Ten years before Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise, the USS Discovery discovers new worlds and lifeforms as one Starfleet officer learns to understand all things alien.
The season was produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment, with Alex Kurtzman serving as showrunner.
The second season of the American television series Star Trek: Discovery is set roughly a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series and follows the crew of the USS Discovery as they investigate seven mysterious signals.
- Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham.
- Doug Jones as Saru.
- Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets.
- Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly.
- Shazad Latif as Voq/Ash Tyler.
- Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber.
- Anson Mount as Christopher Pike.
- Mia Kirshner as Amanda Grayson.
- Tig Notaro as Jett Reno.
- Bahia Watson as May Ahearn.
- Michelle Yeoh as Philippa Georgiou.
- Alan van Sprang as Leland.
- Rachael Ancheril as Nhan.
- Jayne Brook as Katrina Cornwell.
- Ethan Peck as Spock.
- Sonja Sohn as Gabrielle Burnham/Red Angel.
- Notable guests:
- James Frain as Sarek.
- Mary Chieffo as L’Rell.
- Kenneth Mitchell as Kol-Sha. and Tenavik.
- Rebecca Romijn as Number One.
- Hannah Spear as Siranna.
- Melissa George as Vina.
- Rob Brownstien as the Keeper.
- Kenric Green as Mike Burnham.
- Yadira Guevara-Prip as Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po.
On 02 November 2015, CBS announced a new Star Trek television series to premiere in January 2017, “on the heels” of the original series’ 50th anniversary in 2016. In February 2016, Bryan Fuller, who began his career writing for the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, was announced as the new series’ showrunner. CBS did not have a plan for what the new show would be when Fuller joined, and he proposed an anthology series with each season being a standalone, serialized show set in a different era, beginning with a prequel to the original series. CBS told Fuller to just start with a single serialised show and see how that performs first, and he began further developing the prequel concept. By the end of 2016, Fuller had left the series due to further conflicts with CBS and other commitments, with Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts replacing him as showrunner. In June 2017, co-creator Alex Kurtzman said that he and Fuller had discussed plans for future seasons before the latter’s departure.
In August 2017, before the series premiere, executive producer Akiva Goldsman stated that though the series is not an anthology as Fuller first proposed, “it’s kind of a hybridized approach. I don’t think we’re looking for an endless, continuing nine or 10 year story. We’re looking at arcs which will have characters that we know and characters that we don’t know.” Kurtzman elaborated that the Federation-Klingon War story arc of the first season would not continue in a second. However, he was not interested in a full anthology series because “I wouldn’t necessarily want to throw [the characters] away at the end of the season for a new show”, and instead felt that the aftereffects of the first season would be felt moving forward: “The results of the war are going to allow for a lot of new storytelling”, with “the casualties, the things that have grown in Starfleet as a result of the war” carrying over to the next season. By the end of the month, Berg and Harberts had developed a “road map” for a second season. After the first season premiered, Kurtzman explained that a “big idea” had been proposed mid-way through production on that season which became the “spine” of the second season, with the writers’ “emotional compass” having pointed them to using that idea. He added that the series’ producers wanted to avoid announcing release dates for future seasons just to delay them as happened on the first season, but he hoped a second season would be available in early 2019 as long as the quality and scope of the series was not compromised to achieve that.
On 23 October, a 13-episode second season was officially ordered by CBS All Access. CBS Interactive President Marc DeBevoise cited the increased subscriptions for All Access since the series’ debut, as well as critical acclaim and fan interest, when announcing the renewal. In June 2018, during production on the season, CBS Television Studios fired Berg and Harberts. The studio and network were pleased with the scripts for the season and early cuts of already filmed episodes, but the first episode of the season had gone significantly over budget – to the point that the budgets for later episodes of the season would have to be cut to cover the difference – and the pair were allegedly abusive towards the series’ writing staff, with multiple writers becoming uncomfortable working with them. Some had apparently been threatened by Harberts after stating their intention to file a formal complaint. Kurtzman was made sole showrunner in their place, and was described as the “glue holding Discovery together”. Kurtzman decided to take over the role because he felt Berg and Harberts had been forced to “pick up the pieces” following Fuller’s departure and he did not want to make someone else do that again. Despite never planning to showrun Discovery, Kurtzman felt as co-creator of the series that it was his responsibility to make sure it was working.
