In November 2015, CBS announced the first new Star Trek series since Enterprise concluded in 2005. Due to the agreement dividing Paramount from CBS, Paramount controlled Star Trek films while CBS controlled Star Trek television; Paramount had been successful with two Abrams movies in 2009 and 2013, but despite rumors, no new TV show had been mounted. Entitled Star Trek: Discovery, the new series would feature several firsts: the first to star a first officer, rather than a captain; the first to star an African-American woman; and the first to debut through a streaming service — specifically, to anchor the new CBS All Access. The show would be set roughly 10 years before the original series (making it the second prequel show, after Enterprise) and would be set in the original Star Trek universe, rather than Paramount’s Abrams timeline. The show might have debuted in 2016, but an agreement between Paramount and CBS prohibited it, because 2016 was Star Trek’s 50th anniversary and a new series might dilute the attention given to the movie Star Trek Beyond (which, ironically, was seen to have performed poorly anyway).
Debuting in September 2017, the series was successful, drawing many new subscribers to CBS All Access. Praise focused on the show’s fast pace, its action, and its performances. However, Star Trek fans objected to incongruities between the show and the established timeline, including a high level of technology not seen during the period in which the show was set, including a “spore drive” that allowed for instantaneous teleportation of ships, modernized designs that seemed a world beyond the original series, the insertion of a new adopted sister into Spock’s childhood story, a depiction of Vulcans as more fractured and hostile than even what Enterprise has portrayed, and deviations from past portrayals of Klingons. At the same time, several elements were included to please fans, including Harry Mudd, Sarek, and (in the first season’s conclusion) the Enterprise, then under the command of Captain Pike.
After the 15-episode first season, a 14-episode second season debuted in early 2019. It featured Pike as a central character and Spock as a recurring character. The second season’s plot concluded by sending Discovery into the far future, while also trying to address continuity errors, such as why Spock hadn’t mentioned his adopted sister. The show acknowledged that sending the ship into the far future would give them a clean slate to work without considering continuity, a (perhaps admirable) admission that they had struggled with this (basic for a prequel) issue. (Further seasons of Discovery are listed in this later setting.)
Around the second season, a Discovery spin-off show focusing on the Mirror Universe Georgiou was announced, although its development was put on hold, with the stated reason that it should begin after Discovery concludes. After the second season, fans responded very positively to Pike, and many asked for a series set on the Enterprise of this era. Paramount agreed, signing the actors who had played Pike, Number One, and Spock to the new show, entitled Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. In contrast to the trend of the previous 15 years of so (including Discovery), Strange New Worlds would try to be more episodic, in an attempt to capture the tone of the original series.
The influence of Discovery is profound. The show’s first-season success led to CBS approving a number of new Star Trek shows with different settings, formats, and tones. CBS stated that its vision was for new Star Trek content to appear throughout each entire year across different shows. The first full-length series to follow discovery would be Star Trek: Picard, which continued the Next Generation era and which appeared between Discovery‘s second and third seasons. Other series would soon follow, leading to a kind of renaissance for Trek.
Between Discovery‘s first and second season, CBS All Access ran a series of four shorts, entitled Short Treks, starring Discovery-related characters. A second season of six new shorts was offered between Discovery‘s second season and the 2020 premiere of Picard. While most of these short episodes occur during the Discovery era, or are related to those characters, other episodes are set during later eras (and are placed here on the appropriate pages).
The unaired pilot to the original series, “The Cage,” was set around 2254, shortly prior to Discovery, and is therefore included here.