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NYCC: Star Trek: Discovery Cast & Crew Celebrate Diversity, Science

by  in CBR Exclusives, TV News Comment
NYCC: Star Trek: Discovery Cast & Crew Celebrate Diversity, Science

Rejoice, Treksters! Star Trek: Discovery marks the return of the franchise, on the small-screen, for the first time in 12 years. Now, we have a new cast to make appearances at conventions, to tease everything in store for the future of Trek. Such is the case at New York Comic Con, as we report LIVE from the official Star Trek: Discovery panel featuring a chunk of the cast and the creative minds behind the critically-acclaimed franchise revival. Follow along as we share nuggets from the panel, from suprirsing revelations to behind-the-scenes anecdotes and much, much more!

Attending the panel are cast members Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnahm), Jason Isaacs (Captain Lorca), Doug Jones (Saru), Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Mary Chieffo (L’Rell) and Wilson Cruz (Dr. Hugh Culber), and executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, Heather Kadin and Akiva Goldsman. The moderator is former NASA Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, a major fan of Star Trek, the world’s first woman of color in space and leader of the 100 Year Starship initiative fostering the capabilities for human interstellar travel.

Before the panel a teaser came on screen for this season on Star Trek: Discovery. It happened to be the same one released just after the first two episodes, which debuted loads of new footage.

After the teaser, the moderator came on stage. She proclaimed her life-long fandom of Star Trek, which began way back in the 60s with The Original Series. She then introduced the entire cast and crew present on stage. There was a roaring applause from the audience at the calling of each name, and a standing ovation for Martin-Green.

Kurtzman was asked “to provide a treat,” which he revealed was a teaser for episode four. He said we’ll learn more about Lorca’s “odd menagerie of animals.”

The teaser began with thunderous beams of electricity bursting out of what’s revealed to be the close-up of Michael Burnham’s new Starfleet uniform. As Burnham puts on the suit, she’s interrupted by Tilly who breaks a moment of dramatic tension noting that the outfit suits her, much better than her brig clothes. Burnham is then called to the bridge, and on her way through the corridors of the Discovery is given plenty of judgy side-eyes. Burnham gets to the bridge where it’s revealed the crew is mid-battle with Klingon Birds of Prey. They lose the battle and are all “dead”…until it’s revealed to simply be a simulation; very much like an homage of the opening sequence to Wrath of Khan. Lorca delivers an angry speech, scolding the crew for their failure, and warns against their “one chance” to survive battle with Klingons. Lorca and Burnham then leave the bridge together, and they have a conversation about military strategy, until Lorca takes Burnham to a mysterious room: his weapons’ chamber. He introduces her to a dark doorway, we hear growling…it’s an alien beast. Lorca explains that they need to harness weapons from material based on the creature, tasking Burnham with determining how to weaponize its bio-organics.

Directed at Martin-Green the first question asked her what it was like to meet Nichelle Nichols, the actress from The Original Series. She apparently told Martin-Green, “‘Enjoy this moment, it’s yours now.'”

She continued, “It’s been quite a ride…we’ve had interesting journeys bringing these people to life,” she added, “it’s very easy to let your imagination run wild with what’s provided on the page.”

Harberts was asked about the origins of the show, explaining that he knew very early on it would be set 10 years before TOS. They were considering early on how the show could still make things feel current, and bring in new science, regardless of it taking place before TOS.

“The science that we do on Star Trek…is rooted in real science,” Rapp said. “This may be possible one day…from what I read the Warp Drive is theoretically possible.” The moderator then explained the science behind that possibility in some detail.

The moderator asked the producers to talk about having the first mutineer in Star Trek history as the main character on the series. Kurtzman took the question, saying that he was very excited the lead of the show wouldn’t be a captain, while maintaining the spirit of Trek. He said they wanted the audience to assume the show would be one thing based on the first two episodes, then have them completely surprised by the turn of events in Episode 3.

Martin-Green said, “the inner turmoil…I find it quite visceral…my emotions helped me carve out new paths of logic…I love that this path is one of self-discovery for sure…and a path of redemption as well.”

