Section 31, Emperor Georgiou and black deltas, oh my. Season two of Star Trek: Discovery hasn’t even started filming yet, but fans got a taste of what’s in store for the show’s sophomore year during The Making of Star Trek: Discovery panel on Saturday at WonderCon in Anaheim.
Among the highlights of the hour, fans were treated to a scene cut from the season-one finale, “Will You Take My Hand?”. The 2-minute and 30-second scene, apparently a coda sequence set soon after the events of the finale, gives us Emperor Georgiou – who’s running a bar/club in the Orion market on Qo'noS -- making the acquaintance of a man named Leland (Alan van Sprang), posing as a Trill. She assumes he’s Starfleet, but he’s not. Leland explains that he’s with a “far more resourceful” organization that considers her a “valuable asset,” and he offers her the opportunity to "exert some influence over the fate of this galaxy." He departs, leaving behind… a case with a black delta shield. “Welcome to Section 31,” he says as he walks away. Check it out below:
Section 31, a secret and unsanctioned extremist entity within Starfleet Intelligence, was first introduced in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in the episode “Inquisition.” It also was a factor in Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek Into Darkness, not to mention several Star Trek novels and comic books. Discovery fans got their first, unconfirmed taste of Section 31 – and their all-black badges -- in the episode, “Context Is for Kings.” It’s worth checking out that episode again now after the reveal of the cut finale sequence.
Following the screening of the scene, Alan van Sprang – a Canadian actor best known for his work on the series Reign and Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments – made an unannounced appearance on the WonderCon stage. Sitting in on the panel, van Sprang, a “massive” TNG fan, played coy about Section 31 and Leland. “Section 31 is…,” he teases, then stopped. “I can’t say anything about it. Literally, it’s a Section that cannot be spoken of." He deemed himself “absolutely honored” to now be a part of Trek.
Speaking of Section 31 and the black delta badges, fans who asked questions during the panel received free, brand-new black delta badge replicas from QMx, which will soon make them available to the public. You can pre-order the badge at www.QMXOnline.com.
As for the rest of The Making of Star Trek: Discovery, the panel was hosted by Mary Chieffo, who plays L’Rell, and featured executive producers and behind-the-scenes talents who proceeded to look back at season one and open the curtain just slightly on season two. Panelists included Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts (Executive Producers & Showrunners); Tamara Deverell (Production Designer); Gersha Phillips (Costume Designer); Mario Moreira (Props Master); Glenn Hetrick & James MacKinnon (Prosthetics & Special FX Makeup); Jeff Russo (Composer); and Jason Zimmerman (VFX Supervisor).
Harberts and Berg addressed the process of creating episodes and treating a season of episodes as “chapters in a novel.” They also talked about the importance of long-range planning, which they said will be key to pulling off season two.
Prop master Moreira told the audience that he had an ace up his sleeve when trying to bring in top-notch talent and elicit their best work: “It’s much easier when you ask if they want to do something for Star Trek.”
“In VFX these day,” Zimmerman explained, “there are a lot of invisible effects in the show, I think more than people realize.” In other words, his job involves much, much more than just space battles.
“Our approach to the Klingons,” noted Hetrick, “was we wanted to take that evolutionary imperative and take that realism farther.” That was his and his team’s modus operandi in creating the Klingons and different looks for 24 great houses.
“When we had to tear down the Sarcophagus ship it was a very sad day in the art department,” Deverell recalled. However, she brightened as she revealed that the crew was able to reuse and recycle elements elsewhere during season one. “They’re little Easter eggs for the fans to find.”
Both Russo and Deverell confessed they keep Spock dolls on their desks that they ask what to do when they have creative or production issues. “I often think ‘What would Picard do?’” Hetrick said, eliciting laughs as he discussed how he approaches getting past creative blocks or production problems. Russo drew chuckles, too, when he admitted, “One time I just had to have some hot Earl Grey tea… and that worked as well.”
Regarding the show’s representation of the LGBTQ community, Berg said, “We were always gender-blind and sexual-orientation-blind when it came to the story. I’m really proud we have so many kickass women behind the camera and in front of (the camera on) this show.” Harberts then directly addressed a fan question about future same-sex couples, beyond Stamets and Culber, and was particularly interested to know if they’ll feature women. “In terms of your question on same-sex couples on the female side, you may well be already watching one -- and just don’t know,” Harberts said. “As a gay man, what is really important to me about presenting gay characters is that they always lead with their competence and their character first, and not with their sexuality. So, that is true of all of our characters on our bridge. All of our characters, who are so different, they lead with their professionalism and their strong character first. So, you may already have a window into a relationship and you just don’t know it.”
“I start by gathering some research,” Phillips said of her approach to designing costumes before going to producers. “It’s very collaborative with my illustrator. There’s a very cool dynamic there. It has to emote and connect on some level.”
Speaking of costumes, now that fans have seen the U.S.S. Enterprise, what will happen with the U.S.S. Discovery crew’s uniforms? Will they evolve toward the TOS uniforms? “We ended the season with the Enterprise and we know what those uniforms look like,” Harberts acknowledged. “So, I’ll leave it at that.”
Harberts addressed Discovery’s timeline and whether or not it was actually set in the Prime universe. "The idea was always to be in the Prime timeline,” he stated. “Obviously, there are questions and concerns and things that are different. Our technology is different. We have a ship that runs very differently. We are our own show in many ways. Season two is really exciting for us because this is our opportunity to really show how Discovery fits into this Prime timeline. We're firmly committed to that, but I do like the idea of seeing other universes from time to time."
“It’s very evident that this whole team is very dedicated to embodying the principles of Starfleet,” Chieffo enthused, referring to both the show and the production crew’s commitment to it.
Among the final comments as the panel wrapped up were these telling words from Harberts: “It was an interesting season because it was set against the backdrop of war,” he said of Discovery’s first season. “One of things we are looking forward to in season two is a tone that we can now be in a more exploratory phase and a more diplomatic phase… maybe a bit more of a Trek-ian chapter. But everything for us is really driven by character.”