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Star Trek: Discovery Showrunners Say Season 2 Will Be More “Trekian.” Here’s How They Should Start

The cast of Star Trek Discovery

Discovery showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts discussed the show’s tone and where they’re heading. We have a few suggestions.

As reported by, Berg and Harberts were on a panel at WonderCon, where they were asked about Discovery‘s tonal difference from previous Treks. First, Berg assured that Discovery‘s creatives aren’t out to plot by shock value—perhaps having considered some of the criticism of the first season relying so heavily on Big Twist Moments like Tyler being a Klingon, Doctor Culber’s murder, and Lorca’s Mirrorverse origins. (Since Tyler and Lorca’s twists had been guessed by fans for months, these also did not land with so much shock as yawns.)

“I think that we are aware of the fact that it is a different era and it’s a different format for the show,” Berg says. “I don’t think we’re all necessarily gunning for shock value. Everything always comes out of character for us and story. So, if it feels like something that really would happen in that world and that context, we go in that direction. It’s not a group that leads with, ‘We want to shock people or horrify people or get them talking about it.’ Because it has to follow out of where we are in the story and where we are with the characters, always.”

Harberts followed up on this by suggesting that the second season would be more “Trekian”—I’m assuming that he means more of a set-up like we’ve come to expect from Star Trek—a team dedicated to seeking out new life and new civilizations (or at least exploring the origins and instincts of its shipmates).

Harberts adds, “This was an interesting season because it was set against the backdrop of war. One of the things that we are looking forward to in season two is a tone that we can now be in a more of an exploratory phase, a more diplomatic phase, maybe a bit more of a ‘Trekian’ chapter of this. But everything for us – like Gretchen said – is really driven by character and we felt that that was a great way to…and you’ll learn more about Saru this season, and we had to lay some pipe early on too. What are those threat ganglia? What do they do? What do they represent in the Terran Empire? And a lot of that stuff will fold back in when we’re back on the air.”

You can watch the panel here—even the show’s official account is repeating that shift-in-tone message.

It’s good to hear that Harberts and Berg want the Discovery story going forward to be driven by its characters, because I’d have to say that as the show currently stands, their development has been a weak point. Save for protagonist Michael Burnham, we still know virtually nothing about the main cast’s characters (what do they do for fun? Does anyone have a meddling Betazoid or Ferengi mother?).

Even worse, character-wise, the groundbreaking LGBT relationship was killed off. And the intriguing crewmembers whose revelations drove the entire season are either gone (Lorca) or at least gone for now (Tyler).

I wrote about every episode of Discovery for a year, and yet I couldn’t tell you anything about what motivates the characters or makes them tick other than Burnham. That’s not great. If Discovery is going to discover a more “Trekian” tone, here are a few things that they can do that I think would go a long way:

  • Let the characters have some fun and interact socially. One of the reasons a lot of us love the Groundhog Day-esque Harry Mudd episode “Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad” is that elements of it are wacky and the crew actually gets to go to a party. Otherwise, these people never seem to decompress. Give them a card game, a bar, a lounge, some hologram pals, something. There’s no better way for people to bond and get to know each other than over a dabo table. Please allow them to smile every now and then.
  • Michael doesn’t have to do everything. I love Michael Burnham and I’m obsessed with Sonequa Martin-Green. But she shouldn’t have to have the weight of the universe on her shoulders every single episode. If Discovery truly wants to be driven by character, I’d love to see the perspective of the show shift every now and then to feature a different character, something that The Next Generation particularly excelled at. What’s a day in the life of Tilly like? How is Stamets really coping with the loss of Culber? What do the ensigns think about the shenanigans on board ship of the first season? It’s great if we’re going to learn more about Saru this season, but we should be learning more about everyone.
  • Speaking of Michael, where’s the daredevil from the pilot episode? Now that she’s been cleared of mutiny charges, I want to see a return of the more free-spirited, fearless Michael, not so very weighed down by the burden of what happened in the past.
  • Discovery is a science vessel. Let it science. A lot. Where are our weird, cool alien races and creatures? (The tardigrade was a start.) Where are our crystalline entities?!
  • Standalone episodes are your friend. In my experience of the best of classic Trek(s), it’s standalone episodes, and epic two-parters, that are the episodes that we really remember—not the big, season-long arcs about crushing or outrunning some Big Bad enemy. For me, the war with the Klingons was the weakest part of Discovery, mostly because the show leaned too much on Klingons’ longstanding relevance to the universe rather than explain why we should care about them and their grievances now at all. And a “backdrop of war” doesn’t have to mean that life stops developing and changing onboard ship.
  • Make sure we get to see a lot of Mirrorverse Georgiou. Hell, give her her own show.
  • Bring back Lorca. Any Lorca. Please.
  • Bring back Doctor Culber. For shame.

These are some of my suggestions that would turn Discovery into a show that I love to watch from one that I’m liking and trying to give the benefit of the doubt. What do you think about Discovery‘s “tone” and where it should boldly go?

(via, image: Paramount)

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Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.