The name Star Trek has been synonymous with thought-provoking science fiction for over 50 years now. Throughout numerous films and now six television series, Gene Roddenberry’s wagon train to the stars brought culturally curious escapism to the masses. While the long-running franchise hit a few snags in the new millennium, reboot maestro J.J. Abrams breathed new life into the franchise, reintroducing audiences to a rawer version of Kirk and crew from the alternative Kelvin Timeline. The Chris Pine-led Trek reignited public interest in the sci-fi staple, but also met with criticism from fans of the more introspective iteration. Then, along came Star Trek: Discovery. The sixth live-action series launched to equal measures excitement and trepidation, mostly over the decision to return to the era of Kirk, Spock, and Uhura, the pay-service hosting for the show, and the divisive early starship design. Despite several hiccups along the way – including the loss of showrunner Bryan Fuller and production delays – the U.S.S. Discovery is ready to launch this fall. The show features Trek’s first African American female lead in Sonequa Martin-Green, as well as a generally diverse cast, and a reported return to its sci-fi roots. Lets pick this trailer apart and find out what we know.

 

 

MICHAEL BURNHAM IS THE FOCAL POINT

 

The first official trailer packs in a lot of fascinating details about the next Trek. It also makes one thing very clear: for all the unique new species, updated technology, and classic adversaries, Sonequa Martin-Green’s Lt. Cmdr. Michael Burnham is the fulcrum point. Michelle Yeoh’s Philippa Georgiou and Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca may be the captains, but Discovery is her show. Her character commands attention on the screen and the bridge. She blast off into space in a rocket spacesuits. On top of that, Burnham receives some cryptic command advice about inspiring her crew (serious foreshadowing) from none other than legendary Vulcan, Sarek.

Martin-Green’s character is also the only crew member with a shred of backstory in the trailer, as she apparently spent some time on Vulcan (more on that later). The first officer stands proud on the bridge, sporting a fresh yet familiar new uniform, not afraid of taking the fight to the Klingons, she even pushes her commanding officer to fire the first volley and later engages in hand-to-hand combat with a gnarly Klingon warrior.

Compelling, dynamic, and well-deserved of her place on the bridge and on Discovery, Martin-Green’s character is the antecedent and antidote to Captain James T. Kirk.

 

ANCIENT KLINGONS?

 

In the trailer, we’re introduced to a new look, possibly even a new breed of the classic Federation allies and adversaries. Unlike modern Klingons, these warriors have more distinctive faces, wider, heavily-horned forehead ridges, and lack the hair of later iterations. In addition to that, their armored uniforms appear to be constructed of layered leather or bone, and bristles with bony spikes and spiny collars. Far different from the bland and borderline insensitive band from The Original Series, as well as the classic ’90s warriors, Discovery’s Klingons are reminiscent of the early feature films, and more so, their Kelvin Timeline counterparts.

Some rumors suggest that these Klingons are actually part of an ancient sect, while others believe they’re part of a ritualistic cast. Although there’s been no official insight into it, the curious funerary rites from the trailer, as well as the “sarcophagus” ship on display may hint at an earlier sect – perhaps even that their death ritual, complete with a blood-curdling yell, often referenced in earlier series and films, originated from these ships. Of course, these Klingons could also be part of another, unmentioned chapter in their history or simply an attempt to add another facet to the long-running species.

According to casting news, Chris Obi will play T’Kuvma, head of a Klingon family whose “seeking to unite the Klingon houses.” Although the characters are only listed in a pair of episodes, the unification of the empire is reported to play a major factor in the first season and the events of the era. One thing’s for sure, the Klingon’s logo hasn’t changed much, at least if contemporary Starfleet readouts are accurate.

 

CAPTAIN ON THE BRIDGE

 

Even though Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham is effectively the main character, Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Philippa Georgiou also plays a significant role on the show. Much like Sarek, Georgiou seems to be a mentor to the up-and-coming officer, possibly even looking upon her in a motherly manner. The two have served together for seven years, according to Philippa, and she’s definitely has a great deal of respect for her and her capabilities, seeing as the captain recommending her for a promotion moments after we meet them.

