Star Trek: Discovery TV Series Overview


Introduction

Star Trek: Discovery is an American television series created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman for the streaming service CBS All Access.

Launched in 2017, it is the first scripted series developed specifically for that service. The seventh series in the Star Trek franchise, it was the first series in the franchise since Star Trek: Enterprise concluded in 2005. Star Trek: Discovery begins roughly a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series, and follows the crew of the USS Discovery on various adventures.

Outline

Beginning roughly ten years before the events of Star Trek: The Original Series, the show sees the Klingon houses become united in a war with the United Federation of Planets that heavily involves the crew of the USS Discovery (NCC-1031). In the second season, after the war has ended, Discovery investigates seven mysterious signals and a strange figure known as the “Red Angel”. This conflict ends with the Discovery travelling to the 32nd century, more than 900 years into their future.

Cast

  • Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham:
    • A science specialist on the USS Discovery who is promoted to captain at the end of the third season.
    • Burnham is a human who was raised following Vulcan culture and traditions by Sarek.
    • A non-captain protagonist was chosen to give the series a different perspective from previous Star Trek series, but the writers always knew that she would become captain eventually.
    • Co-creator Bryan Fuller gave her a traditionally male name, which he had done with the female leads on three of his previous series.
  • Doug Jones as Saru:
    • First officer of the USS Discovery who becomes captain for the third season.
    • Saru is the first Kelpien to enter Starfleet.
    • A new species created for Discovery, Kelpiens were hunted as prey on their home planet and thus evolved the ability to sense the coming of danger.
    • Jones based Saru’s walk on that of a supermodel, out of necessity due to the boots he had to wear to portray the character’s hooved feet.
    • The producers compared Saru to the characters Spock and Data from previous series.
  • Shazad Latif as Voq/Ash Tyler:
    • Voq, an albino Klingon, undergoes extensive surgery to pose as the human Ash Tyler, who becomes chief of security for Discovery.
    • Voq was credited as being portrayed by “Javid Iqbal”, an invented actor named for Latif’s father, to hide the connection between the characters.
    • Latif described his character as “complex and painful”, and noted that he has a relationship with Burnham.
    • Voq’s accent is Arabic-inspired, and Latif tried to maintain “a kind of pharyngealness” to Tyler’s American accent.
    • For the second season, Latif felt that he was playing a third character that melded Voq and Tyler, comparing this relationship to that of Bruce Banner and the Hulk in Marvel Comics.
  • Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets:
    • Chief engineer aboard Discovery and a science officer specialising in astromycology (the study of fungi in space) whose research led to the development of Discovery’s experimental organic propulsion system.
    • The character is inspired by a real-life mycologist of the same name.
    • He is the first openly gay character in a Star Trek series.
    • Rapp acknowledged that Hikaru Sulu was portrayed as gay in the film Star Trek Beyond (2016), calling that “a nice nod”, but said the series would actually explore Stamets and his partner “in conversation, in our living quarters; you get to see our relationship over time, treated as any other relationship would be treated”.
  • Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly:
    • An ensign aboard Discovery.
    • She works under Stamets and is Burnham’s roommate.
    • The character represents people at the bottom of the Starfleet hierarchy.
    • Season one co-showrunner Aaron Harberts described her as optimistic and “sort of the soul of our show.”
  • Jason Isaacs as Gabriel Lorca:
    • Captain of the Discovery in the first season, a “brilliant military tactician”.
    • Isaacs described the character as “probably more f-ked up than any of” the previously seen Star Trek captains.
    • He plays the character with a slight southern US accent, and had initially wanted to ad-lib a catchphrase for the character, feeling that all Star Trek captains should have one, coming up with “git’r done” which the writers turned down due to it being widely used and trademarked by Larry the Cable Guy.
  • Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber:
    • Chief medical officer aboard Discovery and Stamets’ husband.
    • Cruz said portraying the first openly gay couple in Star Trek was “a long time coming” and praised the way the series did not go out of its way to focus on their relationship.
    • The character is killed in the first season, but returns from the dead in the second season in a larger role.
  • Anson Mount as Christopher Pike:
    • Captain of the Enterprise who takes temporary command of the Discovery in the second season.
    • The character was first portrayed by Jeffrey Hunter in “The Cage“, a pilot for the original series.
    • Mount described Pike as “very by-the-book, usually, and a good person”, while executive producers Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman described him as being the opposite of Lorca with a “very captain-like” presence and “enough confidence and authority to apologise when he is wrong”.
    • Mount did not try to imitate Hunter’s performance.
  • David Ajala as Cleveland “Book” Booker:
    • A courier in the 32nd Century who works with Burnham.
  • Rachael Ancheril as Nhan:
    • Former Enterprise crewmember who became security chief aboard Discovery.
    • Nhan left in the third season during the 32nd Century.

