Star Trek: Discovery: Burnham's "difficult choice", release date confirmed, and everything you need to know

Fast Facts:

  • Star Trek: Discovery release date: September 24, 2017 (US)/September 25, 2017 (UK)
  • Cast: Sonequa Martin-Green, Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Rapp, Doug Jones, Shazad Latif, James Frain, Maulik Pancholy, Terry Serpico, Sam Vartholomeos, Rainn Wilson; Jason Isaacs, Kenneth Mitchell, Clare McConnell, Damon Runyan, Rekha Sharma
  • Producers: Nicholas Meyer, Vincenzo Natali, Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman
  • Showrunners: Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Heather Kadin, Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, David Semel

Update: June 28, 2017 - main character Burnham's "difficult choice" teased

We’re just a few months away from the launch of Star Trek: Discovery, and they’re still not giving much away. But if you’re hankering for something (anything!) showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg revealed a few insights into Burnham, the character played by Sonequa Martin-Green.

Talking to Entertainment Weekly, they confirmed Burnham just might be the catalyst for an incident described by initial showrunner Bryan Fuller as “an event in Star Trek history that’s been talked about but never been explored… to dig deep into a very tantalizing storyline”.

“Burnham [has] spent a lot of time on Vulcan, but she’s human,” Harberts said. “Sarek [Spock’s father] plays an important role in her life, which has been completely planned until she makes a very difficult choice that sends her life on a very different path.

“When we meet her, she’s the First Officer on the Starship Shenzhou. And Burnham’s choice that we’re alluding to is most difficult choice you can make — it affects her, affects Starfleet, affects the Federation, it affects the entire universe. That choice leads her to a different ship, the Discovery and there we begin what Gretchen and I call our ‘second pilot.’”

As for why the team switched the focus from the captain to the first officer?

“The joy is in the journey. The advantage to her not being in charge of the bridge right now is we get to tell stories from a very different point of view. It’s a fresh feeling because we’re not on the bridge all the time. We get access to more parts of the ship.”

In the same interview, we also found out that Jonathan Frakes - who portrayed Commander William T Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Star Trek films - will direct an episode of the forthcoming series.

“He’s a fantastic guy and great director,” said Berg, to which Harberts added: “Our cast is dying to work with him.”

Update: June 20, 2017 - Star Trek: Discovery's release date is finally official

CBS has made it official - Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on Sunday, September 24 on CBS in the US and Canada. Everyone else can start watching on September 25 via Netflix. Further episodes will stream weekly on CBS All Access for the US and Canada and on Netflix elsewhere.

Update: June 9, 2017 - Expect lots of cameos; "so many actors are fans"

Star Trek’s never been afraid of a guest star or two, and thankfully this tradition will continue with Star Trek: Discovery.

Talking to Collider, Discovery producer Alex Kurtzman told fans that as “so many actors are fans”, we’re to expect a cameo or two when the show launches later this year… although he didn’t drop any hints about who’s asked to be beamed up.

"So many actors are fans," Kurtzman said. "We literally got a list of them that were like, 'Here are people who said they want to be on Star Trek.' It was awesome… To just be in an episode or come in or out."

***Original article continues below***

Star Trek: Discovery is blasting off this year

Over fifty years ago, Gene Roddenberry wrote “Star Trek is…” onto a blank piece of paper. Today, the sci-fi show continues to intrigue and innovative as one of TV's greatest shows, and its newest incarnation - Star Trek: Discovery - lies just on the horizon. As we get closer to its debut, what should we expect to see?

 As we prep for take-off to parts unknown, here’s everything - and we do mean everything - we know so far about latest iteration Star Trek: Discovery, including facts, fan theories, and good ‘ole fashioned rumours. It's mostly spoiler-free as much remains speculative, but if spoilers aren't your thing, then you may want to look away now...

