Star Trek: Discovery is now five episodes into its fourth season with Thursday’s release of “The Examples.” During a new online event, the series star and executive producers talked about the season and where it is headed.
Season four sets up two opposing forces
A big reveal from Thursday’s episode was that the DMA (Dark Matter Anomaly) was not a natural phenomenon, but was actually created by some unknown force (currently being referred to as “Unknown Species 10C”). On Wednesday evening, Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green, along with executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Michelle Paradise and Olatunde Osunsanmi, participated in an online discussion with New York’s 92Y. One of the questions asked by moderator and Washington Post columnist Helena Andrews regarded the message of the season, and in answering, Osunsanmi gave a hint about this new adversary and how it ties into a larger theme:
The season to me resonates because you have two opposing forces. Both of them think they’re good, but of course each force think the other one is evil or wrong. I love how there is this possible coming together of understanding and connection. Who knows how it all plays out and what ends up happening, but I like to think in our real lives no matter what we think of as the other side, there can be a coming together of minds or at least some form of connection or understanding. Who knows what you do from that point forward? You still may need to go get what you need to get in order to protect yours and your family. But I like to think this season is very inspirational to try to understand the other side of the equation.
What kind of captain Burnham is will evolve through to end of series
In response to a question on if Burnham was being modeled after any other iconic Star Trek captain, Kurtzman said the goal was to have Burnham “carve out her own space as a captain,” but pointed to some classic elements:
I can tell you that there are certain things in different captains of past shows that Burnham maybe reflects or mirrors in some way. But I don’t think you can say they are in the model of some other captain. She’s got some of Kirk’s cowboy. She’s got some of Picard’s strategic thoughtfulness, and you can say the same about Janeway. And yet, I think that part of what the show has been about very textually, and we go there a lot in season four, is: ‘What does it mean for me to be captain based on my own identity?’
Kurtzman also talked about a big part of season four is testing different aspects of how Burnham is a captain, and that process will continue to evolve:
One of the questions that Michelle and I asked early on in the breaking of [season four] was… We will come up with a plot. Great, but the real question was: How does this plot move Burnham forward as a captain? What new challenge does it present to her, that opens up a new door for her understanding of what it means to be a captain? Hopefully, by the end of the season, she has a stronger sense of who she is as a captain. But I will tell you that I think she probably wouldn’t be able to answer that question [of what kind of captain will she be] fully until the series was over.
Even though Kurtzman talked about Burnham’s potential series arc beyond the end of season four, Paramount+ has yet to officially announce a renewal for the show. However, today they did announce that Discovery is their most-streamed original series for 2021, as it has been in previous years.
Saru and Michael getting even closer
This season has seen Saru return to the Discovery to be Burnham’s first officer, even though he is also a captain. Martin-Green talked about the evolving dynamic between Burman and Saru and where it is headed:
You see them understanding who they really are to each other. And the fact that they have been proxy siblings for each other… Their relationship deepened in the most fascinating ways, and it’s just going to continue to do that. They are going to get to that point where they’re just speaking without having to speak. They already are there. And being able to be more themselves and more honest and authentic with each other than perhaps they are with anyone else, with the exception of Book and Tilly… I’m really excited for what’s in store for them, because both contributed to each other’s identity in very permanent ways, which I love.
Looking for different character pairings
Michelle Paradise said that in season four they have been looking to find ways to pair up characters that haven’t interacted with each other much previously, pointing to Book and Stamets in episode two as a prime example. She explains:
You put those two actors in a room together and they make magic. It’s those kinds of things where we’re looking for characters who haven’t spent time on screen with one another. How can we create those opportunities? How can we deepen those relationships? We never want any of our characters to feel static. At the beginning of every season, we talk a lot about where are these characters by the end of the previous season and where do we want them to go by the end of this season? And then, how do we get them there? And a lot of the ways in which we get them there is in their relationships with the other characters. The plot, of course, does that, but it’s really how are they interacting with one another? And how are they growing with one another? We’re always looking for ways to do that.
Variety of shows for a variety of audiences, but all with one vision
When Strange New Worlds debuts in 2022 there will be a total of five new Star Trek series created for Paramount+ under Kurtzman’s direction. He talked about how he approaches differentiating each:
The goal has been that each show needs to have its own identity. And its identity doesn’t just mean the way we tell stories, but its own visual look and its own tone. The benefit of having a multitude of shows is that we don’t need to make a one size fits all show. So each show could be targeted at a very specific audience and directed there and doesn’t necessarily have to go elsewhere.
But he also pointed to how Star Trek shows all have a universal theme:
The more specific you are sometimes the more universal you are. And in the case of Trek, I think for many people that core of [Gene] Roddenberry’s vision is this optimism. The sense that the best of who we are is going to win the day and that we will have a future because of that. It’s a very, very hopeful message. And it’s a very easy message to keep returning to over and over again, because every generation meets its own strife. And every generation goes through a period of time where they question who they are. What is each generation’s identity?
Trek has always been this beautiful mirror that holds itself up to the moment in which it is born. If you start with the ‘60s, and you see what it was reflecting then and you go through successive times you see that each show is really speaking to the moment that it was born in. And we’re obviously now born into an incredibly complicated and incredibly divisive time. And no matter what side of the line you’re on, I think everybody can agree that we’re almost 50/50 down the middle in terms of division. And one of the things I think is really beautiful about Star Trek is that it imagines a future where all those divisions are over, where we somehow move past it. And we figured out a way to find our unification or unity. And that’s incredible. I think that’s why people keep coming back to it.
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