Turning the conversation to captains, the moderator asked Isaacs how Lorca is similar or different from other Trek captains. Isaacs bounced the question back at the moderator, however, asking her what it was like to be in space and either feel like an American, or feel like a member of her planet. The moderator answered, saying she never viewed the world as divided up by lines or countries. “I started to feel closer to the universe at large,” she said, remarking on the first time she was in space. She added, “But I did NOT forget my question,” pressing Isaacs to answer.

Isaacs said, “If I saw anything like [TOS] I would have run in the opposite direction…It’s wartime, it’s a time of uncertainty…he’s a wartime captain. What I love about this story was…this wasn’t something we had seen before…he’s trying to stop everything from being destroyed.”

The narrator turned the question to the entire panel, asking about the importance of science in the storytelling. Harberts answered saying “the function of biology…our engine is organic, there’s something about our mode of transport that’s organic…there’s something interesting about the science that we’re focusing on right now, being a little more born out of the life-sciences.”

Next, Jones remarked how interesting of a journey it’s been to define Saru’s alien species, the Kelpians. “It’s rather extraordinary that Saru has been able to break out of that definition and be…the first [Kelpian] to be a Starfleet Officer.”

The moderator remarked on the diversity of Star Trek and its importance, asking how important it is to have a lot of women as main characters, in addition to the presence of plenty of women working behind-the-scenes of the show. Berg noted that she’s proud of how the relationships between women are represented, “It’s not competitive…it’s about collaboration…I’m just super proud of the women [on our show].”

Harberts remarked how there are plenty of women working in different areas on the show. “It really feels equitable and fantastic…we don’t favor one gender over any other, but I am very proud because it’s not just in front of the camera, but in behind the camera, that you have to make changes.”

Asked about learning to speak Klingon, Chieffo said she’ll get the scripts in English, before they go through a Klingon translator who infuses her own interpretation. She added that she’ll be given a word-for-word translation, and decide how to put emphasis on certain Klingon words. “We don’t want it to just be saying words we don’t understand…it’s that one extra step…I compared it a lot to Shakespeare…once you know what you’re talking about you’re really able to communicate with the person working across from you.”

“In that wholly serialized narrative, we get to tell character stories over plot,” Goldsman noted. “If Jim Kirk had to deal with Edith Keeler’s death in “City On the Edge of Forever”…it would take a season.” He concluded, “The name of the show is discovery not by accident…it’s how these people discover who they are.”

Michelle Yeoh then made a surprise appearance on stage, taking a seat next to Goldsman. Yeoh began by thanking fans for “everything,” before noting that “the most amazing journey has been with Sonequa.” To the panel she said, “If you don’t look after my baby girl [Martin-Green], I’ll kick your ass.”

Next began the fan portion of the Q&A. A fan asked if there will be romance for Michael down the line, to which Martin-Green said, “There’s all kinds of life on this show…that’s all I’m going to say…We’re covering everything with everyone. You know what I’m saying?”

Asked about the Klingons and their different look, Kurtzman said, “Let’s address the Klingons, because a lot of people are talking about it…what we perceive to be ‘the other’ is an image of ourselves…we represented both sides of the war that was understandable and relatable…we needed to know what it was like to go through this too; to humanize them, for lack of a better word….we wanted to shift everyone’s perspective of what the Klingons are, and that meant making visual changes too…you’ll see lots of different Klingons…but it is terribly important to us to humanize them.”

Another fan asked about having the series behind a pay wall on CBS All Access, to which Berg said, “We’re part of the changing tide of what media consumption is right now.”

“The kinds of stories we’re telling,” Harberts added, “you won’t find on broadcast television right now…you won’t see a ton of casting like this on all broadcast networks.”


Starring Sonequa Martin-Green as Lt. Commander Michael Burnham, Star Trek: Discovery airs Sundays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT in the United States on CBS All Access, in Canada on Space and in most other countries on Netflix.

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