Interview: Sonequa Martin-Green And Michelle Paradise On Finding The Right Balance In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 4

In addition to speaking to Anthony Rapp, Blu del Barrio, and Wilson Cruz, TrekMovie joined in a group discussion at New York Comic Con with Star Trek: Discovery co-showrunner Michelle Paradise and star Sonequa Martin-Green. Speaking to TrekMovie and a handful of other outlets, the pair talked about new challenges for Michael in season four—as a captain, in her relationship with Saru, and more. Discovery season 4 premieres on November 18 on Paramount+.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Sonequa, in season four how does Michael balance the competing pressures of commanding the Discovery, rebuilding the Federation, and dealing with the mysterious galaxy-shattering crisis?

Sonequa Martin-Green: Well, this new role as captain—and also the life of the story for everyone—is all about that. It really is. It’s all about balancing duty and joy in the midst of uncertainty. So I think everyone is really grappling for this balance because, as you can imagine, this uncertainty being as big as it is and as potentially impactful as it is and what a big threat it is, it requires everyone to rise up in a way like they never have before. And now everyone has to find that balance, and they’re forced to. And of course, Burnham is, as captain, because it’s almost like as soon as she took the seat, here comes this anomaly! So it’s a lot but it is what makes these people leaders. It’s what makes them heroes.

Sonequa, you’ve said Michael is no longer driven by fear. So what conquers fear for this crew?  

Sonequa Martin-Green: Going into season three, and then also going into season four, Burnham is no longer led by fear or shame. I think a lot of times they go hand in hand. And they definitely did for Burnham. And they do for a lot of the folks in our story. This is kind of grand, but I think if you really zoom all the way out, I think the only thing that conquers fear is love. Because I think fear and hate go hand in hand a lot as well. So I think it’s love, and I think it’s love in the full sense of it, right? Not in the way that we tend to think about it sometimes in the very comfortable, convenient, flowery feel-good way. It’s like love is so much more than that. And, you know, this crew, they love each other. They’re learning to love themselves and they’re also learning to just love what they do and what they sacrifice for. And I think focusing on that is what then helps you say “no” to fear, which is a callback to the graduation speech from the end of season one.

Discovery started with a Saru-Michael rivalry through a series of rotating captains. How does their dynamic change with Saru back on the ship and Michael as captain?

Michelle Paradise: I feel like Burnham and Saru have been on a journey together in their relationship, and while they had moments obviously in seasons one and two, I think season three was really big for both of them. In season three, some things kind of came to a head in terms of their friendship and loyalty and trust and those sorts of things. And it feels like by the end of season three, they’ve worked through a lot of those struggles and have gotten to a new place that’s really great. And so I think in season four, you will see that relationship solidified in whatever form it ultimately takes between the two of them with a lot of mutual respect and love and care and support for one another, whatever their roles may be.

Sonequa Martin-Green: And I’ll add how brilliant Doug Jones is and how much I flippin’ love him. And just what a joy it is to be his sister of sorts in this story. I love Burnham and Saru, I really do… such a deep, dear place in my heart.

Doug Jones as Saru and Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham in episode 402

Michelle, previous seasons have always set up the next. Does that pattern continue with season four teeing up season five? And can you say anything about a writers room starting for season five? 

Michelle Paradise: Well, when when we get a season five pick up, let me know. That’ll be very exciting! You know, the ends of seasons are always really interesting and challenging. I joined halfway through season two—and coming into that season, they knew from the beginning that they wanted to make this jump to the future. So that’s where they were traveling to, Alex had already kind of set that up. And then coming into season three, what we were looking at for the end is, we definitely wanted to solve this mystery. And we wanted to start bringing the Federation back together again. So I do feel like every season has its arc and has a definitive end. Sometimes, like with season two, it tees up something very specific: We’re going to the future. And then other times it is a wrap-up of the story that we’ve been telling over the course of the season. So what season four does, I can’t tell you because then that would give it all away… but I can tell you that there IS an end to season four.

Michelle, are there any characters that you like writing more than others? 

Michelle Paradise: Oh, gosh, that’s hard. I love writing all of them. All of these characters are so very different and I really enjoy that. For me, some of the really fun moments—in addition to our action and adventure and the mysteries and stuff—I really love the smaller character moments. I love finding out new things about these characters, whoever it may be. We spend a fair amount of time in the room talking about those sorts of things, and how can we, in any given episode, learn something new about someone. So, to me, the character exploration is a lot of fun and I really enjoy all of it. It’s just a blast. It’s such a treat to get to write on the show.

