After unveiling a new trailer, the Star Trek: Discovery panel and New York Comic Con got into some more details about season four. Stars Sonequa Martin-Green, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Wilson Cruz, David Ajala, and Blu del Barrio were joined by showrunner and executive producer Michelle Paradise. We have some of the key highlights.
A theme of uncertainty for an uncertain world
After seeing the new trailer, Wilson Cruz put it in some context of how season four fits into the reality we have all be living in for the last couple of years:
Wilson Cruz: I feel like the stakes that we were living in breathes in that trailer. The stakes in the story were really high, but the stakes in which we were making and telling the story were also high. And the theme of the entire season is about uncertainty and about how we come together to deal with it and walk through uncertainty and lean on each other as we find a way through it. And we were doing that in life as well.
Later when asked about how Discovery uses allegory, Michelle Paradise talked more about the theme of uncertainty in the upcoming season:
Michelle Paradise: One of the things we do–and it’s baked into the DNA of Star Trek… is that Star Trek looks at what’s happening in the world around us. And we look for ways via the show, via science fiction, to reflect some of those things thematically. [For] season four, Uncertainty is one of the big things for us thematically… because that was happening very much in the world around us… And so looking at what does that mean for each of our characters individually? What does it mean for our characters in relationship with one another? What does it mean for the Federation, for non-Federation planets?
A big threat has a big impact on each character
A big way this theme of uncertainty is manifested is that season four will not have a traditional villain; instead, it will grapple with a massive gravitational anomaly that is threatening the galaxy. Some of the actors talked about how this new threat will impact each of their characters.
Sonequa Martin-Green: I think I can speak for all the characters when I say I don’t think any of us were expecting to have a threat this big so soon after jumping to this future. Because that was huge. I know at least for Burnham, it’s a lot. Like, ‘Man, here we are again with a threat of great, great magnitude.’ And so of course, these people in this story being the honorable people that they are, their true character comes out at that moment of greatest pressure and beautiful stuff comes out as hard as it might be.
Anthony Rapp: Stamets is a scientist, first and foremost, and he cares about the health of the bioforms in the galaxy. So he’s driven to stay up all night every night to solve this mystery. And the fact that it is really difficult to solve affects him in a very particular way.
Mary Wiseman: Tilly is great at science, so that helps. I think that Tilly has begun to move up in leadership and is feeling more and more responsibility and a little bit more of the pressures [of being] responsible for people. That in combination with all the events of the third season, similar to the way this pandemic experience has affected us all, really kind of forced her to like reinvestigate herself and her motivation. So it kind of spirals her off into this personal journey, actually. Which was very fun to play with.
Wilson Cruz: For Dr. Culber, he’s taking on double duty. He’s not just the medical officer, but he’s also the ship’s counselor. And with an anomaly that’s creating such anxiety for people because of the uncertainty that it presents and the danger that it presents, people need some help… Throughout this season, I really thought about all of our nurses and all of our doctors, and all of our therapists who have helped us through this incredibly uncertain moment in time, and who are struggling themselves. How do you stay professional and do your job and help other people while still taking care of yourself and your family and stay healthy? That is the arc of Culber.
Bringing the Federation back together, with an unexpected president
Paradise also helped set the stage for where the Federation is at the beginning of season four:
Michelle Paradise: The Federation isn’t quite back together again. We’ve made some progress at the end of season three, but certainly, that’s something that’s continuing in season four. And a lot happens in season four. Not sure what else I can [say]. There’s action and adventure and science and Star Trek.
Later, Paradise talked about how they are continuing to try to change things up by bringing familiar species from earlier eras into the 32nd century:
Michelle Paradise: We’re always looking for ways, now that we’re so far ahead, of who are the species we can see? What are we familiar with? How can we mix those things up a little bit? We did that actually quite a lot in in season three. The species that you’re familiar with, we put them in a different place. The Andorians are a little bit different than we expect, or the Orions, or whatever. And we’re continuing that into season four as we continue to expand the world and look at new places.
We saw some of that in the trailer released today, including a Ferengi Captain.
Anthony Rapp asked if it was alright to talk about the heritage of a new character named “Rillak.” Paradise then revealed some more details on this character who has been seen in both of the trailers:
Michelle Paradise: You can maybe see a little in the makeup… One of the really cool things about coming forward so many years is that we can play with a lot of that stuff. And the character that you saw in the trailer who was talking to Burnham is a Federation President for the season. And we do mix it up with her species a little bit. She’s Cardassian, Bajoran, and Human.
Wilson Cruz added that the Federation President is being played by Canadian actress Chelah Horsdal, “She just slipped right in and became part of the family.”
