NYCC: Star Trek Discovery panel

NYCC: Star Trek Discovery panel

0 comments 📅30 June 2018, 06:00

What a difference a year makes. Everyone seems to have forgotten that just 12 months ago in a significantly smaller room, with a smaller billing, Nicholas Meyer, Bryan Fuller and Star Trek novelist Kristen Beyer spoke in front of a much smaller crowd in a hall at the back of the Javits Center for New York Comic Con. Meyer, who appeared to be stoned, outlined what we could expect from the recently announced new series, Star Trek: Discovery. When the guests took questions from the few fans gathered, one gallantly spoke on behalf of every Trekkie everywhere and simply asked Meyer, “Please don’t fuck this up.”

And now here we are, one year later and despite the season premiere being pushed back eight months or so and with Fuller and Meyer no longer being involved, we have an amazing new series of Star Trek back on our TVs, where it belongs. It only took 1 year, 10 months and 22 days from announcement to airing. If only they could produce a big-budget Judge Dredd series with as much vigor – each episode of Discovery is estimated to cost around $7million.

The Discovery panel now of course drew arguably the second biggest crowd of all at New York Comic Con’s newly incorporated venue, the amazing Madison Square Garden. (The top prize went to the Walking Dead panel, where a few dedicated fans sat in the hall all for over eight hours to ensure they had a seat for the climatic panel of the con.)

Moderated by former astronaut and self proclaimed lifelong Star Trek fan, Dr Mae Jemison, the panel included (left to right) Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), Doug Jones (Lt Saru), Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), Jason Isaacs (Cpt Gabriel Lorca), Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler), Mary Wiseman (Cadet Sylvia Tilly), Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Wilson Cruz (Dr Hugh Culber), Aaron Harberts (executive producer), Gretchen J. Berg (executive producer) Alex Kurtzman (co-creator), Heather Kadin (executive producer) and finally Akiva Goldsman (executive producer).

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The Star Trek Discovery panel at NYCC >>> CLICK FOR FULL-SIZE IMAGE

The surprise of the panel came when Michelle Yeoh (Cpt Philippa Georgiou) wearing a wig and a cap as a disguise, came to the microphone placed in the crowd and pretending to be a fan asked if Captain Georgiou would ever come back. Those of you out there who have been to a few cons should know by now that it’s not unheard of for a stooge to be in the audience and pull a stunt like this, as it usually sends the fans wild. Joss Whedon used to do it almost every year at SDCC. This was no exception, the crowd went nuts and while moderator Mae Jemison seemed to look like she was expecting it – she’d probably been briefed in rehearsals – the cast all seemed genuinely surprised. Once the gushing had finally stopped between Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh things finally seemed to settle down a bit.

“The most amazing journey has been with Sonequa. So I’m telling you, Captain Lorca, if you don’t look after my baby girl, I will come and kick your ass. And you know I can do that,” gushed Yeoh.

“I would say I’d like to see you try,” replied Isaacs, “but I really wouldn’t want to see you try.”

At the end of the panel, Gretchen J. Berg confirmed that Yeoh will be back on Discovery, confirming suspicions of flashback references to Burnham’s time on the USS Shenzhou.

Image courtesy of CBS

Into darkness?
Moderator Mae Jemison (who herself appeared in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode ‘Second Chances’ S6 E24) asked the panel, “This Star Trek is a little bit darker. Is that fair?”

Executive producer Akiva Goldsman immediately took to the mic. “Let me address that,” he said. “No.” Which bought a laugh from the audience, but he went on to expand on his otherwise short answer.

“The truth is, what we’ve been talking about tonight when we talk about Star Trek is the characters, which is actually relatively different than what you would talk about in previous Star Treks. To some degree that would be different for DS9.

“[Discovery is] a wholly serialized narrative. In that narrative we get to tell 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 TOS episode] ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ as if it were real life, it would take a whole series or a season. [On Discovery] we can stretch those emotions out for a season.

“Our story is the origin of the feeling that is TOS. That’s why we are 10 years before TOS. But we don’t start there. We get there. The name of the show is Discovery not by accident. It is the story of how these people discover who they are. In long form storytelling, you get the gift of getting to start somewhere. We are layered, complex, dark and light, because the best of Star Trek is always all of those things.”

Image courtesy CBS

Left to right: Dr Mae Jemison, Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones

“taH pagh, taH be?”
The producers also spoke about the Klingons and how they are much more than just “bad guys” for season one. Co-creator Alex Kurtzman spoke about why they chose to make season one about the Klingon war.