Star Trek: Discovery’s release date keeps changing

Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on Sunday, September 24 in the US and Canada on CBS, and will hit Netflix everywhere else on Monday, September 25. Further episodes will be published weekly on CBS All Access in the US and Canada and on Netflix elsewhere.

The show was first announced in June 2016, and was set back not once, not twice, but three times. Originally slated for January 2017, then-showrunners Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman announced the show would be pushed back to May 2017 to ensure the “demand of physical and post-production” didn’t “compromise quality”. 

Then CBS Television Studios put out a statement, confirming a further delay - this time to an unspecified date - stating: “Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created. This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show. We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast.”

Next, Variety reported that the debut had been pushed back again to an unspecified time in “late summer”. CBS chief Morgan Stanley stated the new series requires “a lot of post production” and that “it’s important to get it right [as] Star Trek is the family jewels” of its new streaming service.

The Star Trek: Discovery trailer has got us hyped already

Our very first glimpse of Star Trek: Discovery, shared at the San Diego Comic Con last year, came in the form of a minute-long teaser that gave a premature peek at the U.S.S. Discovery itself in space, plus a quick glimpse at the all-new series insignia.

Already much has changed since that time, which might not be surprising given the number of internal production crew changes, but it’s changes to the Discovery itself, plus the series logo, which are most notable. But it was the second Star Trek: Discovery teaser trailer that sent fans into a spin thanks to argh-blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpses of the Discovery uniform, alien headwear, the construction of the Bridge, and, naturally, a refined U.S.S. Discovery itself.

Of course, that’s the first time we get a glimpse of the all-important Captain’s chair… and now we know who’ll be sitting in it.

Most recently, CBS dropped not one but two Star Trek: Discovery trailers, focusing  upon the USS Shenzhou encountering the Klingon and featuring Sonqeua Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh (both of which we saw in the first official screenshot), along with Doug Jones, who plays Lt. Saru.

The reception of the trailer hasn’t been universally positive, though, with some fans suggesting Discovery’s props look way too sophisticated for its pre-Kirk timeline. Others seem unsure of the new Klingon look, even though we knew they would be based upon an unused design from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. What do you think?

The Star Trek: Discovery plot will "continue to push boundaries"

Hailing from Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller (who’s also penned Voyager and Deep Space Nine episodes), Star Trek: Discovery - named after new starship the U.S.S. Discovery NCC-1031 - promises to be a “progressive” story depicting the “adventure of humankind”.Though we as yet don’t know much about what the storyline will entail, talking to fans at the Star Trek 50th Anniversary panel at San Diego Comic Con last year, Fuller stated that it was important that the show “remind audiences the message of Star Trek - continuing to push boundaries.”

Fuller has teased that there’s an incident in Star Trek history that’s been “talked about but never explored”, and stated that - as a fan himself - it’s something he would “want to see”.So: what could it be? Speculation is rife, but all signs point to it not being the Earth-Romulan war, and neither is it likely to be concerning the Battle of Axanar. 

Apparently, the new show isn’t afraid to deviate from the original premise; in the same panel, Fuller added Discovery wouldn’t stick to episodic storytelling, which suggests the show’s keen to adopt broader story arcs than may span several episodes.

The thing is, Fuller has also said that the Star Trek episode Balance of Terror - in which the Federation is battling Romulans rather than Klingons - was a “touchstone for the Star Trek: Discovery story arc,” which leaves us a bit confused, let’s face it.

The series will be delivered over just 13 episodes, with each one its own distinct chapter with a “beginning, middle, and end”. But this is Star Trek, and few shows are better equipped to juggle storylines, alien races and alternate universes.

Star Trek: Discovery’s cast boasts some familiar faces

Although we’ve known for some time that The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green had been drafted in to portray the character, up until now details of Discovery’s lieutenant commander had been sparse. However, it’s now been revealed that Discovery’s Number One will be First Officer Michael Burnham (Yes, Michael. No, I didn’t typo Michelle). 

