The cast and executive production team from Star Trek: Discovery beamed down to New York City on Saturday for a pair of panels at two wildly-different venues: in front of a crowd of thousands at the Theater at Madison Square Garden for New York Comic Con, and and intimate panel discussion at the Paley Center for the Media.
First up was the NYCC event on Saturday afternoon, where astronaut and well-known Star Trek fan Dr. Mae Jemison hosted a fan panel hosting Discovery executive producers Akiva Goldsman, Alex Kurtzman, Heather Kadin, Gretchen J. Berg, and Aaron Harberts, along with much of the series’ cast: Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Mary Chieffo, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, and Wilson Cruz.
The event began with a screening of the opening teaser act of tonight’s “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” expanding upon the preview clip featured on last week’s After Trek — Michael Burnham’s first day of duty aboard the USS Discovery.
Spoilers to follow!
After retrieving her new Sciences uniform from the wardrobe replicator — in a neat visual effect that shows the replication process at the molecular level — Tilly arrives with a delivery for Burnham: a shipping crate containing the ‘last will and testament’ of her former captain, Philippa Georgiou.
After hiding the crate under her bunk and reporting to Captain Lorca for duty, she is assigned to study the recently-captured tardigrade creature, exposed for the first time to Lorca’s laboratory and his view of his assignment for Starfleet.
Ending the debut of new footage, the panel then responded to questions from both Jemison and fans in the audience, touching on topics such as:
- The decision to start Michael Burnham’s arc with a mutiny and incarceration allows the writing team to explore a long path with this character, starting the series at her lowest point;
- Jason Isaacs only took the role in Discovery after learning that Lorca was going to be a very different type of captain than captains of Treks past;
- Isaacs described Lorca as a “wartime captain” who is surrounded by “moron scientists” who may be just fine at science and study but are untrained and utterly useless at Lorca’s idea of warfare;
- The science focused upon in the series is heavily borne out of biology rather than physics, such as the nature of the organic ‘spore drive’ that is being tested aboard Discovery;
- Doug Jones was relieved that Saru was a new species to the Star Trek canon, and said he would have been intimidated playing an existing alien race as he knows how “particular” Trek fans can be;
- When it comes to possible romance for Michael Burnham, Martin-Green described Discovery as “adventurous,” and that they would be “covering everything with everyone,” but wasn’t allowed to say more;
- Co-executive producer Gretchen Berg talked about how “so proud” she is of the supportive, collaborative relationships between women in Discovery — both in front of and behind the camera; co-showrunner Aaron Harberts noted that Discovery has a 50-50 male/female writers room, and that women are represented across the production and design teams;
On the topic of Discovery‘s cast, the remaining unseen players are coming soon: Dr. Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) will first arrive in tonight’s episode, and both Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) and Harry Mudd (Rainn Wilson) will make their first appearances in next weeks’ “Choose Your Pain.”
Then came the surprise of the afternoon, as a fan approached the question microphone and asked, “Will you bring back Captain Georgiou?” …only to reveal herself as Michelle Yeoh in disguise!
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) October 7, 2017
The Shenzhou captain then made her way to the stage accompanied by thunderous applause from the audience, and after pretending for a bit to ‘haunt’ the cast as the ghost of Philippa Georgiou — and threatening to Jason Isaacs that she would “kick [his] ass” if he didn’t take care of her “baby girl” Michael Burnham — Berg then confirmed to the crowd that we’ve not yet seen the last of Michelle Yeoh on Star Trek: Discovery.
Moving on to Saturday evening’s PaleyFest discussion, the well-dressed cast and crew spent another hour talking about the series and production details at the Paley Center for the Media in New York City.
At this panel, the team featured yet another new clip from the series, showcasing the first on-screen appearances of Shazad Latif and Rainn Wilson from episode 105, “Choose Your Pain,” airing on October 15.
Captain Lorca encounters the pair as prisoners of the Klingons, sharing a cell aboard a Klingon vessel.
Lorca marvels that Tyler, a survivor of the USS Yeager which was destroyed in the Battle of the Binary Stars, is still alive seven months into his captivity; meanwhile Harry Mudd shares his cynical views on “Starfleet arrogance” about “boldly going where no one has gone before” when that leads to encroaching on other civilizations’ territory.
Producer Aaron Harberts made note that next weeks’ episode #105 sets the stage for the rest of Season 1’s storyline.
In addition to the preview, discussion also turned to the casting process for Michael Burnham; producer Heather Kadin noted the difficulty of finding a leading actress who could look convincing holding a gun — or phaser — without looking like one of “Charlie’s Angels” on-screen, praising Martin-Green for filling the role on Discovery.
Martin-Green herself, dressed in a stunning gold dress, spoke to Burnham’s unusually calm demeanor when the prison transport shuttle was facing mishap during “Context is King,” indicating that while Burnham would not actively seek to commit suicide, in that moment the character saw her impending demise as an escape from her enormous guilt and expected lifetime of incarceration.
On Saru and the production side of Discovery, the production team revealed some interesting concepts that were dropped during the show’s development:
- Saru originally was designed with up to 10 eyes, an idea abandoned after the makeup impacted Doug Jones’ performance abilities;
- The large alien tardigrade found aboard the USS Glenn was originally designed as a Discovery crew member named Ephraim, stationed on the bridge
- The Discovery bridge was originally conceived as a two-story set
Finally, a fun tidbit about Saru’s snacking habits was reveled — wandering the corridors of Discovery with a bowl of blueberries comes from a similar habit of former showrunner Bryan Fuller, who would do the same thing in the Discovery writers’ offices.
— Marina Kravchuk (@drakkorex) October 8, 2017
At the end of the night, the cast graciously made their way through a throng of passionate fans as they exited the Paley Center, signing autographs and pausing for photos before they departed the venue.
The next episode of Star Trek: Discovery airs tonight at 8:00 on SPACE in Canada, 8:30 on CBS All Access, and Monday on Netflix.