Interview: Doug Jones And Mary Wiseman On How Their ‘Short Treks’ And ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Fit Together

Doug Jones and Mary Wiseman at NYCC Star Trek: Discovery press roundtable

After the Star Trek: Discovery panel at New York Comic Con, TrekMovie had a chance to talk with the panelists at roundtable interviews in the press room. We have been rolling them out all week and today we have returning cast members Doug Jones (Commander Saru) and Mary Wiseman (Ensign Tilly) talking about what’s new for their characters in season two, and their Short Treks episodes. Watch the full video below the interview.

Are you feeling less pressure now that season one is done?

Doug Jones: Wow, less pressure? I don’t know. It’s almost like when you finish a first season, and it went well, and it was successful and well-received, it’s like, ‘oh gosh we’ve got to come back as strong, if not stronger.’ I feel more pressure. I’m a self-doubter, in real life, it’s like, ‘I can’t do it, I think I’m done, I think I’ve shot the wad and now I’m done.’

Mary Wiseman: Yeah, when we were talking on set and I was on the bridge or something and I was like, “Doug, do you ever feel a deep fear that your character this season won’t match your character last season?” And you were like “YEAH!”

Doug Jones: We just talked about it just recently! We all go through that, yeah. Whatever works, will I find those moments again? That kind of thing.

So, you have a strong season two coming?

Doug Jones: We really do. Now that we’re nearing the end of season two, I think that we have a very strong season to present to you in January.

Mary Wiseman: And your shirtless scene is going to be … setting your head on fire.

Doug Jones: And my shirtless scene — that’s when they had to carry the makeup down all the way. So I was a Kelpien torso. Okay?

Kelpien torso as seen in the Star Trek: Discovery season 2 trailer

Does the storytelling style change this season?

Doug Jones: I think it’s a bit more episodic because… the seven signals you heard about? Each one of those signals starts a new storyline that will have some sort of completion. But the overall arc, they’re all very connected, and you need to watch the entire season to find out where it’s all going. So it’s a little bit of both.

Mary Wiseman: I think the rhythm, everything is a little more syncopated, because we also have mini-arcs within that that kind of flavor the story, but of course we’re always going to be a chapter-based television show. We do that a little bit more of little peeks inside someone’s journey right now, that’s a bit standalone, but will add up to something.

Doug Jones: There’s a lot of carry through now.

How does Saru feel about losing his captain status so quickly?

Doug Jones: Right, because I knew, Saru knew that settling into the captain’s chair in season one, we were heading toward Vulcan to be assigned a new captain. And I assured the crew, I’m just acting captain for now, that was a line I even said.

But I did not know that we would be intercepted by a distress call from the Enterprise, and that we would be boarded by Captain Pike. I didn’t know that part. So he does feel a little bit territorial, maybe, at the beginning of that. Because, hey, I JUST got into the captain’s chair, and you’re… already? Let me enjoy this for just – for the trip to Vulcan. Can I at least get that in me?

Saru in his brief tenure in the USS Discovery captain’s chair

Mary, when does your Short Treks mini-episode (“Runaway”) take place?

Mary Wiseman: Yeah, I think it should take place sort of somewhere non-specific, in the timeline of season 2. So it’s not specific. And they wanted that so that it could be standalone. So people who don’t watch it, they can still appreciate the season, but also it’s an enriching sort of character story, deepens the character. So it’s set kind of where we are now, but not very specifically. We wanted to leave that open… Definitely after the medal ceremony, like you said.

Doug Jones: You’ll notice her hair, too. The hair might be a giveaway with where we are in the timeline.

Mary Wiseman: I was really obsessed with, just, you know, evolving from the bun into a pony.

Tilly (Mary Wiseman) evolves from a bun to a pony on Star Trek: Discovery

Hair evolution: bun to pony

Does “Runaway” affect what happens in season two?

Mary Wiseman: No, not sort of… super-specifically. The way that they exist in the world is more of a character study and a character deepening and a backstory – you get to see my mom, you know – it’s just like, I think it fleshes out a little bit who this character is. I don’t think we want it to directly affect the season, so if someone hasn’t seen it, they can still totally comprehend, and it will totally make sense.

Mary Wiseman as Tilly in her Star Trek: Discovery Short Treks episode "Runaway"

Mary Wiseman in her Short Treks episode “Runaway”

Doug, can you tell us about your Short Treks episode (“The Brightest Star”)?

Doug Jones: The thing about all the four of the shorts we have so far, is that they’re all very different from each other, and they all take place in different moods, different time periods, different everything. Different characters. So mine is actually – you’re going to learn how Saru became a part of Starfleet. So mine goes back, so there are breadcrumbs that you’ll find in season 2 that you’ll find in the short film as well. So mine does have a direct tie with hints. But, like Mary just said, you can watch one or the other, with a complete story, without having to see the other one.

Watch the full interview

More from NYCC

There are still more interviews coming from all of our coverage of New York Comic Con. So stay tuned.

Star Trek: Discovery is available exclusively in the USA on CBS All Access. It airs in Canada on Space and streams on CraveTV. It is available on Netflix everywhere else. The second season will debut on All Access and Space on Thursday, January 17th, 2019, and on Netflix January 18th.

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 13th.

Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news here at TrekMovie.

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I wonder if Discovery season 3 will run concurrent with Star Trek:> Picard season 1. I also wonder if the new Picard series will air on the CBS network then jump over to CBS: All Access like Discovery did…

There are no plans to have any Trek show run concurrent with another. They want to fill out All Access with Trek content throughout the year.

