The Ever-Evolving Augmented Airiam From ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Revealed (Again) On ‘After Trek’

On Sunday’s episode of After Trek executive producer Gretchen J. Berg was the main guest, joined later by creature designer Neville Page and makeup designer Glenn Hetrick. When the designers joined, discussion initially focused on the mysterious bridge officer, Lt. Commander Airiam (played by Sara Mitich). This character was originally described by the official Star Trek site as a “robot.” However, two weeks ago After Trek did a segment on bridge officers changing Airiam’s official description to “augmented alien.” Yet on Sunday’s After Trek Airiam was now being described as an “augmented human,” with the latest change surprising host Matt Mira. However, no explanation was given for the changing descriptions. 

Berg did reveal that the Airiam was introduced in “Context Is for Kings” after executive producer Akiva Goldsman (who directed the episode) “fell in love” with a concept sketch made by Neville Page which Goldsman called “plate face.” Berg said Airiam has since become a “favorite” of the writers.

Design concept for Airiam (Twitter/Neville Page)

It was also suggested that Airiam may even be able to swap out some of her components for different missions, although it didn’t appear any of this will be seen in the first season. Hetrick noted “I feel like she could evolve more,” with Page adding “There is so much dimensional depth to her in the mechanism that she is.”

You can watch the segment below, which included some behind the scenes shots of the design and makeup process for Airiam.

Sci-fi fans may recognize Sara Mitich, the actress underneath all that Airiam makeup, as Gia from the Syfy series The Expanse.

Sara Mitich plays Airiam on Star Trek: Discovery

Martin-Green, Frain and Berg on Sarek’s choice in ‘Lethe’

Gretchen also shared insights into Sarek’s thought process as to why he held held back the truth over his decision to pick Spock over Michael Burnham to join the Vulcan Expeditionary Group.

I think for somebody who pushes his emotions down and not letting his emotions dictate his actions, it wasn’t logical for him [to tell Burnham the truth]. It was hard for him to tell her and the longer you wait, it becomes a bigger and bigger thing. It’s one of those secrets that builds…To admit to it would probably take Sarek to an emotional space.

Actor James Frain also joined the discussion via Skype, and he discussed the internal struggle with Sarek’s decision:

When he is presented with this choice between Spock and his adopted daughter, he cannot not choose Spock. But we see in this episode that this is the thing he regrets most in his life.

Sonequa Martin-Green appeared in a pre-recorded segment to discuss  Sarek’s betrayal.

More behind the scenes clips from ‘After Trek’


Star Trek: Discovery is available on CBS All Access on in the US and airs in Canada on the Space Channel. It is available on Netflix outside the USA and Canada.

Keep up with all the Star TrekDiscovery news at TrekMovie.

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Michael Hall

This show has gotten much better since the first episode. Whether you liked a particular episode or not, it’s not a bad way to at least understand what the producers had in mind, as they love to talk about their work.

Denes House

I agree that After Trek has improved substantially. I love the video packages in between interview segments. And having Aaron or Gretchen there, and actors and production people, has offered real insight into the ideas behind the show. I love sitting down and talking to people about their work, and this is a close approximation of that.

Steph

I agree that’s it’s a good way to learn about the producers’ intentions. I was however hoping for a more balanced take. At times it feels too official as an aftershow. The idea that one should be careful about criticizing it too much. A lot of after shows run this way so its not alone in that regard. Too bad as it would be an easy fix. They could have a short segment dedicated to opposing opinions given out by Trek commentators or podcasters. However, I can at least appreciate the behind the scenes tidbits.

Spock Jenkins

“They could have a short segment dedicated to opposing opinions given out by Trek commentators or podcasters.”

You should tune into Treky@rds if you want your fix of heavy criticism of DSC – they spend literally hours dissecting each episode. They often DO enjoy the show, but spend A LOT of time criticising it. You should check them out.

TUP

Wait, people want the companion show to feature criticism? lol Maybe CBS can do video promos where they tell us on a scale of 1 – 10 how good next week’s episode is.

Its nice to have some director/writer/producer insight into things and sometimes that means saying “hey it didnt work the way we hoped” but it would be odd for that to be anything substantial on the companion show.

Spock Jenkins

I’m happy After Trek isn’t criticising the show. Why should they? They’re here to celebrate the TV show that has just preceded it.

