Wednesday was the big Star Trek: Discovery day out here in Las Vegas, and if you were following our live Twitter coverage of the four-hour marathon of DSC panels, you could surely see that there was a lot going on!

The day started out with an hour panel with Discovery executive producer Akiva Goldsman and writers Ted Sullivan and Kirsten Beyer on stage, discussing the development of the series to date and fielding fan questions from the packed ballroom, moderated by Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast host Jordan Hoffman.

Each of the panelists started their time giving some background on their Trek fandom, with Goldsman laughingly revealing that he nearly got divorced due to his Trek obsession, Beyer’s tale of growing from Voyager fan to Voyager novelist – and now Discovery writer, and Sullivan telling a great story about how he and his brother wrote their own fan version of Star Trek IV after watching The Search for Spock over and over again in his youth.

Each also spoke to the very collaborative nature of the Discovery writers room, describing the setting as a room full of both “big bulletin boards,” but also “intense group discussion.” As fans of the franchise, each admitted that having such a deep knowledge of Trek canon can sometimes get in the way of finding creative new ways to tell the story.

Beyer commented that while it’s important to keep Discovery part of the Trek universe, it can sometimes be difficult to do that without “reminding people of the boundaries” to where canon has established Trek history — but Goldsman was quick to clarify that the team does not seek ways to break with canon, but that they “have to find ways to work within” that history.

Character growth is also a large part of the heavily-serialized Discovery story, with all three panelists attesting that each character – not just Sonequa Martin-Green’s Michael Burnham – all see significant change and growth throughout the first season. “Discovery is long-form storytelling,” said Goldsman,” entered around the characters – not just plot.”

Sullivan also spoke directly about both the performances of Doug Jones (Lt. Cmdr. Saru) and Anthony Rapp (Lt. Paul Stamets), praising them each for both their portrayal of their characters – hinting at an emotionally-powerful, Beyer-written, Saru-centered standout episode for Jones, and that Rapp seems to be the best at picking up the often-tongue-twisting “Treknobabble” tech-speak.

Regarding what footage has been revealed so far from the series, Goldsman clarified that everything shown to date is primarily from the first three episodes of the series, and it’s not just been “all the VFX shots” from Discovery — but while much has been featured of the “sudden war” with the Klingons in which the Federation finds itself, Sullivan reassured the audience that Trek has always been about the “metaphor being explored in the story,” and not just props, sets, or visual effects… but also commented that “the utopian Federation vision… doesn’t mean there is no conflict on the path to [reaching] that vision.”

Finally, Goldsman once more reiterated to the Las Vegas audience that Discovery is set within the Prime Timeline – which received a notable round of applause from the crowd – and also shared that while the series will center around the Klingons as a primary alien focus, with “significant portions of the narrative… from [their] point of view,” we’ll also get to see a “medium deep-dive” into Vulcan culture, as well as some familiar other fan-favorite species along the way.

*   *   *

Following next was a four-person cast panel, featuring first-time appearances from Discovery actors Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), Kenneth Mitchell (Kol), Sam Vartholomeos (Ens. Connor), and newly-announced Wilson Cruz (Dr. Culber).

As with the writing team, each of the actors gave some background on their Trek credentials – Mitchell had been watching Trek for some time, while Chieffo was first exposed to the franchise through the 2009 Trek film – but they’ve both been binge-watching Trek since they were cast. Mitchell also called out his Klingon research, mentioning that he also read John Ford’s seminal Trek novel The Final Reflection once he was cast in the role.

Both Mitchell and Chieffo each also spent time on their work learning the Klingon language with a pair of on-set language and dialect experts, as much of their scripted lines are fully in Klingonese – they each described the “beauty” of going full Klingon for their performances and showed off a bit of their Klingon-speak on stage to the audience’s delight.

The pair revealed some more details about each of their characters – as we discussed in our on-site interview published last night – with Mitchell’s Kol now stated as being part of “the House of Kor” who finds that the Federation’s actions in Discovery is, Kol’s words, “just another attempt from humanity to rob [the Klingons] of their identity.”

Chieffo’s L’Rell has a “very different relationship” with her fellow Klingons as compared to how the Federation views her, said the actress; one of L’Rell’s central tenants is to find a way to “conquer compromise” in her role as T’Kuvma’s battle-deck commander.

Starfleeters Cruz and Vartholomeos were clearly excited to be on stage for their first convention appearances, and each described how in awe of the sets and Trek world they became when they first arrived in Toronto. Cruz revealed a moment where all of his script practice and preparation were lost when he found himself on the Discovery stage, surrounded by the world of Star Trek.

Vartholomeos, who admitted he’s likely the youngest member of the Discovery cast, shared some interesting tidbits about the set design, and talked about how he had to practice his motions and interactions with the control panels at Ensign Connor’s station, to match an animated loop of display graphics and simulated button-pushing effects on the high-tech screens in front of him.

In a touching moment, Wilson Cruz became a little emotional while sharing his thoughts on being part of Trek‘s first same-sex couple (as his character is paired with Anthony Rapp’s Lt. Stamets), describing their relationship that is just “what it is,” meaning it’s not explained as anything out of the ordinary, or overly-highlighted in the story.

Lastly, Sam Vartholomeos was adamant in his desire to keep Trek fandom growing – “We want there to be a [Las Vegas convention] in 2030!” – and acknowledging that Discovery will likely be many younger viewer’s first Trek, and hopes that the series will connect with people as so many prior Star Trek adventures have done in the past.

*   *   *

The third hour was helmed by creature designers Neville Page and Glenn Hetrick, who went into great detail as to their work designing the new Klingons seen in Discovery. The first big reveal that the “mandate for bald Klingons” came directly from former showrunner Bryan Fuller, who had a big hand in the warrior race’s redesign.

As part of that redesign, Page and Hetrick sought out to add physiological explanations for how the Klingons now appear, with Page designing the new Klingon cranium so that not having hair made sense – with their crainial ridges now serving as a point of sensory input.

Discovery tells the tale of the “24 great houses” of the Klingon Empire, with each house having its own look and wardrobe design. Only a few houses have been represented in production so far, but Hetrick assured the audience that each new house will have as much detail as the others to really expand the variety of culture in the Empire.

Regarding the Torchbearer armor the pair designed, first featured at SDCC the other week, they also revealed some close-up artwork which shows portions of the armor feature small Klingon bodies in the detailing, echoing the look of the classic Klingon sigil.

Stay locked in to TrekCore for more Star Trek and Star Trek: Discovery news as it breaks!

  • The Science Fiction Oracle

    Awesome to get this — thanks, Trekcore!!

  • M33

    Mahalo, TrekCore, for keeping us fans who can’t be there updated!

  • Fiery Little One

    As far as background info goes, I think what they can reveal about the Klingons, beyond what they’ve already said, will be the most interesting to me.

  • This all sounds so very promising. And I love it that the science officer is the one who’s best at spewing Treknology babble — sounds like that’s good casting. 🙂

    Thanks for keeping us in the loop, Trek Core!

  • TIG1701

    This was a great read. Thanks Trekcore!

  • Pedro Ferreira

    So we can…erm…thank Bryan Fuller for the Klingon redesign…