With the change in showrunner came news that Goldsman had not returned as executive producer for the second season, after serving as Kurtzman’s “right-hand man” on the first, because he had a “management style and personality that clashed with the writing staff”. At the end of June, James Duff joined the series as an executive producer, specifically to help Kurtzman run the series’ writers room. Olatunde Osunsanmi, who served as a director and co-executive producer during the first season, became a full executive producer as well and was set as producing director for the rest of the season’s production. Additionally, Jenny Lumet, who joined as a consulting producer at the beginning of the season, was promoted to co-executive producer. In July 2018, the season was confirmed to premiere in January 2019. Star Anson Mount revealed in December that the season had been extended to 14 episodes to allow CBS to amortise the cost of production delays following the showrunner change.
The series’ writers began work on the second season in December 2017, and were considering “science vs. faith” as the main theme of the season. Harberts said the season would be “jam packed” with things that they were not able to do in the first. In March 2018, Harberts clarified that the series would not just be looking at religion, but also “patterns in our lives. It means connections you can’t explain. Who enters your life and who leaves your life and these indelible impressions people make … that is one of our biggest ideas now and it is threading through all of our characters’ lives.” Something that Kurtzman felt “all the best” Star Trek series had was examinations of the real world at the time of their creation, and so this season would address “building walls around ourselves, literally, to keep people out” and how that can “chip away at our essential understanding of Starfleet doctrine, and what it means to assume diversity”. Mount felt that the season was able to “get back to those big questions” because it was no longer questioning the leadership of the Discovery as was done with Captain Gabriel Lorca in the first season. Kurtzman noted that religion is a controversial topic among Star Trek fans, and the series’ study of faith was “never about picking on religion as much as it was about faith in each other and in themselves”. He felt that protagonist Michael Burnham “really wrestled” with faith in the season because she was not raised with it, but in the end was rewarded for finding it. He interpreted this message as being, “If you believe in yourself, ultimately, the best outcome presents itself.”
Without the first season’s Federation-Klingon War storyline, Kurtzman said there would be less focus on the Klingons in the second season and far fewer Klingon-only scenes, but Klingon characters would still appear. He added that the Klingons would grow their hair back to show that they are no longer at war, something he said was always intended and not a response to fan criticisms of the bald Klingons in the first season. The second season has a single serialised story like the first season had, but the writers moved towards a more episodic feel by having a central character or question for each episode. The second season begins where the first season ended, with the arrival of the USS Enterprise. This ties into a larger story that is the main arc for the second season, involving seven mysterious signals and a mysterious “red angel” figure. Harberts wanted to explore the character Christopher Pike, captain of the Enterprise, feeling that he had not been seen much in the franchise. Burnham’s adoptive brother Spock is also a crew member of the Enterprise, but Harberts was less interested in him given his many appearances throughout the franchise. Harberts was also reluctant to have an actor other than Leonard Nimoy or Zachary Quinto portray the character. However, Spock was confirmed to be included in April 2018, and his relationship with Burnham became the most important part of the season for Kurtzman. The writers wanted to tell a new story with Spock that would show him become closer to the Nimoy and Quinto versions over time, visually signified by having the character shave his beard at the end of the season to look more like them. The season also reveals that it was Burnham’s relationship with Spock that allowed him to “fully actualise himself” with James Kirk in the original Star Trek series, which was an important development for Kurtzman to explore when telling this part of Spock’s life.
The season finale had to answer all the season’s mysteries, complete its character arcs, feature a large battle, and set-up stories for the next season. While planning this, the writers realized that they could not do justice to it all within a single episode’s length. It was around this time that CBS added an additional episode to the season’s order, which allowed the writers to expand their finale plans to a two-part season finale. Executive producer Michelle Paradise compared the scope of the finale to a feature film. A goal of the showrunners for the season was to “cement Discovery firmly in the timeline” by reconciling some of the apparent continuity errors caused by the first season, such as why Burnham has never been mentioned by Spock in the franchise before, or why the advanced spore-drive technology used on the USS Discovery is not used on other starships in later Star Trek series. The season ends with Discovery and its crew traveling over 900 years into the future, and Spock recommending to Starfleet that the starship or its crew never be mentioned again to prevent the events of the season from ever being repeated. Kurtzman said this solution was chosen after months of work with the writers, and was additionally made because of the implications it has for the future of the series; he compared the decision to the film Star Trek (2009) starting a new timeline to avoid established continuity.