What next? An in-show plot within DSC proclaiming “hey, you might not like this show, it’s not very good”?

I’d rather leave the incessant moaning to Treky@rds and CollidEr’s DSC weekly recaps. God knows they do more than enough of it.

Michael Hall

I agree. No one can love all of these episodes equally (even if you think they’re all good), and I believe it would show maturity and confidence in their product if CBS would encourage more of a free-for-all atmosphere that allowed for respectful differences of opinion. (Just like here, right? :-)) Ron Moore was very upfront on his podcasts when he believed various aspects of BSG episodes didn’t work as planned, and I always respected him for that.

Gary Seven

I agree too. Perhaps CBS thinks they will turn off viewers if the show is criticized on After Trek. I would bet that it would only improve ratings because it would generate some controversy, which would generate attention.

Danpaine

Thanks, Michael. Was just about to ask out loud if After Trek is worth watching. May give it a shot.

Steph

I like the concept of Lt. Commander Airiam. I wonder if this is how they handle horrible medical injuries? I would think that their medical technology can’t fix everything so they fix what they can and augment it with machinery. Kind of like with conn officer Lt. Detmar. As one of the people initially skeptical about Burnham’s inclusion into Spock’s family I will say that they handled about well as they could. It works. I appreciated the depth it added to Sarek in particular. We have always known that he was great at publicly bringing differing parties together as an ambassador. However his private attempts to keep the cohension in his family was always less successful. This helped to explain why. I also liked the behind the scenes information about the running scene. Poor Sonequa and Mary. Having to run on and off for 8hrs! At least their workouts are done for a few days!

Marja

Actors stay very fit, on or off screen ;^)

Denes House

Steph, I am so impressed that you’ve managed to keep an open mind on this and to embrace at least parts of what they are going for with Discovery. Good on ya, mate!

And I had the same thought about Sonequa and Mary and the running sequences. Those DISCO shirts must have been STANK after that day of filming!

Spock Jenkins

“Those DISCO shirts must have been STANK after that day of filming!”

They likely had several t-shirts for filming.

TUP

Cant afford several shirts. Have to explain in-universe why they put on wet sweaty shirts. lol

Cmd.Bremmon

Agreed, I love Discovery but look at the robot as another bland “love letter” to TNG fans (ahhh how can we have a ship full of organic organisms with no AI??). Hints of that Voyager producer trying to create a part for some actress he wants to sleep with. That being said, looks cool, glad they made it an augmented alien instead of Data 2.0 in the past (no bland Data in exciting TOS please). I’d have gone with it’s a “non emotional” robot that just follows commands. As an augmented alien could be a neat alien race to develop.

UAB

“Hints of that Voyager producer trying to create a part for some actress he wants to sleep with.” I know a ton about Trek production behind the camera… I have no idea what you’re talking about there.

TUP

Augmented alien makes the most sense because it creates the least amount of potental canon conflicts. If it’s human tech, you have to explain why its not more widely used. Why they didnt use it for Pike etc.

On the other hand, the navigator (I forget her name off the top of my head) has an implant as a result of her injuries, so there is some other usage of it).

But a species where they use advanced robotics to enhance their species poses some great potential for story telling.

UAB

@TUP – I agree, an augmented alien made more sense. Oh well. She does look really cool and if she’s a favorite of the writers, that must mean they’ve got some things for her to do. I can’t wait to see what they are!

Cmd.Bremmon

I love how the Sarek plot line enhances TOS – adds even more reasoning behind his “disappointment” in Spock choosing Starfleet over the Vulcan Science Academy, explains why Sarek cared so much (part of his strategy to bring Earth and Vulcan together), gives Amanda a larger part of the Trek story. The whole “does Vulcan fit into a Federation with illogical humans” reinforces this is a final frontier full of questions and challenges!!!

ken-trek

Could become interesting. We’ve had fully sentient Data and assimilated cyBorgs. This character could be a person who’s lost some part of herself in a terrible accident and has to deal with her implants enhancement for better or worse. A different take.

Michael Hall

Maybe they’ll develop an interesting backstory for her and bring the character forward as others die or move on. You never know.

Mario

I can’t describe how thrilled I am that she isn’t being described as a “robot” anymore. “Augmented Human” brings along it’s own set of issues, but none so bad as casually inserting an android 100 years too soon. I don’t know if it was always planned this way or if it’s a retcon, but that’s one problem fixed. Just a few more to go.

