Walk onto the soundstages at Toronto’s Pinewood Studios, a massive complex of airplane hangers jutting out into Lake Ontario, and you’ll see transporter rooms, engine rooms and lots of vaguely futuristic hallways. A producer is giving journalists an impromptu tour, pointing out small details like the Malaysian puppets hanging in an officer’s ready room and bragging about the creation processes of phasers, badges and alien races.
Walk a little further, and you’ll come to a gleaming bridge. A Starfleet commander’s seat sits in the middle. There are work stations on both sides, complete with seats and small displays showing wavy blue lines. Everything is in varying shades of gray, with the metal gleaming a shade brighter than the darker upholstery. The whole thing faces a giant hole, through which actors will see a green screen and viewers will eventually see the cosmos. Everything curves around the outside to the top, making it feel as if you’re inside an egg or a womb. This is where Captain Gabriel Lorca will lead the voyages of the starship Discovery – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and to boldly go where a TV show has not gone in a long, long while.
When CBS’s Star Trek: Discovery premieres on September 24th, it will be the first time in over a decade that the universe Gene Rodenberry created will be back on the small screen. (Or rather, small screens, since the network will be moving it to the streaming service CBS All Access after its premiere episode debuts in primetime.) It’s not as if the franchise had disappeared entirely: J.J. Abrams semi-rebooted the movies starting in 2009, prompting a range of feelings among longtime fans (see this Reddit thread). But considering that prior to the previous series, Star Trek: Enterprise, going off the air in 2005, there was an 18-year run of Trek shows on TV, the absence was noticeable. In the interim, there have been countless rumors about possible new series: Michael Dorn (The Next Generation‘s Worf) was supposedly developing a version starring himself as a captain; the original Sulu, George Takei, was doing the same.
So when the Tiffany Network first announced it had begun working on Discovery in November of 2015, the show already had a lot to fight against: the beloved shows of the past; the imagined spin-offs, sequels, prequels and side trips that never came to fruition; and the new films that often left fans frustrated, underwhelmed and defensive.
“I sort of bent over under the weight of it in the beginning,” said Walking Dead veteran Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays one of Discovery‘s main characters, Michael Burnham. “I just felt taken over and crushed underneath it. But I realized that’s the complete wrong way of looking at this … I believe it’s a story that will incite positive change. And so I want to put all of my focus and energy and passion into that.”
Set roughly a decade before the timeline established by the original…
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