On Tuesday, CBS revealed quite a bit more about their eagerly anticipated CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery at their Television Critics Association panel. The 15-episode prequel to the original Star Trek series drops its first episode Sunday, September 24, on the CBS Television Network at 8:30 p.m. The episode will also be available OnDemand and on CBS All Access simultaneously. The second episode will be available that night immediately following the broadcast premiere, but only on CBS All Access, as will be the case for all subsequent Sunday episode releases.
The season will also be split into two chapters, with Episodes One through Eight airing September 24 to November 5. The second chapter of seven episodes will return in January of 2018. New key art featuring all of the primary characters was also released.
Fans of Talking Dead should also look for their own Trek aftershow, yet unnamed but produced by the same company (Embassy Row), featuring fan interaction and interviews.
The panel itself featured executive producers Akiva Goldsman, Heather Kadin, Gretchen Berg, Aaron Harberts, and Alex Kurtzman. And cast members: Jason Isaacs (Captain Gabriel Lorca of the USS Discovery), Mary Chieffo (L'Rell, the battle deck commander of the Klingon ship), James Frain (Ambassador Sarek), and series lead Sonequa Martin‑Green (First Officer Michael Burnham).
At the start, Kurtzman revealed that composer Jeff Russo (Legion) is scoring the series with a 60‑piece orchestra and has created a brand-new theme that honors the iconic Alexander Courage fanfare while also managing to be its own melody. He then presented video of the recording of that new theme.
Afterward, during the Q&A, more specifics were shared about the timeline for ST: Discovery. Goldsman confirmed that the series takes place in the Prime universe. "It's not the J.J. [Abrams] verse or the Kurtzman verse. It is 10 years before TOS, so we are in a section of canon that has been referred to a lot. There is a lot of speculation about it. We are considering the novels not to be canon, but we are aware of them. And we are going to cross paths with components that Trek fans are familiar with, but it is its own standalone story, with its own characters and its own unique vision of Trek."
While some of the rejected concepts for ST: Discovery by former showrunner Bryan Fuller were revealed earlier this week, remaining executive producers Kurtzman and Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts (both of Fuller's Pushing Daisies writers' room) asserted that many Fuller concepts still remain intact.
"Bryan and I worked on the story together, and I'm just a tremendous fan of Bryan's," Kurtzman said. "He's so deeply, deeply, supernaturally gifted. When he decided that the balancing act of American Gods and Star Trek was going to compromise potentially both shows -- which I certainly had a tremendous amount of respect for -- we set about to protect and preserve as much of the vision that he had. Gretchen and Aaron, who have worked with Bryan for a long, long time, are here because we all respect Bryan's vision and because we felt that it was the best way to preserve that. We honor what he did, and we love so much of what's there, and much of what's there still came from his mind."
Harberts added, "One of the things he really, really wanted to do was shake up the design of the Klingons. 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 be aesthete, that they not be the thugs of the universe, that they be sexy and vital and different from what had come before. He worked for a very, very, very long time with [concept designers] Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick on the design of these Klingons, and they drilled down in such a deep way to redundant pieces of anatomy, to the different plates on the head. We were in discussions that got so deep into biology and into sculpture. It was incredible to watch Bryan and Neville brainstorm. From the time that Neville brought in the 3D printout into the writers' room of the Klingon, that design really hasn't changed. And the Klingon ship, the flagship of the Klingons, that design was very important to Bryan. He worked with Mark Worthington for months and months to get it right. Gretchen and I love it. We think that it's unique, and we saw no reason to change his vision for those Klingons."
Actress Mary Chieffo, who plays a Klingon, then spoke to the Klingons placement in the narrative. "I think they've done a beautiful job of showing that both sides are human and both sides have humanity. It's really beautiful to read the script and see these parallel stories going on and seeing how the conflicts arise. I've found it's really fun to see, for L'Rell, that my relationship within the Klingon world is so different from my relationship with the Federation. How I'm perceived there is so different from how I am within that world. So I love seeing the nuances between characters, and I just think that there's a lot to be said for both sides, and I think that that's something that's always been true for this series, showing both sides' capacity to love and to have compassion and passion for what they believe in. I really hope and I truly believe that that will come across, and I think it's a very important message that no one is actually the bad guy."
As to the recent revelation that Martin‑Green's Burnham is Spock's half-sister, Harberts clarified, "We don't necessarily call her the half‑sister. We tend to refer to her as more Sarek's ward, or Sarek's foster‑adopted daughter. The relationship between Michael and Sarek plays a huge part, not only in her backstory, but in where she was raised and what she brings to every ship she serves on. Her time on Vulcan causes her to make several choices in our first episode, choices that will really have aftershocks throughout the entire series. It's been amazing to have James Frain playing Sarek, because what we are able to do is, much in the way that they did with Spock and Sarek in the films and on the show, is we are able to tell father‑daughter stories. We are able to really drill down on particularly what's interesting about a Vulcan raising a human child, and how that affects her and how she's grown up with that. It's a very important relationship for us."
It also came up that Burnham's first name, Michael, also came from Fuller. Harberts explains, "It's his signature move to name his lead women with names that would typically be associated as male."
From there, Martin‑Green said she ran with it to create her backstory. "Understanding that that's where it came from, I appreciated that. And I appreciated the sort of statement it makes all on its own to have this woman with this male name, the amelioration of how we see men and women in the future. But I also just decided for my creation, and for my background and whatnot, that I was named after my father. Again, we get a little bit of exploration of the father‑daughter dynamic that we were speaking of, and I think it's a lovely symbol."