'Star Trek: Discovery' Trailer Breakdown: Boldly Going Frame-By-Frame

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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"What am I looking at?"

"Object of unknown origin."

While I appreciate the way the "magnify" effect has been updated, so it just takes up a portion of the view screen, this shot really does show off another one of Discovery's obvious inspirations. While the show's look is clearly indebted to the new movies, there's plenty of Mass Effect in here as well. For the non-gamers out there, Mass Effect is a video game series set in the distant future where humankind has entered the galactic stage and finds itself struggling to make a name for itself amongst the more established alien races. Drama and adventure ensue, of course. However, that game allowed players to take a noble approach to saving the galaxy or a more violent and morally gray path. Since Discovery is clearly inspired by Mass Effect's look, I wonder if they also borrowed this conflict...

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"We've come all this way, Captain. It would be irresponsible to leave whatever that is unknown." At the very least, it looks like Burnham will continue the trend of Star Trek leads who are headstrong, adventurous, and addicted to discovery. That spacesuit is pretty cool, too...even if it does look a little like Buzz Lightyear.

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One thing is for certain: Star Trek: Discovery does not look cheap. Even out of context, this is one of the most stunning shots to ever come out of a Star Trek TV show...even if it also gives off a serious Mass Effect vibe.

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Let's pause for a moment to talk about Captain Philippa Georgiou. Or rather, let's talk about Michelle Yeoh since we know next-to-nothing about Georgiou yet. While Yeoh's days as a martial arts superstar seem to be mostly behind her, she's always been a terrific actress and age has only given her an air of intelligence and wisdom. She looks great in that uniform and feels born to play a Starfleet captain. Unfortunately, this trailer has me thinking she's not long for this universe and may only have a role in the first episode or two. But that's pure speculation (and we'll talk more about that in a bit).

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While I gave up on The Walking Dead a long time ago, Sonequa Martin-Green always struck me as one of the more impressive performers in the show's ensemble. And now, here she is, wearing a spacesuit and exploring the unknown as the first officer on board a starship. There are certain conclusions about Commander Michael Burnham we can jump to from this trailer: she's inexperienced but bold, a born explorer with a bit of a hot streak. There are shades of James. T. Kirk and Benjamin Sisko here, but this really looks like an opportunity for Martin-Green to break the mold of what a Star Trek hero can be.

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This must be the object of unknown origin mentioned above. Whatever it is, it's big...and certainly made by intelligent beings. Is Star Trek dipping its toe into the "precursor aliens" well and planning to tell a story about ancient beings that built the technological foundation of the universe? If so...well, that's also territory that Mass Effect explored thoroughly, inviting another comparison. Then again, Star Trek has explored it before, too.

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A dimly lit chamber. Ornate. A place for rituals, perhaps?

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Or rather a funeral, as this floating casket seems to suggest. But whose funeral could this be? What alien species would indulge in huge a lavish ceremony to honor a death?

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Ah. The Klingons. Or so we can assume. Because these designs are surely going to prove controversial amongst fans – they look very different from the Klingons seen in the bulk of the Star Trek series. This look has more in common with the Klingons seen in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness than with the classic look seen in the movies and later TV shows. Personally, I'm ready to adopt a "Well, facial hair probably came back into style, and they changed their armor designs between Discovery and The Next Generation" approach to this, provided that they nail the right attitude for these characters.

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"Captain! Warp signatures detected!"

Qualms about the new look aside, I do love how the ship's computer displays the arrival of Klingon ships by literally representing them with the Klingon insignia. It's an awesome shorthand that just looks cool.

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Here's a close-up of what appears to be a Klingon leader. After all, there's no way anyone but the top dog gets to wear spiky golden armor and figure so prominently in a close-up, right? The forehead makeup is top-notch – I just miss the long hair and more battle-ready armor seen in other shows.

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Try as I might, I cannot see a ship name on display here. Is this the Discovery or the Shenzhou? Whatever ship it is, it's being shot with a twisting camera while lens flares shine in our face. At least they're consistent.

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"You will never learn Vulcan. Your tongue is too human." Here's James Frain as Sarek again (not in hologram form!), but who is he talking to? Who is too human to learn the Vulcan language?

