To mark the show's triumphant return, Digital Spy spoke with CSI star Jorja Fox - who plays Sara Sidle - to get all the scoop on the new season, the show's future and the possibility of a Sara / Grissom reunion...
The last season of CSI ended with Russell's granddaughter in deep trouble. Where does season 13 pick up?
"Pretty much everything that could go wrong has gone wrong - Russell's granddaughter has been kidnapped, Ecklie (Marc Vann) is shot and in dire jeopardy - you don't know if he's going to make it or not…
"Finn (Elisabeth Shue) has disappeared off the Earth and Nick Stokes (George Eads) has quit, so pandemonium has ensued and the characters definitely spend the first half of the [season 13 premiere] running around, fearing the worst. So it's a suspenseful episode, for sure."
Season 12 saw Ted Danson join the show as Russell, as well as Elisabeth Shue replacing Marg Helgenberger - has this new season felt more stable?
"Yeah, actually - and a third character, Elisabeth Harnois [who plays Morgan Brody] joined two episodes before the end of season 11, so essentially her and Ted started right around the same time.
"To have three new characters in such a short period of time, it almost feels like we're doing a completely new show, but with all the perks of having done a show for such a long time - the people that you trust, the short-hand and the collaboration.
"So it's been an amazing season - season 12 and season 13 so far have been some of the most fun seasons I've ever been a part of - and yes, you're absolutely right to use the world 'stable'. I would say 'stable' maybe for the first time!
"Even before cast members began departing, there was always something exciting that would shake up the show at least once a year so, knock on wood, I've been enjoying that feeling [of stability].
"Season 13 is pretty much the first season of the show for many years where the writers knew what cast they would have to write for - pretty much every year they would end and they wouldn't know who was coming back [the following season], so it was very difficult for them to start early on stories."
The second episode of this season is a big one for Sara, isn't it?
"I think it's the biggest departure for the show this season - we're doing something we've never done before, in that virtually every episode so far has had a very profound personal storyline for at least one character on the show.
"It's something that we've tended to avoid often in the past - we'd maybe do this kind of stuff every ten episodes, or once a season - but we're getting to the core and the heart of the matter with season 13, so I hope everybody enjoys it."
Episode seven 'Fallen Angels' also contains nods to the past and to the character of Warrick Brown - what can you reveal about that?
"It was a tough one to shoot, because I miss Gary Dourdan every day. It's funny - he's been gone for a long time and I still miss him on the show. I miss his character, I miss his energy - so it was hard to go back.
"Of course, in the make-believe world of CSI, you're also going back into the life of one of your best friends who's passed away and we find out that things are not going so well [for his family], so I think it is a really awesome episode. Meta Golding, who plays Warwick's wife on the show, is brilliant. But it was hard - it was one of those ones that was heartbreaking to do."
There's also going to be a crossover between CSI and CSI: NY - what role does Sara play in that?
"Gary Sinise's character from CSI: NY - because he's in our show, he's having a profound personal problem. He crossed over into Las Vegas and now he's in the land of personal nightmares and demons!
"But he arrives in Las Vegas and this [case] is something that Russell is helping with very closely. My character in the CSI part of the crossover is off on a different crime with Greg Sanders (Eric Szmanda) that involves grifting - which is always really fascinating in Las Vegas."
There have been rumours that we might finally meet Sara's mother - do you know if that is happening?
"Gosh, that's been a rumour since season two! I can't confirm or deny it, but I would love to meet her too. She's a scary person! I can't confirm it, but that sounds great, so I hope so."
Do you have a dream actress in mind for the role?
"There's a really, really long list, but I'd have to say Mary Tyler Moore - I just love her so much, I'd love the chance to see her on the show."
Are there any plans for Grissom (William Petersen) to make another appearance following his cameo in season eleven?
"I think that there is some stuff [planned] - I'm always hoping for it. I feel like Sara's a little young to sleep alone every night and she's still very much in love with Grissom, so we're always thinking about and hoping for some type of reunion between the two of them - at least I am. That will be a story for Sara in season 13 - what it's like to have a long-distance relationship and how she's weathering all that."
Last year, CSI was named the most watched show in the world for the fifth time. How does it feel knowing that the show remains a global phenomenon 13 seasons in?
"It's astounding - it's one of the highest fan compliments the show could ever receive. We were floating on air about it for several weeks and it's always a surprise. It means so much that it's international, that it's global - we're tucked away in California doing the show, and I think we all want to be out in the world more than we are. To find out that there's folks out all over who are watching is an amazing feeling."
CSI: Miami sadly ended last year, but do you think there is still plenty of life left in the original CSI?
"I do, for sure. Again, we've been so lucky - I don't think anybody's bored yet. I can't believe I've had the same job this long - as an actor, I didn't even know that was possible.
"The fact that I continue to be excited to go to work every day and I absolutely adore the people I'm working with… and unfortunately in the United States there's no shortage of crimes to tell stories about! So yeah, I'd like to see us go for a couple more years, I think we got it in us.
"We've reached a place with the show where we pretty much get picked up for one season at a time and that's okay - it's always been a pleasant surprise to find out that we were going to go another year. I think that we're certainly one of the grandparents of TV right now in the States - if we were a person, we'd have our little cane and hearing aid… and that's a very nice place to be in!"
CSI season 13 begins on Tuesday (February 26) at 9pm on Channel 5.