Full spoilers follow for the Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 finale, “Will You Take My Hand?”, as well as everything that has led up to this point.
Gretchen J. Berg and Aaron Harberts can breathe a sigh of relief, having finally brought the first season of their Star Trek revival to the air (well, the stream) after being under quite a bit of scrutiny from not just fans of the revered franchise but also industry pundits wondering if Trek was still viable in the age of Peak TV. Fortunately for us, Berg and Harberts have proven that not only is Star Trek still achievable on the small screen, but it can thrive and evolve and take the series to entirely new places creatively.
And now, after the tight veil of secrecy surrounding Discovery that has kept the producers and cast mum for the past year and more, they can finally talk about all the twists and turns of the show. Which is exactly what Berg and Harberts did when I spoke to them recently. Read on for all the highlights from our chat…
The big cliffhanger moment of the S1 finale comes as the Discovery crew receives a distress call from another Starfleet vessel. As they attempt to figure out who it is, the ship’s registry number begins to reveal itself on a computer console: “NCC-17..” Fans know the Enterprise is NCC-1701, and sure enough that’s the ship that suddenly appears, under the command of Captain Pike, we’re told. (Jeffrey Hunter’s Pike was the captain in the first pilot for The Original Series and was only replaced by William Shatner’s James T. Kirk after Hunter decided to not come back to film a second pilot.)
While it’s surprising that Discovery is bringing in the Enterprise this early on, the producers felt that since we know she’s out there somewhere during this time period in Trek history, they might as well tell some stories involving the classic vessel.
“First of all, we knew that this wasn’t going to be an entire series about war, and we were always hoping there was gonna be a Season 2 and 3,” Berg says. “And we also knew since we were in this box where, eventually … it seemed like we were gonna be running into the timeline and the time period of The Original Series. The more we thought about that … it became more and more apparent that those two ships existed at the same time. And the more that we realized oh, obviously Burnham and Sarek have a relationship, and Sarek has a relationship with Spock, and that ship that he’s on is out there, from very, very early on we knew [we’d bring in the Enterprise] probably because people would be wondering about it, and wanting [us] to. Like, there’s no real… it’s provocative for us too, so let’s just get there, and tell those stories. But first we had to wrap up a war, and take Burnham on a journey, a pretty big journey of self-discovery, and getting her out of Starfleet and then back into it again.”
Another reason for bringing in the Enterprise is to address the ever-present “canon question” Disco has faced.
“And I think the other question that’s always been coming up, and it’s a fair question, is how did Discovery fit into canon?” adds Harberts. “And by having them cross paths with Enterprise, that’s our opportunity to continue to tell that story and sort of fill the audience in on exactly where our ship fits.”
Of course, once the Enterprise enters the mix, the Spock question is inevitable. It was in that original pilot, “The Cage,” that Leonard Nimoy first played his iconic character, albeit a not quite fully formed version of the Vulcan. And while Berg and Harberts won’t confirm or deny what the plan is for Spock in Discovery Season 2, or whether or not we’ll even see the character, they do acknowledge that “anything’s possible.” It’s only… logical.
“You know, that is an iconic character, and two very gifted actors have portrayed him,” says Harberts of the notion of casting a new Spock for Discovery. “And if one were to do it, one would have to do it correctly, and it would have to fit into … the tone of our show, and more importantly, would really have to fit in nicely with whatever journey Michael Burnham is going on.”
So that’s not a no! Indeed, Berg points out that from the beginning Discovery has been building a bigger world of characters that they can revisit in future episodes as needed. But make no mistake: Burnham and the Discovery are the main focus of the show.
“I feel like what we were establishing for this season is the Discovery team as our family, as our main family, and as the people that we’re taking these journeys with,” says Berg. “And so we will continue that in Season 2 and Season 3. They are our way in, and they’re our people, and they’re our family. And there are other ships out there, there are for sure other ships out there, and it’s a big universe. And there may be times that you bump into somebody else, like they ran into Harry Mudd last year. So there are a lot of people to run into and a lot of people to use in storytelling. But our Disco crew is the main crew, with Michael at the center.”
One big part of Discovery that seemed to clash with established Star Trek canon was the spore drive, which allowed the ship to instantaneously jump, or teleport, pretty much anywhere in space (or time, as it turns out). Fans have fretted about how this tech could exist if we never heard about it in any of the previous shows, but in the season finale this week, Lt. Stamets has a line about Starfleet wanting to use a “non-human interface” with the drive for now on. So until that happens, we’re flying the old-fashioned way, it seems. But does this mean that the spore drive story is over?
“I think it’s something, exactly what he says, that that is the issue as far as there’s something imperfect about the machine,” says Berg. “Because there’s a price right now that’s being paid. But I also feel like if you get the brand new Tesla, you wanna drive the brand new Tesla, and there’s something very unique and fantastic about Discovery in that it’s that spore drive. We’re not gonna in any way be reckless or wasteful about the abilities that that ship has, but I think there’s some built-up things that need to be taken care of with the way the ship is run organically.”
Besides, as Harberts says, Stamets has some other issues he’s still dealing with.
“Stamets is gonna have to figure out what’s next for him,” he says. “You know, what’s his next act? I mean, at the moment he’s not driving that ship, and he’s, more importantly, lost the love of his life, so he’s got a lot of soul-searching coming into Season 2.”
The Klingon war, which formed the crux of Season 1, comes to an end in the finale. And indeed, as Discovery has proceeded throughout these past 15 episodes, it has become noticeably more “Star Trekkie” in its feel — more optimistic and less dark. At the same time, the producers do say that even with the end of the war, the show will still have some of that darker feel at times. It’s part of Discovery’s DNA.
“There were so many iterations of Trek where they did it their way,” says Harberts. “DS9 is so different from TNG, and Enterprise is so different from The Original Series. … I love that our cast can be really funny and light and loving and charming and all of those things, but they also are such grounded actors. And you’ve gotta figure out what kind of stories mesh up with them, and with the show. So I think we’re gonna be — we’re excited to experiment a little bit, and play around with what kind of episodes we can do this year, because we don’t have to deal with the war. And I think that people are excited, as are the writers, about more exploration, more alien races, more things like that. But it always has to be done through our show’s lens.”
Star Trek: Discovery Season 2’s release date has not yet been announced, but the episodes are currently being written with a production start expected this spring.