Mary Wiseman, David Ajala, Wilson Cruz, Michelle Paradise, Sonequa Martin-Green, Blu del Barrio, and Anthony Rapp at New York Comic Con 2021 (Paramount+)

ICYMI: NYCC Season 4 Trailer

(Trailer also available for international viewers on Instagram and startrek.com)

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.


Keep up with the Star Trek Universe at TrekMovie.com.

Subscribe
Notify me of
19 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

You know, at this point, I think interview opportunities should explore past seasons, not current ones. I’d love to hear about changes in the story of Season 2 following Harberts and Berg’s departure, or how was the decision process to bring Vulcan as Ni’Var in Season 3… Instead, we have the same old gibberish without really commenting on story or plot. Four seasons of this already. Tiresome.

And Michelle Paradise didn’t sound too optimistic about Season 5 (I do hope it is going to happen because Doug Jones at some point mentioned they had originally a five-season plan, which probably means they have a contract with Netflix that goes til Season 5…)

I agree, I’d like to hear more from the writers on how and why they made the choices they did on seasons we’ve already seen, rather than talk super vaguely about future content…

I also agree but I don’t think we’ll get those kind of juicy details till several years after the show as finished. Right now they want to project that it’s been smooth as silk to the audience (and probably some execs)
I don’t think they’re ready to talk about the production problems they’ve faced, even though we’re ready to hear it.

I am especially curious about what happened with Nick Meyer and why he was so unceremoniously dropped from the writers room.

I think they’ll get a season 5 but more than that I am doubtful. I think this will also depend on how well SNW does when it launches as they may want to make that the flagship show after/if Discovery ends.

The biggest Mistake was to restart the franchise with a new team and not with a good mix of new Authors and old Veterans.

Everything old is bad, everything new is good.

They’ve been leaning on some of the novel writers, even back as far as the first season of Disco. David Mack wrote a bunch of critical back story for Burnham’s character. David is now a writing consultant on Prodigy. Kirsten Beyer was involved in the seasons 1 and 2 of Disco and was instrumental in writing Picard with Michael Chabon.

Arguably the lit verse writers are fantastic resources, they kept Trek alive in the dark times between the end of Nemesis and Enterprise until CBS took interest in Trek again

I’m really glad to see lit writers being involved in the official productions, and I’d love to see even more brought into the fold, like Keith RA DeCandido and Dayton Ward and many others.

CTRL+F, “love”.

I don’t get the reference but it sounds Fascinating.

I meant search the interview for word “love”. It’s ridiculous.

😆

It will be a very interesting season for Discovery. The one thing I am so happy about is that the show no longer has to try to be a show that appeals to all Star Trek fans. Clearly, it is now free to break free of certain fan expectations. I may be oversimplifying things but it appears that:

  1. Discovery is the inclusive series that also targets women and various minorities.
  2. SNW will appeal to the legacy fans of all ages who long for TOS and TNG
  3. Prodigy directly targets youth and newcomers to the Trek Universe
  4. Picard is made for legacy fans who are older and hopefully wiser
  5. LDs is the Dramedy (or perhaps more comedy than drama) that targets legacy fans looking for a wacky take on the Star Trek universe.

As for Short Treks, Section 31 and Starfleet Academy, who knows but we shall see.

Each show might target a different audience demographic or segment and not every show is going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think many (and dare I say MOST) Trek fans will find multiple or all the shows to be somewhat appealing and worth watching. I am sure that is also what P+ is hoping for.

I don’t think the question about each season ending sets up the next season; really just season 1 and 2 (but if it did end at season two the ending of that episode makes sense)
The way season 3 ended didn’t really set up anything solid for season 4. Even the ending w/ the Gene quote could come off as a series finale.

I wonder if during the golden age of Trek if Berman and crew always had to wait for confirmation on a new season, or if they were given a guarantee for a certain amount of seasons.

Sounds like the theme of this season will be the power of love. Perhaps a secret cameo by Huey Lewis is on the horizon…

I get the feeling that this is going to be the best season of Discovery so far

I’m curious if they can beat the Enterprise curse and get more than 4 seasons and not be a forgotten series abandoned by the fans. I’m leaning toward the belief they get renewed for season 5.

They’re shorter seasons than the TNG series – only 42 discovery eps so far. TNG’s first 48 episodes (or 70?) were mostly unwatchable.

I don’t think these particular season-long arcs are helping, either. There’s not much room for course-correcting when the whole plot is “stop the war,” “find the red angel” “solve the burn,” “fix the anomaly” and not much else.

It’s too bad, because there are so many recent shows (ex. Watchmen) that do this so well.