Star Trek: Discovery, Season 2: Trailers, how to watch, release date, cast and more

Everything we know about the ongoing CBS All Access series.

Caitlin Petrakovitz Director of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
Caitlin Petrakovitz
9 min read
Jan Thijs/CBS

Star Trek: Discovery brought the Trek franchise back to television, or at least smaller screens, after years off air. The series was announced as a prequel to the original Star Trek, and it takes place about 10 years before that series. The first season also gave the classic character Spock a half-sibling, a move many decried as rewriting established canon. 

The thing about canon, though, is that it can always evolve -- and Discovery continues to demonstrate just that. With the latest Discovery Season 2 trailer, we've got a deeper look at Spock, and more insight into what we can expect from the addition of Capt. Pike. CBS has also released an official synopsis of Season 2, which lines up with previous one-liners, and announced that Season 2 will be 14 episodes as opposed to the previously ordered 13.

The first season gave us nearly unrecognizable Klingons, a revolutionary new mode of transportation thanks to mycelium spores, and Trek's first gay kiss. It also gave us a brand-new show for fodder and growth about the massive Trek universes, be it Prime, Kelvin or other. In the beginning of October, ahead of Season 2, Star Trek: Short Treks premiered. Episode 1 is called "Runaway" and focused on Ensign Sylvia Tilly (Mary Wiseman); all three episodes are available on CBS All Access now, and the final episode is directed by Rainn Wilson and arrives Jan. 3.

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New season premieres Jan. 17

Ahead of New York Comic-Con in October, CBS announced that Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 would premiere in January and released a new poster with some cryptic symbolism. (Disclosure: CBS is CNET's parent company.) With the release of the latest Season 2 trailer, we learned these red lights are actually some sort of euphoric alien entity that the Discovery is searching for.

Spock seems to plead with his half-sister to help him find these entities, perhaps because the universe is in peril if he doesn't (isn't it always?). The new trailer also sheds light on where Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) has been -- off fighting with L'Rell (Mary Chieffo) and maybe even newly minted Section 31 member (and probably Big Bad) Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). 

CBS All Access

The new trailer also spends a lot of time reuniting Burnham with significant characters, such as Spock, Georgiou and Tyler. Interestingly, we still have no idea how once-dead Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) may re-emerge, and we get no new glimpses of Rebecca Romijn's Number One.

There's also a suuuuuper quick look at Tig Notaro's new character; a huge bad that looks suspiciously like a Demogorgon; confirmation that Section 31 is the worst kept secret in Starfleet; a really questionable Vulcan nerve pinch; and confirmation that we will definitely still see some heavy-handed references to Alice in Wonderland this season.

How to watch Star Trek: Discovery

Season 1 is currently available to stream on CBS All Access if you're in the US, CraveTV in Canada and on Netflix in other countries. You can also purchase the Blu-ray and DVD (exact dates depend on where you are and what version you want to own) to get caught up before January.

When Season 2 premieres, it will be exclusively on the above platforms, and we've confirmed that just like Season 1, just one episode will be available each week.

Star Trek: Discovery

Click here to watch Discovery on All Access.

Official synopsis, rumors and theories

The new official synopsis for Season 2 doesn't give much away.

After answering a distress signal from the U.S.S. Enterprise, Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery finds the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery joining forces with Captain Christopher Pike on a new mission to investigate seven mysterious red signals and the appearance of an unknown being called the Red Angel. While the crew must work together to unravel their meaning and origin, Michael Burnham is forced to face her past with the return of her estranged brother, Spock.

OK, sure, sounds pretty simple. So while not a lot is known about Season 2, we have two trailers to draw from and use to speculate, along with a series of appearances that have illuminated a bit more about potential storylines. CBS All Access also unveiled a behind-the-scenes look at the work on Season 2, featuring Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman touting its new "cinematic look."

Really, Section 31??

Look, I'm not necessarily mad about this addition, but it definitely already feels a bit too heavy-handed for what was also supposed to be a *secret* part of Starfleet. Other shows and movies have stuck to mostly hinting at the covert group, with the exception of a few notables episodes.  

We know there was a deleted scene from the finale of Season 1 that would've given audiences a teaser about the secretive group, and it definitely isn't the first or last we've seen of those striking half-black, half-silver badges. At WonderCon this year, Alan Van Sprang (who plays a new character named Leland) said he knows Section 31 is a "massive part" of Season 2 but didn't provide any other details. During the first Season 2 trailer though, we learned we'll see both those black badges and Mirror Universe Georgiou's role within the group.

And tbh she doesn't seem to have left her killy Mirror tendencies behind. This look is from the most recent trailer:

CBS All Access

And it lines up scarily well with this shapeshifting GIF from the first trailer. Seems the Demogorgon might not be the only being capable of "wiping out all sentient life in the universe" Spock is warning Starfleet about. Is Georgiou trying to incite another war? Her hate for all things nonhuman and desire to rule as emperor again are too strong to just "fade away" in this new universe, right?

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The return of an icon: Hello, Spock

Spock's only arriving for the second season, but he loomed large over half-sister Burnham throughout most of the first season. Over the summer, Martin-Green expressed her excitement about the casting addition. 