Production

Development

Announcement

On 02 November 2015, CBS announced a new Star Trek television series to premiere in January 2017, “on the heels” of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek: The Original Series in 2016. This was the first Star Trek series since Star Trek: Enterprise concluded in 2005, and the first show to be developed specifically for the CBS All Access streaming service. Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of the films Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), and Heather Kadin were set as executive producers on the series, which would not be related to the 2016 film Star Trek Beyond. The January 2017 date was the earliest that CBS could release a new Star Trek series after an agreement the company made when it split from Viacom in 2005. Showtime, Netflix, and Amazon Video all offered “a lot of money” for the rights to release the series, but after heavily investing in the new All Access service, CBS believed that a returning Star Trek could be “the franchise that really puts All Access on the map”. In January, CBS president Glenn Geller said the CBS network were not creatively involved in the series, despite plans for the network to broadcast the pilot episode, saying, “It really is for All Access.”

Bryan Fuller

After beginning his career writing for the series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, Bryan Fuller was announced as the new series’ showrunner and co-creator alongside Kurtzman in February 2016. Nicholas Meyer, writer and director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), also joined the series as a consulting producer. In March, Rod Roddenberry (the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) and Trevor Roth of Roddenberry Entertainment also joined the series as executive producers. Fuller said that working with people previously involved with Star Trek was “really about making sure that we maintain authenticity”, and said that Meyer – who is widely considered to have made the best Star Trek film in The Wrath of Khan – brings “a clarity and a cleanliness to the storytelling.”

Fuller had publicly called for Star Trek to return to television for years, particularly because of its impact on minority groups, as he explained, “I couldn’t stop thinking about how many black people were inspired by seeing Nichelle Nichols on the bridge of a ship. I couldn’t stop thinking about how many Asian people were inspired by seeing George Takei and feeling that gave them hope for their place in the future. I wanted to be part of that representation for a new era.” When Fuller first met with CBS about the series, the company did not have a plan for what the new show would be. He proposed an anthology series, with each season being a standalone, serialised story set in a different era. This would begin with a prequel to The Original Series, followed by stories set during The Original Series, during Star Trek: The Next Generation, and then “beyond to a time in Trek that’s never been seen before”. Fuller compared this to what American Horror Story did for horror, and described the proposal as a platform for “a universe of Trek shows”. CBS instead suggested he create a single serialized show to see how that performed first, and Fuller began further developing the concept of a prequel to The Original Series.

Fuller announced in June 2016 that the first season would consist of 13 episodes, though he would prefer to produce 10 episodes a season moving forward. A month later, Fuller announced the series’ title to be Star Trek: Discovery, and revealed that it would be set in the “Prime Timeline” (which includes the previous Star Trek series, but not the modern reboot films) to keep the concurrent series and films separate, so “we don’t have to track anything [happening in the films] and they don’t have to track what we’re doing”. Also in July, CBS Studios International licensed the series to Netflix for release outside the United States and Canada, a “blockbuster” deal that paid for the show’s entire budget (around US$6-7 million per episode). During pre-production on the series, Fuller and CBS had further disagreements on the direction of the show. The production was starting to overrun its per-episode budget, and was falling behind schedule due to Fuller supervising all aspects of the series while also serving as showrunner on another new show, American Gods. This caused frustration among CBS executives who felt Fuller should be focused on having Discovery ready for release by the January 2017 premiere date.

