‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Plot, Aspect Ratio and Influences Revealed

While the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery is still three months away, the writers of the new series, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts recently revealed some key aspects of what we can expect, when the show debuts in September.

Speaking to EW, the writing duo was careful not to get too deep into spoiler territory but did discuss Sonequa Martin-Green‘s character Michael Burnham — who is the first human to attend the Vulcan Science Academy.

“Burnham [has] spent a lot of time on Vulcan, but she’s human,” Harberts says. “Sarek [Spock’s father, played by James Frain] plays an important role in her life, which has been completely planned until she makes a very difficult choice that sends her life on a very different path. When we meet her, she’s the First Officer on the Starship Shenzhou [captained by Philippa Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh]. And Burnham’s choice that we’re alluding to is 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 Discovery [helmed by Captain Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs] and there we begin what Gretchen and I call our ‘second pilot.'”

Michelle Yeoh as Shenzhou  Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green as Discovery's First Officer Michael Burnham
Michelle Yeoh as Shenzhou Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green as Discovery’s First Officer Michael Burnham | Photo: CBS All Access

Previous iterations of Star Trek have centered around the captain, Discovery—as we’ve discussed previously—will focus on Martin-Green’s character, Michael Burnham.

Berg and Harberts went on to discuss the elements of drama that a choice like that could add to the series.

“The joy is in the journey,” Berg replied. “The advantage to her not being in charge of the bridge right now is we get to tell stories from a very different point of view. It’s a fresh feeling because we’re not on the bridge all the time. We get access to more parts of the ship.”

“There’s a hint of all of them, but in the writers’ room people are so in love with The Original Series and Next Generation, and they talk about the family aspect of those cast members,” Berg said.

They went on to reveal that Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek films (The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country are all influences on the show, along with previous television incarnations of Star Trek; The Original Series and The Next Generation).

Discovery ditches 16:9 aspect ratio for more cinematic 2:1 widescreen effect

“I think Nicholas Myers’ films are a touchstone, and not just because he’s been on staff with us. His storytelling is complex and intellectual and yet there’s a lot of room for character voices and character work, he’s done such an incredible job with the franchise. In terms of scope and scale, there’s something about Star Trek: The Motion Picture that really speaks to us as well. CBS has allowed us to find a cinematic language that’s wider in scope — our aspect ratio is 2:1 — and it just lends itself to a very lyrical way of telling the story. And just visually speaking, there’s also a little hint in terms of what J.J. Abrams did, a little bit, in terms of some of the visuals.” Harberts said.

Aspect ratio comparison
Aspect ratio comparison | Image: Vimeo

Discovery‘s 15-episode first season will premiere on September 24 at 8:30 PM ET. Immediately following the first episode’s release, the second episode will be available on CBS All Access, with subsequent episodes released on Sundays. The first eight episodes will run from September 24 through November 5, with the series returning in January 2018.

The cast of Star Trek: Discovery includes Michelle Yeoh (Captain Philippa Georgiou) Jason Isaacs (Captain Gabriel Lorca), Sonequa Martin-Green (First Officer Michael Burnham), Chris Obi (T’Kuvma), Doug Jones (Lt. Saru), James Frain(Sarek), and Shazad Latif (Kol), Anthony Rapp (Lt. Stamets), Sam Vartholomeos (Ensign Connor), Mary Wiseman (Cadet Tilly), Mary Chieffo(L’Rell) and Rainn Wilson (Harry Mudd).

Gretchen Berg, Aaron Harberts, Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin and Alex Kurtzman are executive producers on the series. Nicholas Meyer, Kirsten Beyer and Ted Sullivan are serving as a writers and consulting producers.

TrekNews.net is your dedicated source for all the latest news on Star Trek: Discovery. Follow @TrekNewsnet on Twitter, TrekNews on Facebook, TrekNews on Instagram and TrekNewsnet on YouTube.

11 Comments Join the Conversation →


  • Erik

    Oh no, There’s JJ in it. We were promised prime timeline. Well, the footage you could see hinted at something different before… I have just lost a big part of my interest in watching this.

    • Talos4

      The show is indeed in the prime timeline. The article specifically said the J.J. Abrams influence was merely visual.

      • Arron Ratcliff

        And that is the one thing most fans all agree that they hate. Those god awful lighting streaks / lens flares. every thing else seems interesting about the trailer and series. i just hate that god awful J.J Vision.

      • Erik

        And that’s bad enough…

  • RkyGriz

    This is a total bs show! It says “10 years before Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise” in the trailer, and also shows what appears to be a very young Spock. Let me see now: approximately 18 years before Kirk took command of Enterprise at the age of 34, Captain Christopher Pike ,along with a fairly young Spock, encountered the Talosians, a dying race of illusion casters on the planet Talos 4 who were busy luring and capturing other intelligent, spacefaring species in an attempt to repopulate their planet. This is something that the at Jar Abrams Timeline eliminated.So, are they trying to rewrite the TOS timeline once again? This show is supposed to be set in the TOS Prime Timeline and not the idiotic Jar Jar Abrams timeline! Once again, CBS is screwing the fans!

    • Talos4

      I don’t know what you are referring to. There is no Spock in the trailer, young or otherwise. The only Vulcan is Spock’s father, Sarek, played by James Frain. The youngster seen (briefly) in the trailer is a black human female (the lead character as a child) who doesn’t look like much like Spock. The fact that her ears aren’t fully visible and that she has a Vulcan haircut may have thrown you off.

      • RkyGriz

        There is a young child in the trailer at the 1:35 mark that I took for a young Spock. It could be the child is the main protagonist, but I thought that it might be Spock as Sarek tells the child that he/she will never learn Vulcan as his/her tongue is “too human”. The rest of what I wrote is true as Spock and Kirk would have been already in Starfleet serving on their ships(Enterprise for Spock and the Farragut for Kirk most likely )as this series is supposed to be set 10 years before the events of TOS. I am probably wrong about the child but I know that I’m pretty much on target wit the other parts of my statement as I am a lifelong (50+ years) of Star Trek. LLAP, my friend!

  • Christopher Michael Villadelga

    Gene’s son, Rod, is onboard… I am assuming he gave the go signal to remove the limiter that Gene put on having crew members not have conflicts.

  • Andrew Cardinale

    Regarding the aspect ratio:

    I see this as a big play towards the mobile market. Over the past year, there have been several flagship smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, released with a 2:1 aspect ration, and I feel like more and more manufacturers will follow suit. It’s an easy way to add screen real estate to a smartphone without increasing the overall size of the phone.

    Watching a 16:9 image on one of these phones results in black bars on the left and right side of the image, much like those when watching a 4:3 movie on a 16:9 screen. This will ensure those watching on these and future phones will have the image take up the entire screen.

  • Impecunious Joe

    I still don’t get why it looks the way it does if its set in the “Prime Universe”. Why don’t the uniforms and gear look like those in “The Cage”? And what’s up with the Klingons?

    It’s amazing how important art direction, costume design, etc. can be. I can forgive the delays, and everything else about the show would have me very excited, but the look is starting to worry me.

  • Spock

    I still don’t know why you keep writing that “Previous iterations of Star Trek have centered around the captain”. I don’t think that’s true at all. The previous shows aren’t really told from any one character’s perspective. There are scenes with the captain and lots of scenes without him or her.