'Star Trek: Discovery' Producers Explain Their Utopian Endgame

Set 10 years before the original 'Star Trek' series, the CBS All Access drama has a plan for catching up.
Dalia Naber/CBS
Michelle Yeoh (left) and Sonequa Martin-Green on 'Star Trek: Discovery'
Star Trek: Discovery hasn't even debuted on CBS All Access yet, but producers already know the tone with which they want it to end. Set a decade before the original series, Discovery's society won't be quite the utopian ideal that was seen when James T. Kirk captained the USS Enterprise. Instead, that's something the show knows the series and Starfleet need to work toward.
Given that Star Trek: Discovery is set during a time of rising tensions between Starfleet and the Klingon race, there's clearly some work to be done when it comes to matching the society portrayed in the first incarnation of Star Trek.
"Part of what we tried to do is speak to how those philosophical mindsets came to be," executive producer Akiva Goldsman told reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour. "We're trying to find out who we are as a federation and as a coalition of people in the face of adversity."
As executive producer Aaron Harberts told The Hollywood Reporter, "We're at a dark place in the history of the federation." For him, that means Discovery "owes a responsibility to Star Trek and to TOS [the original series]." While the show, in theory, has 10 years of stories to make that happen, he promises fans will see it build over time.
In doing so, it won't just be a matter of telling Starfleet's story but the Klingons' as well. Mary Chieffo, who plays a Klingon commander named L'Rell on Discovery, said, "I think they've done a beautiful job of showing that both sides have humanity. I think it's really beautiful to read the script and see these parallels on both sides." She added, "No one is actually the bad guy."
That's interesting territory for Discovery to explore, but it's also important territory as the show continues to evolve. As the cast explained when they appeared recently at San Diego Comic-Con, inclusiveness had always been key to the Star Trek universe. Showing the sides of the story of those in direct conflict with Starfleet is going to be important.
That includes Sarek (James Frain), the Vulcan ambassador and foster father of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The Vulcans, a largely peaceful race that isn't prone to showing their emotions, view humans a lot differently than Starfleet would view themselves, and the new series isn't going to shy away from that.
"Playing a Vulcan, it's been interesting looking at the human world through those eyes," said Frain. "Humans are barbaric and not to be trusted because they start wars and kill people. Vulcans don't do that anymore."
It's these different avenues Discovery is exploring, along with its heavily serialized nature, that will help it not only stand out among other versions of the series but be a warm welcome back to TV for the Star Trek franchise.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres Sunday, Sept. 24, at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. At that time, the first two episodes will also be released on CBS All Access, with another episode following each Sunday.