By August 2016, Fuller had hired Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts, whom he had worked with on Pushing Daisies, to serve as co-showrunners with him. A month later, he and Kurtzman asked CBS to delay the series’ release so they could meet the high expectations for it, and the studio pushed the series premiere back to May 2017.” At the end of October, CBS asked Fuller to step down as showrunner, and announced a restructuring of the production: Berg and Harberts were made sole showrunners, working from a broad story arc and overall mythology established by Fuller; Kurtzman and Fuller would continue as executive producers, but with Fuller moving his attention fully to American Gods; and Akiva Goldsman would join the series in a supporting producer role, similar to the role he held on Fringe alongside Kurtzman. CBS reiterated that they were “extremely happy with [Fuller’s] creative direction” for the series, though some elements of the series that came directly from Fuller were dropped, including some designs and “more heavily allegorical and complex story” points. Fuller later confirmed that he was no longer involved with the series, but expressed interest in returning for future seasons if he was asked.

Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts

With production set to finally begin on the series in January 2017, “a lot of careful deliberation [was] continuing to go into making Discovery special, from the choice of directors, to set design, to the special effects.” Ted Sullivan joined the series to serve as supervising writing producer. At CBS’s 2017 upfront presentation, CBS Interactive president Marc DeBevoise confirmed a “fall” release date for the series, and announced that the episode order had been expanded to 15 episodes. In June, CBS announced a new premiere date of 24 September 2017, with the season airing through November 2017, and then beginning again in January 2018. This break gave more time to complete post-production on the second half of the season. Also that month, Kurtzman said that he and Fuller had discussed future seasons before the latter’s departure, and promised that “what’s there in terms of story and certainly in terms of set-up, character, big ideas, the big movement of the season, that’s all stuff that Bryan and I talked about” and would not be altered. Goldsman said in August that future seasons would have “a hybridised [anthology] approach” with “arcs which will have characters that we know and characters that we don’t know.” Kurtzman added that the success of Discovery could lead to other new Star Trek series that could potentially use the anthology format.

By the end of August, Berg and Harberts had developed a “road map” for a second season and “the beginnings of one” for a third. It was also revealed that an average episode of the first season had ultimately cost US$8-8.5 million each, making it one of the most expensive television series ever created. This exceeded the original Netflix deal, but CBS still considered the series paid for due to the number of new All Access subscribers that it was expected to draw. After the series premiere, Kurtzman said the producers wanted to avoid announcing release dates for any future seasons, due to the external pressure that having to delay them caused with the first season. Despite this, he hoped a second season would be available in early 2019. The second season was officially ordered in October 2017, consisting of 13 episodes. Goldsman did not return for the season after clashing with the series writing staff during production on the first, while Meyer was not asked to return for the second season. In June 2018, when production on the second season was underway, CBS fired Berg and Harberts. This was due to the first episode of the season going significantly over budget, as well as alleged abusive behaviour by the pair directed at the series’ writing staff. Kurtzman was made sole showrunner and was set to “regroup” the writers without causing any delay to the season’s production timeline.

Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise

After Kurtzman took over, the second season was confirmed to be on track for a January 2019 premiere, though there ultimately was enough of a delay in production that CBS extended the season’s episode count to 14 as a way to amortise the cost of the delays. Shortly after the season premiere, in February, the series was renewed for a third season with writer Michelle Paradise promoted to co-showrunner alongside Kurtzman. In October 2019, Kurtzman said the third season would consist of 13 episodes.

Active development on a fourth season had begun by January 2020, and it was officially announced in October. Also in October, Kurtzman was asked how long he intended for Discovery to continue, especially with other streaming series being cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said “there are years and years left on Discovery”, adding that the series’ jump into the future with the third season had opened up new variables and storytelling opportunities that were preventing the series from feeling stale. He also noted the precedent of several previous Star Trek series running for seven seasons each, and later added that the series would remain in its new future setting for the rest of its run.

Writing

The series’ writers room is based at Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout offices in Santa Monica, and includes “fans who all have very different relationships to Trek,” which Kurtzman said is “a healthy thing”. Fuller wanted to differentiate the series from the previous 700+ episodes of Star Trek by taking advantage of the streaming format of All Access and telling a single story arc across the entire first season. He and Kurtzman developed this story from the “DNA” of certain The Original Series episodes to find “the spirit of what Star Trek offers, both in terms of high-concept science fiction storytelling and really wonderful metaphors for the human condition”. Berg said that the series’ writers “are so in love with” The Original Series, The Next Generation, and the family aspect of those series, while Harberts added that Meyer’s Star Trek films were an especial influence on Discovery because “his storytelling is complex and intellectual and yet there’s a lot of room for character voices”.