The season stars the returning Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham, Doug Jones as Saru, Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets, Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly, and Shazad Latif as Voq/Ash Tyler. Wilson Cruz reprises his guest role of Hugh Culber, who died in the first season, and is promoted to the main cast for the second.
In April 2018, Anson Mount – who was considered for the role of Lorca in the first season – was cast as Pike, a “key role” for the season, and a young Spock was confirmed to be appearing in flashbacks; Kurtzman noted that casting for Spock took into consideration a balance between Vulcan logic and revealing “emotion in the eyes and in the small gestures”. Mount revealed in July that he would star for the full season, and that Rebecca Romijn would portray the original series character Number One. Mount and Romijn both signed one year deals for the series, with their characters included as part of the series attempt to have the season align closer to the wider Star Trek continuity. In August, Ethan Peck was announced as portraying Spock in the season. Kurtzman compared the actor to both Nimoy and Quinto and stated that he believed Peck “would, like them, effortlessly embody Spock’s greatest qualities, beyond obvious logic: empathy, intuition, compassion, confusion, and yearning”.
An alternate ending to the first season was revealed in March 2018, introducing a Section 31 agent named Leland who is portrayed by Alan van Sprang. The producers confirmed that Van Sprang would be portraying the character in the second season. Van Sprang had worked with Berg and Harberts on the series Reign, and they had been trying to find a character for him to play throughout production on the first season. The actor described his role in the second season as a “massive part of it”. The alternative ending saw Leland approach Michelle Yeoh’s Philippa Georgiou about joining Section 31, and in February 2018 Kurtzman said that it was possible for Yeoh to reprise the role in the second season along with Jason Isaacs as Gabriel Lorca. Yeoh was confirmed to be appearing in the season to continue the Section 31 storyline in October 2018, while in January 2019, Kurtzman said that Isaacs would not be appearing in the season but could still return to the series in the future.
Tig Notaro was cast in the guest role of Denise Reno in April 2018. She later revealed that this would be a recurring role for the season, and that she had been able to rename her character to Jett Reno. That October, Martin-Green announced that her husband Kenric Green had been cast for the season, and would be making an “indelible contribution”. He portrays Burnham’s father Mike in a flashback in the episode “Perpetual Infinity”, while Sonja Sohn portrays her mother Gabrielle. The latter is revealed to be the “Red Angel”, a character seen throughout the season. Several other recurring guests also return from the first season, including James Frain as Sarek, Mia Kirshner as Amanda Grayson, Mary Chieffo as L’Rell, and Jayne Brook as Katrina Cornwell. Introduced in the season are Bahia Watson as May Ahearn and Rachael Ancheril as Nhan. Kenneth Mitchell, who had a recurring role in the first season as the Klingon Kol, appears in the second season as Kol’s relative Kol-Sha. He also portrays the older version of Tenavik, the son of L’Rell and Tyler.
Hannah Cheesman took over the role of Airiam for the season, with original actress Sara Mitich recast in the role of Nilsson.] Other returners include Emily Coutts as Keyla Detmer, Patrick Kwok-Choon as Gen Rhys, Oyin Oladejo as Joann Owosekun, Ronnie Rowe Jr. as R.A. Bryce, Ali Momen as Kamran Gant, and Julianne Grossman as the voice of Discovery’s computer. David Benjamin Tomlinson also appears throughout the season as Linus. Hannah Spear and Yadira Guevara-Prip respectively reprise their Star Trek: Short Trek roles of Saru’s sister Siranna (from the short “The Brightest Star“) and Tilly’s friend Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po (from the short “Runaway“). The episode “If Memory Serves” begins with archival footage from the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage” featuring the original actors for several characters seen in the series, including Spock, Pike, and Number One, as well as Vina and the Keeper, portrayed in Discovery by Melissa George and Rob Brownstein, respectively.
