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September 29, 2017

Phasin' and Amazin'

Armed with "fantastic" phasers, the newest Star Trek sets off in a streaming universe.

Paula Hendrickson
  • The pilot episode — set in 2256, about a decade before the original series — finds Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) and First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) on an away mission that will test their Starfleet ideals.

    Dalia Naber/CBS Interactive
  • Starfleet uniforms have a new look: “Instead of red, yellow and blue, we’re using metallics,” explains co-showrunner Aaron Harberts. Gold, worn here by First Officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), signifies Command; copper represents Security and Engineering; and silver denotes Science and Medical. “Our medical officers, however, wear white uniforms with silver detailing,” Harberts adds.

    James Dimmock/CBS Interactive
  • The bold bearing of Klingons T’Kuvma (Chris Obi, right ) and L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) reflects the work of Neville Page, creature designer, and Glenn Hetrick, prosthetic and special effects makeup department head.

    Dalia Naber/CBS Interactive
  • Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), of the new USS Shenzou, displays her tactical gear. “We’re all madly in love with that phaser,” co-showrunner Gretchen J. Berg enthuses. “It’s fantastic.”

    Jan Thijs/CBS Interactive

Rebooting an iconic franchise can be intimidating, even if it’s already spun off multiple series and feature films, like Star Trek.

“Every iteration of the show feels so different,” says Aaron Harberts, co-showrunner, with Gretchen J. Berg, of Star Trek: Discovery. “At the end of the day you have to focus on the story you want to tell.”

Instead of the usual episodic approach, this Trek — premiering September 24 on CBS before moving immediately to the network’s digital subscription service, CBS All Access — will follow a season-long story arc that the producers believe should stream well. New episodes will roll out weekly through November 5, then resume in January.

Set 10 years before Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock began their five-year mission to boldly go where no man has gone before, Star Trek: Discovery “shakes hands” with the original series, Berg says, a detail not lost on the die-hard Star Trek fans working on the show.

“Michael Burnham, our lead character, is the ward of Spock’s father Sarek, which has never been set in canon,” Berg says. “One of the fun things for the writing staff is knowing we have to eventually explain why that relationship is never mentioned or tracked after Star Trek: Discovery.

"When you want to diverge or try something new, you have to square it with canon and clean up any messes you may have created, so the rest of the Star Trek universe — be it the original series, Next Gen or Voyager — can still be enjoyed without breaking anything people know and love.” Keeping the show on point is a crew-wide labor of love, Harberts says.

“Our brilliant crew and department heads are not only fantastic talents, but many are passionate, lifelong Star Trek fans — everyone from our props department to our cinematographers to our costume designers to our production designers. They put all of their passion and all of their years of loving this franchise onto the screen.”

Berg agrees. “Everybody is devoted to the message that Star Trek, Starfleet and the Federation stand for. It’s a very positive, optimistic place to work.”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 8, 2017

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