The titular ship was named after Discovery One from 2001: A Space Odyssey, NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery, and “the sense of discovery … what [that] 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”. Fuller saw the series as a bridge between Enterprise and The Original Series – which are set around 150 years apart – but set much closer to the latter to allow the series to “play with all the iconography of those ships and those uniforms”. In May 2017, Sullivan described the series as “a genuine prequel” to The Original Series, with Goldsman later adding that there were many classic Star Trek elements that fans among the writers wished to include in the series, but could not because they were included in The Original Series as something being discovered by Starfleet for the first time then. The choice to feature a single serialised story throughout the first season was inspired by the general change in television to tell more realistic and serialised stories rather than the “new destination-based adventure each week” format mostly used in previous Star Trek series. Fuller had been one of several writers during the 1990s pushing for Deep Space Nine and Voyager to move towards this style. Also inspired by modern, “peak television” series such as Game of Thrones was a willingness to kill off major characters for dramatic reasons, though the writers wanted to avoid doing so gratuitously or for “shock value”.

Fuller said the series could “push the content envelope since it won’t be constrained by broadcast standards”, but “it’s still Star Trek. It will probably be slightly more graphic content … I imagine we’re going to shoot scenes a couple of ways and see what feels more authentic in the editing room.” Harberts ultimately described the series as a “hard PG-13”, saying the series could include “some violent things or [a] tiny bit of language” but they still wanted the show to be for families and to “honour what the franchise is.” On using time travel in the series, a plot device used in at least two episodes of every previous live-action Star Trek season, Fuller said that it had not yet been used for any episode by the end of August 2016, and, “You never know when you want to pull out that device but I am not anticipating an over-reliance on time travel to tell this season’s stories.” The series’ writers also chose to ignore Gene Roddenberry’s longstanding rule that Starfleet crew members not have any significant conflict with one another or be depicted negatively (a rule that Roddenberry himself did not always strictly follow). Harberts explained, “We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions. People have to make mistakes – mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future … the thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts.” Because of the show’s position as a prequel to The Original Series, the producers felt it was more important for Discovery to build towards Roddenberry’s ideals, and to show that “you can’t simply be accepting and tolerant without working for it, and so this show is about that struggle.”

Casting

By June 2016, Fuller had met with several actors, and said that “we want to carry on what Star Trek does best, which is being progressive. So it’s fascinating to look at all of these roles through a colourblind prism and a gender-blind prism”. A month later, Kadin clarified that the series would feature minority, female, and LGBTQ characters. In August, Fuller said the series would feature “about seven” lead characters, and unlike previous Star Trek series would star a lieutenant commander to be played by a non-white actress. He said the series would also include more alien characters than other Star Trek series, and would feature at least one openly gay character. Fuller, who is gay himself, had been determined to see this happen since receiving hate mail while working on Voyager when a character on that show was rumoured to be coming out as gay.

By August, Fuller had discussed the series’ casting with Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space who made a cameo appearance in an episode of The Next Generation. He anticipated casting announcements in October, but none had been made by the end of that month. The majority of the series main characters were believed to have been cast by then, but no actress had been cast for the series’ lead role. This was a source of “some internal stress” at CBS. Several African American and Latina actresses were being looked at for the role, with CBS “not seeking a huge star and [preferring] a fresh face for the part.” In October, the cast was believed to include “a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor”, with one of those male leads played by an openly gay actor.

In November 2016, Doug Jones and Anthony Rapp were revealed to be cast, as science officers Saru and Stamets, respectively. The former is a Kelpien, an alien race created for the series, while the latter is the first Star Trek character to be conceived and announced as gay. Sonequa Martin-Green was cast in the lead role in December, which was officially confirmed in April 2017, with the character’s name revealed to be Michael Burnham. Also in December, Shazad Latif was cast as the Klingon Kol. In March 2017, Jason Isaacs was cast as Captain Lorca of the USS Discovery, and Mary Wiseman joined as Tilly, a cadet. At the end of April, Latif was revealed to have been recast in the role of Starfleet Lieutenant Tyler. In the series, this role is shown to be an undercover persona used by the Klingon Voq, who was initially credited as being portrayed by the invented actor Javid Iqbal to hide the fact that Latif was portraying both Voq and Tyler.