Kadin confirmed with TrekMovie that the plan is to not have Star Trek shows overlap. She also noted they plan to have breaks between the various Trek shows, to build up fan anticipation.
More here:

So in other words there might be a third series. Four series would be 4 X 13 = 52 = no gaps and probably too much All Trek All the Time. Two series would be enough in my opinion but maybe they need a third one to keep people subscribed.

That’s logical however it essentially assumes a static format for these shows and we’ve been told this isn’t going to be the case as there are plans for mini’s, limited series and even animation. At the moment CBS are releasing episodes weekly as they simply don’t have enough new content to maintain continuous subscriptions but it wouldn’t necessarily hurt them to have some content released for binge watching in future. This would certainly be more attractive to potential global streaming partners like Netflix or Amazon and having more content will certainly be more appealing to domestic customers. In the short term they may very well go with your format however this still assumes that each series would be equal in length or that it would be possible to produce a season for each every 12 months. It’s becoming more common for premium TV shows to have gaps in excess of 12 months between seasons particularly if these productions involve in demand talent. I think we might see a model more in line with the Netflix Marvel shows with maybe 5 or 6 in various stages of development but only 2-4 released per year.

Netflix is actually pretty well setup for handling shows with weekly releases. They have the international licenses to other US tv shows that release episodes weekly (not just Discovery). So that really isn’t an issue in terms of international distribution.

Issue is your word Matt, I said that it wouldn’t necessarily hurt CBS to consider releasing some shows in a binge watching format and I speculated that it might make the product more attractive to streaming giants if they did. I’m well aware that Netflix release plenty of shows that are broadcast weekly on the same basis and I expect this to continue. Nevertheless, it’s clear that for their own products they prefer to release all episodes from a season simultaneously and it’s also clear that that CBS are not getting everything their own way in terms of selling the shows. If they were then those of us outside of North America would also be watching Short Treks but we’re not so why would you not consider making your product more appealing? In any case I’m talking long game here, you don’t run before you can walk and CBS is just about crawling at the moment. They don’t have enough available original content to even consider the binge model at this time and I suspect that they’ll need to significantly build their customer base in order to support any major increase in their output but if or when they do grow their business they will have to review their distribution model.

“too much Trek”

T’ain’t no such thing!

No. The producers have also said there will be breaks in between series.

I’d say they need to be careful with the gaps. If they are long enough people will drop CBSAA. Hence, I think they are better off with gaps of 2 weeks or less between shows.

I think a month would be fine though. Especially if you have another show coming that soon most people won’t cancel just for a month and a lot of people probably rewatch the season after its over.

And we have to remember CBS is not ONLY counting on Star Trek to keep people interested. They will still be making other shows too so if they can get those to overlap with Trek it will probably give people a reason to not cancel and give those shows a chance as well…if they are good!

The problem now is even IF you watched all their new stuff it’s so sporadic you can still easily cancel for months at a time and not miss anything. I think there is a new show on now probably no one is watching but it’s easier to just wait until Discovery to come back on to binge watch that and it will be over long before DIS shows up again anyway.

Thats the issue they need more variety in general but just enough shows where you feel like you are getting something new all year, not just Star Trek. If they can do that where it’s something premiering every two months it should be easier to stop people from cancelling.

Would be nice for Discovery to find a healthy mixing ratio for doing standalone vs. serialized plots in Season 2!
I have nothing against serialized plots per se, but I noticed that I often can’t recall which events from Season 1 happened in which episode, which is less of a problem in all the earlier Trek series.

Doug Jones and Mary Wiseman are both so good that it’s sort of surprising that they’re not always sure they can pull it off. Mary Wiseman is impressive for being so good so young, and Doug Jones is impressive for being able to act so well when nearly all of him is covered with rubber. They’re definitely standouts!

It’s how very good both Jones and Wiseman are that gives me a lot of hope about the new actors. Given how good the casting has been in this show — and let’s not forget Jason Isaacs’ astonishing turn as Lorca — it seems clear that the casting folks know quality when they see it.

“so good so young” – she’s obviously not old, but she’s so good at “acting young” that one tends to forget that, being 33, she’s actually only a few months younger than Sonequa Martin-Green and almost three years older than Shazad Latif.

Mary Chieffo is actually the show’s true youngster – she’s only 23.

” It’s almost like when you finish a first season, and it went well, and it was successful and well-received,”

I think Doug is looking at things through rose colored glasses. From what I can tell the most positive thing that can be said about season 1 is “mixed reviews”.

Your confimation bias is showing. Discovery was one of the most watched shows on Netflix, and thats just the foreign markets. The teensy minority of complaining fans are no more relevant now than they were in 1987.

How do you know it was one of the most watched shows on foreign Netflix? Netflix is notorious for not releasing viewing numbers. Further, well received means well liked. Which is what I was correcting. It wasn’t well liked. My personal opinion doesn’t change the mixed bag of reviews the show actually received.

I do love those two – I don’t think there’s a Disco cast member or character I’ve not liked, but these two are infectious.

As for the pacing – in the UK we’re definitely lucky with the Netflix deal, but the lack of these shorts is probably a sign of what’s to come. Much as I enjoy the show, I’m not sure I’d be able to justify signing up to a streaming channel just for one show, so they’d have to have multiple Trek shows to pull many people in.

Maybe if they bolstered a couple of series with a Trek Game Show, a sitcom and endless documentaries, or had the nightly news show read by Seven of Nine… that might do it. ;-)

Second seasons: When Riker grew the beard and Tilly lost the bun