This is the third piece in our series where we try to put all the pieces together from the various trailers, images and interviews that have come out in the last couple of months to help make sense of what to expect from Star Trek: Discovery. The first article focused on main character Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The second focused on Klingons. This article focuses on Captain Lorca and the crew of the USS Discovery, as well as the crew of the USS Shenzhou and other Federation characters. SPOILER WARNING: obviously this article will delve into as many details as we can find.
Gabriel Lorca – captain of USS Discovery and man of action
Captain Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs, is not expected to be a traditional Starfleet captain. In fact Isaacs has said Lorca is “probably more fucked up than any of them” and is a leader who has a “a lot of sharp edges.” While the first image of Lorca that was revealed had him in the chair, in most of the trailers and images released we see him in action and even shooting it up. Isaacs even said has said he avoided sitting in the captain’s chair for a couple of episodes. This may fit with what is apparently his is catchphrase, “Go.”
Lorca is also considered “a brilliant military tactician,” and we know he collects ancient and exotic weapons. We expect his character to be at odds with the more exploratory, and less militaristic, nature of Starfleet.
As discussed in our article focusing on Michael Burnham, following her “fall from grace” while serving on board the USS Shenzhou she is recruited by Lorca and eventually joins his crew on the USS Discovery.
Lieutenant Saru – the outsider
Saru, played by Doug Jones, is a Kelpian. The Kelpians are from a planet with two species where they are the prey species. Saru has evolved with heightened survival instincts, and according to the actor, he is ready for a fight if you get him cornered. Physically striking, he is an ungulate (has hoofed feet) and is uniquely tall (6′ 8″); he gets special Starfleet boots made for hoofed species.
While the vast majority of Saru’s design is practical makeup, he has one unique characteristic that requires the use of CGI: he has “threat ganglia” that pop out. As Jones describes it:
They go off when there’s an unseen threat. So if a Klingon was out on the other side of the door but I can’t see him yet, but I’m feeling something’s not right — that’s when my threat ganglia should go off.
Saru is the first of his species to join Starfleet. We meet him as the Chief Science Officer on the USS Shenzhou and, like Michael Burnham, he will later be assigned to the USS Discovery. His “outsider” view of things puts him in a similar position to comment on human assumptions, similar to Spock, Data, or Odo. We know that one episode of the season will focus on Saru.
As he had served with Burnham before, Saru likely has the closest relationship with her on board the Discovery. Jones has described the relationship as being like brother and sister both in closeness and in terms of sibling rivalry.
Lieutenant Paul Stamets – the diligent scientist
Stamets, played by Anthony Rapp, is a science officer on board the USS Discovery. Unlike most science officers, Stamets is one with a very specific focus: Astromycology (the study of space fungi and mushrooms). The character is named after an actual noted mycologist.
Stamets studies Prototaxites stellaviatorae – a species made up of exotic matter found not only in our dimension, but also in a discrete subspace domain known as the ‘mycelial network.’ These subspace ‘shrooms are used in engineering for a mysterious new method of space travel. They are also somehow pivotal to the war with the Klingons.
Showrunner Aaron Harberts spoke about Stamets’ research being coopted for the Klingon war:
[His] methods and life’s work is now being converted to be used for the war effort, and that bothers him greatly, and he talks about it a great deal.
Stamets is in a relationship with Dr. Hugh Culber, and they will be the first gay couple on a Star Trek TV series. As for his personality, Rapp reports that Stamets can be a challenge to get along with:
“He’s a really, really smart guy and as smart guys go, he sometimes can be a little difficult to deal with because not everybody’s as smart as he is, so he’s got a little bit of an edge sometimes…”
Dr. Hugh Culber – healer and patient partner
We don’t know too much about Dr. Culber, played by Wilson Cruz. He’s a doctor on the USS Discovery, but not the Chief Medical Officer. He is considered at the top of his field, and is someone who truly cares about healing his patients. He’s also in a relationship with Lt. Stamets, and their personalities are described as opposites, so he seems like he is the kinder, gentler one in their relationship.