Phil

Androids turned up in TOS on a least three separate occasions, so it’s not a stretch there should be one on Discovery.

Disinvited

Phil,

Re: Do Androids…

And then there’s that Questor bloke probably still Gary Sevening around.

Michael Hall

It seems like a retcon, but who cares? She’s never been anything but background scenery up till this point. And yes, I’ll definitely second your relief that she’s not supposed to be a robot. That was just dumb.

TUP

We did see androids in TOS but I am glad too especially with her being a fully commissioned officer of high rank

TUP

I sW a few tweets from this site about this particular character and am intrigued.

I’m glad she isn’t a robot. Whether she’s an augmented human or augmented alien is probably not a huge difference aside from how they portray the person underneath.

They have to be careful she isn’t Data or Seven. And answer some key questions as far as why she’s augment herself. And if it’s a choice where are others? Was she injured and this was the way to save her?

Nachum

Does she make a strange little sound every time she moves her head?

Spock Jenkins

No, she only seems to make it only when the camera is trained upon her ;P

( I DO like it, she’s freaky when she makes that sound – sounds quite unnerving ).

So this character’s only development has been its machine noises? Weird. I may have to watch.

Spock Jenkins

HAve you not watched DSC yet? You should def give it a chance – it’s evolving quickly.

Unlike the Berman & Braga era iterations which maintained the bridge crew as the bog standard central figures, a number of the bridge crew in DSC are more or less glorified ( though interesting ) extras.

In that sense, it’s closer to TOS in many ways, where there was many more bit-players than just Sulu, Chekov and Uhura ( some even had MORE significant roles than the few who were boiled down as the “key crew” by the time of the movies.

UAB

I wasn’t sure I was going to like the “lower decks” approach to the characters we focus on, but I have to say, I actually love that most the bridge isn’t what we focus on. It’s a great new angle. Starships are big, no reason we have to focus on that little bubble at the top of it.

Captain Danno

At first, like many things on Star Trek Disco, I found all of the augmented technology attached to people out of place for the time period. Why haven’t we seen this type of thing in later series? Airiam is the most augmented, but we have also een several other presumably humans with technology attached to their heads. As Steph mentioned above, Lt. Detmar is another example. I enjoy theorizing about in-universe explanations for apparent continuity issues. For the augmented technology, maybe it was realtativley new dusting this time period and still a bit clunky. By the time TOS comes around maybe it became miniaturized and sub dermal so no one could see it. That seems like a rational reason to me.

Captain Danno

I meant new DURING this period. Not dusting. Darn you autocorrect!

THK

What’s the deal with all those “augmented personnel” in JJ films and Discovery? I thought Starfleet had it enough with Khan, let alone to have these “terminators” roaming around.

UAB

Perhaps we do see plenty of augmented folks in the 24th century, we just don’t know it. Maybe Airiam was injured and this is the 2250’s way of saving her life. 100+ years later, they may be using similar augments or implants, artificial parts, for similar injuries but they are much easier to conceal and make appear organic.

Nachum

It seems the reaction to Khan was a ban on genetic engineering (which was alluded to on DSC last week- apparently, what Stamets did to himself was a big no-no), not on technology. But yeah, apart from DSC and Abramsverse- and former Borg on VOY- I can’t recall ever seeing this before. It’s not like they didn’t know about it- Star Wars had it in Lando’s assistant in The Empire Strikes Back, not to mention Vader.

THK

P.S. Data is an exception, as he is purely artificial, not “enhanced human”. They should’ve went with the concept that Airiam is an android like Data, but that would be too advanced for Discovery

Bethany

i hate how the CBS youtube videos aren’t available in the UK! i could see these segments but then i’d have to flick through talk show plastic “fun” to get to them in netflix. why not let me get them properly extracted? :(

I would prefer that this character remain just as the writers and designers conceived it….
UNXEPLAINED!

UAB

You like it when… TrekMadeYouWonder. :D

somethoughts

why cover up such a beautiful actress?

Marja

She wears it well, though.
I think this show must have a boatload of money for prosthetics!

UAB

She is super pretty, no doubt about that.

Shawn

When are they going to have Transformers in Star Trek?