[WARNING ARTICLE BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR “THE RED ANGEL”]
Thursday’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery offered answers to a few burning questions while introducing a number of new ones. The show’s star talked about how all of these big events and character connections have impacted Michael Burnham on this week’s The Ready Room. Plus we have more behind the scenes fun from “The Red Angel.”
Michael Burnham’s world has been turned upside down
Sonequa Martin-Green spoke at length on The Ready Room about “The Red Angel.” The actress noted how Burnham’s past has shaped her character, including the decision to sacrifice herself in the trap to capture the Red Angel:
[Sacrifice] is a cornerstone of Michael Burnham, this complete devotion to duty and to principle and to sacrifice. And you do see that from Michael Burnham from the very beginning…It speaks to this complete need to almost rewrite history. I have made a lot of mistakes as Michael. I have certainly cost a lot of lives, all with great intentions. I grew up on Vulcan knowing the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few, but then as a human, I care about the few and the one. So, it is the constant balance and this constant fight to save everyone and sort of right all these wrongs from the past and be absolved and also do what I need to know needs to be done because I have given my life to this service.
However, the revelation that her parents were part of Section 31 and it was actually Leland who bears the responsibility for their death has turned Burnham’s world upside down:
So much of who I am – so much of my identity is rooted in shame and guilt. Because that started from the very beginning. I always felt I was responsible for my parent’s death…And I was responsible for those Vulcan kids and teachers being killed when the Vulcan Learning Center was bombed by the Logic Extremists. I was pseudo-responsible for Georgiou. There are so many things I have been responsible for—obviously, the Klingon War. And so, to hear that the thing that started it all—the inciting incident that began my entire journey of guilt—did not happen that way. It wasn’t because of me. It was because of what they were doing under the behest of Leland. It’s basically: the world you know isn’t the world you know…If that had not happened, I would have never been on Vulcan. I would have been able to live a normal life on Earth. I would not have had to assimilate to this other culture, which I appreciate the Vulcan upbringing, but it was very difficult. But the whole trajectory of my life would have been different if they had not been taken from me.
Martin-Green also talked about the impact of Spock’s forgiveness on Burnham:
Him finally forgiving me because that is yet another thing I was carrying shame for, even though I was doing it to save his life. I thought it what was best. I was eleven. Still, I know that it broke him and the way that he came at me so furiously when we first reunited. It was two huge points of guilt I got to let go…I love that that the beginning of us coming back together is forgiveness.
Explaining Burnham’s complicated relationships with Georgiou and Tyler
“The Red Angel” included a number of key character moments with other important people in Burnham’s life. Tyler and Burnham show their love with a big kiss, however Martin-Green notes that this doesn’t exactly mean the two are back together again:
There is almost a Romeo and Juliet aspect to it. There are always circumstantial issues. There are always things that are pulling them apart. They are almost magnetized where they want to come together, but too many things keep separating them…I don’t know what the kiss is. I think it is many things. I think it is ambiguous. I think it is relief. I think it is the fact that they can’t stay away from each other. They understand that the situation is not really the best ground for them to build on, but they can’t help but love each other. And they can’t fight it, even though all these things are keeping them apart, they keep coming back together. We are just going to see what happens with that. What does that mean? Are they going to be able to say goodbye, because it’s what’s best for them? Or are they going to get closer, because it’s what’s best for them? It is very, very complicated. And there isn’t an answer. And that is the truth about love.
The relationship between Burnham and former Emperor Georgiou is also complicated. Martin-Green tried to lift the veil on the mystery about what is going on between them:
We understand that we are not the other’s counterpart. I am not the daughter you raised in the Mirror Universe. You are not my captain that became my mother in a lot of ways. But we can’t help but love each other…The big problem is there is no trust there. That is what makes our relationship so crackly, so spicy. It is so tentative because we love and respect each other, even though that makes no sense. We don’t actually know each other – Mirror and Prime…So, I love that when we embark on this huge mission that is obviously going to be very sacrificial on my part, because we have to capture this Red Angel. We think it’s me. And she loves me. I love how she respondes in that moment when I am suffocating, when I am dying and she thinks I want out and she just can’t take it anymore. I love the maternal instincts that just come out.
The comfort of Frakes
Martin-Green also talked about working with Star Trek: The Next Generation veteran Jonathan Frakes, who has now directed three episodes of Discovery, including last week’s episode “Project Daedalus”:
He is one of our favorite directors because he brings with him the context of Trek. So, when we are in a space with his presence we go “wow, we are doing Star Trek!” He welcomed us from the very beginning. He sort of shepherds us in such a beautiful paternal, almost brotherly kind of way. We can really trust him. He is a comforting place for us to land on. He’s an actor’s director as well. So, all of his choices – you have this unspoken understanding between you, and you speak the same language. It is such a free space to work in with him.
Martin-Green got cryptic when asked about the final scene in “The Red Angel” when it appeared that the Red Angel was actually her (previously-believed-to-be dead) mother:
We are thinking at this point that the Red Angel is me, so that is a huge reveal. Coming right off the tail that Leland was responsible for it, so I don’t know what reality is. I have also just sort of died for a moment. So, is it fantasy? Is it a vision? Or is it real? We don’t know at this point. When we are at near-death experiences you see things. You see visions of people that have passed. You kind of daydream and leave your body in that way. So, is it one of those out of body visions or is it real? We can’t trust it.
You can watch the full interview below.
Behind the scenes on “The Red Angel”
Actor Doug Jones revealed that he actually sang the Kelpien funeral song at Airiam’s memorial.
Yes, that really was me singing in tonight's @startrekcbs episode. I was terrified when I saw the script, especially because it was in the Kelpien language (which is new to all of us!!). I used to be the soloist at my church, so I dug deep for the courage. #StarTrekDiscovery
— Doug Jones (@actordougjones) March 22, 2019
Visual effects artist Timothy Peel took to Twitter to discuss how he tried to reveal how much of Airiam was organic compared to cybernetic.
#StarTrekDiscovery Many thanks to @NevillePage for creating such a brilliant design for Lt. Cmdr. Airiam. What does a 23rd century scan of an augmented human reveal? How much of her is cybernetic vs organic? I tried to answer that in one screen / in one scene. pic.twitter.com/FipQsGDsj8
— Timothy Peel (@timothypeel1) March 23, 2019
Speaking of that scene, Airiam actress Hannah Cheesman pointed out that the medical tech who wiped Airiam’s memories was played makeup designer James MacKinnon.
The last whispers of dear #airiam last night, after a stunning funeral scene. Thank you for everything @startrekcbs @CBSAllAccess HOT NOTE this is James Mackinnon our head prosthetics!! #cameo #LLAP when’s the last time you had your memories erased by an #Emmy winning fella?! pic.twitter.com/M3e2INuW7W
— Hannah Cheesman (@HannahCheesman) March 22, 2019
Anson Mount also shared a couple of behind-the-scenes images from the location shooting on “The Red Angel.”
Essof IV pic.twitter.com/ZxRCILXwF1
— Anson Mount (@ansonmount) March 22, 2019
Another behind-the-scenes view of Essof IV. pic.twitter.com/lE9tZ91i3M
— Anson Mount (@ansonmount) March 23, 2019
Sirtis offers counseling advice
“The Red Angel” featured Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) flexing her training in therapy by counseling Dr. Culber. This got the notice of the actress behind Star Trek’s most famous counselor, Deanna Troi. Marina Sirtis took to Twitter to offer up her services to Brook.
— Jayne Brook (@thejaynebrook) March 22, 2019
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.