One of the few characters with more screen time in the trailer, Captain Georgiou looks to be a major player in the first season. Of course, Yeoh’s tenure on the Shenzhou is unclear but should at least continue through the end of this season in some capacity. Even though her vessel appears to be the primary mode of transit, the Discovery will enter into the equation, either due to reassignment, a tragic accident, or destruction by an enemy combatant. However, what happens to Philippa or brings in Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca is still a mystery, as well as the eventual fate of her kindly Starfleet officer.

 

THE U.S.S. SHENZHOU

 

In spite of its title, the Discovery never shows up during the trailer. Instead, viewers can feast their eyes on several gorgeous shots of Captain Georgiou’s command, the U.S.S. Shenzhou. Similar to a Nebula or Miranda-class starship, it features downward-swept nacelles and a saucer section similar to a Constellation or Excelsior-class vessel. Its design is also reminiscent of the very first Enterprise, the NX-01, which is understandable, considering the uniforms and bridge designs also echoes its predecessor to some degree. One major difference between the Shenzhou and traditional Starfleet vessels is the location of the bridge, which appears to be on the bottom of the saucer section, even though the clip could be shot from a battle bridge or similar tactical area.

In addition to its slickly familiar lines, astute viewers with high-resolution screens can also catch the Shenzhou‘s call numbers: NCC-1227. Since the Discovery is designated NCC-1031, at least according to the previous teaser, this means the latter is actually could be an older ship – assuming the call signs indicate an ascending progression of construction or christening. Also, as noted in the trailer, the newly introduced vessel carries a full complement of photon torpedoes, armaments Captain Georgiou seems wary of firing without provocation.

 

WHERE IS THE DISCOVERY?

 

One of the most pertinent lingering questions from the trailer is: where exactly is the U.S.S. Discovery (and for that matter, Jason Isaacs’ Captain Lorca)? Program title aside, the trailer includes absolutely no references to the curious starship, its crew, or its presence in the fleet – much less a visual reference to it. One possible reason for its absence is Discovery‘s relatively incomplete production. The All Access series only filmed about six episodes before the trailer was released.

There are any number of reasons the self-same ship hasn’t shown up, though, including the possibility that its final rendering isn’t complete or its lack of presence in the first six episodes. Perhaps Lt. Cmdr. Burnham isn’t offered command of the ship until later in the season, which would make her interchange with Captain Georgiou out of chronological order in the trailer, which isn’t unheard of. Fans looking for a brand-spanking new look at the U.S.S. Discovery in action may have to wait until the second trailer, although they can zoom in on the official poster, which has a tiny version of the spacecraft streaking towards the sky.

 

ALL HANDS TO THE BRIDGE

 

Slightly more claustrophobic than its Constellation-class cousin, the Shenzhou‘s bridge blends the control section the Enterprise-NX with elements from the Kelvin Timeline’s Enterprise. The low lighting and eerie blue glow even harken back to the alternative universe Enterprise-D from The Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” with the cooler, militaristic vibe of the battle bridge. Whether this means the Shenzhou is a warship is unclear, but given Georgiou’s adherence to the Federation’s peaceful agenda in the trailer, it seems unlikely.

The vessel’s command section also eschews the nobs and dials of the TOS-era in favor of clear, holographic displays and flat panel stations, also coming equipped with a massive window/viewscreen and what appears to be a heads-up display. The chairs and stations, however, look a lot like those used by Kirk and company in both Kelvin and Prime Timelines

 

SAREK’S RELATIONSHIP TO MICHAEL?

James Frain’s casting as Sarek might have blindsided a few fans, but any Star Trek epics set during the 2250s and diving into the intricacies of Federation diplomacy would be remiss without the Vulcan VIP involved in some way – Mark Lenard or otherwise. Much like Darth Vader in Rogue One, though, Sarek’s presence in Discovery is as reassuring as it is enigmatic.

