“It’s one thing to speak of a utopia. To be able to see it in action, to see us aspiring to it, we haven’t reached this perfection yet, but we’re trying and I think it’s going to be really compelling because you’re seeing us try and fail and try again.”
Kicking off a celebration of all things Trek, the highly anticipated Star Trek Las Vegas began with a press conference and panels featuring the cast and producers of the upcoming Stat Trek Discovery where they spoke frankly about what to expect in tone, story and what it brings to the wider Star Trek Universe.
When discussing Discovery, the look of the show was obviously a big talking point as they aim to modernise the 1960’s look on a 21st century big budget.
“It didn’t throw me when I saw The Motion Picture and it looked different than the TV show. It didn’t throw me that Wrath of Khan looked different than The Motion Picture.” He told the press audience, emphasising Trek;s constantly evolving style, “I just liked what they were doing creatively and I understood the story that they were telling and especially the themes.”
But the idea of staying within ‘canon’ was still strong, “I think sometimes it gets in the way.” He added, “I think of what Bruce Tim said once about making the Justice League cartoon. He came up with a pitch where they break the Green Lantern ring. Everyone said ‘You can’t do that, it is indestructible.’ He said ‘I think we can, it will be good for the story.’… Sometime you need to know when to break the ring, and sometimes you need to know when you don’t. Luckily we have a lot of people in the room who will tell you when to break the ring when not to.”
Kristen Beyer, another of Discovery’s writers best known for her contributions to the novel-verse of Star Trek, agreed with his stance, but Akiva Goldsman, known for scribing I Robot’s film adaption amongst other achievements assured that it didn’t mean they were violating the rules of what came before.
“It turns out there are a bunch of ways in being inductive and creative.” Goldsman assured when speaking of Star Trek’s history, “It is the difference between making it up and adapting. And by choosing a period of time that is within canon it turns storytelling into adaptations.”
Despite being firm in the timeline it’s set in, as well as the universe, Goldsman once again asserted where Discovery belonged in the modern Star Trek tapestry. “I can only say this, we are not in the Kelvin timeline.” He firmly assured, “We are in The Original Series timeline. So we resonate with those stories. We are the precursor. We are ten years before so we are telling those sorts of stories.”
Despite this Goldsman and the other producers said that while they are in the original timeline and within that era, they are very effect heavy and intent on presenting what Star Trek can be in the modern age. “You can’t point the camera without pointing at a green screen. It’s big! So in that way we are like the movies.”
Throughout the marathon of opening Discovery panels, the team gave insight into some of the characters within the show, hinting that Anthony Rapp’s Lt Stamets will have some traditional genius syndrome with an exterior image that pushes people away from him, and that alongside Wilson Cruz they’re having fun exploring ways to explore the full colours of the character.
Stamet’s will be an integral part to the plot, with Rapp recently suggesting that his role of an astromycologist isn’t a gimmick and is connected to the overall arc of the series. And it sounds like a good thing he’s the specialist as Sullivan praised his natural skill in adopting Treknobabble!
Doug Jones also received praise by producers for his portrayal of Saru on set. “Saru makes you laugh and he makes you cry in the same episode. I think that is a really, really important aspect of Star Trek.”
It was revealed at SDCC that Saru was a Kelpian; a species bred for hunting much like Tosk in an early episode of Deep Space Nine and would provide the traditional outsider perspective to the cast. Something that Jones was praised for when Sullivan added, “Doug is certainly a worthy torchbearer from Spock to Data.”
Akiva Goldsman put emphasis on the characters, telling the press that the show would be largely character driven and that the title wasn’t an accident; the show will focus on discovering them and who they are under the pressures of Starfleet.
“It’s very different from other Star Trek shows; there’s a lot more emotional and personal interaction than plot,” Jason Isaacs said throughout the press panels. “There’s a layered story that you aren’t used to in Star Trek. This is a complicated guy.”
Trekmovie was in attendance and caught more on the characters in a quick interview with Wilson Cruz and Sam Vartholomeos. While they couldn’t share much, Cruz spoke briefly on his character, Dr Culber, having a “heart of gold” while Vartholomeos’ Ensign Connor was a by the book officer who finds it a struggle when others don’t follow his patriotic view of the Federation; an intriguing element as he’ll be sharing the screen with Shazad Latif’s conflicted Lt Ash Tyler, who was revealed recently to have a unique viewpoint as a released prisoner of war.
One of the main concerns amongst fans has been the concept of the show and what exactly it will focus on with the heavy Klingon emphasis, especially with it following the footsteps of Deep Space nine in it’s serialisation. Is is another war story?
“What I am most proud of that we are dealing with this version of Star Trek and it a serialized show so we can really explore it, it is about what is going on in the world right now.” Co-executive producer Ted Sullivan said of the show which has become a passion project for him. Speaking of the connection to our world, he added “We have been at war for over fifteen years and that changes you and it challenges you to be your best version of yourself and sometimes you are not always so how do you find your way back from back. To me that is a very important use of what Star Trek can be.”
“Part of what we’ve tried to do is speak to how those philosophical precepts came to be,” Akiva Goldsman added, speaking to TV Guide,. “We’re trying to figure out who we are as a federation and who we are as a peoples in a set of adversity. It is a goal of the show to arrive at the central principles that are endemic to Star Trek.”
Executive producer and showrunner Aaron Harberts chipped in, adding that Discovery is set at a dark place in the Federations history, but he along with star of the show Sonedua Martin Green were keen to point out that it;s not doom and gloom; that the show’s utopian vision wasn’t being cast aside, but showing how the characters change and evolve as they strive for that perfection and for peace through understanding their enemies.
“I think the defining characteristic of Mr. Roddenberry’s universe is optimism,” Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman explained. “We talk about that all the time. We are working with Roddenberry’s son to make sure that legacy, it’s not a small thing we’ve inherited, it’s a huge thing.”
Star Trek Discovery launches 24th September on CBS All Access in the US and Netflix here in the UK from September 25th. We’ll have more highlights from Star Trek Las Vegas including members-only content. Make sure you don’t miss a thing and sign up to Starfleet Command today – membership is free!