‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Analysis: Everything We Know About Capt. Lorca And The USS Discovery Crew

USS Discovery crew show off their unforms

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.”

Jason Isaacs as Gabriel Lorca

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.

Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca in his “menagerie,” a chamber with his collected ancient weapons and relics.

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.

Lorca to Michael Burnham: “You started a war, don’t you want to help end it?”

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.

Doug Jones as Lt. Saru

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.

Lt. Saru (Doug Jones) on Star Trek: Discovery)

As a Kelpian, Saru can sense the coming of death

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.

Saru’s relationship with Michael goes back to the U.S.S. Shenzhou

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.

Anthony Rapp as Lt. Paul Stamets

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.

This shot from the SDCC trailer likely has something to do with Stamets’ project

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…”

Apparently Stamets isn’t Mr. Friendly

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.

Wilson Cruz poses next to a Discovery medical uniform

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.”

Mary Wiseman as Cadet Sylvia Tilly

Tilly ends up sharing a room with Burnham on the Discovery, and looking up to her as a role model.

Cadet Tilly with her roommate

Lieutenant Ash Tyler – the former POW

Lt. Ash Tyler, played by Shazad Latif, is a security officer on board the USS Discovery.

Shazad Latif as Lt. Ash Tyler

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.

Tyler’s experience as a POW will shape his arc during the season

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.

Rekha Sharma as Cmdr. Landry

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.

Captain Phillipa Georgiou, Captain of the USS Shenzhou

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.

Georgiou and Burnham have a heated discussion about firing first

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.

Sam Vartholomeo as Ensign Conner

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.

Maulik Pancholy will play Dr. Nambue

Admiral Anderson – high ranking Starfleet officer

Played by Terry Serpico, we know Anderson is a Starfleet Admiral, but not much else.

Terry Serpico as Admiral Anderson

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.

James Frain as Ambassador Sarek

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.

Harry Mudd issues a warning, from the SDCC trailer

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.

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“…discrete subspace domain known as the ‘mycelial network.’ These subspace ‘shrooms are used in engineering for a mysterious new method of space travel.” This fears me more than anything I have read or seen so far. I can hear the jokes now…

Yellow alert… hopefully this fits into an exciting conflict over valuable Dilithium crystals.

Subspace ‘shrooms. The stuff Warp 10 space salamanders are made of.

Space Jack in the Box must be making a fortune on their interstellar munchie meals…

You should listen to the things the actual Paul Stamets says about mushrooms, they’re actually rather incredible. If you think about it, this mycelial network could actually be the coolest concept on the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI5frPV58tY

When I first heard this, I thought someone was making a joke. I’m not above the idea of living things impacting the world in mysterious ways – one of my favorite Star Wars books features a creature who creates blind areas in the force, depriving Jedi of their Force-enhanced abilities. But it made sense, because they’re from a planet of force-using predators, thus this would function like camouflage for them. I can’t come up with any reason for mushrooms to develop warp drive. lol.

“… and now another episode of… SHROOMS.. IN… SPAAAACE!!!”

I’m actually excited. This could be the chance not to stay in this time period.

I sort of wondered the same thing. if they would take Fuller’s idea and advance through time. If you keep the ship and crew, you save money but you still end up creating new effects, CGI, sets for everything else. But it stands to reason you will anyway.

If next season is something completely different from the Klingons, there will be an investment in the production for the that storyline. So you could change eras. Keeping Discovery allows you to not have to redesign and build new sets for it.

Maybe those shroom are the in canon answer to the different warp scales, Maybe there is warp before the shrooms and after the shrooms ;)

A good nickname for them would be “Dune shrooms” after the Spice that was instrumental to navigation in Dune. They could even joke about the famous, 20th century Earth books in the Dune cycle, and how Life apparently imitates Art after all…who knew?

the shrooms must flow…

Off topic, a little. Netflix have posted a new video on their STDisco page. Don’t know if it’s visible in the US, but here’s the link anyway. It’s a nice video linking all the series. https://www.facebook.com/StarTrekNetflix/videos/1573464339340426/

Looks interesting! I had a feeling Michelle Yeohs character would be offed in the pilot. Makes sense! Lorca will be a badass and carry the series.


I have a feeling the Klingons captures a lot of the crew in the escape pods and Lorca is assigned to go rescue them in the USS Discovery.

I am really excited for Rainn Wilson’s performance. I think it will be good.

Wasn’t Mudd supposed to be in something like nine episodes? Or am I dreaming things?

The other I think does not make it very long is T’Kumva. Mary Chieffo’s character seems pretty important, at least the way they’re putting her forward.


Rainn Wilson said in a recent interview that Mudd will appear in just two episodes.


Talking to the magazine, Rainn Wilson confirmed he was in two episodes of the upcoming season of Star Trek: Discovery

“But they’re pretty meaty episodes. He gets a lot to do. They really, really went for it with Harry Mudd. I was a huge fan of the original series, and they had some straight-up comedy episodes, which is great. You’ve got to mix it up when you are doing 22 episodes a year, and that was part of the Roddenberry universe. But this is a darker time in Star Trek: Discovery. They’re at war, so it’s a darker, edgier Harry Mudd.”


IMDB Does have Wilson listed for nine episodes,
But I thought that they were just guessing.

Wait, what? The warp drive is powered by space ‘shrooms? The space hippies are gonna love this!

We reach Herbert.

