The second season finale of Star Trek: Discovery debuted one week ago, wrapping up an eventful season and setting the series off in a new direction. TrekMovie spoke with Michelle Paradise, co-writer of the two-part finale (and co-showrunner for the series) about the finale and where Discovery is going in season three.
Can you talk about the decision to split the season finale into two parts and how you figured out what to put into each half?
We decided to do two episodes in the first place because we realized there was just so much story to tell at the end of the season and so many mysteries that we wanted to wrap up in a satisfying way, and so many character moments that we wanted to pay off. In particular, Burnham and Spock were the heart of the season. We had a lot with Pike this season that we wanted to wrap up. As for Spock, how he gets back to the Enterprise and how becomes prepared for what will happen in TOS in ten years, and Number One, all of these wonderful character beats that we wanted to wrap up. There was the Red Angel and the signals and all of these things. When we started talking about what the finale should be and really looking at what the story should be, it became clear very quickly that it was way too much to do in a single episode. So that is where we came to breaking it into two episodes. It felt like the natural way to do it.
In terms of how to break that up, we end episode 12 knowing that we have to take some drastic steps in order to protect the future, essentially. Once we realize that those things are not going to work, it felt like getting as many of those character things in and getting the stage set and getting ready for the battle, and once the battle begins, we are off to the races with all of that. So, it felt like an organic breaking point between the two episodes for us and having two episodes gave us the space we felt we needed to really do all of those stories justice.
Let’s talk about the decision to jump the show forward in time. How did that influence the second season?
As I joined about halfway through the season, I wasn’t there when they originally made that decision. That was made even before the season started. They knew that was where they were going. I can speak to the benefits of that, and what we have talked about since then. One of the discussions that I have been part of is the opportunity to go to the future to be beyond canon, and to explore what that looks like and what that fresh snow landscape looks like. This felt like an organic way to do that.
Looking at the decision from the point of view of the characters, there is a moment in the finale where it becomes clear Control was neutralized. Why did they then stick with the plan to jump into the future?
Well, Control is really only neutralized at the moment that Burnham is already heading into the wormhole as Discovery is following behind her. At the moment Georgiou finally kills Leland, because he is essentially the face of Control—its controlling element if you will. So the moment that she does that, all of the ships that have been fighting in his armada essentially stop functioning and that is when Pike says “open fire” on all of them. By that point, they are already far away. Whether or not Control had been defeated in that moment or five minutes earlier, the pressing issue is this sphere. If Section 31 could have allowed Control to get to the point where it did, could there be anything else? That is one of the things they talk about in the final act of episode 14—we have to do things in a different way so an entity like Control isn’t developed with good intent but gets pushed past the point where it should be. With the sphere data accessible that would always have been a threat. So, once our heroes realized they needed to go into the future, they need to take that sphere data out of harm’s way and that is the only solution for making sure that this thing doesn’t happen again. And back in our present, which is the stuff they are talking about with the Starfleet Officer at the end there, is how do we make sure that we go in a different direction? How can we ensure that Section 31 goes in a different direction so this kind of thing doesn’t crop up again?
Sticking with the motivation of the characters, Star Trek canon establishes that time travel becomes somewhat commonplace in the far future. So returning might not be so hard for the Discovery. Are the characters motivated to stay in the future to keep the sphere data in the future?
What they know given the information that they have at that time in our history is that time travel is not common. Their perspective is the way to solve this problem is to take it far into the future where it can’t be used for nefarious purposes. That is what they are driven to do. Take it there and their intent is to stay there. We have some really great stuff. Our actors just absolutely killed it with the performances in episode 13 as they said goodbye to family and friends. Our crew has made the decision to stay with Burnham and to go with her and from all of their perspectives, this is a one-way journey.
There is a sort of parallel with Star Trek: Voyager, which was thrown far from home. However, here the crew is making the choice. So, in the case of Discovery, they will not be trying to get back home?
Everything we know in season two is they are motivated to go into the future to help ensure that there is a future for other people. None of them is talking about coming back. They are all talking about how this is the journey we will make in order to save sentient life so that there is a tomorrow. That is where they are focused on all of their perspectives. That is why we have them say goodbye to their family and friends. That is why it is such an emotional moment for Burnham when they stand there and say, “We are coming with you,” because from Burnham’s perspective, the minute she finds out she can’t come back because of the time crystal she knows it is a one-way journey and then everyone else knows it is a one-way journey.
