Following their appearance at New York Comic Con (see TrekMovie panel report) the cast and creatives popped over to the Paley Center to hold another panel discussion at PaleyFest 2017. The discussion mostly focused on talking about each character one by one, but early on there was some news about more familiar Star Trek characters to come. It was also revealed that there was almost a very different kind of character on the show.
More canon characters coming to ‘Discovery’
The panel included the showing of a clip from episode 5 featuring Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd (see below for spoiler description). In response to a follow-up question from the moderator, co-showrunner Gretchen J. Berg confirmed Discovery will feature more characters from Star Trek canon, saying:
I think what’s been great about this version of Star Trek and the way that we are telling through a serialized approach is we are taking our time to introduce people. We are spending time with people when we introduce them. So, we will be bringing back other [canon characters]. But, as far as when and the specifics of all of that…When we get them, we want to spend time with them and really do a deep dive on why they are in the episode or in the arc or whatever we do with them.
Tardigrade was going to be part of the crew
During the Q&A portion of the PaleyFest panel a fan asked if the group could talk about some of the changes the show went through during development. Anthony Rapp suggested they talk about the tardigrade monster seen in episode 3. At first, co-showrunner Aaron Harberts tried to be cagey saying “We are speculating,” to which Rapp replied “It has been reported that it is called a tardigrade on TrekMovie.” And with that, co-creator Alex Kurtzman told the story of the original plan for the tardigrade:
So we have this tardigrade and for those that don’t know it is a microscopic creature that lives in water and it is part of an ecosystem. And like all Trek allegories, what you see is not always what you get so what may look like a monster may not be that, even though the creature has been introduced as such. In the original conception, the tardigrade was one of the bridge crew members… It was going to be like you come in and there was Mary and there was Shazad and then there is Ephraim [named for the first zoologist to observe tardigrades]. It would have been really cool because he would have just been there.
Kurtzman went on to say that in the end they “just couldn’t pull it off.” Harberts also revealed that the idea was to have the tardigrade character as a member of the bridge crew and it got as far as them building a puppet for the character to be used on set.
Captain Lorca is good at war, doesn’t have time to be nice
When asked if Captain Lorca is a “warmonger,” Jason Isaacs responded by saying:
We’re at war, and I’m pretty good at it. I’m able to fight well if I’m given the right tools, but I’m surrounded by morons, unfortunately. They’d be great at peace time, but they’re not very good at this, and the ship is not built for it. And, I’ve got a chief scientist who would rather be publishing a paper, [rather than] help me build weapons, and so I’ve got a rock to push uphill with one finger. It’s proving to be tough, and so I recruit someone who I think will have the kind of metal that I’m going to need to get this thing done. If we lose, if the Federation loses, it’s not just the crew on the ship, it’s everybody on every planet in the Federation will be either subjugated or killed. So, I don’t have time to be nice to people and make them like me.
Michael Burnham is haunted
Discussing how Michael Burnham hit an emotional bottom at the beginning of episode 3, Sonequa Martin-Green gave some more detail on where the character is at and where she is going:
As Burnham, the ground fell from beneath my feet. And, I am still falling. That moment in the shuttle was actually a blissful moment. Because being in a pit of despair and being in a shame spiral, which is what I’m in. Being all consumed by the feeling of guilt makes you yearn for the sweet release of death. All I can look forward to is penitence from my life sentence. I don’t have the courage or sensibility to kill myself.
I am haunted by my decisions that I made in those days leading up to what turned out to be the Battle of the Binary Stars and the war with the Klingons and the death of my captain/mother. This is a story about redemption as much as it is about discovery. And the story of discovery of oneself through redemption. That’s the thick ugly stuff that we are delving into very courageously and bravely and respectfully.
Saru’s ganglia explained
In episode 3 we got to see one of the characteristics of Kelpiens is their “threat ganglia.” We saw Saru’s ganglia emerge as the prisoner shuttle without Burnham on board left the USS Discovery. Actor Doug Jones gave a bit more detail on how the ganglia work:
My threat ganglia tend to deploy when there is an unseen threat. If you’re coming at me with a phaser in my face, they probably don’t go because I know what’s happening. It’s when something’s behind the door. It’s like when your dog barks at the door and there’s nothing there, I’m the dog.