Captain Burnham can still find time for friends
A major change for season four is that Michael Burnham is now the captain of the USS Discovery. Martin-Green talked about how Burnham is balancing her new duties with the rest of her life:
Sonequa Martin-Green: Everything has led to sitting down in that chair and assuming that role… And that year alone [between episodes 301 and 302] was essential. Because, really for the first time, it was a second to breathe and stop and ask myself as Burnham, ‘What and who am I actually?’ I have always had someone to tell me who I should be. And I have always done my best to excel at that. But I’ve overcompensated and I’ve made a lot of mistakes because of it. So who am I actually? And now I can be that person… But I love what Burnham’s mother said, where duty and joy go hand in hand. And that you can actually choose both. And I love that in this season coming up, you see these people finding out exactly how they can choose both in their own lives and in their own ways.
Martin-Green also fielded a question on how this new role will impact her friendship with Tilly:
Sonequa Martin-Green: I think stepping into the role of captain, there’s a lot of things that need to be learned. There’s a lot of a lot of discoveries, a lot of challenges that come with it. And I think every relationship is affected by it. Because all of a sudden, there’s this bit of distance that’s kind of hard to explain. But when take on responsibility for an entire crew on paper, there automatically is a little bit of a stepping back that has to happen because you have to have this sort of macro vision and that macro perspective so you can make the best decisions for the whole. But I will also say that the friendship between these two women is so deep and so authentic, that these experiences only add to it, in truth, at the root of it all.
Stamets learns to forgive Michael, and share with Book
In the last couple of episodes of season three, we saw Stamets and Burnham get into major conflict, and in the season finale, he was the only one not smiling when the rest of the crew celebrated her promotion. Anthony Rapp talked about how this will be picked up in season four:
Anthony Rapp: Stamets is opinionated and has strong feelings, but he’s also incredibly loyal. So I think yes, we’re going to be able to work together. There may be a little poke here or there to allude to what happened, but he’s also a responsible officer, and a loyal friend and is capable of forgiveness.
The season three finale also saw David Ajala’s character Book capable of navigating the USS Discovery, something only Stamets was capable of doing before. When the pair was asked about who gets to drive in season four, there was a funny moment where Rapp crossed the stage to stare Ajala down. The pair then talked a bit about how they, too, work things out:
David Ajala: I was hoping you weren’t going to ask because that’s very sensitive… We share the keys… In one of the episodes, we actually speak.
Anthony Rapp: Yeah, I think for the first time in the whole series. I don’t think our characters ever actually had a direct interaction… [Ajala interjects: We covered ground] I was very, very glad when I read that script, that I got a chance to act in a scene or two with David Ajala, who’s been a tremendous addition to our cast and a capital human being.
Blu thanks Frakes, and Gray’s role is “vital”
Anthony Rapp, Wilson Cruz, and Blu del Barrio talked about how they joined Discovery in season three straight out of school:
Blu del Barrio: They treat me like family now. It was weird at the beginning for me, because I came from theater. So it was like, ‘Wilson and Anthony from Rent? Oh, no! I might pee myself.’… But they took me in within a second. And even when I didn’t know how long I was going be on the show, we just didn’t know where the story was going. They both just kind of took me in in a very parental way, which I’m endlessly grateful for.
Wilson Cruz: We took them under our wing before we even knew that they were going to be our charge in the show. I think [Anthony and I] saw a bit of ourselves in them, in the sense that we were young people starting out in this industry, and we were open and out as LGBTQ people, as queer people. So we wanted to make your experience a little bit easier than ours. That is our job as your as your ancestors.
Anthony Rapp: This is Blu’s first professional experience. They just got out of school weeks before coming to set. And from moment one of stepping on our set and standing in front of the camera, [they] just knocked it out of the park every single time… We were just so lucky.
Blu del Barrio: That has a lot to do with Jonathan Frakes being my first director.
Cruz also talked about how Culber is going to make good on his promise to make sure that Adira’s ghost boyfriend Gray will be seen by all in season four:
Wilson Cruz: When Dr. Culber makes a promise, he keeps that promise… So we we find a way to make sure that Gray is seen as promised and, and we get to see just how vital he becomes to a story and to our mission. And I’m just excited about the fact that we have finally an official trans character on the show in Star Trek, in the universe. And he does an amazing job and I can’t wait for you guys to see.
Season four in one word
One of the moderator’s last questions asked each panelist to sum up season four in just one word…
Sonequa Martin-Green: “Honorable”
Blu del Barrio: “Dream-like”
David Ajala: “Endurance”
Wilson Cruz: “Resilience… through uncertainty”
Mary Wiseman: “Stretching”
Anthony Rapp: “Crucible”
Michelle Paradise: “Growth… with all of our characters”
More to come from NYCC
There is more to come from NYCC including full coverage of tomorrow’s Star Trek: Prodigy panel. Stay tuned to TrekMovie for our full NYCC coverage.
Star Trek: Discovery streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. In Canada Discovery is broadcast on CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. It is also available on Netflix in 190 countries around the world.
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