This week’s newest issue of Entertainment Weekly has a three-page feature interview with Star Trek: Discovery shorunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen Berg, who spoke to EW‘s James Hibberd about the development of the show and its cast.
In addition to revealing that one more factor that led to some of Discovery‘s production delays was the need to wait for series star Sonequa Martin-Green (Cmdr. Michael Burnham) to become available after her work on The Walking Dead concluded, the producing pair also revealed some new tantalizing details as to the path Season One’s story will take.
Harberts describes how Burnham’s choices affect the season:
Burnham’s background is that she was the first human to attend the Vulcan Learning Center and Vulcan Science Academy – so she’s spent a lot of time on Vulcan, but she’s human. Sarek plays and important role in her life, which has been completely planned until she makes a difficult choice that sends her life on a very different path.
When we meet her, she’s the first officer on the starship Shenzhou. Burnham’s choice that we’re alluding to is the 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 USS Discovery, and there we begin what Gretchen and I call our second pilot.
Harberts also detailed how Discovery‘s well-publicized serialization plan will help explore the characters:
It’s a serialized telling of a tale; an exploration of one particular character, Michael Burnam, along the path of discovering what it means to be human and finding her individuality.
Those types of stories have been really well told in the ‘Star Trek’ movies, but it’s been hard to do in the television iterations because episodes have been so closed-ended.
The joy is in the journey. The advantage to [Burnham] not being in charge of the bridge right now is we get to tell stories from a 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 been somewhat constricting to past Star Trek writing teams is the so-called ‘Roddenberry Rule,’ which dictated that there should not be any conflict between humans or Starfleet officers, something which originated during The Next Generation and maintained by Rick Berman when he lead the franchise.
No, [we’re not held to that]. We’re trying to do stories that are complicated, with characters with strong points of view and strong passions. People have to make mistakes – mistakes are still going to be made in the future.
The thing we’re taking from Roddenberry is how we solve those conflicts. So we do have our characters in conflict, we do have them struggling with each other, but it’s about how they find a solution and work through their problems.”
The rules of Starfleet remain the same, but while we’re human or alien in various ways, none of us are perfect.
Harberts’ description of Burnam’s journey to Discovery seems to lend credence to the rumors and speculation that Michelle Yeoh and the Shenzhou may not be long for the series, at least in a primary role – especially with the reference to her arrival on Captain Lorca’s ship as a “second pilot” episode.
Relaxing the ‘Roddenberry Rule’ on character conflict also sounds like it will open up a real opportunity for development and depth as the series progresses. TNG and DS9 writer Ron Moore quite clearly shared his disdain for that restriction with TrekCore back in our 2013 interview:
We can’t wait to see what this team brings to the Trek universe – Star Trek: Discovery debuts this September.