The secrecy surrounding Star Trek’s return to TV has been downright impressive, with little-to-no plot information released about new series Discovery with only days to go until its release.
Most interestingly, this has included embargoing or denying review copies of the series to critics before Discovery airs, an unusual move that has been used by some of the biggest shows on TV to prevent spoilers leaking (most notably Game of Thrones in recent years) but is generally seen within the industry as a sign that the TV show or movie in question is a real dud, with negative reviews being held back so that a potential audience isn't entirely put off.
But of course, there are always other possibilities – and one that really has our minds racing has been hinted at by science-fiction author David Mack, who assisted in developing the story for Star Trek: Discovery and who has read several of the scripts. In other words, he’s a bit of an insider, and according to him, the secrecy isn’t down to any poor quality in Discovery itself. Rather, it’s because there’s just too much to spoil.
“The show didn't embargo reviews because they're afraid or ashamed,” Mack said in a long Twitter tirade, in which he also predicted that Discovery would have the best first season of a Star Trek series ever. “This team is BURSTING with pride to show you what they've achieved.
“The team at @startrekcbs is just trying to contain the inevitable spoilers for as long as they can, so you can SHARE THEIR WONDER.
“Stop predicting doom and gloom. A new era of STAR TREK is soon to dawn. And when it does, you will sing this team's praises as I do.”
Of course, Mack isn’t the most impartial of observers here, but if we take his comments as fact for the moment they bring up some intriguing possibilities. From hereon out, beware potential spoilers (just in case we’ve guessed anything right).
Could it be that Discovery's first couple of episodes hinge on some plot points so massive that keeping them secret would become a priority over positive buzz from potential reviewers? And if so, could this explain a few confusing inconsistencies within what we do know about the series?
Because frankly, some sort of massive twist could help explain a few plot threads that have left us slightly confused in the build-up to Discovery’s launch (no pun intended). From the trailers and other material we know that lead character Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) begins the series as the First Officer on the USS Shenzou under Captain Phillippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) – but later she also seems to be serving under Captain Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs) of the USS Discovery, the titular ship which has also been generally featured as the main setting of the series.
Clearly, Burnham couldn’t serve on both ships simultaneously, so what causes her to up sticks and join a new ship? Well, we might get some clue from the series trailers, which see her told she helped "start a war" after the Shenzou is attacked by the Klingons.
"We target the neck, cut off its head," she tells Georgiou in the first trailer when they first encounter the Klingons.
"Starfleet doesn’t fire first," Georgiou retorts.
"We have to!" Burnham insists.
And much of the chatter around the series has also suggested Burnham is in some way to blame for the battle, with her unknown “choice” (presumably to attack, perhaps influenced by the fact that Klingons previously killed her parents) said to have devastating consequences.
“Burnham’s choice that we’re alluding to is the most difficult choice you can make – it affects her, affects Starfleet, affects the Federation; it affects the entire universe,” showrunner Aaron Roberts previously hinted.
The second trailer (above) goes on to show Burnham in the brig of a destroyed starship, and the signs point to this being the Shenzou post-attack – all of which makes us think the unthinkable. Could the massive twist be that Burnham’s choice ends up destroying her ship, and possibly the crew into the bargain?
Just think about it – if true, this would see a ship-full of main characters wiped out early in the series (probably episode two, which is broadcast along with the premiere this weekend and is named after the battle), demonstrating at a stroke that this is a different kind of Star Trek and giving Burnham a killer motivation for the rest of the series. That’d be worth keeping under wraps.
Basically, it’d be a classic Game of Thrones move – kill off loads of characters who seemed to be unkillable – which would justify aping the HBO fantasy series’ signature secrecy, and create massive hype after the series has started rather than before. Might this be worth the risk of keeping fans in the dark for a little while longer?
Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery
Now, it could be that all this is nonsense, and that Discovery is instead using the age-old tradition of keeping a lid on negative reviews rather than engaging on some great spoiler prevention plan. After all, even films like Star Wars episode VII have early screenings and reviews, and that was one of the biggest movie events in decades chock-full of spoiler information.
But given the positive buzz from the series premiere event (admittedly from a very amenable crowd) it’s looking increasingly like CBS have something to protect other than their pride, and we can't help but wonder if a huge twist is coming next Monday.
Maybe, just maybe, Discovery will boldly go where no Star Trek series has gone before and truly regenerate Gene Rodenderry's vision for a new generation. Stranger things have happened in Star Trek, after all.
(Remember the Gorn?)
Originally published on September 21st 2017
Star Trek: Discovery begins streaming on Netflix UK from Monday 25th September