Cadet Sylvia Tilly – the eager roommate
Cadet Tilly, played by Mary Wiseman, is a fourth year cadet, doing an externship on the USS Discovery. Wiseman describes her character as “super brilliant.” She’s also very enthusiastic, and gets nervous easily.
One of her responsibilities on board is to assist Lt. Stamets with his projects in engineering, which she finds “intimidating.”
Tilly ends up sharing a room with Burnham on the Discovery, and looking up to her as a role model.
Lieutenant Ash Tyler – the former POW
Lt. Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif, is a security officer on board the USS Discovery.
Tyler is introduced sometime after the pilot and we first meet him in a prison cell with Lorca and Harry Mudd as a prisoner of war, likely held by the Klingons. Tyler will deal with the trauma of his captivity over the first season and we expect Captain Lorca will help him through it via their military bond. According to Latif there is also a “chemistry” with Michael Burnham.
Commander Landry – security officer
We don’t know much about Landry, played by Rekha Sharma. She was announced simply as a security officer and has has only been seen briefly in July trailer, brandishing a phaser pulse rifle in a shuttlecraft.
Philippa Georgiou – captain of USS Shenzhou and mentor
Michelle Yeoh plays Philippa Georgiou, the captain of the USS Shenzhou. Sarek chose Georgiou to mentor his adopted daughter, which she does for several years leading up to the pilot where Burnham is now First Officer. We don’t really know that much about her, other than that she seems to be a strong leader with a lot of courage, and appears to be someone who sticks to the rules.
This by-the-book aspect of her character will bring her into conflict with Burnham during the Klingon situation we’ll see unfold in the premiere. We know that the Shenzhou is nearly destroyed and the ship abandoned. We also know our main character (Burnham) ends up under a new captain (Lorca). So it would not be surprising if, sadly, Captain Georgiou is killed in the Klingon incident that we see unfold in the premiere episodes.
Ensign Danby Conner – Shenzhou’s nav officer
Ensign Conner, played by Sam Vartholomeos, is the navigator on the USS Shenzhou, he’s a young officer who is very by the book and totally respects the chain of command. Like many young officers he looks to his captain, Philippa Georgiou, as the ideal of a Starfleet officer. Actor Sam Vartholomeos is back in college in New York, so it doesn’t appear he joins Burnham and Saru on the Discovery and there’s a decent chance he is another victim of the incident that sparks the war with the Klingons in the pilot episode.
Dr. Nambue – Shenzhou’s CMO
Played by, Maulik Pancholy, Dr. Nambue is the Chief Medical Officer of USS Shenzhou. We don’t know anything else about him. Actor Pancholy was seen on Chris Obi’s (T’Kuvma) Twitter videos he made while in the car driving to the studio very early on and then not again. We expect he doesn’t make it out of the Shenzhou alive.
Admiral Anderson – high ranking Starfleet officer
Played by Terry Serpico, we know Anderson is a Starfleet Admiral, but not much else.
Sarek – ambassador and adoptive father to Burnham
Sarek, played by James Frain, is of course the ambassador to Earth and the estranged father of Spock. He hosted Burnham’s parents on Vulcan, who were then killed in a Klingon attack, leaving young Michael in Sarek’s care. Sarek is shown in both present-day form via holographic communication with Burnham, but also as a younger man, through flashbacks to Burnham’s childhood.
Harry Mudd – a deadly scoundrel
Another character returning from original canon is Harry Mudd, who appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek (plus one of the animated episodes). Harry Mudd is a smuggler and criminal with a long record of lawbreaking in the Federation. In fact we will apparently first meet the character in a jail cell in Discovery. However actor Rainn Wilson says his Harry Mudd isn’t exactly the same, saying “the writers have added that he’s mischievous and deadly at the same time.” Reports say that he is in at least two episodes.
More analysis to come
Keep checking TrekMovie for upcoming companion articles in this series. We will next look into the ships and equipment of Star Trek: Discovery.
Star Trek: Discovery premieres on September 24th on CBS with all subsequent episodes on CBS All Access in the US. In Canada Star Trek: Discovery will premiere on Bell Media’s CTV and the Space Channel on the same night. Netflix will launch Star Trek: Discovery on Monday, September 25 to countries outside of the U.S. and Canada.