Star Trek is a show of feast and famine. Since it aired on CBS in 1966, Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi franchise has more than once slipped into obscurity only to beam back into the public consciousness.
Case in point, Star Trek: Discovery. When the new series launched in fall 2017, it was the first new Trek show on TV in a dozen years. Now for a new age of Trek in the streaming era, with its second season set to air beginning in January 2019.
The show got off to a rocky start with Discovery's first season getting a lukewarm reception at best. Although it was the best-looking Star Trek show ever made, Discovery doubled down on the action-packed version of Trek more akin to the J.J. Abrams cinematic reboot than Gene Roddenberry's original vision. It was dark, moody, uneven, and followed season-long plot arcs (as opposed to the optimistic and episodic nature of, say, Star Trek and The Next Generation).
If Discovery still has ambitions to be considered one of the pre-eminent examples of Star Trek television, season 2 has got some work to do.
When Is It Airing?
In July, after CBS fed fans a flashy new trailer at San Diego Comic-Con, showrunner Alex Kurtzman confirmed the second season of Discovery would premiere sometime in January 2019 on CBS All-Access, though the exact date is still being decided.
That doesn't mean we'll be living through a Star Trek drought until the new year, though. CBS will be releasing four 10-to-15-minute short films based in the Discovery universe called Star Trek: Short Treks that will premiere on October 4, 2018.
Kurtzman confirmed that Rainn Wilson will return as Harry Mudd in at least one of the shorts, reportedly written by a writer on Rick & Morty and directed by Wilson himself. When asked about his short at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention in early August, Wilson said he had reservations about the project until he read the script, saying "it is very funny and weird. You see some alien situations you have never seen before in the Star Trek canon, and I am thrilled."
Short Treks will begin with "Runaways," a story following Ensign Tilly as she encounters a strange visitor onboard the USS Discovery. Then on November 8 comes "Calypso, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, where a new character named Craft () finds himself on an abandoned ship with an AI friend. December 6 delivers "The Brightest Star," which tells the tale of a young Saru on his home planet of Kaminar. Finally, Wilson's Harry Mudd returns in "The Escape Artist," on January 3, where Mudd tries to pull off his latest con.
These episodes will only air on CBS All Access and will not come to Netflix outside the U.S.
Cast and Characters
Most of the non-dead main characters will be making a return for season 2 (). Sonequa Martin-Green will return as Michael Burnham, the human-raised-on-Vulcan first officer whose rash decisions have a tendency to get her and the known galaxy into a lot of trouble. Other favorites like Saru, Tilly, and science officer Paul Stamets will also return. But it's a new season, and that means new faces.
[Warning: Spoilers for Season 1 of Star Trek: Discovery ahead.]
The final minutes of Discovery's first season brought the ultimate teaser—.
As Trek fans know, Christoper Pike was the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk assumes the helm for its famous five-year mission. Anson Mount is the fourth actor to portray the character. Pike appeared in the original series' pilot "The Cage," portrayed by Jeffrey Hunter. The older Pike was portrayed by Sean Kenney when the footage was repurposed for the first season episode "The Menagerie." Bruce Greenwood played Pike in Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013).
A CBS-produced video breaks down Mount's turn as Pike, confirming that the character will be a departure from previous iterations. The Discovery crew describes Pike as a cocky, confident, a superstar, and "a bit of a cowboy" (an apt description of Captain Kirk, too). Mount also says Pike "is not afraid to admit failure...and suddenly announce 'I'm lost. Anybody got a good idea?'"
As evident in the trailer above, Pike's uniform is much more in-step with the uniforms from the Original Series, and his character also provides some much needed lightness to what was a dark and moody first season, as Anthony Rapp :
So much of the darkness was informed by the fact that our captain was from the Mirror Universe...So in [season two] we have moved through this and come out the other side. Pike is sort of an exemplary captain. He is exactly the kind of familiar Starfleet captain you would always want. And I think that alone sets such a different tone. And yes, there is certainly more humor, but there is also this settling that happens after all the craziness of season one and all the massive events.
