Star Trek: Discovery Debuted 5 Years Ago, Bringing the Franchise Back to Life

Five years ago, Star Trek: Discovery debuted on CBS All Acces, which is now Paramount+. Star Trek: Discovery's premiere episode, "The Vulcan Hello," which debuted alongside its second episode, "Battle at the Binary Stars," were the first new Star Trek episode to debut in 18 years. Sure, the Star Trek movies continued, releasing three films between 2009 and 2016 (with another still in the works). However, while there have been great Star Trek movies, Star Trek has always been a television franchise at heart. That the newest films star an entirely new cast in a different universe made them feel less connected to Trek's television roots despite Leonard Nimoy's final appearances as Spock.

And sure, new stories of the old television crews were told in comics and even continued past their on-screen ending in novels. But again, Star Trek is in its natural element on television, and that's what Star Trek: Discovery brought back.

It started with Discovery alone, telling the story of Spock's adoptive sister, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). She begins the series as the first officer aboard the USS Shenzhou under Capt. Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), but her life soon changes drastically. Though Discovery went through some creative changes even before debuting that would continue through its earliest seasons, it offered fans their first taste of what Star Trek could be in the streaming era. It told a less conventional Star Trek story in serialized fashion with modern special effects. The series has only become more comfortable and confident in its storytelling when it went from being a Star Trek prequel to being set in the far future, becoming continuity's vanguard rather than its prisoner, with Alex Kurtzman and Michelle Paradise at the helm.

Kurtzman is the head producer of the Star Trek franchise, and he's launched five Star Trek television series in as many years. Discovery's fifth season is on the way, but he followed its launch by announcing that Patrick Stewart would return as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in a new series eventually named Star Trek: Picard. Picard is likely as close as Star Trek fans will ever get to seeing something akin to the Star Wars sequel trilogy and its third and final season, set to debut in February, sees the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation cast reuniting for a new adventure.

Star Trek has also returned to animation. Star Trek: Lower Decks, now in its third season with a fourth on the way, exposes Star Trek's funnier side through the eyes of the lower deckers aboard the USS Cerritos. The CG-animated Star Trek: Prodigy is arguably the most vital show in the current Trek lineup, as it aims to bring new, young viewers into the fold, playing a similar role as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels in the Star Wars franchise.

Star Trek: Discovery's second season set the stage for Star Trek's newest live-action series, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, by introducing Anson Mount as Capt. Christopher Pike, Ethan Peck as Spock, and Rebecca Romijn as "Number One," Una Chin-Riley. Of all the current Star Trek shows, this is the one that feels the most like one of the classics, telling standalone stories in each episode as it develops its characters through their arcs. The first season was Paramount+'s most successful Star Trek launch yet, and Star Trek's most critically acclaimed ever.

But Star Trek isn't stopping there. Though sidelined by the pandemic, another Star Trek: Discovery spinoff focusing on the Mirror Universe's Philippa Georgiou and the clandestine agency Section 31 is still in the works, and a Starfleet Academy series is also in development.

In 2017, Star Trek: Discovery returned the Star Trek franchise to life. Five years later, there are more Star Trek shows in production simultaneously than ever before, and none of them feel redundant. Each brings a different take on the Star Trek universe, from Discovery's big-budget action to Picard's drama, Lower Decks' humor, Prodigy's family-friendly adventure, and Strange New Worlds' classic storytelling. With more on the way, it's a great time to be a Star Trek fan.