"It's incredible," she said during a panel at Fan Expo Canada. "I just think it's genius to have us be set where we are, 10 years before [The Original Series] and to have Burnham be connected to that institution that is the family of Sarek and Amanda and Spock. I just am so appreciative of it. It's so full. It's so full, it's wrought with everything. And then I end up being two degrees separated from Captain Pike and that's really interesting too, to be able to have that sort of connection to the canon. I really loved that because one of the things we are doing in our iteration, on Star Trek: Discovery, is being our own thing, but also keeping that connection with us in the canon and having that connective tissue. So, I really appreciate it, and it is juicy!"

Given the pre-TOS timeline of Discovery, it's unclear just how Spock-like this version of Spock will be. The San Diego Comic-Con trailer insinuated that the classic character's appearance would be connected to the "mysterious red bursts" seen in the trailer and now on the official poster.

At New York Comic Con in October, we learned even more about the "new" Spock, as Peck told CNET's Roger Cheng that we're seeing how Spock becomes that classic logical Vulcan: "The ultimate destination for this Spock is Nimoy's Spock, but we have to come from somewhere. Over the course of the season, you see him become the Spock that we love and know."

Glowing red beings

Lights, bursts, whatever you call them we know they'll be at the heart of the mystery of Season 2. ComicBook.com speculated that they could be connected to the Kelvin Timeline, citing Burnham's quotes from the first trailer: "A secret made of space and time, visible only to those open enough to receive it." Pike also seems to hint that they drew Spock in and captivated him, "It's as if he'd run into a question he couldn't answer," he says in the trailer.

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In the first trailer, Spock says: "As a child, I had the same vision, again and again. Now I understand where it must lead."

The Kelvin timeline refers to the events of the film trilogy that began with Star Trek (2009), and stars Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Commander Spock, Zoe Saldana as Lt. Nyota Uhura and John Cho as Hikaru Sulu. In that series, Prime Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy once more) accidentally travels backward in time when he attempts to use red matter in his own timeline. The red matter may be an explanation for the beings in the trailer and on the latest poster.

I know this is going to sound crazy, but for me the first thing the "angelic symbol" on the latest poster called to mind was Romulans. Yes, Discovery takes place a century after the Earth-Romulan War, and that former co-showrunner Aaron Harberts insinuated long ago that the R-word was more or less banned from the writers room but (a) again, where tf did the Klingons get the cloaking tech from? And (b) Harberts is no longer a part of the show. And after seeing the Easter egg in the Season 1 finale, I'd say all bets are off.

Aiming for the classics

At NYCC, the consensus seemed to be that Season 2 is steering Discovery toward classic Trek. "[The different pace] allows us to explore some of the philosophical questions that great Trek has explored, that you don't have time to explore when you're at war," Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman said in an interview with CNET's Roger Cheng

In the peacetime of the new season, all signs point to a lighter Trek, with some funny moments already seen in the two trailers -- a sentiment echoed by the cast and crew in New York. "The humor comes from the characters knowing each other better now," Kurtzman said in the same interview. "So much of what we love about Trek is funny."

Killy Tilly grows up

In a fresh roundup interviews promoting the Short Treks minisodes, Wiseman got into a bit more about her character, teasing the newly promoted officer's future. "Now that (Tilly is) in the command training program I'm trying to live up to that and kind of do a good job and succeed and that will also be a big part of Season 2," she told ComicBook.com.

Stepping into Killy Tilly's shoes last season was one of Wiseman's favorite moments, she told CNET this week. "People see something in her, her potential to be in command," Wiseman said, adding that Tilly is "completely herself, doesn't put on a front, and that's a quality people will follow." (While I think it's unlikely we'll see her again, I would not be mad about more Killy Tilly.) 

Remaining questions Season 2 needs to answer

  • Do the Star Trek: Short Treks play into the continuity? I don't think so, but there's no way to know for sure until we see the Short Treks and Season 2. I'm never against in-canon shorts but it feels a bit like these are like mini-feelers or pilots for the announced Star Trek universe shows in development -- but I may be biased since I feel Aldis Hodge deserves more than just a short. Tilly's Short Trek seemed to hint at her future with Starfleet and hinted at her loneliness onboard Discovery.
  • *How* is Dr. Culber back? Cruz has been cagey about the details of his return to the screen, and while I'm excited he'll appear in the season, the how will be important.
  • What really happened to the Spore Drive research? Sorry, but I do not believe a war-torn Federation just "let it go."

All the Star Trek: Discovery costumes, weapons and art seen at Comic-Con 2018

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Cast and crew: Who's returning?

Executive producer Alex Kurtzman also returns, this time with the added title of showrunner. We also know that Jonathan Frakes (who played Commander William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation) will direct multiple episodes this season.

New cast members

That's right, the Enterprise will make her appearance on Discovery -- keep in mind this series is set 10 years before the original Star Trek, which means a look at a younger Pike and Number One.

Every Star Trek: Discovery season 2 photo so far

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This piece was originally published Oct. 2 and is updated we get more info or as we think of new questions that need answers.

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