Early on, Sarek and Lt. Cmdr. Burnham appear to have a significant connection. In particular, one scene involves a young child with a very Vulcan hairdo being scolded by the legendary ambassador about her abysmal command of the language (“your tongue is too human”). A suggestively placed dissolve, featuring a teary-eyed Michael, implies these are her memories, and that they had a painful mentor-mentee relationship.

While difficult to discern, some of her features could hint at a possible Vulcan origin. That might explain Sarek’s “too human” line. In all likelihood, Michael is just a human pupil, but their relationship seems to imply more. Sarek even questions her accomplishments (or those of her ship) at one point, asking her “what have you done out there on the edge of Federation space?” His critique sounds just as patriarchal as it does Federation authoritative. Even if Burnham shares common ancestry or adoptive ties, Spock has thus far never mentioned a sister in 50 years’ worth of canonical appearances.

On the other hand, his half-brother Sybok (from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) came completely out of left field and was thankfully never mentioned again. CBS’s first official poster could also be telling, seeing as it consists of Commander Burnham’s face set against a Vulcan salute.

 

STRANGE NEW WORLDS

 

The opening moments of the Discover trailer dazzle viewers with a gorgeously rendered if arid and rocky planet. Sure, this hazy spot could be somewhere close by, like Vulcan, but there are no recognizable landmarks to compare one way or another. If it is Vulcan, then there wouldn’t be much of a reason for Burnham and Georgiou to run around lost on a heavily populated Federation world? Later on, the crew visits yet another lovely vista, complete with a cool, blue atmosphere and the near-orbit of a ringed planet or moon. It may simply be an alternative perspective one the first desert world, however, there are a handful of early rumors that the planet could be Andor.

One thing’s for certain: as Sarek notes, their location “on the edge of Federation space,” suggests the Shenzhou and its crew are definitely out there, boldly going where no one has gone before.

 

TRANSPORTING BACK IN TIME?

Creating a Star Trek series during an established time period offers some major technological challenges. With touchscreens and powerful computers in our pockets, the 23rd century, especially the tape-deck-on-a-lanyard tech, needs a few aesthetic tweaks to appear more advanced than the 21st century.

Transporters, on the other hand, are a different matter. From their inception on The Original Series, the SFX were created using simple camera tricks and basic special effects to reduce costs. Later films and TV shows integrated and updated the beaming process, thanks to advances in practical and digital effects. Naturally, every new saga sought out its own look and feel for the transporter, and Discovery is no different. Beaming up in 2250, however, is evocative of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. While the Shenzhou’s transporters have a similarly reddish-orange hue, they also update the look with some nifty computer-generated effects. The upgrade may be a little off-putting to era-purists, but the loose connection is appreciated.

 

PHOTON TORPEDOES AT THE READY

 

Another technological curiosity shows up in the trailer. During a tense sequence, where Martin-Green’s first officer (at least) verbally defies Yeoh’s captain, we clearly see a readout displaying a full complement of photon torpedoes locked, loaded, and ready to fire. The clip also gives fans a good look at the refined look of The Shenzhou. The vessel is clearly loaded to bear, but will its trigger-shy commanding officer hesitate and cause the ship’s demise? Or, does maintaining the balance between peace and all-out war ensure a longer life for everyone aboard? With all the cast reshuffles afoot, it doesn’t look good either way.

 

BRAND NEW UNIFORMS

 

The latest uniforms are culled from the various relevant eras in the franchise. A callback to the royal blue look from Enterprise, the new regalia comes complete with gold, silver, and bronze piping to differentiate departments (between command, science, and engineering, we assume). The Starfleet insignias are also comparable to those on Enterprise, although more ornate than the communication badges of Next Generation, hence they’re probably non-functional. With a few updates, though, including losing the shoulder to collar piping, they close down the gap between the NX-01 and the NCC-1701 – while also adding a few subtle flourishes from the rebooted Star Trek films.