Rapp revealed in July 2017 that Wilson Cruz, whom Rapp had previously worked with on the musical Rent, would portray Stamets’ love interest Hugh Culber. The character is killed off during the first season, which was criticised by some as following the “bury your gays” trope. However, the executive producers of the series, Cruz, and GLAAD immediately released a statement saying “death is not always final in the Star Trek universe” and that the relationship between Culber and Stamets would continue to be explored. Harberts described it as one of the most important relationships in the series. Cruz was subsequently promoted from his recurring guest role to the series’ main cast for the second season, in which Culber is brought back to life. After the first season concluded with the Discovery receiving a distress call from the USS Enterprise, specifically from Captain Christopher Pike, Harberts expressed interest in exploring that character; Anson Mount was cast in the role in April 2018, and stars for the second season.

In July 2019, David Ajala joined the cast as new series regular Cleveland “Book” Booker for the third season. Rachael Ancheril is also credited as starring for her appearances in the season, reprising her recurring guest role as Nhan from the second season. She is written out of the series in the third season’s fifth episode.

Design

Mark Worthington and Todd Cherniawsky served as initial production designers for the series, with Tamara Deverell taking over during production on the first season; Gersha Phillips and Suttirat Anne Larlarb designed the costumes for the series; veteran Star Trek designer John Eaves designed starships with Scott Schneider; Glenn Hetrick and Neville Page of Alchemy Studios provided prosthetics and armour, with Page having previously designed for the “Kelvin Timeline” Star Trek films; and Mario Moreira served as prop master for the series. The series also employed seven art directors, over nine illustrators, more than thirty-five set designers, and over four hundred and fifty painters, carpenters, sculptors, model makers, welders, set dressers, and prop builders. The designers consult with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for scientific accuracy.

Fuller said on the general approach to design on the show, “we’re producing the show in 2016. We have to update the style of the effects, the style of the sets, the style of the makeup … all of the other series have been produced [at a time that] isn’t as sophisticated as we are now with what we can do production-wise, we’re going to be reestablishing an entire look for the series” and for Star Trek moving forward. Fuller had wanted the series’ uniforms to reflect the primary colours of The Original Series, but this was discarded after his departure. However, Fuller’s designs for the Klingons, which he “really, really wanted” to redesign, were retained. 3D Systems’ “cutting edge” 3D printing techniques were widely used in the making of the series. For the prosthetics, Page and Hetrick took detailed laser scans of the actors so they could simulate make-up and prosthetics in a virtual environment before creating the practical version. Fabric for the Starfleet uniforms seen in the series was custom-dyed in Switzerland; the costumes were cut and assembled in Toronto by Phillips and her department. The main uniforms seen in the series are a navy blue specifically mixed for the show, with gold or silver embellishments depending on the division of the officer. Medical officers wear a “hospital white” variant, also custom-dyed in Switzerland, while the captain’s uniform is the standard navy blue but with additional gold piping on the shoulders. Starfleet insignia badges were moulded from silicon bronze, and then polished and plated by a jeweller to create custom colours for the series, based on the division of the officer wearing the uniform: gold for command, silver for sciences and medical, and copper for operations. Props such as tricorders and hand scanners, communicators, and phasers were produced with 3D printing and heavily inspired by their designs in The Original Series.

