Discovery Warps into NYCC

Discovery Warps into NYCC

Star Trek: Discovery stormed New York City on Saturday, with more than a dozen cast and creatives taking the stage for a panel at New York Comic-Con. Fans were treated to an extended preview of episode four, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” which streams Sunday, and heard spoiler-ish details and hints about upcoming storylines, relationship developments, character introductions and more.

Former NASA astronaut, lifelong Trek fan and Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star Dr. Mae Jemison moderated the hour-long panel. The actors representing the show were Sonequa Martin-Green, Jason Isaacs, Doug Jones, Mary Chieffo, Shazad Latif, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman and Wilson Cruz, while the production team was represented by Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts and Heather Kadin.

Martin-Green marveled at meeting Nichelle Nichols on the blue carpet at the Discovery premiere a few weeks ago. “Nichelle graced us with her presence,” the actress recounted. “She whispered to me, ‘Enjoy it. This is yours now.’”

Michael Burnham is the first mutineer in Star Trek history presented as the main character of a series. She got Captain Georgiou, her mentor/mother figure/friend, killed. Many others died as a result of her actions. She’s saddled with guilt. Her ambitions are crushed. That, explained Kurtzman, is where her journey starts. “It gives her a very long way to go,” the co-creator/executive producer said. “It gives her a redemption story.”

Lorca is a wartime captain on a science ship. The stories will reflect that and give viewers, as Isaacs put it, “an ethical minefield” to consider. “We’re giving you stuff to talk about after the credits roll,” he said. “There’s tons to talk about, not the least of which is, ‘Is Lorca right? Is Lorca wrong?’ Hopefully someone, somewhere agrees with Lorca.”

Tilly is a cadet in her last year. Should she even be on the bridge? “Age is just a number,” Wiseman joked, before turning serious. “She said in the third episode that she’s the smartest theoretical engineer on the ship. And she’s super-smart. Everything she lacks in social graces and impulse control, she makes up with her mind.”

Rapp noted, “The science on the series is theoretical. But it’s based on real science.”

At a press conference after the panel, Jemison spoke further about the importance of science in Star Trek: "One of the questions that I've been asked is, why do I like Star Trek? Why would I be here? Why do I think that it's a special show? It's because of this discussion. So, for example, the science is front and center and everybody can get into the details and that's what allows people to submerge themselves. That's what allows one to have the Prime Directive come out as something that's within popular culture. Those are the kinds of things that make a show have (Trek's) kind of longevity.

"But it's not just because it has cool things to say," she continued. "It's because it touches people. And the other thing I would say is that there is an opportunity, then, also, to teach a lot, even within the sciences. Right? So as the sciences are good and consistent it makes people want to learn more. So, I think that that's part of the power of what Star Trek has done and I really salute you all for being able to continue that right now." 

Fans will make the acquaintance of Dr. Hugh Culber in this weekend’s episode. What can Cruz say about Culber? “I can talk about my boo, my space boo,” he said playfully, turning to Rapp, his longtime real-life pal, who plays his partner on the show. “I can talk about how I am excited to work with my friend of 20 years. I can tell you I’m proud to be part of Star Trek’s first gay couple. I’ve had the most amazing time and I can’t wait for you all to see it.”

Dr. Jemison then opened the floor to questions from fans. A petite, sunglasses-sporting Asian woman was first and asked if somehow, we’ll see more of Captain Georgiou. That was no ordinary fan, however, but rather Michelle Yeoh in disguise, surprising everyone, apparently including the cast and producers.

Upon being convinced to join the panel, Yeoh hugged everyone before saying, “The most amazing journey has been with Sonequa,” and turning to Isaacs to warn, “So, I’m telling you, Captain Lorca, if you don’t look after my baby girl, I’m going to come back and kick your ass! And you know I can do it!” Isaacs replied, “I would say I’d like to see you try,” then demurred: “But I really wouldn’t want to see you try.”

A fan asked if there will be a romance for Michael Burnham. Martin-Green smiled, then hemmed and hawed dramatically. “We’re covering everything... with everyone,” she teased. “You see what I’m saying?!” 

Dr. Jemison offered her thought that perhaps Discovery is “darker” than previous Trek shows and asked if that was a “fair” assessment. Goldsman said, “Let me address that… No,” and then launched into a detailed response, arguing that Discovery delivers “a wholly serialized narrative” that emphasizes telling “character stories over plot, which does not suggest that we don’t have plot. If Jim Kirk had to deal with Edith Keeler’s death in ‘The City on the Edge of Forever' as if it were real life, it would take a whole series or a season. It would not be fine the next week. We can stretch those emotions out for a season.”

What else did we learn? Possible spoilers ahead.

The U.S.S. Discovery’s engine, according to Harberts, “is organic.”

Latif confirmed that his first scene (which is NOT in episode four) finds him in a prison cell with Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd.

The creature we met in episode three is a tardigrade. Lorca wants to “weaponize” it, and that’s one of the reasons why he brought Burnham on board the ship. 

And as the panel ended, Berg insisted on answering Yeoh’s question from earlier, about whether Georgiou might return. “You WILL see more of this woman on the show,” Berg declared.

Star Trek: Discovery airs Sunday nights on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Space Channel in Canada. The series airs on Mondays on Netflix in the rest of the world.

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Mary Chieffo
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Akiva Goldsman
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