Are they era-appropriate? Well, that depends. Most of the attire from the 2250s, before Kirk and crew commanded the Enterprise, is similar to that of TOS – as detailed in the pilot episode “The Cage.” Throughout the course of Discovery, though, the uniforms may evolve to resemble those of 2260. Their new duds could also be retconned to become the standard garb for the era.

 

THE EVA GETS AN UPGRADE

 

One of the most memorable scenes from the dry yet fascinating Star Trek: The Motion Picture is Spock’s jetpack run into V’Ger’s technicolor maw. After that, every Trek-loving child wanted a rocket pack of their own. Better known as a thruster or environmental (EVA) suit, these single occupant, self-contained, propelled getups first appeared in Star Trek: The Original Series, before being tweaked for each consecutive series, well into the 24th century.

Similarly, the Discovery trailer spends a fair amount of time (for a trailer) with Lt. Cmdr. Michael Burnham and her thruster suit. She first climbs into it to investigate an “object of unknown origin” – which is a very Star Trek thing to do – soaring into a beautifully rendered space-scape. Although it’s unclear whether she encounters the Klingons during the same mission, she’s still rocking the EVA when she goes head-to-head with a redesigned Klingon, perhaps atop his vessel.

 

NEW ALIEN SPECIES GALORE

 

Before his departure from the show, Bryan Fuller teased an alien-heavy bridge crew, as well as plenty of new and classic species to marvel over. After watching the first Discovery trailer, it’s obvious he wasn’t kidding. Lt. Saru (Doug Jones), whose race’s biological imperative allows him to “sense death,” is only one of the several new species introduced. The Shenzhou’s crew also features a human or humanoid with what appears to be cybernetic headgear, while another officer sports blue skin – with a visage similar to a Bolian, aside from a black and silver affectation, mark, or accessory on his cheek and forehead.

Strange new world enthusiasts are also treated to a brown creature with tendrils or tentacles dangling over his face, although he may be hostile. True, some of the new aliens aren’t the complete and utter departure from the nose wrinkles, spots, or forehead ridges that cause mild ridicule, but several new species are unique enough to raise an eyebrow or three.

 

EARLY ANDROIDS?

 

In addition to their alien menagerie, Star Trek: Discovery also employs a few non-organics or enhanced humans, or so it appears. One such curiosity is a nautilus-shaped construct with a bright blue forward display. Could this be a shipboard robot? The clip is short and not particularly in-depth, so it’s difficult to tell what it is. The droid-like object could simply be an elaborate helmet, a pre-holodeck virtual reality helmet, or a piece of medical or life-support gear.

The Shenzhou also seems to have a resident cybernetically-enhanced officer. The crewman looks a little bit like Lando Calrissian’s cyborg assistant, Lobot, from The Empire Strikes Back. At the same time, the crewman’s wrap-around unit might assist his visual or auditory processing, similar to the way Geordi LaForge’s VISOR worked on The Next Generation, or even a translating device. Were it a computer-aided implant, though, Discovery could start to connect the artificial intelligence dots between the 23rd and 24th centuries.

 

CLASSIC COMMUNICATORS RETURN

 

Anachronistic or not, few aspects of Star Trek are more iconic than the flip-phone inspiring communicators from The Original Series. Since the latest saga occurs ten years before Kirk and crew took the bridge, a few throwback technologies and tonal similarities are only appropriate. What better way to tie Discovery into TOS than for Captain Philippa Georgiou to flip open her communicator and request to be beamed up. In all honesty, the latest series already displays a number of technological discrepancies from its predecessors, like any long-running science fiction property can fall prey to, seeing as progress marches on. In spite of our need for believable, futuristic items, everyone can get behind the comm system that started it all.

 

NEW WARP DRIVE?

 

Technically, the warp engines on the Shenzhou aren’t different than any other ships from the period. Instead, the special effects themselves got an upgrade. Para-light speed on Trek is often represented with a field of stars that blur into solid lines. Over the years, each show concocted its own variation on the theme. For instance, ’80s films represented warp as strobing rainbow streaks, while later Trek flicks used smears of colorful light. Most of the TV shows on, however, used more linear representations of warp speed travel.

