Star Trek has pushed TV boundaries since it first aired 50 years ago. Keeping its promise to boldly go into uncharted areas, Star Trek: Discovery will find its home on the CBS Network’s VOD platform, CBS All-Access. With no official run times, no definitive answer on its TV rating, and very little information on plot details, Discovery has drummed up much interest and apprehension. One thing fans can definitely count on, however, is a wealth of diversity.
More than any other genre, science fiction looks (and reads) more inclusive. It’s not just because content creators have entire galaxies that need to be filled with a multitude of species, it’s also because they seem far more optimistic that humanity will eventually come together as one race in order to ward off some type of world-ending invasion. Where Star Trek shines brightest is in its refusal to accept that differences in race, religion, or even sexual orientation should act as a barrier to keep beings from working together.
There’s been a sense of cautious optimism about the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery series, and Bryan Fuller has provided more insight at the TCA’s CBS press junket. Deadline reports that the series creator divulged the show’s lead will be a woman, and may even be a woman of color. While no official casting announcement has been made yet, the outlet also notes that “virtually all” of the women who have been seen for the part are either African-American or Hispanic.
The Star Trek franchise has had a female captain (Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway in Voyager) and a few prominent women of color roles (Nichelle Nichols as Nyota Uhura in the original series, Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan in The Next Generation), but never a woman of color as a Star Fleet Captain. Before fans get their hopes up that Discovery will tick that box, there’s a chance the lead role is not that of the ship’s captain.
In the 50th anniversary panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Fuller mentioned that speaking with Mae Jemison (the first African-American woman in space) about how much it shaped her to see Nichelle Nichols on a show like Star Trek, really opened his eyes to how powerful diversity and representation can be.
With its VOD platform, many fans are wondering just what type of show they’ll get — nothing quite as gritty as Netflix shows or premium cable series, but perhaps something a little edgier than network prime time. If Fuller is as thoughtful in his execution of the series as he is in laying the groundwork, then it looks as if Star Trek fans will get a new series that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Half a century of fandom is a monumental task to live up to, but Rod Roddenberry (son of original series creator Gene Roddenberry) has absolute confidence in Discovery’s showrunners, saying fans “won’t be disappointed.”
Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on CBS before moving to CBS All Access in January 2017.