Star Trek: Discovery Has A 'Second Pilot'

  • Science Fiction
The USS Discovery NCC-1031.
The USS Discovery NCC-1031. CBS All Access

Entertainment Weekly has had a bumper crop of Star Trek: Discovery reveals this week. There’s the first picture of Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), of the U.S.S. Discovery NCC-1031, which doubles as our first glimpse at the Discovery bridge. Then there’s the picture of First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) in the transporter room about their ship, the U.S.S. Shenzhou.

Other reveals have been more thematic or tragic. Martin-Green, who plays a human raised by Vulcans, was saddled with the denunciation of racists that’s become part of marketing campaigns in a country swelling with proto-fascist ethnic chauvinism empowered by social networks whose structure encourages the dissemination of the most shockingly dumb voices.

On Friday, EW wrote about Star Trek: Discovery breaking a “long frustrating” rule: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s prohibition on conflict and negativity among Starfleet members. This “rule” was frequently circumvented or broken after Roddenberry’s death in 1991, freeing up Star Trek: The Next Generation and paving the way for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ’s involved, ensemble dramatics.

Showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg defended the decision. “We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions,” Harberts said. “People have to make mistakes — mistakes are still going to be made in the future. We’re still going to argue in the future.”

“The rules of Starfleet remain the same,” Berg added. “But while we’re human or alien in various ways, none of us are perfect.”

But while all of this is very interesting (or a sad example of how quickly liberal values can decay), it doesn’t tell us much concrete about Star Trek: Discovery. EW was saving that for the print edition, but TrekCore has an excerpt of Harberts’ plot comments:

“Burnham’s background is that she was the first human to attend the Vulcan Learning Center and Vulcan Science Academy – so she’s spent a lot of time on Vulcan, but she’s human. Sarek plays an important role in her life, which has been completely planned until she makes a difficult choice that sends her life on a very different path.

When we meet her, she’s the first officer on the starship Shenzhou. Burnham’s choice that we’re alluding to is the most difficult choice you can make – it affects her, affects Starfleet, affects the Federation; it affects the entire universe.

That choice leads her to a different ship, the USS Discovery, and there we begin what Gretchen and I call our second pilot.”

This would suggest the Star Trek: Discovery trailer, dominated by footage of Giorgiou and the U.S.S. Shenzhou, is entirely comprised of footage from the pilot episode. We don’t know what choice Burnham makes, but it probably has to do with Federation relations with the Klingons. And it might just spell doom for Georgiou and the Shenzhou. But the weirdest consequence of this “second pilot” might be that we barely see the Discovery at all in the premiere episode of Star Trek: Discovery.

Star Trek: Discovery premieres Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.

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