Costume designer Gersha Phillips and her team created over 180 different costumes for the season. For the Enterprise costumes, Phillips applied the colours from the costumes seen in the original series to the design and style of the Discovery uniforms. She noted that the collars on the Discovery uniforms already evoked the v-shape design of the original uniform collars. The difference in uniforms is explained when a character remarks that the more colourful uniforms are new and being introduced to Starfleet starting with Enterprise. Phillips and her team overlooked the fact that the Discovery uniforms identify rank through pips on their Starfleet badges which are not present on the Enterprise uniforms, and so there was no identification of rank on any of the Enterprise characters. The mistake was pointed out by John Van Citters, the vice president of Star Trek brand management at CBS Studios, and the solution was to add stripes to the sleeves of the uniforms. CGI was used to add these stripes to footage from before the mistake was discovered.
Phillips was asked to make the Section 31 costumes black, and to not give the characters a uniform. Phillips made sure these costumes were different from the cleaner style of the main Starfleet uniforms to highlight the different types of people hired by Section 31 and their different approach. She noted that this was appropriate for Georgiou, who Phillips felt “wouldn’t wear a uniform, because she’s not going to conform”. Kurtzman’s directions to Phillips regarding the Talosians was to look at the costumes from the original series and “revamp” them. After seeing her first designs for the costumes, Kurtzman asked her to take them further. Phillips used fabrics with “puffy” textures printed onto them for the costumes. The Talosians also wear necklaces that were designed in collaboration with jeweller Dana Schneider. The Red Angel suit was inspired by Scarlett Johansson’s costume from the film Ghost in the Shell (2017), with Discovery’s prop master Mario Moreira contributing to the design. It was created with companies Plassens and By Design using 3D printing. Phillips stated that all the actors who wore the suit said it was one of the most comfortable to wear, noting that this is not usually the case for actors wearing complex costumes.
For the Klingons, Phillips was excited to depict the species in a time of peace, and was able to produce several different costumes that were not warrior-based. Phillips noted that in previous appearances groups of Klingons were often depicted as wearing the same costume, but on Discovery there was a mandate to have more diverse looks within groups of aliens. L’Rell’s costumes in the season were intended to be provocative to show the character as “just being the woman that she was … and have her feel more of a full character”. Phillips was inspired by various Klingon costumes from Star Trek: The Next Generation for the season. One of L’Rell’s dresses was created from a jumpsuit bought from Gelareh Designs, a clothing company that Phillips calls “the Klingon store”. A cape for the dress was made from leather pieces that were lifted from the jumpsuit and painted.
Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page of Alchemy Studios, who provide prosthetics and armour for the series, teased in May 2018 that the season would feature a “truly alien” character for which they had to figure out new ways to reduce the weight of the prosthetics and make it breathable for the actor, as well as try improve the actor’s vision because the eyes of the creature did not align with where human eyes are positioned. Hetrick added that there would be more interesting prosthetics for extras, while the pair were able to use a species from earlier Star Trek canon that had not been in the first season of Discovery after producing a list for the executive producers featuring all the species they would like to use.
Several new sets for the Discovery were built for the second season, adding to the ones constructed for the first. These included a new “loop corridor” and new entrances to the mess hall and sick bay sets. The engineering set from the first season was also renovated for the second, with production designer Tamara Deverell explaining that the cinematography department had been complaining about the large amount of light coming from the spore chamber in that set in contrast to the rest of the room. Additionally, some season one sets were repurposed for the second season, with Lorca’s season one ready room becoming a new science lab for Burnham in the second season.
