After ten long years' absence from our screens, Star Trek will boldly go back to TV in 2017 when Bryan Fuller's new series airs. Dubbed Star Trek: Discovery, little is known about the show, but there has been much speculation about the time setting. We finally know for sure that Discovery will be set in the Prime Timeline, which many of us had assumed would be the case, thanks to some careful wording in the initial press release.
But when in the Prime Timeline is the real question — with decades upon decades to choose from, Discovery could lead the franchise into a bold new, post-Voyager future, or take us back to where it all began. And the most recent clues seem to suggest that this is exactly what Fuller is planning to do. Look carefully at the ship's NCC designation in the teaser below:
The USS Discovery has the designation of NCC-1031, which fans naturally tore into after the test footage was released, trying to guess when exactly the ship was made. It's easy to narrow down the possibilities once you've done your research, and the conclusion debunks the popular rumor that Discovery will be set between The Undiscovered Country and The Next Generation.
Taking It Back To TOS
Much like the stardates, starship designations in the Star Trek universe are far from organized rigorously. There was no initial plan for what the numbers would mean — Matt Jefferies, the man who designed the NCC-1701, decided the numerals meant that the Enterprise was Starfleet's 17th model design, and the first of its kind.
Naturally, once the narrative was fleshed out and the history embellished this no longer became true, and later uses of the NCC designations started to follow a more chronological pattern.
With a few exceptions from The Next Generation, the NCC ships started with three-numeral designations, and the first four-numeral designation we know of (aside from the Enterprise) was the NCC-1017 in 2267. This appeared in The Original Series episode "The Doomsday Machine", and we can assume that — following the chronological structure — the USS Constellation was built before the Enterprise.
Naturally, Star Trek: Discovery may dispense with this structure completely, but the fact that the showrunners revealed the NCC designation in the SDCC teaser might be because they want us to guess the time setting of the show... or they just want to sit back and watch us run riot with speculation, which also sounds fun.
But the apparently logical conclusion seems to be that the USS Discovery was built before the NCC-1701 Enterprise, sometime around the 2240s or '50s. And the design, inspired by an abandoned concept for The Motion Picture, seems to align with this mid-2200s setting.
So we've got a vague setting — sometime between the 2240s and 2260s — but what will the plot be about? The teaser may have revealed that too.
Clashes With The Klingons
Usually, starships are built in space, docked near starbases or Earth itself. This allows for plenty of movement around the ship, as the components are naturally rather immense. But the spacedock in the Star Trek: Discovery is something unlike anything we've ever seen before — it's housed in an asteroid, almost disguised with the entrance concealed. So was this a tactical choice? And was the USS Discovery built here?
There were many conflicts around this time, specifically with the Klingons. Many fans have already pointed out the similarity of the USS Discovery's design to the Klingon Bird-of-Prey model, and the music alo seems reminiscent of many Klingon themes in the Star Trek soundtracks.
It could be that Star Trek: Discovery will explore these pre-Khitomer Accord clashes with the Klingons — which would explain Nicholas Meyer's comment to Den Of Geek that The Undiscovered Country is a narrative "jumping off point" for the new series. And there's one conflict in particular which they could explore: The infamous Battle of Axanar, which took place in 2251. Axanar was alluded to in The Original Series, as a pivotal conflict in the war against the Klingons. The battle was so important, it was even made required reading at the Academy, barely a decade after the battle took place.
If the name sounds familiar to you, that might because there's a fraught legal battle going on between CBS and a fan studio over a non-licensed movie dealing with the Battle of Axanar.
If CBS really did want to explore this interesting part of Trek's in-universe history, it's understandable that they wouldn't want a fan production muddying the water around the time their new series is set to debut.
Of course, this is all conjecture, and there are plenty of other conflicts Star Trek: Discovery could focus on. But from the NCC designation giving us a timeframe, and the starbase being concealed in an asteroid, it seems as though Discovery will be set just before The Original Series, and deal with the Federation's tense relationship with the Klingons. Which would certainly be an interesting topic to explore.