“he has “threat ganglia” that pop out” – “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.”

So a living walking talking AWACS!

“These subspace ‘shrooms are used in engineering for a mysterious new method of space travel.”

Sounds corny but will need to watch it in action first.

‘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.”

According to another set report from AVclub Captain Georgiou & Burnham will team up again after the reassignment to ‘Discovery’

Hope you’re right about this future team-up, Yeoh is too high profile to waste in the pilot, and she’s still hanging around with these peeps so it would be way cooler if they keep her around. Plus like, come on, the Shenzhou is probably gonna be just as important a ship this whole season. They wouldn’t build a set like that for two episodes.

Of course, Sean Bean was too high profile to waste in just a pilot, too … and yet….

Sean Bean made it to the penultimate episode.

Yeah Sean Bean is in nine episodes…

Im thinking she might last now. But the ship is lost, explaining re-assignments.

I’d forgotten about Rekha Sharma being in this thing. Almost worth the price of admission right there.

So, do we know who who the chief medical officer of The Discovery is?

@ Matt Wright…which is why this series is weird.

I wonder if the prison cell Lorca, Tyler, and Mudd are going to be in might be on Rura Penthe? That would be a nice Easter egg.

If DSC really is following the Game of Thrones model, Tilly is going to die too. Suddenly, in some horrific way, and possibly before the end of Season 1. She’s being promoted as this nice, naïve and sympathetic major character because it’ll be much more of a shock to the viewers (and Burnham) when she’s killed during the war.

However, if that doesn’t happen, her personality could undergo a radical transformation due to the brutalising experience of the war. So that could also be the reason for the way she’s being presented — to act as a stark contrast to how she ends up.

Things may not end well for Lorca either. Maybe the Klingons behead him in the season 1 finale. A few months ago a behind-the-scenes photo was released showing a mask of Jason Isaacs’ head. Perhaps Burnham ends up in command of the Discovery from season 2 onwards, and that’s how it happens.

I doubt it. I think Tilly is the avatar for the viewer to experience everything. Its sort of a traditional role. Her arc is one of evolving through experience. The war is one experience that will change her. But not the only one, Im sure.

The idea should be the cadet role evolves over the course of the series to advance somewhere, leadership role (Commander, Captain etc), expert in her field (doctor, scientist) or learning new things that take her on a different path (leaving Star Fleet).

Star Trek always includes this type of character (Wesley, Kim, Mayweather) but usually fails to utilize them properly.

I agree with Jai. Tilly isn’t the avatar for the audience; that’s Burnham. An ordinary person (i.e. as a child) put through some extraordinary circumstance and experience. One who has doubts, rises, falls from grace and then redeems herself. From rags to riches, from rags to riches (again). Who shows resilience and is forgiven because she repents (i.e. she choses to put her Starfleet values first). Tilly is there as a device to further Burnham’s character arc.

That said, you’re completely right about Harry Kim… and Mary Wiseman is on the record comparing her character to him.

There is a nice piece on StarTrek.com about Georgiou. She has combat experience, but believes in diplomacy first and that Starfleet doesn’t fire first. She was enlisted by Sarek to reinstill those important human qualities that Burnham buried when adapting for survival in Vulcan society. She has a motherly relationship with Burnham, working with her to develop her into proper command material.

In the final paragraphs, Yeoh uses the past tense to talk about their mother/daughter relationship, which could just be her referring to their previous seven years of knowing each other up to the pilot, or it could spell doom for Georgiou. One thought I had: since Yeoh apparently returned to Toronto for more filming later on, if she doesn’t survive long past the pilot, we could end up seeing more of her via flashback over the season as we see important lessons that Burnham learns from Georgiou as Burnham becomes more human.

Having Stamets and Culber a couple does absolutely nothing to advance the story, enhance the show or anything else of importance. It was done simply to pander. I can see myself now shaking my head and rolling my eyes every time they appear.

Im sure the moderators will prevent my comment from appearing. How dare someone express an opposing point of view.

Er, did you shake your head and roll your eyes every time Keiko appeared on Deep Space 9?

You clearly have a double standard when it comes to gay people.

First, you haven’t seen the show so you have no idea what they will bring to the story.
Second, the same could be said about the Riker-Troi relationship or the Troi-Worf relationship on TNG, the Dax-Worf relationship or later the Dax-Bashir relationship on DS9 or the Paris-Torres relationship on VOY. I guess you could argue that the Kira-Odo relationship helped resolve the Dominion war but other than that, basically almost any relationship on any of the other shows fits your criticism. Why do they add relationships? Maybe to show that these are real people with personal lives, not just automatons whose only purpose is to fly around with the ship and perform the mission of the week.

We don’t know that, yet. Personally, I think it’s the opposite: Culber is there to make Stamets more likeable, more relatable. To show his softer side. To make him something other than just an arrogant genius, completely detached from the rest of humanity.

“Lorca […] and we know he collects ancient and exotic weapons.”
He would get along quite nicely with Mr. Sulu then! I mean, remember how he once found an ancient revolver on a seemingly uninhabited planet, and the first thing he did was… testing it out? :-D

“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. ”
My first impression is that this sounds a bit silly. (It makes me imagine a warning light growing out of his head!) But, let’s wait and see, perhaps the GC will actually make this work!

I have images of Dr. Zoidberg during his mating rituals.

Saru definately wears a Lt. Cmdr. pin.