John Eaves and Scott Schneider, designers of the starships for the series, were required to redesign the USS Enterprise for Star Trek: Discovery, making it 25% different from Matt Jefferies’ original design due to legal concerns regarding the ownership of different Star Trek elements. CBS ultimately confirmed that they were free to reuse Jefferies’ design in Star Trek: Discovery, but stood by the changes made by Eaves and Schneider as creative improvements that took advantage of modern visual effects. These changes included adding elements that could realistically be removed or replaced in the time between this series and the beginning of the original series. The visual effects department made further adjustments to the design after Eaves and Schneider completed their work. The final version of the ship seen in the series also adopts some of the characteristics of the Enterprise from the films, such as being “a little bit fatter, a little bit bigger”, to fit into the aesthetic of the series. Elaborating on this, Kurtzman explained that the original designs for the Enterprise would look out of place within the series due to the far more advanced modern technology being used to produce the show. He added that any sets designed for the Enterprise would bridge the look of the original series and Discovery while still trying to adhere to canon and remain consistent with the original designs where possible.
There had been plans to show the interior of the Enterprise during the first-season finale, but this was ultimately saved for the second season. Deverell did extensive research on the original sets before trying to recreate them using Discovery’s “new methodology”, including searching through the CBS archives to do colour tests on the original bridge sets which feature a distinctive red that sometimes appeared to be orange on the original series (Discovery includes a joke about the bridge being orange, though Deverell insisted that it is red). The Enterprise bridge set was built on a new soundstage for the series specifically for the two-part second season finale, rather than being a repurposed set. James Cawley, owner of the Official Star Trek Set Tour, provided reproductions of the buttons from the original bridge set for Deverell to base her buttons on.
Filming for the season began at Pinewood Toronto Studios on 16 April 2018, under the working title Green Harvest. Production was set to take place on the series at the studio until 08 November. At the time of Berg and Harberts’ firing, production was underway on the fifth episode of the season, and a hiatus in filming was planned to follow that. This allowed Kurtzman to take the time to “regroup” the series’ writing staff without delaying the series’ production. The production was ultimately delayed enough that it needed to extend its time at Pinewood in order to complete the season, and to amortise these costs CBS added an additional episode to the season’s run, which pushed the end of filming on the season to 21 December. Due to the delay, episodic director Jonathan Frakes ultimately directed the ninth episode of the season instead of the originally planned tenth.
Kurtzman hoped that if the series was projected in a theatre it would appear indistinguishable from a feature film, and chose to use anamorphic lenses for the season to “immediately [convey] a sense of scope and scale”. He also pushed the lighting and design departments to use colour in ways that are not traditionally considered for television, and challenged the episode directors to each shoot a scene where they would not use the same shot twice; this was to encourage them to use more inventive shot choices rather than just typical “coverage” (filming a master shot of the scene followed by angles from several different sides if time permitted). Kurtzman also wanted as many options available to the editors as possible during post-production. Addressing the fact that Star Trek was originally inspired by naval tradition, Kurtzman said that the season would be leaning further into that than the first did, especially in the way that they filmed the bridge scenes and a funeral sequence. He named Crimson Tide (1995) as an influence for the filming style. Frakes reiterated the cinematic approach to the series, especially comparing the camera work to the style of the Star Trek films directed by J.J. Abrams. He added that Osunsanmi encouraged the episodic directors to “express ourselves visually in as exciting a way as possible” which was different to the restrictions Frakes was used to from other series.
During filming of one of the season’s episodes in August 2018, Anson Mount was involved in an “on-set physical altercation” with the episode’s director when he touched the director while rehearsing a pointing action before beginning a scene. The incident was reported to CBS’s HR department who reviewed it and decided against any disciplinary action for Mount. The actor had apologised to the director at the time. The incident had no effect on Mount’s involvement with the series, as work on the season continued without interruption and the series production was believed to be interested in working with Mount further despite his contract being for the second season of the series only.
The season’s visual effects were provided by CBS Digital, Crafty Apes, Filmworks FX, Fx3x, Ghost VFX, Pixomondo, and Spin VFX. They include digitally created environments and set extensions to portray new planets, the starships, and space visuals, as well as digital enhancements to Saru’s threat ganglia, and adding holograms and external visuals to the Discovery. Completely digital sets created for the season include Discovery’s hangar and the mycelial network, with the actors performing in front of green screen for these. An on-set prop was used for Tyler and L’Rell’s baby son Tenavik, with a digital head added that was animated using performance capture.