Comments on Twitter and forums alike indicate fan confusion at the moniker, but the name Michael isn’t unheard of for women, and it could simply be that by the time Discovery takes place, it's become a common female name. Or it could be that the character is transgender, or merely an indication that gender identities (and names) are more fluid in the future. Who knows. 

Also newly confirmed is Rainn Wilson, known best as The Office’s Dwight Schrute. He’ll be heading to Discovery as Harry Mudd. Yup. That Harry Mudd - the same Mudd Captain Kirk encountered waaaay back in the 60s TV show (although, technically, the original series occurs a decade after events unfold on Discovery). 

The character was expected to make an appearance in The Next Generation but never did, which means Discovery will be the first time we see Mudd since the original series. Will we get to the see the origins of the character? Does the casting of Wilson as Mudd intimate a bigger role for the con-artist this time around? Guess we’ll find out eventually.

As for who’s sitting in that captain’s chair? It’s none other than Jason Isaacs - although you may know him best as Lucius Malfoy. In a cheeky tweet, Isaacs posted a picture of the iconic chair, stating: “Nice chair. Hope it’s comfy”.

Star Trek: Discovery revealed its first trio of cast members late last year, confirming that Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Rapp, and Doug Jones will respectively play Captain Georgiou, commander of the USS Shenzhou, Lt. Stamets, a science officer specialising in astromycology (that’s space fungus to you and me), and Lt. Saru, a Starfleet science officer and member of a previously unseen alien species.

Rapp also marks a Star Trek first as being the TV show’s (if not the movies’) first openly gay character.

Gotham’s James Frain has also been confirmed to be joining Star Trek: Discovery as Spock’s father, Sarek, who's been described as a "key character" in the series, marking the first character from a previous Star Trek franchise to be confirmed for the upcoming show. Sarek - an astrophysicist and Vulcan ambassador to the United Federation of Planets - fathered Spock with his human wife, Amanda, and has featured in the original series and The Next Generation, as well as several of the Star Trek movies.

It’s also been confirmed that 30 Rock’s Maulik Pancholy will join the team as chief medical officer Dr. Nambue, The Purge: Election Year’s Terry Serpico as Admiral Anderson, and Sam Vartholomeos will play Ensign Connor.

Star Trek: Discovery is also poised to feature recurring Kingon cast members, too. CBS has announced that Chris Obi, Mary Chieffo, and Penny Dreadful’s Shazad Latif will join the show as T’Kuvma, L’Rell, and Commanding Officer Kol. But that’s not all. We’ve also had three other Klingon characters confirmed, with Kenneth Mitchell playing commanding officer Kol, and Clare McConnell and Damon Runyan playing Klingons Dennas and Ujilli respectively.

The Star Trek: Discovery timeline ignores the rebooted movies

Discovery is set 10 years before the original series, placing it around the time the Federation was at war with the Klingons, which makes sense given creator Fuller stated that Discovery thematically traces alien races attempts to “understand each other”. Couple that with recurring Kingons in the cast list, and it all slots together, right?

This is further exemplified by Fuller confirming that the show will “probably have a few more aliens than you typically have on the show. We wanted to paint a picture of Starfleet where we’re going to have new exciting aliens and also new imagining of existing aliens”. 

Rooted in the universe of the TV franchise - rather than the alternate reality presented by the rebooted Star Trek movies - Discovery ignores the ‘Kelvin’ timeline in which Spock and commander Nero disrupted the time continuum and spawned a new reality when they were sucked into a black hole and subsequently time-travelled back into the past, attacking the U.S.S. Kelvin on arrival.

That said, while Discovery takes place before the original series, it occurs after Enterprise… so it’ll be interesting to see how the new series bridges the gap between Enterprise and the original series. Could it be possible we’ll revisit characters from either series?

The Star Trek: Discovery ship is based on an abandoned ‘70s design

Star Trek: Discovery’s namesake, the U.S.S. Discovery NCC-1031 ship, is based upon a version of the ship initially designed - but never used - in the 1970s.