The design of the USS Discovery is based on an unused Ralph McQuarrie design for the USS Enterprise from the unproduced film Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, which Fuller had noted in July 2016 was “to a point that we can’t legally comment on it until [our legal team] figures out some things”. McQuarrie’s designs were based on the concepts created by Ken Adam to feature a vessel with a flattened secondary hull. Fuller wanted “something distinct about what our Star Trek was going to look like”, and after seeing McQuarrie’s design “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.” The design for the Discovery went through several revisions and refinements before the final version was approved in December 2016. The sickbay on the Discovery was inspired by that of the Enterprise from The Original Series. Other Federation starships created for the show include the USS Shenzhou and the USS Europa. Sets for the Discovery’s interiors were described as a “tangle of corridors and rooms”, and were designed to match with the exterior design of the ship, so “the rooms [could believably] fit inside the house”, but there was some artistic license taken in places. The graphics used for the Starfleet computer systems were designed to be believably more advanced than modern technology, but to also “honour the look and feel” of the designs used in previous series. The initial colours allowed for the graphics were mostly restricted to blues, with the intention of these becoming more colourful the closer the series gets to the time period of The Original Series.

The opening title sequence for the show was created by Prologue using 2D motion graphics. The sequence, which uses a “vivid, sepia-soaked palette”, depicts elements from throughout the history of Star Trek – such as phasers, communicators, and the Vulcan salute – and deconstructs them. Prologue creative director Ana Criado “wasn’t all that versed” in Star Trek before beginning work on the sequence, which proved to be an advantage when the series’ producers asked for the sequence to be unlike any previous Star Trek titles sequence. A theme of “blueprints” was decided for the sequence to acknowledge that it is a prequel, “literally deconstructing Trek iconography”. Criado explained that original plans were for the sequence to be in black and white, but this was found to be too “cold” and was replaced with a Renaissance-inspired sepia look “to make it look like we are designing everything from scratch”. The sequence was completed before the theme music for the series was finalised. When updating the sequence for the second season to deconstruct new elements specific to that story – including the Captain’s chair and the “Red Angel” – Prologue was able to match the rhythm of the music more closely than they were for the first season. The sequence was updated again for the third season. The third season also introduces a new logo for the series to reflect its move to the far future. Kurtzman felt this was especially important since the series’ initial logo had been reflective of the first season’s Klingon storyline, which the series had now moved on from.

Filming

Star Trek: Discovery is filmed at Pinewood Toronto Studios. Some of the series’ sets took over six weeks to create, and new sets were being built up until the end of production of the season. Discovery took advantage of multiple soundstages at the studio, including the largest soundstage in North America. Some episodes for the show were filmed solely on existing sets, making them bottle episodes, though Harberts said the series would not do anything “as bottle-y as ‘everyone is stuck in the mess hall!'” Various scenes from the show have been filmed on locations around Toronto, including the Aga Khan Museum and the Scarborough Bluffs.

For the visual scope of the series, Kurtzman felt that the show had to “justify being on a premium cable service”. The showrunners were particularly inspired by Star Trek: The Motion Picture and its “wider scope”, with Harberts explaining that the series is shot in a 2:1 aspect ratio which “just lends itself to a very lyrical way of telling the story.” He added that some of the series’ visuals were influenced by the modern Star Trek films from J.J. Abrams. Some of these influences, per Goldsman, are “the ability to be creative cinematically…the intimate discourse, the humanistic storytelling with the giant canvas that is Star Trek. A more kinetic camera, a more dynamic way of existing”. The producers worked closely with pilot director David Semel to make the series look as cinematic as possible, including filming the bridge of Starfleet’s ships in such a way as “not to shoot in a sort of proscenium box…to be able to get the camera into spaces where, you know, to shoot it in interesting ways, which is a combination of choreographing a scene to motivate the camera moving, and also lighting.” The cinematographers wanted to emphasize on-set sourcing, with lighting built in wherever it would naturally appear to help create a more realistic feel, and distance the series from the “stage” feel of The Original Series. The lighting could also be controlled to create completely different situations, such as the lighting of a Starfleet red alert. Harberts said that the cinematographers wanted the series to have a “Rembrandt texture”. The second season used a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

Visual Effects

Visual effects producers were hired to begin work on the series during the initial writing period, with Fuller explaining that the series would require such things as “digital augmentation on certain alien species” and “the transporter beams”. He said, “We’re trying to cultivate distinct looks for all of those things that are unique to our version of Star Trek and carry through the themes we love seeing in fifty years of Star Trek, but doing a slightly different approach.” Pixomondo is the primary visual effects vendor for the series, with Spin VFX and Crafty Apes also working on the show. Kurtzman noted that the series utilises multiple CG environments which take several months to properly render. The shuttle bay of the Discovery is completely computer-generated, with actors performing in front of a green screen for scenes in that environment; using the digital set is more expensive than any other set created for the series, including the practically-built ones.