“When we conceived of the idea of having season one being about the war with the Klingons, it was terribly important to all of us to make sure that we represented both sides of the war in a way that was understandable and relatable. And while the Klingons have been given specific treatment in various iterations in the past, we needed to know what it was like for them to go through this, too. And to humanize them for lack of a better word.

“The truth is that we wanted to shift everyone’s perspective about what the Klingons are. Because they are so traditionally relegated to just being the bad guys. And that meant making visual changes too, while hopefully maintaining and retaining the original spirit of the original Klingons.

“You’ll see lots of different Klingons. They were all built around the central premise of what Klingons are. It is terribly important for us to humanize them, to give story to their experience. To give an understanding to their culture, to give an understanding to why they want what they want. If we didn’t do that and we made them a one dimensional bad guy, we wouldn’t be Star Trek.”

Mary Chieffo, who plays Klingon L’Rell, spoke about how much work it is to get the Klingon scenes right. “It takes a village to speak Klingon,” she said.

She explained how on every episode, they had worked with top Klingon linguists and would spend as much time in rehearsals as was necessary to make sure the translations were correct. “I’ve compared it a lot to Shakespeare,” she said. “Once you know what you’re talking about you are really then able to connect with the person looking across from you.”

She continued with an example illustrating how changing emphasis on certain words can alter the meaning of a sentence and it was great to really see her speak fluently in Klingon.

Image courtesy of CBS

Left to right: Mary Chieffo, Jason Isaacs and Shazad Latif

Burnham’s journey
The panel spoke about Burnham’s story and how she is on the path toward redemption. Kurtzman explained that to give her that arc, the writers felt that it was crucial to start Burnham at an incredible emotional disadvantage. After the Battle of the Binary Stars, she has to come to terms with the idea that her actions resulted in the death of “not only her captain but also her surrogate mother, her best friend.”

“It gives her a very long way to go. It gives her a redemption story. The idea of starting her at her low point, we felt was essential in order to give her that path.”

Kurtzman also noted Georgiou’s importance in Burnham’s life saying, “Georgiou represents Burnham’s humanity.” Georgiou is the first person in Burnham’s life to tell her that she does not have to suppress her emotions or her humanity.

“Her childhood on Vulcan greatly shaped Burnham. Growing up on a world where outright humanity is looked down upon was very difficult for her. “We’ll come to understand over the course of the season that she’s been through a lot,” said Kurtzman. Burnham has never had a real home. Over the course of this season, she will be looking for one.”

During the audience questions, one fan asked if there will be any romance for Burnham down the line, to which Sonequa answered, “All I’m gonna say… we’re covering everything. With everyone. See what I’m saying?!”

Finally during the audience Q&A a couple of interesting things came up. Firstly, the inevitable issue of having to pay for CBS All Access to watch the show, which was actually asked very respectfully. Kurtzman took this one and gave a very honest answer, saying that this was the way TV was going. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have shown the way and with Disney pulling all it’s content off this channels to start it’s own, it very much represented the way of the future. He added that it was the only way to be able to make a show with a budget like this, again look and HBO and Game of Thrones, people forget that HBO is an extra channel you have to pay for. However, you do get your money’s worth with HBO. It can’t be said yet that the same is true for CBS All Access.

Interestingly, Issacs’ made a contribution here, distancing himself and the other actors from this issue, saying that actors take roles based on what thy like about them and questions about this issue needed to be directed to the “other end of this panel” he said, motioning to the producers. He looked over at Sonequa Martin-Green in an amirite?-type manner for support as he said it and she seemed to agree, not really showing much interest in it either way.

Issacs’ also showed he wasn’t that much of a Trekkie despite allegedly being an avid comic-book fan when a fan asked the panel “what alien from Star Trek would you most like to meet” and he gave an over-my-head type response. Anthony Rapp showed off his knowledge of Trek by giving the slightly odd but informed answer of a ‘horta’ (Star Trek, The Original Series, ‘The Devil in the Dark’, S1 E25). The panel could really have had a bit of fun this – an Orion slave girl, fight a borg, a Q entity, Talosians…a Deltan, but no, it fell flat, sadly.

Related articles
Star Trek: Discovery S01E03 “Context is for Kings” REVIEW
 Star Trek: Discovery – new Netflix trailer shows snippets from season 1
 Star Trek: Discovery S01E01-E02 “The Vulcan Hello” & “Battle at the Binary Stars” REVIEW
 Get Caught Up On The Star Trek Timeline Before Discovery
 Star Trek Discovery Character Posters Revealed

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