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‘Star Trek: Discovery’ to feature a female lead and gay characters

'Star Trek: Discovery' showrunner Bryan Fuller just shared a ton of details about the upcoming series.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Aug 11, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 7:02 am CDT

Star Trek: Discovery will be set 10 years before the original series, and its lead character is a woman.

Speaking at a TV critics panel for CBS All Access, showrunner Bryan Fuller expanded on the show’s setting, casting choices, and links to Star Trek canon. There weren’t any casting updates, but since the show starts filming in September, we can expect to hear them very soon.

Along with some information we already knew (the show will be a 13-episode arc “like a novel,” and won’t be hampered by family-friendly network TV rules), Fuller shared several interesting new details.

It’s set 10 years before the originals series

After watching the Comic Con teaser of the U.S.S. Discovery, we theorized that the ship was built before the Enterprise—and it looks like this is correct. The new series takes place a decade before Kirk’s first five-year mission as captain of the Enterprise, meaning the show is set around 2255.

The first season will involve a major event from Star Trek’s history, and Fuller has already ruled out several options. It has nothing to do with the Kobayashi Maru, and it isn’t the Romulan War or the battle of Axanar. It also won’t be a story about the Section 31 black ops team, although Fuller said they may appear at some point.

Many Trek fans are speculating that the event could be the Treaty of Armens, when the non-humanoid Sheliak race brokered an agreement with the Federation. However, we’re not so sure. The Sheliak appeared in The Next Generation, whereas Fuller’s “event” was apparently mentioned in the original series.

Star Trek: Discovery has female lead

According to Variety, Fuller consulted with astronaut Mae Jemison—the first African American woman in space—when writing Discovery‘s lead character. Since Jemison herself was inspired by Uhura’s role in the original series, this is a beautiful case of Star Trek’s legacy coming full circle. Deadline reports that CBS is looking at “African American or Hispanic” actresses for this role.

Unlike previous Star Trek series, Discovery‘s main character is a lieutenant commander instead of a captain. “We’ve seen six series from captain’s point of view and to see one from another point of view gives us a richer context,” said Fuller. 

Discovery‘s 13-episode arc allows for more character development than the episodic nature of previous series, but it’s still an ensemble show with about seven main characters. We’re still waiting for CBS to confirm this, but THR reports that the cast will feature “a female admiral, a male Klingon captain, a male admiral, a male adviser and a British male doctor.”

There will be at least one gay character

Fuller emphasized his plans for a diverse crew onboard the U.S.S. Discovery, and confirmed that there will be at least one gay character in the main cast. While Deep Space Nine included hints at queer characters, and Star Trek Beyond gave Sulu a husband, this is still exciting new territory for the franchise.

There will be “robots” and more aliens than before

Fuller mentioned “robots,” “a few more aliens than usual,” and hinted at “reimagining” existing alien species. When you combine this with his quick mention of Andorians and antennae, it looks like our theory about this makeup test photo may be correct: Discovery could include our first Andorian crewmember.

Each Star Trek series features one or two aliens in the main cast, and it’s exciting to hear that Discovery will include more than before. Fuller’s mention of “robots” is even more intriguing, because that isn’t a major theme in previous series. Commander Data (an artificially intelligent android) and the Borg (a race of cyborgs) arrived more than a century after Discovery‘s setting, so Fuller’s robots may be something new.

Spock’s mom may be involved

Classic Trek characters won’t play a major role in the new series, but Fuller specifically called out Amanda Grayson by name. Since he was otherwise very tight-lipped about spoilers, it’s safe to assume that Spock’s human mother will appear at some point.

She’s an ideal choice for the kind of canon “update” Fuller mentioned, because while she’s an influential and memorable character, her arc in the original series was hampered somewhat by 1960s gender roles. 

The cast may include some familiar faces

Following in the footsteps of his previous work, Bryan Fuller is considering casting actors he’s worked with in the past. Hannibal stars Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson are probably too busy for lead roles, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Caroline Dhavernas, Raúl Esparza, or Ellen Muth—recurring collaborators who aren’t currently starring in Fuller’s other show, American Gods

Correction: A previous version of this story had an incorrect spelling of Mae Jemison’s name. 

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*First Published: Aug 11, 2016, 9:13 am CDT