'Star Trek: Discovery’ looks beyond just appealing to Trekkies
Bill Brioux, THE CANADIAN PRESS
First posted: Friday, September 22, 2017 12:57 PM EDT | Updated: Friday, September 22, 2017 01:55 PM EDT
TORONTO — As the fifth spin-off of a TV series, “Star Trek: Discovery” is about to boldly go where no franchise has gone before.
It hasn’t exactly been happening at warp speed. Originally scheduled to premiere in January 2017, the launch was pushed to May, then delayed indefinitely as showrunners waited for their all-important First Officer — Sonequa Martin-Green — to exit “The Walking Dead.”
Martin-Green was humbled to have been former showrunner Bryan Fuller’s first choice for this lead role. She sees leaving “The Walking Dead” for “Discovery” as going “from a story that’s on the ground, to a story that’s in the stars.”
Now, after eight months of production in Toronto — and 51 years after the original debuted — the series is finally ready to explore new worlds and reach new audiences.
“Discovery” premieres Sunday on CTV, sandwiched between two “Star Trek” themed episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.” An hour later, the second episode premieres on Bell’s specialty network Space, home to all future episodes.
In the U.S., the series will bow simultaneously on CBS, and follow on digital streaming service CBS All Access. Canadians will also be able to stream episodes on CraveTV. The rest of the world can watch on Netflix.
The season’s 15 hours — to be split into September and January half-seasons — reportedly pushed budgets to US$8 million to US$8.5 million per episode.
The “Discovery” set, spread over six massive soundstages at Toronto’s Pinewood Studios, showcases lavish interiors, including flashy transporter rooms, flight decks and officers’ quarters along with signature, tube-like, twisting corridors.
Executive producer Aaron Harberts praises the Canadian crew who built and assembled the sets, props and costumes. The interior of a Klingon ship — not part of the tour when several international reporters got a sneak peek last month — is supposedly the real eye-opener.
“The first time I walked in, I thought, ‘Is this really a set?”’ says Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), who captains two starships on the series. “It looks like a gothic cathedral!”
Fans are anxious to beam aboard after all the hype and delays. But will their phasers be set for stun?
“I just hope that I’m doing it justice,” says Martin-Green, who plays Michael Burnham, lieutenant commander of the USS Discovery. Her human character was raised and trained as a Vulcan.
“I hope I make the Trekkies proud, I hope we make folks that aren’t in the Trek universe proud, I hope I make my son proud.”
The 32-year-old says she’s delighted to be part of the franchise’s diverse casting legacy. She says Nichelle Nichols, who played original “Star Trek” communications officer Uhura, reached out to her on social media.
Martin-Green met former “Star Trek: The Next Generation” cast member Jonathan Frakes when he came to Toronto to direct two episodes. “We enjoyed him so much, we didn’t want him to leave.”
Yeoh sees her character as a mentor to Martin-Green’s First Officer, teaching Burnham that “everything is not just logical.”
The new series is set 10 years before Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise. The Federation is bracing for a major battle with the oft-warring Klingons. Into the mix steps combative “Discovery” skipper and rival Captain Gabriel Lorca, played by Jason Isaacs.
“He’s a good war-time leader,” says the Liverpool native, a busy actor best known for his role as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.
Isaacs says that as a child, he and his brothers fought over control of the TV set, except when the original “Star Trek” came on. Giving his first order to “Energize” was a kick, he says.
He’s already well aware, as part of the “Harry Potter” universe, just how much these shows mean to the fans.
“We live in some very troubled times,” says Isaacs, who was joined by his Canadian-born wife and children while shooting “Discovery” in Toronto.
“Not that any television series could ever counteract that — there’s other action we all need to take — but at least I can go to work and think I’m not making it worse. I’m part of a story that was born out of troubled times and is about holding forth a vision of unity and inclusion and diversity.
“It’s nice to have a tiny, positive impact — however flickering the light is of optimism.”
— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.
'Star Trek: Discovery