Star Trek: Discovery’s showrunners spill a bean or two on the lead character’s journey

4 min read

We’re just a few short months away from the launch of Star Trek: Discovery and there have been surprisingly few crumbs of actual information released. So far all we know that it’s set a few years before the original series, Spock’s father Sarek is involved, the Klingons are unfriendly (surprise!), we’ve got two starships – the USS Discovery and Shenzho – and the lead character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), is not one of the captains but is instead the first officer of the Shenzhou.

Initial showrunner Bryan Fuller revealed previously that the show would tackle “an incident and an event in Star Trek history that’s been talked about but never been explored… to dig deep into a very tantalizing storyline”. No other details have been forthcoming, but in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, current showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg revealed that Burnham, the first human to attend the Vulcan Space Academy, is the likely catalyst for the incident and event mentioned by Fuller:

“Burnham [has] spent a lot of time on Vulcan, but she’s human. Sarek [Spock’s father, played by James Frain] plays an important role in her life, which has been completely planned until she makes a very difficult choice that sends her life on a very different path.

When we meet her, she’s the First Officer on the Starship Shenzhou [captained by Philippa Georgiou, played by Michelle Yeoh]. And Burnham’s choice that we’re alluding to is most difficult choice you can make — it affects her, affects Starfleet, affects the Federation, it affects the entire universe.

That choice leads her to a different ship, the Discovery [helmed by Captain Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs] and there we begin what Gretchen and I call our ‘second pilot.’”

The switch from the lead character being the first officer instead of the captain is also something the showrunners believe will bring a different perspective to the series and open up more possibilities:

“The joy is in the journey. The advantage to her not being in charge of the bridge right now is we get to tell stories from a very different point of view. It’s a fresh feeling because we’re not on the bridge all the time. We get access to more parts of the ship.”

One thing that’s quite evident from the trailer is that the production values of the show are quite high, which the showrunners referenced as one of the reasons why the show was repeatedly delayed, and reminiscent of the recent J.J. Abrams-led Star Trek movies. However when asked which movies or shows had the most influence on the upcoming series the producers replied:

“There’s a hint of all of them, but in the writers’ room people are so in love with The Original Series and Next Generation, and they talk about the family aspect of those cast members.

I think Nicholas Myers’ [sic, and writer/director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country] film are a touchstone, and not just because he’s been on staff with us. His storytelling is complex and intellectual and yet there’s a lot of room for character voices and character work, he’s done such an incredible job with the franchise. In terms of scope and scale, there’s something about Star Trek: The Motion Picture that really speaks to us as well.”

Star Trek: Discovery is due to begin airing on 24 September, and I must say I’m starting to feel the hype. While the constant delays aren’t a good sign, everything we’re hearing these days sounds right to me. I’m ready for a modernised, high budget Star Trek series that does what the franchise has always done so well – explore, both the universe and humanity. How about you?

Last Updated: June 28, 2017

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