Music

The first teaser for the series featured music composed by Fil Eisler, which he “threw together as an audition” within three weeks. Before production on the series began, Charles Henri Avelange had also composed and recorded music as “a showcase for CBS”, while both Cliff Eidelman and Austin Wintory were considered for the series’ composer.

In July 2017, Jeff Russo was announced as composer for the series. Russo recorded the series’ score with a 60-piece orchestra, at the Eastwood Scoring Stage at Warner Bros. Studios in California. The show’s main theme incorporates elements from the original Star Trek theme by Alexander Courage. Russo acknowledged that not all existing Star Trek fans were going to appreciate the new theme, but felt that regardless of how some felt it compared to previous themes in the franchise it still accurately represented this series.

Individual soundtrack albums for the two chapters of the first season were respectively released on 15 December 2017 and 06 April 2018. A soundtrack album for the second season was released on 19 July 2019.

Marketing

The first full trailer for the series was released in May 2017. Forbes’s Merrill Barr said the trailer was a good sign for many who believed the series would never be released following the many production setbacks and delays, saying, “Having a legitimate trailer that can be watched over and over again brings signs of hope … Star Trek: Discovery is real, and now we have proof.” Chris Harnick of E! News described the trailer as “gorgeous” and “truly cinematic”, and because of the appearances of Sarek and the Klingons in the footage, “this is the Star Trek you know and love.” Aja Romano at Vox called the trailer’s visuals “sumptuous” and “modern, but still very much in keeping with the aesthetic of previous Trek series”. She continued, “What gets short shrift in this trailer is the series’ overarching plot … In any case, seeing the Klingons in all their combative glory feels a bit like coming home for Trek fans.” Also in May, McFarlane Toys signed a toy license deal with CBS to produce “figures, role play weapons and accessories” for Discovery. CBS Consumer Products senior vice president Veronica Hart explained that McFarlane was chosen as the first licensee for the series because of its “commitment to quality and dedication to fans”. The deal will also see the company “create merchandise from the entire Star Trek universe, ranging from the classic The Original Series to its popular movie franchise.” The first merchandise produced under the deal were released in mid-2018. In 2019, Round 2 released a model kit based on Discovery.

Release

The first episode of Star Trek: Discovery aired in a “preview broadcast” on CBS in the United States and was made available with the second episode on CBS All Access. Subsequent first-run episodes stream weekly on All Access.

CBS Studios International licensed the series to Bell Media for broadcast in Canada, and to Netflix for another 188 countries. In Canada, the premiere was simulcast with CBS on both the CTV Television Network and on the specialty channel Space before being streamed on Crave; it was also broadcast in French on the specialty channel Z. Subsequent episodes are released through Space, Z, and Crave, with Space airing each episode 30 minutes before it is streamed on All Access. In the other countries, Netflix releases each episode of the series for streaming within 24 hours of its US debut. This agreement also saw Bell Media and Netflix acquire all previous Star Trek series to stream and broadcast in their entirety.

Reception

According to Nielsen Media Research, the CBS broadcast of the first episode was watched by a “decent” audience of 9.5 million viewers. The premiere of the series led to record subscriptions for All Access, with the service having its biggest day of signups, as well as its biggest week and month of signups thanks to the series. According to “app analytics specialist” App Annie, the premiere of the series also caused the number of downloads of the All Access mobile app to more than double, with revenue from the app for CBS doubling compared to the average in-app revenue during the previous 30 days.

Lawsuit

In August 2018, Egyptian video game developer Anas Abdin announced that he would be suing CBS for allegedly infringing his creative property by copying elements of his unreleased video game Tardigrades, including oversized tardigrades and similar characters. The lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Lorna G. Schofield in September 2019, finding that the series and video game were not “substantially similar as a matter of law”, and that the only similarities were the space setting and the use of alien tardigrades. Abdin appealed this dismissal, but the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld Schofield’s decision in August 2020.

Star Trek: Discovery Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 24 September 2017 to Present.
  • Running Time: 37-65 minutes.
  • Rating: 12.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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