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Cut to: a little girl who looks an awful lot like a young Commander Michael Burnham. Is this deceptive cutting, or are we supposed to take an intended message from this? How does Burnham know Sarek? Why is she learning Vulcan? And why does she seem to be sporting that Vulcan haircut? Is it possible that she was a human raised (or at least tutored) by Sarek? And if so, then she surely knows Spock...and maybe they're adopted siblings.

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At some point, a new technical manual will be released, telling us where in the ship this room is located and how it works. But right now...is it a medical chamber? A meditation chamber? It doesn't ring any bells for me, personally. Break out your ship maps and charts, everyone. Maybe we can suss this one out.

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"I'm trying to save you. I'm trying to save all of you." That's all well and good, but could you take a step to your right to block that enormous lens flare? Anyway, it wouldn't be Star Trek without some self-righteousness and Burnham seems to have that down.

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Like the bridge itself, the corridors here are more muted than those seen in the new movies (and they're a far cry from the plush, hotel-esque corridors of the Next Generation era).

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Two notes here. First, could this blinding light and shrill sound be caused by the mysterious alien object Commander Burnham was investigating earlier in the trailer? Second, it really isn't Star Trek unless members of the bridge crew are asked to pantomime some kind of disaster while the post-production team does everything in their power to make sure no one looks silly.

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Will every episode of Star Trek: Discovery have shots like this or will these vistas only show up in the pilot and vanish by episode two? That's my genuine concern, even as scenes like this make my jaw drop. TV Trek has never looked like this.

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Here's some angry funeral wailing, just in case you wanted to add some new gutturals to your collection of Klingon phrases.

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So we've seen Klingons, Vulcans, a blue-skinned alien that follows that Star Trek formula of looking like a human except for some new colors and bumps and...this guy. The hood and the background suggest that this could be a species living on the desert planet seen earlier in the trailer. What's interesting to me is that this guy looks more like a Star Wars alien than a Star Trek alien, mainly because the former has always had more money to create outlandish and distinctly non-humanoid aliens. Discovery seems to have enough money to go all-in on alien creatures that defy categorization.

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I like this weird VR helmet thing because it rides a fine line. It's futuristic enough to look like it belongs in our future while also looking just clunky enough that it wouldn't look out of place on the original '60s series. As for its purpose, that screen seems to imply that it could be used for anything from navigation to weapons targeting.

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"We target its neck, cut off its head."

"Starfleet doesn't fire first."

"We have to!"

It looks like the captain and her commander are going to have a disagreement over how to handle a tricky situation. The question of aggression versus diplomacy is a classic Trek debate and one that I look forward to seeing explored...especially since Martin-Green is in the rare position of playing a Star Trek hero who seems to think shooting first is the right call.

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"My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone. To sense the coming of death. I sense it coming now." Yikes. That's a terribly particular purpose. We don't know much about Saru's species (they were specially created for Star Trek: Discovery), so it's impossible to understand the full context of what he's talking about here. However, both he and Commander Burnham look down during this conversation, which could mean nothing...or it could mean someone is literally dying in their presence. This only furthers my suspicion that Captain Georgiou may not be long for this universe.

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The trailer ends with the reveal that Commander Burnham is not alone on that mysterious alien object. There's someone (something?) else there...

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...and it's ready to fight. The armor and bladed weapons suggest that this could be a Klingon, which would certainly make sense. A fight to the death between a Starfleet officer and a Klingon warrior is certainly dramatic...and it could lead to the conflict between their respective fleets glimpsed elsewhere in the trailer...and it could also lead to that funeral we saw earlier. After all, there's no way Burnham doesn't walk away from this one. This guy is going down.

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While the trailer itself is a little weird and clunky (they're apparently only using footage from the first episode or two and can only work with what's finished), I'm feeling pretty good about what we've seen so far. This is definitely Star Trek for 2017 audiences: glossy, action-packed, and filled with characters representing a wider swath of humanity (not to mention fancy-looking aliens). It may not look like traditional Trek, but this may be exactly what the series needs at this point. If it can blend what worked on the big screen with what has always worked on the small screen, this could be something special.