Erin Wilhelm writes from San Diego Comic-Con:
There is a lot riding on the September 24th debut of Star Trek: Discovery. After multiple delays, creator Bryan Fuller leaving the show, and the fact that the show will be released only on CBS All Access, fans are worried about show quality and staying power. However, attending the Star Trek: Discovery SDCC panel and press conference, as well as seeing the new trailer, I am excited about the new show and have hope that it will deliver for both longtime and new fans.
Before the panel officially began, the audience was shown the new full-length trailer for the show. The trailer showed a lot of new footage, and it was obvious that this show would be much darker than previous iterations with scenes of destruction, injury, and possible death throughout.
Cast and show runners alike were well represented on the panel, including stars Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead), Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter movies), James Frain (Gotham), Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful), Anthony Rapp (Rent), Doug Jones (Hellboy), Mary Wiseman (Longmire), and Rainn Wilson (The Office). Executive producers Alex Kurtzman (Sleepy Hollow), Aaron Harberts (Revenge), Gretchen Berg (Reign), Heather Kadin (Sleepy Hollow), and Akiva Goldsman (Fringe) rounded out the panel.
Right at the beginning, moderator Rainn Wilson, who plays Original Series favorite Harry Mudd, started asking the panel questions that had been previously submitted online.
The issue of diversity was front and center. Martin-Green addressed the controversy in her casting and the overall diversity of the show head on, asserting “Star Trek was always pictorial of diversity, universality, and unity. If you love Star Trek, but don’t love that, you missed it.” During the press conference, Martin-Green became emotional as she discussed how she “stands on the shoulders of Nichelle” and how it is an “honor, such a privilege, to be part of a story that I believe will bring people together.”
Anthony Rapp had another announcement about the barrier breaking show. As Bleeding Cool previously reported, Rapp discussed how Wilson Cruz (My So-Called Life) would be playing another Starfleet officer, and Rapp’s character’s love interest. While it was revealed in the Kelvin timeline films that Sulu had a same-sex spouse, this will be the first time that a same-sex romantic relationship will be depicted on the screen in Star Trek.
Multiple fan questions concerned how this show will be able to fit into the pre-Original Series timeline without changing canon, evidence of some of the fan unease on the subject. When asked how the show, produced in the modern era, would reflect its being set before a 1960’s classic sci-fi show, producers were adamant that they take their inspiration from The Original Series and that the show will be true to existing television canon. Despite the fact that the show will be larger in scope and scale, they discuss regularly how to stay true to the origins.
Along the same lines, another question was regarding the depictions of the Klingons in the show, would they speak Klingon with subtitles or would they speak in English? Producer Gretchen Berg assured fans that while the Klingons may look different in this series, they will speak Klingon, the same Klingon language that fans have come to know and love (and learn to speak). During the panel and the press conference, Berg talked a lot about how the show went to a lot of effort to understand the Klingons and to fill them out as a species and a culture, showing them as more than just “thugs.” She said they have done a ton of research of the entire canon to make sure the depiction is accurate, even having a Klingon language expert review the language after every script change.
Producers expanded on this discussion of the Klingons to express that the relationship between the Klingons and the Federation and how the Federation can be at war and still stick to its peaceful mission. The show delves so deep into the background and motivation of the Klingons in order to show the way that cultures learn about each other. Panelists said that the show will depict one small segment of the Klingons and the Federation and their interactions with each other, giving the audience a view of where each side is coming from and how their decisions, good or bad, effect the relationship.
In order to tell this type of story, producers explained that the show would be serialized. Unlike previous Star Trek shows, each episode will not be a discrete mission with a beginning and a conclusion, but it will be one fifteen-episode story arc. Referring to the season as an “emotional journey,” actors and producers emphasized the importance of feeling, emotion, and relationships in the show stating “there is nothing but relationships in this show.” Producers also hinted at surprises and misdirections to come, stating “what you think is happening may not be what is happening,” and predicting that fans will be debating the events of the show as it goes on.
Character development also came up multiple times. Showrunners spoke of how they waited for Sonequa Martin-Green, and knew immediately she was the right person to play main character Michael Burnham. Fans also got new tidbits about the Burnham character. Adding to what was previously released, that Burnham was the first human to be educated at the Vulcan Science Academy, Martin-Green revealed that her character was a foster daughter to Spock’s parents Sarak and Amanda after her own parents were murdered. After leaving Vulcan and joining Starfleet, Burnham starts service on the Shenzhou under the guidance and mentorship of Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). She develops a brother-sister type relationship with Lieutenant Saru (Doug Jones).
Fans should be warned, however, that the writers and producers see these characters as “not yet fully formed” in the beginning, so relationships and friendships will change throughout the run of the show. They are “not playing it safe” and there will be “character intricacies that have never been seen before,” including Captain Lorca, who actor Jason Isaacs characterized at “more fucked up than any of them [previous Captains]” and “forged by war.”
And finally, in the press conference, producers discussed the show delays and explained that the felt it more important to do the show right, respecting the legacy, than to do it fast. Goldsman explained “building a world takes time” and they are “well aware of the legacy of the show” so they “took time to make it good.”
As a longtime Trek fan (I was a Trekkie when they were still called Trekkies), I too had been concerned about the delays for the show and the possible changes to canon (such as Spock’s secret foster sister). Producers and cast at the panel assured us, repeatedly, that what they are doing is true to canon and to be patient, they will explain why this character never came up before. After hearing them talk passionately about the show and their love for Star Trek, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and am incredible excited to see the show in September.