We’re heading into Star Trek: Discovery finale weekend, and today the cast and producing team hit the media circuit with a number of interviews about the season to date, and what we may be looking forward to in the future.
Executive producer Aaron Harberts and actor Michelle Yeoh spoke several outlets including the New York Post, IndieWire, and SyFy about the challenges the Discovery crew faced this season, including the death and returnn of two versions of Philippa Georgiou and the journey of Ash Tyler.
Harberts addressed concerns over killing characters, saying that it has all been part of the season plan, to the New York Post:
I think audiences often feel when you kill a character it’s because you’re either out of ideas or you’re bored.
Before we start writing, we know what the ending’s going to be. We have those major twists ready to go. We know how they’re going to fall in terms of pushing the story forward.
Yeoh made it clear, however, that she wouldn’t sign up for the series if her character was just going to be killed off after the pilot episode, but found the plan for her return as a Terran leader appealing.
“I said [to the producers], ‘If you’re gonna kill me off, I don’t want to be in it. I don’t want to just die and disappear.'”
Fortunately, showrunners Aaron Herberts and Gretchen Berg assured her that she’d be coming back — which made Yeoh happy, but led to months of secrecy. “The fans, they’ve been so sweet. They stop me on the street to say, ‘Why did you get killed off? Why did they let them kill you off? Come back.’ So, I am glad I am back,” she said.
“But it’s been very difficult trying to keep the secret from everyone. It’s been the hardest thing to do, I think, in recent years, how to not spill the beans.”
What’s interesting to Yeoh is the way in which people have been reacting to this new version of Georgiou. “People are actually loving this new character. They don’t go, ‘Oh, she’s evil. Why would you want to play an evil character?’
You know, your hero is only as good as your antagonist, and sometimes you need someone to, you know, rough up things a little. What I love about this character is she will help you, as long as she helps herself as well,” she said.
“I really, really am so grateful for this chance to be part of the ‘Star Trek’ family because there’s so much love and passion that goes into it, the details, everything,” Yeoh said.
“From the stories, the costumes, the special effects. I mean, isn’t it just amazing when the mycelium is reborn again? I mean, it’s like poetry in motion. So, I’m really very grateful for this opportunity.”
Yeoh spoke about how her role on Discovery has been special, as female leader of two universes, to SyFy:
I think that’s the thing about Star Trek; it talks about present day issues, but in the sci-fi setting, you know? And I think it inspires us to reach for something better and I think that’s important because it’s the empowerment of women.
That’s what we’re striving for today. It’s one of the sustainable development goals that we’re working so hard for: gender equality. And then, when you have in Star Trek, where you have the number one, the admiral, the science medical officer, the captains, and they’re all women, it’s very empowering for little girls or young girls to watch.
And also, of all the different races, that we are one race in the future. That you can be of any color. It doesn’t matter. And it’s very, very inspiring for little girls across the world.
She also shared her difficulty in keeping the secret of Georgiou’s return for so many months:
I couldn’t bring myself to go to any of the Comic Cons, because I would get stopped by fans and they would say, “Why did you let them kill you off? Why did you let them kill Captain Philippa Georgiou?” And you’re like, “Um, well.”
Then I would have to say, “Please be patient.” And then they go, “Are you coming back?” And I’m going, oh my god. “Are you doing flashbacks?” Because I mean, Captain Philippa Georgiou was really killed, right? And there was just no way around – and knowing that I’m still filming and not be able to say anything, that was the most difficult part.
Because everybody loved that character so much. But it was necessary. It was necessary for the journey of Michael Burnham, for Saru, for how it evolved, how the war started. But then I was like, how do I tell them, “Be patient. I am coming back and I will scare the hell out of you when I come back.”
I can’t go to the Comic Cons because after two questions, I will have to sit there and go, “Um, I can’t tell you.” And it would be so revealing. It would be a spoiler alert on its own.
In addition, Voq-turned-Ash Tyler actor Shazad Latif spoke to The Verge about the year of secrets behind his dual-role casting, playing romance in the 23rd Century, and where things can go next for the former Starfleet security officer.
On being emotional in the role as Tyler, with Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green):
There were takes of some scenes where [Sonequa and I] were crying our eyes out, and we’d get notes like, ‘Less emotion, guys. Less, less. Chill out.’
It probably made sense in the end, but we always wanted to push for that, and just make sure it was okay that we could cry like that. You know, that a man can cry. We wanted to make sure that, in those intimate scenes, that balance was there. Like in the sex scene, I’m initially on top, but then we flip around, or when I’m nestled in her chest, looking up to her.
L’Rell, too — Tyler keeps being cradled by these women! Those little things were really important for us.
I just wanted to do something that, one, wasn’t boring, and two, that’s progressive and of its time. With all this going on right now, especially, any character who adheres to the classic male action hero just seems outdated.
It needs to be deeper than that. Otherwise, it’s just going to fall by the wayside when you’re watching it, and I just become another boring male character running around shooting stuff.
I know they definitely started liking that softer side [of Tyler’s character] because it seemed more of those scenes [were being written] in. You’re always afraid you’re just going to be fighting for a lot of the time. [As] the security officer, you’re just like, ‘Ah, okay, he’s just going to punch someone, and then the episode’s just going to be that.’
That was a big fear of mine. So I was very happy when more and more softer scenes came in, just talking scenes. I prefer those, just two people communicating.”
Latif also finally shed some light on the behind-the-scenes stress about keeping the Voq/Tyler switcheroo story point a secret (despite fan theories sussing out the situation along the way).
“Our publicity team was panicking for a year,” Latif says about the CBS lockdown, which was so strict that the studio initially barred his own mother from visiting the set.
“They’d say, ‘Just say this,’ but in my head, none of [the explanations they told me to use] made sense. So I tried my best, but knowing that people know, when people are like, ‘Come on!’ makes it harder to [hide] it.”
Aaron Harberts spoke to both The Verge and IndieWire about what the future holds for the now Voq-less Tyler as the first season ends and the second season begins to take shape in the writers room, indicating that the actor and character will be sticking around through at least next year.
Tyler makes a pretty big choice during the finale that makes sense for where he’s at. This was a show about war and has been a dark, dark tunnel and you have to go through the darkness to get to the light.
‘Star Trek’ ultimately is a show about hope, optimism, peace … It’s that spirit that we will be taking into Season 2.
To The Verge:
Ash Tyler is still caught between two worlds. He’s had to put a lot of that aside, because there was a war to win. He’s going to have a lot to unpack when this conflict is over.
As writers, we find his story super-compelling, and it would be a shame, just when we’re getting started, to stop now.
Star Trek: Discovery concludes its first season this Sunday — and to hold you over, here’s a great behind-the-scenes video of Jason Isaacs and Michelle Yeoh practicing for their big “The Past is Prologue” showdown.