“There was an abandoned Star Trek series in the '70s,” Fuller has stated. “It was actually for a movie. And Ralph McQuarrie had done some wonderful illustrations, and we saw those and 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."

That said, don’t take anything you’ve seen to date as a definite. According to Fuller, development of the ship is “an evolution”, so what we see now might not necessarily be what we see when the show finally launches.

And what of the Miranda-esque class ship seen in the teaser? The Shenzhou, perhaps? Or, given the saucer is seemingly placed above the warp nacelles, perhaps it’s an Akira-class reminiscent of Deep Space Nine?

Star Trek: Discovery’s Captain will not be the focus of the show

Although we know Jason Isaacs will be forging his groove in that fancy chair, Discovery's attention will not be focused solely on the Captain.

Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Martin-Green said: "Being the first officer on the ship is going to be a wild ride, because we haven't seen that happen before in the Star Trek canon; we haven't seen the story be told from the perspective of the first officer rather than the captain. It's going to open up so much potential for new storylines, because not being the captain automatically gives you a different perspective.”

Interestingly enough - and if rumours are to be believed - it's possible Star Trek: Discovery’s leading character, Number One, may have served on the U.S.S. Enterprise with the iconic James T. Kirk…

Star Trek Discovery showrunners are facing criticism for the decision to feature two women of colour in the leading roles. Although not formally involved in Discovery in anyway, Star Trek alumni George Takei - who played Sulu in the original series - has hit back, stating that even from its earliest iteration, the sci-fi series prided itself on “greater diversity”.

“Now these so-called trolls haven't seen a single episode of the new series, because it hasn't been aired,” Takei said on MSNBC’s AM Joy (thanks, CinemaBlend). “And they don't know the history of Star Trek [either] ... Gene Roddenberry created this with the idea of finding strength in our diversity - and also the delight of life in diversity. 

“We had a guiding acronym - IDIC - which stood for infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We boldly went where we hadn't gone before because we were curious about what's out there. And when you go out into space, you are going to have even greater diversity.”

That acronym is enshrined in Star Trek canon, and is the basis of the Vulcan philosophy, the symbol for which is echoed throughout the series (it's the one that looks like a pyramid with a star on top).

The Star Trek: Discovery uniforms look strangely familiar

A Star Trek: Discovery teaser trailer gave us the briefest of brief glimpses at the new Starfleet uniforms, which you can see above. 

I know - it’s not much, right? But the peek at the royal blue tunic and newly styled insignia hint at a possible The Cage influence (not to mention being really reminiscent of Enterprise uniforms, too), and unlike the original 1960s series and JJ Abram’s movie, there’s no black collar, either.

Although the colour certainly is reminiscent of the Enterprise uniform, we have no idea as yet what the colour might signify, or if that shiny gold piping is indicative of rank. Curiouser and curiouser.

“I think that when you see it [the uniform] I can tell you specifically what the influences are, and that the styles that [they adopted] a transporter accident in their approach,” Fuller has previously teased. “I think when you see the design, you’ll say, 'It’s a little bit of this, it’s a little bit of that'.”

If you were hoping for some details in our first, official look at Star Trek: Discovery (other than the ship, I mean), I’m sorry, friend. But while we don’t get to see a Starfleet uniform in action - nor a glimpse inside Discovery itself, unfortunately - we do get to see First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) team up with Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) on an as-yet undisclosed location. 

But while their fictional location remains unknown, EW has at least now revealed the filming location, stating that filming took place in Jordan, as well as on-set in Toronto, Canada. Peer a little closer, too, and we can also see what appears to be an old-school communicator on Martin-Green’s belt, and a bag that may be holding a Tricorder, perhaps?

Oh, and if you’re sat there wondering if you’re the only one thinking CBS may have got those two “Star” franchises mixed up, you’re not alone...

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