Tilly is going to grow and change
When discussing her character Cadet Tilly, Mary Wiseman noted how the character is expected to change over time:
What moved me about Tilly is that your container as a person is not everything that you are. You can have limitations in these ways and you can have great strengths in other ways. And Tilly is going to go on a journey that she has limitless potential because she just starting out. She is going to grow and change and everything that she seems is not everything that she is…The thing that I find most moving about this show is that different is someone can make a mistake and they can come back. Because, utopia is limitless curiosity and radical empathy and radical forgiveness. That is the kind of world that I want…Tilly talks too much. She snores too much. But, one thing she does have is endless empathy and curiosity. And she forgives Michael and she hopes that Michael can forgive her.
Diversity by design
There was a good amount of discussion on the diversity of the cast during the panel. Kurtzman noted it was always the plan to have a woman of color be the lead of the show:
We wanted the lead to be a person of color and we wanted her to not be captain…Trek is all about diversity and the spirit of diversity. Roddenberry’s greatest contribution to that conversation is that no one ever talks about it.
Berg noted that the lead role of Michael Burnham (which eventually went to Sonequa Martin-Green) was the hardest one to cast:
Any time you’re trying to cast a female who feels intelligent who can carry, in this case, a phaser, and doesn’t look ridiculous… it’s hard to find someone who is so believable and so grounded and who can carry the weight of the show the way she does on screen and off screen.
Berg went on to say that over all it was a long casting process for the show:
For all of these other characters… this was the slowest casting process ever! To the credit of everyone here, there was so much care given to find the specific voice that was really going to represent and explode off the screen. It’s a diverse cast in every way.
When discussing the inclusion of a gay couple (Anthony Rapp’s Lt. Stamets and Wilson Cruz’s Dr. Culber) as part of the crew, Cruz talked about how it was important to show LGBT characters as just part of the future, noting:
These stories we tell about LGBT people are really important so that people understand who we are and what our lives are like. So, perhaps people will understand us and not hate us…And we are living in a time when we have leadership that doesn’t necessarily understand that. I hear the president watches television; I hope that he tunes into Star Trek.
More bits from PaleyFest panel
- Saru walking the halls offering Burnham blueberries (as seen in episode 3) was “a tribute” to co-creator Bryan Fuller who “would walk through the offices of Star Trek, and he would offer you a blueberry.”
- The USS Discovery originally was going to have a two-story high bridge set.
- Original plan for Saru was to have ten eyes and a prosthetic was made for it, but it was scrapped because it “was going to cost a fortune” to do all the eyes with CGI and you also couldn’t see Doug Jones eyes which took away from his performance
Clip shown from episode 5 “Choose Your Pain” [SPOILERS]
The panel included the showing of a clip which features the introduction of Lt. Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) who meets Captain Lorca in a cell on a Klingon ship. Tyler has been tortured since being captured from the USS Yeager at the Battle of the Binary Stars. As they talk you can hear the screams of other prisoners. Lorca can’t understand how Tyler has survived Klingon torture for seven months, but Tyler notes the female Klingon captain has taken a liking to him. They talk about trying to escape with Tyler saying no ship could get to them so deep in Klingon territory, but Lorca assures him “my ship can.” The pair also encounter Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) in the same cell. Mudd blames Starfleet for starting the war which got him captured as well, and he uses some adult language to express his feelings.
Following the clip, Harberts noted how it introduces “the very wounded and tormented Lt. Ash Tyler.” He also said that fans should pay close attention when watching “Choose Your Pain,” saying:
It’s a really interesting episode that is about torture. And it is about loyalty…This is one to watch very carefully, because this is an episode that sows seeds for the rest of the season.
Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusive in the US on CBS All Access with new episodes released Sundays at 8:30 pm ET. In Canada Star Trek: Discovery airs on the Space Channel at the same time. Discovery is available on Netflix outside the USA and Canada with new episodes made available Monday at 8 am BST.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.
Photos from PaleyFest by Joe Andosca/TrekMovie.com.