Of course, fans will also remember that Captain Pike served with a certain Vulcan first officer named Spock, and Kurtzman confirmed that season 2 would feature the series premiere of the character. In mid-August, CBS announced Ethan Peck would become the third actor to portray Spock, following Leonard Nimoy and the reboot's Zachary Quinto. The casting was immediately welcomed by Nimoy's family:
It's not certain if Spock is onboard the Enterprise with Pike, on the planet Vulcan (the Discovery was traveling to Vulcan before Pike opened a hailing frequency), or somewhere else entirely. One big open question is what the Burnham-Spock dynamic will look like.
In season 1, we're told that Burnham was a ward of the Vulcan Sarek, Spock's father, and fans have been wondering how Spock never mentioned his foster sister Burnham during his entire tenure in Starfleet and beyond. The show's writers will have their hands full untangling that problem this season.
Alex Kurtzman that "this is not entirely the Spock that has been formed enough to be the Spock that we know from TOS. There's a lot of story about who Spock was before he becomes the Spock that is the yin-yang to Kirk."
In addition than these two heavy hitters, we'll see playing chief engineer Reno on the USS Hiawatha, a new ship we haven't met yet. Discovery season 2 will also introduce the Saurian character Linus, an obscure species last seen .
In season 1 of Discovery, it was apparent early on that the show would focus on the Federation's familiar enemy, the Klingons. However, Starfleet's opposition for season 2 is much less apparent.
We know that Klingons will still be around as the Federation picks up the pieces from its (nearly genocidal) war against them from the first season. Discovery's that Klingons would be getting a "new look" for season 2 as there are still more Klingon houses to reveal. The show's decision to alter the Klingon's appearance from the Original Series and The Next Generation was met with mixed reviews, but Hetrick thinks people will "freak out" at all the details behind the Klingon look.
That's probably a safe bet.
Other than that, Pike and company's extraterrestrial threat remains a mystery, though (I'm personally hoping for the Breen.)
Although only two minutes long, the trailer gives plenty of clues into where Discovery is headed in its second season. A new captain is at the helm, the tone is lighter, fun, adventurous, and set to the music of Lenny Kravitz. It's a step in the right direction.
Captain Pike assumes command of the Discovery under Regulation 16, Section C, which Saru thankfully explains is a command "only instituted when an eminent threat is detected."
The Federation has discovered 7 "red bursts" across 30,000 light years and these signals' intentions—whether good or ill—are entirely unknown. Seconds later we learn that Spock has gone on some type of quest, taking leave from Starfleet because "he had run into a question he couldn't answer," according to Pike. Somehow that means Spock is linked to these signals, and "he needs help," or at least Burnham seems to think so.
For other potential plotlines, there's a bonus scene from Discovery season 1 featuring mirror Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) on Qo'nos speaking with a "Trill" named LeLand (Alan Van Sprang), a member of the secret Federation organization known as Section 31. This will likely provide a dark undertone to a more lighthearted season 2.
Since we know Klingons will still play a role, Ash Tyler and L'Rell will likely have their hands full keeping the Klingon houses together (as L'Rell currently holds the key to Qo'nos's complete annihilation). Discovery invested a lot of time into Tyler's character arc, so it's unlikely that he'll disappear in season 2.
Other details about the new season get a bit more granular. Johnathan Frakes, William Riker in The Next Generation and director of season 1's best episode, will direct the second and tenth episode of season 2, which to Burnham and Spock's childhood.
Notaro spilled some details about season 2 in her interview on The Late Late Show with James Corden. After talking about the difficulty of speaking technobabble, Notaro basically laid out how the audience will be introduced to her character:
"The spaceship crashed [likely the USS Hiawatha], and I saved a bunch of people. This is when I find out that the war is over. I turn to this creature that I've kept alive on a...I don't even know what's happening...but I turn to the creature thing and I say 'You hear that Valentine, the war is over. We're going home.' Then I turn to the other people who are in space suits and I say "Valentine took a piece of shrapnel to the left aortic valve and needed a donor and I couldn't find a transplant so I piggybacked his heart on a dead Bolian to keep it ticking."
Also, remember when a single ? Well the writers have hinted that moment will be important in season 2. Whatever that means.
As for more general themes, Discovery's previous showrunners said that the second season would tackle the ideas of science versus faith, but in June, it's uncertain if that's still the plan. We'll likely have to watch to find out.
Where to Watch
Star Trek: Discovery season 2 will premiere on CBS All-Access in January 2019 and run for 13 episodes. The four-episode limited series Short Treks will debut monthly on CBS All Access this fall.