turbulence at warp speed

After months of serving as the showrunner and primary spokesperson for Star Trek: Discovery, Bryan Fuller announced plans to step down from his lead role on the creative team in October 2016 after pre-production delays pushed back the show’s production schedule and put it into conflict with Fuller’s other projects.

Fuller’s departure was initially reported by Variety, with Fuller himself later indicating that fellow executive producers Berg and Harberts would take over in the captain’s chair.

Fuller was initially reported to be staying on Discovery in an advisory role as well as his executive producer position, but later took a further step back from the project as delays mounted up. However, his plan for the first season is still expected to serve as the narrative road map for the series. He scripted the first two episodes of the series before stepping down, and fellow executive producer Akiva Goldsman is expected to bring his Oscar-winning story expertise to the Discovery creative team in support of Berg and Harberts.

According to Variety, the factors that contributed to Fuller’s departure also included tension over the slow progress of the series in assembling its cast, as well as the relatively high budget for the show. The series is reportedly budgeted at $6 million to $7 million per episode, which puts it on the same level as HBO’s Game of Thrones and well above most other well-established shows on broadcast television.

Set phasers to ‘binge’

According to Fuller (via Collider), the first season of Star Trek: Discovery will tell 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 CBS’ on-demand video service, All Access for all U.S. and Canadian viewers.

“I would strongly recommend that we never do 26 episodes.”

Fuller initially said the series wasn’t likely to go beyond 13 episodes per season, and he’d actually like to see fewer episodes in a single season, but the first season was later confirmed — after Fuller’s departure — to encompass a 15-episode arc.

“I would strongly recommend that we never do 26 episodes,” Fuller 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 CBS All Access streaming service. The series premieres on CBS All Access (which requires a $6/month subscription) for audiences in Canada and the U.S. In addition, it will also 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 — but not stateside.

Update: We’ve added the chapter 2 premiere date.