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The viewer's guide to Star Trek: Discovery

Discovery is the latest entry in the Star Trek universe. If you're wondering what it's about, who's in it, and how to watch it, you can find out here.

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Star Trek: Discovery is the first Trek series on TV (or, in this case, streaming on CBS All Access) in 12 years, making it a huge deal to Trekkies everywhere. CBS has been keeping Discovery tightly under wraps, so until its premiere on September 24 all the information we have is what's publicly available.

But that doesn't mean there isn't enough information to get a good idea of what's coming, and it looks exciting. Not only are we finally getting a new Star Trek series, but it's going to be full of Trek firsts: Discovery is the first series not to focus on a captain, the first series with a minority woman as the main character, the first truly serialized Trek production, and it's the first series with an openly gay central character.

Firsts aside, there's a lot of Star Trek: Discovery details to learn before watching. Keep on reading to get all the info.

Disclaimer: Both Star Trek: Discovery and TechRepublic are properties of CBS.

Sonequa Martin-Green stars as Commander Michael Burnham in Star Trek: Discovery.

Image: CBS

What is Star Trek: Discovery about?

Set some time in the 2250s, around 10 years before the beginning of James T. Kirk's five-year mission aboard the Enterprise, Discovery centers around Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). Burnham is human but was raised by Vulcans and now serves as the first officer on the USS Shenzhou under Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh).

What's currently unknown is how the USS Shenzhou and the USS Discovery connect. The large-scale destruction featured in the official trailer is quite telling, however: It's possible that the Shenzhou is destroyed early on and the survivors are transferred to the Discovery.

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The main villains to appear in the trailer are Klingons, and they're radically different from those seen before--but there's a good reason for that. This band of Klingons, led by T'Kuvma (Chris Obi), are separatists who have been segregated from the Klingon Empire for 200 years. They adhere to much more rigid codes, and still dress, look, and behave like Klingons of two centuries ago.

T'Kuvma's goal is to unite all 24 Klingon houses under his rule--he believes himself to be the second coming of Kahless, a mythical Klingon figure who ascended to Sto-Vo-Kor, the Klingon afterlife, while still alive, promising to later return.

With all those elements in play, Burnham is forced to make a (yet unknown) decision that has an impact on the entire United Federation of Planets.

Who is in Star Trek: Discovery?

There's not a whole lot known about the characters of Star Trek: Discovery aside from their actors--most don't even have much background information published. We've listed what's known.

  • Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham: The lead character of the series, Burnham was raised on Vulcan by Sarek, Spock's father. Show creator Alex Kurtzman has already addressed what you're probably thinking: How come no one ever mentioned Spock's surrogate sister?
  • Michelle Yeoh as Captain Philippa Georgiou: Georgiou is captain of the USS Shenzhou and Burnham's commanding officer. The two reportedly have a mother-daughter kind of relationship.
  • Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca: Lorca is the strategically brilliant captain of the USS Discovery. Isaacs says of his character that Lorca is the most messed up of all the captains in Trek history.
  • Terry Serpico as Admiral Anderson
  • James Frain as Sarek: Vulcan astrophysicist, father to Spock, and foster father to Burnham.
  • Maulik Pancholy as Nambue: The USS Shenzhou's chief medical officer
  • Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru: Serving as a science officer on the USS Discovery, Saru is from a previously unseen species called the Kelpiens. He is going to fill a Spock or Data-like role on the show.
  • Sam Vartholomeos as Ensign Danby Connor: Connor is a wet-behind-the-ears officer who is very by-the-books.
  • Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Paul Stamets: Stamets is an astromycologist (he studies space fungi) and is the first openly gay central character in a Star Trek series. His partner is Dr. Hugh Culber, a medical officer on the USS Discovery, where Stamets also serves.
  • Wilson Cruz as Hugh Culber: Culber is a medical officer onboard the Discovery and is in a relationship with LT Stamets.
  • Rekha Sharma as Commander Landry: Landry is a security officer, possibly the chief, on the USS Discovery.
  • Shazad Latif as Lieutenant Ash Tyler: Tyler is a former prisoner of war suffering from PTSD. He was reportedly imprisoned alongside Captain Lorca and con man Harry Mudd.
  • Mary Wiseman as Cadet Sylvia Tilly: A fourth-year cadet from Starfleet Academy, Tilly works with Stamets and becomes bunkmates with Burnham.
  • Chris Obi as T'Kuvma: A Klingon who believes himself to be the second coming of legendary warrior/messiah Kahless, T'Kuvma leads a radical splinter faction of Klingons separated from the Empire for 200 years.
  • Kenneth Mitchell as Kol: A Klingon commander and T'Kuvma's right hand
  • Mary Chieffo as L'Rell: L'Rell is the Klingon battle deck commander aboard T'Kuvma's ship.
  • Damon Runyan as Ujilli: A Klingon leader
  • Clare McConnell as Dennas: A Klingon leader
  • Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd: Harry Mudd was a recurring character on the original Star Trek. This younger version is still a con artist, but Wilson says he plans to portray him as "a bit more dastardly."

Mary Chieffo stars as L'Rell (left) and Chris Obi is T'Kuvma in Star Trek: Discovery.

Image: Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive

What kind of tech will Star Trek: Discovery feature?

Star Trek: Discovery takes place in the 2250s. To put that in perspective (barring any changes to the official Star Trek timeline) the USS Enterprise has already been in service for several years--it launched in 2245 under the command of Captain Robert April.

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With that in mind, the technology featured in Discovery will look pretty familiar. Tricorders look very similar to those from the original series, as do phasers and communicators.

Where some of the big differences come in is the series' two ships: The Shenzhou and the Discovery. The feel of both ships is very different--the Shenzhou is clearly an older vessel that straddles the line between the NX Enterprise and USS Enterprise eras, while the Discovery is sleek, shiny, and new, both inside and out.

How can I watch Star Trek: Discovery?

You can watch Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access starting on September 24th. CBS will also be airing the first episode on TV at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, but the time may vary since it's following football and 60 Minutes.

Only the first episode will be aired on TV and available online for free. The second half of the premiere, and all episodes thereafter, require an All Access subscription.

International viewers in 188 countries will be able to watch Discovery on Netflix. In Canada, the series will be on Bell Media's Space channel and OTT service CraveTV.

So, what part of Discovery are you most excited for? Is it filling in the gaps of the Federation-Klingon war? Is it the possibility of encountering younger versions of original series characters--maybe a young Kirk, or seeing the Enterprise under the command of Captain April?

There's a lot to look forward to in the latest Star Trek series. Here's to it boldly going where no series has gone before--and for many seasons to come.

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