Star Trek: Discovery executive producers and co-showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg are knee-deep in gearing up for season two of Discovery, but they took time last week – during a roundtable interview session at WonderCon -- to look back at season one of Trek’s newest TV adventure. The two, longtime friends and writing-producing partners, rattled off what they considered the episodes that represented Discovery at its best.
“I really loved episode three,” Harberts said, referring to “Context Is for Kings.” “It was willing to show us the lead of a Star Trek that had been truly broken down to nothing, and it set up a journey of humanity that ultimately paid off by the 15th episode. I loved episode seven (“Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad”), the time loop episode, because it showed a way to do a quintessentially sort of sci-fi episode, but then there was still a core emotional component to it, where Burnham is falling in love and wrestling with feelings that she's not had before.
“And, I really love episode 14, ‘The War Without, The War Within,’ because I just thought that was a frantic way of showing the Federation and Starfleet in really dire straits, and showing the lengths that people are willing to go, the lengths that war and violence push people to go. We always wanted to make sure that the Federation and Starfleet were redeemed, but that was the darkest tunnel. I felt like Lisa Randolph, who wrote it, and the director of that episode (David Solomon), just knocked it out of the park. And, the breakup scene between Michael and Tyler, I thought, was really great. I thought that James Frain was awesome in it as well, so, I like that one.”
Harberts and Berg went on to discuss how the show’s streaming aspect allowed them and the writing staff to dig deep into the characters and tell stories they might not have been able to had Discovery aired as a traditional network show. Among those stories: the Stamets-Dr. Culber relationship, as well as the emotionally, physically and sexually complex situation involving Tyler and L'Rell, both played out over the course of multiple episodes.
“We thought it would be interesting to show, and I think (with) Shazad Latif's performance, it's a different side of what you would call sexual assault that isn't as explored,” Harberts said. “I think that Shazad's willingness to be so vulnerable and so open with Burnham was a very interesting place to take it. And then, that's a conflict between L'Rell and Tyler that's will continue to play out. He stays with her at the end of the season, and we'll see how those issues kind of come up again.”
Berg then picked up on Harberts’ comments, noting, “One of the opportunities of being on a streaming format is that we were able to explore an aspect of length. It came out of the characters of L'Rell and Tyler and how they knew each other, and the story of being on that prison ship, and making sure that it made sense as we worked back on their characters. That was just an aspect of what the relationship was between Voq and L'Rell, and the relationship between Tyler and L'Rell, and being able to realize that there was this sexual aspect between the two of them, and what that would look like in. It was just so interesting to talk about it and have actors, like Aaron was saying about Shazad, and also with Mary (Chieffo), who's so fantastic, to entrust them. And they trusted us in order to tell that story. And, it will continue, but I was really proud of how it was handled by everybody."