What Will Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Be About?
We now know that the new series will be set a decade before the original series, but what does that tell us about the central plot?
We learned a bunch of new information about Star Trek: Discoveryvia the Television Critics Association press tour on the new Star Trekshow. One of the most intriguing nuggets? The confirmation that the show would be set 10 years prior to Star Trek: The Original Seriesand showrunner Bryan Fuller’s tease that the first season’s action would be centered around an event in the history of Starfleet that has been “talked about, but never fully explored.” Let’s speculate, shall we?
What is isn’t about.
Before we dive into what the first season of Star Trek: Discoverycould be about, let’s confirm what it isn’t about. Fuller said the event in question is not the Romulan war, which I am kind of sad about. It also has nothing to do with the Kobayashi Maru Starfleet Academy test, though the Star Trek: Discoverycreators have discussed different “Kobayashi Maru scenarios” (aka no-win scenarios) that they want their crew to face — which, frankly, sounds pretty darn ominous. Fuller further ruled out the Federation’s Section 31 black ops division as the focus of the new series.
Given that the founding of the Federation takes place at the end of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2161,almost a full century before the start of Discovery, the new show will also presumably not be about the formation of the Federation — though there will no doubt still be wrinkles to iron out in the Utopian-minded republic.
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What is could be about.
The events take place roughly 10 years prior to Kirk and friends’ five-year mission depicted in The Original Series,which means Star Trek: Discovery will take place roughly around 2256. Fuller has said that it will “bridge the gap” between Star Trek: Enterprise and The Original Series.
As it will be relatively close to Kirk’s mission, Discoverywill play with the “iconography” of that time period — which sounds… retro-futuristic and delightfully bright. Let’s look at a few canon Star Trekcharacters, settings, and events that fit the Star Trek: Discoverytime period…
Robert & Sarah April.
Robert April and Dr. Sarah April are characters who have been touched upon in the Star Trekuniverse, but never fully explored. Robert and Sarah were the first commander and first chief medical officer, respectively, of the U.S.S. Enterprise when it launched on its first five-year mission in 2245.
Their characters are primarily explored in Star Trek: The Animated Series (where they are voiced by James Doohan and Nichelle Nichols, respectively),so their positions in canon are sometimes challenged, but Star Trek: Discoverycould put an end to that debate. Robert and Sarah might not be primary characters in Star Trek: Discovery,but they could play some kind of role.
The new series seems to be set after the Aprils’ five-year mission on the Enterprise. Could Robert and/or Sarah be members of the crew of the Discovery post-Enterprise? Or could they, perhaps, be mentor-types for some of the characters in question? As is the case with most of the Star Trekuniverse, the possibilities are endless…
Captain Christopher Pike, “The Cage,” and “The Menagerie.”
The first pilot of Star Trek: The Original Serieswas entitled “The Cage,” and had some notable differences from the second pilot of the series, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”…
It has Captain Christopher Pike in charge of the Enterprise, rather than Captain James Kirk. It had a female first-officer known as Number One and played by Gene Roddenberry’s wife Majel Barrett (aka Nurse Chapel/Voice of the Computer/Lwaxana Troi). And though Spock was present, his character was less reserved than he would become in the canon series.
Later, much of the footage from “The Cage” was used in the first season, Hugo Award-winning two-parter, “The Menagerie,” making much of the events — which took place 10 year prior to The Original Series— into canon. Given the timeline of Christopher Pike’s mission, the inclusion of some elements of his mission, story, or crew seems possible in Star Trek: Discovery.
On the other hand, Pike is a character who has gotten a fair amount of play in the Star Trekreboot movies — not to mention he is on the Enterprise, not the Discovery — which could dissuade Fuller from using him in Star Trek: Discovery, if the show is going for a fresh story filled with new characters.
Fuller said at the TCAs that — though some younger versions of familiar, iconic Star Trekcharacters may be introduced in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery —the first season will focus on bringing new characters into the canon. Does this exclude Pike and other elements of “The Cage”/”The Menagerie? We’ll have to wait and see…
The Treaty of Armens.
Are you ready for some angsty treaty negotiation? Memory Alpha cites the Treaty of Armens as the hottest event of 2255. As you probably already know from your Federation history, the treaty ended the conflict between the Federation and the Sheliak Corporation, effectively giving several Class H planets to the Sheliak, which actually sounds like it could provide some meaty drama.
We learned about the treaty in the Star Trek: The Next Generationepisode “The Ensigns of Command,” when Captain Picard was tasked with overseeing the forced emigration of 15,000 colonists from a Federation colony in violation of the treaty. I don’t want to spoil the episode, but things got messy. Those Sheliak do not mess around.
According to Memory Alpha, the Treaty of Armens contains 500,000 words and took 372 Federation legal experts to draft, so maybe there will be lots of lawyers on the new show? Maybe we’ve been looking at the “discovery” subtitle wrong this whole time and it doesn’t refer to the exploration of a new world, people, or galaxy, but rather the Earth-based pre-trial procedure.
Something else altogether.
Let’s face it, Bryan Fuller is probably going to go full-on new characters, setting, and, er, discovery here, so the aforementioned canon characters and settings — though they could play a role in Star Trek: Discovery— could very well not be the main event Fuller teased at the TCAs. That being said, Fuller has proven himself a master adapter before, creating new, imaginative canon out of an already-existing story with Hannibal.
Star Trek: Discoverydoesn’t need to completely reinvent the wheel in order to give us a fresh and innovative story set in the Star Trekuniverse. After a decade of Star Trekreboot movies that weren’t always faithful to the humanistic themes inherent in this beloved fictional universe, we’re less concerned with superficial continuities like character or plot and more concerned with Discoverygetting the explorative, questioning tone of this show right. More than anything else, that kind of canon matters…