A quick point of clarification. In an interview with THR last week Alex Kurtzman said they jump forward 950 years, but it was actually 930, right?
Yes, it is 930 years. From Burnham’s mom’s point of view, it was 950 years. But our heroes are going 930 years. When Burnham at the very end of the finale is setting the parameters of jump on the holoscreen, she even says 930 years.
So, that is the 32nd century, or specifically 3187?
Yeah, but I would need to do the math [laughs].
I’m sure [“keeper of the canon” staff writer] Kirsten [Beyer] has worked it out.
She has! She probably has charts. [laughs]
The USS Discovery has a big crew. It wasn’t entirely clear in the finale how many of them transferred back before the jump. Like, did Linus make it?
[Laughs] Everyone wants to know about Linus! I am sure Linus will be fine. We love Linus. What they say in knowing that this would happen in the chaos of everything and how many people are staying, certainly some of the crew members would have left. You will have to wait until season three to find out who if it is anyone. But we had them deliberately say in that scene with Burnham as they are talking to her in the corridor, there are others, but they are working now. So, very clearly, we have a complement of crew that can run the ship and can handle everything that they need to handle as they go through the wormhole. Not everyone on board had decided to stay is the implication in that moment. But many people have.
Changes made in the second season appear to reflect some of the fan and critic feedback from the first. Is there feedback from the second season that is influencing the third?
Without getting into specifics about season three, what I will say is there is a lot we feel was really working and that people really love and that we really love in season two. A lot of the character moments people really seem to respond to. And those character moments that we definitely want to continue exploring. There is stuff people love like the unique things about Star Trek that only Star Trek can do, which are those moral and ethical debates, and the science of it. All of those things that people have responded to about Star Trek from its very inception are the things people continue to respond to about the show, and are the places that we as fans of the franchise and writers of the show also respond to. And those are the places we want to continue to play.
Can you give us an update as to how things are going in the writers’ room for season three and if there are any changes in the room from season two?
A lot of people from season two have come back, including a lot of folks from the beginning of the show. We have added a couple of new faces as well who are wonderful writers and wonderful human beings. We are super excited about the makeup of the room. Of course, we have [executive producer/co-creator] Alex [Kurtzman]. I am running the show with him, but he is very much involved in the show and in all of these decisions we are having on season three and I am helping him along the way. We are really excited about how everything is going so far and how the room has come together. Again, there are a lot of folks from last season, so there was a lot of cohesion there. A lot of folks who have been there since the beginning, which is great.
What would you say are some of the key influences being discussed in the writers’ room?
The original Star Trek has always original inspired and continues to inspire. That is the blueprint. That is the foundation for everything that all of the iterations of the franchise has done. We continue to be inspired by that. We continue to be inspired by—as I mentioned before—the moral and ethical debates that come up and the questions that don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer. The ways in which our heroes interact with the world around them. All of those sorts of things just continue to inspire. TOS is always a point of discussion in the room.
What about you personally? What are some of the things that most spark your interest for inspiration?
I love the stories that are intriguing and human and about the human condition. The original Star Trek has always been inspiring to me. The original Twilight Zone was also very influential because it was about the human condition and complex questions and questions that don’t have answers and normal people in unusual situations. Those sorts of questions have always been fascinating to me. I am always inspired by science itself. I am a huge fan of science in general. I have two Wired magazines and an MIT Technology Review on my desk now as I am speaking to you. I read science-y stuff for fun. I was super excited when the first photo of a black hole came out. Real-life science really inspires me and I absolutely love it. I didn’t major in science in college, but I love all of that and following the latest advancements and trying—as much as a layperson can—to understand those things. And thanks to folks like Brian Greene and Neil deGrasse Tyson and all of them, I have a very basic understanding.
Those kinds of things for me, and any story that really focuses on character and small character moments that are revealing of larger themes and larger questions. And character moments that are revealing of that character. Those are things that excite me, and I am really interested in learning and discovering more about the characters on this show as we move forward and learn about them in new ways. We have learned quite a lot about them in the two seasons that Discovery has been on the air, and I am looking forward to finding out new things about them that we haven’t learned yet. And how does that play in their relationships with one another and their relationship to whatever story we happen to be telling in the episode? Those are the kinds of things I get excited about.
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.
Keep up with all the Star Trek: Discovery news at TrekMovie.