At WonderCon over the weekend, TrekMovie participated in a number of roundtable interviews with members of the Star Trek: Discovery “Visionaries” panel. We will be providing highlights from these roundtable interviews all week long, starting with our sit down with executive producers/co-showrunners Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts.
Season 2 to focus on science vs. faith in the Federation
Will season two be like season one with an over-arching story and character arc?
Aaron Harberts: So, last season was war and finding a way to peace. So, for this season – for lack of a better word – is sort of about “spirituality” in Star Trek. What is the role of serendipity versus science? Is there a story about faith to be told? Leaps of faith. We are dealing with space. We are dealing with things that can’t be explained and you have a character like Michael Burnham who believes there is an explanation for everything.
And it doesn’t just mean religion. It means patterns in our lives. It means connections you can’t explain. Who enters your life and who leaves your life and these indelible impressions people make, and the journey you take and don’t realize that along the way you gather things up you need. That is one of our biggest ideas now and it is threading through all of our characters’ lives. We’ve talked about how the Federation is an interesting organization and how everybody had managed to come together and put aside differences, but that is one area that we felt hadn’t necessarily been explored.
Gretchen J. Berg: We also find that for this show, when we get good debates in the writers’ room or just walking by the casting room or the kitchen, when we are talking about things in a certain way it tends many times to lean into storytelling for the show. What we love to present [are] many different points of view. We are never wanting to say “this is the one way things have to be.” One of the joyous things about the Federation and Starfleet is so many different points of view are represented and that is what we are going to continue to do on the show.
Expect more of Michael’s backstory
How do the bombing of the Vulcan Learning center and the death of her parents affect Michael Burnham?
Harberts: Those are all seminal moments in [Michael Burnham’s] timeline. We are going to discover a little bit more this season about what happened after the Learning Center bombing. There are some pretty big things that Michael took away from that. There are some things that we are going to uncover that not only talk about what happened then, but what are some of the ramifications are from that horrible terrorist event that was waged on this innocent child. We will see the ripple effects of that.
Still getting over the Lorca hangover
Can we expect to see the prime universe version of Lorca?
Berg: The thing about Star Trek is there are so many possibilities for story. Every other show we worked on, you look at the beginning of a season and think “Oh, we have to fill 22, 15, 13 hours.” I don’t feel that way on this show because there is so much story to be told and there are so many possibilities. I would say in season two so far, discussions of that particular thing have not come up, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come up in the future.
Harberts: I think our characters are having a little bit of a Lorca hangover. They were lied to, and they were manipulated, and he was brilliant at it. So, they have to get him out of their systems for a little bit. But that is the beauty of it. Never say never. And people pop up on our show at unexpected times.
Getting to know Airiam and the rest of the bridge crew
Will we learn more about the augmented human Airiam’s abilities?
Berg: She is fascinating. We haven’t actually established that she has any special abilities. She is a character we will learn a little bit more about this year, and it is because she has captured the imagination. So, I don’t want to give too much away.
Harberts: One of the things we hear a lot is, “Tell us more about [the bridge crew]. Who are they?” We have a chance to do that this year. Airiam is part of the bridge crew and we have a lot of thoughts of who she was and what the augments are all about.
Berg: On a show like this and where teamwork is so important, they can’t just be these human props. They are part of the DNA of how that ship works and how the show works. We always had the desire to get to know them. For us, it was exciting that the audience wanted to get to know them too. It was always going to be in due time, but it seems it is all happening at the right time.
Harberts: There is only so much you can do with an ensemble cast with how you divvy up your time and how you allocate time to different characters. We didn’t even meet the Discovery crew until episode three, so we were already limited in the amount of time we could really create five or six characters that the audience would bond with and love. But now that people know who they are and have accepted them, now you have the space to start pulling people into things.
We are not at war anymore. It is our hope we are going to be doing more away missions and a lot more exploration. Those people are on the bridge for a reason. They all have special skills and we will start learning more about them.
Stunned season one came together, ready for more character moments in season two
What do you feel worked with season one and what do you wish you could do differently?
Berg: I feel almost stunned that things went as well as they did and that is only because we knew who our team was when we all started and we all jumped in together, but we didn’t know them because we hadn’t gone through the process together yet. So it’s the journey that builds the relationship. I have never met a group that is more ready to put in 110% than our crew, our cast, our writers. Everybody loved this show and were so proud of it. In the moment, I was day-by-day’ing it just trying to keep above water. There was so much to track. It didn’t give a lot of opportunity to look up and look around.
When you finally looked up it was “Oh my gosh, look what we did.” It was very exciting. We did a lot. It was the first time we had done a show like this in terms of the history and the canon and the expectations and you just have to focus on what is right in front of you. In a lot ways, season two is different because we have the knowledge that we didn’t have before of what people thought. It is in the world. Before it was something we knew about and no one else knew about it yet.
Harberts: This season it was almost a blessing that we were almost done once it started airing, because though the feedback is great to get from the audience, it can paralyze you in ways. For us to survive this, there had to be a singularity of purpose where everybody locked arms – crew, cast, everybody. So, we just said, “This is our vision and this is what we are doing.” Being able to do that in a vacuum was actually really, really good. Now it is out in the world and I really can’t believe it. How rare is it to have a cast that all get along and they embrace their characters? They just clicked. You never get that with an ensemble out of the gate.
And this crew just stepped up and found ways to pull this off. When we got to the Mirror Universe, that required a complete world creation. And at that point in the series you have spent a lot of money, and people are tired, and yet our designers and our crew came back with a version of the Terran Empire that just blew us away. So, it’s a miracle that it happened. So, again with season two, we are sort of analyzing that whole idea of miracles.
Having it [Season 1] air and having people talk about what they liked and didn’t like – one of the things I am excited to hear is that the fans are open to more scenes where things have “stopped down,” scenes where characters are checking in and where we are learning more about stuff, where the plot isn’t necessarily driving the whole thing. I am proud of all the turns, but I am glad to know people are interested in these quieter moments. Mix it up, have a more of a “slice of life” flavor.
More WonderCon 2018
And there is more to come, so stay tuned.