Composer Jeff Russo planned to begin work on the second season in May 2018, after receiving the first script for the season. He did not expect to significantly change the tone of his music for the season, feeling that so much work in the first season had gone towards creating a unique sound for the series within the Star Trek franchise which he would like to continue moving forward. Russo did feel that the score for the second season would focus more on the “swashbuckling” aspects he wrote at times for the first season. Russo generally works directly with the showrunners rather than any of the episodic directors but discussed his score for the season’s second episode with director Frakes. A soundtrack album for the season was released digitally by Lakeshore Records on 19 July 2019. It includes three cues from Russo’s Short Treks score.
The season was promoted at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2018, with Notaro moderating a panel that featured Kurtzman, Martin-Green, Jones, Latif, Wiseman, Rapp, Cruz, Chieffo, Mount, and executive producer Heather Kadin. The first trailer for the season debuted at the panel before being released online. Scott Collura at IGN highlighted the lighter tone of the trailer compared to the first season, as well as the Enterprise uniforms seen in the trailer. A second trailer for the season was revealed by Kurtzman and cast members for the season at a panel for the series at New York Comic Con in October, providing a first look at the series’ version of Spock.
After the season had completed airing, an exhibition for the series was held at the Paley Centre for Media in Beverly Hills, California from 08 May to 07 July 2019, titled Star Trek: Discovery – Fight for the Future. It covered the creative process for the season, including production and concept art, models, props and costumes used during production, pieces from the set such as the USS Discovery captain’s chair, and full prosthetic makeup busts. The installation covered two floors of the Paley Centre building, and was free to the public.
Streaming and Broadcast
The season premiered on 17 January 2019 on CBS All Access in the United States. It was broadcast in Canada by Bell Media, on specialty channels Space (English) and Z (French) before streaming on Crave. Netflix released each episode of the season for streaming in another 188 countries, within 24 hours of its US debut.
The episode “The Sound of Thunder” was made available to stream for free on CBS.com, StarTrek.com, and PlutoTV for a week beginning 17 June 2020, as part of a CBS All Access event titled #StarTrekUnited. The episode was among 15 of the “most culturally relevant” Star Trek episodes that were chosen to be included as part of the event, which served as a fundraiser for several organisations including Black Strategy Fund, Movement for Black Lives, and Black Lives Matter. For the fundraiser, $1 was donated to one of those organisations by CBS All Access for every fan that tweeted using the hashtag #StarTrekUnitedGives on the day of 17 June.
The season was released on DVD and Blu-Ray formats in the US on 12 November 2019. The release includes two hours of bonus features, including featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and cast and crew commentaries on four episodes, as well as two shorts from the Star Trek: Short Treks companion series: “Runaway” and “The Brightest Star“.
Star Trek Discovery Series 02
- Episode 01: Brother.
- Episode 02: New Eden.
- Episode 03: Point of Light.
- Episode 04: An Obol for Charon.
- Episode 05: Saints of Imperfection.
- Episode 06: The Sound of Thunder.
- Episode 07: Light and Shadows.
- Episode 08: If Memory Serves.
- Episode 09: Project Daedalus.
- Episode 10: The Red Angel.
- Episode 11: Perpetual Infinity.
- Episode 12: Through the Valley of Shadows.
- Episode 13: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 01.
- Episode 14: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 02.
You can find a full index of Star Trek TV series here.
Star Trek TV Series, Films, and Documentaries
You can find a full index of all Star Trek TV series, films, documentaries here.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Alex Kurtzman, Jonathan Frakes, Olatunde Osunsanmi, Lee Rose, David Barrett, Douglas Aarniokoski, Marta Cunningham, T.J. Scott, Hanelle M. Culpepper, and Maja Vrvilo.
- Writer(s): Ted Sullivan, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Akiva Goldsman, Sean Cochran, Vaun Wilmott, Andrew Colville, Jordon Nardino, Alan McElroy, Kirsten Beyer, Bo Yeon Kim, Erika Lippoldt, Dan Dworkin, Jay Beattie, Michelle Paradise, Chris Silvestri, Anthony Maranville, Brnadon Schultz, and Jenny Lumet.
- Release Date: 17 January 2019 to 18 April 2019.
- Running Time: 50 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.