‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Trailer Breakdown: Boldly Going Frame-by-Frame

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The first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery has arrived, and that means one thing: it’s time to go through it frame-by-frame to see what we can uncover.

Star Trek: Discovery Trailer Breakdown

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It’s only appropriate that the trailer for Star Trek: Discovery opens on an alien planet and it’s even more appropriate that it’s a desert planet. Sandy, arid landscapes have been familiar locations throughout the entire Star Trek franchise, possibly because a California-based production has easy access to land that looks like that. But that’s not the case with this series, which actually went to Jordan for these scenes. While the bulk of production is being handled in Toronto, it’s nice to see CBS willing to splurge a bit for this show, especially since Trek TV has always been a notoriously low-budget affair.

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And here we meet the two characters who get the most attention in the trailer: Michelle Yeoh‘s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green‘s Commander Michael Burnham.

We’ll talk more about them in a bit, but I do want to call particular attention to their outfits. While Starfleet crews have shown off special desert-wear uniforms in the past, the slightly rag-tag look of these outfits could suggest that these aren’t official. Could they be exploring a planet that hasn’t achieved faster-than-light travel, keeping their identities hidden in accordance with the Prime Directive (the Starfleet regulation that prevents crews from interacting with non-developed species)?

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Whether they’re in official uniforms or not, they are carrying some familiar Starfleet gear. Here, Captain Georgiou takes out a flip communicator (complete with that familiar little beeping sound!) and calls their ship. While much of the shows aesthetic has been updated to resemble a more believable future (as opposed to the somewhat kitschy ’60s future of the original series), it’s nice to see Discovery making use of familiar technology and iconography when possible.

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And bursting through the clouds comes our first look at the ship! But is it the Discovery, the ship of the title and supposedly the setting for the bulk of the series? That’s a trickier question to address than you’d think!

All of the official announcements about the series say that Georgiou is captain of a ship called the Shenzhou, while Jason Isaac’s Captain Lorca commands the Discovery. Since this trailer makes it clear that Burnham is the first officer under Captain Georgiou (and has been for quite some time), it’s possible that the show begins on another ship…or maybe Georgiou gets transferred, leaving the crew under a new captain. In either case, this ship is very different than the one that was revealed at Comic-Con some time ago, which was an early (and possibly abandoned) design. This one looks an awful lot like the NX-01, the main ship from Star Trek: Enterprise.

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I’m not sure how I feel about the new beaming effects quite yet, mainly because they don’t look much like any version we’ve seen before. The way Georgiou and Burnham are being “pixelated” is a subtle nod to how they are literally being broken up into individual atoms for the transport process, but it’s different enough that I need to see more of it before I decide it this is better, worse, or equal to past effects.

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Like with the beaming effects, it looks like warp drive has received an upgrade. However, it’s still perfectly recognizable, even if the stars streaking by are now a little slicker and accompanied by a nifty electricity effect.

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The camera pushing in on the bridge of the ship, passing through the window and arriving on Burnham is a cool effect and the kind of sophisticated shot you don’t see in most Star Trek shows. However, the real reason to linger on this shot is that it offers our first look at the new uniforms!

Personally, I’m a fan: they take the stripped-down and straightforward designs of the original series (and the new movies) while giving them just enough of the military edge seen in the early seasons of Enterprise and the later movies with the original crew. I especially like the silver/gold accents, which really help emphasize the Starfleet insignia. Okay, cosplayers. Get to work.

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It’s now time to address the elephant in the room. While set in the “prime” universe of the original series and its various spin-offs, Star Trek: Discovery is clearly borrowing the visual style of new Bad Robot movies, which take place in the alternate “Kelvin” timeline. Just look at that swooping camera and all of those lens flares! I personally enjoy the aesthetic of those films and will surely come to grips with this (particularly as it will help draw in new fans who were won over by the movies), but old school fans were hoping for a look that directly ties Discovery to the other TV-bound versions of Trek may be bummed out.

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“Great unifiers are few and far between, but they do come. Often such leaders will need a profound cause for followers to rally around.” Here’s James Frain as Sarek, the father of Spock. Playing a Vulcan can be tricky since it’s easy to play “actively withholding all emotions” as “being a total dick at all times.” Hopefully, Frain can find the right level of subtle bemusement that Leonard Nimoy and original Sarek actor Mark Lenard used to humanize their Vulcan characters.

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More lens flares! More swooping cameras! However, this bridge does differ from the recent big screen version fairly significantly. It’s a dark and more militaristic-looking space, more like an interior of a submarine than the “Apple Store of the future” look seen in the new movies. It certainly complements the new uniforms.

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What good is a bridge crew without a guy with cybernetic implants?

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And what good is a bridge crew without a blue-skinned alien to sit in the background and remind everyone that Starfleet is open to all kinds of alien species? This guy almost appears to be a Molian, but he’s missing the distinctive ridge that runs down the middle of their faces.

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Here’s our first look at Saru, a science officer played by Doug Jones. Jones is no stranger to playing creatures in film and television (he’s gone under heavy makeup for everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Pan’s Labyrinth) and his rail-thin frame and height make him well-suited for playing things that are a bit inhuman. Just look at how he towers over Sonequa Martin-Green!

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