In an effort to innovate the look and feel of the warp drive, the J.J. Abrams’ decided to use a shaky, through-a-tunnel effect, eventually showcasing a warp-bubble effect in Star Trek BeyondDiscovery takes a slightly different approach, instead, creating a rippled warp drive effect and blending it with a more traditional approach – both referencing the admittedly jarring warp sequences from the Kelvin Timeline and the trans-warp look of shows like Voyager and Enterprise.

 

A MORE AGGRESSIVE FEDERATION

 

While Discovery may reclaim some of Star Trek’s more philosophical elements as it establishes itself, the period it explores also represents one of the long-running franchise’s most tumultuous time period, thanks mostly to those pesky Federation-Klingon relations. For instance, Captain Georgiou clearly holds true to her the Federation’s non-aggressive principles, such as seeking diplomatic solutions and operating under the Prime Directive. Lt. Cmdr. Burnham, while raised with the same protocols, seems determined to make a show of force. She also discusses alien-problems with another crewmember, likely her captain, suggesting that the best way to deal with a problem is to “target its neck; cut off its head”.

Her necessitated hostility also portends the series’ edgier themes and darker tone, since airing it on All Access gives Discovery a greater opportunity to dig into the Federation’s dark side. Naturally, it’s too easy for the latest venture to get lost in its cable-light fare. However, if done right, investigating the uglier side of Starfleet and the Federation could easily usher in a new, more introspective era for the franchise – assuming the Prime Directive remains a key component in those dark times.

 

PUTTING THE BUDGET IN THE RIGHT PLACE

 

One of the major coups for many fans was Star Trek: Discovery’s new home on CBS All Access. In addition to paying extra to watch their favorite show , its long-form storytelling format and its shortened season (now up to 15 episodes) didn’t sit well with some fans. CBS, on the other hand, reportedly chose to stream the sixth Trek show in order to help pay for its substantial budget, rumored at $4-6 million per episode. If anything, the first trailer proved that the producers and the network really put its money where its mouth is.

The first trailer handily displays Discovery’s cinematic side. Clearly influenced by J.J. Abrams’ reboots (lens flare, anyone?), the trailer nevertheless displays a familiar look and style. Much like the Kelvin Timeline films, the trailer presents crisp special effects, imaginatively rendered worlds that are in-line with the adventurous scope of the program, and costumes appropriate for the time period. The ships, settings, and general FX sequences are also elaborate yet respectful to the traditions of the network series.

 

 

Series Cast  
Jason Isaacs ...
 Captain Lorca (15 episodes, 2017)
Doug Jones ...
 Lt. Saru (15 episodes, 2017)
Shazad Latif ...
 Lieutenant Tyler (15 episodes, 2017)
Sonequa Martin-Green ...
 Michael Burnham (15 episodes, 2017)
Maulik Pancholy ...
 Dr. Nambue (15 episodes, 2017)
Anthony Rapp ...
 Lt. Stamets (15 episodes, 2017)
Michelle Yeoh ...
 Captain Georgiou (15 episodes, 2017)
Clare McConnell ...
 Dennas (13 episodes, 2017)
Kenneth Mitchell ...
 Kol (13 episodes, 2017)
Damon Runyan ...
 Ujilli (13 episodes, 2017)
Terry Serpico ...
 Admiral Anderson (13 episodes, 2017)
Rekha Sharma ...
 Commander Landry (13 episodes, 2017)
Sam Vartholomeos ...
 Ensign Connor (13 episodes, 2017)
Mary Wiseman ...
 Cadet Tilly (13 episodes, 2017)
Rainn Wilson ...
 Harry Mudd (9 episodes, 2017)
Mary Chieffo ...
 L'Rell (2 episodes, 2017)
Chris Obi ...
 T'Kuvma (2 episodes, 2017)
James Frain ...
 Sarek (1 episode, 2017)
Simon Northwood ...
 Shuttle Pilot (1 episode, 2017)
Adam Winlove-Smith ...
 Sentinel Klingon (uncredited) (2 episodes, 2017)