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Star Trek: Discovery showrunners share their influences and more character backstory

(Photo: Jan Thijs/CBS)

The newest addition to the Star Trek franchise, Discovery, has set a course for a September premiere, which means it’s really happening now. With the first voyage now in sight, CBS has stepped up the promotional push, releasing photos of Jason Isaacs as the rather stiff-looking captain of the Discovery, as well as info on what makes the lead character tick. As First Officer Michael Burnham, Sonequa Martin-Green will have what she calls the “Vulcan conflict,” i.e., she’ll be torn between her human ancestry and her Vulcan schooling.

But that’s far from the only struggle Burnham will have, according to showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg. They tell Entertainment Weekly that, despite having her career mapped out, Burnham will have to make “a very difficult choice that sends her life on a very different path.” Although she begins the series aboard the Shenzhou, which is captained by Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), she’ll jump ship to before long. Her change in coordinates will have wide-reaching effects, too, and will kick off what Harberts and Berg call the “second pilot” aboard the Discovery.


Harberts and Berg also expanded on how having a First Officer in the lead role will affect the storytelling: “It’s a fresh feeling because we’re not on the bridge all the time. We get access to more parts of the ship.” Which isn’t to say that there won’t be plenty of time spent near the captain’s chair—the Klingons will play a big, antagonistic role in the first season, according to the showrunners.

As for what previous installments may have guided the new series, which hits CBS and its streaming platform on September 24, Harberts and Berg say they were inspired by all their Trek predecessors, though some have a bigger fan base in the writers’ room: “There’s a hint of all of them, but in the writers’ room people are so in love with The Original Series and Next Generation, and they talk about the family aspect of those cast members.” The big-screen adaptations, especially Nicholas Meyers’ first two films in the series, have also influenced Discovery. And, as you might have guessed from previous teases, “visually speaking, there’s also a little hint in terms of what J.J. Abrams did, a little bit, in terms of some of the visuals.”

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